East Asian cinema refers to films being produced in East Asia. The biggest markets in this region are Japan, South Korea and China. However, Hong Kong and Taiwan have also proved to be major industries and significant contributors to the world of cinema. Of course, Hong Kong has long been famous for its action, focusing mostly on kung fu films. Legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee introduced the Western audience to the power of Hong Kong cinema. His last film, Enter the Dragon (1973), paved way for many more East Asian actions films in the West. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000) is another masterpiece in the genre, directed by Taiwanese-born Ang Lee.
While Lee won international praise for his film, many of the cast members further cemented their places in Hollywood. Young Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi also rose to fame, later starring in her fellow countrymen Zhang Yimou’s blockbusters Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004). Zhang Yimou is considered to be part of the fifth generation of Chinese filmmakers, known for their long shots and rich colors. The legacy of the sixth generation of filmmakers is yet to be fully assessed, but many see this period of Chinese cinema as a shift towards independent films, focusing on less represented parts of Chinese society.
Japan and South Korea also produce their fair share of historical dramas and action films. Japanese samurai films, known as Chanbara, are particularly known for their contributions to global cinema.
Most notably, American filmmaker George Lucas used Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958) as the model for his Star Wars saga. Some samurai films are also turned into anime, finding a new set of fans. In terms of animation, Studio Ghibli has been a major film studio, producing classics such as Spirited Away (2001) and My Neighbor Totoro (1988). Japan as well as South Korea are also famous for their horror films, known as J-Horror and K-Horror. The Korean wave, including dramas and music videos, is thought to have a great impact on today’s East Asian cinema.