Best Movies From Asian Directors Streaming Right Now

movies from asian directors, asian directed films

Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist

Ever since the 2018 blockbuster success of Crazy Rich Asians—which was only the second ever film from a major Hollywood studio to be led by an all-Asian cast, following 1993’s The Joy Luck Club—it’s as if there has been a boom of movies from Asian filmmakers. Not only did the Korean thriller Parasite win Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars, recent movies like Turning Red and Everything Everywhere All at Once that tell stories about coming-of-age and familial Asian experiences have both been highly praised and commercial successes.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list of everything that Asian filmmakers have contributed to the art form, we rounded up some of our favorite titles available to stream right now from Asian-American and international directors. From beloved anime to horror hits and award-winning dramas, these movies on Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, and other platforms are all worth queuing up ASAP.

family in after yang, colin farrell in after yang

After Yang, dir. Kogonada (2022)

“What’s so great about being human?” a character asks in After Yang, wondering why a clone like her would be deemed second-rate. She’s raising a vital, endlessly human quandary: Why do people assign a higher value to some identities than others? After Yang is a futuristic sci-fi parable that poses big questions on an intimate scale. It is also, more than anything, the story of a family who happen to live in a world where cognizant robots known as techno-sapiens exist alongside everyday mortals. Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) acquired one named Yang so their young Chinese daughter (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) could have a sibling, and the pair have become the ultimate companions. When Yang’s system malfunctions, it feels tantamount to a death, sending Jake on a path to restore Yang, or at least better understand his reality. Directed by the Korean filmmaker Kogonada (Columbus, also an incredible movie available to rent on Amazon Prime), After Yang is an existential drama that manages to be both joyous and heartbreaking.
Where to watch: Showtime

Always Be My Maybe, dir. Nahnatchka Khan (2019)

This Netflix original movie stars Randall Park and Ali Wong as two close friends everyone else expected to end up together romantically, but who’ve only ever been pals their whole lives. When the two reconnect later in life, of course they have the opportunity to rekindle their relationship as something more, but not without a few missteps—one of which comes in the form of a scene-stealing appearance by Keanu Reeves. The two comedic stars bring the kind of chemistry that makes famous rom-coms of yesteryear work, and the result is an exciting new entry to the canon of a tried-and-true genre.
Where to watch: Netflix

Chungking Express, dir. Wong Kar-wai (1994) 

Wong Kar-wai’s dreamy dual romance loosely connects two tales of love lost and found, both revolving around two police officers going through simultaneous breakups. In the first, He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) visits a convenience store every day to buy a can of pineapples, his ex-girlfriend’s favorite food, while waiting for one month to find out whether or not she’s serious about splitting up. In the second, a new employee at the convenience store, Faye (Faye Wong), falls for another cop, Cop 663 (Tony Leung), who has just broken up with a flight attendant. When his ex visits the store and asks that Faye deliver a letter and set of keys to the officer’s apartment, Faye begins visiting his place herself, cleaning and straightening his living space in a secret flurry of domesticity. Using the fluorescent-lit convenience store as its backdrop, the film finds the sublime in the mundane, weaving together two melancholy romances that cement their director as one of the masters of Hong Kong cinema. If you catch the bug, and you will, another of Wong’s masterpieces, In the Mood for Love, is also available to stream on HBO Max.
Where to watch: The Criterion Channel and HBO Max

henry golding and constance wu in crazy rich asians
Warner Bros. Pictures

Crazy Rich Asians, dir. Jon M. Chu (2018)

The shiny opulence and broad comedy of Crazy Rich Asians can blind viewers to some of the movie’s more granular, less flashy pleasures. This adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel of the same name is built around a central romance between NYU professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and mega-wealthy heir Nick Young (Henry Golding), but the movie’s most potent material concerns the intergenerational struggles between Rachel and Nick’s skeptical mother, played with nerve by Michelle Yeoh. Each verbal slight stings; each withering glance leaves a mark. When Wu and Yeoh face off over a game of mahjong at the film’s conclusion, it’s as gripping as any white-knuckle gambling movie showdown. Even in this rarified rom-com world, the stakes are high and the actresses are unquestionably playing for keeps.
Where to watch: HBO Max

Drive My Car, dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (2021)

