Filipino Movies: 21 Best Films of All Time from Philippine Cinema
In this article, we examine Filipino movies and Philippine cinema, arguably one of the more underappreciated industries in Southeast Asia.
Driven by filmmakers whose inclination is heavily immersed in experimentation and political revolt, Philippine cinema is bolstered with exciting and fresh voices. When we talk about Asian cinema, it’s easy to emphasize the films from Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand. However, these countries’ movie-making industry are prominently backed up by their respective government, who considers the visual medium and entertainment content as a useful asset to generate tourism rates aside from exporting their unique cultural identity to the rest of the world.
Philippine Cinema: An Overview
The cinema of the Philippines is rarely discussed, if not, never really received the spotlight it deserved. Unknown by many, Filipino films feature some of the most innovative and exciting content that puts some of the multi-million dollar summer blockbusters from Hollywood to shame. They are supremely low-budget. The most expensive Filipino movie costs $3-million. Unmatched to the cost of a single Game of Thronesepisode. It just goes to show that resourcefulness thrives in creative storytelling.
Filipino Movies: Hard to Categorize
But while many countries are often categorized by the type of films that made them popular (e.g. martial arts movies from Hong Kong, action-adventure films from America), Philippines’ is hard to pin down. They defy categorization.
Most likely as a result of its archipelagic landscape where every region have their respective flare uniquely theirs. For example, films from the Luzon and Mindanao regions are embedded on their location and own set of principles.
This could also be one of the major reasons why many critics of Philippine cinema cannot identify a “national identity” of the movies, more troubling since the country was one of the earlier pioneers of cinema itself. Its history goes as far back as 1897, a shy away when Georges Méliès debuts his iconic films.
21 Best Filipino Movies of All Time
This list, which will run through 21 of (arguably) some of the best the country has to offer, is an indication that the Philippines is indeed a country that can go up the ranks with the biggest solely on its knack for storytelling.
There is a multitude of films that are actually great. For exmaple, Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan (1950) and Erik Matti’s On the Job (2013). But all of the films we are featuring here have stood the test of time.
21) Goyo: The Young General (2018)
In the mid-2010s, the Philippines saw a rise in historical films thanks to Jerrold Tarog’s Heneral Luna (2015), a biopic about slain General Antonio Luna. That film, which fittingly examines the hero’s bad temper and machismo nature, is fascinatingly downplayed in the follow-up Goyo: The Young General (2018) – also directed by Tarog. The movie, which stars Paolo Avelino as General Gregorio Del Pilar, is a meditative exploration on what defines a hero. It begs to ask if the hero is determined by his achievements or his nationalism. It’s a historical movie that commits to disregard glamorization about its subject matter.
20) Bayaning 3rd World / Third World Hero (2000)
Speaking of heroes and its true definition, Mike De Leon’s controversial Bayaning Third World (2000) was an edgy satire about the Philippines’ declared National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. It follows a pair of filmmakers who are debating on Rizal’s infamous retraction to his views about the Catholic Church. To explore this, De Leon allows his characters to meet historical figures from the 1800s, including Rizal himself, as if interviewing them for a documentary. Fun fact: De Leon, alongside his screenwriter Clodualdo Del Mundo, was originally planning a biopic about Rizal, but was eventually scrapped, allowing the birth of this movie.
19) Misteryo sa Tuwa (1984)
Abbo Dela Cruz’s Misteryo sa Tuwa (1984) was a revelation when it came out. For a film that started very light, seeing it unfold into a provocative and deeply disturbing exploration about a community’s descent into greed can be shocking. It is one of those movies that are genuinely scary, it can easily be labelled as a horror movie. But this is a family drama by heart, with a dash of commentaries about terrorism and moral ambiguity. Many have praised Misteryo sa Tuwa as something that is ahead of its time since it strangely resonates up to now.
18) Kinatay / Butchered (2009)
In 2009, Brillante Mendoza won the Best Director Award for his film Kinatay (2009) at the Cannes International Film Festival (a first from the Philippines), beating out filmmakers like Michael Haneke, Ang Lee, Pedro Almodóvar and Quentin Tarantino. About a police officer who was entangled in a scheme to dismember a troubled woman, the film subtly goes through the Philippines’ chaotic lineage of crimes. While Roger Ebert famously criticized the film as something that “deserved no award.” Kinatay is still a must see for its political message.
17) Oda Sa Wala (2018)
Magical realism fuels Dwein Baltazar’s Oda Sa Wala (2018), which follows a funeral shop owner whose mundane day brightens when a mysterious corpse enters her business premises. If you are a fan of reflective Asian films, or the moody catharsis of Wong Kar-Wai’s films, this is a must-watch. Having won the Best Picture and Best Director at the QCinema International Film Festival, Oda Sa Wala is a Filipino movie that deserved to be in more conversations. It’s criminally underseen by Filipinos also, probably since screenings of the film has become too limited.
16) Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon (1976)
The year 1976 was a great time for Philippine cinema, a rare year when a handful of classic Filipino films were released month after month (Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo, Nunal sa Tubig, Insiang). Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon was special because its message transcends decades after. It explores nationalism as something that isn’t just bounded by residence, but by the pure intentions of the heart. Iconic Filipino actor Christopher De Leon maybe at his finest here, latching on his character’s journey from naivety to eventually, the loss of innocence due to foreign colonization in the Philippines.
15) Respeto (2017)
Treb Montreras‘ Respeto (2017) memorably interweaves two dark periods of the Philippines. The dictatorship era of Former President Ferdinand Marcos during the 1970s and a similar, heavily pro-military administration of the current President Rodrigo Duterte. By way of different methods of art expression and poetry. The film unleashes its rage with no filters; an important weapon that appeals change for its nation. But beyond its intentions, the story it tells is well-crafted. It’s about a teenager who learns his story resembles that of an old man. All connected by inequality, repeated struggles, and unjust authority. A must-watch.
14) Moral (1982)
Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Moral (1982) can easily be assessed as a comedy-drama movie about a group of female friends overcoming adult struggles. But on a closer look, it’s surprisingly braver than you think. Released at a time when female representation in Philippine cinema are mostly reduced to their attachment with a male/ patriarchal hero, Moral paints its women as fearless, free-spirited members of a society driven by conformities. It’s a landmark piece of feminist cinema from the Philippines that holds no bar in discussing silently-talked about struggles and sensitive issues during the 1980s such as abortion, same-sex relationships, and family planning.
13) On The Job (2013)
In 2013, Erik Matti premiered his crime drama On The Job in Cannes with positive feedback. When the film eventually made its theatrical release in the Philippines, it’s as if an outburst of hope was ignited in Philippine cinema. The film treks in the criminal underbelly of politics and drug syndicates, polished to feel like a Jason Bourne movie made by David Fincher. Filipino action films are rarely made, often categorized by cheesy quips and absurd choreography. On The Job, for its explosive action, is a game-changer for contemporary Philippine cinema. So much so that at one point a Hollywood remake was even considered.
12) Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1980)
There are not a lot of musical movies made in the Philippines because of the high-budget demands to make it. For a country that, on average, makes and completes a film in a month’s time, musicals are unfortunately not as celebrated. Even Mike De Leon‘s Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1980), arguably the best Filipino musical film. The movie amplifies its genre and wit to tackle socio-political issues involving local and foreign governments, as well as religion. It’s hilarious, subversive, often cruel, but a fun time nevertheless.
