Total Recall: Ang Lee's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Life of Pi director.

Ang Lee

Over the course of his Academy Award-winning career, Ang Lee has crossed over from Taiwanese box office successes to American arthouse classics and Hollywood blockbusters, proving his hand with family drama, comedy, period pieces, epic martial arts action, romance, and even superheroes along the way. But up 'til now, he's never tried making a 3D adventure about a shipwrecked boy and his CGI tiger -- so in honor of this weekend's Certified Fresh Life of Pi, we decided to take a look back at Lee's wildly eclectic filmography, and came up with a list that has something for pretty much everyone. You know what that means: It's time for Total Recall!


48%

10. Taking Woodstock

A rare critical misfire for Lee, 2009's Taking Woodstock found the director heading back in time to 1969 to tell the story of Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin), the interior designer who helped make Woodstock happen by offering the festival organizers boarding at his motel after hearing they'd lost their permit. While most critics agreed that Lee did a fine job of capturing the period detail of a watershed moment in America's cultural history, many felt he failed to effectively convey the dramatic stakes of his story -- although for a handful of dissenters, the whole was still more than the sum of its parts. "This is very light material, and, unusually for a Lee picture, not everybody in the ensemble appears to be acting in the same universe, let alone the same story," wrote Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, then conceding, "On the other hand: It's fun."

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62%

9. Hulk

One of the most highly anticipated films of the summer of 2003, Hulk represented Lee's first foray into the CGI-assisted world of big-budget superhero blockbusters. Filmed just as the genre started coming into its own as something other than purely escapist entertainment, Hulk proved that comic book flicks had something to offer for "serious" directors -- even if the end result was regarded as something of a critical and commercial letdown. The character would return a few years later in a hastily convened reboot, but for some scribes, Lee's take was just fine on its own -- including Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer, who called it "an interesting effort to give one of the staples of mass entertainment something extra in the way of insight and feeling."

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63%

8. Ride with the Devil

Skeet Ulrich, Tobey Maguire, and Jewel in a Civil War movie? Leave it to Ang Lee, who teamed the three in his Civil War-set period piece about a pair of young southerners (Ulrich and Maguire) with different backgrounds, but the same goal: To fight for the Confederacy. Battling the North with an eclectic crew of fellow soldiers (including a former slave played by Jeffrey Wright), the duo crosses paths with a pregnant widow (Jewel) whose presence signals a shift -- and potential break -- in their friendship. "This isn't the usual Civil War tale of learning to respect a man regardless of his race," observed Jeffrey Overstreet of Looking Closer. "It's about how true freedom comes from love, from respect, and from self-sacrifice."

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72%

7. Lust, Caution

Before taking his audience to the 1960s for Taking Woodstock, Lee traveled back in time for his previous film, 2007's Lust, Caution, a World War II drama that uses the adulterous affair between a Hong Kong college freshman (Tang Wei) and a politician (Tony Leung) as the fuel for a sumptuously filmed romance-slash-espionage thriller spanning several years -- and some of the most crucial moments in 20th century global politics. Admitting it could be "overwrought and overlong," the AP's Christy Lemire argued that "Lust, Caution nevertheless has some moments of exquisite beauty and a potentially star-making performance from newcomer Tang Wei."

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84%

6. The Ice Storm

He probably wasn't the first director that anyone expected to weigh in with a trenchant observation on the American cultural mores of the 1970s, but that's exactly what Ang Lee did with 1997's The Ice Storm -- an impeccably cast, sensitively filmed adaptation of the acclaimed Rick Moody novel about the largely unspoken divisions festering in a well-to-do suburban Connecticut family. Replete with sadness and populated by deeply flawed characters, Storm could have been an unintentional parody of the '90s indie scene in less capable hands -- but instead, as Rick Groen wrote for the Globe and Mail, it's "a remarkable film that takes us straight into John Updike territory, duplicating on screen exactly what the writer achieves on the page."

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Comments

Lee Augustus

Lee Augustus

Hulk sucked

Nov 20 - 05:37 PM

MicHaeL H.

MicHaeL Hendriks

Nope, the ignorant audience sucked...

