‘Hero’ and Four More Films For Zhang Ziyi’s Birthday

It’s Zhang Ziyi’s birthday! To mark the occasion, here are five of her best performances. Check some of these out!

Hero (2002)

One thing that sets Hero apart from nearly any other film I’ve seen is its remarkable use of colour. Different colours are used in the retelling of different stories, helping each feel completly unique and distinct from one another. Zhang plays a smaller role here but as usual, she stands out from the crowd. The film’s release was delayed for years in America but Quentin Tarantino managed to convince Miramax to release it, as he was such a big fan. It went on to become the first Chinese-language movie to place No. 1 at the American box office, where it stayed for two consecutive weeks. A masterpiece.

House of the Flying Daggers (2004)

A film that starts as a purely martial arts spectacle transitions seamlessly into a passionate love story. We follow two police deputies working with the government, who are ordered to investigate the dancer Mei (Zhang Ziyi). She is rumored to be working with the House of Flying Daggers, a secret rebel group. As both men fall for her charms and decide to help her escape instead, things get complicated. It features fantastic action throughout, an intriguing plot and it’s one of the most beautiful films you’ll ever see. 

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

Perhaps the movie she is best known for, Memoirs of a Geisha focuses on the story of a young Japanese girl who is sold by her poverty stricken family to a geisha house, in order to support them by training as and eventually becoming a geisha. The film centres around the sacrifices and hardship faced by pre-WW2 geisha, and the challenges posed by the war and a modernizing world to geisha society. There is what feels like a throw away love story in the middle of it all and even though it’s a little style over substance, Zhang’s performance as the struggling young geisha is fantastic.

The Grandmaster (2013)

Based on the Wing Chun Grandmaster Ip Man, The Grandmaster is written and directed by Wong Kar-wai. Like all of his other films, it’s a work of art. And just like House of the Flying Daggers it’s part martial art showcase, part heartfelt romance. Zhang contributes to both elements of the movie equally. Some beautiful direction and stunning use of slow-motion might feel a bit over-indulgent at points, but I love every minute of it. Taking over 5 years to make after being caught in development hell, it was well worth the wait.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the first film of Zhang Ziyi’s that I saw and the one that helped her gain international recognition. In it, she performs alongside Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh. Any other young star might have been dwarfed amongst that cast but Zhang manages to really stand out as a masked thief on the hunt for the fabled Green Destiny sword. The film was nominated for 10 academy awards and still looks astounding today. Surprisingly, prior to filming Crouching Tiger, Zhang hadn’t undergone any martial arts training. You’d never have guessed, considering her performance here.

What are some of your favorite films to feature birthday girl Zhang Ziyi?

Author: Lee McCutcheon

Happy to watch absolutely anything, with a soft spot for world cinema.