Let’s face it, no Chinese New Year month would be complete without at least watching a movie designed for the festive season. Although this year’s MCO 2.0 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prevented us from watching new Chinese New Year movies in the cinema, we can always choose to revisit some of the old ones at home. From the comedy-caper classic of “Aces Go Places” to the modern fantasy-comedy of “The Mermaid”, here are the 10 Most Popular CNY Movies Worth Checking Out in alphabetical order.
1) Aces Go Places (1982)
It may have been dated by today’s standard. But “Aces Go Places” was largely seen as the gold standard of Hong Kong action-comedies released during the Chinese New Year season. The movie features memorable performances from Sam Hui and Karl Maka, who play a jewel thief and a detective respectively. Not to forget the scene-stealing (young) Sylvia Chang in her plucky role of a no-nonsense police inspector.
2) All’s Well End’s Well (1992)
Among the quintessential all-star CNY comedies that started it all, boasting an ensemble cast of talented Hong Kong stars. This includes everyone from Stephen Chow to Maggie Cheung, Sandra Ng, Teresa Mo and the late Leslie Cheung. This classic family comedy, which centres on the romantic lives of three brothers (Stephen Chow, Leslie Cheung and Raymond Wong), was a huge hit at the time of its release. The movie, of course, also famously showcased then-rising star Stephen Chow’s signature mo lei tau (nonsensical) comedy that made “All’s Well End’s Well” such an all-time favourite.
3) Armour Of God II – Operation Condor (1991)
An improvement over the 1987 original, “Armour Of God II – Operation Condor” made history as the most expensive Hong Kong movie at the time. And it shows, beginning with the multiple location shoots such as Spain and Morocco. Jackie Chan, who performed multiple duties from playing the lead role to co-writing and directing the sequel, and also responsible for overseeing the action choreography. As expected, the sequel contains some of Jackie’s best action scenes, notably the motorcycle pursuit and the final showdown in a wind tunnel. You can stream this on Netflix.
4) Drunken Master II (1994)
Here’s another popular CNY movie which features Jackie Chan, where the martial arts superstar famously reprised his iconic role of Wong Fei-Hung after the seminal 1978 original. He certainly went all out here, as evidently seen with the impressively-choreographed fight scenes. Jackie may look too old to play the rebellious Wong Fei-Hung. But he acquits himself well enough with his usual playful charm and engaging presence. The sequel also includes one of the best final fight scenes ever seen in Hong Kong cinema — a showdown between Jackie and the high-kicking Ken Lo.
5) Golden Chickensss (2014)
Even after two prior “Golden Chicken” movies, Sandra Ng’s iconic role as the hard-working prostitute, Kam still resonates well among many fans and audiences alike. The third one, cheekily titled as “Golden Chickensss”, sees Sandra at her usual comedic best. A major hit during the Chinese New Year month, “Golden Chickensss” features lots of hilarious in-jokes and memorable gags. Then, there’s Ivana Wong, whose supporting role deserves credit for her scene-stealing performance as the mainland prostitute. You can stream this on Netflix.
6) Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons (2013)
Stephen Chow returns to the ancient world of “Journey To The West” in this effects-laden 2013 fantasy comedy. Fans of his movies, of course, would remember him in the 1995 two-parter of “A Chinese Odyssey”. Only this time, he is in charge of overseeing the production as a co-director, producer and screenwriter of the movie. While the movie didn’t feature him onscreen, the spirit of his signature mo lei tau brand remains omnipresent. “Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons” benefits from the multiple tonal shifts, covering fantasy elements as well as comedy, romance and even some emotionally-penetrating moments.
7) King Of Comedy (1999)
Yet another CNY box-office hit from Stephen Chow, “King Of Comedy” features the legendary Hong Kong comedian’s multifaceted performance in both comedy and dramatic moments. The latter happens to be a surprisingly affecting one, given the fact that “King Of Comedy” was loosely based on Stephen’s personal struggle from nobody to a superstar. The hit comedy also includes then-newcomer Cecilia Cheung in her breakthrough performance as Lau Piu-Piu.
8) The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993)
Way before director Jeff Lau gave us the two-parter of “A Chinese Odyssey” in 1995, he was responsible for “The Eagle Shooting Heroes” two years prior. Here, he had a field day parodying Louis Cha’s famous wuxia novel of “The Legend Of The Condor Heroes” with gleeful abandon. It’s as wacky as it goes, with most humour and gags hitting the spot. Not to forget this comedy gets an extra boost from a first-rate ensemble all around, featuring the likes of Leslie Cheung, Tony Keung Ka-Fai and Joey Wong.
9) The Eighth Happiness (1988)
The 1980s was undoubtedly among the best decades for Chinese New Year comedies, with Johnnie To’s enormously successful “The Eighth Happiness” happening to be one of them. It’s all standard stuff and yet, it contains some comedy gold from the entertaining starry cast. And of course, there’s Chow Yun-Fat in one of his famous comedy roles. You can stream this on Netflix.
10) The Mermaid (2016)
As one of the most financially-lucrative Chinese New Year movies in China, “The Mermaid” is among the prime examples that you can still make a successful Stephen Chow movie even without his onscreen presence. Similar to “Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons” (see no. 6), this fantasy-comedy has the signature Stephen Chow stamped all over the movie. It’s both wacky, funny and even genuinely affecting at some parts, with then-newcomer Jelly Lin proved to be a great find as the titular mermaid. You can stream this on Netflix.