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Chow Yun-fat, one of the most prominent actors from Hong Kong’s golden age of film, played iconic parts that continue to resonate with audiences.
He was born on Hong Kong’s Lamma Island on May 18th, 1955. He had worked as a bellboy, cab driver, mail carrier, and camera salesperson before responding to a newspaper ad for TVB’s three-year acting training course. When he finished classes, he became a leading man in soap operas like “Conflict” and “The Bund,” gaining widespread popularity. Fat’s role as Mark in “A Better Tomorrow,” directed by John Woo, catapulted him to international fame as an action hero.
Here are some of Chow Yun-fat’s greatest films for people interested in learning more about one of Asia’s finest actors.
If you are in a rush here are the top 3 of the best Chow Yun-fat movies.
Last update on 2023-05-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
See below for more details on these movies and how to watch them.
1. The Killer (1989)
Chow Yun-Fat’s portrayal of the main character in John Woo’s The Killer places him at the peak of the roster of cinematic killers with good intentions. It’s safe to assume that films like John Wick wouldn’t have existed if Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo hadn’t made a string of heroic bloodshed action ballets in the course of the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, Chow Yun-Fat served as the primary inspiration for Keanu Reeves’ elegantly attired assassin.
His character, a cool-headed assassin, has a crisis of guilt after inadvertently blinding an innocent nightclub singer (Sally Yeh) in a gunfight. While he is resolved to quit the criminal underground and save enough money for an expensive procedure to restore her sight, he soon discovers that doing so would be difficult. He meets an intense officer (Danny Lee) on his journey who, at first, is determined to bring the criminal down, but who soon comes to understand and empathize with the hitman’s position and becomes an atypical friend.
The Killer is an exquisite motion picture. The Killer is a disruptive kind of action picture because of the heartbreaking arcs shown and how they progress with the main characters or because of John Woo’s ability to construct tranquility amid the carnage.
It transforms what we love best about action movies into poetry about finding tranquility in a sea of destruction which is not dissimilar to keeping one’s sanity in the face of the lingering psychological scars that conflict can leave behind.
Find out for yourself why this film is one of the best action flicks ever made by buying it on Amazon today.
2. A Better Tomorrow (1986)
The ability to stand the test of time is the hallmark of a classic film. There have been remakes of A Better Tomorrow, including a passable Korean version and a surprisingly good Chinese rendition. However, A Better Tomorrow’s violent content wasn’t well appreciated upon its 1986 release. Instead, the violence once angered conservative viewers so much that it led to the development of a system for grading movies on a scale from G to R.
The film’s fame nearly obscures the fact that it has a gripping tale about more than just bloodshed. Tse Ho (Ti Lung), a former triad member trying to make a fresh start after serving three years in jail, is at the film’s center. But his police officer brother Kit (Leslie Cheung) is skeptical of his desire to reform.
Violence and brutality may have sparked debate in those more traditional times. Still, there’s more to A Better Tomorrow than just its body count that should be remembered.
John Woo’s film established Chow Yun-fat as an action star and revolutionized the genre. In addition to breaking down barriers across styles, he revolutionized Hong Kong’s film industry. Under his influence, a film industry that had previously thrived on stunt-driven martial arts and swordplay shifted its focus to focus on gun-toting combat between triads and police.
Not only did A Better Tomorrow pave the way for future films in the heroic bloodshed genre, but it also inspired a slew of followers from all over the world and throughout the ages. Stream it now on Amazon and experience the film that birthed a new genre.
3. Hard Boiled (1992)
American fans of John Woo, a legend in Hong Kong films, were first exposed to him thanks to The Killer. His last Hong Kong picture before storming Hollywood, Hard Boiled, solidifies his place as Sam Peckinpah’s aesthetic successor. Woo’s gun-brandishing madness has an unexpected elegance, and Hard Boiled is proof of his seamless command of Hollywood action mainstays like action archetypes, luscious slow-mo, and attention-deficit editing.
After the gruesome murder of his partner, an imposing police officer (Chow Yun-Fat) teams up with a reckless colleague (Tony Leung) to get back with the gun-smuggling hoodlums. John Woo, the action genre’s undisputed king, delivers impressive high-octane mayhem.
There has never been a more apt use of the term “bullet ballet” to describe the grace with which the firearm choreography is executed. The tracking shot during the encounter in the hospital is perhaps the most iconic. In an extended shot reminiscent of arcade games, Tequila (Chow Yun-fat) and Tony (Tony Leung) fight off enemies with gunfire.
This film will forever change the landscape of action movies. Whether you think it’s good or bad, it’s apparent that Woo is responsible for the professional paths of Rodriguez, the Wachowski siblings, and Tarantino.
This was Woo’s last film in Hong Kong, and although he went on to create more costly and high-profile films, none were as good as this one. Watch it now on Amazon.
4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The most rewarding martial arts films have nothing to do with combat but, instead, have to do with the pursuit of individual greatness. Space, gravity, physical constraints, and psychological anxieties are all things their heroes can overcome. The people fighting in a Western movie are expected to detest one another. In a martial arts film, the combat scenes seem more like a communal jubilation of the warriors’ prowess.
