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Vietnam movies: TOP 11 classic ones that are truly worth watching

24/01/2024 9.018

Vietnam movies offer diverse and compelling stories that captivate audiences worldwide. Exploring Vietnam in movies is an exciting experience as these films showcase the country's rich cultural heritage, exploring themes of love, war, and resilience.

Vietnam movies

Vietnam movies have captivated audiences with their diverse storytelling and powerful narratives. Each film explores its own themes of love, war, family, and societal challenges, providing a unique perspective on Vietnamese society. And below are the 11 best Vietnam movies that foreigners should not miss. 

1. On the Same River (1959) – one of the best old Vietnam movies

On the Same River was produced by the Vietnam Film Studio in 1959. It is the first narrative film from North Vietnam after 1954 and the first revolutionary film of Vietnamese cinema. 

On the Same River is set during the Vietnam War, which was taking place at that time. The two characters, Hoai and Van, fell in love during the Vietnam-France War. After 1954, they planned to get married, but they were not allowed to come ashore by the South Vietnamese police. 

As the "firstborn" of the Vietnam movie industry, the movie has some limitations, such as a loose plot and unclear character traits and psychology. However, from a historical and cultural perspective, this film reflects the historical reality of Vietnam. 

2. Girl from Hanoi (1974) – among the standout Vietnam war movies

"Girl from Hanoi" is one of the most famous classic Vietnam movies produced by Vietnam Film Studio in 1974. The film depicts life in Hanoi in 1972 during the United States Operation Linebacker II, when they conducted bombings in North Vietnam.

The film follows the journey of two sisters, Ngoc Ha and Thuy Duong, as they evacuate and search for their father after their mother sacrifices herself and their home in Kham Thien is destroyed by the B52 bombings.

One of the successes of "Girl from Hanoi" lies in its storyline, performances, and documentary-style realism. The film utilizes the aftermath of the bombings, capturing the most representative and poignant scenes. 

Vietnam movies

3. When the Tenth Month Comes (1984)

"When the Tenth Month Comes" is one of the best Vietnam War movies by director Dang Nhat Minh, released in 1984. The film tells the story of a widow whose husband sacrificed his life on the battlefields of the Southwest.

Duyen conceals her husband's death from everyone, especially her ailing father-in-law. To console her father-in-law, Duyen asks Khang to write letters inquiring about the family as if her husband were still alive. These letters bring joy to the family, but Duyen bears the pain alone. 

This film is regarded as one of the best Vietnamese movies by critics and the general audience. On September 15, 2008, CNN recognized "When the Tenth Month Comes" as one of the 18 outstanding Asian films of all time.

4. The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)

Although not an officially Vietnamese-produced film but a diaspora film shot in France, "The Scent of Green Papaya" is still considered the most famous Vietnam movie. Despite the setting being Saigon in the 1950s, the entire film was shot in studios in Paris, France.

The film follows Mui, a gentle and curious girl who works as a servant for a textile merchant family in Saigon during the 1950s. Through the central characters, the old Vietnam movies depict women's lives in Vietnamese society during that time.

Shortly after its release, "The Scent of Green Papaya" received positive feedback from critics and audiences. "The Scent of Green Papaya" won the Golden Camera award at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or category.

Vietnam movies

5. Cyclo (1995) – one of the world-known Vietnam movies

"Cyclo" is another famous film by director Tran Anh Hung, who also directed "The Scent of Green Papaya." The film takes its name from the main character, a kind-hearted young man who works as a cyclo (bicycle rickshaw) driver in Saigon. 

His life takes a new turn when his cyclo is stolen, thrusting him into the dark underworld of the notorious gang led by Lady Boss. From then on, he becomes involved in heinous crimes. Despite his desire to redeem himself, he constantly fails and lives in fear.

6. Song of the South (1997) – among the top Vietnam drama movies

Song of the South was one of the most popular Vietnam movies in 1997. The film tells the story of the simple lives of rural people during turbulent times.

Song of the South follows the journey of a young boy named An as he sets out to find his father. During his trip to the South, An witnesses the harsh realities of life. Despite facing constant ups and downs in life, An always lives with compassion and the support of his fellow compatriots. 

Vietnam movies

>>> Read more about Vietnamese people

7. Three Seasons (1999) – one of the most popular Vietnam movies

"Three Seasons" is one of the famous comedy Vietnam movies by Vietnamese-American director Tony Bui, with the primary setting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The film consists of three stories, each rich in imagery and symbolism.