Nov 20 - 06:11 PM

Anuson W

Anuson W

kinda have to agree, ppl went in expecting hulk smash and got something else, it wasnt a bad movie juss ppl who felt duped

Nov 20 - 08:11 PM

Matt Lane

Matt Lane

Hulk is a breath of fresh air in what is now a predictable cliche marvel action world

Nov 21 - 08:29 AM

King  S.

King Simba

But the film itself was no masterpiece either, at least in my opinion. It wasn't just that it was short on action (V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight weren't exactly high on action either), it had quite a few other flaws as well.

Granted, I appreciate Ang Lee for trying to bring depth to the superhero genre, but I've rarely seen a comic book adaptation where the source material was at clash with the director's vision as much as Hulk. Whereas with V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight trilogy, where the directors knew how to handle adaptating the source material, with Hulk at times it didn't seem to know when to embrace it's comic book elements and when to change them (how seriously can you take a film that involves a fight featuring cheesy cgi-dogs? And let's not even go into those weird last 10 minutes).

In all honestly, I'd still waiting for a great Hulk film. The Hulk aimed high and only partially delivered, while The Incredible Hulk played things a little too safely, even by Marvel standards.

Nov 21 - 12:10 PM

Eric Murtha

Eric Murtha

I agree. It wasn't what people were expecting but Hulk is still one of my favorite comic movie.

Nov 22 - 08:45 AM

Jeffrey Donato

Jeffrey Donato

Hulk was good. It was too long, but the editing ruled! Also, the climactic scenes with the Hulk were exactly what i thought of when i was growing up reading Hulk comics. The Incredible Hulk movie was lame. Ruffalo is a better Banner. But Lee's Hulk was the most entertaining and well conceived.

Nov 22 - 08:50 AM

Sidharth Sreekumar

Sidharth Sreekumar

of the two Hulk movies, the incredible one had more action but it is the first one that stays with you long after. I still fondly remember the scene the Hulk flying over the canyons and his desert battle with tanks.

Nov 23 - 11:01 PM

James Adams

Adam Pass

ya i agree

Nov 24 - 06:28 AM

UPuledMeUpWithUrStrngArms

Old Gregg

I am now sure that MicHaeL Hendriks taste in movies sucks !! I remember my first theater visit.. Hulk wasn't even watchable

Nov 21 - 03:06 PM

Rubén Vińán-Velasco

Rubén Vińán-Velasco

yep, Hulk sucked.

Nov 22 - 06:18 AM

Dhiram Shah

Dhiram Shah

Yup, the Incredible Hulk was way better.

Nov 26 - 08:57 AM

Kaisher Moi

Kaisher Moi

And then everybody loses their minds.

Jul 6 - 12:33 AM

MicHaeL H.

MicHaeL Hendriks

Nope, the ignorant audience sucked...

Nov 20 - 06:11 PM

Anuson W

Anuson W

kinda have to agree, ppl went in expecting hulk smash and got something else, it wasnt a bad movie juss ppl who felt duped

Nov 20 - 08:11 PM

Matt Lane

Matt Lane

Hulk is a breath of fresh air in what is now a predictable cliche marvel action world

Nov 21 - 08:29 AM

King  S.

King Simba

But the film itself was no masterpiece either, at least in my opinion. It wasn't just that it was short on action (V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight weren't exactly high on action either), it had quite a few other flaws as well.

Granted, I appreciate Ang Lee for trying to bring depth to the superhero genre, but I've rarely seen a comic book adaptation where the source material was at clash with the director's vision as much as Hulk. Whereas with V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight trilogy, where the directors knew how to handle adaptating the source material, with Hulk at times it didn't seem to know when to embrace it's comic book elements and when to change them (how seriously can you take a film that involves a fight featuring cheesy cgi-dogs? And let's not even go into those weird last 10 minutes).

In all honestly, I'd still waiting for a great Hulk film. The Hulk aimed high and only partially delivered, while The Incredible Hulk played things a little too safely, even by Marvel standards.

Nov 21 - 12:10 PM

Eric Murtha

Eric Murtha

I agree. It wasn't what people were expecting but Hulk is still one of my favorite comic movie.

Nov 22 - 08:45 AM

Jeffrey Donato

Jeffrey Donato

Hulk was good. It was too long, but the editing ruled! Also, the climactic scenes with the Hulk were exactly what i thought of when i was growing up reading Hulk comics. The Incredible Hulk movie was lame. Ruffalo is a better Banner. But Lee's Hulk was the most entertaining and well conceived.

