Movies for Cantonese Learning

Entertainment for Cantonese Learning Series

Watching foreign stuff with subtitles is probably one of the best ways to learn a language. Granted that you are actually listening to those words spoken. This movie subtitles learning can go both ways, obviously if the Canonese movie has English subtitles, it gives you a pretty good idea of what’s going on. You will subtly or consciously learn how the natural language flows. If there is an option to watch English movies, or movies of your tongue, with Chinese subtitles, sometimes youtube gives you the option, not very often, you perhaps need to go to channels that are designed to showcase movies or TV shows intended for Chinese audiences. Now of course, this time around, pay attention to the subtitles as you are watching, you can subtly or consciously learn some Chinese characters, the sentence structures etc. Here are some suggestions from me for people who wish to learn Cantonese with movies:

When I think about Hong Kong movies, the first person I think of would be Stephen Chow 周星馳 (if you didn’t know who he is, he was a very famous comedic star in Hong Kong. In recent years, he does more directing stuff and filmmaking.) Another person would be Jackie Chan 成龍, you already know him from Hollywood movies, some well known movies you might already know, like Karate Kid, Rush Hour. Again, if you do Hollywood movies, try to find the ones with Chinese subtitles. There are many many more HK movies that he does. But just a reminder, in recent years, there’s beef going on with him because of the political situation in HK.

Remind you, do not fully trust foreign made movies with Cantonese with a so called “Cantonese”/ Mandarin speaker in the film. Many of the times, and I am not trying to say anything here, although in the entertainment industry it's a known issue and many are working hard to work against this sort of culture, oftentimes, they don’t cast actors based on their characters. Oftentimes, they have other Asians acting these roles, and vice versa, I am sure other asians that speak different tongues might have noticed the same thing. Not saying their acting is not good, Don’t always wholeheartedly trust that the so-called “Cantonese person” in movies is actually speaking that tongue is what I am saying. So before you want to start mimicking the “Cantonese” person in foreign movies, be sure to find out whether or not they actually speak Cantonese first.

Best starters - Remade movies:

I think the best ones to start are perhaps the ones that have already been remade into foreign films, such as English, french etc, and the Hong Kong movies that are the remake of other foreign movies. For the convenience here, since the main language here is English, I will try to just stick with English stuff for now.

The Departed (American)/

Internal affairs 無間道 (Hong Kong)

It tells the story of a police officer who infiltrates a Triad, and another officer secretly working for the same gang. It is the first in the Infernal Affairs series and is followed by Infernal Affairs II and Infernal Affairs III. Reversely, watch The departed if you can find the Chinese subtitles version. Now the good thing is, you can do like film comparative discourse, if you are interested. The more memories you can create for a new language, or a new item you need to remember, the easier it is for you to retrigger that particular memory to retrieve the language or words.

Scary movie:

The Eye 見鬼 (Hong Kong) /

The Eye (American)

So there is the HK movie version done by Pang brothers in 2002. Basically about a violinist who had an eye cornea transplant then started seeing ghosts. There is also The Eye 2, also done by Pang brothers. Now, there is a remake of The Eye (same name), American version, done in 2008. I am a fan of scary movies, although I am legitimately scared. If you choose to watch the eye in both versions, I definitely would say, watch out for the cultural difference. In terms of how Cantonese people believe what the paranormal is vs the Americans, how paranormal is portrayed. To be frank, I am way more afraid of Cantonese scary movies than the western ones, usually, and of course that’s just my cultural bias.

Crossing Hennessy 月滿軒尼詩 - A Remake of

1988 American made Crossing Delancey

This is a movie in the romance genre. And the Hk version took place on Hennessy Road, hence Crossing Hennessey. Hennessy road as you can imagine, is one of the roads named in the Colonial period, in Hong Kong Island, connecting 2 very populous areas, Wan Chai, and Causeway Bay. Hennessy Road was also one of the locations occupied during the 2014 protest.

What women want 我知女人心 2011 - A remake of

American movie of the same name (What women want)

This is a romantic action comedy. There are slight changes to the American version, again, this will be a good movie to try to see the differences in how romance is like in the 2 different culture, in the most general sense.

Andy Lau is the main actor in the movie, likely you already know this person or his name. He is or was huge in Asia anyway, once I was in Chiang Mai Thailand, he taxi driver was playing his songs and said that Andy was his favourite singer.

Finally, these are pure Hong Kong movies.

Let’s see if you can find the English subs for them. I am sure you are likely to find them. Most of the time, subtitles in Hk movie are duolingual.

Big Boss 唐山大兄 (1971 big movie came out of Hong Kong)

*Starring Bruce Lee

Hong Kong martial arts action film

Echoes of the rainbow 歲月神偷 2010

This is one of my favourite Hk movies of all times. The movie took place in the colonial period. It’s a good glimpse of the past. It’s about a poor family, whose kid is athletic and in a reputable school. Doesn’t sound like much, but if you do want a good cry, this is a very good movie to watch.

Little big master 2015 五個小孩的校長

This movie is based on a real life event. It speaks of a school principal who truly has a great heart for kids and their future. After quitting her job at the previous school, feeling lost because she feels she cannot help much, moves onto taking charge of a school which is about to be eliminated due to lack of students.

Louis Koo has a small part in the movie, who is a very famous actor, started out with TV shows and now made it to the big screen. He is in so many movies now, his face is everywhere.

Still human 淪落人

This is a newer movie, in 2018, about a paralysed man’s life with a filipino domestic worker. If you didn’t know, foreign domestic helpers are a huge part of Hk people’s lives. Much like Singapore. There are many issues surrounding how families treat domestic workers and etc, even if one might not have a domestic helper at home, on Sunday mostly in HK, it’s quite a scene to see domestic helpers gather when they have their day off. It is now part of HK’s culture. Also, the actor, Anthony Wong, is really really talented. Look into his other movies if you like his work.