You're in self-isolation and going stir-crazy. You're scrolling through your Netflix queue. You've already burned through all the hyped-up shows and movies. The hyped movies are always Hollywood and in English, even though they hoover up a lot of really good foreign titles. There's a frighteningly huge inventory of Asia and European movies on Netflix, never mind the TV shows.
So why not try something different and read some subtitles? You can always go back to the Hollywood stuff later. I'll start with a simple list of five Asian movies to check out on Netflix.
Train to Busan
The best zombie movie of the last few years and one of the best on Netflix. A South Korean zombie parable about personal responsibility and how everyone is connected. A businessman and his young daughter are trapped bullet train while the zombie apocalypse sweeps through the country and the train. The train becomes a microcosm of society as its numbers dwindle and the survivors get more desperate. In an age where everyone has to self-isolate and contagion is the Big Fear, this movie takes on new meaning.
Everyone's talking about Parasite and how Korean movies have finally arrived, but this is the better movie and one you absolutely need to check out on Netflix. A more nuanced, complex and mysterious take on Late Capitalist malaise, based on a story by Haruki Murakami. An angry, aspiring writer meets his childhood crush again but finds he has a rival, a mysterious Korean-American rich kid who might be his dark mirror self or something worse. Class tension, sexual frustration and despair make for a slow-motion trainwreck you can't take your eyes off of.
A stylish Thai heist comedy on Netflix where the thieves are high school students and the loot is the exam results that will get them into Ivy League universities overseas. A poor scholarship student at an elite high school is the bad genius of the title. She goes from earning extra cash from helping the dumber but richer students cheat at their exams to hatching a big-money score for herself. Cue the most stylish and elaborate heist since Ocean's 13. It's a fresh and ingenious take on the heist movie that can only be done once. The Hollywood remake won't be this good.
Operation: Red Sea
Dante Lam is Hong Kong's answer to Michael Bay, and this big, violent action blockbuster is China's last for the foreseeable future and it's out on Netflix. There will be other action movies out of China, but they won't feature Chinese soldiers shooting and fighting bad guys anymore. That makes this a milestone. This big, bloody, epic depiction of Special Forces operatives from the Chinese Navy trying to evacuate civilians and hostages from the African coast is subtly subversive in the massive losses the heroes take.
The Wandering Earth
China's first Science Fiction blockbuster, which arrived on Netflix last year, is an adaptation of Liu Cixin's very strange epic novella. Humanity decides to move the entire Earth out of the solar system before the sun dies to find a new system to inhabit so the world can literally continue. An epic of big and crazy Science Fiction ideas where China saves the world. This movie is the embodiment of everything China aspires to.