Nov 22 - 08:50 AM

Sidharth Sreekumar

Sidharth Sreekumar

of the two Hulk movies, the incredible one had more action but it is the first one that stays with you long after. I still fondly remember the scene the Hulk flying over the canyons and his desert battle with tanks.

Nov 23 - 11:01 PM

James Adams

Adam Pass

ya i agree

Nov 24 - 06:28 AM

Anuson W

Anuson W

kinda have to agree, ppl went in expecting hulk smash and got something else, it wasnt a bad movie juss ppl who felt duped

Nov 20 - 08:11 PM

Matt Lane

Matt Lane

Hulk is a breath of fresh air in what is now a predictable cliche marvel action world

Nov 21 - 08:29 AM

King  S.

King Simba

But the film itself was no masterpiece either, at least in my opinion. It wasn't just that it was short on action (V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight weren't exactly high on action either), it had quite a few other flaws as well.

Granted, I appreciate Ang Lee for trying to bring depth to the superhero genre, but I've rarely seen a comic book adaptation where the source material was at clash with the director's vision as much as Hulk. Whereas with V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight trilogy, where the directors knew how to handle adaptating the source material, with Hulk at times it didn't seem to know when to embrace it's comic book elements and when to change them (how seriously can you take a film that involves a fight featuring cheesy cgi-dogs? And let's not even go into those weird last 10 minutes).

In all honestly, I'd still waiting for a great Hulk film. The Hulk aimed high and only partially delivered, while The Incredible Hulk played things a little too safely, even by Marvel standards.

Nov 21 - 12:10 PM

Eric Murtha

Eric Murtha

I agree. It wasn't what people were expecting but Hulk is still one of my favorite comic movie.

Nov 22 - 08:45 AM

Jeffrey Donato

Jeffrey Donato

Hulk was good. It was too long, but the editing ruled! Also, the climactic scenes with the Hulk were exactly what i thought of when i was growing up reading Hulk comics. The Incredible Hulk movie was lame. Ruffalo is a better Banner. But Lee's Hulk was the most entertaining and well conceived.

Nov 22 - 08:50 AM

Bertram Krogh

Bertram Krogh

Brokeback Mountain in 5th place? The man has truly made some great films.

Nov 21 - 03:08 AM

Sunny Love

Sunny Love

Brokeback Mountain surely changed lives of many closeted gay men and gives a better perspectives to general audience. Thank you, Ang Lee....

Nov 26 - 06:27 PM

Premo Beat

John Noto

Crouching Tiger is one of the most beautiful pieces of art I've ever seen, also having easily the best blend of fight choreography and cinematography in any movie ever. Throw in a stirring soundtrack from Yo-Yo fucking Ma and you have..... 81% RT user score???? wtf guys.

Anyways. Ang Lee is a badass who is one of few directors who doesn't care to try different genres and film techniques, and despite the occasional misfire his catalogue is superb. Hope 'Pi' does well.

Nov 21 - 06:41 AM

James Duane

James Duane

Loved Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for many of the reasons you mentioned. What an amazing cast and story. In my mind, it's only topped by Hero.

Nov 21 - 10:29 AM

Tano Kram

Tano Kram

Honestly, I found nothing original in the story and the martial arts was not martial arts, it was Cirque De Soleil, and I would imagine real fighters might find it an abomination. It was a pretty, movie, of course, but so, so overrated.

Nov 22 - 04:07 AM

Jeremy Anderson

Jeremy Anderson

Why would "real" fighters find it an abomination? It's in the tradition of the genre to have near mystical levels of action and wire work. I certainly did not get the sense that they were trying to portray a real world fighting tourney... That's kind of like saying a rocket scientist must hate Star Wars.

Nov 22 - 03:34 PM

dd9090

Don Romero

Dunno if rocket scientists MUST hate Star Wars (Star Trek, et al) but they must be amused by some of the physics of Star Wars (Star Trek, et al)

Nov 23 - 11:18 AM

Mohd Syafiq Bin Jabaruddin

Mohd Syafiq Bin Jabaruddin

Tano, have you even watched that many East Asian martial arts film? All those acrobatics and aerial wire-assisted balletic fighting are a staple of such films.

