5 Chinese films we can’t wait to watch this fall

With temperatures dipping, our resident cinephile heads indoors and suggests a few Chinese films to enjoy over popcorn

Movie still from Jigme Trimley's 'One and Four'

By Matthew Hall

The mercury is dropping, leaves are falling, and sweaters are making their way out of wardrobes.

In short, it’s the perfect time to head to the cinema, where the latest Chinese offerings include a long-awaited release by Zhang Yimou, one man’s attempts to use the written word to commemorate the dearly departed, a moody crime drama, a film within a film, and a debut from one of China’s hotly-tipped young directors.

Our resident cinephile lists five Chinese films to check out this fall season:

Under the Light

Under the Light movie poster via Rotten Tomatoes

1) Under the Light


IMDb score: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 6.2/10

Douban score: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 6.3/10

Zhang Yimou, one of the heavyweights of modern Chinese cinema, shows no sign of slowing down with this movie, his 26th outing as a feature film director.

After encountering setbacks and delays on its way to cinemas, this pulsating anti-corruption drama was finally released at the end of September and has proven itself a commercial success, already raking in more than 1.2 billion RMB (about 164 million USD) at the Chinese box office with its depictions of the Machiavellian antics of local government officials.


Tension is never far from bubbling over in this Chongqing-shot drama.

2 All Ears

All Ears movie poster via IMDb

2) All Ears


IMDb score: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 6.7/10

Douban score: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7.2/10

Lead actor Hu Ge plays a playwright whose career setbacks force him into writing obituaries to make ends meet, and ensures that the deceased are remembered in the right way. Despite being centred on the theme of death, there are some light comedic elements, ensuring the film strikes the right balance between pathos and watchability.

If the rumours are to be believed, All Ears could be the last chance for cinemagoers to see Hu on the big screen for some time, as the actor recently hinted, in a series of Weibo posts, that he might take a break from acting for the next five years.


Explore the themes of mortality and remembrance in this film featuring the famous Hu Ge.

3 Only the River Flows

Only the River Flows movie poster via IMDb

3) Only the River Flows


IMDb score:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7.1/10

Douban score: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7.6/10

A series of murders in rural China are at the heart of this 1990s-set crime drama, in which everything seems to have a murky tinge, from the water in the eponymous river to various protagonists’ pasts.

Leather jacket-cladded detective Ma Zhe is in charge of a team who makes an initial arrest, but it’s not long before he realises that not everything is as it seems, and some of the town’s residents may not have been as truthful as they originally appeared to be.

Adapted from the novel of the same name, the film has been praised by original author Yu Hua.


Fans of the novel can enjoy this police drama swimming in a fog of intrigue and cigarette smoke all over again — on the big screen, to boot.

4 Ripples

Ripples of Life movie poster via IMDb

4) Ripples of Life


IMDb score:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7/10

Douban score: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7.3/10

For anyone wanting to learn more about what it’s really like to work on a film set, this movie is for you.

Set in a sleepy town in China's Hunan province and a million miles away from red carpets and glitzy screenings, the film is a three-part tale that zooms in on an acclaimed actress who returns to her hometown for a film while failing to acclimatise, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant owner who dreams of stardom and escaping his daily ennui, and the petty squabbles and creative differences that go on behind the scenes of making the film.


Get a taste of life behind and in front of the cameras in this examination of stardom and filmmaking.

Move still from One and Four. Photo via Tokyo International Film Festival

5) One and Four


IMDb score:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7/10

Douban score: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7.4/10

Tickets for screenings of this film at the 2023 Shanghai International Film Festival sold out almost instantly, demonstrating the clamour to see this debut feature film by director Jigme Trimley, who has been tipped to take up the mantle of Tibetan-language cinema in China.

While the film has been shown at festivals in the last couple of years, this marks the first time it is being released in cinemas in China. Based off what critics on the festival circuit have said, the icy thriller leaves viewers glued to the screen.

One and Four bears the hallmarks of recently departed producer Pema Tseden (whose films are also worth watching), while the scenes of characters sheltering from the snow inside an isolated country hut as they attempt to get to the bottom of a poacher-themed whodunnit bring to mind similar from Quentin Tarantino's 2015 Western thriller, The Hateful Eight.


This snowy whodunnit is the first time a feature film from 26-year-old director Jigme Trimley is on general release in the Chinese mainland.

A note from the editor:

Kindly note that all the above ratings are true at the time of publishing, but may change over time.