For decades, China was a bit of a niche market for cinema in the eyes of Hollywood, but things changed dramatically at the start of the 21st century. Chinese-made films were starting to earn big numbers at the box office domestically, with many even making their way into the west. The reverse has also been true, with Hollywood movies earning more in China starting in the 2000s.
Films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, along with the “Transformers” and “Fast and Furious” franchises, have done extremely well in China. However, it’s some of the homegrown films that have stood out as the highest-grossing in the country’s history. Here are the five highest grossing movies in Chinese history with a little bit of background on how they came to be and how much money they pulled in.
The Battle at Lake Changjin
Sitting at the top of the list of highest-grossing films in China is “The Battle at Lake Changjin”, released in 2021 and written by Lan Xiaolong and Huang Jianxin. This film follows the dramatized events of the real-life Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in the midst of the Korean War. It had a budget of $200 million and earned a whopping $913 million worldwide, the second-highest-earning film in 2021 and the highest-earning film of all time in China.
Wolf Warrior 2
Released in the summer of 2017, “Wolf Warrior 2” is the second-highest-earning film of all time in China. This action-packed film is directed by Wu Jing, who also co-produced, co-wrote, and stars in the movie. The movie follows the adventures of Jing’s character Leng Feng, a Chinese soldier who doesn’t play by the rules.
In this sequel to the first “Wolf Warrior” that came out in 2015, Feng must protect himself and those around him as he makes his way through an unknown location in Africa that’s being attacked by mercenaries and Somalian pirates. The film had a budget of $30.1 million and earned an incredible $874 million.
“Hi, Mom” is a Chinese comedy released in February of 2021. It was written and directed by Jia Ling, who also stars in the movie. The film’s budget was $59 million and it earned $850 million, making it the third-highest-earning film in China.
The film follows Ling’s character Jia Xiaoling transported back in time to the 1980s, twenty years prior to her mother’s fatal car accident. She does her best to befriend her mother in hopes of redeeming herself, feeling she hasn’t been a good enough daughter to her mother. She attempts to alter the course of history to give her mother a better life than she has in her future.
Ne Zha, also spelled Nezha, was released in 2019 and is the fourth highest-earning Chinese film in history and the only 3D animated film on our list. The action-packed film had a budget of $20 million and earned an astounding $742.5 million. It follows the intriguing journey of Ne Zha, born with a demonic nature from the Demon Orb, having been told he is full of good and was born of the Spirit Pearl.
The Wandering Earth
“The Wandering Earth” is a Chinese sci-fi film released in 2019, directed by Frant Gwo. The film has a $50 million budget and earned $700 million, making it the fifth highest-earning Chinese film of all time.
The intense sci-fi film takes place in the year 2061, when a global crisis takes place. The sun is dying and ready to form a red giant that will destroy the earth and everything that inhabits it. Scientists come up with a plan to relocate Earth to another solar system in an attempt to save it. The sequel, “The Wandering Earth 2”, was subsequently announced after the first film’s success and given a 2023 release date.