You know the anime series Naruto? I laughed when I first saw it because gliding across the trees seems to be a common method of travel for ninjas in that show. I thought it was a comedic reference to the way martial artists seems to fly around a lot in martial arts films.

Nov 22 - 06:20 PM

Audie Murphy

Audie Murphy

yeah, UFC is more up your alley.

Nov 24 - 07:27 AM

Hong Oei

Hong Oei

one, two, three comments.... wow. For a great director, he surely is not the talk of the town in RT. I watched his earlier works (back in the day of VHS tape) such as Pushing Hand, Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman, they are really great dramas with predicament and they are truly funny. And the castings, wow, Lee's movies always have great actors. Either that or he's just damn good at giving direction to his actors. Now, if only I could find his earlier works in DVDs.

Nov 21 - 08:28 AM

Matt Lane

Matt Lane

Hulk is a breath of fresh air in what is now a predictable cliche marvel action world

Nov 21 - 08:29 AM

Ramzu Zahini Abdul Aziz

Ramzu Zahini Abdul Aziz

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon... Yes, the best piece of martial arts-romance ever. Period.
Never cared for his other works though...

Nov 21 - 08:43 AM

Henrik Schia

Henrik Schia

Crouching Tiger is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. A true masterpiece from a true master.

Nov 21 - 08:44 AM

James Duane

James Duane

Loved Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for many of the reasons you mentioned. What an amazing cast and story. In my mind, it's only topped by Hero.

Nov 21 - 10:29 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

"Ice Storm" and "Crouching Tiger" are my favorites. "Hulk" is underrated. I loved the style, story and the final action set piece. If Hulk didn't look so awful (which Lee admits), and if they had Ruffalo instead of Bana (or anybody really), it could have been one of the greatest comic book movies.

And don't be afraid to love on "Brokeback". It's a very mature film, much more so than "Crash".

Nov 21 - 10:45 AM

This comment has been removed.

Keith Allison

Keith Allison

Wouldn't it be "disagree about Brokeback being MORE mature than Crash"? ;^)

Nov 21 - 04:40 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Appreciate for the correction!

Nov 21 - 05:02 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Respectfully disagree about "Brokeback" being more mature than "Crash" which is the best film about racial intolerance, as opposed to Brokeback which the theme was about a gay releationship!! Explain to me how "Brokeback" possess more relevent themes than "Crash"! I mean, the Western enviroment days are pretty much over so how is this relatable- is it because the 2 cowboy characters are playing gay which is the reason why!

Nov 21 - 05:01 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

The best film about racial intolerance is "Do The Right Thing", but there are many others before we even think about getting to "Crash" - "Intolerance", "Secrets and Lies", "Defiant Ones", "Cry Freedom", etc.

Are you suggesting that sexual intolerance is less "mature" than racial intolerance? The maturity I was referring to is in regards to how the adult way the material is handled. "Crash" is an after-school special. The More You Know. "Brokeback" is only relatively a "gay" movie, it's a character drama. The characters in "Crash" are thin and simple.

Nov 23 - 09:24 AM

Andrew Werling

Andrew Werling

Crash had great intentions, but it was too gimmicky, flashy, and obvious. Brokeback Mountain had deeper characters with more fully realized motivations and, simply, a better script. It's not a matter of comparing the content or the "issues." It's a matter of art, and Brokeback wins, hands-down.

Nov 24 - 03:11 PM

Dave J

Dave J

"Do The Right Thing" is the worst example about racial intolerance since as a I recall Sal told him to turn down his ghetto blaster b/c that guy was using it in his pizza establishment and as a result of not listening to him threw his radio out. And in turn, the African American community turned on him by thrashing his pizza place as a response for breaking his ghetto blaster. Oh, yeah it was also very hot too! If people don't like the rules don't go in there- it's simple as that- it was all one sided making Sal the victim in that instance! In "Crash" it didn't center on one race but a whole bunch of races from Asian to African Americans- issues which "only" adults can understand such as stereotyping etc... You describe it as an afternoon school special when they're not even old enough to get a driver's license- oh yeah, this makes alot of sense. And to remind you that "Intolerence" is a response for his racist film "Birth Of A Nation", "Secret & Lies" is only an improvisation racicial story, which happens to some ppl,"Defiant Ones" has a racial theme but it onl;y dealt with one issue and that is bond and Cry Freedom took place soley on a different enviroment which is the issue is black and white! The examples you have provided are either irrevelent to these current times or that they're more effective on some other country than they're here in North America! You've already proved my point that "Crash" is still more relevent than "Brokeback Mountain" since you stil;l didn't provide me with any examples about how the material is being handled. And I disagree about the characters in Crash being 'simple', as a matter of fact it's an insult b/c you can't stand there and tell me that you can tell a person race just by looking at him because that was one of several themes it was dealing with- not that you'd recognize it!

