5 Southeast Asian films that deserve the spotlight

by Matthew Escosia
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In a society dominated by Western movies filled with stereotypical leads, and supports (!), it’s refreshing and delightful to see movies from different cultures thrive. We have recently witnessed the rise of independent films that deviate from the norm, proving that the audience is ready for a change.

Southeast Asian film makers have also been producing high quality movies in the last decade. There are many films in our region that showcase the rich and vibrant cultures of each country, giving its viewers a glimpse into the makings of the society – and these films are just waiting to be discovered. With that, here are some Southeast Asian films we believe are worth watching.

The Raid (2011) – Indonesia
Watch when: you need an adrenaline rush

This movie is about a group of elite police officers tasked to raid a building run by a high-profile drug lord in the slums of Jakarta. Some netizens felt that this inspired the Philippine film Buybust starring Anne Curtis. The Raid is filled with intense action-packed scenes and was even dubbed as one of the best action films of the decade. You will be at the edge of your seat until the end. The movie is available on Netflix.


Brother of the Year (2018) – Thailand
Watch when: you’re missing home

Growing up with siblings can be incredibly frustrating. You have no other choice but to prolong your patience everyday with them and this is what Brother of the Year focused on. Jane, an independent career woman, lives with her happy-go-lucky brother Chut. Ever since they were kids, her older brother is firm to put a stop to anything that makes her happy. And now that they are grown ups, he even meddles with her romantic life. You may giggle with their rivalry and silliness but wait ‘til they unfold the realistic and relatable take on a sibling relationship – especially the unique bond between brothers and sisters. It also reflects family value. No matter where our journey takes us, family will always be our home.


2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten (2016) – Philippines
Watch when: you’re feeling nostalgic

This movie won Best Picture at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival back in 2016. Set in the late 1990s in Pampanga, it follows socially awkward high schooler, Felix, who meets half-American brothers Magnus and Maxim Snyder when they transfer to his school. What follows is a story of friendship, firsts, mystery and self-discovery as Felix unlocks a desire hidden within himself. Plus, the cinematography is something to gush over!


Sepet (2005) – Malaysia
Watch when: you want some chick flick

‘Sepet’ comes from a Malay word that refers to the small and dull eyes of Chinese. A teen romantic comedy-drama film that features the boundless love story of a simple guy named Ah Loong, and Orked, a fine-looking Malay schoolgirl. Although they came from different social status and ethnic identity, such factors don’t halt the blossoming romance between the two of them. These young lovers objectify the common saying “love conquers all.” And if you end up loving this you might want to see the film’s sequel, Gubra, which was released in 2006.


A Land Imagined (2018) – Singapore
Watch if: you love mysteries

If you want to try something new, you have to add this movie to your watch list ASAP. Told in a non-linear and experimental fashion, the story takes you to unusual places you cannot even begin to imagine as it follows a detective investigation about a missing construction worker and is told from the point-of-view of the missing worker and the police officer. A Land Imagined is also available on Netflix.



What other Southeast Asian movies would you recommend? Share your suggestions in the comments below!

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