Batang West Side (2001) is very important because it is director Lav Diaz‘s first foray in long cinema, films with extended running times that will later on play a huge part in his filmography’s DNA. Clocked in at around five-and-a-half hours, the film follows a Filipino detective investigating the death of a young Filipino boy in New Jersey. But Batang West Side is more than its mystery. It’s about an alien’s ambition to follow the American dream, colonialization, the history of film, and cinema as petition. This is a very packed film deserving of its epic length.
10) Jay (2008)
In 2008, the late Francis Pasion directed one of the best independent films from Philippines’ new wave of cinema (films from the digital era), Jay, a breathtaking study on media as an arsenal for the truth. Pasion used his background in creating television documentaries to craft the story of a television producer blinded by professional pressures to question the morality of his work. While not his most polished work on a technical standpoint, Pasion uses the rawness and dirt of his environment to come up with something poignant and brutally honest.
9) Cleaners (2019)
It is easy to make someone be intrigued by Glenn Barit‘s Cleaners (2019) by just mentioning its filmmaking process. The filmmakers printed their entire film frame by frame, photocopied the whole thing for an old fashioned Xerox gloss, highlighted a few elements using a pen, scanned, and lastly, edited digitally. The film features a rare case where its gimmick becomes a character in itself; complementing the nostalgic feeling of its high school-set story. There a lot of truly great coming-of-age Filipino movies from the 2010s; Cleaners is a strong contender as one of the best.
8) Norte, the End of History (2013)
Loosely inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s novel Crime and Punishment, Lav Diaz’s Norte, the End of History explores a law student on the verge of his personal anarchy and a man wrongfully accused of a crime. This basic premise alone makes up Diaz’s most accessible film to date. This Filipino movie goes in favor of a streamlined narrative over his usual dense stories. But there is still so much to uncover. If you’re interested in exploring Lav Diaz or long cinema in general, Norte is the best film to start.
7) Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising / Moments in a Stolen Dream (1977)
Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising is arguably one of the best films by Mike De Leon. But unlike the more politically-heavy titles commonly associated with him–e.g. Sister Stella L. (1984), Batch ’81 (1982)–the film uses the charm of its romance to paint an honest picture of innocent love without feeling forced or cheesy. The film, about a college student who fell in love with a married woman, memorably uses the iconic Philippine city of Baguio as its backdrop. A city popular for its healthy eco-system awfully destructed by rampant tourism visits over the decades.
6) Karnal / Of The Flesh (1983)
Marilou Diaz-Abaya‘s Karnal (1983) features some of the best dialogues in Philippine cinema. Written by iconic writer Ricky Lee, the film tells the story of a couple whose visit to a rural community becomes their most horrific tragedy yet. Karnal, at times can be over-the-top. Much thanks to the film’s soap opera-ish treatment and unreliable narrator. But the movie handles its tension and emotions superbly. If a vague description is your thing, think of it as Ari Aster‘s Midsommar (2019) and Hereditary (2018) with patriarchy as the main villain.
5) Batch ’81 (1982)
There was a period in the Philippines where filmmakers uses their films to go bravely against the dictatorship rule of its government. Mike De Leon was one of the major movers of this period. And in his film Batch ’81 (1982), he melds the authoritative/ strongman rule of college fraternities as the template of his anti-Martial Law messaging. The result is a fearless anecdote to a very tough subject matter, and a compelling statement on the effects of inflicted violence on everyone.
4) Himala / Miracle (1982)
Ishmael Bernal‘s Himala (1982) makes the argument that faith is inexistent, and solely living in every person’s heart. Religion in Philippine cinema is a tough topic to discuss, as Catholicism and Islam plays an important component in most Filipinos’ culture. Bernal’s film about a faith healer who makes waves in her community is not anti-religion. But it’s brave enough to show that the problems that have continued to sprung surrounding its existence needs to be discussed. Himala features popular actress Nora Aunor in her greatest role yet. Up there with the ranks of the best performances in a Filipino film.
3) Insiang (1976)
Lino Brocka‘s Insiang was the first Filipino film to have its own release in the Criterion Collection as part of Martin Scorsese‘s World Cinema Project initiative. It’s about a daughter who got involved in a scandalous affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Yet, Insiang is one of the most influential Filipino films ever made for its powerful feministic view. Further proving Lino Brocka as one of the leading voices in Philippine cinema. Parasite (2019) director Bong Joon-ho credits Brocka’s work, amongst other Asian directors, as an inspiration for his creative projects.
2) Kisapmata (1981)
Kisapmata (1981) is arguably Mike De Leon‘s greatest work yet. This Filipino film serves as a testament to how well-realized characters make a movie. Based on a real-life family murder in the Philippines, the movie follows a woman under strict control by her father even after marriage. Many have likened De Leon to Stanley Kubrick, with Kisapmata as his The Shining (1980). Both films feature father figures slowly descending into madness, a house designed as inescapable, and women forced to escape the forces of patriarchy. Kisapmata is a tough watch. But see it alone for Vic Silayan‘s memorable villain performance.
1) Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag / Manila: In the Claws of Brightness (1975)
If there’s a single film that would easily sum up majority of Philippine cinema’s greatest attributes, it would be Lino Brocka‘s Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975). This piece of amazing Philippine cinema is about an adult from the province who goes to the urban setting of Manila to rekindle with the love of his life. Although, when he aims to track her possible location, he will realize that the city is more chaotic than he thinks. Problems include prostitution, poverty, capitalism, corruption, and colonialism slowly destroying him. Its themes remain relevant, the problems still heartbreakingly embedded on the Philippines.
Conclusion: Filipino Movies
That wraps up our picks of the best Filipino movies of all time. We hope you learned something about an overlooked industry, Philippine cinema.
Not all of these titles are easily available to stream or rent, but some videos are out there on sites such as YouTube.
Which of these are you most interested to see? Let us know in the comments down below!
List of Philippine films of the 1980s
2018 Filipino film
BuyBust (styled BUYBUST) is a 2018 Philippine action thriller film co-written and directed by Erik Matti. It stars an ensemble cast top-billed by Anne Curtis and Brandon Vera. The plot centers on a team summoned by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to conduct a drug bust in a Manila slum. Realizing the mission is poorly executed, the team find themselves trapped by settlers and attempts to escape by fighting their way out. The film has been viewed as a social commentary on the controversial Philippine Drug War initiated by the Duterte government.
Production on Matti's "first full-on action film" began in 2016, and Curtis and Vera were cast as leads the following year. On a budget of ₱86 million, principal photography began in March 2017. The film premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) on June 29, 2018, had a wide Philippine release on August 1 and a limited North American release on August 10. Critical reception to the film was generally favorable, attaining praise for its action scenes, theme, technical aspects, and Curtis' against-type performance. It grossed ₱97 million worldwide.
Due to the Philippine Drug War, most of the country's barangays have been drug free. Drug dealer Teban (Alex Calleja) is interrogated by Detective Dela Cruz (Lao Rodriguez) and Detective Alvarez (Nonie Buencamino), trying to find out the location of big-time drug lord Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde). Upon learning that Chen is hiding at the Barangay Gracia ni Maria in Tondo, Manila, the authorities launch a "buy-bust" operation to capture Chen.
