This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Thai Movies: Study Thai sitting on your butt…
Watching movies in your target language is a great way to pump up your studies. But if you are new to Thai productions, where do you start? To get suggestions I went to Wise Kwai’s Thai Film Journal. In his sidebar is a list of his top ten favourite movies. And as a bonus, the Wise Kwai sent over five more to sample.
Also included in this post are suggestions from twitter. And, as one can never have enough movies, I’d like to hear from readers too. I’m especially interested in Thai history but modern subjects are equally welcome.
Note: If you are buying movies at ethaicd.com check to make sure the movie I’ve linked is in your format of choice (sometimes I went with DVD, other times VCD). Also, a couple of the movies are not available for purchase at ethaicd.com but I did manage to find a few on YouTube.
If you are looking for a good resource to learn Thai online, check out Learn Thai from a White Guy. Upon entering your email, you'll get five free lessons to help you start learning to read Thai.
Wise Kwai’s top 10 Thai films…
1. Tears of the Black Tiger | ฟ้าทะลายโจร
wikipedia: Tears of the Black Tiger (Thai: ฟ้าทะลายโจร, or Fa Thalai Chon, literally, “the heavens strike the thief”) is a 2000 Thai western film written and directed by Wisit Sasanatieng. The story of a tragic romance between Dum, a fatalistic, working-class hero, who has become an outlaw, and Rumpoey, the upper-class daughter of a provincial governor, it is equal parts homage to and parody of Thai action films and romantic melodramas of the 1950s and 1960s.
Wise Kwai: Thai Film Archive celebrates 10 years of Tears of the Black Tiger
YouTube trailer: Tears of the Black Tiger
ethaicd.com: Tears of the Black Tiger
2. Monrak Transistor | มนต์รักทรานซิสเตอร์
wikipedia: Monrak Transistor (Thai: มนต์รักทรานซิสเตอร์, English: Transistor Love Story) is a 2001 Thai film directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. Blending several genres, including comedy, romance, musical and crime, it is the story of a young man named Pan and his odyssey after he goes AWOL from the army and tries to make it as a luk thung singing star.
3. Citizen Dog | หมานคร
wikipedia: Citizen Dog (Thai: Mah Nakorn, หมานคร, IPA: [mǎːnákʰɔːn], RTGS: Ma Nakhon) is a 2004 Thai romance film, directed by Wisit Sasanatieng and based on a story by Wisit’s wife, Koynuch (Siriphan Techajindawong), which was illustrated by him. The second film by the director of Tears of the Black Tiger, it is a colorful story set in contemporary Bangkok, where a boy (Pod) without a goal in life falls in love with a girl (Jin) who lives for her dreams.
4. Last Life in the Universe | เรื่องรัก น้อยนิด มหาศาล
wikipedia: Last Life in the Universe (Thai title: เรื่องรัก น้อยนิด มหาศาล, Ruang rak noi nid mahasan) is a 2003 Thai film directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. The film is notable for being trilingual; the two main characters flit from Thai to Japanese to English as their vocabulary requires.
Kenji is a lonely librarian in the Japan Foundation in Bangkok. Living in an apartment full of precise stacks of books, his half-hearted attempts to kill himself are continually interrupted by the people around him.
5. Syndromes and a Century | แสงศตวรรษ
wikipedia: Syndromes and a Century (Thai: แสงศตวรรษ saeng satawǎat, literally Light of the Century) is a 2006 Thai drama film written and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The film was among the works commissioned for Peter Sellars’ New Crowned Hope festival in Vienna to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It premiered on August 30, 2006 at the 63rd Venice Film Festival.
The film is a tribute to the director’s parents and is divided into two parts, with the characters and dialogue in the second half essentially the same as the first, but the settings and outcome of the stories are different. The first part is set in a hospital in rural Thailand, while the second half is set in a Bangkok medical center. “The film is about transformation, about how people transform themselves for the better,” Apichatpong said in an interview.
