Hong Kong has long been one of the world’s most beloved metropolises, and this certainly isn’t lost on directors and producers when capturing our unique city in movies. The narrow back alleys lined with traditional eateries, the bustling malls in sleek skyscrapers that shoot skyward, this perfect entrepot between east and west – literally nowhere else looks like this. Despite the negative side of colonialism, Hong Kong’s unique history is what shaped the city into what it’s known as today: a melting pot of countless different cultures, cuisines and architecture styles. Let’s take a look at some of the Fragrant Harbour’s coolest movie locations that are incredible for the ‘gram. By Ashlyn Chak
Coolest movie locations in Hong Kong
The tallest building on Hong Kong Island is the key landmark in all the Hong Kong postcards. Despite some people’s claim that the tower looks like a shaver, Christopher Nolan clearly sees it a little differently. In his 2008 The Dark Knight, Gotham’s love-hate vigilante glides off the top of IFC Tower 2 in an attempt to capture the corrupt Chinese businessman that laundered money for mobsters. There was some collateral damage, but luckily our very own Edison Chen, who led Lucius Fox into the skyscraper, was not harmed in the process. In 2003, Angelina Jolie also hopped off the then-under-construction IFC in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life.
Not only did Faye Wong peek into Tony Leung’s flat from the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world in Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express (1994), but these stairs also saw Lucius Fox (The Dark Knight) finally taking a break from working all shifts at Wayne Enterprises to appreciate Central’s distinctive landscape. Too bad his boss barged in out of nowhere to make this well-informed comment: “There’s a better view from the Peak tram.” Hong Kong Tourism Board, pay Christian Bale now!
Consisting of Jumbo Floating Restaurant and the neighbouring Tai Pak Floating Restaurant, Jumbo Kingdom appeared in many international movies such as Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon (1973), James Bond favourite The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), the 1995 Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs II (2003), Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011), and of course, Stephen Chow’s legendary tale, The God of Cookery (1996). Even Queen Elizabeth II, David Bowie, Tom Cruise, and Gwyneth Paltrow have visited this giant boat.
Some of us might not have been born in time to witness the glory of Kowloon Walled City, but at least the maze-like Chungking Mansions is still here with its inexpensive hostels and shops run by ethnic minorities. A character in Michael Connelly’s novel 9 Dragons described the neighbourhood as a “post-modern Casablanca - all in one building.” In 1994, Wong Kar-wai filmed a significant chunk of Chungking Express here, in which some of the complex’s 4,000 tenants also appeared in cameo roles.
Turns out the unbelievably high housing costs in Hong Kong doesn’t just affect those of us who are trying to buy our first home. Founded more than half a decade ago, the iconic Hong Kong-style steakhouse in Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004) had to close down in late 2018 due to increased rent. But don’t frown just yet - patrons were pleasantly surprised when the establishment resurfaced as Nostalgia a while later. At the new restaurant on 6/F, Kyoto Plaza, 491-499 Lockhart Road, you can still find Goldfinch’s signature green table cloths and old brown leather booths where sexual tension arose between Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as told by Wong Kar-wai.
In the 2015 romantic drama Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, the main characters run into each other on a ferry ride across Victoria Harbour - a most timely re-encounter after a year of disconnect. Director Emily Ting revealed in an interview that the plot was inspired by Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, proving you don’t have to travel to Europe in order to meet “the one that got away.” Founded in 1888, the Star Ferry company’s fleet of 12 ferryboats run between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui for as low as $2.20 and as quick as 5 minutes.
Despite the name, this wonder of a monastery is actually consisted of almost 13,000 Buddha statues, and it’s technically not a “monastery” as no monks actually reside at the complex. The real attraction here is the journey up to the temple - a path lined on both sides with golden Buddhas, each unique and in different poses. You may remember this place from the opening scene of the 2002 local crime-thriller classic Infernal Affairs.
A true embodiment of “concrete jungle,” the Monster Building is actually an extremely cramped complex composed of five interconnected buildings: Oceanic Mansion, Fook Cheong Building, Montane Mansion, Yik Cheong Building, and Yick Fat Building. Built in the 1960s during a population boom, the E-shaped architecture provides photogenic symmetry and leaves a U-shaped sky when you look up. Monster Building has appeared in several global blockbusters, such as Michael Bay’s 2014 Transformers: Age of Extinction, as well as the anime-inspired sci-fi Ghost in the Shell (2017, Rupert Sanders). To add even more robots to the list, some scenes from Netflix’s 2019 anthology series Love, Death & Robots were also set here.
It’s not a valid “cool aesthetic” list without Temple Street, as seen in major films like Doctor Strange (2016), local comedy God of Cookery (1996), and countless other Hong Kong gangster flicks depicting the street as a near-lawless crime spot at night. In real life, though, you can find fortune tellers, dai pai dongs, street food stalls, and fake antiques instead of scary GTA action at the touristy night market. Spanning from Yau Ma Tei and Jordan, Temple Street dates back to the Qing dynasty and was named after a Tin Hau temple on the site.