Rookie police officer Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis) joins a new anti-narcotic elite squad of the PDEA after surviving the slaughter of her entire former squad in a drug raid compromised by corrupt cops. Her new squad is chosen to conduct the mission against Chen; the entrapment is to take place in Plaza Rajah Sulayman. Teban is used as a bait to lure Chen, but the latter did not appear.
The squad then proceeds to the slums of Gracia and split up into the Alpha and Bravo teams. Inside, Teban meets with Chongki (Levi Ignacio) to take him over to Chen. However, the operation was revealed as bait to massacre the PDEA officers. The Bravo team is slaughtered, leaving Dela Cruz as the only survivor. The Alpha team, led by Lacson, fall back but find themselves trapped by slum settlers and drug mafias in which they must fight their way out. Manigan then kills Dela Cruz upon finding out that he is a part of the illegal trade.
Fed up with the relentless operations conducted by authorities, the dwellers of Gracia erupted into a violent riot against the PDEA officers and the drug lords. In the ensuing chaos, Rico, Bernie, Teban, Chongki, Solomon, Manok and hundreds of other civilians are killed amid the riots and the gunfights. In the aftermath, Chen is captured, and Manigan, who ends up as being the sole survivor of her squad, finds out that Detective Alvarez was the one behind the illegal drug trade from Chen. While in police custody, Manigan notices Alvarez talking with someone over the phone regarding "loose ends". After the phone conversation, Alvarez kills Chen; Manigan wrestles for Alvarez' gun then kills him and his men, she then places the gun on Chen's lifeless body and takes the phone that Alvarez was using for possible evidence. When other PDEA agents ask Manigan what happened, she stated that the criminal "fought back". The movie ends with the news stating that "only" 13 people died during the encounter while the camera glides upon hundreds of dead bodies.
Production on BuyBust began as early as mid-2016 which, according to director Erik Matti, included: "finding a good mix of actors, training, pre-sales, test shoots, storyboards, training, pre-vis, look tests, set construction, training finding the right balance between budget ambition and resources". Matti also wrote the screenplay, which underwent a total of 16 revisions. A co-production of Viva Films and his production company Reality Entertainment, he described the project his "first full-on action film" in recent years.
Anne Curtis and MMA fighter Brandon Vera joined the cast in late June 2016. A week before filming, Curtis performed rigorous training at the Scout Ranger Training School, where she undertook knife fighting in close quarters and basic weapon handling. Curtis was also trained in Pekiti-Tirsia Kali, and running while encumbered with 12 kg (26 lb) of weight. She elected performing most of her stunts by herself. Lawyer Chel Diokno did the voiceover in some of its most crucial scenes.
Principal photography began on March 28, 2017, with Neil Derrick Bion serving as cinematographer. Shooting lasted 56 days, during which a total of 1,278 extras and 309 stuntmen cooperated.
Journalists write that the film served as a social commentary on the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte and the consequences brought about following his controversial war on drugs. Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Clarence Tsui said, "BuyBust is another strong Philippine entry seeking to debunk a strongman's promises of retaining social order through violence, which actually breeds irreversible moral corruption, casting every social class asunder." Tsui further writes that "Matti is probably making a point by depicting the masses as a loony army," citing the director's criticism of Duterte as well as his supporters, to whom he cast an inflammatory remark through social media.
At the urging of the producers, Matti submitted the BuyBust script to the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival, but was rejected in the first tier of the selection process. The executive committee who rejected Matti's script was composed of three new members that were tapped as replacements to those who had resigned due to issues of corruption within the committee. The resignees alleged that the committee favored "putting too much emphasis on commerce over art". Matti denounced the incident on a lengthy Facebook post, in which he argued that the selection process was "rigged" to favor "the powerful personalities controlling the festival". In the wake of the incident, he stated in early July 2017 that he does not intend to submit the finished film, which is the second tier of the selection process.
The film was initially scheduled for a Philippine premiere on February 28, 2018, but was postponed after U.S. distributor Well Go USA acquired the North American rights to the film. The deal was brokered between Well Go USA executive Dylan Marchetti and Nate Bolotin of XYZ Films. The film had its world premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) on June 29, 2018, and was the venue's closing feature film. It was released in the Philippines on August 1, 2018, and was followed by a limited North American release on August 10. The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival opened its 14th edition with BuyBust, held on August 4, 2018.
The film grossed $178,471 in the U.S. and Canada, and ₱97 million worldwide.
The film enjoyed good reviews upon its foreign release.Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 82%, with an average rating of 6.5/10, based on 18 reviews from critics. On Metacritic it received "Generally favorable reviews," with an average rating of 68 out of 100 based on 10 reviews. Members of the Cinema Evaluation Board gave the film an "A" grade.
Foreign and domestic critics praised the film for the intensity of its action scenes, commentary on the Philippine Drug War, Anne Curtis' against-type performance, Neil Derrick Bion's cinematography, and Erwin Romulo and Malek Lopez's score. Clarence Tsui, in a positive review for The Hollywood Reporter, described the film as essential viewing on the Philippines where it is "bound to raise a ruckus when it opens" and "likely to captivate audiences". Fred Hawson in ABS-CBN News complimented the film "very badass, very hardcore, yet so engrossing and entertaining", and gave it a score of 9 out of 10. Oggs Cruz of Rappler liked Matti's depiction of violence as an attempt to deliver his political message across, "It isn't just a film to be enjoyed for its stunts and astounding set pieces, thrilling and exquisitely choreographed as they are." Rokey Desingaño in Manila Bulletin complimented BuyBust as "first-rate" and credited it with bringing Philippine action films "to another level".
Some critics were less enthusiastic about the film. Stephanie Mayo gave it 1 out of 5 stars in a pan review for the Daily Tribune, criticizing the repetitiveness of the action whose "speedy editing and the shaky cam prevent you from fully enjoying the gore". Rob Hunter of Film School Rejects was similarly critical of the action, which he felt were "surprisingly dull and repetitive" and "won't impress in their choreography, but worse, they disappoint in their execution". Though he praised Curtis and Brandon Vera, Hunter said the film was "too long, too sloppy, and too underwhelming" in general. Andrew Mack in Screen Anarchy criticized the film's derivative set-up and "awkward and clumsy" action choreography: "All of it feels basic and fundamental at best. Any moments of inspiration or coolness, and there are some, are overwhelmed by mediocre execution." Both Hunter and Mack agree that BuyBust place emphasis on "quantity over quality", with the latter concluding: "While it may deliver in volume it is nothing more than just white noise."
- The Raid, a 2011 Indonesian action film with a similar premise
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5 Best Action Movies in the Phillipines
Filipino people love movies, and they have a succint love for the action movies as well. Phillipines action movies have a different taste and texture as compared to the Westerns. They are more emotional, and the action sequences are much more intricate than a movie from Hollywood. Filipino movies have some great martial arts sequences that set them apart from the Hollywood movies.
