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Top 5 Asian Movies of All Time

Updated on March 2, 2013

After reading 5 Weirdest Movies hub, I decided to compile several lists of movies that I love and consider the best. This list is about best Asian movies. A lot of people associate Asian movies either with horrors or with action that involves gangs, shooting etc. The truth is there are a lot of great drama movies in Asia with deep philosophy that leaves you thinking over the movie and over your life. This list consists of such movies which I really consider immortal masterpieces and must-see for everyone. If you would like to check more movies, which I consider masterpieces, check out my Pinterest board Masterpiece Movies.

1. 3-Iron (Bin-jip) by Ki-duk Kim (South Korea)

Most of the movies by a Korean film director Ki-duk Kim are a must-see, but this is by far one of the best. From one side, this movie is about contemporary reality, from the other it is absolutely figurative. The main hero doesn't say a word during the whole movie which, along with the style of the movie, is a real "genius simplicity".

Plot: A guy breaks into homes and lives there while owners are away. To pay for hospitality, he cleans the houses, washes owners' clothes, repairs staff etc. In one of such houses he discovers a beautiful girl who doesn't react to the intruder. As it turns out, her husband abuses her and she runs away with a mysterious guy. Together they continue moving from house to house as invisible ghosts. Anonymous life reaches its peak when the main hero is imprisoned and he learns the art of being invisible. Has he become a ghost, or just an imagination of his girlfriend?

2. Dolls by Takeshi Kitano (Japan)

Before watching that movie I could not imagine that it is possible to show beauty on screen in such a way that you can actually feel it. Dolls is a lyrical meditation on love, selfish choices, and refusal to pay off. The tragic beauty of traditional Japanese puppet theater Bunraku is transferred to a painting of human lives and has a mystical effect. Three dramatic stories are combined to form a poetic visual picture full of aching sadness. This movie became a sensation at 2002 Venice International Film Festival.

Plot: The movie consists of three stories. Matsumoto and Savako were engaged, but parents made Matsumoto break up the engagement. Now Savako mindlessly wanders around tied up to Matsumoto... An old Khiro is Yakuza boss. He is rich and respected, but also sick and lonely. 30 years ago he was a factory worker and his girlfriend used to bring him lunch to the park every day. But he left her to follow his dream to become a rich person. Now, 30 years later, he returns to that park... Haruna Yamaguchi spends her days sitting on a lonely beach and looking at sea. Her beautiful face is covered with a bandage. Recetly, before the accident, she has been a celebrity. She was adored by millions. Nukui is probably the most devoted fan. Today he is going to prove it.

3. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom) by Ki-duk Kim (South Korea)

Another Ki-duk Kim's movie, this time it combines the beauty, life and Buddhist philosophy. It evokes both spiritual and visual purity and is ideal for those who seek a profound, contemplative movie experience. At the same time, its simplicity and simple beauty create an entrancing and soothing effect making it one of the most beautiful and best Asian movies to watch.

Plot: A Buddhist monk lives in an old floating temple with a young boy. As every season changes itself, the life goes on and boy discovers love, passion, life, crime, and the price of enlightenment experience.

4. Travelers and Magicians by Khyentse Norbu (Bhutan)

This is the first movie shot on the territory of the Kingdom of Bhutan, located in the Himalayas (Tibet). The director is actually a Tibet high priest (Lama). That makes the movie even more interesting, as not only it embraces the Buddhist philosophy, and shows the lives of people in remote villages in Bhutan, but also shows everything from the point of view of real Lama.

Plot: A young educated man who lives in a remote village and works as a government official, decides that it is better to gather apples in United States than to live in his village. On his way to the city, he meets several other travelers - a monk, apple seller, paper manufacturer and his beautiful daughter. While they are traveling together, the monk tells another story that happens in parallel of their own journey. The "story within a story" style shows one of the main features of ancient Indian tales. This story makes a young man rethink his decision of leaving native places.

5. After Life (Wandâfuru raifu) by Hirokazu Koreeda (Japan)

Last but not least in the list of best Asian movies, After Life, is one of those rare movies that really makes you think over your life. The drama made of a lot of private dramas makes a great movie on the "sense of life".

Plot: The souls of the people who have just died come to a guesthouse where they should spend seven days before they go to another world. They have seven days to choose the best, brightest and most important memory of their lives. The personnel of the place helps them to make this choice and shoots a movie in which they show the brightest memory of a person. At the end of the week the souls watch the movie based on their brightest memory and move to another world taking with them only one best memory of their life.


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    • Shushanik profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you found my list useful. There is a lot of creativity in Asian movies, and a great deal of them is pretty philosophical too. Much better than American movies for those who want to reflect on a movie, not just consume it :)

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Philippines

      This is a very helpful list, as I don't see enough Asian films. Hope I can find copies of these films with English subtitles. The story lines are so compelling, especially the first movie and the last one, the latter of which is interesting because it compels dead people to remember the brightest moment of their lives, and to make a movie of it. I didn't realize there is so much creativity in Asian film.


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