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Top 12 movies to learn about Chinese culture

Looking to explore Chinese Culture, history, and people? Chinese Movies could be a good starting point. China has centuries of historical transformation and occurrences that have shaped their Current culture. If you’re planning to move or travel to China for Internship, Chinese language, Immersion, work or maybe you’re just interested in knowing more about this exciting and exciting culture; we prepared something for you. In this article, you will find a list of some of the best Chinese movies you can watch to learn more about this unique culture. 

Enjoy your cinematic trip into this breathtaking world as I list some top movies to learn about Chinese culture.

In the Heat of the Sun (1994)

IMDb rate: 8,3

The movie is plot in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution days. It tells the story of a teenage boy (Ma Xiaojun) and his friends during an important moment of modern Chinese history. These young boys enjoy 100% freedom at a time that a lot of their parents and adults are busy or gone with the Revolution. So, they use this time to fight with their rival groups, to watch beautiful girls and to get into a couple of more adventures, including love. 

It shows the two sides of the situation, while the adults were struggling with the understanding of what shapes them, as people, the Children are enjoying the shadow of what is to come. Though the remnants of the revolution took no active part in the revolution, it shaped their future and destiny. Chinese history is not complete without the Cultural Revolution Era. 




In the Heat of the Sun. Source:


To Live (1994)

IMDb rate: 8,3

A political review of China between the 40s to 80s through a couple that goes to difficult moments after losing all their fortune. During those 50 years, we can watch the family going through many uncertainties while China lives troubled times of its history: from the Communist victory to the Cultural Revolution.

There so many lessons to be drawn from this movie. You will learn about the struggles of developing nations and how fellow Chinese who owe allegiance to the communist party served as community watch-dogs to expose people who expose other with a questionable attitude. It also depicts the hard-working nature of Chinese and desire to survive all situations. The family structure also served as motivation for young men to provide for the weak, and old. The family also played a vital role in judging social values.



To Live. Source:


Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

IMDb rate: 8,2

Songlian is a university student who is forced to marry a wealthy old man after losing her mother and the family income. His husband is a 50 years old man with more big Chinese wives, all of them living in different houses. He decides each night with who will he sleep, with many privileges for the chosen one. This wakes rivalry between the 4 wives and Songlian sees herself in a world full of women intrigues and conspiracies.

The movie sheds so much light on what Chinese define as love. It also explains how women are perceived in the past but also a good indication of how women survived these dark days. You may have read some love stories or even heard what Chinese women regard as love, and these ancient practices may have shapped them. Watch and derive your conclusion. You may also define your opinion of why Chinese are after the profit no matter the venture



Raise the Red Lantern. Source:


Farewell My Concubine (1993)

IMDb rate: 8,1

Poor kids are learning the performing art at 1925 in Beijing. One of them is a son of a prostitute called Douzi. Another one is Shitou who starts to protect Douzi, and they end up becoming good friends while learning and practicing to become famous actors. Douzi is trained to do women roles because of his female traits while Shitou is trained to do men roles. As time passes, they became famous actors at Beijing Opera and do several plays together. However, their friendship starts to fade away when one of them falls in love with a woman. Sometime later when the Japanese army arrives in Beijing, they arrest Douzi. At this time, Shitou needs to decide what will he do next: will he help his old friend and get into trouble or walk away?



Farewell My Concubine. Source:


The Last Emperor (1987)

IMDb rate: 7,8

The fascinating story of the last Chinese Emperor who was crowned with only 3 years old. One of the very Interesting movies to learn about Chinese culture.



The Last Emperor. Source:


Not one Less (1999)

IMDb rate: 7,7

This story shows the conditions of the school system in rural China. When a professor from an elementary school in a small village called Shuiwuan needs to stop working for 1 month, the only person who can replace him is Wei. Wei is a shy young girl with only 13 years old and without any experience teaching. She receives orders to don’t let any of the students leave while she is in command, but it ends more difficult than it was supposed when of one of her students (the young Zhang) is forced to leave the village. Wei decides to go on an adventure and with the help of her students, she tries to bring the young Zhang back to where he belongs.


Not One Less

Not one Less. Source:


City of Life and Death (2009)

IMDb rate: 7,7

It shows a sequence of historical episodes that happened in Taiwan from 1945 to 1949 through a family that struggled to live during those hard times. The highlight for the tragic day of February 28th (1947), when more than 20 000 where killed by Nationalist Chinese troops. Want to know about the struggle between the current China Mainland and Taiwan separation? this is a good movie to learn about Chinese Political History



City of Life and Death. Source:


The Blue Kite (1993)

IMDb rate: 7,7

Blue Kite tells the story of a kid (Tietou) and his mom. China is changing, and this will influence his childhood and teenage times. The movie is composed by a set of stories happening from 1953 to 1967 that show the common past shared by the older Chinese generations.



The Blue Kite. Source:


A Simple Life (2011)

IMDb rate: 7,6

After suffering a stroke, Chung Chun-Tao who worked for the Leung family for 60 years decides to quit her job and move to an old people’s house. This will get her into a completely different reality from the she is used to.



A Simple Life. Source:


Red Sorghum (1988)

IMDb rate: 7,5

Northeast China, in the 1920sAn A 18 years old girl called Gong Li is promised to a wealthy man who owns a distillery for sorghum liquor. After his husband dies she starts to run the business, but then the Japanese invasion comes and everything changes.


Red Sorghum. Source: China Daily


Beijing Bicycle (2001)

IMDb rate: 7,3

You can feel the rhythm and energy of Chinese big cities with this movie. Guei arrives from the province with only 16 years old and finds a job as a courier. Her employers give him clothes and lend him a bicycle that will belong to him after he earns 600 yuan. Guei is almost achieving his goal when his bike is stolen. Without bike, he has no job. He runs the city looking for it until he finds where it is. The bike is with a student who bought it at the market. Now the bicycle belongs to both … and they will need to learn how to share it. There are one million bicycles in Beijing, and certainly, I will recommend this as one of the movies to learn about Chinese culture.



Beijing Bicycle. Source: The Beijinger


The Piano in a Factory (2010)

IMDb rate: 7,3

The story shows the love of a father for the daughter he is trying to get custody after a hard divorce. Without money to buy any luxury good, this steel fato ctory worker starts to forge a piano from scratch to impress his daughter.



The Piano in a Factory. Source:

After going through the list of these interesting Chinese movies, you will always have a playback when interacting with Chinese. Feel free to leave comments below let’s engage in the lessons and little pieces of history and how that reflects current China. Any “Aha” moments? feel free to share.


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