While you might associate the best Hong Kong films with acclaimed directors such as Wong-kar Wai and John Woo, or its rich history of martial arts and wuxia movies, the local film industry has never shied away from producing more raunchier flicks (though they have nothing on what really happens in Hong Kong’s BDSM scene).
First appearing in the 1960s, Hong Kong’s X-rated films (classified as Category III) peaked in popularity during the 1990s. While the 2000s saw newer generations gain an unparelled level of access to adult material online (see: How Hongkongers use Pornhub), more notable recent releases include “the world’s first 3D erotic movie”, 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (pictured) and Wilson Chin’s sexually-charged trilogy Lan Kwai Fong.
Hong Kong’s sexiest movies
Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan | 愛奴 (1972)
Controversial on its initial release due to its lesbian and exploitation themes, Chor’s rape-revenge epic – mixing swordplay with period erotica – still arrests the senses with the sheer intensity of its tale, which sees a defiant beauty (Lily Ho) exacting vicious retribution on her tormentors years after being abducted into a high-class brothel.
The Golden Lotus | 金瓶雙艷 (1974)
Directed and written by Li Han-hsiang, produced by Sir Run Run Shaw and providing the film debut for a young Jackie Chan, this has to be one of the strongest lineups for sex film of all-time. This seductive tale on the licentious sex life of a merchant references The Plum in the Golden Vase, a classic erotic literature from Ming Dynasty. It truly is a timeless piece of antique cinema that is as much about action and storyline as it is naughty bits.
Erotic Ghost Story | 聊齋艷譚 (1987)
A remake of The Witches of Eastwick mixed with a classic Chinese fairy tale may sound a little bizarre, but this film was the breakthrough for leading actress Amy Yip. Yip’s assets certainly carry the light-hearted erotic fantasy but the three sequels that followed also extolled the respective female stars.
Pretty Woman | 卿本佳人 (1991)
Unlike the romantic comedy of Hollywood’s Pretty Woman, Hong Kong’s version is dark. Directed by Yeung Chi-gin, the storyline may be pretty grim (rape, murder and general violence), but Veronica Yip’s performance, as the female lead, captivated many. The movie boosted her popularity, and her rise to fame paved ways for other mainstream actresses to enter the soft porn market.
Cash on Delivery | 與鴨共舞 (1992)
Veronica Yip plays a married woman who hires a gigolo (played by Simon Yam) to get her pregnant, so her impotent husband can receive his family’s money. The plot transgresses into jealously, lust and murder in this fairly soft-core film, but the sex scenes are perfectly executed and the duo beautifully captured. Yam has starred in other gigolo roles, but this is his best.
Naked Killer | 赤裸羔羊 (1992)
Chingmy Yau stars as the deadly assassin in this cult classic. While being investigated by an infatuated cop, she falls in love with a fellow female killer, who targets rapists and psychos. The film’s combination of kick-ass action and lesbian entanglement attracted a large following, and resulted in Yau being nominated for Best Actress at the 1993 Hong Kong Film Awards.
Crazy Love | 蜜桃成熟時 (1993)
Directed by Roman Cheung, this film is less about the plot and more
a chance to see Loletta Lee’s energetic and erotic performance
in various states of undress. The story involves a girl in search of different sexual partners in revenge of her cheating boyfriend. In contrast to the coarse production, it’s Lee’s angelic face, heartwarming smile and frequent shower scenes that explain why people are crazy for Crazy Love.
Viva Erotica | 色情男女 (1996)
This sex-comedy, directed by Derek Yee, is a satirical portrayal of the struggles of category III filmmakers, and the plight of the Hong Kong movie industry. Taiwan’s sex symbol Shu Qi rose to fame on the back of this film, wining Best Supporting Actress and Best New Performer at the 16th Hong Kong Film Awards, while the category III film itself received a Best Picture nomination.
Ancient Chinese Whorehouse | 青樓十二房 (1994)
Brother Gang, a man who makes sex toys to attract customers to the brothel, falls in love with one of the young girls, but she falls for his student. Yvonne Yung, Hong Kong’s Miss World 1989 entry, plays the whorehouse Madame in this erotic masterpiece. Amid all the sex and awe, there are touching moments in this light-hearted comedy, while the dirty jokes and fun side of this film set the tone for future category III films made in Hong Kong.
3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy | 3D 肉蒲團之極樂寶鑑 (2011)
Claimed to be the world’s first 3D erotic film (actually, it was The Stewardesses in 1969), the film is the latest sequel of Sex and Zen, adapted from The Carnal Prayer Mat, a Chinese erotic novel on a Ming Dynasty scholar’s lust and sexual exploitation. Although the film is banned in mainland China, it has taken over $40m in Hong Kong at the box office – the highest for its genre.