Here’s a list of the top Best Action Movies in Phillipines
On the Job is a 2013 Filipino action movie. The movie is one of the few neo-noir movies in Phillipines and has a interesting story line. Two hitmen are temporarily released from prison to carry out political killings. At the same time, two policemen in the city are trying to clean it up of all the drugs and crime. Of course, the four meet in the course of their projects and hell freezes over. The movie has several glorified violence scenes and became popular for its neo-noir dialogue. It stars Gerald Anderson, Joel Torre, Joey Marquez, Angel Aquino and others. On the Job was screened at several Film Festivals, including Cannes. There’s a sequel in the works as well.
The Janitor (2014)
The Janitor is a 2014 movie that takes its inspiration from the real life bank heist that happened in 2011, the Mabuhay Bank Heist. The movie is not just an action thriller, it is also a ‘journey’ and a ‘police procedural’, which has a lone policeman investigating and unraveling truths that have been hidden for years and are yet for all to see. Michael Tuviera directs this action-fest that stars Dennis Trillo, Richard Davao, Dante Rivero and others. Because of the premise, the movie sets up several chase sequences, sudden gunfights and bullets flying one way and the other.
More Popular Phillipines Movies
And if you thought its only Hollywood that takes inspiration from real life crimes and criminals, take a look at Boy Golden. Boy Golden tells the story of Arturo Porcuna, the gangster who rose to fame until he was shot down sometime in 1967. Series based on true crime are grisly and bloody, and Boy Golden doesn’t disappoint. Chito Runo brings this bloody but interesting story to the big screen.
10000 Hours is a searing study of the political climate in Philllipines. The movie takes inspiration from the real life account of the Senator Panfilo Lacson and his escape in 2000 from Phillipines. Along with being an actioner, 10000 Hours is a fantastic emotional ride as well.
Kinatay is a movie with a unique premise. A young man, who is love, takes up a job for $2000, only to find out that the job involves killing a woman. Brilliante Mendoza directs this movie, which stars Coco Martin, Maria Isabel Lopez and others.
These are the top five Filipino action movies in recent times. Think we missed out on some? Want in on more lists like these? Make sure that you bookmark ww.udou.ph. And, don’t forget to tell us in the comments list what you think of the article.
Movies action filipino
A couple days ago I saw an article on the website Philippine Entertainment Portal (PEP) on “Clichés that plague Filipino movies”.
I figured the article is a great starting point to talk about clichés in Filipino movies. Are they good or are they bad for our cinema? Good because it’s what makes Filipino movies what they are. Bad because it’s what makes Filipino movies what they are.
Other than the action movie clichés, you can pretty much spot most of the clichés in any mainstream studio produced movie. It’s unfortunate but nowadays Filmmakers and Film Producers rarely make a Filipino action movie.
Do you know any other Filipino movie clichés that can be included on the list? Most of the clichés on the PEP article are mostly from the 80s – 90s movies and they’re mostly found on mainstream movies. What about clichés found in movies during the last decade, during the 2000s? Also what about clichés found in indie movies? If you do know any, comment below and let the forum know!
Cliche according to Wikipedia is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning, or effect, and even, to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.
A cliché is often a vivid depiction of an abstraction that relies upon analogy or exaggeration for effect, often drawn from everyday experience. Used sparingly, they may succeed, however, the use of a cliché in writing or speech is generally considered a mark of inexperience or a lack of originality.
So hopefully the PEP article on Filipino movie clichés and your subsequent additions to the List of Filipino Movie Clichés will serve as a reference for any filmmaker and screenwriter. They can look at the clichés as something to avoid or take the challenge and look at it as a starting point to re-imagine or re-invent the clichés into something new. And hopefully maybe improve Philippine Cinema.
The collated Filipino movie clichés as stated by various PEP articles (words are from the PEP team, and also from Bong Godinez, Elias Isabelo Salanga and Earl Villanueva):
LATECOMERS: When the kontrabida (bad guys) in the movie decide to wreak havoc, it's always up to the bida (good guys) to solve the problem. The police show up only when the conflict is resolved. Otherwise, there would be no time for the lead stars to shine.
Seen most recently in the Ai-Ai delas Alas, Kris Aquino and Vice Ganda-starrer Sisterakas (2012)
AIRPORT RUSH: The lead star realizes (at the last minute) that she or he is in love with his or her love team partner who happens to be rushing to the airport to leave the country.
Seen in: When I Met U (2009) KC Concepcion's character, wearing a wedding gown, rushes to the airstrip where Richard Gutierrez's pilot character is expected to leave on an airplane.
The Reunion (2012) The lead actors (Enchong Dee, Enrique Gil, Xian Lim and Kean Cipriano) are wearing Avengers costumes as they rush to the airport to allow Enchong's character declare his love for Jessy Mendiola
COMIC RELIEF: The best friend is tasked to provide comic relief in the movie. Oftentimes, she has no back-story and the audience knows practically nothing about her because her screen time is limited to making the leading lady shine.
*There is also a growing trend for the sidekick to be a flamboyant gay character.
Seen in: Eugene Domingo's character in Ai-Ai delas Alas's Ang Tanging Ina series
Joross Gamboa in the Mario Maurer-Erich Gonzales romantic film Suddenly It's Magic (2012)
ABROAD = LIBERATED: The other woman in the story hails from abroad, which explains why she is liberated.
Seen in: Anne Curtis's character in No Other Woman (2011), Solenn Heussaff's character in Seduction (2013)
TOUCH ME NOT: When an action star is fighting the enemy, he is fearless and oblivious to pain. However, when his leading lady is treating his wounds, he keeps on wincing as she wipes away the blood with a cotton ball.
Seen in majority of Pinoy action flicks.
GAGANTI AKO!: In action movies, there is a scene where the bida (hero) grieves over the body of his loved one and in that moment, you know that he vows to exact revenge upon his enemies.
Seen in majority of Pinoy action flicks.
BOTHERSOME DOORS: In horror films, the stars of the movie will have problems opening a door, especially when a fearsome ghost or creature is chasing them.
Seen in Shake, Rattle and Roll films.
JUST ADD WATER: When there is a dramatic scene, there is a need for rain to suddenly appear to amp up the emotional intensity of the moment.
Seen in most drama films.
SERENDIPITY: In romantic movies, the lead actors bump into each other and fall for each other almost instantly. They will see each other again in the most unlikely places.
The characters of Coco Martin and Julia Montes cross paths several times in A Moment in Time (2013).
FILM'S TITLE AS DIALOGUE: This is true especially in action and drama movies. There's a build up involved in carrying out the scene. In drama, the underdog heroine, who is now successful and just a shadow of her old mistreated self, usually issues the line triumphantly against her former tormentors.
But it can also be a pledge or a motivating slogan for the protagonist to rise up to the challenge. Who could ever forget the Megastar Sharon Cuneta saying the line with firm conviction: "Inay, ipinapangako ko, bukas luluhod ang mga tala" from the 1984 film Bukas Luluhodang mga Tala.
When it comes to action movies, the classic scenario is this: the bida complete with a high-caliber ammunition leans on a wall inside an abandoned warehouse or any decrepit building. Doing the same on the other side is the villain, sweating profusely while keeping up his devil-may-care stance. With both men protected by a concrete post, the two toughly exchanged barbs until the bida finally finds the opening to utter the film's title before the bullets fly.
