When I started this blog, people would often asked me – how do I watch these films you’re writing about? Back then access to Asian films and TV was much more difficult – you would rarely see them in cinemas or TV. But now, with the rise of streaming, it’s so much easier. Moreover, streaming platforms like Netflix invest in local film markets to bring more original content to their platform. It’s a true golden age of Asian films and TV. In fact, there’s so much content that it’s pretty much impossible to watch it all. Thus came the idea for this continuously growing blog post.
I’m starting this blog post/thread about Asian movies and TV shows that I enjoyed watching and that are available on Netflix. I will keep updating it – when I find time to watch something new or when a new context arrives. Please note that due to your location, you may not find the same content on Netflix as I can. Also, some movies/shows disappear after a while, so this blog post may not be always accurate. And, there’s a lot of shows/movies I haven’t seen yet, so I may not have yet included your favorites (if you want to recommend a show/movie to me – contact me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theasiancinemablog or Twitter @darameja). In any case, I hope you find this thread useful!
Written by: Kim Eun-hee
Directed by: Kim Seong-hun
Country: South Korea
Probably the most obvious one to start the list. South Korean “Kingdom” is a political period horror TV series and a runaway global hit. Set during Korea’s Joseon Dynasty (1600s), it has a perfect blend of political intrigue, action, and zombies. Yep, zombies. It is a superb TV show that has it all – great writing, great acting, gorgeous cinematography, amazing sound design. Highly recommended (even if you think you’ve seen too many zombie films).
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Written by: Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson
Country: South Korea, USA
Yes, it’s not technically an Asian movie, as it was made in Hollywood. But it was directed by Bong Joon-ho (the director of multi-Oscar-winning “Parasite”) and the cast was a mixture of American and South Korean, so I consider this movie “East meets West” category. I think that because of this unusual mixture, this dystopian, sci-fi, social commentary film feels so fresh and unexpected. I have a full review of “Snowpiercer” here and you can watch the film on Netflix! (there’s also a Netflix Original show based on the same concept, but I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t comment).
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Written by: Nitesh Tiwari, Piyush Gupta, Shreyas Jain, Nikhil Meharotra
If you’ve read more of my blog, you probably noticed that I am a big fan of Aamir Khan movies. Well, I watched 10 movies with Aamir Khan and liked every single one of them! A few of them are among my top movies of all time! If you take a chance and watch some of them, you’ll see why. “Dangal” is no exception – it’s a well-crafted family drama and sports movie that will take you on such a rewarding emotional journey, that by the end you will have laughed, cried, felt despair, elation, and catharsis. “Dangal” also has a superb soundtrack (that theme song is just wow!), great actors, and amazing cinematography. So, don’t get intimidated by the fact that the movie is 2.5 hours and watch it while it’s on Netflix. Also, check out a full review by Chelsea McGill on this blog.
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Writer(s): Abhijit Joshi, Rajkumar Hirani
Another movie with Aamir Khan? Yes, there will be a lot of them on this list because, luckily, Netflix has added them onto their platform! “3 Idiots” was the first movie with Aamir Khan that I saw. I cried. A lot. Literally. It was such an emotional rollercoaster that, after watching it, I made all of my closest friends watch it too and all of them loved it (many cried too). You can read my full review of “3 Idiots” here. But better than that – go and watch it on Netflix while it’s there!
Animal World (动物世界)
Directed by: Han Yan
Written by: Han Yan
The protagonist Zheng Kaisi is a lovable daydreaming loser, who finds himself millions in debt. To pay it off, he decides to board a ship “Destiny” that offers a gambling game based on rock, paper, scissors. The movie is a weird mixture of cyberpunk, superhero, fantasy, action thriller genres, and is based on the manga Kaiji by Nobuyuki Fukumoto. It has some really cool action scenes, especially where this clown-hero appears (though the origins and purpose of this clown are not clear, I assume we would learn more in the sequel). The whole sequence of the game on the ship is very well-made and interesting to watch, which you wouldn’t expect from a probability game based on something as mundane as rock paper scissors. Overall, this is going to be a weird ride, but it’s worth it. By the way, Michael Douglas is also in the movie!
KUNG FU HUSTLE
Kung Fu Hustle (功夫)
Director: Stephen Chow
Written by: Chan Man Keung, Stephen Chow, Xin Huo, Tsang Kan-Cheung
Country: Hong Kong
Cult-classic “Kung Fu Hustle” directed by legendary Stephen Chow is both a hilarious kung fu comedy and a great martial arts movie with one of my favorite fight scenes ever (Blade of Gu Qin). See the full review here and don’t miss it on Netflix!
