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Top 5 Romantic Films Set in Hong Kong

Andrea Lo

Hong Kong cinema is one of the most influential in the world. The city has produced countless great movies – something that deserves a list of its own – but it’s also known for being the backdrop of romantic films, too. From Hollywood blockbusters to local productions, check out these romantic dramas set right here in the Fragrant Harbour that will make you fall in love with Hong Kong.


The World of Suzie Wong (1960)

This iconic Hollywood drama immortalised 1960s Hong Kong and made leading lady, homegrown actress Nancy Kwan, a superstar. Based on the Richard Mason novel, the film stars Kwan as Suzie Wong and William Holden as American architect Robert Lomax, who moves to Hong Kong in the 60s to pursue a career as an artist. After a chance meeting on the Star Ferry, the two cross paths again in seedy Wan Chai, where Robert discovers Suzie’s profession as an escort. Drama, romance and intrigue against the glitzy backdrop of Hong Kong: it’s no wonder the film was a huge success.
There was drama off-screen too: actress France Nuyen was originally cast as Suzie Wong, but her relationship woes with Marlon Brando at the time reportedly caused her to balloon in weight, meaning she was no longer able to fit into the traditional Chinese cheongsam dresses the character was required to wear. She was replaced with Kwan, who later became credited with generating wider acceptance of Asian actors in Hollywood.


Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)

William Holden must have had a thing for Hong Kong. Before Suzie Wong, he starred in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing as Mark Elliot, an American journalist who moves to Hong Kong in the late 1940s during the Chinese Civil War. He meets Eurasian widow Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones), and the two fall in love – although she becomes shunned by her family and Hong Kong society as a result. The film was nominated for eight Oscars, winning Best Costume Design and two Best Music gongs.


City of Glass (1998)

Hong Kong filmmaker Mabel Cheung’s 1998 film City of Glass stars legendary singer and actor Leon Lai as Raphael and Taiwanese actress Shu Qi as Vivien, two former lovers from their University of Hong Kong days who reconnect after each have started their own families. They are killed in a car accident in London, and their kids, David (Daniel Wu) and Susie (Nicola Cheung) meet at the funeral. David and Susie go on a journey to discover their parents’ past, and the rest… You’ll have to watch to figure out. It’s a beautiful romance/drama that shows off Hong Kong, as well as homegrown talent.


In the Mood for Love (2000)

Seminal Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece In the Mood for Love is set in Hong Kong in 1962. It stars Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung as secretary Su Li-zhen and journalist Chow Mo-wan, who move into two adjacent apartments on the same day. Their partners often work overtime, and the two lonely souls begin to see each other in chance encounters. The two realise that their spouses are having an affair with each other, and begin to spend more time together – although they never enter a physical relationship.
The powerful story of restrained passion with stunning cinematography by Christopher Doyle swept up a ton of awards as well as a nomination of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. Fun fact: Su wears a different cheongsam in every single scene she appears in. Count ’em!


It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (2015)

An indie flick that flew under the radar, It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong marks filmmaker Emily Ting’s inaugural effort. The story follows Jamie Chung’s Ruby, a Chinese-American toy designer, and Bryan Greenberg as American expat, financier Josh (who are husband and wife in real life, BTW), who meet outside a bar in SoHo. Ruby is visiting Hong Kong and finds herself lost without GPS, and Josh, overhearing her, offers to take her to meet her friends. The two make a connection during their walk, although Ruby is (understandably) annoyed to find out Josh actually has a girlfriend.
They meet a year later on the Star Ferry: Ruby has moved to the city, and Josh, following their conversation when they met, has quit his job and become a writer – as per Ruby’s encouragement. They spend time together… but both are attached to spouses. Romance aside, the film shows off Hong Kong in all its glory: LKF, Victoria Harbour, Temple Street and Chungking Mansions all feature prominently. The film made its debut at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival and has received positive feedback from critics.

Andrea Lo is a freelance journalist and translator based in Hong Kong. After cutting her teeth in the industry as a staff writer at a lifestyle magazine, she embraced the freelance life in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. She spends her time exploring the best of Hong Kong’s dining and nightlife scene, trialling new fitness trends, and travelling to exotic locales – all in the name of “research”.