LAST REQUEST: Never disregard the request of a dying person, goes Pinoy custom. In local movies, it is one sure way to drive the character to fulfill a mission. Drama, action and comedy all employ this tried-and-tested formula.
The trio of Randy Santiago, John Estrada and Willie Revillame used this stunt in their comedy film, Pera O Bayong [Not Da TV!] (2000); in the story, Willie, Randy and John are estranged brothers haunted by their long lost, dying grandfather (lolo). The lolo's wish as expressed on his deathbed to a trusted confidant is to find the three so that their inheritance would be given to them. As expected, and after myriad slapstick scenarios, the wish is finally realized with the grandfather's smiling ghost image. Talk about Pinoy humor at its finest moment.
PREGGY KA ‘DAY (I’M PREGNANT): The scene we all know by heart. A young woman is having a meal together with her strict, ultraconservative parents. Suddenly, she flashes a weird expression. Something's wrong with her. She runs to the bathroom or to the kitchen sink and starts throwing up nothing. Stunned, confused and nervous, the poor lady stares blankly, dread written all over her face.
We know, of course, that she's thinking of her boyfriend, who may be a policeman or a jobless siga (hero) in their neighborhood, and their steamy nights together. There were a lot of film scenarios like this, but what quickly comes to mind is the vomiting character of Nora Aunor in the film Atsay (1978 Metro Manila Film Festival).
SELF-REFLECTION: There's this notion that Philippine cinema proudly outgrew soliloquy over the years. Introspection or kinakausap ang sarili, however was quickly picked up and abused on soap operas.
Sigmund Freud himself validates the importance of going deep into one's self for realization and internal discovery. But what makes this scene funny on TV is the booming voice translating the thought with dramatic music in the background.
Every soap-opera luminary has gone through this sappy scenario in one way or another. From Judy Ann Santos to Claudine Barretto to Kristine Hermosa—name it. But as a consolation of sorts, even the Mexican telenovelas run this kind of scene like a worn-out record, perhaps even more frequently than we do. Count how many times Thalia stared into space while her thoughts boom from the TV speakers for us to hear. Throw in her trusted dog Fulgoso who's also an expert in self-reflection..."Pambihira."
PANCIT: Asia's answer to the fancy spaghetti was elevated in local pop culture through the nagging representation used in Philippine cinema. Pancit is a cheap dish easily bought in the street carinderia.
Most of the Pinoy movies tackling a poverty stricken household incorporate pancit to emphasize life's struggles. A working-class father or impoverished mother bringing home a plastic bag full of pancit as pasalubong for their eager children is utterly melodramatic.
And this is where another action movie cliché usually comes in: The whole family is about to devour the sumptuous noodles, and then an owner-type jeepney screeches in front of the little house and the riders pepper it with bullets, killing the entire household except the father who had bought the pancit. Revenge follows next and it has nothing to do with pancit.
SCENIC SING-ALONG: This is the scene that marked the careers of most of our respected actors when they were much younger.
Those of us who grew up watching Filipino films in the ‘80s up to the early ‘90s can definitely relate to the scene wherein the entire cast, marooned together in some resort or beach, gathered for some nice sing-along near the end of the film. Taking the spotlight was the bida (leading man) and his love interest happily singing and dancing while some ongoing funny scenes served as a side story.
This scene, in all fairness, is not a Filipino invention. Hollywood films made use of this formula way, way back. But for some reason, Pinoys adapted the scene, nurtured it as our own and eventually made it a staple in comedy and cheesy teen flicks.
No one was spared. From Dina Bonnevie to Tito, Vic and Joey to Manilyn Reynes to most of the That's Entertainment luminaries—all went through the ritual of donning their best summer attire and lip-synching the movie theme for ultimate entertainment.
When rapper Andrew E. started doing movies in the early ‘90s, this scene was vital in showcasing the prevalent theme of his films: gorgeous bikini-clad girls frolicking in the sand and beach water, their hearts besotted at the sight of an ordinary looking bloke who gave hope to millions of not-so-blessed men through the proverb, "Humanap Ka ng Pangit."
In 2003, young director Quark Henares paid homage, or perhaps mocked, this worn-out scene in the film Keka, showing Katya Santos singing and dancing in the company of her leading men. Sweet.
FILIPINO ACTION MOVIE CLICHES:
THE USUAL PLOT: It's either Revenge or seeking justice and fighting for what is right.
Case in point: A retired or former policeman (the protagonist) lives a quiet and simple life. Suddenly, a leading lady enters the scene. Unfortunately for the good guy, the leading lady attracts not only the hero but the bad guys as well.
TYPICAL SETTINGS AND SET UP FOUND IN FILIPINO ACTION MOVIES: A club, a KTV bar, or a sari-sari store. The bad guys, or goons if you prefer, start harassing the beautiful, sexy leading lady. The protagonist jumps in and starts taking them out one by one (which is odd, by the way, since the goons were practically waiting in line to get their butts kicked even though they outnumber the good guy, 10 to 1).
- This first action sequence is important; it showcases the protagonist’s hand-to-hand fighting style. After the incident, the leading lady falls head over heels for the good guy and the goons report this superman to their boss.
- After the top bad guy receives the news, he proceeds to deliver a message to the good guy’s home by peppering it with bullets, killing his father or mother.
- The good guy cries in the rain (rain adds more drama) and vows revenge. The newfound girlfriend will talk to, or even beg, to discard vengeful thoughts.
- After readying themselves, the good guy and leading lady then carry on to the bad guy’s lair and finish them all! Hurrah!
BIDA (GOOD GUY):
- This is the main character of the movie so it’s imperative that HE should not die (Filipinos love happy endings and it can pave the way for a sequel).
- The looks of this character should be good-looking and can carry a cool swagger.
- The character also has to be polite but should be wisecracker as well (for those comedy moments).
- Whether from the army/police or not, the man knows how to use guns, to the point where he can use it with effectiveness as if each bullet can home in by itself to its enemies.
- Even if the good guy is outnumbered 100 to 1, he still manages to kill everyone (and with style!) in just 6 minutes or less. Thanks to his trusty .45, he downs every goon with precision that can leave real-life snipers awestruck.
- The character’s handgun should also be special because it’s the only gun in the world that can blow up cars, nipa huts, and trees.
- The bad guys, armed with rifles, grenades, and rocket launchers, fail to get bead on the good guy. Even at close range, they hit nothing but dirt. If they however, manage to wound the character, it should be in the arm (preferably on the left because a lot of action stars are right-handed).
THE LEADING LADY:
- Leading ladies should come out of men’s magazines. They should also provide a kind of loving warmth to the bida (leading man) once he experiences his “lost loved one” phase. If the bida is hurt, she provides the first aid. The leading lady should also know how to shoot a gun. If not, then provide the bida with a gun or two.
- The leading lady, more often than not, is usually the reason why the bida got into the bad guy’s hair. Then she will plead to the bida not to go into battle with the bad guys. In some cases, the leading lady will fight alongside the bida.
- By the end of the movie, they kiss and walk away.
THE SIDEKICK: Adding a sidekick to the movie isn’t exactly a requirement, but they add bonuses to the movie. Here are some:
- They provide laughs
- They function as support gun slingers, just in case
- They help the bida get the leading lady
- At times, die in order for the bida to get fired up!