Wise Kwai: Review: Syndromes and a Century: Thailand’s Edition
YouTube trailer: Syndromes And A Century
YouTube playlist (10 videos): Sang sattawat
6. Puen Pang | เพื่อน-แพง
wikipedia: Puen Pang (1987), about two sisters in love with the same man.
Wise Kwai: Cherd Songsri Retrospective review: Puen Pang
YouTube playlist (6 videos): Puen Pang (no longer online)
7. 6ixtynin9 | เรื่องตลก 69
wikipedia: Ruang Talok 69 (Thai: เรื่องตลก 69, English: 6ixtynin9 or A Funny Story About 6 and 9), is a 1999 Thai crime film written and directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. It is the second feature film by the Thai writer-director. It stars Lalita Panyopas, a popular star of Thai soap operas.
8. 13 Beloved | 13 เกมสยอง
wikipedia: 13 Beloved (Thai: 13 เกมสยอง or 13 Game Sayong, also 13: Game of Death) is a 2006 Thai horror comedy/psychological thriller film written and directed by Chukiat Sakveerakul and starring Krissada Sukosol Clapp. The story, about a man who is led through progressively challenging, degrading, and dangerous stunts by mysterious callers from an underground reality game show, is adapted from the 13th Quiz Show episode in the My Mania comic-book series by Eakasit Thairaat.
9. Ong-Bak | องค์บาก
wikipedia: Ong-Bak 3 (Thai: องค์บาก 3) is a 2010 Thai martial arts film directed, produced and written by Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai. The film’s story is a follow-up to Ong Bak 2, where Tien (Tony Jaa) is brutally beaten before being put to death by Lord Rajasena (Sarunyu Wongkrajang)’s men. His body is recovered by his Master Bua (Nirut Sirijanya) who revives him. When Tien returns to his village, he finds it taken over by Bhuti Sangkha (Dan Chupong).
10. Ai-Fak | ไอ้ฟัก
wikipedia: Ai-Fak (Thai: ไอ้ฟัก) is a 2004 Thai drama film. It is based on the S.E.A. Write Award-winning novel by Chart Korbjitti, Khamphiphaksa (The Judgment, also the English-language title for the film).
A young man, Fak, is a revered novice Buddhist monk, and the entire village has turned out to the local temple to hear him preach a sermon. Fak’s talk is interrupted a coughing fit by his widower father, though, and Fak struggles to maintain his focus. Fak then decides he must put aside his aspirations for monkhood to take care of his father. Then he is conscripted by lottery into the army.
Thai movies: extras…
As a bonus, Wise Kwaii suggested five more movies to add to the collection:
Khan Kluay | ก้านกล้วย
wikipedia: Khan Kluay (Thai: ก้านกล้วย; RTGS: Kan Kluai; pronounced [kâːn klûai]) is a 2006 Thai computer-animated feature film set during Ayutthaya-era Siam about an elephant who wanders away from his mother and eventually becomes the war elephant for King Naresuan.
The Elephant Keeper | คนเลี้ยงช้าง
wikipedia: Most of Chatrichalerm’s films have some kind of social message, such as the downside of prostitution (Hotel Angel, 1974), teenage sex and delinquency (Daughter and Daughter 2), protecting the environment (The Elephant Keeper, 1987), or the evils of the drug trade (Powder Road, 1991).
The Legend of Suriyothai | สุริโยไท
wikipedia: The Legend of Suriyothai is a 2001 Thai film directed by Chatrichalerm Yukol, telling the story of Queen Suriyothai, who died in a battle in 1548 (the Burmese–Siamese War of 1548) against Burmese invaders. In the film, Queen Suriyothai takes her battle elephant in front of the Burmese army and sacrifices herself to save the life of her king Maha Chakkraphat and his kingdom.
Fan Chan (my girl) | แฟนฉัน
wikipedia: Fan Chan (Thai: แฟนฉัน, English: My Girl) is a 2003 Thai romantic film offering a nostalgic look back at the childhood friendship of a boy and girl growing up in a small town in Thailand in the 1980s.
Nang Nak | นางนาก
wikipedia: Nang Nak (Thai: นางนาก) is a romantic tragedy and horror film directed by Nonzee Nimibutr in 1999 through Buddy Film and Video Production Co. in Thailand, based on a legend. It features the life of a devoted ghost wife and the unsuspecting husband.
