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16 Chinese Movies with English Subtitles Available Online

If you aren’t already proficient in the language, watching Chinese movies can be overwhelming.

But by watching Chinese movies with English subtitles, you can follow along with the storyline while improving your language skills.

You can learn new vocab, expose yourself to the culture and familiarize yourself with accents and tones

In this post, you’ll find 16 Chinese movies available online (and some on DVD if you’re old school) that you can watch with convenient English subtitles. 

Contents


1. 陽光普照 (“A Sun”)

Genre: Drama

Year: 2019

“A Sun” is an award-winning Taiwanese family drama that will have you emotionally invested.

It’s a tale about two seemingly polar opposite sons. The older son is at the top of his class and is set to attend the medical school of his choice, making his parents proud. The younger son, a disappointment to the parents, is a delinquent who ends up in a juvenile detention center.

But as the movie goes on, the parents begin to acknowledge the prejudices they harbor for each son. They also realize that their sons aren’t as different from each other as they thought.

Watch on Netflix

2. 后来的我们 (“Us and Them”)

Genre: Romantic Drama

Year: 2018

“Us and Them” is a classic romantic drama. A man and woman from the same small hometown try to make their relationship last in the bustling city of Beijing.

The plot jumps between past and present, and you’ll watch the couple’s relationship over the years. Movies with this type of plot can be difficult to follow if you don’t speak the language, but the director has helped you out! Scenes in the present are in color, and scenes in the past are in black and white.

You’ll learn a lot of vocab related to relationships and love. Don’t watch “Us and Them” if you aren’t prepared to cry a little!

Watch on Netflix

3. 五遁忍術 (“Five Elements Ninjas”)

Genre: Drama/Action

Year: 1982

“Five Elements Ninjas” is considered one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time. As you can tell from the title, it revolves around five ninjas with fighting styles based on the five natural elements: water, wood, fire, earth and metal.

A Chinese martial arts school in ancient Hong Kong hires a Japanese ninja to destroy its rival school that currently outranks them. Only one survives the deadly massacre. This drives him to learn the art of ninjutsu in hopes of getting revenge against the ninja.

With dramatic, exaggerated dialogue and plenty of action, “Five Elements Ninja” has everything you want from a ninja movie. 

Watch on: Prime Video | Apple TV | DVD

4. 喜欢你 (“This Is Not What I Expected”)

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Year: 2017

“This Is Not What I Expected” is a lighthearted rom-com that follows two not-so-lighthearted characters. Lu Jin is an insatiable hotel executive who oversees a hotel where Gu Shengnan is the determined and talented sous chef. These two workaholics never expected to fall in love—hence the title of the film.

The movie revolves around hotels and kitchens, so by watching the film, you’ll pick up a lot of vocab related to the hospitality industry. And you’ll probably learn more food-related words than you ever cared to know.

There are a ton of one-on-one scenes between characters, making the conversations relatively clear and easy to understand.

Watch on: Prime Video | DVD

5. 苹果 (“Lost in Beijing”)

Genre: Drama

Year: 2007

Liu Pingguo and her husband move to Beijing to try to live a better life. Pingguo finds work as a masseuse. A married couple owns the massage parlor, and the husband of this couple is… well… not a great dude.

“Lost in Beijing” will introduce you to the dark side of Chinese poverty. It covers topics such as prostitution, sexual assault, blackmail and general debauchery. Be prepared for an emotional experience (and maybe skip this one if you’re not prepared for something too intense or dark). 

I’d recommend this movie for a more advanced student due to its emotional depth and complex vocabulary. 

Watch on: Prime Video | DVD

6. 美好的意外 (“Beautiful Accident”)

Genre: Comedy/Fantasy

Year: 2017

In this movie, an ambitious lawyer dies in a car crash. She gets to return to Earth, except this time she’s living as a housewife whose life’s mission is to take care of her husband and kids. Quite the lifestyle shift, isn’t it?

By watching “Beautiful Accident,” you’ll be exposed to vocab related to the woman’s two lives: her life as a lawyer and her life as a housewife. 

The movie combines humor, drama and a touch of magic to create a heartwarming story that prompts viewers to question their life choices and consider the beauty in unexpected situations.

Watch on: Prime Video | Apple TV | DVD

7. 北京遇上西雅图之不二情书 (“Finding Mr. Right 2: Book of Love”)

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Year: 2016

When translated into English, some people refer to this movie as just “Finding Mr. Right 2” or “Book of Love.” Yes, there’s a “Finding Mr. Right 1,” and this is… sort of the sequel. It reunites the two lead actors, but the plot isn’t related to the first movie. 