The opening credits come 46 minutes into Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s 3-hour film about people grappling with their grief as they rehearse a production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. This prologue introduces the viewer to Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a famed theater actor and director, and his wife, Oto, a screenwriter. Their relationship is bound by sex and storytelling: After they have intercourse, she weaves a tale. Without spoiling too much of what takes place: Their relationship is cut short, and the rest of the film tracks Kafuku as he ventures to Hiroshima to stage a multilingual version of the Russian classic. There, he is instructed that he must have a driver, which is how Misaki Watari (Tôko Miura), a stoic young woman, enters his life. What follows is a lengthy exploration of loss and love that uses Chekhov—as well as the Haruki Murakami story on which this project is based—as a reference point, but enters its own beguiling territory. Equally enchanting is Hamaguchi’s other film from 2021, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, a powerfully prosaic series of vignettes that’s also available to stream.
Where to watch: HBO Max and Mubi

Eat Drink Man Woman, dir. Ang Lee (1994)

Just before Ang Lee broke out in the US with the Jane Austen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1995, the writer-director closed out a loose trilogy of films with the quietly funny family drama Eat Drink Man Woman. A film that bears one of the most beautifully simple opening scenes of the family’s patriarch, the best chef in Taipei, expertly cooking, Eat Drink Man Woman puts food front-and-center amidst its interpersonal conflicts. While the imagery of meal prepping is gorgeous, they always remain unceremoniously grounded, like a single-take shot running around the back of a frenetic and crowded restaurant kitchen. It’s about ingredients first and, like all of the school children that huddle around a home-cooked lunch box, you just have to take a closer look.
Where to watch: Pluto TV

awkwafina in the farewell

The Farewell, dir. Lulu Wang (2019)

Based on a “true lie” that writer-director Lulu Wang previously told on NPR’s This American Life, The Farewell is the rare family “dramedy” that doesn’t skimp on either side of that always squishy, often lame neologism. The comedy that comes from watching Awkwafina’s New York City-dwelling Billi travel to China, where she cares for her cancer-stricken grandmother (Shuzhen) without revealing the nature of her illness, is just as well-observed as the more conventionally dramatic moments that arrive later in the film as her relatives attempt to untangle the farcical, tragic moral situation they find themselves in. There’s an impressive degree of balance to Wang’s style, an openness to finding impactful images in quiet moments and discovering visual grace notes in more chaotic sequences. Similarly, Awkwafina, so brash and explosive in movies like Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, gives a sure-footed performance that disrupts the delicate equilibrium of the story. Melancholy without veering into schmaltz and insightful without feeling didactic, The Farewell explores intergenerational family conflict with a deft, mindful touch.
Where to watch: Showtime

The Half of It, dir. Alice Wu (2020)

“This is not a love story,” the heroine, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), says at the outset of The Half of It, Alice Wu’s coming-of-age film. It’s one of those witty lines that the lead in teen movies tends to say, but this Netflix original is a lot smarter than that opening line—and it’s more endearing for it. The film follows Ellie, the only person of Chinese descent in a tiny town called Squahamish who writes her high school classmates’ papers for money. One of those offers comes from a boy named Paul (Daniel Diemer), who wants her help to write a love letter for a girl named Aster (Alexxis Lemire). A conflicted Ellie, who also has a crush on Aster, at first declines but ultimately succumbs to help her family get by with her side hustle. It sounds like the making of a classic rom-com, but The Half of It is truly not a love story as it plays out, which makes it one of Netflix’s more mature teen originals.
Where to watch: Netflix

Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri in the handmaiden
CJ Entertainment

The Handmaiden, dir. Park Chan-wook (2016)

Some movies splash across the screen, others turn scenes into bold brushstrokes. The Handmaiden, an erotic thriller with twists and turns and thrusts aplenty, is Park Chan-wook’s drip painting. Set in 1930s Korea, the movie follows Sook-hee, a pickpocket, who slips undercover into the staff of a sheltered heiress, with hopes of luring the deep-pocketed woman into the romantic grasp of her con-man partner in crime. The problem: Sook-hee falls madly, lustfully in love with her target. In The Handmaiden, single, sensual drops—a prolonged glance, the zipping up of a dress, whispered white lies—fan out through the entire two-and-a-half-hour narrative into the unexpected.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Hausu, dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi (1977) 

Everyone loves a haunted house movie, and Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu is one of the best, combining mind-blowing special effects with some of the weirdest kills you’ll ever see in a horror movie. Hausu follows a cast of mostly amateur actors playing a group of schoolgirls who travel to one of their aunt’s country home, but their lovely summer in the countryside soon turns deadly when a hidden force on the property starts picking off the girls one by one. It’s scary, shocking, and absolutely hilarious, using purposely kitchy-looking effects to animate characters’ disembodied heads, roomfuls of homicidal furniture, and a terrifying ghostly cat.
Where to watch: The Criterion Channel and HBO Max 