Directed by: Rajkumar Hirani
Written by: Rajkumar Hirani, Abhijat Joshi
And we’re back to Aamir Khan movies. In “PK”, Aamir Khan is a lovable alien who got stuck in our world. People say that only “god” can help him, so he sets on a journey through many beliefs and religions in India to find that god who can help him go back home. There’s also a beautiful love story weaved in that alludes to the history and tensions between India and Pakistan. It’s a gorgeous, fun, and moving film created by the director of “3 Idiots”. Don’t miss it on Netflix!
THE NIGHT COMES TO US
The Night Comes for Us
Director: Timo Tjahjanto
Writer: Timo Tjahjanto
If you’ve watched “Raid: Redemption”, you will probably like “The Night Comes for Us”. Here we see the breakaway stars of that movie – Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim – together again. While the story of the movie is a bit muddled, it does make up for it in it’s martial arts action sequences. Just warning – there are some very gory visuals there, but if you don’t mind the gore – catch it on Netflix!
Dear Ex (誰先愛上他的)
Directed by: Chih-Yen Hsu, Mag Hsu
Written by: Mag Hsu, Shih-yuan Lu
This comedy/tragedy/family drama is a heartwarming LGBT film about complexity of love and family. It is beautifully-made and, while slow-paced, it is well-worth waiting for the ending scenes – it may break your heart.
Space Sweepers (승리호)
Directed by: Jo Sung-hee
Written by: Jo Sung-hee
Country: South Korea
This South Korean sci-fi action drama is a real eye-candy if you like gorgeous space infrastructure visuals. While it’s not an ideal movie story-wise, it contains some very flimsy science, and some characters (especially the villain) are quite bland, it does have a strong emotional core and keeps you engaged until the end. It’s fun, often funny, and if you like space movies (and don’t mind the scientific gaps) – you’ll enjoy it.
RANG DE BASANTI
Rang De Basanti (Colour it Yellow)
Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Written by: Renzil D’Silva, Kamlesh Pandey, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
“Rang De Basanti” is definitely one of my all-time favorites from Aamir Khan and one of the most emotionally moving movies I’ve ever seen. I was blown away in the end. It is a story about friendship, politician disobedience, and the importance of learning your history. See my full review here and hurry to watch it on Netflix!
DIL CHAHTA HAI
Dil Chahta Hai (The Heart’s Desire)
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Written by: Farhan Akhtar, Kassim Jahmagia
If you’ve already seen and liked “3 Idiots”, then you’ll probably like “Dil Chahta Hai” as well. If you haven’t watched it – then you can put both into your list on Netflix. It’s a classic story about friendship, love, and growing up with great actors and lovely songs. Check my full review of this movie here.
Talaash: The Answer Lies Within
Director: Reema Kagti
Writer(s): Farhan Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti
Yes, I know – another Aamir Khan movie. But I warned you in the beginning – I am a huge fan and Netflix happens to have a whole collection of them on their platform right now. “Talaash”, however, is quite different from the previously listed films – it’s a mystery thriller with neo-noir motifs, reminiscent of Joon-ho Bong’s “Memories of Murder” and Roman Polanski’s classic, “Chinatown”. If you’re a fan of this genre – don’t miss it. My full review of “Talaash” is here.
Director: Anurag Basu
Written by: Anurag Basu, Tani Basu
“Barfi!” is the first Indian movie on this list without Aamir Khan. It is a lovely romantic comedy about a deaf-mute man portrayed by Ranbir Kapoor who expresses himself through physical comedy (Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Benny Hill, Mr. Bean-style). Check out the full review here and watch it next on Netflix!
Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
With movies from Ghibli studio, you pretty much can’t go wrong – that’s why I am overjoyed that all of them are available on Netflix. “Princess Mononoke” is my personal favorite and the one that got me into watching anime in the first place. It is a complex and beautiful tale about an ever-changing relationship between humans and nature. See full and detailed review here after you watch it on Netflix! (Note: it gets quite dark, so not recommended to watch with younger children – there’s plenty of others like “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Ponyo” that are perfect for all ages).
Kengan Ashura (ケンガンアシュラ)
A group of super-fighters representing mega-corporations face each other in the ultimate battle. Business deals of these corporations are wagered on the outcomes of the matches. That’s the basic premise of “Kengan Ashura”, a spectacular martial arts anime. The fights are intense and well-done. If you like martial arts, fighting movies, UFC, games like “Tekken” and “Mortal Combat” – this anime series is for you.
HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
House of Flying Daggers (十面埋伏)
Directed by: Zhang Yimou
Written by: Zhang Yimou, Li Feng, Wang Bin
One of my favorite martial arts movies of all time, “House of Flying Daggers” brings us to the colorful Tang dynasty where a group of rebels is challenging the government. It is a true fairy tale of love and wuxia in Ancient China. The movie is a spectacular visual experience and now available on Netflix! See my full review here.
Furie (Hai Phuong)
Directors: Le-Van Kiet, Van Kiet Le
“Furie” or “Hai Phuong” is a Vietnamese martial arts action flick about where an ex-gangster mother sets off to save her daughter after she was kidnapped. It is not a perfect movie by far – some scenes feel too far-fetched, some characters are incoherent. But, overall, it’s an entertaining experience. If you like well-choreographed, fast-paced martial arts movies like Raid: Redemption, Ong-Bak, The Protector, Chocolate, Night Comes for Us, John Wick, then you will like this. Check out my full review here and see it on Netflix.
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
“Akira” is a cult-anime about a biker gang set in a dystopian Japan. It’s a classic cyberpunk, revered both by critics and fans. It is considered to be one of the greatest sci-fi action films ever made. So, if you haven’t seen it – it’s a must-watch. And don’t mind the year – while it is made in 1988, the movie feels very relevant today. It’s perfect for the fans of “Blade Runner”, “The Matrix”, “Altered Carbon”. There’s so much that has been said about this movie that all I can say it – catch it on Netflix, you won’t regret it. (Warning – there are some gory scenes there, it’s an adult animation – do not watch it with kids).
THE WHITE TIGER
The White Tiger
Directed by: Ramin Bahrani
Written by: Ramin Bahrani
After my first visit to India, I read Aravind Adiga’s book that the movie is based on, and loved it. I watched the movie hoping it would not lose the book’s satirical tone and strong social commentary, and I was not disappointed. It’s a dark and yet weirdly inspiring tale about one man’s escape from poverty against all odds. With brilliant performances by the actors and great cinematography, this movie is at the top of my favorites I’ve watched this year. Catch it on Netflix!
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Written by: Ashutosh Gowariker
Can I interest you in a 4-hour movie about cricket? It’s a hard sell for most who are not fans of the sport. But trust me on this one – it’s an astonishingly great piece of cinema. I am glad that Netflix has added to their list – don’t miss a chance to see this masterpiece with Aamir Khan. Read my full and detailed review here. If you do watch it and love it, then also check out “Madness in the Desert” – the documentary about making “Lagaan”.
TAARE ZAMEEN PAR
Like Stars on Earth (Taare Zameen Par)
Director: Aamir Khan
Written by: Amole Gupte
Many of movies with Aamir Khan may make you cry – this one definitely will. This is a beautiful and soulful story about a young imaginative boy and a teacher who is the only person seeing potential in him. See my full review here and watch it on Netflix when you need a good cry.
Director: Chaitanya Tamhane
Written by: Chaitanya Tamhane
The film is a slow-paced meditative journey that will take you into the world of classical Indian music – rāga. It is focused on one artist’s journey – the practice, the reverence and the self-doubt. It also touches on the topics of guru-worship and stories we create versus the real people behind the façade. It’s a beautiful movie – I found it mesmerizing and was engaged throughout. Part of it has to do with the fact that I am a fan of this type of music since I found Ravi Shankar. However, I think even non-fans of the music would enjoy this movie. It’s one of the great ones, the ones that stay with you long after you finish watching it.
THE VICTIMS’ GAME
The Victims’ Game
Written by: Liang Shu-ting; Hsu Ruei-liang
With so many things to watch on Netflix, sometimes a gem is lost in the midst, and I think “The Victim’s Game” qualifies for such status. With just (currently) 1.2k ratings on IMDB, this TV series seems to be below the radar of many. If you are a fan of crime shows, such as “Mindhunter”, “CSI”, “Bones”, you will like “The Victim’s Game”. It follows a forensic scientist with Asperger’s syndrome Fang Yi-jen and a sharp investigative journalist Hsu Hai-yin (my favorite character), as they unravel the mystery of strange series of murders where the bodies of people seem to be swapped. Luckily, Netflix announced the second season of the series that should premier in 2022! Trigger warning: this show deals heavily with suicide.
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