Film

VICE Staffers Share Their Favourite Asian Movies on Netflix

From crime dramas to romantic comedies and even a documentary, this list is ready for binging on your next quarantine Netflix party.
17 April 2020, 12:09pm
best asian movies netflix
Photos from films' trailers.

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.

With almost everyone stuck at home right now, people are spending way more time on Netflix. Let’s face it, curling up on the couch and diving into the world of big cat breeding is a pretty wicked way to spend a Friday night.

But for those tired of Hollywood and are looking for something new, one of the best ways to expand cinematic tastes is by dipping your toes into the grossly underrated world of Asian cinema. As Parasite director Bong Joon-ho said, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

On that end, the VICE APAC team has got you covered. Below are our favourite Asian movies of various genres, ready for binging on your next Netflix Party.

India

Agneepath (1990)

Netflix synopsis: A boy grows up to become a gangster in pursuit of the mobster who killed his innocent father, but revenge and reparation may come at great costs.

Why we like it: It’s a badass 80s Bollywood revenge film featuring epic violent melodrama with amazing costumes — think Scarface. The performances from Amitabh Bachchan (Big B) and Mithun Chakraborty are classic! — Mahmood Fazal

Andhadhun (2018)

Netflix synopsis: A visually impared pianist’s world careens into a series of shocking twists after he unintentionally lands at the murder scene of a former film star.

Why we like it: If you're into Bollywood and you haven't seen Andhadhun, you've missed out. On a lot. Contemporary Bollywood rarely gets its thrillers right, which is why I was rather surprised to find this wicked black comedy brave through some really unexpected twists and turns. There is constant reference to a very retro Bollywood vibe, in which dramatic instrumental music pop in anticlimactically every now and then. Topping it all off are the feisty women who were the real protagonists, at least for me. After all, who doesn't love a thriller film with some badass women? — Pallavi Pundir

Soni (2018)

Netflix synopsis: While fighting crimes against women in Delhi, a short-fused policewoman and her level-headed female boss grapple with gender issues in their own lives.

Why we like it: As someone who lived in New Delhi and grappled with feeling unsafe literally all the time, this film touched a nerve, and much more. I can completely relate with the anger of the young female cop as she deals with the gender bias on the streets as well as at work. Her senior boss woman's resignation to the dark realities of being a woman in a traditionally masculine workplace also resonated with me. Despite their class differences, the two women develop a bond that I feel every woman in Delhi end up developing: that of solidarity in the face of crippling misogyny and abuse. Pallavi Pundir

Indonesia

What's Up with Love? (2002)

Netflix synopsis: A popular high school girl strains her relationship with her close-knit clique when she begins falling for a reclusive, lower-class schoolmate.

Why we like it: It’s old but gold, a classic Indonesian cult romance film. It’s also apparently the first Indonesian teen movie with an intense kissing scene, which sparked quite a controversy when it premiered. — Nadia Rompas

Japan

Godzilla: Resurgence (2016)

Netflix synopsis: When government forces fail to stop a colossal monster that has risen from the bay, an ad hoc team must find its weakness before it destroys mankind.

Why we like it: It is interesting to see that the Japanese government's response to the crisis is depicted in a cynical way. It is also very realistic, almost like a political commentary. But of course, the highlight is when the character Kayoco, played by Satomi Ishihara, says "Godziiiilla!" — Sachie Itonaga

Philippines

Dead Kids (2019)

Netflix synopsis: A socially awkward teen bonds with a group of misfits who plot to abduct the school's arrogant rich kid — until their kidnapping scheme turns deadly.

Why we like it: It's a great watch for those who love crime plots. Dead Kids is a social commentary that discusses class divide and the flawed justice system. The film is quite dark and gory, but those who love the dark and neon aesthetic would be very pleased. — Erika Agravante

Heneral Luna (2015)

Netflix synopsis: In the 1890s, Gen. Antonio Luna leads the fight for independence from the U.S. during the Philippine-American War.

Why we like it: The cinematography and storytelling is great! John Arcilla's portrayal of the title character is excellent, and he keeps you engaged all throughout the film. From history books, Filipinos mostly only read about the bigger picture, but this film portrays the smaller stories that led to the revolution. — Erika Agravante

Sid & Aya: Not a Love Story (2018)

Netflix synopsis: A stockbroker hires a broke woman to keep him company through his insomnia, but their relationship soon goes from business to personal to complicated.

Why we like it: Sid & Aya pulls together the best elements of mainstream and indie Filipino movies. It's just melodramatic enough to enjoy as a guilty pleasure but still feels very modern. It also has beautiful shots of the Metro Manila skyline and briefly brings the characters to Tokyo, so it makes me feel like I'm out of the house. Not so spoiler alert: it definitely is a love story. — Therese Reyes

Singapore

A Land Imagined (2018)

Netflix synopsis: A cop in Singapore investigates the disappearance of a Chinese migrant construction worker who spent sleepless nights playing a mysterious video game.

Why we like it: The film reveals a Singapore that is unfamiliar to local and international audiences alike — a land that, stripped of landmark architecture lining the city skyline, is steeped in the unorganised realities of dirt and debris. It’s a salute to the construction workers who are literally helping to build the country. — Sharon Shum

Shirkers (2018)

Netflix synopsis: In 1992, Sandi Tan and her friends shot a quirky film on the streets of Singapore. Then the footage disappeared, sending her on a hunt for answers.

Why we like it: Sights of Singapore in the 90s are immortalised in what has been described as “Singapore’s first feminist road movie.” This documentary is an intriguing investigation into the disappearance of the missing tapes and a wistful examination of youthful innocence. — Sharon Shum

South Korea

Miss Granny (2014)

Netflix synopsis: After learning she's to be sent to a rest home, an elderly widow goes for a walk and wanders into a photo studio, where she emerges as a 20-year-old.

Why we like it: You’ll laugh and cry like a baby. And it’s time you acquaint yourself with the great Korean actress Shim Eun-kyung. — Junhyup Kwon

The Beauty Inside (2015)

Netflix Synopsis: Awakening each day in a different body, Woo-jin must constantly adjust. But the biggest adjustment may be the one his girlfriend has to make.

Why we like it: The premise is creative and fresh. We follow this unique couple as they challenge conventional definitions of beauty and love. And the cherry on top? Having a bunch of Korean A-listers cameo as Woo-jin. — Junhyup Kwon

Twenty (2015):

Netflix synopsis: Just out of high school, three best friends jump into adulthood with different plans for the future — and very different approaches toward women.

Why we like it: Well, it’s super funny! Also, don’t we all miss the time when we were 20 years old and had friends who were always there for us? Junhyup Kwon

Availability of some films may depend on the region.