As the year 2023 passes, has released its annual list of film.

Founded in 2005, is the largest cultural product review website in China. It is a Chinese version of Yelp+IMDB for multicultural products. Users can comment on Douban for films, books, TV shows, games and other content and express their opinions.

As such, its annual list is one of the most important lists in the Chinese cultural market sector. We can use these lists to understand the preferences of young Chinese consumers for cultural products in different areas.

In 2023, the Chinese film market experienced a significant resurgence, with a total box office revenue of 54.915 billion yuan (approximately $8.3 billion USD), marking a substantial increase compared to the previous years. This impressive figure was largely driven by the strong performance of domestic films, which accounted for 83.8% of the total box office, showcasing the robust development of China’s film industry.

The year saw a variety of successful films across different genres. Notably, the Spring Festival and Summer releases, such as “Full River Red” and “The Wandering Earth,” set the tone for the year, with the latter being a sequel to a popular sci-fi film. The Summer season was particularly fruitful, with films like “Fengshen: The First Battle” and “Lost” contributing significantly to what was dubbed the “strongest summer season” in history. The National Day release “Rock Solid” and the New Year’s Day film “A Sparkling Moment” also performed exceptionally well, setting new records for their respective slots.

Viewership reached 1.299 billion admissions, a four-year high, with an average of 2.58 films per person, indicating a strong consumer appetite for cinema. The audience demographics also saw a shift, with younger viewers, particularly those aged 24 and under, making up a significant portion of the ticket sales. This demographic was particularly drawn to films with educational and entertainment value, such as “Boonie Bears: Guardian Code,” which also encouraged family viewing.

The market’s recovery was further supported by innovative promotional strategies and the rise of the “lower-tier” cities, which became a new source of growth. The report also highlighted the importance of IP (Intellectual Property) films, with many sequels and franchise films contributing to the top-grossing list. Additionally, the report pointed out that the audience’s willingness to watch longer films, with the average runtime of top-grossing films exceeding two hours, demonstrated a preference for quality content over quick entertainment.

Overall, 2023 was a banner year for the Chinese film market, with a mix of successful films, a growing audience, and a dynamic industry that continues to evolve and adapt to the changing tastes and preferences of its viewers.

The highest rated Chinese-language film in 2021

1. 《流浪地球2》(The Wandering Earth II)

Douban score: 8.3
Evaluated by: 1269758 people
Type: Science Fiction / Adventure / Disaster
Starring: Wu Jing, Andy Lau, Li Xuejian, Sha Yi, Ning Li, Wang Zhi, Zhu Yanmanzhi, and others
Length: 173 minutes

In a not-so-distant future, the sun is rapidly aging and expanding, threatening to engulf the entire solar system in a few hundred years. To combat this unprecedented crisis, nations across the globe set aside their differences and establish a unified government to seek a way for human survival. The “Move the Mountains” plan, which involves pushing Earth out of the solar system, wins overwhelming support. Humanity begins constructing thousands of massive planetary engines to embark on a long and arduous journey.

Liu Peiqiang (played by Wu Jing) and Han Duoduo (played by Wang Zhi), after overcoming numerous trials, become part of the astronaut corps and fall in love. However, as they venture forward, a mysterious force seems to be sabotaging humanity’s self-rescue efforts. Liu Peiqiang, quantum scientist Tu Hengyu (played by Andy Lau), and the Chinese representative of the United Nations Government, Zhou Zhezhi (played by Li Xuejian), along with countless ordinary people on Earth, become crucial components of this grand endeavor.

This sequel to the hit film “The Wandering Earth” is based on the science fiction novel by Liu Cixin. It continues the epic saga of humankind’s struggle against cosmic threats, exploring themes of unity, sacrifice, and the indomitable human spirit in the face of existential challenges. The film’s narrative is a blend of high-stakes action, emotional depth, and philosophical inquiry, set against the backdrop of a universe on the brink of destruction. With its impressive visual effects and a storyline that delves into the complexities of human nature, “The Wandering Earth II” has been praised for its ability to captivate audiences and push the boundaries of Chinese science fiction cinema.