The first story follows a Vietnamese-American soldier who comes to Saigon for a girl. The second story revolves around Hai, a taxi driver who daily transports a young woman named Lan to work. The third story focuses on Kien An, a young woman who works as a lotus picker in a pond belonging to Dao, a man afflicted with leprosy. 

These three stories carry dreams, joys, and emotions that follow the rhythms of three seasons: sunshine, rain, and hope. The film received the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.

8. The Beautiful Country (2004)

"The Beautiful Country" is one of the movies filmed in Vietnam directed by Norwegian filmmaker Hans Petter Moland. It tells the story of a young Vietnamese man with both American and Vietnamese heritage.

Binh, the film's protagonist, lives a lonely and gloomy life with his family in a rural area. He is a shy and introverted young man who carries the burden of his mixed background and struggles with feelings of longing and torment. His only memory of his father is a childhood photograph.

One day, Binh leaves his village to search for his mother, who works as a maid in Saigon. He witnesses his mother's poverty and discovers he has a younger brother there. A tragic incident sets off a series of turbulent events in Binh's life.

Vietnam movies

9. Living In Fear (2005) – among the classic Vietnam movies

"Living in Fear" is one of the Vietnamese movies based on a true story. The film may not be suitable for children under 16 years old.

The film revolves around Tai, a South Vietnam soldier with two wives living in different locations. When the war ended in 1975, he brought his second wife and their child to a new area filled with leftover war mines. 

This film won the third prize in the International Student Films category at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival in France. It also received the Silver Medal at the Taipei Film Festival 2000 and five Golden Kite Awards at the Golden Kite Awards 2005.

10. The White Silk Dress (2006)

"The White Silk Dress" is a modern Vietnam movie directed by Luu Huynh. Still, it is set during the war and notably uses celluloid film instead of modern digital techniques. 

The film tells the story of a couple, Dan and Gu - two servants of a landlord's household, hoping to find a place where they can live peacefully together. Their most valuable possession is the white silk dress from Ha Dong.

However, the brutal war has taken the life of their eldest daughter, An. During a clam-digging trip in heavy rain, Dan gets swept away by the flood. In an attempt to find and protect the white silk dress belonging to his wife and daughter, Gu dies in the flames of the brutal war.

The story ended with the image of a peaceful country in 1975—the same thing that An had asked her father before, "Daddy, is peace beautiful?" However, she could not wait until peace came.

Vietnam movies

11. Owl And The Sparrow (2007) – one of the most famous Vietnam movies

The film is about Thuy, a 10-year-old orphan who works in his uncle's factory. The uncle constantly scolds her, so she runs to Saigon to start a new life. For over five days, she earns a living selling fresh flowers on the streets while her uncle tries to find her. She meets Hai, an employee at the zoo who has been abandoned by his fiancée.

She also sells flowers to Lan, an airline stewardess who is unlucky in love. Thuy buys Lan's dinner and provides her with a place to stay overnight. 

This is one of the successful Vietnam movies. At the Canh Dieu Awards 2009, the film won several awards, including the Press Choice Award, Outstanding Film in Foreign Cooperation.

>>> Read more about Vietnam language expand your linguistic horizons

In addition to the Vietnam movies listed above, Vietnam has many impressive cinematic works such as Buffalo Boy, The Rebel, and The Abandoned Field.

Vietnam on-screen showcases its unique beauty, and the real Vietnam is even more attractive. From majestic natural landscapes to a rich and distinct culture, impressive history, diverse cuisine, and friendly people, Vietnam always has something to offer every visitor.

Vietnam movies

To have a smooth journey, learning about the best time to visit Vietnam is advisable. Each destination, such as Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang, Ha Long, has an ideal time for tourism. Understanding the weather and local events will help you choose the right time for a unique Vietnam travel experience.

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Vietnam movies

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Vietnam movies

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Watching Vietnam movies provides an immersive and insightful experience for foreigners. These films offer a window into Vietnamese culture, history, and society, allowing viewers to understand the country and its people better. Whether exploring the country's past or reflecting contemporary issues, Vietnam movies offer foreigners a unique and enriching cinematic journey, fostering cross-cultural appreciation and a deeper connection with Vietnam and its people.

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