KONTRABIDA (BAD GUY) RULE OF THUMBS:
- The antagonist of the movie should be an older guy; he's rich, so he can afford to hire goons. He should also be ugly of scary-looking, if not, should have a violent temper (anything just to give the leading lady a reason to despise him). Since he's rich, the kontrabida should be a gambler, or heavy smoker, or drinker. These vices add that “I’m very bad” look to his aura.
- The kontrabida is also a loving father as he calls his goons “mga bata.” He provides them with enough gear to start a small war. His fashion sense is notable that in even in midday, he and his goons still wear leather jackets.
- He also lives in a big house, but usually, he settles in an old warehouse, where the final shootout scene would happen.
- The kontrabida comes out to play after all his goons are dead. Fortunately, he has this ability to seriously wound the bida. In hiding, they both find out that they’re at their last ammo clip—which should lead to an exchange of pleasantries between the two of them: “Dudurugin kita! Blah blah blah!” and “Ipaghihiganti ko tatay/nanay/kuya/ate ko! Blah! blah!”
THE POLICE: Who wouldn’t remember the climatic “Huli na ang lahat, no! (everything is too late)” grand entrance of the cops? It never fails. They always come in after the firefight.
- In the commotion, they arrest every person in sight except the bida (shouldn’t the bida also be brought in for questioning as well?). Anyway, they’re a great addition to the final scene as the bida and company walk away and the credits go up.
* I’m including the Filipino Soap opera clichés since they can also sometimes be found in Filipino movies as well.
FILIPINO TV SOAP OPERA CLICHES:
1. Rich boy, Poor Girl: “Langit ka, lupa ako. Magkaiba ang mundo natin!” “Pero mahal kita!” What’s a Pinoy teleserye without love trying to surpass social classes? When the rich señorito falls in love with the poor maid or hacienda worker, expect them to fight against all odds for their love. Another variation of this is the city boy falling for a provincial girl.
2. Amnesia Plot: Just when everything’s going well for the bida, a head bump or a traumatic incident ruins everything, resulting in a complete memory wipeout. This is a convenient way to create additional tension and drama in an already convoluted storyline. Sometimes, a surgical face-copy works too.
3. Kidnapping, Car Chase, Warehouse Scenes: Drama princesses should be action stars too. When your favorite TV drama series is about to reach its conclusion, expect a character to be kidnapped and rescued in an explosive and gun-loaded sequence. The explosives, guns and car crashes are also effective ways of killing off villains.
4. Baby Switching: “Sinong nanay mo?” “Ikaw ako ngayon at ako’y ikaw.” The case of swapped, stolen and misplaced babies/kids is a norm in the teleserye world. The true mother/father/child angle has worked a million times in keeping viewers glued throughout a series’ run. When the bida goes from rags-to-riches, this is an effective way for him/her to exact revenge on those who did him wrong in the past.
5. The Childhood Beginning: Is your favorite actress’ teleserye premiering today and you cannot wait to see her? Better tune in next week because this week is going to be about her character’s childhood. More often than not, the couple in the story already met when they were young kids. As young as they are, they already know that they are soul mates and they promise to love each other when they grow up. The guy usually gives a necklace or bracelet to his beloved. However, circumstances separate the two. When their paths cross again, the boy recognizes the item that he gave to the girl. Don’t worry, it will all come to a wedding ending.
6. Wedding Ending: All the problems in the world vanish once the bida wears her wedding gown and walks down the aisle. This is the end for most teleseryes and if the bride’s mom has a love team partner of her own, expect a double wedding.
7. The Kontrabida (Villain) Delivery: Every kontrabida, especially female ones, has a manner of speaking that’s loaded with stressed syllables or words, almost like joining a declamation or oration contest. Of course, they deliver their lines always with their chins up and eyes squinted. Kontrabidas of yore also had a signature laugh that can strike fear among viewers.
In line with this, why do teleserye characters often talk with their backs to each other? In real life, do people actually talk this way?
8. Bida Suffering: Pinoys love underdogs whom they can root for. Often, the bida is meek and docile and endures the brunt of the villain’s ire. The protagonist usually gets slapped or her hair is pulled by the kontrabida. There will come a point when the bida gains the courage to fight back, much to the delight of her supportive fans.
9. The Boy Shortage: In the teleserye world there is an extreme shortage of eligible bachelors, which is why the bida and kontrabida are always fighting over the same guy.
10. The Missing Link: A diary, last will and testament, DNA test, a video, a photo – there is always that one item that holds the truth about the protagonist. The person/s who know the truth must remain secretive within the series (or the thing should remain hidden), otherwise, there will be no TV series. Some versions tap an identifying lullaby that will jog the memory of the protagonist and remind him/her of childhood.
Here’s the link to the PEP article: http://www.pep.ph/guide/movies/11602/-commentary--clicheacutes-that-plague-filipino-movies
10 Philippine Action Movies You Need to Watch
Many Filipino movies during the late 70s and early 80s received attention overseas, particularly ones that depicted urban life in the country. The quality is seen to have petered out during the late 80s and 90s, as the industry focused more on easy-to-produce popcorn flicks and low budget action fare.
However, over the past decade, Filipino filmmakers have gained access to Hollywood-level budgets, and on the other hand, indie filmmakers have also started making their own mark. This led to a resurgence of quality in the industry, and nowhere is this more apparent than in action movies. If you want a good sampling of quality Philippine Action movies, here are ten films that you need to check out:
10 Funny and Adorable romantic comedies from Thailand.
#1 - On The Job (OTJ)
OTJ tackles the subject of corruption among the police and government officials, with two prisoners serving as the focal points of the narrative: the young hot-blooded Daniel and his mentor-figure partner Mario. Both inmates work as hitmen for hire, and are periodically released from prison in order to perform their hits.
Why You Have to Watch It
- The film is full of twists and turns without losing the plot. Betrayals and sudden reveals occur several times throughout the film.
- OTJ features rom-com actors showing that they will make effective action stars under the right director and script.
- The producers will most likely not admit it out of self-preservation, but the story seems to be based on real people and it shines a light on the corruption and bureaucracy that plagues the Philippines.
- Lots and lots of gunfights that are stylish but aren’t over the top. Coupled with the gritty yet sleek cinematography, the film can be enjoyed as a pure popcorn action flick.
#2 - The Janitor
Based on the bloodiest bank heist in the history of the Philippines, The Janitor delves into the Mabuhay Savings Bank robbery in 2011, which left ten employees dead and more than 10 million pesos stolen from the vaults. The film frames the narrative using an ex-cop who has been ordered to hunt down the perpetrators one by one.
Why You Have to Watch It
- It’s based on a true story, but it doesn’t mean that the action is boring. There are a lot of adrenaline pumping shootouts throughout the film, both in daylight and nighttime.
- The film does not paint everything in black and white: the title “Janitor” refers to the fact that the protagonist is a law enforcer that has been tasked with going beyond the law in order to clean up a messy case, as the people behind the robbery have connections that would otherwise drag influential people down. The film ultimately questions if catching criminals justifies breaking the law itself.
#3 - Mistah
Mistah focuses on a platoon of Filipino soldiers who have been stationed away from their families, as they help fight against fellow countrymen who have chosen to fight against the government as rebels.
