Before Everything, Everywhere, All At Once came to be, we had Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to watch Michelle Yeoh bust out her kung-fu moves in. The 2000 action film was a lot of global viewers’ introduction to the world of wuxia, a genre of Chinese fiction that features martial artists using their abilities to right the world’s wrongs in a setting that’s inspired by ancient China.
That doesn’t sound so different from kung-fu films like Ip Man (2208), right? But what sets wuxia apart is its fantastical elements and slightly (or drastically) unrealistic fight scenes. As we see in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the heroes of wuxia exist in a magical world where their scholarly understanding of their martial art and their physical prowess grant them superhero-like abilities. So to be clear, no traditional kung-fu action films here, this list of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-like movies and shows are all wuxia or, at least, derivative of the genre.
5 Movies Like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
1. House of Flying Daggers (2004)
If you loved Zhang Ziyi, the actress who plays Jen Yu in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you should definitely watch House of Flying Daggers (2004), where Ziyi plays Xiao Mei, a blind dancer. Playing a blind character doesn’t mean Ziyi takes a backseat in the action, as her blindness only sharpens her other senses.
It’s an incredibly elegant film that shows even more of the romantic aspects of wuxia compared to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The “wire-fu” of wuxia can be a little hard to get into, so if you want to enjoy this beautiful genre without being thrown off the deep end by its less-than-realistic fight scenes, House of the Flying Daggers is a great place to start.
2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) is the next wuxia film you should watch if you missed seeing Michelle Yeoh fight in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In this film, Yeoh plays Ying Li, a martial artist and mother of the titular Shang-Chi. Naturally, Ying Li also becomes her son’s martial arts teacher.
The movie mixes Marvel’s formula for blockbuster hits and tropes of the wuxia genre. There’s the unlikely, almost fairytale-like romance between Ying Li and Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s quest to defeat evil, and some good old-fashioned wuxia fight scenes. The battle between Wen Wu and Ying Li fully embraces the stylized and elegant violence that wuxia takes to its fight scenes.
3. Reign of Assassins (2010)
The 2010 film Reign of Assassins didn’t become as popular outside China as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Shang-Chi, but the film also features Michelle Yeoh in the role of an action heroine. This time, Yeoh isn’t an honorable hero but a member of the Dark Stone gang who have stolen the remains of a holy man. The remains are believed to grant people supernatural abilities.
Things seem like they’ll go without a hitch for the gang until Zeng Jing, Yeoh’s character, decides she’s going to take the remains and flee. While she’s gone, Ye Zhangqing, another female assassin, steps up to take her role and hunt her down. Zhangqing is played by Barbie Hsu, who you may remember as Shan Cai, the female lead of Meteor Garden (2001).
4. Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972)
Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972) is an older movie, but it already asks audiences to question the conventions of the wuxia genre through its heroine, Ai Nu. Unlike many of the powerful and empowered heroines of wuxia, Ai Nu is an enslaved woman who has been sold into prostitution and sexually assaulted by her boss, who takes advantage of her position over Ai Nu.
Ai Nu comes to see this as an opportunity to learn martial arts from her boss, so she bides her time, playing along until she can exact her revenge.
5. Butterfly and Sword (1993)
Butterfly and Sword (1993) features Shang-Chi stars Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung in a story of unrequited love. Yeoh’s Lady Ko is madly in love with Leung’s character, but they have to keep things relatively professional since they belong to the same organization of martial artists. The two, together with the rest of their group, are sent on a mission by their clan leader to assassinate the leader of a rival clan.
3 Shows Like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
1. Who Rules the World? (2022)
Who Rules the World (2022) is a romance drama starring the beautiful yet unconventional Bai Feng Xi and the handsome, more restrained Hei Feng Xi. Despite their different personalities, the duo can’t help but fall in love. They’re beautiful people, after all, and no one else matches them in martial arts skills. Together, the two go on adventures and missions in the many kingdoms of China, all while trying to dodge the terrors of court politics.
2. Heavenly Sword and Dragon Slaying Sabre (2019)
Heavenly Sword and Dragon Slaying Sabre (2019) is a wuxia series about the struggle for power between several groups of martial artists. The factions and their masters are all competing to find the legendary Dragon Sabre, which is said to give its owner the power to rule the world. Think of it as this world’s One Ring.
The characters end up traveling the world and reaching distant, exotic lands in their quest to obtain the item. There are also heavily altered storylines about the Mongolian empire in China, so expect a few, if inaccurate, nods to history.
3. Legend of Fuyao (2018)
Legend of Fuyao (2018) features the adventures and romance of its mystical heroine. The titular Fuyao isn’t exactly human but a spirit-being type of creature that was created from a divine lotus. In order to restore herself and learn who she really is, Fuyao must gather magical objects throughout the Five Kingdoms, all while dealing with court politics.