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Watch ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ Then Watch These Movies

We recommend 12 movies to watch after you see the new romantic comedy.
Crazy Rich Asians
By  · Published on August 19th, 2018

Flower Drum Song (1961)

Flower Drum Song

When it comes to Hollywood representation of Chinese characters, there have been many offenses over the decades. But this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical stands out as an especially surprising exception for its time considering its cast is almost entirely made up of Asian actors — even the part that fell to original Broadway performer Juanita Hall (who’d also played an Asian character in South Pacific) was supposed to be played by Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong, whose failing health caused her to drop out. Of course, none of them were recognized by the Academy among the movie’s multiple Oscar nominations, and sadly the movie wasn’t a box office success.

Still, it’s a beautiful musical, since recognized for preservation by the Library of Congress through the National Film Registry. Crazy Rich Asians fans should appreciate its love-quadrangle romantic comedy plot (based on C.Y. Lee’s novel), involving an arranged marriage between a Chinese-American nightclub owner (Jack Soo) and a professor’s daughter immigrating from Hong Kong (Miyoshi Umeki, who received a Golden Globe nomination), plus a showgirl (Nancy Kwan) and a law student (James Shigeta), all mixing it up in San Francisco.

Red Dots

Coming to America (1988)

Coming To America

There’s a parallel that can be made between Crazy Rich Asians‘ Nick Young, who is described as basically “the Prince Harry of Asia,” and Coming to America‘s Prince Akeem, who is literally royalty from a fictional African nation. Both men go to America and pretend to not have money, let alone to be one of the wealthiest people on the planet. And while in the US, they both fall in love with a woman who isn’t aware of their affluence. The plot of Coming to America, a rom-com vehicle for Eddie Murphy and featuring mostly an African-American cast, would seem to be the same as the backstory for Nick and Rachel. If ever there’s a Crazy Rich Asians prequel, it can just be a remake Coming to America with a mostly Asian-American cast.

Red Dots

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

The Joy Luck Club

Another Chinese actress worth tracking career-wide is Lisa Lu, who mostly starred in Hollywood movies and TV series after starting out in opera in China. She plays Henry’s grandmother, or ah ma, in Crazy Rich Asians. And she’s one of the stars of The Joy Luck Club, a movie put out by Disney that is considered the last Hollywood production to represent an Asian cast the way Crazy Rich Asians does now, 25 years later (it’s no shock it’s being cited as a major inspiration on Kwan and many associated with the Crazy Rich Asians film). Based on the novel by Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club is about four Chinese immigrant women in San Francisco (one of them played by Lu) and their American-born daughters. Also, there’s lots of mahjong.

Director Wayne Wang has plenty of other movies to watch after seeing The Joy Luck Club. I don’t mean Smoke or Maid in Manhattan (though at least one of those is great), but rather his other features focused on Chinese-American stories that deal with multiple generations and the clash of old traditions and modern life. Before The Joy Luck Club, he made the essential Chinese immigrant films Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart and the Sony-released Eat a Bowl of Tea. More recently and less-seen are such movies as A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Princess of Nebraska, which are just as necessary.

Red Dots

12 Storeys (1997) and Money No Enough (1998)


For a look at a side of Singapore not seen in Crazy Rich Asians, Eric Khoo’s 12 Storeys (pictured) and T.L. Tay’s Money No Enough depict the more common non-rich side of the island. The former is about all the people living in a single housing project, with a focus on three families. The latter is a comedy following three friends who aren’t poor but currently are experiencing financial problems as they go into business together. Money No Enough, as the title hints, does deal with themes of wealth and family and what’s more important in life. Both movies star Jack Neo and both were instrumental in rebooting the Singaporean film industry, the later film having been the bigger hit — it even spawned a lesser sequel 10 years later.

Red Dots

The World’s Richest City (2013)

East The Worlds Richest City

Of course, fans of Crazy Rich Asians will also want to see the reality of crazy rich Singaporeans. For this week’s nonfiction pick, instead of going with Chu’s first Bieber movie and in addition to suggesting the 2007 film history doc Hollywood Chinese (which features Lisa Lu), I recommend The World’s Richest City, which is technically just an episode of the Al Jazeera English TV series 101 East that originally aired the same year as the publication of Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians” novel.

The 25-minute doc, which is scored to big band music similar to what’s heard in Crazy Rich Asians, doesn’t just showcase the wealthy and how they came to be such. Instead, it presents a look at the whole Singapore community, including the middle and lower classes and how they fit into the island city-state known so famously for its crazy rich people. While not exactly anti-rich, the episode also isn’t just a celebration of the glitz and glam of the upper-class citizens that correspond to the characters in the new rom-com. Watch it below.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.