East Asian cinema

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East Asian cinema is cinema produced in East Asia or by people from this region. It is part of Asian cinema, which in turn is part of world cinema. "World cinema" is used in the English-speaking world to refer to all foreign language films.

The most significant film industries that are categorized as East Asian cinema are the industries of Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The term is sometimes confused with Southeast Asian cinema which include the likes of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.

East Asia is highlighted in green on this map, which also includes South Asia (orange) and Southeast Asia (blue).

Styles and genres[edit]

The scope of East Asian cinema is huge and covers a wide array of different film styles and genres. However, East Asian cinema shares a common cultural background. The region's cinema is particularly famous internationally for the following:



Unlike the European film industries, the East Asian industries were not dominated by American distributors, and developed in relative isolation from Hollywood cinema; while Hollywood films were screened in East Asian countries, they were less popular than home-grown fare with local audiences. Thus, several distinctive genres and styles developed.

1950s: global influence[edit]

East Asian cinema has – to widely varying degrees nationally – had a global audience since at least the 1950s. At the beginning of the decade, Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon and Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu both captured prizes at the Venice Film Festival and elsewhere, and by the middle of the decade Teinosuke Kinugasa's Gate of Hell and the first part of Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy had won Oscars. Kurosawa's Seven Samurai became a global success; Japanese cinema had burst into international consciousness.

By the end of the decade, several critics associated with French journal Cahiers du cinéma published some of the first Western studies on Japanese film; many of those critics went on to become founding members of the French nouvelle vague, which began simultaneously with the Japanese New Wave.

1960s and 1970s[edit]

However, by the late 60s and early 70s, Japanese cinema had begun to become seriously affected by the collapse of the studio system. As Japanese cinema slipped into a period of relative low visibility, the cinema of Hong Kong entered a dramatic renaissance of its own, largely a side effect of the development of the wuxia blending of action, history, and spiritual concerns. Several major figures emerged in Hong Kong at this time – perhaps most famously, King Hu, whose 1966 Come Drink With Me was a key influence upon many subsequent Hong Kong cinematic developments. Shortly thereafter, the American-born Bruce Lee became a global icon.

Influence and impact[edit]

As the popularity of East Asian films has endured, it is unsurprising that members of the Western film industry would cite their influences (notably George Lucas, Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese citing Akira Kurosawa; and Jim Jarmusch and Paul Schrader's similar mentions of Yasujirō Ozu), and – on occasion – work to introduce less well-known filmmakers to Western audiences (such as the growing number of Eastern films released with the endorsement "Quentin Tarantino Presents").

Remakes: East and West[edit]

Another sign of the increasing influence of East Asian film in the West is the number of East Asian films that have been remade in Hollywood and European cinema, a tradition extending at least as far back as Western remakes of Akira Kurosawa films, such as John Sturges' 1960 The Magnificent Seven (based on Seven Samurai), Sergio Leone's 1964 A Fistful of Dollars (based on Yojimbo) and Martin Ritt's 1964 The Outrage (based on Rashomon), continuing through present-day remakes of J-Horror films like Ring and Ju-on: The Grudge.

The influence also goes the other way. A number of East Asian films have also been based upon Western source material as varied as the quickie Hong Kong film remakes of Hollywood hits as well as Kurosawa's adaptations of works by William Shakespeare (The Bad Sleep Well, Throne of Blood, and Ran), Maxim Gorky (The Lower Depths) and Ed McBain (High and Low).

Prominent directors[edit]

Some of the most accomplished directors of East Asian cinema include:


Hong Kong[edit]


South Korea[edit]


Prominent actors and actresses[edit]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Contemporary Asian Cinema, Anne Tereska Ciecko, editor. Berg, 2006. ISBN 1-84520-237-6
  • East Asian Cinemas, Leon Hunt & Wing-Fai Leung, editors, Tauris, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84511-614-9
  • Christopher Rea. Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949. Columbia University Press, 2021. ISBN 9780231188135.


External links[edit]