Why You Need to Watch It
- If you like military warfare, the film might scratch your itch. It features tons of engagements between the protagonists and the rebel armies, and despite some of the cast members being popular 90s action stars, they have completely toned down the over-the-top acrobatics and gun ballet scenes that defined the 90s.
- The film also tackles the sacrifices that soldiers need to make in order to serve their country, and delves into the conflict between Muslim rebels and Christian soldiers in some parts of the country. This is further made even more interesting by the fact that several of the protagonists are also followers of the Muslim faith themselves.
#4 - Squalor
Also known locally as “Astig,” Squalor focuses on four local tough guys who try to survive hand to mouth, while living in the squalor and cruelty of Manila.
Why You Need to Watch It
- The fight scenes in Squalor are mostly hand to hand, and they’re raw – you won’t see acrobatics or martial arts. Just a bunch of normal men pounding each other with their fists.
- It’s a somewhat exaggerated look at the lives of juvenile delinquents in manila, as well as the men that they eventually grow up into.
#5 - Boy Golden
Boy Golden is a loosely based on the life of Arturo Porcuna, who became one of the most prominent gangsters in Manila’s underworld during the 60s.
Why You Should Watch It
- Don’t let the cheesy looking poster fool you into thinking that this is a low-budget affair. Boy Golden in reality looks like it had the budget to make everything look good. It uses thematic lighting to great effect, and the attention to detail (remember that this is a period piece) in costumes, props, and settings are exceptional.
- It’s a gangster film, so there are lots and lots of gunfights to be had. If you enjoy ambushes and gunfights between rival groups of gangsters, Boy Golden won’t disappoint you.
#6 - 10,000 Hours
Loosely based on the plight of Philippine Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, 10,000 hours tells the story of a senator who was forced to go on the run when his plan to reveal the names of corrupt government officials – which includes the President – were intercepted and his allies assassinated.
Why You Should Watch It
- Ping Lacson’s story is already movie-worthy (he in fact has a movie made about his earlier years as chief of the Philippine National Police), but the film goes one step further as it provides a more action-oriented take on his most recent plight, which indeed implicated high government officials.
- Robin Padilla got his start as an action star, but he has since developed a wide range of acting skills that include comedy and drama. 10,000 hours allows him to showcase both his dramatic acting skills and to return to his roots as an action star.
#7 - Gangland
Gangland focuses on the lives of the teenage gangs that roam the streets of Manila, from their early lives (many of them came from middle class families), to their criminal activities, and even to the day they meet their end.
Why You Need to Watch It
- Gangland was released a full year before The Blair Witch Project made found footage films a genre on its own, but there were already handcam segments in the film, courtesy of some of the main characters holding videocams and choosing to film their exploits.
- Realistic fight scenes. There’s none of the canned punch sounds that have become a staple of action films. The sounds of punches in Gangland are authentic – like pounds of meat hitting the ground. The brutal fight scenes prevent the activities from being glorified or sensationalized, as it is shown the way it truly is: uncomfortable and savage.
#8 - Kinatay
Kinatay is about a young criminology student who finds himself forced to join a crime syndicate in order to earn money for his family.
Why You Need to Watch It
- Despite being a low budget film, the cinematography is excellent. Majority of the film is set at night, but the use of differently-hued lighting prevents visibility from being affected. You can still see everything and understand what is happening.
- There are scenes with gore and violence, but they’re necessary to the story and the camera doesn’t linger if the story doesn’t ask for it.
#9 - Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles
Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles is about a family, their future son-in law and a family friend, who are all trapped in their home as they are laid siege by an entire clan of Aswangs (flesh-eating and shapechanging monsters from Philippine folklore.)
Why You Should Watch It
- It’s got everything you need in a popcorn flick: a thin but enjoyable plot, martial arts, gunfights, scary monsters, a heavy dose of humor that isn’t out of place, and eye candy for both men and women, courtesy of the two lead actors.
- The film uses CG effects to great effect. It doesn’t aim for realism, instead going for a stylish comic-book feel similar to 300.
#10 - Metro Manila
Metro Manila follows family man Oscar Ramirez, who takes his family to Metro Manila in order to escape poverty but ends up falling victim to city con-men. He soon lands a job in an armored truck company, but his senior officer recruits him into a far more lucrative yet illegal opportunity.
Why You Should Watch It
- The visuals in the film are top notch – from the lush greeneries in the province to the dizzying grays of Metro Manila’s urban landscape.
- There’s twists and turns galore, and some really tense moments during the film’s final action scenes.
- Wedding clip art
- Mustang 800 horsepower
- Ttu academic calendar
- Docker hub alpine
- Pioneer plasma display remote
- Fantasy f13
- Grey 60 vanity
- Skip white performance
- Vintage metal letter signs
- Ro lia
- Dirt pan for sale craigslist
- Rectangle super trampoline
During 2020, the Philippine cinematic industry came to a standstill with coronavirus-induced theater and production shutdowns. Despite this, Pinoy films still released before lockdowns started, and graced certain international film festivals and streaming sites afterwards. The 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival also persisted, albeit in a remote format.
Amidst this, you might wonder: what were the Best Pinoy Movies of 2020?
Cinema Escapist’s staff has curated this list of 11 top Filipino films to answer that question. Here, we’ve selected both indie and blockbuster movies across genres like comedy, animation, action, romance, and more. We tried choosing Pinoy movies that are not only entertaining or artistically notable, but also have sociopolitical significance.
Let’s take a glance through 2020’s best Filipino movies!
• • •
Director: MacArthur Alejandre | Starring: Alfred Vargas, Iza Calzado, Shaina Magdayao | Genre: Romance
Directed by MacArthur Alejandre, Tagpuan tells a simple love story that traverses three cities. In the movie, Alfred Vargas and Iza Calzado play an ex-couple from Manila who reunite in New York City after a five year separation. Additionally, Vargas’ character has a liaison with a prostitute in Hong Kong (Shaina Magdayao).
In an interview, director Alejandre explained how the film is meant to “comment on the social and economic forces that shape our reactions to love and relationships.” The film touches upon the struggles of diaspora Filipinos—both immigrants and OFWs—which is especially fitting in a year of travel restrictions and isolation amid COVID-19. Tagpuan was also one of the selections for 2020’s Metro Manila Film Festival, where Shaina Magdayao won an award for Best Supporting Actress.
10. Block Z
Director: Mikhail Red | Starring: Julia Barretto, Joshua Garcia, Ian Veneracion | Genre: Horror, Zombie
2020 was a year of zombie films across Asia, especially with #Alive and Peninsula from South Korea. Pinoy cinema also had its own entrant to this subgenre, Mikhail Red’s Block Z.
Block Z follows a group of university students who try to survive a zombie pandemic in the Philippines. The movie is replete with tension and bloody combat; its agile zombies feel reminiscent of those in 28 Days Later. When Block Z came out in January, some audiences also compared it to international blockbusters like Train to Busan and World War Z.