2.《长安三万里》(Chang An)

Douban score: 8.3
Evaluated by: 577372 people
Type: Animation / Historical
Starring: Yang Tianxiang, Ling Zhenhe, Wu Junquan, Xuan Xiaoming, Lu Lifeng, Sun Lulu, Liu Xiaoyu, Lu Xiran, Li Shimeng, Hu Yajie, and others
Length: 168 minutes

Set in the years following the An Lushan Rebellion, the Tang Dynasty faces a dire situation as the Tibetan army approaches. Gao Shi, the military governor of Jiannan West, valiantly resists but is forced to retreat to Yunshan City. As the night falls and snow blankets the land, the court sends an eunuch, Cheng Gonggong, to oversee the military affairs. Gao Shi learns that Cheng Gonggong’s inquiries are about his alleged harm to the poet Li Bai, and under the dim candlelight, he begins to recount his story with Li Bai, their humble beginnings, and the golden age of Tang Dynasty literature.

The film takes us back to a time when Gao Shi, an orphan determined to make a name for himself in Chang’an, meets the brilliant and arrogant Li Bai. Both are filled with ambition but find that their literary talents are not enough to serve their country. After Li Bai heads south to Yangzhou, Gao Shi continues to wait for his chance to advance. Throughout their journey, they encounter a constellation of literary and artistic stars, including Du Fu, Wang Wei, Chang Jian, Li Gui’nian, Wu Daozi, and Zhang Xu, who together paint a magnificent portrait of the Tang Dynasty’s prosperity.

The friendship between Gao Shi and Li Bai, as well as their individual fates, are depicted against the backdrop of historical upheaval. The film explores themes of friendship, ambition, and the fleeting nature of glory, offering a poignant reflection on the lives of these historical figures and the cultural legacy they left behind. With its rich historical setting and emotional storytelling, “Chang An” has resonated with audiences, earning high praise for its portrayal of the Tang Dynasty’s literary and artistic splendor.

3.《椒麻堂会》(A New Old Play)

Douban score: 8.6
Evaluated by: 48467 people
Type: Drama
Starring: Yisi Cheng, Chen Haoyu, Guan Nan, Qiu Zhimin, Xue Xuchun, Gu Tao, and others
Length: 179 minutes

“Jiao Ma Tang Hui” (椒麻堂会) is a drama that unfolds like a series of Sichuan operas, capturing the essence of life’s ups and downs with a raw and authentic portrayal. The film is a century-long narrative that takes place both on and off the stage, immersing viewers in the lives of the characters.

The story revolves around Qiu Fu, the lead clown of a Sichuan opera troupe, and his life’s journey. The film is set against the backdrop of significant historical changes, spanning from the 1920s to the present day. It explores themes of tradition, identity, and the passage of time, as well as the resilience and adaptability of the human spirit in the face of societal shifts.

The film has been praised for its unique storytelling, rich cultural depiction, and the powerful performances of its cast. It has garnered accolades at various film festivals, including a nomination for the Golden Leopard at the 74th Locarno International Film Festival and the Best Asian Feature Film at the 32nd Singapore International Film Festival.

With its three-hour runtime, “Jiao Ma Tang Hui” is a cinematic experience that demands the audience’s full attention, offering a deep dive into the world of Sichuan opera and the lives of its performers. The film’s visual and narrative style has been described as a blend of the old and the new, creating a distinctive and memorable cinematic experience.

4.《关于我和鬼变成家人的那件事》(Marry My Dead Body)

Douban score: 8.1
Evaluated by: 373200 people
Type: Comedy / Mystery / Fantasy / LGBTQ
Starring: Xu Guanghan, Lin Bohong, Wang Jing, Cai Zhennan, Wang Manjiao, Tu Zonghua, Ma Nianxian, Zheng Zhiwei, Li Zhizheng, Zhang Zaixing, and others
Length: 130 minutes

In this unique blend of comedy, mystery, and fantasy, Wu Minghan (played by Xu Guanghan) is a straight-laced police officer who inadvertently becomes entangled in a ghost marriage after picking up a red envelope during a police call. The groom in this unusual union is Mao Bangyu (played by Lin Bohong), a man who has passed away. Despite his reluctance, Wu Minghan finds himself bound to the ghost, and to break the curse of bad luck, he must complete a series of tasks to fulfill Mao Bangyu’s last wishes.

These tasks include donating to an animal charity, visiting Mao Bangyu’s boyfriend, and uncovering the truth behind the car accident that led to Mao’s death. As Wu Minghan and Mao Bangyu navigate these challenges, their relationship evolves from reluctant “fake spouses” to genuine friends. The film explores themes of friendship, acceptance, and the unexpected connections that can form between people, even in the most unusual circumstances.