And even more Thai movies…
Awhile back I asked those on twitter to suggest favourite Thai movies. Below is the response:
Fun Bar Karaoke | ฝันบ้าคาราโอเกะ
wikipedia: Fun Bar Karaoke (Thai: ฝันบ้าคาราโอเกะ or Fan ba karaoke, literally “dream crazy karaoke”) is a 1997 crime-comedy directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. The film had its world premiere at the 1997 Berlin Film Festival for which Pen-Ek was credited as “Tom Pannet”.
Dear Galileo | หนีตามกาลิเลโอ
asianwiki: A story of two Thai girls nicknamed Cherry and Noon who plan to backpack to Europe for a year. They took off for reasons totally understandable for most teenagers, but unfathomable to adults.
Bang Rajan 2 | บางระจัน 2
wikipedia: Bang Rajan (Thai: บางระจัน) is a 2000 Thai historical drama film depicting the battles of the Siamese village of Bang Rajan against the Burmese invaders in 1767, as remembered in popular Thai culture. Cross-checking the story with the events reported by the Burmese sources indicates that the purported events at Bang Rajan are likely a merger of at least two independent events that took place in the war.
The King Maker | กบฎ ท้าวศรีสุดาจัน
wikipedia: The King Maker (Thai: กบฎท้าวศรีสุดาจันทร์, or The Rebellion of Queen Sudachan, is a 2005 Thai historical drama film set during the Ayutthaya kingdom. With a storyline that shares many similarities to 2001’s The Legend of Suriyothai, The King Maker’s plot focuses on a Portuguese mercenary (Gary Stretch) in the service of the Siamese court.
King Naresuan: Episode 1+2 | ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราช ภาค 1 องค์ประกันหงสา 2 ประกาศอิสรภาพ
wikipedia: The Legend of King Naresuan (Thai: ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราช, Tamnan Somdej Phra Naresuan Maharaj) is a Thai biographical historical drama film about King Naresuan the Great, who ruled Siam from 1590 until his death in 1605.
Seasons Change | เพราะอากาศเปลี่ยนแปลงบ่อย
wikipedia: Seasons Change (Thai: เพราะอากาศเปลี่ยนแปลงบ่อย, or Phror arkad plian plang boi) is 2006 Thai romantic comedy film directed by Nithiwat Tharathorn.
The story takes place at the College of Music, Mahidol University over one year and covers the three seasons that Bangkok typically experiences – summer, winter and monsoon. It chronicles the life of a young high school student, Pom, and his impulsive decision to attend a music school, unknown to his parents, because of a girl he has secretly liked for three years, Dao.
Queens of Langkasuka | ปืนใหญ่จอมสลัด
wikipedia: Queens of Langkasuka (Thai: ปืนใหญ่จอมสลัด, Puen yai jom salad) is a 2008 Thai historical fantasy adventure film directed by Nonzee Nimibutr, and written by two-time S.E.A. Write Award winner Win Lyovarin. Known as “Pirates Of Langkasuka” in the UK and as “Legend of the Tsunami Warrior” in the US.
Wise Kwai: Review: Queens of Langkasuka (Puen Yai Jome Salad)
YouTube trailer: Queens of Langkasuka
ethaicd.com: Queens of Langkasuka
Talking about Thai movies…
If you are hungry for even more Thai movies, here’s a few resources:
Wise Kwai: Top 10 Thai films of the 2000s
thailandqa.com: What’s your favourite Thai movie of all time
cnngo.com: Cannes Film Festival: 12 Thai films that wowed in Europe
cnngo.com: The best films and greatest actors from Thai cinema
thaiworldview.com: Thai historical movies
NOTE: Apologies if any of the videos are missing. When people get banned on YouTube all of their videos disappear (legit or not). Every so often I check through posts but after six years there’s just too many to keep up with. So please do drop me a line if that happens to any of the movies above.
Now over to you. What are your favourite Thai movies to date?