My Chinese friends who have the best English and have not lived abroad are those that watch a lot of American movies and TV shows. Luckily they are able to find enough interesting shows to help them along to fluency with very little accent in many cases. This is not to say that all American films and TV shows are great, as many people know, most are bad. However, the amount of quality Chinese TV shows and films are a ten times fewer or more. So for those of you who would like to employ the TV-film method of learning a foreign language while in China, here are some quality Chinese films (there are no good TV shows).
Note that when looking for these movies you will want to make sure you find them with Chinese subtitles and/or English subtitles unless your Mandarin is insane and you don’t need either.
Links are to the trailers.
Technically this is a Hong Kong film and it’s all in Cantonese. However, this is just a great movie. If you thought The Departed was good, well this is even better. It is the original movie that The Departed was a remake of. The film is directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, and stars Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, KellyChen, Eric Tsang, and Andy Lau. Watch it!
The Chopstick Brothers are a two-person band and which comprises of Wang Taili and Xiao Yang. Xiao Yang is also a writer/director/actor and Wang Taili is also an actor. Both of them have a great quality sense of humor, which comes through quite well in their music videos and short films.
Their most famous short film to date is Lao Nan Hai, meaning Old Boy, about two men who enter a talent show and recall their high school days when they had also entered a talent show. The film spread through China’s 20 and 30 year olds like wildfire as this generation resonated strongly with Chopstick Brothers’ story about dreams.
Another two great films are called Father the first film being about a father-daughter relationship and the second about father-son. All are high quality humor with strong story.
Ang Lee’s film about warriors in the north of China. This film was nominated for best picture at the Oscars in 2000 as many people know, only to loose to American Beauty (which is understandable because it’s hard to count any movies that are better than American Beauty).
Qin Shi Huang is the first emperor of China and he is naturally a ruthless murderer. The audience slowly finds out that the story’s protagonist has come to assassinate the emperor he tells the emperor a mix of stories full of mixed truths. This film is directed by Zhang Yimo, and stars Jet Li, Tony Leung, Donnie Yen, and Zhang Ziyi.
The 2013 film by Jia Zhangke is a series of four stories set in modern China. The stories are loosely based on true stories and naturally are all violent. One who has spent China will feel the stories hit home and they paint a perfect picture of the desperation that has accompanied China’s rapid rise. The film won Jia the 2013 Cannes Film Festival Best Screenplay award.