The movie follows a Chinese man and woman. The man, who works in real estate, has moved to Los Angeles. The woman, who works at a casino and struggles with a gambling addiction, has moved to Macau. 

They fall in love through letters throughout the movie, and you don’t see them meet in person until the end—very suspenseful!

Watch on Prime Video

8. 三少爷的剑 (“Sword Master”)

Genre: Action/Drama

Year: 2016

Drama! Murder! Martial arts! This is what many people imagine when they think of Chinese cinema. Fortunately, “Sword Master” has it all.

The storyline is pretty intricate, so I recommend it for advanced learners. Here’s the gist: Yen Shisan is a swordsman and assassin. Throughout the movie, he overcomes a ton of obstacles and takes down anyone in his way. 

You’ll pick up vocab related to battle, weaponry and death. Yes, the plot is complex. But the complexities are broken up by many, many battle scenes with crazy CGI.

Watch on: Prime Video | AppleTV | DVD

9. 游龍戲鳳 (“Look for a Star”)

Genre: Romantic comedy

Year: 2009

Warning! Because this movie takes place in Macau where people speak Cantonese, Netflix automatically plays the film in Cantonese. Before you watch, be sure to switch the audio to Mandarin.

This film tells the story of a wealthy businessman, Sam Ching, who meets the love of his life, Milan, in a Macau casino. They instantly connect, but because Milan is a croupier and cabaret dancer, Sam is worried about what the other businessmen will think of her. As the relationship grows more and more serious, so do the couple’s problems.

This film is a little raunchy, so you’ll hear a lot of double entendres and slang related to sex. Idioms can be difficult for lower-level learners to pick up, so “Look for a Star” is probably best suited for advanced Chinese-language students.

Watch on Netflix

10. 流浪地球 (“The Wandering Earth”)

Genre: Sci-Fi

Year: 2019

The sun has died out. Earth is going to collide with Jupiter unless Earth’s inhabitants can find a way to change the planet’s orbit.  “The Wandering Earth” follows a small group of young astronauts who give their all to saving their planet.

While the movie is set in a frenzied scenario, the dialogue isn’t as hectic as you’d think. You’ll spend a decent amount of time just watching dramatic special effects.

Characters also have internal monologues and intense one-on-one dialogues. So you should be able to understand the Chinese without being too distracted by the frantic situations.

If you like this film, check out its 2023 sequel “The Wandering Earth 2” on Prime Video

Watch on Netflix

11. “The Jade Pendant”

Genre: Historic Drama/Western

Year: 2017

In “The Jade Pendant,” a young woman escapes China to flee an arranged marriage. But when she lands in California, she’s sold into prostitution. She fights hard to get herself out of this tragic life, and she falls in love along the way.

This movie is the perfect combination of heart-wrenching and inspirational. You’ll be sad for what the protagonist, Peony, goes through, but you’ll feel uplifted by how hard she works to get through her troubles.

This film provides valuable insight into Chinese history and immigration to the United States in the mid-19th century. Plus, it has dialogue in both English and Chinese, so you can easily follow along while learning in short chunks. 

Watch on: Prime Video | DVD

12. 匆匆那年 (“Fleet of Time”)

Genre: Drama/Romance

Year: 2014

The popular young adult novel turned movie, “Fleet of Time” (also called “Back in Time”) is a coming-of-age story of close friends growing up, growing apart and reuniting at a friend’s wedding in 2014.

Their story begins back in the ‘90s as they navigate through the trials and tribulations of high school. They all make it to the same college, but they soon start to drift apart. Meanwhile, complications arise between one of the friends and the girl he’s had feelings for since high school. 

This one will teach you a lot of vocabulary suited for social situations. If you’re up for the challenge, try reading the novel, too!

Watch on Prime Video

13. 陪安东尼度过漫长岁月 (“A Journey Through Time with Anthony”)

Genre: Drama/Romance

Year: 2015

Here’s another well-liked YA novel made into a movie. “A Journey Through Time with Anthony” is about a young man battling between the past and the present.

When Anthony moves from China to Australia to study finance, he discovers that he has a knack for cooking, which leads him to meet the aspiring chef and potential new love Serena. Meanwhile, Anthony’s childhood crush/best friend Ying is struggling to find her footing while studying sound engineering in Tokyo.

While perhaps not all that original, the story is quite relatable, so you can expect a lot of helpful, everyday vocabulary and sentences to improve your Chinese communication skills.

Watch on Prime Video

14. 怦然星动 (“Fall in Love Like a Star”)

Genre: Romance

Year: 2015

“Fall in Love Like a Star” is based on one of my favorite plot devices: forbidden love. A famous musician and his band’s assistant fall in love. After some time, the assistant breaks up with the musician to allow him to focus on his career.

