Get ready for Chinese New Year by watching these iconic Cantonese movies on Netflix
One of the best parts about Chinese New Year is catching up with family and friends. Homes feel renewed from Spring cleaning, with fresh flowers from the annual CNY flower market on full display, and the TV playing familiar Cantonese movies in the background during reunion dinners.
These classic Chinese New Year movies have been replayed hundreds of times on Hong Kong TV channels during the festive season each year. Oftentimes they’re heart-warming films on family, or more likely, comedy movies starring Stephen Chow, Hong Kong’s king of comedy himself.
As much as we love the tradition of watching Chinese New Year movies on TV channels, however, Netflix has introduced a secret code that allows viewers to unlock hundreds of iconic Chinese New Year movies—that means you’re now able to watch most of Stephen Chow’s films on Netflix—without getting left at the cliffhanger, courtesy of perfectly-timed ads and commercials.
Whether you’re looking for a laugh, a tear-jerking cry, or an action-thriller that’ll keep you at the corner of your seat, we list out the best Cantonese films to watch during Chinese New Year.
1. Zero to Hero
Released in 2021, Zero to Hero is based on a true story following So Wa-wai, Hong Kong's first gold-winning athlete at the Paralympic Games. This heartfelt tale unfolds the story of how So became a sprinter for Hong Kong's Paralympic Games from 1996 to 2012. A story about struggle, perseverance, and unwavering hope, watch this movie if you want a dose of inspiration to start you CNY right.
2. All’s Well, Ends Well
This 1992 comedy film stars all the old Hong Kong icons: Leslie Cheung, Stephen Chow, Maggie Cheung, producer Raymond Wong, Sandra Ng and Teresa Mo. The film follows three brothers (played by Cheung, Chow and Wong) as they navigate their romantic relationships.
Don’t expect the movie to make total sense—this cult classic features Stephen Chow’s signature nonsensical, random and over-the-top humour, which also means you’re in for a good time. Catch up on the seven sequels afterwards, with the most recent one released just last year.
3. Fat Choi Spirit
Fat Choi, the Chinese term for “becoming prosperous” gives you a hint on what the movie will be about. Fat Choi Spirit is a comedy film starring Andy (played by Andy Lau) as a talented Mahjong player who got disowned by his family for his gambling habit.
However, his luck changes after meeting Gigi (played by Gigi Leung), who becomes his lucky charm after getting together. The star’s losing streak returns after the two break up and Andy is forced to navigate through a new life, job and losing mahjong games afterwards.
4. An Inspector Calls
Based on J.B. Preiestly’s play of the same name, An Inspector Calls is Hong Kong’s remake of the play, with added slapstick and playful elements in this version. Released in 2015, this movie is the most recent Chinese New Year movie on the list, but the cast is filled with familiar all-time favourite names such as Louis Koo, Eric Tsang and Teresa Mo.
5. Justice, My Foot!
Another film starring no other than Stephen Chow as the lead, Justice, My Foot! Is set in imperial China. Chow acts as the role of successful lawyer, Sung, who is struck with bad karma due to his shyster ways, causing premature deaths for 13 of his sons. The lawyer decides to retire from law after his 13th son passes away, but finds it hard to give up his former career and launches into his final case instead.
6. God of Gamblers
Gambling is a tradition for many during Chinese New Year, which explains the number of gambling-related movies available. God of Gamblers is one of the most talked-about ones throughout the years despite being released over three decades ago. The film stars two of Hong Kong’s most famous actors, Andy Lau and Chow Yun-Fat.
Chow plays Ko Chun, a famous gambler known as the “God of Gamblers”, however, he keeps his identity a secret from the public. Lau plays Little Knife, a mediocre gambler who idolises Ko Chun and the two strangers meet when Little Knife accidentally caused Ko Chun to lose his memory due to an injury.
7. Infernal Affairs
A twisted tale about a long-time undercover cop in the mafia, Infernal Affairs was one of the highest-ranking Hong Kong films of all time. Starring family-favourite Cantonese stars, Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang, this movie’s intense storyline will have everyone focused on the show during reunion dinner.
Nominated for numerous awards in Hong Kong and worldwide, Infernal Affairs even inspired American film director, Martin Scorsese to make a remake of the film, producing The Departed, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
8. It’s a Mad, Mad World
What would you do if you win nineteen million dollars from the lottery one day? It’s a Mad, Mad World follows a struggling family whose lives change when the TV reporter’s wife wins the lottery. A goofy, heart-felt movie starring late Bill Tung, TVB’s late sweetheart, Lydia Shum, Eric Tsang Chi-wai and other notable stars, travel back in time to 1987 with this film.
9. Ip Man
A touching biographical martial arts film based on Ip Man, a martial arts grandmaster who trained Bruce Lee, the film was released in 2008 and gained international attention, grossing over US$21 million dollars worldwide.
Ip Man is played by Hong Kong actor and martial artist, Donnie Yen and the film focusds on Man’s life during the Sino-Japanese War. While we can’t attest that Ip Man himself actually did everything that happened in the movie, it’s an excellent watch that might inspire you to take up martial arts one day.
This article was originally published on February 4, 2021 and updated on January 21, 2022.