1. Hero (2002)
I would like to start the list off with one of my personal favorites. Hero (2002) is a wuxia film—a type of Chinese martial arts film that is inspired by literature and focuses on the journey of a pre-modern martial arts hero—centering around a nameless warrior during the forming stages of the Qin Dynasty. The warrior, literally referred to as Nameless, arrives at the palace of the first Qin emperor with news that he has managed to kill three deadly assassins who have previously made attempts on the emperor’s life. The story is told from four different perspectives—colour-coded in shades of red, blue, green, and white—that converge into one final storyline. The “ends justify the means” message of the film can come across as a little heavy-handed, but the film certainly makes up for it with its fluid fight scenes and elegant imagery. While Hero certainly features gorgeous scenery, I personally found much of the beauty of the film in the action-sequences. The character Nameless is also based on a real historical figure!
2. Life of Pi (2012)
Life of Pi (2012) is a survival film based on a book of the same name written by Yann Martel and published in 2001. The film follows the story of a Indian teenager named Pi Patel as an older version of himself recounts surviving for 227 days at sea with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Pi’s family had been traveling with their zoo animals to North America on a Japanese freighter. The ship sinks after encountering a storm, leaving Pi as the only human survivor after he manages to board a lifeboat. He originally shares the boat with a hyena, zebra, orangoutang, and Richard Parker, but he and Richard Parker are soon the only ones who remain. The film deals with issues of religion and belief in a visually impacting way. The overall message of the film has been the cause of debate, but no one can argue against how downright stunning the movie is. From bioluminescent fish to clear ocean waters, Life of Pi certainly pleases the eye even if you don’t agree with Martel’s original vision.
3. Samsara (2011)
The final film on my list may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is undeniably beautiful. Samsara (2011) is a documentary chronicling a five-year trip across 25 different countries around the globe. Destinations included the archeological city of Petra in Jordan, Tagou Wushu Academy in Zhengzhou, China, and the demilitarized zone in South Korea. Samsara attempts to capture the very essence of humanity through the use of imagery and music. The lack of dialogue may be a turn off to some, but the final product is a gorgeous meditative piece on what it means to be alive.