25 Films From the 2010s That Will Help You Understand China

In early 2020, RADII will be presenting a blockbuster list of the best movies to help you understand China. Based on the recommendations of critics, Chinese film buffs, people in the industry, and scholars, the list will traverse animation, documentary, popcorn flicks, propaganda pics and more, from the early days of Chinese cinema via the lauded 5th and 6th generation directors right up to the present day.

As a taster of what’s to come, we’re presenting 25 films below taken solely from the past decade. Listed in chronological order, these films will enhance your understanding of China and, hopefully, entertain and move you as well — as all great movies (and some bad ones) should.

Disagree with the selections below or think we missed something? Let us know in the comments at the bottom of this page or come at us on social media — we look forward to discussing more about Chinese cinema with you.


Single Man (Hao Jie, 2010)


Yalin Chi, Cheng Cheng Films: Then-29-year-old filmmaker Hao Jie assembled non-pro fellow villagers for his directorial debut about a group of unmarried old men’s frustrated and chaotic sexual lives in countryside where women are outnumbered and sought after. Heavy social topics such as poverty, gender discrimination, human trafficking and living conditions of the LGBT minority form its background without stealing the thunder of an unstoppable, laugh out loud story about how jungle rules and human desires defy law and moralities in the isolated and scenic rural community.

The radiating creative talent shown in this no-budget production garnered acclaim and hopes for the near future of Chinese indie film scene and a more open censorship environment.


Let the Bullets Fly (Jiang Wen, 2010)


Xueting Christine Ni, author and speaker: Unique, genre-bending film, almost like a Chinese Western black comedy, with a historical setting but a script packed with references to online memes and pop culture.

Yalin Chi, Cheng Cheng Films: Renowned “Sixth Generation” film director Jiang Wen’s return to record-setting massive box office success after a five-year ban — and the commercial under-performance of acclaimed film The Sun Also Rises  kickstarted years of heated economic growth in the Chinese film industry.

The story, set in the 1920s, delivers satirical critiques on modern China’s issues, such as corruption and income disparity, with clues and references that flew under censors’ radars, but got picked up, decoded and reinterpreted by audiences nationwide. The almost unprecedented high interest in watching, rewatching, and discussing the film saw an active Chinese cinephile community taking shape. Some of the film’s lines — such as “Let the bullets fly longer” and “Earn money while standing on your feet” — have left a lasting impact on modern Chinese culture.

Continue to read the full list on RADII.


– This article originally appeared on radiichina.com.