Vietnam is known for many things. Besides being one of the friendliest countries in the world, Vietnam also boasts mind-blowing landscapes, tantalising food culture, idiosyncratic city characters and last but not least a vibrant up-and-coming film industry. Despite being relatively nascent, Vietnam's up-and-coming film industry has brought home multiple awards from Busan Film Festivals, Asian Film Festivals or Vegas Movie Awards, putting its name on the international market.
So prepare that popcorn, get ready to acquaint yourself with these Vietnamese movies on Netflix! What better time to rest, relax and watch some tv eh?
Camellia Sisters (Gái Già Lắm Chiêu)
Kicking off the list is newcomer Camellia Sisters, which premiered on Netflix on June 2021.
The plot revolves around the themes of fame, fortune and a love triangle between the three sisters of the royal Ly family - Ly Le Ha (Le Khanh), Ly Le Hong (Hong Van), and Ly Linh (Kaity Nguyen), famed for their antique collection and auction circles. The night before an antique auction, a family treasure is stolen. This sparks tension as untold secrets surface unravel themselves. A tale of love and deceit masqueraded as perfect Vietnamese novelty. Beyond the film's plot, the movie is set in the picturesque ancient capital of Hue and captures the natural beauty of the city. Cue deprived wanderlusters missing this beautiful country!
Saigon, I Love You (Sài Gòn, Anh Yêu Em)
This award-winning romantic comedy film produced by Ly Minh Thang in 2016 connects five different love stories set in Saigon. From a love-hate relationship between a mother and a son to a reunion between soulmates, 'Saigon, I Love You' is a feel-good film that pays tribute to the sights, scenes and sounds of Saigon while revealing distinct cultural nuances.
In 2017, the film made global waves when it won a Golden Kite Prize by the Vietnam Cinematography Association for the best feature film, the highest distinction in Vietnamese cinema, best supporting actor (Huynh Lap), best screenplay, best production design, and best music.
Dreamy Eyes (Mắt Biếc)
Adapted from Nguyen Nhat Anh's novel of the same name and directed by award-winning director Victor Vu, Dreamy Eyes tells the story of a six-year-old boy Ngan (Tran Nghia) who falls in love with his childhood best friend Ha Lan (Truc Anh). Through heartbreak and betrayal, Ngan's unrequited love for Ha Lan endures for a generation in this sweeping romance. In a cruel twist of fate, Ha Lan finally realises her biggest mistake, missing her chance to tell Ngan how she feels for him, as he gets on a train and leaves the hometown forever.
Albeit cliché at times, the Netflix film makes up for it with breathtaking cinematography. Think sentimental love scenes against a picturesque backdrop of Vietnam bathed in golden light. The tone of the film also adopts an innocent and childlike narrative which lends itself to a tearjerker reminiscent of your own first love. And to quote the soul-breaking end, “In this life, there are two things you should never miss. The last bus home. And the person that truly loves you.”
Furie (Hai Phượng)
Get ready for an action-packed film directed by Le Van Kiet and starring popular Vietnamese actress - Ngo Thanh Van (Veronica Ngo). Furie follows Hai Phuong, an ex-gangster who renounces her life of vice following the birth of her daughter. However when traffickers kidnap her daughter from their village, vengeful Hai Phuong returns to Saigon - and her outlaw roots - to take down the abductors. Besides a riveting storyline, the film also highlights the finesse and beauty of Vovinam (Vietnamese martial arts).
The White Silk Dress (Áo Lụa Hà Đông)
The winner of Vietnamese Golden Kite and Busan International Film Festival 2006, The White Silk Dress follows a struggling family of six including four daughters against the backdrop of Vietnam in the 50's during the French colonial rule. Amidst poverty and violence in mid-20th century Vietnam, an heirloom gown inspires hope - and sacrifice. Through the film, one is also reminded about the significance and symbolism of the 'ao dai', an iconic Vietnamese silk costume worn by women.
Go Go Sisters (Tháng Năm Rực Rỡ)
To fulfil a special wish, a woman sets out to reunite her once close-knit high school grew for one final jaunt down memory lane. A heartfelt comedy that reminds audiences about the joys, trials and tribulations of friendship as well as its importance. A rollercoaster of Go Go Sisters that will have you in laughs and tears both at the same time, think Vietnam's version of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
The Scent Of Burning Grass (Mùi Cỏ Cháy)
Nominated 'Best Foreign Language Film' at the 85th Academy Awards, The Scent of Burning Grass weaves together the stories, memories and memoirs of real-life North Vietnamese soldiers, who fought in the ferocious 1972 battle of Quang Tri.
The film follows the story of four patriotic Vietnamese soldiers with seemingly different characters: Hoang the child-faced poet; Thang the thinker who pens an essay (correctly) predicting a win for the communist north in April 1975; Thanh the prankster, and Long the 'lover boy' hailing from a dysfunctional family. At the helm of the platoon is Phong, the harsh yet kind father figure to the boys.
A film that carries ample political significance, The Scent of Burning Grass combines themes of romance, nationalism and even attempts at humour. What accords The Scent of Burning Grass its Oscar status is its adherence to character-development and narrative-flow convention.
Fool For Love (Để Mai Tính)
One of the first big hits for the Vietnamese film industry is Fool For Love, which includes industry heavyweights such as Charlie Nguyen, Dustin Nguyen, Kathy Uyen.
The story follows a captivating tale of humor, trial, love, and pursuit between a hotel clerk Dung (Dustin Nguyen) and his love-at-first-sight with a beautiful lounge singer Mai (Kathy Uyen). His fearless love brings him to leave his job in chase of his affections for her only to find her involved with a wealthy real-estate mogul. Comedy ensues as the penniless clerk, in order to finance his pursuit of love, is forced to shack up with a very rich but very gay businessman (Thai Hoa). Fool For Love is filled with rolling-on-the-floor humor, unexpected twists that rushed thousands of audiences to the cinema. Following the big success, part two was launched 4 years later.
Good Bye Mother (Thưa Mẹ Con Đi)
Our favourite from the list, Good Bye Mother placed amongst the 'Top 10 Most Watched List' on Netflix Vietnam within just 3 days of its launch, a rare and commendable feat for a Vietnamese film.
The LGBTQ film follows Van (Lanh Thanh), the heir of a Vietnamese clan, who returns home from the US for the first time in nine years to complete his father's funeral matters. Along with his return, Van brings with him Ian (Gia Huy), his Vietnamese-American boyfriend. Tension rises when the couple is initially unable to come out about their relationship because of the taboo involved, especially in rural Vietnam. This forces Van to explain the nature of their relationship to his mother amid juggling his filial duties.
Hollow (Đoạt Hồn)
A six-year-old girl named Ai (Lam Thanh My) falls into a river during a family visit to a temple. A week later, she mysteriously turns up alive at a hospital upstream from where she fell. At first, her family is relieved to have the little girl back but when Ai starts displaying strange and unnatural behavior, the family starts to believe Ai is not exactly what she seems.
Hollow combines Vietnamese folklore with real-world anxieties (human trafficking and child abuse), which gives birth to a captivating and powerful story that underpins the reality of such aforementioned family tragedies and are captured in this horror film. We promise chills.
If you are looking for more ways to dive into Vietnamese culture, make sure to check out our top 10 podcasts about Vietnam. Or subscribe to our newsletter for that hit of VN culture straight to your inbox.
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