Cantonese Alliance

Cantonese through Films


  • If you're interested in creating a language class on popular Cantonese culture, here's a curriculum that I've designed..

History of Hong Kong Cinema

Movies by Decades:

  • 1940s:
    • 《前程萬里》 "Glorious Future" (1941): this is an anti-Japanese war movie released in 1941. It captures the social and historical aspects of Hong Kong at that time. The movie is in Mandarin with portions of it in Cantonese, where Mandarin speakers interacted with local Cantonese speakers.
  • 1950s:
    • 《危樓春曉》"In the Face of Demolition" (1953)
    • 《曼波女郎》"Mambo Girl" (1957)
  • 1960s:
    • 《南北和》 “The Greatest Civil War on Earth” (1961): With the rapid influx of non-Cantonese speakers from mainland China arriving in Hong kong after WWII, a new generation of young people had grown up by 1960s who did not see themselves as northerners or southerners. In this comedy, two sets of parents who were foes had to learn to reconcile their differences when something happened to their children.
  • 1970s:
    • Bruce Lee's kungfu movies: 《唐山大兄》 “The Big Boss” (1971), 《精武門》"Fist of Fury" (1972), 《猛龍過江》"Way of the Dragon" (1972), 《龍爭虎鬥》"Enter the Dragon" (1973)
    • Hui Brothers' comedies: 《鬼馬雙星》"Games Gamblers Play" (1974),《半斤八兩》 "The Private Eyes" (1976)
    • 《愛奴》"Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan" (1972)
  • 1980s-1990s:
    • 《投奔怒海》 "Boat People" (1982): This is an Ann Hui movie that depicts the experiences of Chinese Vitnamese in Vietnam that led to their (attempted) escape from Vitnam."
    • Urban action movies: 《英雄本色》 "A Better Tomorrow" (1986): This is a "must-watch" movie. It started a new genre of action drama known as heroic bloodshed in 1980s and had influenced Hollywood significantly.  However, it is how consistently the movie presents the Chinese traditional value of yih-hei (義氣) that most impresses me.  Here's the handout I've used for a 30-minute Cantonese practice session with intermediate to advanced learners. The handout talks about yih-hei (義氣) and heroic bloodshed.
    • Movies capturing the sentiments of and the arrivals of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong prior to its reversion to China in 1997: 《省港騎兵》"Long Arm of the Law" (1984),《秋天的童話》 “An Autumn’s Tale”(1987),《胭脂扣》 "Rouge" (1987), 《甜蜜蜜》 “Comrade, Almost a Love Story” (1996)
    • 《倩女幽魂》"A Chinese Ghost Story" (1987)
    • 《開心鬼救開心鬼》"Happy Ghost IV" (1990)
    • 《滾滾紅塵》"Red Dust" (1990)
    • 《家有囍事》"All's Well, Ends Well" (1992)
    • 《籠民》"Cageman" (1992)
    • 《金枝玉葉》"He's a Woman, She's a Man" (1994)
    • 《愛你愛到殺死你》"Killing Me Tenderly" (1997)
    • 《香港製造》"Made in Hong Kong" (1997)
    • New wave movies: Wong Kar-wai’s《阿飛正傳 》"Days of Being Wild" (1990) and 《重慶森林》 “Chungking Express” (1994)
  • 2000s:
    • Character-driven crime movies:《無間道 I, II, III》"Infernal Affairs I, II, III" (2002, 2003, 2003)
      • "Infernal Affairs I": Best Cop Movie from Hong Kong
    • Stephen Chow’s most successful comedies:
      • 《少林足球》Shaolin Soccer” (2001): One of the funniest Kungfu parodies by Stephen Chow (周星馳)
      • 《功夫》Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
    • 《花樣年華》: Best artsy movie directed by Wong Kar-Wai (王家衛); winner of Best Actor and Technical Grand Prize at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.
    • 《老港正傳》"Mr. Cinema" (2007)
    • 《天水圍的日與夜》"The Way We Are" (2008) depicts the life of residents in a public housing estate in Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong.
    • 2010s - Now:
    • Popular Kungfu movies after Bruce Lee:
      • 《黃飛鴻》 “Once Upon a Time in China I, II, III, IV, V, VI” (1991, 1992, 1993, 1993, 1994, 1997): I like II.
      • 《方世玉 》 “Fong Sai Yuk” (1993)
      • 《葉問 》 “Ip Man I , II, III, IV” (2008, 2010, 2015, 2019): I like I and III.

Movie Reviews

Searchable movie database

  • Digital Museum of Cantonese: Created by Dr. Andy Chin of the Education University of Hong Kong. It is a searchable database of Cantonese movies from the mid 1950s.  When we can search a special expression (e.g. 新抱), entire sentences with the expression will appear.  This is a great tool for language learners.

Cantonese TV Drama (Coming)

Cantopop (Coming)