Sofia De Vera combines a heartfelt passion for cinema with over 15 years of critiquing for esteemed film publications, wielding academic credentials from the University of Southern California and New York University, to serve as your personal guide through the enchanting worlds of film and television.
China, with its vast history steeped in grand strategy and martial prowess, has engendered countless war stories that have transitioned from the pages of books to the majestic expanse of cinema. Epics of legendary heroes and gripping narratives of combat have found a second life in the realm of Chinese war movies, where the ink and pencil of lore morph into the celluloid of filmmaking.
Boasting a cinematic tradition that spans well over a hundred years, Chinese cinema has carved an esteemed place for the genre of war films. These films artfully paint a canvas that encapsulates China’s military heritage while seamlessly weaving in profound themes like valor, sacrifice, and national identity. Each of these narratives serves as a mirror to the spirit of a nation that has weathered countless storms and stands resiliently in the face of adversities.
From grand-scale battlefield spectacles to intimate tales of personal resilience, Chinese war films have enchanted viewers domestically and internationally, earning their rightful place in the annals of world cinema. With a keen eye on historical accuracy and a skillful hand in storytelling, these films have not only enthralled audiences but also provoked deep reflections on the nature and aftermath of war.
In this journey through the landscapes of Chinese war films, we will traverse an array of cinematic masterpieces that have left indelible imprints on the industry. From critically acclaimed epics to lesser-known gems, these films embody the vibrancy and dynamism of Chinese filmmaking.
So, prepare to immerse yourself in the world of Chinese war cinema, as we unveil a treasure trove of compelling narratives that eloquently translate the gamut of human emotions played out against the backdrop of war. Each film is a testament to the powerful storytelling that characterizes Chinese cinema, promising an enlightening and captivating viewing experience.
These heroes may inspire us to be a better version of ourselves; thus, lessons from the past – taught via war movies such as those set in Vietnam, England, France, and Germany – help transform today’s society in a positive way. We also have put together our favorite films set in China if you would like to learn more about this intriguing nation…
Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.
You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.
Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best.
While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.
- The Naval Battle of 1894 (1962)
- Tunnel Warfare (1965)
- The Eight Hundred Heroes (1975)
- The Battle of Tai’ Erzhuang (1989)
- A Home Too Far (1990)
- Decisive Engagement: The Liaoxi Shenyang Campaign (1990)
- The Assembly (2007)
- Cow (2008)
- Nanking Nanking (2009)
- Back to 1942 (2012)
- Death and Glory in Changde (2010)
- The Battle at Lake Changjin (2012)
The Naval Battle of 1894 is a historical war film directed by Wu Yigong. He was a prominent Chinese director and screenwriter, known for his contributions to the Chinese film industry in the 1950s and 1960s. His notable works include The Life of Wu Xun and The Daughter of the Party Secretary.
The film is set during the First Sino-Japanese War, a conflict between the Qing dynasty of China and the Empire of Japan. The plot revolves around the events leading up to the Battle of the Yellow Sea, the largest naval battle fought between modernized fleets in the pre-World War I era.
The battle occurred near the mouth of the Yalu River, separating China and Korea. Under Admiral Tsuboi’s command, the Japanese fleet successfully defeated the Chinese fleet, led by Admiral Ding Ruchang.
The Naval Battle of 1894 is a significant film in Chinese cinema history as it was one of the first movies to showcase the bravery and sacrifice of Chinese soldiers during wartime. If you are interested in historical war movies that offer a glimpse into the past, The Naval Battle of 1894 is a must-watch.
The film’s accurate portrayal of the First Sino-Japanese War and the Battle of the Yellow Sea will shock and awe you. Additionally, the movie provides a unique perspective on the Chinese people’s struggle during wartime and their efforts to defend their country.
Tunnel Warfare (1965)
Tunnel Warfare is a Chinese war movie directed by Wang Yongde. The film tells the story of a group of Chinese soldiers tasked with defending a strategic position from Japanese invaders during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
As the Japanese approach, the Chinese soldiers retreat to an underground tunnel system, engaging in a guerrilla warfare campaign against the Japanese. The soldiers must use their wits and ingenuity to outsmart the Japanese and emerge victorious.
