BRTHR’s Alex Lee Shares 50 Great Films From Asian Directors

In honor of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Alex Lee of directing duo BRTHR has put together a comprehensive list of 50 films by Southeast and Eastern Asian filmmakers to binge on. Read on for the first 10 in the list and for Alex’s thoughts behind it:

Despite all of the darkness in the past year, the Asian community has managed a few well deserved wins. “Parasite” swept the Oscars in 2020, making history as the first Asian film to win best picture. This year, in 2021, Stephen Yeun became the first Asian American to be nominated for best actor. Yuh-jung Youn was the first Korean to win best female actress in a supporting role. To top it off, Chloé Zhao won best picture and was the first Asian woman to win the best director trophy (and the 2nd woman to ever win).

I am all for this progress, in fact, I love it. It feels good for Asian cinema and women to be recognized and praised worldwide. But I still cannot sugarcoat reality. Ever since I moved to New York 10 years ago, all the way from Japan, I’ve always felt that Asians in Western society, especially American, have significantly and consistently been oppressed. It truly is about time we shared the spotlight with industry heavy hitters like David Fincher. It’s a big middle finger to Hollywood where Asians in movies have broken English accents or are the butt end of a shitty racist joke. It’s too little too late— but hey, we’ll take what we deserve and bask in the glory. In a lot of ways, it feels like we finally, finally, beat the final boss, even though we’ve seen the fucker many times before.

As someone in the film industry myself, this is what we all know for fact. The truth is, Asian cinema has always been incredible. It’s always been referenced, it’s always been innovative. We’ve deserved many awards and accolades through and through time. I mean, The “Lion King” is a complete replica of the Japanese film, “Kimba the White Lion”. Ain’t that some shit.

To celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month, we wanted to celebrate some of the greatest Asian filmmakers of all time, so we jotted down a list of 50 really really good films. This list was made with love and passion, nothing less. No specified genre here. I focused on Southeast and Eastern filmmakers, as that’s what I know best, but I’d love for anyone to comment with films from other regions of Asia as well. Another caveat to this list is that it’s unfortunate and noticeable that the Asian film industry has some work to do when it comes to opening the door up for female creators, but we look forward to seeing that change. The biggest of ups to Chloé Zhao for embarking on that journey.

Read on for the full list:
1. Cyclo- Tran Anh Hung
2. High and Low- Akira Kurosawa
3. Yojimbo- Akira Kurosawa
4. True Detective Season 1- Cary Fukunaga
5. The Taste of Tea- Katsuhito Ishii
6. Train to Busan- Yeon Sang-ho
7. The Host- Bong Joon-Ho
8. Oldboy- Park Chan-Wook
9. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance- Park Choon-Wook
10. Paprika- Satoshi Kon
11. The River- Tsai Ming Liang
12. What Time Is It There- Tsai Ming Liang
13. Happy Together- Wong Kar Wai
14. Fallen Angels- Wong Kar Wai
15. Days of Being Wild- Wong Kar Wai
16. Chung-King Express- Wong Kar Wai
17. In The Mood For Love- Wong Kar Wai
18. Hanabi- Takeshi Kitano
19. Sonatine- Takeshi Kitano
20. Kikujiro- Takeshi Kitano
21. Hard Boiled- John Woo
22. A Better Tomorrow- John Woo
23. Nomadland- Chloé Zhao
24. Jigoku- Nobuo Nakagawa
25. Shaolin Soccer- Stephen Chow
26. Like Father Like Son- Hirokazu Kore-Eda
27. Shoplifters- Hirokazu Kore-Eda
28. Ichi The Killer- Takashi Miike
29. House- Nobuhiko Obayashi
30. A Brighter Summer Day- Edward Yang
31. Yi Yi- Edward Yang
32. The Farewell- Lulu Wang
33. The Wailing- Na Hong Jin
34. Drunken Master- Yuen Woo-ping
35. We Are Little Zombies- Makoto Nagahisa
36. Insidious- James Wan
37. Saw- James Wan
38. Ugetsu- Kenji Mizoguchi
39. Minari- Lee Isaac Chung
40. Ghibli FIlms- Hayao Miyazaki
41. Parasite- Bong Joon Ho
42. Mother- Bong Joon-Ho
43. Ohikkoshi (Moving)- Shinji Somai
44. I Saw the Devil- Jee-Woon Kim
45. Infernal Affairs- Alan Mak, Andrew Lau
46. Chaser- Na Hong-Jin
47. The Face Of Another- Hiroshi Teshigahara
48. Shiki-Jitsu (Ritual)- Hideaki Anno
49. The Scenet of Green Papaya- Tran Anh Hung
50. Coldfish- Sion Sono