Directed by Cheng Weihao, the film has been praised for its innovative storytelling and its ability to blend different genres seamlessly. It has garnered attention and acclaim, including a nomination for Best Feature Film at the 60th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and Best Screenplay at the 25th Taipei Film Festival. The film’s unique concept and engaging narrative have resonated with audiences, making it a standout in the LGBTQ and comedy genres.

5.《宇宙探索编辑部》(Journey to the West)

Douban score: 8.0
Evaluated by: 550804 people
Type: Comedy / Science Fiction
Starring: Yang Haoyu, Ailiya, Jiang Qiming, Sheng Chenchen, Guo Fan, Gong Ge’er, Luo Yiyun, Luo Juan, Guan Yutong, Wang Xueyi, Lang Wumei, Cui Lishu, Wang Yu, Liu Qi, Sun Xiaochen, Chen Ping, Song Jingdong, Tan Tian, He Li, Xian Zhibin, Li Di, Fu Chunyang, Tang Ying, Deng Haorong, Li Danni, Zhang Yaluo, Wang Yaogang, and others
Length: 118 minutes

“The Cosmic Explorers” is a film about Tang Zhijun (played by Yang Haoyu), the editor-in-chief of a science fiction magazine called “Cosmic Exploration” that was founded in the 1980s. As the magazine’s fortunes wane, Tang Zhijun himself becomes a down-and-out figure, a widower living alone. Despite his dire circumstances, he remains obsessed with the search for extraterrestrial life. One day, he receives a mysterious signal that he believes originates from deep space, and he assembles a motley crew of misfits to embark on a new quest to find aliens.

The film is a blend of comedy and science fiction, exploring themes of obsession, the human condition, and the search for meaning in a universe that often seems indifferent to our existence. It has been praised for its unique storytelling, engaging characters, and its ability to balance humor with deeper philosophical questions. The film has garnered recognition at various film festivals, including a nomination for the Future Light Award at the 51st International Film Festival Rotterdam and Best Screenplay at the 36th China Golden Rooster Awards.

With its 118-minute runtime, “The Cosmic Explorers” offers a journey that is both humorous and thought-provoking, reflecting on the human quest for knowledge and the importance of perseverance in the face of uncertainty.

6.《封神第一部:朝歌风云》(Creation of the Gods Ⅰ: Kingdom of Storms)

Douban score: 7.8
Evaluated by: 1100345 people
Type: Action / War / Fantasy / Costume
Starring: Fei Xiang, Li Xuejian, Huang Bo, Yu Shi, Chen Muchi, Na Ran, Wu Yafei, Xia Yu, Yuan Quan, Wang Luoyong, Hou Wenyuan, Huang Xiyuan, Li Yunrui, Yang Lei, Chen Kun, Xu Huanshan, Gao Shuguang, Feng Shaofeng, Yang Lixin, Ding Yongdai, Gao Dongping, Xu Chong, Han Pengyi, Dan Jingyao, Wu Hankun, Bai Ligga, Liu Le, Xu Xiang, Liu Han, Xu Fei, Sun Rui, Geng Yeting, Jin Zhihao, Qu Yuchao, Huang Tao, Fan Wendong, Jiang Baocheng, A Ren, Mi Tiezeng, Seng Gerenchen, Ma Wenzhong, Ning Wentong, Zhang Jingwei, Yang Tianhao, Li Zeyu, Xia Chenxu, Song Ningfeng, Yu Ying, Wu Chao, Yang Dapeng, Zhao Lei, Zhang Zhenxuan, Song Duyu, Wen Bo, Tu Men Bayar, Mu Xiaobo, Chun Xiao, Qi Lèmùgè, Zhang Xuehan, Qian Bo, Bayan Tu, Wu Xingguo, Na Ernaxī, Liu Chao, Zhang Yilong, Sun Huangchen, Ailijiang·Kurban, and others
Length: 148 minutes

Set in a time of frost and killing intent, the second prince of the Shang Dynasty, Yin Shou (played by Fei Xiang), leads his elite troops to quell a rebellion in Jizhou. Unwittingly, he releases a demon fox sealed in the Xuanyuan tomb. The fox possesses the body of Su Hu’s daughter, Daji (played by Na Ran), and is brought to the capital as a gift to the king and his brother. At a night banquet, the eldest prince, in a state of delusion, kills his father, and Yin Shou ascends to the throne. However, natural disasters force him to decide on a self-immolation ritual to appease the heavens. Meanwhile, the immortal Jiang Ziya (played by Huang Bo) descends from Kunlun Mountain with the list of gods, seeking a ruler to save the people. During his time in the capital, he senses Yin Shou’s cruelty and flees. Prince Yin Jiao, who once saw Yin Shou as a wise ruler, and the Western Duke’s son, Ji Fa (played by Yu Shi), also discover the king’s selfish desires and Daji’s strange behavior.

