When it comes to Hong Kong cinema, many immediately think of gangster movies and the fiery Triad.
The scenes of violence, explosions, and eye-catching action help highlight this film genre. Besides, its content is close and often quickly received by the public.
Gangster movies are a unique cultural feature of Hong Kong cinema. They captivate audiences with explosive gunfights, fast tempo and emphasizes loyalty.
This theme has such a strong appeal that Hollywood has organized remakes of such famous scripts. Below are the 10 best Hong Kong gangster movies.
1. The Killer (1989)
The first film on the list, The Killer, is a harmonious whole between emotion, passion, and violence.
Actor Chow Yun-Fat plays Ah Jong, a veteran assassin. He has to go on one last mission to fund a corneal transplant for a nightclub singer. The main reason is that he accidentally hurt that person in an accident.
However, this mission did not go smoothly as a series of betrayals, ambushes, border crossings, and attacks occurred.
The story becomes more and more enjoyable when Li Ying (Danny Lee), a detective chasing Ah Jong, realizes the good sides of this assassin.
Together, they have built a strong and trustworthy comradeship. Although the saying “Life’s cheap” is quite common, life can still be better when you have people to care about and depend on.
This film was a springboard for director John Woo to enter Hollywood and was a strong inspiration for later movies.
In 1999, The Killer was listed by Time magazine as one of the top 10 Asian films of the 20th century. This film perfectly combines violence and commerce.
2. Election (2005)
The Election is a film honored to participate in the Cannes film festival for good reasons. Johnnie To’s masterpiece has a deeper content than a crime movie.
Viewers will have the opportunity to experience the Triad’s culture and way of life and the procedure for electing their new leader. Along with that event, we witness ruined brotherhoods and intense mind battles with the police.
Unlike traditional scenes of violence and gore, The Election’s approach creates suspense with slow dialogue.
Two veteran actors, Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Simon Yam, excellently transformed into gang leaders to compete for the leading honcho position.
Many people think that The Election has portrayed different aspects of the Triad.
The content outlined the fragility between relationships and jealousy among system members. It has comedic moments but also contemplative moments.
3. A Better Tomorrow (1986)
A Better Tomorrow is the starting brick for the last Hong Kong crime film series. It was also the beginning of director John Woo’s Hollywood career.
Two famous actors, Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun-fat acted here. Their name also grew stronger right after A Better Tomorrow aired.
The film’s content revolves around a trio consisting of a pair of brothers on opposite sides, the police and the fake, and the same gangster. Together they will have to participate in the plans of the Triad.
The role of Chow Yun-fat, the gangster Mark, is just a supporting character. However, his pomp and iconic pose left a strong mark.
The film also has the following two parts, A Better Tomorrow 2 and A Better Tomorrow 3. The audience received all three parts of the film.
4. The Long Arm Of The Law (1984)
The Long Arm Of The Law is the only work directed by Johnny Mak but significantly influenced by later Hong Kong crime films.
The film skillfully weaves between fast-paced action and social realism.
The main content of the film focuses on a jewelry store robbery in Hong Kong by a group of Chinese veterans. They crossed the border and followed an experienced gang member, Tung.
However, all plans gradually fell apart when the gang realized that someone had committed the theft before. The problem comes when the group begins to be chased by the police while planning other robberies.
The main feature of the film is the cast of amateurs and not very famous. Thanks to that, they created exciting puzzle pieces but harmonized in each scene.
The Long Arm Of The Law also partly shows the consumer culture of capitalism. Instead of paying attention to the plan, the gang indulged in shopping sessions and branded lists.
5. Hard Boiled (1992)
Once again, Chow Yun-fat proves his talent and suitability by joining and becoming Tequila, a fantastic character with extreme shooting skills,
Tequila is a police inspector whose teammate was murdered on a mission. To get revenge, he joins a force with Alan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), an undercover member of the Triad, to take down the culprit gang.
Tequila’s appearance is cold and strong, with a toothpick stuck in her mouth. He also participated in dangerous missions that seemed like he could lose his life.
That image is truly iconic. Hard Boiled also features a traditional opening scene for Hong Kong gangsters, with a conventional teahouse and middle-aged uncles.
6. God Of Gamblers (1989)
The gambling movie genre has been popular in Hong Kong since 1970. Yet, it was not until God Of Gamblers was released that it became widely known worldwide.
Director Wong Jing and actor Chow Yun-fat made this film a legend. The content revolves around a gambling superstar, Ko Chun, who regularly participates in games of chance everywhere.
Thanks to his experience, keen intuition, and virtuosic skill, he is almost unbeatable at all gambling games and dice. Ko Chun quickly gets a mission to Singapore to destroy Chan Kam-Sing, the arch-enemy of Yakuza boss Tanaka.
Trouble comes when Ko Chun falls into amnesia after an accident. He is hunted down by Chan Kam-Sing and falls into the hands of Knife (Andy Lau), an incompetent gambler.
The film is a smooth intersection between casinos, a popular business model of the underworld, and thrilling stunts. Chow Yun-fat’s acting skills are sure to go down in history.
7. Infernal Affairs (2002)
Infernal Affairs can be said to be the most successful Hong Kong gangster movie in terms of revenue. Its content is a clever interplay between two stories about two different spies on the front lines.
The audience can go through it and learn how an agent works. We have two-story streams, a Triad member infiltrating the police team and vice versa.
Both of them were determined to return after a fierce battle. Infernal Affairs features thrilling chases, cat-and-mouse, and delves into the emotional aspects.
Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu-wai gave outstanding performances in the film. Their names became more widely known after the success of the film.
8. The Longest Nite (1998)
Director Patrick Yau released The Longest Nite in 1998 and is a crime film based on a true story. The content revolves around conflicts and casino disputes between two Macau gangs.
Unlike its predecessors, The Longest Nite’s content does not revolve around a struggling protagonist.
Tony Leung Chiu-wai plays Sam, a corrupt cop who must keep the peace between the two leaders of the Triad. They are working together to reach an agreement.
The story begins to unravel when a suspicious man interferes with his work. Sam fell into a spiral of revenge, and everything lost control completely.
The film has violent, thorny, and aggressive scenes that many people have to remember until now.
9. The Young And Dangerous (1996)
The film was such a hit when it debuted in Hong Kong that there were a lot of side stories to follow it. The origin of the film is Teddy Boy, a comic book series.
This movie has contributed to portraying the image of gangsters and underground life in Hong Kong. It glorified the Triad and caused mixed reviews.
The film revolves around a group of thugs and hot tempers who join the Triad to serve the leader they admire.
The main character Ho Nam, played by actor Ekin Cheng has made strides in his career. However, that is also when he loses all his friends and has a loyalty test.
10. City On Fire (1987)
Legendary director Quentin Tarantino drew inspiration from City On Fire to create Reservoir Dogs. The film establishes a famous plot when an undercover cop is exposed in the middle of a gang.
We meet Chow Yun-fat again as Ko Chow. He’s a bored undercover cop and must infiltrate the Triad as part of a mission.
Over time, Ko Chow and Fu (Danny Lee Sau-yin), a gang member, build a close relationship. He’s in the middle of a loyalty test and has to decide.
The best Hong Kong gangster movies will likely grow even longer. However, these are ten familiar names that greatly influenced later Hong Kong cinema.
Each film is attractive to viewers and is an integral part of the memory of many generations. Excitement remains intact no matter what time you watch them.
What is your favorite movie? Let us know in the comments section below!