In one of our previous articles, we offered you a list of our top 10 favourite books set in London and Hong Kong.
Now it’s time to turn our attention to films. This month we suggest five films set in Hong Kong. Next month, we’ll give our recommendations of films set in London
As with our selection of books, we’ve tried to select films that reflect both locations from a current and historical perspective. We’ve also tried to include films where the location is central to the plot of the film, and it couldn’t have been set anywhere else.
The other criterion is that we’ve tried to suggest films that we hope you’ll enjoy watching.
So, get your popcorn ready, dim the lights, and enjoy five of the top films set in Hong Kong.
Our top five films set in Hong Kong
As one of the most densely populated areas on earth, Hong Kong is synonymous with the speed and flow of the modern 21st-century city.
Its teeming streets and busy lifestyle have inspired filmmakers for many years.
It’s also redolent of the rise and decline of the British Empire, with the 1997 handover a defining event that is still very fresh in many people’s memory.
Set in the months leading up to the handover, a terminally-ill British journalist (Jeremy Irons) spends his last months observing the end of colonial rule.
Much of the film was shot on location in Hong Kong, including in the Foreign Correspondent’s Club and Hollywood Road.
The multi-layered plot line filled with insecurities and uncertainty reflects the similar mood in Hong Kong at the time.
We can’t put a list of films set in Hong Kong without including one involving the territory’s most famous celluloid son, Jackie Chan. As both an actor and director, he has probably done more than anyone to keep Hong Kong on the map when it comes to films and location.
It’s an action-packed comedy adventure set in the 19th century near the start of British rule.
It makes great use of Hong Kong locations, and true film buffs will enjoy Chan’s homages to Hollywood, including the famous scene of the hero hanging from the Kowloon Station clock tower – a tribute to Harold Lloyd.
Because of its theme of alienation and loneliness in a busy metropolis, and the fact that many scenes were filmed without official permission in Nathan Road and Kowloon, this has become something of a cult classic.
It was directed by Wong Kar-wai, and the cinematography was by Christopher Doyle.
The film follows the varied lives of two Hong Kong detectives who we only know by numbers rather than names – adding to the sense of alienation. The title comes from the name of a big mansion block on Nathan Road.
This is an archetypal, gritty “cop versus gangster” face-off film that has reminded many reviewers of the famous Al Pacino and Robert Di Niro classic, Heat.
It has scenes across Hong Kong including the Golden Gateway shopping centre in Tsim Sha Tsui and a classic finale at the top of the Guangdong Investment Tower in Sheung Wan.
Johnny To is widely considered to be the best Hong Kong director, so it was natural to include one of his most well-known films on this list.
This tells the story of a group of expert pickpockets working in the Causeway Bay area during daylight and then returning to old Hong Kong at night.
Get in touch
We hope you enjoy watching some of the films we’ve recommended here. If you’ve got any favourites of your own that are set Hong Kong, please let us know.
Look out for our recommendations for films set in London next month!