The film is based on the real-life tunnel warfare that took place during the Japanese invasion of China began in 1937, and lasted until 1945. During this time, Chinese soldiers used underground tunnels to launch surprise attacks on the Japanese and disrupt their supply lines.
This type of warfare was critical in helping the Chinese resist the Japanese invasion. One of the most notable figures in the conflict was Lin Biao, a general in the Chinese army who played a key role in organizing the tunnel warfare campaign.
If you enjoy war movies, Tunnel Warfare is definitely worth a watch. It’s a gripping story of survival and ingenuity in the face of overwhelming odds. The film does an excellent job of capturing the tension and danger of guerrilla warfare, and the use of the tunnels adds a unique twist to the story. The historical significance of the events depicted in the film adds depth and meaning to the story.
The Eight Hundred Heroes (1975)
The Eight Hundred Heroes is a Chinese war movie directed by Shanxi-born director Shan Ding. The film is based on the real-life event known as the Defense of Sihang Warehouse, which occurred during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
The Defense of Sihang Warehouse was a turning point in the Second Sino-Japanese War and is remembered as a symbol of Chinese resistance against Japanese aggression. The movie features a cast of well-known Chinese actors, including Liu Xiaoxiao, Jin Yaqin, and Wu Yue.
The movie’s plot revolves around a group of Chinese soldiers stationed at the Sihang Warehouse in Shanghai, which was surrounded by the Japanese army. The Chinese soldiers, who were heavily outnumbered and outgunned, managed to hold off the Japanese army for four days before the Chinese military finally rescued them.
The movie portrays the bravery and courage of the Chinese soldiers who defended the Sihang Warehouse against the Japanese army. The soldiers were led by Colonel Xie Jinyuan, who is portrayed in the film as a strong and determined leader.
If you enjoy war movies, The Eight Hundred Heroes is a must-watch. The movie is full of action and suspense, and the battle scenes are intense and realistic. The movie also has a strong emotional core, and the characters are well-developed and relatable. Additionally, the movie provides insight into Chinese history and culture, making it a great choice for anyone interested in learning more about China’s past.
The Battle of Tai’ Erzhuang is a Chinese war film directed by Xie Jin. The director was a highly regarded Chinese filmmaker who began his career in the 1950s and directed over 20 films. He is best known for his socially conscious films that explore the struggles of the working class and his contributions to the development of Chinese cinema.
The film’s plot is based on a historical event that took place during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It tells the story of the Battle of Tai’ Erzhuang, fought in 1938 between the Chinese National Revolutionary Army and the invading Japanese Imperial Army.
The battle was fought in the city of Tai’ Erzhuang in Shandong Province, China, and was a crucial victory for the Chinese, who were able to repel the Japanese advance. This battle marks a significant event in Chinese history, and the movie provides a realistic portrayal of the battle and the people who fought in it.
If you enjoy war movies, The Battle of Tai’ Erzhuang is definitely worth watching. The battle scenes are very intense and the film portrays the valiant acts of the soldiers that fought there. The movie also provides insight into Chinese history and culture and showcases the determination and resilience of the Chinese people in the face of adversity. The Battle of Tai’Erzhuang is an excellent film that will captivate audiences with its powerful story and gripping action.
A Home Too Far is a Hong Kong war film directed by renowned filmmaker and producer Ringo Lam. Lam is a highly respected filmmaker in Hong Kong cinema and is best known for his contributions to the crime thriller genre.
The movie’s plot follows a group of Chinese soldiers forced to retreat from their positions during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese army pursues them and must navigate through dangerous territory to reach safety. Along the way, they encounter various obstacles, including enemy troops, harsh weather conditions, and difficult terrain.
The film is based on the true story of the Long March, a strategic retreat of the Chinese Communist Party’s Red Army in 1934 during the Chinese Civil War. The movie depicts the soldiers’ harrowing journey and their challenges during the retreat.
If you enjoy war movies, A Home Too Far is a must-watch. The film portrays the hardships and dangers that soldiers face during wartime, and the action scenes are intense and gripping. The movie also explores themes of courage, sacrifice, and loyalty, making it a powerful and emotionally charged film. A Home Too Far is an excellent war movie that will leave a lasting impression on its audience.
