5 Underrated Asian Movies To Watch

Don’t miss out on these gems

2020 has been a trying year thus far for the film industry, with the health pandemic forcing it to hit pause on production, movie promotion activities and star-studded international premieres. As for us folks, we’ve had to swap out fun trips to the cinema for #stayhome movie streaming parties instead. While we wait in anticipation for this year’s predicted blockbuster flicks to gradually announce their premiere schedules, here are five underrated Asian movies which you should check out on Netflix.

The Cat Returns (2004)

Feline fanatics, this one’s for you. Following Studio Ghibli’s arrival on Netflix earlier this year, we were glad to have caught some of their most popular movies, including Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle. However, we were also glad to have chanced upon The Cat Returns, which we reckon is one of the most underrated films from the animation company.

This magical, animated adventure film talks about a 17-year-old high school girl, Haru, whose world is transformed beyond her wildest imagination after she saves the life of an unusual cat. She embarks on a journey to the Kingdom of Cats and learns important life lessons along the way, such as believing in oneself and learning to appreciate everyday life.

Why you should watch it: Studio Ghibli’s films are a must-watch for their high-quality filmmaking, intricately detailed visuals and fantastical elements, and this film is no exception. (P.S. It’s also perfectly normal if you find yourself crushing hard on Baron, the dapper cat who’s also the title deuteragonist of the film.)

Back to the 90s (2015)

Call this #ThrowbackThursday: Thai rom-com edition. Back to the 90s depicts a rebellious teenager’s attempts at altering the events that led to his parents’ unhappy marriage after he was magically transported back to their high school days in the 90s. The movie’s main character, Kong (played by Dan Aaron Ramnarong), befriends his father and meets the girl, Som (Baifern Pimchanok of Crazy Little Thing Called Love fame), who is said to be the reason for his parents’ arguments. This lighthearted flick features a few touching moments and sweet, nostalgic '90s references, such as the Tamagotchi, the pager and snap clip barrettes.

Why you should watch it: It stars our favourite Thai actress Baifern — need we say more? Despite it being a romantic comedy flick, the stars’ acting chops shouldn’t be discounted. Young actor Dan Ramnarong proved himself as one to watch in his first lead role and Baifern was as charismatic and loveable as usual. It’s a fun flick worth catching with your closest girlfriends.

Forgotten (2017)

As much as we love our swoon-worthy TV dramas and lighthearted Korean variety shows, it’s also worth delving into some of the country’s lesser-known films that artfully deal with heavy subject matters. One such example is Forgotten, also known as Recall The Night. It tells the story of Yoo-Seok (played by Kim Mu-Yeol), who is found to have lost his memory after being kidnapped for 19 days.

Determined to seek the truth surrounding the mystery of his kidnapping, Yoo-Seok’s brother, Jin-Seok (played by Kang Ha-Neul) begins to notice haunting changes to his entire family and subsequently begins to doubt his own memories. Aside from the two main characters, the film also stars veteran actors Moon Sung-Keun and Na Young-Hee, who play their parents.

Why you should watch it: The movie’s haunting visuals, mind-boggling plot twists and Ha-Neul’s award-winning acting chops will keep you on the edge of your seat. And if you’ve thoroughly enjoyed Mu-Yeol’s acting as well, don’t miss out on his latest thriller movie, Intruder, which also features Running Man star Song Ji-Hyo.

Fly By Night (2018)

Blackmail, extortion and other deadly criminal activities are aplenty in this Malaysian gangster thriller, which sees accomplished Malaysian actor Sunny Pang playing a taxi cab driver who makes a living by extorting money from wealthy customers. Sunny’s character, Tailo, soon finds himself in a dangerous, deadly mess after his young brother Sailo’s impulsive behaviour leads the cops and other unwelcome gangster triads to their doorstep.

The movie successfully made waves abroad prior to its domestic debut; it premiered at the 23rd Busan International Film Festival in 2018 and was later screened at a few other film festivals too. Despite receiving multiple international accolades, the film did not perform as well as anticipated in Malaysia. Critics claimed that the movie’s weak box office numbers were reportedly due to the lack of marketing efforts, and with the visuals being too gritty and raw for the audience’s liking. 

Why you should watch it: This is an exciting and thrilling movie that is unlike any other ‘conventional’ Malaysian flick. Plus, it features great cinematography, hence making it a must-watch for film lovers and budding filmmakers.

The Sky Is Pink (2019)

“Their love story may be a hit or a flop, but I know I’ll get the Best Villain Award.” This Indian-Hindi language comedy-drama film centres around the love story of a couple, Niren and Aditi (played by Farhan Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra Jonas respectively) and is posthumously narrated by their teenage daughter, Aisha Chaudhary, who succumbed to severe combined immunodeficiency disorder and pulmonary fibrosis.

This humorous yet heart-wrenching film depicts the couple’s journey in dealing with their daughter’s illness while navigating through hardships in their marriage. According to critics, the movie’s English title had reportedly led local audiences to think that it was a literary American movie rather than a Hindi language film. On top of failing to capture the Hindi-speaking crowd, The Sky is Pink was unable to captivate English-speaking audiences either. Many had flocked towards DC Comics’ Joker instead, which was released around the same time. 

Why you should watch it: It’s a heartwarming, beautifully shot movie that highlights the importance of life, loss and love. Don’t forget to grab a few tissues when you catch this film as it will definitely tug at your heartstrings.

Which of these underrated films will you be adding to your watch list?

(Cover photo from: @baifernbah

Hungry for more entertainment? Check out our list of virtual concerts which you can watch at home.  

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