Total Recall: Ang Lee's Best Movies

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

87%

5. Brokeback Mountain

The vast majority of Hollywood love stories tend to sort of blur together, but Brokeback Mountain is an exception to the rule: A beautifully filmed adaptation of the E. Annie Proulx story about the anguished affair between a pair of Wyoming ranch hands (Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger) whose years of self-denial slowly wreak havoc on their lives -- and the lives of their loved ones. A three-time Oscar winner, Brokeback proved a triumphant return to form for Lee, and enjoyed almost universal critical acclaim on its way to becoming one of the biggest surprise box office hits of the year. "It has become shorthand to call Brokeback Mountain the 'gay cowboy movie,' but it is much more than that glib description implies," scoffed Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "This is a human story, a haunting film in the tradition of the great Hollywood romantic melodramas."

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93%

4. Eat Drink Man Woman

Using the family dinner table as a cornerstone, Lee delved into family dynamics with his second film: 1994's Eat Drink Man Woman, a richly layered look at the complex interactions between a widowed Chinese chef (Sihung Lung) who uses his craft as a way of staying close with his daughters (Chien-Lien Wu, Kuei-Mei Yang, and Yu-Wen Wang) as they grow into adulthood and try to navigate their way through careers, affairs, and tragedies. "What makes a movie like this work is how much you care for the characters," observed Chris Hicks of the Desert News, "and each one here is very well-drawn and fully dimensional."

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96%

3. The Wedding Banquet

Lee picked up his first Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his second feature film, 1993's The Wedding Banquet -- a smartly balanced dramedy about a gay Taiwanese American immigrant (Winston Chao) who tries to hide the truth about his sexuality from his family by marrying an artist (May Chin) who needs a green card. Of course, his plans go comically awry when his traditional parents insist on showing up to plan (you guessed it) a wedding banquet. "What makes the film work is the underlying validity of the story, the way the filmmakers don't simply go for melodrama and laughs, but pay these characters their due," observed an appreciative Roger Ebert. "At the end of the film, I was a little surprised how much I cared for them."


97%

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

The movie that took Ang Lee out of the arthouse and catapulted him into the ranks of upper echelon Hollywood filmmakers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon set amazing (and utterly gonzo) martial arts battles against the beautiful scenery and tasteful drama of a story about a 19th century master (Chow Yun-Fat) whose retirement is complicated after his treasured sword is swiped by a mysterious woman (Zhang Ziyi) who may have ties to his sworn enemy (Cheng Pei-pei). A massive worldwide success that would go on to earn more than $200 million and net Lee a Best Picture Academy Award nomination, it moved an appreciative Roger Ebert to deem it "The most exhilarating martial arts movie I have seen."

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98%

1. Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen's books have inspired countless films, but with 1995's Sense and Sensibility, Lee proved there was still cinematic gold yet to be spun from her stories. Working from an Oscar-winning screenplay by Emma Thompson (who also starred as the noble Elinor Dashwood), Lee offered a faithful representation of Austen's 1811 novel about the financial and romantic aftershocks that reverberate through a landed British family after their patriarch passes away. Bolstered by an excellent cast that also included Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman, Sensibility resonated with Jeanne Aufmuth of the Palo Alto Weekly, who echoed the sentiments of the vast majority of her peers when she asked, "Enduring love, heartbreak, undying passion and bitter betrayal. What more could you ask from Jane Austen, and for that matter, from a film?"

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In case you were wondering, here are Lee's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:

1. Eat Drink Man Woman -- 90%
2. Sense and Sensibility -- 88%
3. The Wedding Banquet -- 85%
4. Lust, Caution -- 82%
5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- 81%
6. The Ice Storm -- 79%
7. Brokeback Mountain -- 77%
8. Ride with the Devil -- 62%
9. Taking Woodstock -- 47%
10. Hulk -- 34%


Take a look through Lee's complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don't forget to check out the reviews for Life of Pi.

Finally, here's a clip from Lee's debut film -- Pushing Hands, from 1992:

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

Biet Lam Sao Duoc

Biet Lam Sao Duoc

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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