9. The Boy Foretold by the Stars
Director: Dolly Dulu| Starring: Adrian Lindayag, Keann Johnson | Genre: Romance, Boys’ Love
Besides zombies, 2020 also saw the success of Boys’ Love (BL) media in the Philippines, for example the webseries Gameboys and Gaya Sa Pelikula. The Boy Foretold by the Stars builds upon this trend as the first-ever Pinoy BL feature film.
Those familiar with the BL genre will find that The Boy Foretold by the Stars follows a pretty standard BL template. It has attractive male leads, a Catholic school setting, and teases the audience with romantic tension. Nevertheless, it executes upon the formula well, and offers a refreshingly escapist experience replete with emotion.
Director: Christian Acuña | Starring: Miggs Cuaderno, Elijah Alejo, Princess Aguilar, Josh Eugenio | Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
If you’re looking through escapism through adventure instead of romance, then consider Magikland. This Pinoy fantasy film focuses on four children who are transported to the mystical world of Magikland when they play a mobile game. Once there, they must save Magikland from the evil villain Mogrodo-Or.
Overall, Magikland provides an endearing take on childhood, updated for the modern era. Director Christian Acuña based the world of Magikland on a theme park of the same name in Negros Occidental, but also incorporated mobile gaming mechanics that make the movie feel more dynamic and familiar. As a testament to good worldbuilding, Magikland won the Best Production Design, Best Musical Score, and Best Visual Effects awards at the 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival.
Director: Yam Laranas | Starring: Yam Concepcion, Jeffrey Quizon, Soliman Cruz | Genre: Horror
Fans of horror should look out for Nightshift, the latest film from director Yam Laranas. The movie follows a young woman named Jessie who gets a job as a morgue pathologist’s assistant. On her first day at work, the morgue’s corpses begin to show signs of resurrection—and Jessie learns that she’s entered a macabre world of odd characters that inhabit the borders between life and death.
While there are plenty of Filipino horror films, Nightshift might be the first that’s actually set in a morgue. The film offers surprising insight into some of the details of a pathologist’s life. It also aptly leverages the morgue setting to create a distinctively chilling ambience.
6. Midnight in a Perfect World
Director: Dodo Dayao | Starring: Glaiza De Castro, Jasmin Curtis-Smith, Anthony Falcon | Genre: Horror, Sci-fi, Thriller, Indie
Imagine Manila with an efficient drainage system and smooth transportation infrastructure—welcome to the near future setting of Midnight in a Perfect World. While the Manila of this sci-fi horror thriller film seems utopian on the surface, dark secrets lurk just underneath. In the movie, a group of four youthful friends gets caught in a mysterious blackout, and must battle hidden forces to make it out alive.
Sci-fi indie films aren’t common in the Philippines, so Midnight in a Perfect World already has some novelty value. It’s also a source of blatant social commentary: its near future world contains an authoritarian government prosecuting a brutal war on drugs. With chilling cinematography and sound design on top of all this, Midnight in a Perfect World offers one of the more notable indie members of 2020’s Pinoy film repertoire.
5. Babae at Baril
Director: Rae Red | Starring: Janine Gutierrez, Felix Roco, JC Santos | Genre: Drama, Crime
Though Babae at Baril (also known as The Girl with the Gun in English) technically premiered in 2019, we’re including it in 2020’s list of best Pinoy movies because it enjoyed broader distribution and international attention during the year. During 2020, this indie Filipino movie screened at the New York and Osaka Asian Film Festivals.
Directed by Mikhail Red’s sister Rae Red, Babae at Baril provides a pointed commentary around the status of women in the Philippines. The film centers on a young department woman saleslady who stumbles upon a discarded gun and begins to take revenge for indignities she suffered in an oppressively patriarchal society. Amidst the usual deluge of sappy romance movies in the Philippines, Babae at Baril provides a welcome change that actually empowers its female lead.
To learn more about Babae at Baril, read our interview with director Rae Red!
4. Death of Nintendo
Director: Raya Martin | Starring: Noel Comia Jr., Agot Isidro, Moi Marcampo | Genre: Comedy, Coming-of-Age
If you grew up in the 1990s, then Death of Nintendo may feel satisfyingly familiar. This coming-of-age comedy movie revolves around three teenagers on summer vacation in the 1990s.
With a distinctive retro look and pop-tinged soundtrack, the film offers a charming nostalgia trip through the 90’s, complete with references to Super Mario and Michael Jordan. Beyond nostalgia though, Death of Nintendo also contains a rather nuanced and realistic depiction of how its teenage characters respond to adversity. With screenings at numerous international festivals including the Berlinale, Death of Nintendo is one of the most interesting Filipino indie films of 2020.
3. On Vodka, Beers, and Regrets
Director: Irene Villamor | Starring: Bela Padilla, JC Santos | Genre: Romance
We return to the romance genre with On Vodka, Beers, and Regrets. Given COVID-19 shut down theaters soon after its release, this film was the highest grossing Pinoy movie of 2020.
Bela Padilla and JC Santos headline the film, respectively playing a down-on-her-luck actress and a band frontman. The two leads slowly connect, sharing their life’s tribulations and growing closer through the process. It’s a subtle and beautiful dance of emotions, one that never feels too saccharine nor bleak. Padilla deserves special praise for her performance, which has a level of psychological depth that such romances often lack.
2. Watch List
Director: Ben Rekhi | Starring: Arthur Acuña, Bernard Carritero, Alessandra de Rossi | Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Though Watch List had its festival running starting in 2019, we’re including it on this list because it had a Philippine release in 2020, and is worth highlighting for its sociopolitical relevance.
Amidst the contemporary Philippine Drug War, Watch List centers on a woman named Maria who joins a force of vigilantes after her husband is murdered for being an alleged drug pusher. Though many movies depict the Drug War, Watch List stands out with a humanistic depiction of its characters. Alessandra de Rossi’s performance as Maria feels especially poignant. Instead of relegating herself to the trope of victimhood, she embraces a sense of measured defiance.
Beyond humanism, Watch List is also entertaining. It has a tightly woven plot, a significant degree of suspense, and a compelling underlying moral conflict. This is also a rare Pinoy movie that gained a wide virtual release in the US and other countries during 2020, allowing overseas audiences to get a taste of Filipino stories on the silver screen.
1. Fan Girl
Director: Antoinette Jadaone | Starring: Charlie Dizon, Paulo Avelino | Genre: Coming-of-Age, Drama
Our selection for the very best Pinoy movie of 2020 is Fan Girl. The latest title from director Antoinette Jadaone and Black Sheep Productions, Fan Girl swept 2020’s Metro Manila Film Festival and won eight well-deserved awards. The film focuses on the relationship between a young girl named Jane (Charlie Dizon) and her idol Paulo Avelino (who plays a fictional version of himself).
Jadaone’s movie forces audiences to think about the complexities of fandom culture, as well as their roles and boundaries as fans. While Fan Girl occurs in the Philippines, its story is universal. The film speaks to many different kinds of fans, whether those of singers, artists, filmmakers, athletes, or politicians. Jadaone’s film also gives voice to a group that is often sidelined as hysterical and mindless young girls—when in fact, they are also a new force of social justice—whether through fancams, donations, or mobilizing movements.
Learn more about Fan Girl in our interview with Antoinette Jadaone!
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Want more Filipino films? Check out our lists of the Best Pinoy Movies of 2019 and Best Pinoy Movies of 2018!