Insidious, dir. James Wan (2010)

Haunted house tales are nothing new in horror movies. Same goes for creepy kids. But when horror director extraordinaire James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Malignant) and Blumhouse got their hands on these classic motifs, they reinvented them and launched an entirely new spooky franchise that stretches across four films and has earned more than half a billion dollars at the box office. The original installment follows a couple (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne) whose son falls into a coma after a strange encounter in their new home, and then, as you might expect, strange things start happening.
Where to watch: HBO Max

the joy luck club dance scene
Buena Vista Pictures

The Joy Luck Club, dir. Wayne Wang (1993)

At this point, it’s easy to assume everyone has seen The Joy Luck Club, given how ubiquitous it felt in the early-to-mid-’90s. And thank god for that too; the Wayne Wang film, based on Amy Tan’s novel of the same name, tells the story of a group of four Chinese women, all immigrants, who, throughout their years living in San Francisco, meet and chat and play games and talk about their pasts. The stories of their coming-of-age intertwine with their adult daughters as the film examines the thorny intersections of Chinese and American cultures and the complicated bonds between immigrant mothers and daughters. Beyond what it tackles, it’s a gorgeously shot and acted film, which has scenes still seared into our brain since first watching it in grade school.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Minari, dir. Lee Isaac Chung (2020)

One of 2020’s best movies, Minari unfolds like a memoir. It’s a story of childhood that offers grace for parents trying their damndest to create a better life for their offspring. In this case, that quest involves an immigrant couple (Stephen Yeun and Han Ye-ri) who move to rural Arkansas to start a Korean farm in hopes of leaving their monotonous day jobs. Lee Isaac Chung, who wrote and directed the film, drew on inspiration from his own youth, filtering the action through the eyes of the impish 7-year-old charmer (breakout star Alan Kim) left in the care of his unconventional grandmother (Oscar winner Yuh-Jung Youn). At once riotously funny and achingly sad, Minari is a coming-of-age jewel not to be missed. You’ll be singing “minari, wonderful, wonderful” for years.
Where to watch: Showtime

Nomadland, dir. Chloé Zhao (2020)

Director Chloé Zhao’s film is both a travelogue of the West, displaying some of the most stunning vistas ever put to screen, and a document of the innate hardness of American life under corporate structures. Zhao, known for her docudramas, adapts a piece of nonfiction by Jessica Bruder, using some of the writer’s subjects, but anchoring the piece with a performance by Frances McDormand as her protagonist Fern, who lived with her husband in a small mining town Empire before the corporation keeping it afloat shut down and the zip code was rendered nonexistent. Patiently, Zhao and McDormand reveal how Fern’s insistence on traveling is a means of coping with grief over the loss of her spouse. Nomadland is gorgeous, but never glamorizing. Instead, it’s a generous work of art.
Where to watch: Hulu

Song Kang-ho in parasite, parasite family
CJ Entertainment

Parasite, dir. Bong Joon-Ho (2019)

A collision of whiz-bang genre pyrotechnics and nudge-nudge class critique, Parasite finds South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho working in a similar mode as his previous two features, the dystopian train thriller Snowpiercer and environmental love story Okja (the latter of which is also available to stream, and the former is always coming and going from streaming services). There’s an allegorical threading of ideas going on in this Oscar-winning nail-biter, which follows a poor family that infiltrates the blemish-free modernist home of a wealthy family, but Bong still ratchets up the suspense with each scene. Somehow, his movies keep getting even more precise in their execution.
Where to watch: Hulu

Saving Face, dir. Alice Wu (2004)

Alice Wu’s 2004 rom-com is a severely underrated story about a lesbian doctor (Michelle Krusiec) from Queens and her unexepectly pregnant single mother (Joan Chen) who moves in with her when she’s ostracized from their community. Wilhelmina, who goes by “Wil,” begrudgingly attends dances in Flushing where her mother hopes she’ll find a husband. She meets the alluring dancer Vivian (Lynn Chen), who happens to be the daughter of her boss. Vivian is comfortable with her sexuality in a way that eludes Wil, who retreats deeper into the closet with her mother occupying her space. But their shared secrets bring mom and daughter closer than they might think. It’s a sexy and touching story about love and family that deserves your attention.
Where to watch: Tubi