A warrior (Chow Yun-Fat) in Qing Dynasty–era China delivers his sword, Green Destiny, to his friend (Michelle Yeoh) to carry for protection; the weapon is stolen, and the hunt is underway. The hunt eventually leads to the Yu household, when the plot takes a dramatic turn.
Both Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh play pivotal roles in the film. Like their contemporaries Jackie Chan and numerous others in the martial arts cinema category, they possess the amazing physical ability. Cheng Pei Pei as Jade Fox and Zhang Ziyi as Jen Yu are two more notable cast members. They spent a lot of time rehearsing and practicing for their scenes, but what sets “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” apart is the dreary, sentimental, and even spiritual quality of the underlying plot, which isn’t simply a clothesline for action-packed moments.
Crouching Tiger has all the makings of a classic because of its timeless enjoyment and clever mix of gravity and humor. If this picture is the progenitor of a new wave of comparable productions, it may be said that a previously dormant popular cinema genre has been resurrected for the 21st century: the Asian Western.
Watch this masterpiece on Amazon and discover this enigmatic piece’s elegance and mystical beauty.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
The worldwide success of the Chinese Chow Yun-Fat’s movies like Hard Boiled and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has helped cement his reputation worldwide. Nonetheless, in 2003, with the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Depp entered the world of American blockbusters.
Captain Sao Feng, played by Chow Yun-Fat, is crucial in rescuing Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the underworld in the third Pirates of the Caribbean film.
Infiltrating the base of operations of the Asian pirates headed by Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat), Elizabeth Swann, and the still-living Captain Barbossa discover that Will Turner has already been captured. Negotiating with Captain Feng, they can take his ship and crew to set off in search of Captain Jack to the spot Barbossa mentioned.
Jack, meantime, is spending his time at the “end of the world,” hallucinating and having conversations with multiple mirrored versions of himself. Meanwhile, Beckett continues using Davy Jones to further his political goals and eliminate any opposition. After Jack turns up, Will and Elizabeth must deal with their conflicting emotions for one another. The group must battle Davy Jones’ pirates and Beckett’s soldiers to stay alive.
In Pirates of the Caribbean, Yun-Fat has a brief cameo (about 20 minutes): At World’s End. However, censorship in China kept him from gaining widespread attention there. Censors in China felt that Sao Feng was derogatory to the Chinese people.
Sao Feng appeared only for 10 minutes in the Chinese version of Pirates of the Caribbean 3 instead of the estimated 20 minutes in the international release. The decreased attention given to Sao Feng did not alter his arc, but it did make following the plot more difficult.
If you haven’t already, watch this film on Amazon and see how Chow Yun-fat fared against his Hollywood counterparts.
6. A Better Tomorrow II
Producer Tsui Hark saw how well A Better Tomorrow (1986) did at the box office in Hong Kong and around Asia, so he pushed filmmaker John Woo to immediately make a sequel, which they artfully dubbed A Better Tomorrow II (1987).
Years have passed since Mark (Yun Fat), Ho (Ti Lung), and Kit (Leslie Cheung) first worked together. Although Ho is still incarcerated, Kit has risen to prominence within the police force. Kit has no idea that cops have contacted and freed Ho to look into a close friend called Lung (Dean Shek).
After a failed business transaction, Lung is falsely accused of murder and forced to flee to the United States. Lung had a momentary breakdown after learning that his daughter had been murdered while he was outside the country. Mark’s identical brother Ken, who owns a restaurant in the United States (a good reason to bring CYF back), comes to his help. After assisting Lung in regaining ownership of his life, he and Lung go back to Hong Kong to seek vengeance on Ho and Kit.
Chow Yun-fat shows off his talents and proves why he became a Hong Kong icon. As Woo’s on-screen alter ego, he exudes an easy swagger as the indestructible action legend. The camera responds strongly to his immense magnetism. If just for the action, this movie is a must-see, but you should watch the original to get a feel for its story.
7. God of Gamblers (1989)
A profitable franchise was born from the ground-breaking 1980s picture God of Gamblers. Chow Yun-Fat gives a performance that has become one of his trademarks as renowned professional gambler Ko Chun, well known as the “God of Gamblers” for his phenomenal track record of winning. This might include anything from covert mental trickery to explicit chicanery like counting cards or dice listening. The outcome doesn’t matter as long as Ko Chun does.
Ko is ambushed by Knife (Andy Lau), a street thug, just before an event he’s been invited to partake in by a Japanese player and a notorious crook called Chan. After a while, he comes to, but his mind is that of a 10-year-old.
Despite this unfortunate circumstance, Ko’s new buddies recognize and utilize his extraordinary gambling skills to their advantage as they flee from a group of hired killers.
Chow’s performance combines elements from his previous performances with John Woo and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man; for the effort he put in, he was nominated for Best Actor but lost to himself in All About Ah-Long. Full of zaniness and even some two-gun mayhem, this delightful picture is typical of Hong Kong and its director, Wong Jing.
Put your money on a sure bet for your movie night by buying your copy of God of Gamblers on Amazon.