Decisive Engagement: The Liaoxi Shenyang Campaign is a Chinese war film directed by Zhang Ying. The film’s plot is based on the Liaoshen Campaign, a military campaign fought between the Chinese National Revolutionary Army and the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The campaign took place in Liaoning Province, China, and was a crucial battle in the war.
The film follows the story of the Chinese soldiers who fought in the campaign, including General Lin Biao and General Peng Dehuai. It shows how the soldiers had to use their strategic skills and bravery to defend their positions against the invading Japanese army.
The film also depicts the suffering of the Chinese civilians caught in the crossfire of the battle. The Liaoshen Campaign was a significant event in Chinese history, and the film provides a realistic portrayal of the battle and the people who fought in it.
Decisive Engagement: The Liaoxi Shenyang Campaign is a must-watch for any fan of war movies. The battle scenes are truly realistic, and the movie captures the heroism and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought in the campaign.
The film also provides insight into Chinese history and culture and showcases the determination and resilience of the Chinese people in the face of adversity. Decisive Engagement: The Liaoxi Shenyang Campaign is an excellent war movie that will captivate audiences with its powerful story and gripping action.
The Assembly is a Chinese war film directed by Feng Xiaogang, a highly acclaimed Chinese filmmaker known for his versatile works, including romantic comedies and war dramas. The film stars Zhang Hanyu and Deng Chao in lead roles and is considered one of Chinese cinema’s most successful war movies.
The film’s plot revolves around a soldier named Gu Zidi, who fights in the Chinese Civil War against the Nationalist Army. Gu Zidi is tasked with leading a small group of soldiers to defend a strategic hill, but his superiors abandon him and his troops, leaving them to fend for themselves. After the war ends, Gu Zidi struggles to find recognition for his heroic actions and sacrifices during the battle.
The film is based on the Huaihai Campaign, a significant battle during the Chinese Civil War. The battle was fought between the People’s Liberation Army and the Nationalist Army and was a turning point in the war, leading to the defeat of the Nationalist Army.
The film portrays the real-life people who participated in the battle, including General Li Zhen, the commander of the People’s Liberation Army during the Huaihai Campaign, and General Hu Zongnan, the commander of the Nationalist Army. The film also highlights the bravery and sacrifices of the soldiers who fought on both sides of the conflict.
The Assembly is a gripping and emotionally powerful portrayal of war and its impact on soldiers and civilians. The film’s portrayal of the human cost of war is deeply moving. The cast’s performances are outstanding, particularly Zhang Hanyu, who delivers a powerful and nuanced portrayal of a soldier struggling to find recognition for his heroism.
The movie Cow is a Chinese drama film directed by Guan Hu and based on a novel by Chinese author Ma Jian. The film is set in the 1940s during the early years of the Communist regime in China. The story revolves around a poor peasant family who struggles to survive in the harsh conditions of rural China.
The family’s prized possession is a cow, which they believe will bring them good fortune. When a Japanese soldier kills the cow, the family is devastated and must find a way to cope with their loss and move forward. The film is not based on a specific historical event but is set during a tumultuous period in Chinese history when the country faced internal and external challenges. The movie touches on poverty, family, loss, and resilience.
The film features a talented cast of actors, including Huang Bo, who delivers a powerful performance as the head of the peasant family. The movie’s cinematography and visual style are also noteworthy, with stunning shots of the rural Chinese landscape and beautiful portrayals of the family’s daily life.
While Cow is not a war movie, it is a powerful and moving film that explores the human experience during a difficult time in China’s history. If you enjoy dramas that touch on themes of family, loss, and resilience, then Cow is definitely worth watching. The movie provides a unique perspective on Chinese history and culture, and the story’s emotional impact is sure to resonate with viewers.
Nanking Nanking is a Chinese historical war drama directed by the renowned filmmaker Lu Chuan. He is well-known for his profound artistic vision, attention to detail, and ability to precisely tackle complex themes.
The movie takes place in Nanking, China, in 1937 during the Japanese invasion. The film revolves around several ordinary Chinese citizens seeking refuge in a church as the Japanese army takes over the city. The film tells a powerful story of courage, hope, and survival amid the horrors of war.