Nov 23 - 12:59 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

It isn't surprising that you failed to understand the most basic themes in "Do the Right Thing", or that you failed to appreciate the way racial presumptions and intolerance are handled in films where it isn't so obvious. "Crash" is the best film on racial intolerance for those who need every aspect spelled out for them in simplistic emotion. Problem is, racial intolerance involves more complex emotions and motives. This is why you did not understand the end of "Do the Right Thing".

Nov 24 - 01:10 AM

Cold P.

Cold Pillow

Dave, you have no idea what "Do the Right Thing" is about.

Nov 24 - 08:43 PM

Dave J

Dave J

"Do The Right Thing" does not represent the mass majority of other races living amongst this country as of right now, as opposed to "Crash" which easily does! And I can read a hundred different points of view regarding "Do The Right Thing" and it still woundn't convince me. The only thing I can see is that you still haven't provided me with any examples!

@Cold Pillow And you do, even without providing me with one

Nov 26 - 12:02 PM

Christopher256G

Christopher Greffin

A more mature than Crash? Debatable. A better film than Crash? Withough question!

Nov 22 - 03:33 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

"Crash" was condescending and manipulative. It didn't trust the audience to be mature enough to "get" it without holding their hand.

Nov 23 - 09:17 AM

Dave J

Dave J

Is that what you had to do upon watching it because I didn't need to do that at all!

Nov 23 - 03:14 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

You have no cognitive resources, Dave.

Nov 24 - 01:07 AM

Ronald Domholdt

Ronald Domholdt

First time I watched Crash I knew the ending halfway through not to mention the parts in between. I thought it boring and the character development lacking, why did it win a best picture? Was it because of its really simple plot? Was it because of the lame tear jerking attempt ending? Was it because of the racil intolerance?

Nov 24 - 10:21 AM

King  S.

King Simba

But the film itself was no masterpiece either, at least in my opinion. It wasn't just that it was short on action (V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight weren't exactly high on action either), it had quite a few other flaws as well.

Granted, I appreciate Ang Lee for trying to bring depth to the superhero genre, but I've rarely seen a comic book adaptation where the source material was at clash with the director's vision as much as Hulk. Whereas with V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight trilogy, where the directors knew how to handle adaptating the source material, with Hulk at times it didn't seem to know when to embrace it's comic book elements and when to change them (how seriously can you take a film that involves a fight featuring cheesy cgi-dogs? And let's not even go into those weird last 10 minutes).

In all honestly, I'd still waiting for a great Hulk film. The Hulk aimed high and only partially delivered, while The Incredible Hulk played things a little too safely, even by Marvel standards.

Nov 21 - 12:10 PM

King  S.

King Simba

Wow, it's amazing just how many different genres Ang Lee has succesfully managed to dab into. I do have one question though, which was his second feature film? Because you said that about both The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman.

Nov 21 - 12:13 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Wedding Banquet was 2nd.

Nov 21 - 12:26 PM

Dave J

Dave J

This may sound weird but "The Wedding Banquet" and "Eat Drink..." are the only two I've seen of his and may be the only two I wanted to see from him! Down the road, I'll probably see "Crouching Tiger..." and "Sense And Sensibil.."!

Nov 21 - 01:47 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Wedding Banquet was 2nd.

Nov 21 - 12:26 PM

Dave J

Dave J

This may sound weird but "The Wedding Banquet" and "Eat Drink..." are the only two I've seen of his and may be the only two I wanted to see from him! Down the road, I'll probably see "Crouching Tiger..." and "Sense And Sensibil.."!

Nov 21 - 01:47 PM

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