8. Peace Hotel (1995)
An intriguing curiosity that fails to live up to its brilliant premise, “Peace Hotel” is a lesser-known Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo collaboration produced after the monumental thrill of “Hard Boiled” and before Yun-Fat sailed away to Hollywood. The Killer (Yun-Fat) is a repentant criminal who manages a motel for those seeking sanctuary from violent or criminal backgrounds.
The Peace Hotel, a safe haven thanks to The Killer’s notoriety, is soon facing a siege when a lady (Yip) on the run from the criminal network whose boss she murdered attempts to take sanctuary there. While at first, the gang abides by the rule that no murders are to take place on hotel property, they eventually signal their intent to assault the hotel complex to get their hands on the lady if The Killer does not give her up.
It goes without saying that this is a Chow Yun-fat picture, and the charismatic actor never fails to hold your interest. After all, his primary skill is acting; he gets enough opportunity to do this by constantly stealing the world around him.
The outside scenes in Peace Hotel appear quite Western, what with all the dust and wind and director Wai Ka-fai’s choice of a lot of muted browns. Except for the climactic gunfight and retrospectives, which are filmed in stark black and white and make great use of slow motion, interior visuals are quieter.
The Peace Hotel, on the other hand, manages to keep its aura of refined elegance throughout. It can build a universe where the story’s massive protagonist can succeed. Despite its hybrid Wu Xia/Western aesthetic, this film is not your typical action blockbuster.
If you loved Hotel Artemis or were enamored by John Wick’s The Continental, you will want to buy this film that inspired them on Amazon.
9. Anna and the King (1999)
This period piece has all the trimmings: lavish costumes, dramatic score, and picturesque backdrops. Those familiar with the 1956 film The King and I will find significant deviations from the original plot and narrative focus. Without the iconic song from the show, this film focuses more on the international aspects of the plot.
Without the iconic songs from the musical, the film focuses more on the universal themes at play.
Anna Leonowens (Jodie Foster), a British schoolteacher, and her son Louis (Tom Felton) went to Siam in 1862. It quickly becomes apparent that Anna is a tough, self-sufficient lady with strong convictions about what she will and won’t accept.
King Mongkut (Chow Yun-Fat) is as respected as a deity in his kingdom. He acknowledges the need for evolution but still values maintaining established customs. When two passionate individuals like that get together, fireworks will go off. They stand for the two poles of Western modernity and Eastern traditionalism.
Foster’s portrayal of the Victorian heroine is far from Deborah Kerr’s. She is vibrating with suppressed emotion but with a modern edge. She’s not particularly adept at comedy, but she gets many opportunities to portray the kind of silent, fatally solemn motivation for which she’s known.
There are few things more beautiful than Chow Yun-Fat smiling. The character of Mongkut, which is as different as it can be from the actor’s typical hard-boiled, action-genre parts, is a fantastic vehicle for his enormous charisma, compassion, and nobility.
Watch the retelling of a true classic by buying your copy of Anna and the King on Amazon today.
10. Bulletproof Monk (2003)
Like Clint Eastwood’s character, The Man With No Name, Chow Yun-Fat’s Monk With No Name is a World War II-era monk tasked with protecting a holy scroll. Strucker, a Nazi officer, attempts to seize the Monk, but he is unsuccessful. Even 60 years later, the Nazi’s granddaughter is hunting for the scroll.
While his specific mission has kept the Monk from aging, Strucker is now elderly and uses a wheelchair. But now it is time for him to select the next keeper of the scroll, and it appears that chop-socky cinema projectionist Kar (Seann William Scott) may be the man for the job.
Chow Yun Fat brings a lot to the table in each movie he’s in. He’s still a touch underutilized in this hackneyed buddy action flick. Compared to the excellence of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this movie doesn’t hold a candle. Here they simply come across as tacky and unfounded, while in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, they helped sell the unbelievable. The storyline problems persist, and the action isn’t as thrilling as it might be.
But we should be thankful for life’s modest pleasures, such as seeing Chow Yun-Fat do his aerial acrobatics or paying attention to his Eastern wisdom reinterpreted for the tumult of the city.
Full of fun, wit, and punches, this movie is a sure hit for movie nights. Buy it now on Amazon.
In conclusion, Chow Yun Fat has left an indelible mark on the world of cinema with his incredible talent, charm, and versatility as an actor. He has starred in some of the most iconic films of all time, leaving audiences captivated with his performances and leaving a lasting impact on the film industry.
Some of the best Chow Yun Fat movies include classics like “A Better Tomorrow” and “The Killer”, as well as modern hits like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”. These films showcase his incredible range as an actor, from his tough, brooding portrayals to his charismatic and charming performances.
Beyond his acting talent, Chow Yun Fat is also known for his philanthropic work and his contributions to Hong Kong’s film industry. He has served as a mentor to many young actors and filmmakers, and has inspired generations of artists with his passion and dedication to his craft.
As his career continues to evolve, one thing is clear: Chow Yun Fat will always be remembered as one of the greatest actors of his generation, and his films will continue to captivate audiences for generations to come. His legacy is a testament to the power of cinema and the ability of actors to leave an enduring impact on the world through their work.