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The Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings cast is filled with a who’s who of decorated, badass marital artists and actors, with one of the most prominent being Michelle Yeoh, who portrayed Jiang Nan. The Malaysian actress has appeared in dozens of movies ranging from Hong Kong action flicks Police Story 3: Supercop and Yes, Madam! to Academy Award winners like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha, resulting in a varied filmography that has spanned multiple decades.
After watching the 2021 Marvel movie, now is a perfect time to go back and watch some of the great Michelle Yeoh movies that are streaming or available for online rentals right now. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started…
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Ang Lee’s martial arts masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became an international sensation upon its release in 2000 thanks to its poignant story of Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), two prolific warriors in 19th Century China who're afraid to express their love for one another because they feel bound by loyalty to Shu Lien’s deceased fiancé who was Mu Bai’s best friend. But, the two may never get a chance to reveal their true feelings after a ghost from the past reappears, bringing deception and death with them.
With beautifully-choreographed fight sequences that make the characters feel like they're out of an epic fantasy, and a poignant story about loss and love, it's easy to see why Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon remains such a treasure more than 20 years after its release.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
When Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is invited to join her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), at his best friend’s wedding in Singapore, she quickly realizes there is a lot about him that she does not know, specifically his family’s wealth and opulent lifestyle. If dealing with jealous eyes pining for her boyfriend isn’t bad enough, Rachel must also prove herself to Nick’s overbearing and disapproving mother, Eleanor Sung-Young (Michelle Yeoh).
The glitz, glamour, pomp, and circumstance of Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians makes the 2018 romantic comedy a feast for the eyes, but the relationship between Rachel and Eleanor as it transforms from one that is bitter to one built on a mutual respect really sells the movie. That’s thanks, in part, to Michelle Yeoh’s commanding performance as the Young family matriarch.
Police Story 3: Supercop (1992)
The 1992 Jackie Chan action film Police Story 3: Supercop (also known as Super Cop) follows police officer Chan Ka Kui (Chan) as he goes undercover in a Chinese prison in order to infiltrate a drug cartel. After earning the group’s trust, Ka Kui and another undercover agent known as Jessica Yang (Michelle Yeoh) travel to Hong Kong in order to bring the whole operation down and bring its leaders to justice.
Police Story 3: Supercop is mostly remembered for some of Jackie Chan’s best stunts and fight scenes, but a lot of the great action sequences involve the skill and nerves of Michelle Yeoh who famously performed many of her own stunts, including landing a motorcycle on a moving train.
With the sun at risk of going out and bringing the end to all life on Earth, a group of scientists are sent on a last-ditch mission to fire off a device that could potentially rekindle the flame of the dying star. This seemingly impossible task becomes all the more difficult after the crew discover a distress beacon.
Danny Boyle’s 2007 sci-fi thriller, Sunshine, has one of the most impressive casts you’ll see in the genre, including Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Benedict Wong, and Michelle Yeoh, who portrays the spiritual botanist, Corazon, aboard Icarus II.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) comes face-to-face with one of his most sadistic and well-connected enemies yet in Tomorrow Never Dies when he is sent to find out how and why Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) and his powerful Carver Media Group Network know all the breaking news before it even happens.
Michelle Yeoh became perhaps the most badass “Bond Girl” of the Pierce Brosnan era in Tomorrow Never Dies with her portrayal of Chinese MSS spy Wai Lin who helps 007 prevent Elliot Carver from tricking the world into kicking off a devastating military conflict. Whether she's standing as Bond's equal, taking on multiple people at once in awesome fight scenes, or guiding a motorcycle through a congested city, Yeoh showed the world she wasn't to be messed with.
Magnificent Warriors (1987)
Set in 1930s Japanese-occupied China, Magnificent Warriors tells the story of Fok Ming-ming (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese pilot and adventurer who leads a group of resistance fighters to take out the foreign invaders through any means necessary.
David Chung’s 1987 Hong Kong action classic could be compared to the adventures shown in Raiders of the Lost Ark, though instead of Harrison Ford fighting Nazis and searching for mythical treasures you have Michelle Yeoh flying fighter planes, kicking all kinds of ass, and attempting to free her people from Japanese forces.
Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)
The 2005 Academy Award-winning drama Memoirs of a Geisha, which happens to be one of the best movies on Netflix, follows Chiyo Sakamoto as she goes from a young girl (Suzuka Ohgo) sold to a Geisha house in early 20th Century Japan to the elegant Sayuri Nitta (Ziyi Zhang), following a life of intense training and abuse by the house’s elders. Along the way, Chiyo encounters everyone from the beautiful yet cruel Hatsumomo (Gong Li), to reluctant mother figure Mameha (Michelle Yeoh), among others.
Much like she would do in Crazy Rich Asians more than a decade later, Michelle Yeoh steps in as a stern mother figure in Memoirs of a Geisha, who, despite seeming cold, distant, and bothered by Chiyo, cares deeply for the girl. In this character, Chiyo finds one of her greatest tests and sets out to prove herself and earn the trust and respect of Mameha, which is no easy task.
Yes, Madam! (1985)
After a man in possession of incriminating microfilm is murdered on the streets of Hong Kong, it is up to Inspector Ng (Michelle Yeoh) and Scottish investigator Carrie Morris (Cynthia Rothrock) to get to the bottom of the case and bring those responsible to justice.
One of Michelle Yeoh’s earliest leading roles, Yes, Madam! showed Hong Kong cinema and the rest of the world just what she was capable of achieving with her acting and martial arts abilities. While not as well known as some of the Hong Kong action films she made in the early 1990s, Yeoh’s work here should not be overlooked.
Wing Chun (1994)
Yip Wing Chun (Michelle Yeoh) is a hard-hitting practitioner of the martial arts and tofu stand operator who becomes an unlikely hero when a group of bandits barges into her town and treats it like their personal playground and piggy bank. But, when one of her nearest and dearest friends is abducted by the menacing force, the fearless hero does everything in her power to make the gang pay.
One of the best parts about Wing Chun is the fact that Michelle Yeoh’s character masters martial arts at a very young age as a way to fight off men trying to force her hand in marriage. This strong, independent character, who surrounds herself with equally heroic women, takes matters into her own hands at every turn.
Reign Of Assassins (2010)
Years after taking up an assumed identity to protect the remains of a legendary Buddhist monk, a lethal assassin by the name of Drizzle (Michelle Yeoh) is forced to confront her past when her former partners-in-crime return with a series of demands.
Just as was the case earlier in her career, Reign of Assassins gave Michelle Yeoh yet another opportunity to prove why she is one of the most respected and hardest working martial artists/actors of her time. This epic story has multiple great fight scenes and an intricate plot that puts it right up there with Yeoh’s previous work.
BONUS: Star Trek: Discovery (2017 - Present)
This list is supposed to be about movies, and Star Trek: Discovery is a show, but the Paramount+ original is just too good to not be included here. Beginning 10 years before the classic Star Trek TV series, the streaming show tells the story of the crew of the USS Discovery as they explore the far reaches of space and even the Mirror Universe and its unexplained wonders.
The inclusion of the Mirror Universe in Star Trek: Discovery is what allows Michelle Yeoh to play two versions of the same character: the warmer Philipaa Georgiou and her more ruthless counterpart who is a tyrannical emperor in her own dimension (and is set to get her own series), which is perfect for an actor with the skills possessed by Yeoh.
It is easy to see just why Michelle Yeoh is so respected in practically every part of the world with her dynamic fighting skills and stunt work, as well as her acting skills that only seem to get better as the years go on. With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and other 2021 movies being better off with Yeoh’s presence, expect to see her continue on for quite some time.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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