Building on the momentum of past successes, the Chinese film industry is poised to break even more barriers in 2023. These upcoming films not only showcase the rich tapestry of Chinese culture but also reflect a dynamic fusion of traditional narratives with innovative storytelling techniques.
From awe-inspiring visuals that capture China’s scenic landscapes to thought-provoking tales deeply rooted in its history, 2023’s film line-up will undoubtedly captivate audiences worldwide, further cementing China’s place in the global cinematic arena.
1. “Full River Red” (满江红)
“Full River Red” is a 2023 historical comedy thriller by director Zhang Yimou. Released on Chinese New Year, January 22, 2023, it’s the year’s sixth-highest-grossing film.
Set post-Yue Fei’s death in the Southern Song Dynasty, the story revolves around a murder at Qin Hui’s home, involving Jin Dynasty delegates. A crucial letter goes missing, and vigilantes eye a suspected traitor.
Soldier Zhang Xiao (Shen Teng) and commander Lu Yanqi (Jackson Yee) get entwined in this conspiracy, racing to prevent a war. A masterpiece of visuals and suspense, it’s a top pick for Zhang Yimou enthusiasts and historical drama lovers.
2. “Hidden Blade” (隐刃)
“Hidden Blade” is a 2023 World War II espionage thriller directed by Cheng Er, featuring stars Tony Leung as “the Blade” and Wang Yibo, alongside Zhou Xun and Huang Lei. Released on January 22, 2023 (Chinese New Year), it grossed $139 million worldwide, ranking tenth for 2023 temporarily.
Set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, the film revolves around underground fighters led by the master spy, the Blade, as they gather intel on the Japanese military. Facing betrayals and life-threatening challenges, their resilience shines through.
Praised for its cinematography and strong performances, especially Leung’s, “Hidden Blade” is a gripping tale of WWII Chinese resistance and a treat for espionage and Tony Leung enthusiasts.
3. “The White Snake” (雙世白蛇)
“The White Snake” (or “See The White Snake Again”) is a 2023 Chinese fantasy comedy helmed by Qin Kai, starring Gong Ping, Gu Jing, and Zhang Chunzhong. This contemporary take on the classic White Snake legend centers on Bai Suzhen (Gong Ping), a reincarnated white snake, and her love for demon descendant Xu Xian (Gu Jing).
Their love story faces peril with the entrance of Tianshi (Zhang Chunzhong), a formidable demon. A visual treat rich in mythology, comedy, and romance, this film is a must-watch for fans of Chinese folklore.
4. “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” (扫毒3人在天涯)
“The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” is a 2023 action crime movie from Hong Kong, directed by Derek Chiu and featuring Andy Lau, Aaron Kwok, and Louis Koo. This film is the third entry in the White Storm series.
The plot revolves around an undercover agent, Zhang Jianhang (played by Aaron Kwok). During a drug bust overseen by Officer Ou Zhiyuan (Louis Koo), Zhang gets wounded.
Unexpectedly, he’s saved by drug kingpin Kang Su Cha (Andy Lau) and is taken to Thailand to recuperate. While there, Zhang befriends Noon (Yang Caiyu) and contemplates returning to Hong Kong with her.
However, when Kang discovers Zhang’s true identity, allegiances become uncertain. This film premiered in China on July 6, 2023, and in Hong Kong a day later on July 7, 2023.
5. The Wandering Earth 2 (流浪地球2)
“The Wandering Earth 2” is a 2023 Chinese sci-fi film directed by Guo Fan, starring Wu Jing, Andy Lau, and a stellar cast. This sequel is set five years after the original, where Earth was pushed out of the solar system to escape an exploding sun.
Now, with planets inching closer to Earth, humanity must find a new home or face destruction. As they navigate planetary challenges and black holes, the film portrays human resilience and leaves viewers with profound reflections.
6. “Death Notice” (暗杀风暴)
“Death Notice” is a 2023 Chinese crime thriller directed by Lu Yang, featuring Zhang Yi, Wang Qianyuan, and Ni Ni. The plot revolves around a diverse group who receive death notices with a haunting message: “You will die.”
