It’s been 63 years since Malaysia became independent and oh how we have grown. In those years, our cinema has also come a long way – the styles, filming methods and acting have all changed with the times.
We’ve had kings like P.Ramlee and queens like Yasmin Ahmad give us golden unforgettable moments. There have also been memorable yet not so golden moments with movies like Cicak Man, which no one is going to forget.
There have been all sorts of movies that have come out of our film industry, from horror movies like Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam and Dukun to love stories like Sepet and comedies aplenty. It’s difficult to choose but here are our picks of movies made by Malaysians for you to get into that Merdeka feel.
Fellow folks and football fanatics, which Malaysia has a multitude of, will find fun in this famous flick. From the same Johorian director Chiu Keng Guan of The Journey and the producers of Polis Evo and Ola Bola, this movie tells the story of our very own Malaysian National Football team’s climb to reach the 1980 Summer Olympics.
It’s a typical sports journey to glory story, with dramatic life stories and exciting football moments. From a budget of RM 5 million, the movie has wracked up a local box office win of RM 16.67 million. There was even a musical that toured last year under the same name.
Tale as old as time, the story that Yasmin Ahmad tells in a movie that stands in the lists even today is a love story that spans cultural barriers. It’s simple, a young Chinese guy and Malay girl fall in love and the film tells how they navigate through the barriers of an interracial relationship in a multicultural country.
Though at the base it’s a story of young love, the impact of the outside world on the two lovers, with prejudice and discrimination lurking around each corner, Sepet hits at deeper questions about our Malaysian society. Something that award-winning director Yasmin Ahmad was always good at was talking about the specific diversity of our country.
A Malaysian film list wouldn’t be right without a mention of our greatest filmmaker Tan Sri P.Ramlee and what better way to enjoy the Merdeka weekend. Any movie of P.Ramlee’s is sure to invoke feelings of nostalgia and patriotism from a time now gone, but Bujang Lapok is one of his most well known and for good reason.
This is the story of three bachelors who live together in a rented room in a house owned by a wealthy widow named Cik Normah. It stars P. Ramlee himself alongside Aziz Sattar as well as S. Shamsuddin and like Sepet it’s a story about love with its challenges, except with more quips and humour.
Fly By Night
This Malaysian neo-noir crime thriller promises hard and fast action in the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Four taxi drivers extort the rich that get into their cars for money and everything seems fine and dandy for them until things go awry. Tai Lo runs the con game with his fellow cabbies until he brings in ex-convict Ah Soon into the game upsetting his younger brother Sai Lo. Seeking ambitious ends, Sai Lo teams up with another gang member Gwai Lo to extort someone without Tai Lo’s know-how.
With all this going on in Malaysia’s constantly bustling metropolis, it’s no surprise that the cops are on to them. Specifically, Inspector Kamal played by Bront Palarae is on their trail, a hard man known for outbursts of violence. This movie is for those of you less inclined to heartwarming tales of family and duty and more about action-packed noir sequences, available on Netflix.
Before Ola Bola, Chiu Keng Guan was made famous with this comedy-drama about Uncle Chuan, a conservative rigid old man, who has been recalcitrant about giving his daughter and her English fiance his blessing. When he finally gives way, he insists that the wedding be traditional and he wants to invite all his old friend personally.
Hence, he and Benji (the fiance) embark on a perilous comedic journey in which they must learn to communicate and understand one another. The movie made RM 2.2 million upon launch but over time has climbed up to RM 16 million even ranking higher than Polis EVO at one point.
Stories about teachers are typically heartwarming albeit slightly dramatic ones, think Western movies Freedom Writers and Dead Poets Society, and Adiwiraku is no exception. It will pull at your heartstrings and take you on a journey with these kids who are just trying to make their way through high school.
Based on the true story of Cheryl Ann Fernando and her fellow colleague Constant Wong, both Teach for Malaysia teachers at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pinang Tunggal in Kedah. It’s a simple story of the kids’ journey to mastering their Choral Speaking performance, littered with the dramatics of everyday life. Although some of the kids were switched out with actors due to the sensitive nature of their stories, the rest of the cast were the actual students.