Are you looking for some out-of-the-box Chinese fantasy movies? You’ve arrived where needed – we’ve got some interesting choices!
We’ve selected some of the most iconic Chinese fantasy films, but also some that aren’t as popular but totally worth your time if you’re a fan of the genre.
The great thing about these movies is that they’re packed with mythological and fantasy elements and, at the same time, adventures, romantic relationships, and Chinese drama! In short, most of them follow complex stories that make for excellent fantasy-action movies and aim to allure you into their universe!
Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings (2018)
The third in the Detective Dee Chinese fantasy film series, Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings, was released in 2018 and shortly became one of the best in the series.
The movie continues the timeline of Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (which you can add to your list, too!). Dee Renjie, named leader of the Court of Judicature and Revision, becomes a threat to Empress Wu Zetian. Moreover, he now has the renowned “Dragon Taming Mace,” a type of Longquan sword.
Empress Wu orders some mercenary sorcerers to steal the mace from Dee. What follows is an amalgam of conspiracies, battles, arrests, and disguises. As such, if you’re a fantasy fan, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this part of the series. If it arouses your curiosity, make sure to check the other films as well!
Legend of the Demon Cat (2017)
The Legend of the Demon Cat is a Chinese fantasy mystery film based on a Japanese novel written by Yoneyama Mineo or, as readers might know him, Baku Yumemakura, a renowned adventure and science fiction writer.
The film is a supernatural depiction of how Yang Guifei, the consort of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, died. She is also often considered one of ancient China’s Four Beauties.
Now, the beginning of the movie definitely has a Murakami allure – it starts with the wife of an army commander making a bargain with a black cat, which, surprise-surprise, can talk! But this doesn’t say too much about the plot, right?!
Well, the thing is that when Kukai, a Japanese monk, was summoned to Emperor Xuanzong’s court, he found feline hair in the royal chamber. Supposedly, the emperor was possessed, so what’s the link between this and the talking monster cat? That we’ll leave for you to find out!
Ne Zha (2019)
Ne Zha is, in fact, a 3D computer animation. It focuses on the mythological origins of Nezha, a protection deity in Chinese religion whose “official” name was Marshal of the Central Altar.
But, to make things easier for you, we’ll tell you that the animation tells the story of a demon born to human parents. A prophecy says that Ne Zha (the demon baby boy) would bring destruction only, but his father refuses to have him killed after birth.
As such, in the hope of avoiding the presumably imminent destruction, he locks his son behind an invisible force field, which he, of course, escapes repeatedly.
The two-year-old boy looks like he’s nine and has a unique sign on his forehead (yes, yes, just like Harry Potter) and a malevolent smile (true, just like Joker!).
So what happens next? Watch the movie and come back to tell us!
Painted Skin (2008)
If you’re a supernatural enthusiast, Painted Skin is certainly a must-see! The action takes place sometime between the late Qin Dynasty and the early Han Dynasty. Upon attacking a Xiongnu camp (a tribal confederation of nomadic peoples), General Wang Sheng takes a maiden named Xiaowei home.
However, surprise-surprise, this maiden is, in fact, a fox spirit. What’s a fox spirit, you’re wondering, right?! Well, the Huli jing, as it goes by in Chinese mythology and folklore, is a mythological creature capable of shapeshifting – it can either be benevolent or malevolent.
But that’s not all Xiaowei does – she also eats human hearts to stay young and beautiful. The action begins when the forever-young Xiaowei falls in love with the already-mentioned General Wang Sheng. But, the thing is, he has a wife.
As you can see, that’s not just another supernatural-fantasy film – it’s also a romance!
The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity (2020)
Directed by Guo Jingming, The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity is yet another renowned Chinese fantasy film telling the story of four masters trying to trap a malevolent serpent demon within the Imperial City.
What follows is a fantastic combination between investigative work, accusations, immortality, and fights using iconic swords you’ll definitely delight in if you’re a martial arts fan. We won’t unravel anything else, as we might just spoil the intrigue!
Wu Kong (2017)
Wu Kong also goes by the title of Immortal Demon Slayer. It’s a Chinese fantasy-action-adventure movie that tells the story of Sun Wukong.
If you’re an anime and video game enthusiast, you’ve probably already heard of the Monkey King, which is, in fact, our Sun Wukong. It’s a legendary mythical figure who aims to acquire supernatural powers and rebels against the Heavens.
The Wu Kong movie starts with an iconic fight scene caused by Sun Wukong, who had ruined a feast for the gods. More precisely, he ate Xi Wangmu’s Peaches of Immortality.
What follows is an adventure through the Heavenly Place and the human world accompanied by deep character development and riveting fight scenes.
A Writer’s Odyssey (2021)
A Writer’s Odyssey is by far one of the most renowned Chinese fantasy movies. The two novels written by Shuang Xuetao served as inspiration for the film. One has the same title as the movie, and the sequel is called Godslayer – just in case you plan to read them after or before watching the iconic film!
If you’re a fan of Taken, you’ll probably like this movie as well, as it follows the adventure of Guan Ning looking for his daughter. Supposedly, human traffickers kidnapped her.
However, he’s not alone in this journey. A powerful corporation promises to find his daughter. But there’s something he has to do instead. He must assassinate a young novelist called Lu Kongwen because the plot of his novel somehow impacts the real world.
Are you intrigued? Watch the movie and tell us what you think!
L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties (2016)
Yet another Chinese computer-animated fantasy movie, the L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties. If you’re a video game enthusiast, you’ll definitely enjoy the movie effects, especially what the creators have done with the interiors!
Moreover, while the mythological aspects are totally Chinese, you’ll find that the character relationships have something in common with Japanese anime.
The action takes place in a universe where Qi Ling becomes the disciple of a sorcerer. Still, this isn’t just another disciple-sorcerer story, as Qi Ling gets drawn into a high-scale magical elite conflict that brings upon him numerous challenges.
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
Are you looking for a movie that will take you into the world of martial arts? House of Flying Daggers is definitely the one!
It takes place in 859 AD when the Tang Dynasty declines. A rebel group going by the name of House of Flying Daggers defies the government by giving to the poor what they’ve stolen from the rich. They’re excellent martial artists known for their special throwing daggers.
Leo and Jin, two police officers, receive orders to kill the group’s leader, which is somewhat challenging, as no one knows who that is. So what will they do to find the leader? That’s up to you to discover!
Kung Fu Cult Master (1993)
Although released 30 years ago, Kung Fu Cult Master is an iconic production starring the famous Jet Li as Chang Mo Kei. You can now watch it on Netflix as well!
Louis Cha’s novel entitled The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber served as inspiration for the so-called wuxia movie. The action is set during the Yuan Dynasty and focuses on several sects fighting for the possession of two famous golden swords. Apparently, these swords held a martial arts secret!
As such, if you’re a martial arts enthusiast, this film should definitely get to your must-watch list! There’s lots of magic, fighting, and cult rivalries!