Top 10 list from Simon Booth
1. DRAGON INN (1992) - The pinnacle of the 90's wuxia boom, for me. Great cast, stunning locations and cinematography, the uniquely graceful action choreography of Ching Siu Tung at his best and Tsui Hark's knack for mixing drama, comedy, romance and action so effectively. A perfect showcase of Hong Kong Cinema's strengths.
2. ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA (1991) - Tsui Hark's most accomplished work. Politics, romance, comedy and groundbreaking action choreography all rolled into a gorgeously made production. Jet Li has never been better than when he plays Wong Fei Hung. OUATIC 2 is perhaps even better than the original, but the original rates higher for being the first.
2b. A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987) - Tsui hark had a habit of redefining and reinventing any genre he touched, and raising the bar. His collaboration with Ching Siu-Tung in 1987 produced a wonderful movie with a unique visual style and almost unbounded energy. Again, Tsui Hark mixes up genres like a master chef and Ching Siu-Tung provides the style and grace. Who could fail to fall in love with Joey Wong in this role?
3. POLICE STORY (1986) - Jackie Chan has given more of himself to the movie world than any other performer I can think of. His physical agility is incredible - he can simply do things that no human ought to be able to do. As a choreographer and director his drive to produce the highest possible quality of work is unparalleled. His influence, along with that of big brother Sammo Hung, redefined Hong Kong action cinema, and produced many of its finest moments. POLICE STORY is his best work, to me, though there are many other fine moments (THE YOUNG MASTER, PROJECT A II, POLICE STORY 3, DRUNKEN MASTER II etc)
4. THE BLADE - Tsui Hark re-invents the martial arts movie yet again, in this dark and brutal masterpiece that many say was his response to Wong Kar-Wai's ASHES OF TIME.
5. A TOUCH OF ZEN (1969) - King Hu made tragically few movies during his life, but works such as A TOUCH OF ZEN are a tremendous legacy. A visionary director that set a standard for wu xia movies that nobody could touch for many years to come. A TOUCH OF ZEN has beautiful visuals, a subtle and complex plot that builds in carefully woven layers and an approach to shooting and staging action that was way ahead of its time.
6. ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND (1981) - From 1977 to 1983 Sammo Hung redefined and revitalised martial arts cinema with a string of classics, introducing most of the filming and editing techniques that everybody would use during the 80's. His fight choreography was rivalled only by Jackie Chan for its technical intricacy, imagination and bone-crunching brutality. Without a doubt one of the most important figures the industry has ever known. Whilst THE VICTIM (1980) is probably my favourite Sammo movie from the period, EOTSK is for me the most dazzlingly fresh and creative.
7. ROYAL WARRIORS (1986) - Around about 1985-86 there was a swing in favour from period martial arts to modern day martial arts. Part of this move came from the advent of the "Girls With Guns" genre, introduced by Yuen Kwai in 1985. ROYAL WARRIORS is a pseudo-sequel, again featuring Michelle Yeoh as an ultra-tough female cop. It really is text-book action movie making, with a strong plot and some of the most intense action scenes you will ever see. Michelle Yeoh's performance is unforgettable.
8. THE HEROIC TRIO (1993) - Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui and Maggie Cheung are the girls with guns and other more fanciful weaponry in this modern day fantasy from Johnnie To & Ching Siu-Tung. The women are beautiful, the art direction and cinematography unsurpassed and the action as stylish as it comes.
9. SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001) - Stephen Chiau is another visionary artist, and a comic genius. Even though I'm told I miss half the humour by not understanding Cantonese, his films are still the funniest movies I know of - yet they also (mostly) have a depth and heart that are greater than most. SHAOLIN SOCCER is certainly not his funniest movie, but I think it's his broadest and most accomplished. It's embarrassing how poorly it has been handled by Miramax in the US, effectively killing a sure-fire blockbuster hit and ruining Stephen Chiau's chances of becoming a household name in the US (not that he cares, hopefully).
10. THE MISSION
(1999) - A quiet little film made in 1999
by the creative duo of Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai that is one of the most
subtle and understated movies HK has produced (not, admittedly, qualities
Hong Kong Cinema is noted for). Absolutely trimmed down to the bone,
and incredibly tight, made classic by fantastic performances from some
of the best non-Idol actors in the industry.