Searching, dir. Aneesh Chaganty (2018)

Searching isn’t the first movie to take place solely on computer and phone screens, but Aneesh Chaganty’s experimental thriller is by far one of the most gripping films in the niche genre. When a single father played by John Cho (the first Asian-American man to lead a Hollywood thriller) realizes his teenage daughter has disappeared, he tries to take the investigation into his own hands by mining her computer and phone records for answers. After a while, the digital gimmick fades away and Venmo transactions and chat logs simply become clues and red herrings in a slick mystery that holds your attention, as it’s never quite clear what’s about to load onto the screen next.
Where to watch: Freevee

Mayu Matsuoka in shoplifters
GAGA Pictures

Shoplifters, dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda (2018)

The bonds that tie together makeshift families are the subject of Shoplifters, a moving and lyrical tale of economic struggle on the margins in Tokyo. We meet the rouge-like patriarch Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) in an opening scene where a young child, wide-eyed and curious, serves as the accomplice in a small-scale act of thievery at a grocery store. The two communicate through subtle nonverbal cues, almost like dancers performing a choreographed routine. From there, director Hirokazu Kore-eda expands the scope of the story, introducing the viewer to other family members and sketching out the broader social order of the community, one where money, safety, and dignity are secured through constantly shifting legal and illegal means. We spend time with them at their jobs and in their moments of private joy, sharing meals and intimate exchanges. Eventually, the obscured dynamics and tangled histories between the characters begin to unfurl and the movie becomes a mystery of sorts, one where the clues are buried in the small details of domestic life.
Where to watch: Tubi

The Sixth Sense, dir. M. Night Shyamalan (1999)

“I see dead people,” is one of the most iconic lines in film, hailing from the eerie M. Night Shyamalan supernatural masterpiece The Sixth Sense with a twist at the end that shook the ’90s. In it, a boy (Haley Joel Osment) is gifted/plagued with the ability to see and talk to the dead. To work through his terror, he’s sent to work with a child psychologist (Bruce Willis) dealing with his own torment. While there may not be many jump scares here, the acting is superb and you’ll feel a chill up your spine as if you can sense a presence from another realm, too.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Spirited Away, dir. Hayao Miyazaki (2001)

Many of Hayao Miyazaki‘s films—all of which are on HBO Max in Studio Ghibli’s first-ever streaming licensing deal—bend down to see the world from a child’s eyes and capture a moment of fresh-faced adulthood. Spirited Away does so with absolute majesty. Chihiro is your average unfocused, video-game-playing, along-for-the-ride 10-year-old when her family wanders through an overgrown tunnel. The world she enters—rich with magic, pastoral vistas, and a menagerie of creatures ripped from notebook margin doodles—demands her attention. To save her parents, transformed into gluttonous pigs by some enchanted sausages, Chihiro braves the working world of a bathhouse run by a wicked witch, guides a faceless spirit through limbo, and opens her mind to memory to free the spirit of the river. A sophisticated and lush Alice in Wonderland for modern times, Miyazaki’s hyper-detailed art elevates Spirited Away‘s simple lessons into a masterwork. As deserving of a spot on a museum wall as a screen in your local multiplex.
Where to watch: HBO Max

Tampopo, dir. Juzo Itami (1985)

Juzo Itami’s “ramen western,” restored to vibrant 4K by Criterion in 2016, might boil down to a simple explanation on paper—a woman, Tampopo (“Dandelion” in Japanese, played by Itami’s wife, Nobuko Miyamoto), strives to make the perfect bowl of ramen with the aid of two truck drivers as her mentors and tasters—but the experience of watching Tampopo is almost nothing like what you’d expect. As Tampopo and her crew (starring a young Ken Watanabe) hunt down recipes and practice timed trials, we peer into the lives of seemingly disconnected individuals: a white-suited gastronomic yakuza and his mistress, a group of ravenous, etiquette-obsessed lunching ladies, salarymen ubiquitously ordering the same exact meal aside from the disruptive youngest member. It’s famous for its sensual and kinda gross egg scene, but each of the vignettes, along with Tampopo’s journey as a rare woman in the ramen space, each have something profound to say about our relationship to food. Most of all, Tampopo deeply understood the Bourdain-ism that “food is sex,” years before the late chef and travel host picked up a pen.
Where to watch: The Criterion Channel

tigertail alan yang
Chen Hsiang Liu/Netflix

Tigertail, dir. Alan Yang (2020)

