Our Top 10 Films to Hit Chinese Theaters in 2018

By That's, December 31, 2018

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201812/year-in-review-20181.jpgIt’s been one hell of a year to say the least, particularly for those of us based in China. We’ve seen ‘The Tweeter in Chief’ launch (and then halt) a trade war between the world’s two leading economic powers, Fan Bingbing disappear and then reappear (with a major fine to pay) and another record-breaking Singles’ Day haul for Alibaba. To wrap up 2018, our editorial team has put together a list of the year’s most unforgettable viral stories, recounting major occurrences that defined the worlds of sports, tech, arts, fashion and food. Here’s to another year of eclectic, weird and wonderful life in China, we wouldn’t have it any other way. 


Below, in no particular order, we share our favorite films to grace the silver screen in China this year.

1. Us and Them

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Poster via IMDB

A love tale at heart, Us and Them charts the story of two strangers trying to navigate life, family, money and partnership after a chance meeting on a bus traveling home for Spring Festival. After making its Cannes debut, Netflix bought the rights for this film’s sole distribution outside of China, making it one of the more easily accessible international releases this year.

2. Dying to Survive

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Poster via IMDB

This award-winning comedic drama made a splash on the international film festival circuit this year, scoring 12 awards in total and a whole lot of attention. A leukemia patient smuggling unapproved cancer drugs from India into China, Dying to Survive tells the true story of how Lu Yong (Cheng Yong in the film) inadvertently became a medicine god (the literal translation of the film's name is “I Am Not a Medicine God”) for over 1,000 people on the mainland.

3. Lobster Cop

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Poster via IMDB

Four cops, one xiao long xia shop and a whole lot of drugs. What starts out as an undercover bust turns into a much larger consipiracy, forcing the men and women working on the side of the law into a crawfish slinging, slapstick team. Backed by neon lights and seedy-colored cintematography, this outlandish and light film is more than good for an evening of entertainment.

4. The Meg

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Poster via IMDB

This action horror film revives the ancient shark-giant megalodon, which went extinct 2.6 millions years ago, and sets it upon a team of unsuspecting marine researchers. A Chinese-American co-production directed by Jon Turteltaub (National TreasureThe Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and starring Li Bingbing, Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson and Ruby Rose, The Meg takes place in a futuristic underwater research center 200 miles off the Chinese coast. Sanya’s iconic Guanyin of Nanshan statue features prominently in the trailer, as ‘the Meg’ heads toward the coast and the research team must stop it before it gets there. It’s funny, will make you jump and sports some stellar panoramas of some of our favorite Chinese cities, spliced with some Blue Planet-esque footage.

5. The Island

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Poster via sampan.org

When a man who dreams of winning the lottery gets stranded on an island with his coworkers, comedic shifts in power and role reversals ensue on the exaggerated apocalyptic scenario. In well-known funnyman Huang Bo’s directorial debut, bosses become bao’ans and bao’ans become bosses, a delightful role-reversal that’ll have you daydreaming about your own work experiences.

6. Dead Pigs

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Poster via IMDB

This visually stunning, satiric comedy-drama film directed by Cathy Yan won the ‘World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Acting’ at Sundance Film Festival. Based on true events, it tells the story of how the lives of a bumbling pig farmer, a feisty salon owner, a sensitive busboy, an expat architect and a disenchanted rich girl collide as 10,000 dead pigs are floating down the Huangpu river towards a rapidly modernizing Shanghai.

7. Shadow

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Image via IMDB

Director Zhang Yimou brings to the screen a story of ‘struggle and survival’ in a film that translates the visual style of traditional ink painting into a new kind of art. Set in the Three Kingdoms Period, an exiled king goes up against his doppelganger in a fight to reclaim his land and his title. Having been screened at multiple film festivals in the last year, this will be the official public release of the action packed tale of darkness and redemption.

8. Naparnik

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Poster via IMDB

After a failed special police operation, Police Force Major Chromov (Sergey Garmash) finds himself in a rather difficult situation. Thanks to a fortune teller, he comes to realize he's traded his body for that of a toddler’s. Even after swapping a police car for a stroller, Major Chromov is set on completing his mission and unbeknownst to his mother, he ropes his father into becoming his partner in crime, where together they go on to try to catch the mafia boss.

9. Long Day’s Journey Into Night

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Poster via IMDB

This sophomore film from director Bi Gan is a mystery-noir that made waves at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year when audiences were instructed to put on 3D glasses an hour into it. With impressively long takes and a mixed viewing experience, this accessible art feature set in Guizhou features cinematography and scenes that will delight any Asiaphile in a story about the haunting of loss and regret.

10. Crystal Sky of Yesterday


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Poster via IMDB

If anime’s your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out Crystal Sky of Yesterday. This touching and beautifully illustrated 82-minute film tells a tale of love and friendship in the small town of Lanxi, as senior high school students find themsleves looking forward and backwards, reflecting on their liminal state and the transition from childhood into adulthood. 


For more 2018 Year in Review coverage, click here.

[Cover image via Sundance Institute/IMDB, Pixabay]

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