10 Movies to Watch Before You Study Abroad in Shanghai

Mar 18, 2014 10:14:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Studying abroad in Shanghai? One of our favorite ways to drum up our excitement about a new location is through movies! Enjoy a rainy evening at home with one of our 10 movie recommendations below.

1. SHANGHAI. A fitting title to start, this period piece set in the 1940s revolves around an American ex-pat who returns to Shanghai, a short while before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, because of the death of a friend. John Cusack, Li Gong and Jeffrey Dean Morgan star in this American made movie that showed in China in 2010 during the Shanghai World Expo. However, it has never been released in USA.

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2. SKYFALL.
This recent James Bond movie, starring Daniel Craig, probably makes most peoples' lists of well known movies containing Shanghai scenes. It also illustrates China censorship. 007 tails a bad guy in Pudong and the villain shoots a security guard on entering a Shanghai skyscraper. That part is cut out in the Chinese released version - to avoid showing disrespect for Chinese authority to Chinese viewers.

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3. LUST CAUTION.
Another movie with censorship for Chinese audiences - this time the principle sex scene. It is set in Shanghai in 1942 (and Hong Kong in 1938) when Shanghai was occupied by the Japanese army. A group of Chinese university students plot to assassinate a top agent and recruiter of the local puppet government by entrapment with a beautiful young lady - however, love enters the picture.

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4. SHANGHAI STORY.
A 2004 film, A Shanghai Story was the winner of the 19th Golden Rooster Awards for best picture in China. It's a drama about the rise and fall of a capitalist wealthy family in Shanghai whose world was torn apart by the Cultural Revolution after 1966. Remarkably, there was little censorship by the Chinese authorities even though the Cultural Revolution was a taboo subject then and only openly condemned in the current decade.

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5. SHANGHAI SURPRISE.
Shanghai Surprise, a British made film, had a mega cast in 1986 with the then newly weds Sean Penn and Madonna in leading roles. In fact, it was created by ex-Beatle, the now late George Harrison's Handmade Films and distributed by MGM. The story line is that Penn's character is a struggling fortune hunter in Shanghai who is trying to get out of the city in a comedy adventure genre. The film also features three George Harrison songs and George as a night club singer.

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6. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III.
The familiar style of this movie genre brought Tom Cruise to Shanghai, among other places, in this 2006 release. Some dramatic footage of death defying acts atop and dropping down a Pudong skyscraper is a big feature. In the plot, Cruise's character Ethan Hunt confronts a sadistic and dangerous arms dealer while trying to keep his own identity secret to protect his girlfriend, Julia, played by Michelle Monaghan. There's plenty of action.

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7. EMPIRE OF THE SUN.
This 1987 movie is an American production of a coming of age war story in World War II. Big stars include Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Nigel Havers and Miranda Richardson with Spielberg directing. A young boy is living with a wealthy British family in Shanghai, but because of the Japanese invasion he ends up in a local Japanese Internment Camp as a prisoner of war.

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8. THE WHITE COUNTESS.
A 2005 release set in 1930's Shanghai, The White Countess stars both Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson and Ralph Fiennes. A blind American diplomat develops a relationship with a young Russian refugee who has to work unusual jobs in Shanghai in order to support her late husband's family. Both are attempting to survive in the city as troubles loom.

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9. SHANGHAI TRIAD. A Chinese made film released in 1995 starring Li Gong and Xuejian Li, Shanghai Triad is set in the exciting Shanghai of the early 1930s. The film covers seven days of life in the Shanghai criminal underworld where a lead character Uncle Liu brings his cousin to work for "The Boss", a drug overlord, and it gives us insights into how things worked in those days.

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10. A JEWISH GIRL IN SHANGHAI.
Shanghai was an important refugee center for Jews escaping the holocaust and this modern animation movie from 2010 also reflects the popularity of this film genre in China. It tells a story written by Wu Lin and is based on his 1939 book of same name. Rina and her younger brother Mishalli arrive in Shanghai fleeing persecution in Europe and are waiting to be re-united with their parents.

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Topics: Shanghai, China