Master of None co-creator Alan Yang made his directorial feature debut with Tigertail, in which he loosely adapts his own father’s life. It’s a tight film that’s still epic in scale as it follows a man named Pin-Jui from his childhood as a young boy in Taiwan into his middle age in America. Yang jumps back and forth in time, as the present-day Pin-Jui (played in a wonderful, understated performance by Tzi Ma) reflects on his past. It’s a tricky balancing act. The scenes of his life as a young adult as he bonds with his first love are flush with color, which fades as he settles into the rhythms of a passionless marriage in New York. At times Tigertail can feel like a condensed version of a much longer saga, and indeed that was sort of the case as Yang whittled down a draft that was more than 200 pages. Still, Yang has crafted a vivid tale about the immigrant experience, regret, and the bonds between generations.
Where to watch: Netflix

Train to Busan, dir. Yeon Sang-ho (2016)

When a young father (Gong Yoo) boards a high speed bullet train from Seoul to Busan, he’s wholly unprepared to deal with an outbreak of a fast-acting zombie disease that quickly takes hold of the train’s passengers, turning them into agile, flesh-hungry monsters. Fast-paced and utterly terrifying, Train to Busan is a Korean horror classic and a gory good time, revitalizing the zombie movie genre and cementing its place in the annals of great midnight horror movies.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Pluto TV, YouTube

Turning Red, dir. Domee Shi (2022)

13-year-old Chinese Canadian Meilin “Mei” Lee (Rosalie Chiang) lives in Toronto with her close-knit multicultural group of friends, acing her classes and swanning around town like the independent spirit she is—except when it comes to her family, particularly her mother Ming (Sandra Oh), who keeps close watch over every aspect of Mei’s life. The morning after Mei and her mom have a particularly bad argument (sparked by, it’s implied, Mei drawing sexy pictures of crushable boy band singers as mermen), Mei awakens to find herself, like a cuddly version of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, transformed into a giant red panda—poofy tail and all. When her mother figures out what’s going on, she reveals the true reason for her overprotective nature, and that they have less than a month to fix it. Domee Shi’s feature debut is a beautifully animated, hilarious, and emotional coming-of-age story that explores the equal importance of family and friendship in the lives of teen girls who find themselves growing up faster than they were prepared for.
Where to watch: Disney+

the night is short walk on girl

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl, dir. Masaaki Yuasa (2017)

The ingenious anime director Masaaki Yuasa, with his signature acid-trip perspective shifts, gifted the genre of “one long, drunken night out on the town” one of its finest examples in The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl. A swirling story of missed connections, hilariously absurd tangents, and melancholy reality checks, the film centers on two unnamed Kyoto University students as one, determined to confess his love to his classmate, keeps just missing the woman of his affections as she hops around town to bars, a street market, and a boat. If you’re charmed by this film, you’d be remiss not to watch Yuasa’s series also streaming on HBO Max Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, hands down one of the best TV shows of 2020, anime or otherwise. 
Where to watch: HBO Max

Weathering With You, dir. Makoto Shinkai (2020)

Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You is gorgeous to look at and a beautiful story about love and sacrifice, underneath its magical realist wrappings, not dissimilar to the director’s 2017 hit Your Name. Young runaway Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo), trying to find steady work in Tokyo, befriends a mysterious “sunshine girl,” Hina (Nana Mori), who can change the weather just by praying. But the forces that give Hina her abilities are bound by an ancient power, and she learns she must make a decision if she wants to save the world and everyone she loves who lives in it. Full of glittering cityscapes and lovingly animated raindrops, Weathering With You is a beautiful, mesmerizing fantasy of young love.
Where to watch: HBO Max

Yi Yi, dir. Edward Yang (2000)

There’s a startling mix of density and simplicity to Edward Yang’s Yi Yi, a Taiwanese family saga that opens with a wedding and concludes with a funeral across its 173-minute runtime. Though the narrative scope is wide, following frustrated engineer NJ (Wu Nien-jen) and multiple generations of his family in a high-rise building in Taipei, the filmmaking is intimate and tender, zeroing on feelings of loneliness and regret as the story slowly unfolds through Yang’s elegantly composed long takes and poetic static shots. Like Yang’s similarly enveloping 1991 epic A Brighter Summer Day, Yi Yi evokes precise yet familiar emotions and allows them to play out on screen in ways that you’ve simply never seen before.
Where to watch: The Criterion Channel

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