EPIPHANY HULBURD WRITES — Over the past couple of years, Asian content has slowly been making its way into the Western mainstream entertainment world. Whether it’s through co-productions with China or the constantly spreading influence of Korean pop culture, otherwise known as “Hallyu,” the content consumed by Americans and Western audiences is slowly diversifying to include more and more of an Eastern influence.
Unlike generations of the past, much of today’s viewership exists largely online through streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Now in addition to websites like viki, crunchyroll and dramafever, who have built their brand on bringing Asian entertainment abroad, big players like Netflix are taking steps to diversify their international collections as well.
With the ever-increasing accessibility to translated Korean dramas, popular animes and powerhouse Chinese films, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of new content on Netflix alone. So rather than surfing through endlessly on your own, here are five distinct films from four different Asian countries on Netflix that can’t be missed.
Train to Busan (2016) — South Korea
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
When a zombie outbreak takes over the country a father and his daughter are forced to make a dangerous journey to the only place that might still be safe.
Upon its release, “Train to Busan” not only became the first Korean film of the year to draw over 10 million theater goers, but subsequently, it became the highest grossing Korean film in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
With a 95% rating on rotten tomatoes, a killer cast, and a heart pounding plot, “Train to busan” is easily one of the best zombie movies out there.
IP Man (2008) — Hong Kong,China
Director: Wilson Yip
This film is based on the life of Bruce Lee’s famed martial arts teacher and set during the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. It follows the story of wealthy martial arts master, Ip Man, played by Donnie Yen, who is forced to protect his family and pride as a martial artist by fighting an occupying general.
“Ip Man” is a widely respected Hong Kong film that greatly boosted the popularity of its main stars and spawned a whole series of sequels, many of which can also be found on Netflix. The film is a celebrated classic for any martial arts film fan and a great introduction into Hong Kong cinema.
The Blue Hour (2016) — Thailand
Director: Anucha Boonyawatana
The next film on our list takes a very different turn from the first two. Rather than being a big budget action film, “The Blue Hour,” in addition to its LGBT narrative, shows a different and more indie side to Asian film making.
Thailand, though less familiar to Western viewers, shows off a promising indie scene filled with inventive and boundary pushing short films. An official selection of the Berlin International Film Festival, “The Blue Hour” is a dark psychological thriller that borders on horror while also challenging the viewer and leaving you questioning the truth.
Though the film is now no longer streaming on Netflix, it still definitely deserves to be on this list and can be found on Amazon video and YouTube.
Battle Royale (2000) — Japan
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
An international cult classic, “Battle Royale” follows a class of Japanese students forced to fight to the death in a gory, government sanctioned killing game.
Though the film is only two years away from its 20th anniversary, “Battle Royale” has stood against the test of time and has everything a good cult classic should. Not only did it spark a string of similarly themed killing game style movies but its squeal, “Battle Royale 2,” can also be found streaming on Netflix.
Northern Limit Line (2015) — South Korea
Director: Hak-sun Kim
The second entry from South Korea on our list, the “Northern Limit Line,” follows the heroic and devastating true story of South Korean patrol boat, Chamsuri 357, which was attacked by two North Korean vessels while South Korea was playing in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
The film features true accounts from survivors of the attack and painstakingly recreates the real life injuries and deaths of South Korean soldiers aboard the boat. Lee Hyun Woo and Kim Mu Yeol deliver heart-wrenching performances that will 100% make you cry.
I hope this list is helpful in getting you started on some of the amazing Asian films on Netflix. Happy viewing.