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Posterized: Michelle Yeoh

by Nathaniel R

It's a new season of our series Posterized in which we look back at the entire careers of various actors and directors. Last week Spike Lee joints. Today, Malaysia's finest: Michelle Yeoh. The fifty-six year old Asian superstar is currently grande dame'ing it through the romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, giving the movie nearly all of its dramatic bite through her excellent nuanced underplaying of the intimidating and at times outright cruel potential mother-in-law. 

Yeoh's career is harder to track here in the US since not all of her films are released here. Nevertheless, let's do our posterized retrospective. We've pruned just a bit for lack of quality posters or obscurity but this is nearly everything starting with her first leading role in 1985 in Yes, Madam! (which has apparently been retitled Police Assassins), a dual-lead action vehicle with American actress Cynthia Rothrock (of late 80s B movie fame). Anyway... on to the pictorial survey.

How many of these 34 Michelle Yeoh projects have you seen? Was it more than you expected? The posters are after the jump...

ACT 1 - A NEW ACTION HEROINE (1985-1996)
Police Assassins (also known as Yes, Madam!), Royal Warriors, (also known as In the Line of Duty), Magnificent Warriors (also known as Dynamite Fighters), Easy Money, Supercop, Butterfly Sword, The Heroic Trio, Holy Weapon, Heroic Trio 2: Executioners, Super Cop 2 (also known as Once a Cop), Tai-Chi Master (also known as Twin Warriors), Wing Chun

Super Cop was unfortunately the only one of these pictures to get a US theatrical release. The Heroic Trio movies are batshit insane and feature not just Yeoh pre-international stardom but Maggie Cheung pre international stardom, too! They were released on DVD in the US shortly after the twin international profile raisers for those two stars: Crouching Tiger and In the Mood for Love

Tomorrow Never Dies, Moonlight Express, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Touch, Silver Hawk, Memoirs of a Geisha, Sunshine, Far North, The Children of Huang Shi, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Babylon A.D., True Legend.

At 35 Michelle Yeoh was an older Bond girl than producers usually allow us but WOW did that pay off. She's arguably the best one since she's such an equal to 007. Then Yeoh headlined one of the Aughts most unexpected and very best blockbusters, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (for which she arguably should've been Oscar-nominated). From then on she was working in international projects and in smaller parts in American films though the leading work dried up too quickly. Damn you, ageism! 

ACT 3 - REGAL LADY YEARS (2011-2018)
Reign of Assassins, The Lady, Final Recipe, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, Marco Polo, Mechanic: Ressurection, Morgan, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2, Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, and Crazy Rich Asians (Reviewed)

For The Lady she got a small Oscar campaign, but until Crazy Rich Asians people haven't been appreciating her long career and charismatic presence enough. We hope she gets a full throttle Oscar campaign this time around. 

So, how many have you seen and which was your first? 

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Reader Comments (24)

The first film of Michelle Yeoh that I saw was Supercop as she was awesome and definitely stole some scenes from Jackie Chan. I also loved watching her in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies (as one of the best Bond girls), Guardians 2, Sunshine, and she was one of the few things in Memoirs of a Geisha that I liked and cared about despite my issues with the casting.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I can't remember if Supercop or Tai-Chi Master was my first, but I loved her in both of those films as well as Tomorrow Never Dies and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and was delighted to see her small role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I also enjoyed seeing her tiny role in the Jackie Chan / Sammo Hung slapstick Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars. I really need to watch a lot more of her films.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

I really hope she sticks around as Evil Philippa in the new Star Trek series. You can tell she’s having fun. It felt like such a bait and switch killing off Good Philippa so soon into the series.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

Film work is a wasteland in Hollywood for Asian talent.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I was excited to see her in Sunshine and Crazy Rich Asians, but her best performance from the films I've seen is in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She stole the film with her quiet sadness. Even in that insanely competitive Actress line up, she deserved a nom. And you rightly point out she was a terrific Bond girl.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Tomorrow Never Dies was my first but Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made me interested in finding more of her films.

The Ann Hui directed Ah Kam aka The Stunt Woman is also worth seeking out btw.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEddyPieHands

Bond, Crouching Tiger, and GotG2.