The film is a reinterpretation of the classic Chinese mythological tale “Investiture of the Gods,” focusing on the complex relationships between characters and the broader themes of destiny and power. It has been praised for its rich storytelling, character development, and the exploration of traditional Chinese mythology in a modern cinematic context. The film has received recognition at various awards, including a nomination for Best Story Film at the 36th China Golden Rooster Awards and Best Costume Design at the 17th Asian Film Awards.

With a runtime of 148 minutes, “Creation of the Gods Ⅰ: Kingdom of Storms” offers a visually stunning and narratively engaging experience that delves into the epic saga of the Shang Dynasty and the rise of the Zhou Dynasty.

7.《我爱你!》(Love Never Ends)

Douban score: 7.9
Evaluated by: 215170 people
Type: Drama / Romance / Family
Starring: Ni Dahong, Hui Yinghong, Liang Jiawei, Ye Tong, Cheng Guo, Lu Qiuqing, Zhang Lixing, Cui Song, Niu Liyan, Zhang Xiaoyu, Yang Bo, Bao Yinglin, Yi Hui, Wu Xiangyuan, Cheng Yuying, Lin Ziyue, Zhang Yixin, Ning Nan, Hu Bisheng, Li Yajin, Liu Mingze, Wu Jiajian, Yang Shuo, Wen Yingtong, Zhao Weidong, and others
Length: 116 minutes
Language: Cantonese / Mandarin Chinese
Release Date: June 21, 2023 (Mainland China), June 9, 2023 (Shanghai International Film Festival)

“I Love You!” is a poignant tale of love in the twilight years, adapted from a South Korean comic. The story revolves around two pairs of elderly individuals: the widowed Chang Weiji (played by Ni Dahong), who forms an unexpected bond with the scrap collector Li Hui Ru (played by Hui Yinghong), and the elderly couple Xie Dingshan (played by Liang Jiawei) and Zhao Huanxin (played by Ye Tong), who struggle with illness and poverty.

As these characters navigate the final chapters of their lives, they find solace and passion in each other’s company. The film explores themes of aging, love, and the importance of expressing affection, even in the face of life’s inevitable end. Despite the challenges they face, the characters in “I Love You!” demonstrate that love can flourish at any age, and that it is never too late to find happiness and companionship.

The film has been praised for its sensitive portrayal of the elderly and its exploration of the complexities of love and life in later years. It has resonated with audiences, earning a nomination for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress at the 36th China Golden Rooster Awards. With its 116-minute runtime, “I Love You!” offers a heartfelt and thought-provoking look at the enduring power of love.

8.《三大队》(Endless Journey)

Douban score: 7.8
Evaluated by: 250047 people
Type: Drama / Crime
Starring: Zhang Yi, Li Chen, Wei Chen, Cao Bingkun, Wang Xiao, Zhang Zixian, Yang Xinming, Chen Chuang, Huang Lu, Ai Liya, Zhang Xincheng, Gao Ye, Zhang Benyu, Wang Yutian, Wang Shuangbao, Zhang Yidian, Feng Bing, Dong Xiangrong, Li Yanxi, Xu Dongdong, Ma Qianyi, Chen Hao, Zhang Lei, Ning Xiaozhi, Liu Di, Gao Xuanming, Huang Ting, Sheng Zihang, Han Jing, Lai Weijia, and others
Length: 132 minutes
Language: Mandarin Chinese
Release Date: December 15, 2023 (Mainland China), November 3, 2023 (Golden Rooster Domestic New Film Exhibition)

“Three Major Teams” is a crime drama based on a true story, originally published by Shen Lan in the “NetEase Human World Studio” titled “Please Tell the Director, Three Major Teams Have Completed the Task.” The film follows the story of the head of the criminal investigation team, Cheng Bing (played by Zhang Yi), who leads his team in handling a heinous case. During the investigation, one of the suspects dies unexpectedly, resulting in Cheng Bing being sentenced to prison. After his release, he continues to track down the fugitives as an ordinary citizen.

The film delves into the challenges faced by Cheng Bing and his team, showcasing their dedication and the sacrifices made in the pursuit of justice. It highlights the emotional and psychological toll of their relentless pursuit, as well as the evolution of forensic technology and legal progress over the years.