With the deadline approaching, they must unravel the identity and motive of the mysterious sender. A roller-coaster of suspense, the film boasts powerful performances and keeps viewers on edge until its conclusion.
A standout in the crime thriller genre, “Death Notice” is not to be missed.
7. Fox Hunt (猎狐行动)“Fox Hunt” is a Chinese action thriller directed by Leo Zhang, starring Tony Leung, Duan Yihong, Erica Xia-Hou, and others. The film centers on a Chinese police squad, led by Chen Dacheng (Tony Leung), chasing down a fugitive businessman, Zhang Xiaohui (Duan Yihong), in Europe.
As Zhang establishes a new life abroad, Chen’s team faces both his evasive tactics and reluctant local authorities. Through determination and teamwork, they prove that justice knows no borders.
This suspenseful thriller, highlighted by compelling performances and Leo Zhang’s direction, is a treat for action and police drama enthusiasts.
8. “All Ears” (不虚此行)
“All Ears” is a 2023 Chinese drama directed by Liu Jiayin, featuring Hu Ge as Wen Shan, a disillusioned eulogy writer. When he meets Xiao Ai (Zhou Dongyu), a young woman facing terminal cancer, she rejuvenates his perspective on the value of his profession.
Through writing heartfelt eulogies, Wen Shan rediscovers passion, understanding the impact of his work. With powerful performances, Liu Jiayin crafts an evocative story on life, death, and the power of stories.
This film is a poignant exploration for drama aficionados.
9. Nameless Heroes (红色特工)
“Nameless Heroes” is a 2023 Chinese spy thriller directed by Li Yuhan, starring Zhang Yi and Ni Ni. The film, based on true events, showcases Lin Xian’s dangerous espionage in Japan during WWII on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
Facing potential execution if caught, Lin’s journey reveals the resilience of the human spirit. This gripping historical drama is a must-watch for fans of the genre.
10. The Procurator (检察风云)
“The Procurator” is a 2023 Chinese legal thriller directed by Xu Jizhou and featuring Zhang Yi, Li Naiwen, and Ni Ni. The film delves into the world of prosecutors, led by Wei Zeyang (Zhang Yi), as they tackle high-profile corruption cases within the government.
Amidst challenges like bribes and threats, the team remains unwavering in its pursuit of justice. This gripping narrative, showcasing the resilience of the human spirit and the relentless quest for justice, is a treat for legal thriller and crime drama enthusiasts.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Where can I watch these movies?
The availability of these movies also varies. Some of them will be released in theaters first, while others will be available on streaming platforms.
Be sure to check the release information for each movie to see where you can watch it.
What are the prevailing themes in Chinese cinema?
The landscape of Chinese cinema is ever-changing. Historical narratives have seen a resurgence, delving into China’s rich history and its interactions on the global stage.
There’s also a noticeable uptick in science fiction films, showcasing China’s forward-thinking cinematic approach that resonates with both local and global viewers. The rapid expansion of the Chinese animation sector means animated movies are gaining traction among diverse age groups.
Why is Chinese cinema gaining traction globally?
China’s booming economy and rising middle class have increased disposable incomes, enabling more people to indulge in cinema. Exposure to global cultures and films through travel has broadened their cinematic tastes.
The Chinese film industry has upped its game, producing internationally competitive films with advanced technologies. Additionally, streaming platforms like Netflix and iQiyi have made Chinese films accessible to global audiences.
2023 heralds an era of renewed vigor and innovation in the Chinese film industry, building upon its historical successes. The films released this year offer a mosaic of rich Chinese culture, seamlessly interwoven with avant-garde storytelling.
Be it the grandeur of Chinese landscapes, tales steeped in historical depths, or the manifestation of contemporary narratives, 2023’s cinematic offerings are a testament to the industry’s prowess. The dynamic confluence of history, fantasy, drama, action, and suspense ensures that these films have a universal appeal, transcending geographical and cultural barriers.
For those with a penchant for exploring the broader East Asian movie tapestry, don’t miss our curated list of standout South Korean movies set to captivate audiences in 2023.