And she absolutely should have been nominated for "Crouching Tiger". Far and away the best thing, although, admittedly, that genre is not my cup of tea.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Tomorrow Never Dies, Crouching Tiger, Geisha, and Sunshine.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I would not get too excited about an Oscar campaign. They never nominate East Asians. It's only Watanabe, the winner Miyoshi Umeki, Sessie Hayakawa, Pat Morita and Rinko Kikuchi, I think. In 90 years. And never in leading.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I just watched The Heroic Trio because I was intrigued by that cast. Yeah, the plot is silly, the action is cheesy, the sets are cheap, and the drama is contrived. But dang, that superstar cast of Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Anita Mui really delivered.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

She deserves an Oscar for Crazy Rich Asians. A+

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

I've seen 8 of her works. If I had a ballot she (Actress, where she gets the silver and Julia gets gold) and Zhang Ziyi (Supporting Actress, where she actually gets the gold medal) would be nominated for CTHD.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChris

It's s dichotomy that she's not a critic darling in Asia (especially Hong Kong and Taiwan) yet heavily praised here in TFE. Nothing wrong per each his own. I've seen many of her movies (not because I worship her but there were others in the cast that intrigued me more) and she can be as wooden as what the Asian critics had repeatedly pointed out. Sometimes her line reading can be off-kilter as in the case of Crouching and Soong Sisters. But she did kick ass in the Bond movie and she's the MVP in Crazy Rich Asians (I didn't like it that much though) so yeah I do hope she gets a nomination come year end.

August 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJans

i've seen all and the first one was yes, madam and i was hooked!!! my faves are CTHD & ROA.

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSeli

I've been a fan for many years 'cause she was among the Hong Kong Cinema goddesses. I hope this success (and possibly her Oscar nom) will be a reward for having lost the occasion to partecipate to Tan Twan Eng's THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS adaptation for which she expressed interest before Sylvia Chang (another Amazing actress) casting

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Watched in the Mood for Love yesterday and every mention of that film and Maggie Cheung makes my heart flutter. I LOVE Michelle Yeoh too.

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvagr

For me her best perforamnce is Memoirs of a Geisha,I know people cry over the casting decisions but I just enjoy the film,it's scenery and gr8 performances from Yeon,Li and Zhang.

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Thanks markgordonuk - yes - I literally watched Memories of a Geisha last week - I was so impressed again by performances, set & the music score is to die for ! Still such a great epic to watch - & Michelle Yeoh is brilliant - it would be fantastic to see her nominated. Gracious lady!

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

I've only seen her in three films which makes me feel like a bad Asian. But yeah had it been up to me she would have won an Oscar for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

I've only seen 9 but this is one of the reasons I did this posterized. Always liked her but realized i had missed huge chunks of the filmography. The ones that I haven't seen that I'm most curious about are: Police Assassins (cuz i love debut leads to see how fully formed the star is / isn't), Supercop, Butterfly and Sword (because my favorite Asian star, Tony Leung, is in it), Tai-Chi Master, Silver Hawk (because it looks so silly and the tagline cracks me up), and Final Recipe

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm going to be Debbie Downer for a minute here. If Holly Hunter couldn't snag a nomination last year for The Big Sick, I have serious doubts that Yeoh can nab one this year. There's major genre bias, as well as 90 years of mostly ignoring Asian acting to battle.

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Jans -- I think she is not a critic darling as Hong Kong critics (and award bodies) pay little attention to the action films/blockbusters, which is her forte. This is also why I haven't seen much of her work, and I was in Hong Kong when she was in that industry! (though I was really young)

Nat -- you missed one that you might be interested in: The Soong Sisters, which got her one of her two HK Film Awards nomination (the other nomination comes from Crouching Tiger). It co-stars one of your favorites (and everyone's favorites), Maggie Cheung. Cheung won one of her five HK Film Awards for this movie.

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterkin

Kin - I think that's only part of the reason. If you have seen many of her movies including those non-blockbuster ones, you will realize she has many lapses as an actress especially in scenes where there's an emotional interplay between her and he co-stars. Just take Soong Sisters for example. She was the weakest link, her nomination notwithstanding. If you have the chance, try to read some of the main reviews (in Mandarin though) and you will probably nod your head in consort for all the details being pointed out.

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Something else to add - there are many Asian actresses (Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China. Korea, etc) whom I'd consider the Carrie Coons and Lupita Nyongs of Asia and it's a pity their work has never gained a foothold in the US and Europe so they are probably unknowns in that part of the world. Too many in fact. But that doesn't mean they are any less effective than the likes of Maggie and Gong Li. I saw this indie movie called Regret Not in the Faraway Future (sorry my translation) which starred these two fabulous actresses from Japan and I thought to myself these thespians are gems but they will never reach a wider audience due to the nature of their movies (independent and marketing-wise).

August 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJans

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