With a runtime of 132 minutes, “Three Major Teams” has been praised for its realistic portrayal of the police force and the complexities of crime investigation. The film has resonated with audiences, earning a high rating on Douban and recognition for its storytelling and performances.

9.《保你平安》(Post Truth)

Douban score: 7.7
Evaluated by: 432707 people
Type: Drama / Comedy
Starring: Dong Chengpeng, Li Xueqin, Yin Zheng, Wang Xun, Wang Shengdi, Ma Li, Song Qian, Bai Yu, Jia Bing, Yang Di, Pan Binlong, Ni Hongjie, Qiao Shan, Yu Yang, Liu Jinshan, Cao Bingkun, Liang Chao, Zhang Lin, Lao Si, Li Yinwei, Xia Zhen, Deng Fei, Li Nini, Zhang Waner, Lou Naiming, Chen Zhixi, Qi Nari, Lan Xi Ya, Fang Yuanyuan, Lin Ruoxi, Da Neng, Wu Haocheng, and others
Length: 112 minutes
Language: Mandarin Chinese
Release Date: March 10, 2023 (Mainland China), December 18, 2022 (Hainan Island International Film Festival)

“Keep You Safe” is a drama-comedy that tells the story of Wei Ping’an (played by Dong Chengpeng), a middle-aged man struggling with life after spending time in prison for defending a friend. He now works as a cemetery salesperson, living a modest life but maintaining a positive outlook. When he learns that his former client, Han Lu (played by Song Qian), is to be forcibly moved from her grave due to rumors that she was a sex worker, he takes it upon himself to clear her name.

Wei Ping’an, who had a close relationship with Han Lu during her life, is convinced of her innocence and purity. He embarks on a quest to restore her reputation amidst a growing tide of rumors and online moral judgment. The film explores themes of social media, the power of rumors, and the struggle for justice in a world where everyone can be a judge without consequence.

Directed by Da Peng, the film has been praised for its engaging narrative and its commentary on contemporary social issues. It has resonated with audiences, earning a high rating on Douban and recognition for its exploration of the impact of false information and the importance of standing up for what is right. With a runtime of 112 minutes, “Keep You Safe” offers a thought-provoking and entertaining look at the challenges faced by individuals in the face of societal judgment.

10.《涉过愤怒的海》(Across the Furious Sea)

Douban score: 7.2
Evaluated by: 415450 people
Type: Drama / Suspense / Crime
Starring: Huang Bo, Zhou Xun, Zu Feng, Zhang Yuhao, Zhou Yiran, Yan Bei, Sun Ankan, Yan Ni, Wang Xun, Abe Li, Shi Shi, Xie Ruitao, and others
Language: Mandarin Chinese / Japanese / German / Jiaoliao Guanhua
Release Date: November 25, 2023 (Mainland China)
Length: 144 minutes
Also known as: Anger of the Sea / 怒海

“Across the Furious Sea” is a suspenseful crime drama directed by Cao Baoping. The story revolves around Lao Jin (played by Huang Bo), a fisherman who struggles to support his daughter Jin Lina’s (played by Zhou Yiran) studies abroad. When he receives the tragic news of her death, stabbed 17 times, he sets out on a quest for justice. The prime suspect is her boyfriend Li Miaomiao (played by Zhang Yuhao), who is protected by his mother Jing Lan (played by Zhou Xun) and constantly evades capture.

The film delves into the complexities of human nature and the pursuit of love and forgiveness amidst a web of anger and grief. It explores the emotional turmoil of a father who is driven by the desire to avenge his daughter’s death, while also questioning the true nature of love and the impact of family dynamics on individuals.

With a runtime of 144 minutes, “Across the Furious Sea” has been praised for its intense narrative and the performances of its cast. The film has resonated with audiences, earning a high rating on Douban and recognition for its exploration of the darker aspects of human relationships and the consequences of unchecked emotions.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Douban’s list does not rank films based on their box office (some films were not even released in mainland China). Therefore, we supplement this with the 2023 box office rankings for mainland China from Cat’s Eye data.

RankTitleTotal box office(In millions of USD)Douban Score
1Man Jiang Hong704.037.0
2The Wandering Earth 2623.488.3
3No More Bets593.916.9
4Lost in the Stars545.096.2
5Creation of the Gods Ⅰ: Kingdom of Storms407.577.8
6Cage Fight339.687.3
7Chang’an 281.988.3
8Boonie Bears: The Wild Life229.977.1
9Under the Light207.346.1