Five years later, the two reconnect and decide to rekindle both their professional and romantic relationship. But as you might suspect, things aren’t so simple.

If you’re interested in music or the music industry, or just love a good love story, this could be the perfect movie for your watchlist. 

Watch on: Prime Video | Apple TV

15. 棟篤特工 (“Agent Mr. Chan”)

Genre: Action/Comedy

Year: 2018

Once upon a time, Agent Chan was one of the top secret agents on the scene. Until he and his partner botched a case, and he was banished from agent work for 20 years.

Now he’s making a comeback. It’s time for him to prove that he’s just as great as he once was. If you like comedies about people with serious jobs acting silly (think “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), then “Agent Mr. Chan” might be your style.

The comedy is pretty over-the-top, so the dialogue is occasionally difficult to understand. But that’s what the English subtitles are for!

Watch on: Prime Video | DVD

16. 天气预爆 (“Airpocalypse”)

Genre: Comedy/Fantasy/Action

Year: 2018

Fantasy. Sci-fi. Comedy. “Airpocalypse” has it all. It’s a truly bizarre movie that might not be for everyone but is loved by many. 

Four fallen gods are responsible for a natural disaster that strikes their fictional universe. They team up to repair the damage they’ve caused, but—whoops!—a human gets control of one of the gods’ powers. Now the human has to learn to use those powers for good.

Think of all the unique vocab you’d find in any sci-fi movie. You’ll probably hear it in “Airpocalypse.”

Watch on: Prime Video | Apple TV

Tips for Watching Chinese Movies with Subtitles

Take it slow.

If you’re watching a movie for the purpose of learning a language, you probably don’t want to watch the entire thing in one sitting. Instead, take things scene by scene.

You might find that after one or two scenes, you need a break because immersing yourself in the language can be grueling. By taking the film in chunks, you’ll hopefully be able to avoid burnout and keep having fun with the language.

As you watch, don’t be afraid to rewind. If you don’t understand something, you should definitely back up. And even if you think you understand, you can still rewind to better familiarize yourself with the tones, pace and vocabulary.

Keep vocabulary lists.

To keep yourself accountable for learning Chinese vocabulary, make lists of the words you’re learning while you watch. You can keep one list for an entire film or separate lists for vocab categories (family, romance, etc.).

But don’t stop with the lists! To master the language, study the vocab once you’ve turned off the TV. A great way to memorize vocab is to use a flashcard app. Yes, old-school flashcards are fine. But with digital decks, you can study wherever you are, without lugging around a big deck of cards.

Watch a movie more than once.

If you like a Chinese film, watch it again. And again. If you can explain the plot and characters to a friend, you’re on the right track. If you can recite the dialogue along with the characters, even better. 

Watching multiple times will do more than just help you memorize vocab. It also gives you the chance to pick up native accents and natural speaking speeds, which are two more advanced skills.

Switch up the subtitle options.

Watching films with Chinese audio and English subtitles is a great study tool for beginner to intermediate students. But after a while, keeping the English subtitles on could actually be slowing down your progression.

You can try using pinyin subtitles as well, if characters are a bit too much for you. Once you consider yourself to be in the mid-to-upper-intermediate level, try watching movies with only Mandarin hanzi subtitles. This will really push you, and you’ll be able to further develop your reading skills.

You could even try turning off the subtitles altogether to boost your listening skills! If this seems too daunting, here’s a way to ease yourself into it: Watch a scene with subtitles, then go back and rewatch it without subtitles, or vice-versa.

Choose the right movie. 

You now have some great options on a few different streaming websites like Amazon’s Prime Video. But this list certainly isn’t the extent of all your options. You can also find Chinese movies with English subtitles on these sites:

Disney+
Hulu
YouTube
Viki (you might need a VPN)

No matter where you find it, it’s always important to make sure the film you’re going to watch is suited to your level.

Generally, beginners would do best starting with comedies, rom-coms and animated movies, while more advanced students are better equipped to handle other genres that take on complex topics, such as fantasy and historical dramas. 

Watch movie trailers on FluentU.

Trailers are vital for language learners on the prowl for a good flick. They give you a glimpse of the language difficulty level so you can make sure the movie is suited to your level, and help you decide if it’s something you’ll enjoy. 

Online streaming services don’t always provide trailers, let alone trailers with English subtitles. If you want high quality and need those convenient English subtitles, try FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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Watching Chinese movies with English subtitles is one of the most entertaining and effective ways to enhance your Chinese language skills.

So put on some comfy sweats, pop some popcorn and press play!

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