The movie is based on the historical event known as the Nanking Massacre or the Rape of Nanking. It was a six-week period during which the Imperial Japanese Army brutally murdered, raped, and looted Chinese civilians and prisoners of war.
Estimates suggest that over 300,000 people were killed, and countless others were subjected to unimaginable atrocities. The film depicts the bravery of real-life people who risked their lives to protect others during this massacre.
Nanking Nanking is a compelling war movie that offers a unique perspective on the horrors of war. The film does an excellent job of portraying the brutality of the Nanking Massacre while also highlighting the courage and resilience of the Chinese people.
If you enjoy war movies that are thought-provoking and emotionally powerful, then Nanking Nanking is a must-watch film for you. The movie is a masterclass in storytelling, direction, and acting. Truly a must-watch.
Back to 1942 is a Chinese historical drama film directed by renowned filmmaker Feng Xiaogang, the director of the aforementioned The Assembly. The film is based on the devastating famine in Henan province during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1942.
It tells the story of a wealthy landlord, Fan, who is forced to flee his home with his family and thousands of refugees due to the famine. Along the way, they encounter various obstacles, including bandits, Japanese soldiers, and corrupt officials who seek to exploit their suffering for their own gain.
The film features an ensemble cast, including famous Chinese actors such as Zhang Guoli, Chen Daoming, and American Adrien Brody. Zhang Guoli plays the role of Fan, the wealthy landlord who becomes a refugee, while Chen Daoming portrays the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Kuomintang government during the war. Adrien Brody plays an American journalist who witnesses the devastation of the famine and tries to document it for the world.
The film is a compelling and moving portrayal of a historical event that is often overlooked in mainstream media. It sheds light on the suffering and resilience of ordinary people caught up in the chaos of war and famine.
For fans of war movies, Back to 1942 is a must-see film that offers a nuanced and emotionally powerful depiction of the human cost of war. It is a poignant reminder of the importance of remembering our shared history and the lessons we can learn from it.
Death and Glory in Changde (2010)
Death and Glory in Changde is a war movie directed by Chinese filmmaker Dong Shen. Dong Shen is a relatively unknown director, but he has a keen eye for capturing the intensity and drama of war on film.
The movie is based on the true story of the Battle of Changde, which occurred in 1943 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The film follows a group of Chinese soldiers defending the city of Changde against overwhelming Japanese forces. The Japanese, led by General Matsui, were ordered to capture Changde and destroy the Chinese Army’s 57th Division.
The real-life heroes of the Battle of Changde are portrayed in the film, including General Xue Yue, who led the Chinese forces, and Lieutenant Zeng, who single-handedly held off a Japanese attack. The film also highlights the Chinese Red Army’s contributions, which supported the 57th Division during the battle.
If you are a fan of war movies, then Death and Glory in Changde is a must-see. The film does an excellent job of capturing the intensity and drama of the Battle of Changde, and the actors’ performances are top-notch. The movie also has a strong emotional core, which adds depth to the story and makes it more than just a series of action sequences. If you’re looking for an engaging war movie that combines action, drama, and history, then Death and Glory in Changde is an excellent choice.
The Battle at Lake Changjin (also known as The Sacrifice) is a Chinese war film directed by Feng Xiaogang. He has been featured several times in this list, since he was also the director of The Assembly and Back to 1942.
This film is based on the historic events of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army’s (CPV) participation in the Korean War in 1950. The film follows a group of Chinese soldiers who, along with their North Korean comrades, fight against the United Nations forces at Lake Changjin, a frozen lake near the North Korean border. The battle was a turning point in the war and saw the Chinese forces successfully stop the advance of the UN forces.
As a war movie enthusiast, you should definitely watch The Battle at Lake Changjin, for it features a gripping storyline, realistic portrayal of battle scenes, and well-developed characters. The film provides a unique perspective on the Korean War and highlights the bravery and sacrifice of the Chinese soldiers who fought in it. The Battle at Lake Changjin is an epic war movie that will leave you on the edge of your seat and provide a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices made by soldiers in times of war.