Throw in a compelling storyline, a line of well-known cast of actors and actresses, stunning cinematography and you have a winning movie. This may sound like the recipe to a box office breaker but there are more elements behind it that would make it resonate with the local audience.
One of the winning factors would then be something which the audience members can actually relate to, and of course tug at their heartstrings enough that they would head straight to social media to give their two (positive) cents about the film.
Here are 10 Malaysian movies, in no particular order, that has our heart swelling with pride. Regardless of the era that they are set in, or languages that they are portrayed in, these films speak for themselves and are on a whole other caliber.
1. Ombak Rindu
Ombak Rindu is a story about love and courage. The plot centres around protagonists Izzah and Hariz who come from opposite backgrounds. Izzah comes from poor familial backgrounds and was sold by her uncle into prostitution.
Hariz comes from a well-to-do background and he buys Izzah out from her dire circumstances. The story of Izzah and Hariz goes through many ups and downs, and Ombak Rindu earned several awards inclusive of best actress for Maya Karin and best cinematography for Khalid Zakaria.
Papadom is a heartwarming story about a father and a daughter and this is the winning element of the story which has earned them a total of 10 nominations and won at the 22nd Malaysian Film Festival. Saadom had promised his late wife that he would care for their daughter Mia to the best of his capabilities.
He pours out his heart and soul caring for the child in order to fulfill his promise. Saadom is met by a conundrum later on when Mia finally blossoms into a young lady and prepares to leave for university, for he fears that he could no longer fulfill this promise.
Susuk is a horror film that tells the tale of a nurse who dreams of bigger ambitions in order to become a film star. When at first she does not succeed, she soon delves into the spell of susuk keramat, which is an item worn or eaten that can help to make one appear better looking, braver and more loved.
Her life soon parallels with Suzana who is a long time practitioner of black arts and the entire movie essentially revolves around susuk and how it impacts the lives of both women. Susuk earned the best poster and best sound effect award at the 21st Malaysian Film Festival.
4. The Journey
The Journey is best known for its spellbinding cinematography but the storyline itself is one that will definitely bring tears to your eyes. It follows the journey of Bee and Benji who met while Bee studied overseas in England. Bee comes from a traditional familial background and her father, Uncle Chuan is one who is rooted in his ways.
The movie shows how Uncle Chuan and Benji bond with each other when they embark on a journey to personally deliver wedding invitations to the bridal guests. The plot, the amazing scenic views, the music and the characters are bound to touch any Malaysian heart. And it did. Malaysians were raving about this movie when it was released and The Journey earned a box office success of over RM17 million, close to 6 times its original budget of RM3 million.
5. Girlfriend Kontrak
Alisa, the protagonist of the film wants to save her village from having their endangered fireflies be wiped out. This happens when Umar, a wealthy land development company owner threatens to demolish the habitat of the fireflies. She winds up signing a contract to become Umar’s contract girlfriend in order to save the fireflies in Kuala Selangor.
It is a RM3000 per week agreement as stated in the movie poster and the premise of the film alone is an alluring one, what more with it having a cast comprising of the likes of Keith Foo and Bront Palarae, who plays Rahman in another local hit, Ola Bola. Some reviews claim that this movie reminds them of a Malaysian version of “50 Shades Of Grey” due to the tense sexual tension between the main characters. If you love romantic comedies and chick-lit, this is a Malaysian movie for you.
Sepet, directed by the late legend Yasmin Ahmad, is one of Malaysia’s gems and Yasmin was known for her cinematographic films that has a compelling storyline behind it. Sepet tells the story of a Chinese boy, Ah Loong and a Malay girl, Orked. The story of Ah Loong is enough to make romantics fall in love with his character.
He sells unlicensed DVDs but his hidden hobby is reading writing poetry. Orked chances upon Ah Loong’s stall as she is looking for a certain film and love soon blossoms between the pair but they are met with racial pressures. Sepet earned international awards inclusive of those from France and Tokyo.
7. Puteri Gunung Ledang
Reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, this tale set in the periodic era also revolves around forbidden love. Puteri Gunung Ledang tells the story of a princess who lives on the top of the Ledang mountain. The Sultan of Malacca is the one which she is paired with but she falls in love instead with a Malaccan warrior and a figure most Malaysians would be familiar with, which is Hang Tuah.
Puteri Gunung Ledang was Malaysia’s entry for the 2004 Academy awards, and has won a slew of other awards inclusive of Best Actress for Tiara Jacquelina who played the role of the princess, and Best Music Score for songs like Asmaradana.
8. The Malay Chronicles: Bloodline
Also known as Clash of Empires or Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, this is another film which is set in the periodic era and comprises of many cultures, inclusive of ancient Malay, Roman and Chinese civilisations. The aim of the film is an educational one, which is to introduce the Malaysian culture to international audiences. The film is screened worldwide to 69 countries and grossed RM6.3 million at the box office.
9. Nasi Lemak 2.0
Nasi Lemak 2.0 is the brainchild of Wee Meng Chee, better known as Namewee and it is only apt that he stars in the movie as well. The film is about a young chef called Huang Da Xia who is struggling as a restaurateur but at the same time is applauded by the community for his good deeds in helping the community. Huang embarks on a culinary journey to learn how to cook the best Chinese dish for a competition and along the way, he meets many local heroes who will change his life.
The film is the first to portray all 3 main races in Malaysia as the starring roles and even with a low budget of below RM1 million to film the movie, Namewee managed to rake in RM7 million for the box office sales of Nasi Lemak 2.0. Some of the prominent cast members include Afdlin Shauki, Reshmonu and Dennis Lau. This movie is without its controversies, but even so, this is one that you should most definitely watch, thanks to its humour and stereotypes that are so very Malaysian.
10. Ice Kacang Puppy Love
Set in the 1980s, Ice Kacang Puppy Love is a feel-good movie about two childhood friends who grew up together and the boy, Botak, who has always harboured a crush on the girl, Fighting Fish.
The film drew audience members due to its sweet storyline and also a good cast lineup including Ah Niu, Gary Chaw and Angelica Lee. Ice Kacang Puppy Love won five awards inclusive of Best Movie, Best Actress and Best Art Design at the Golden Wau Awards, a Chinese language film award. You might want to prepare some tissues for this movie, the climax is a heart-breaking one.
11. Ola Bola
Ola Bola is a recent local movie highlighting football in our country’s glory days. Set in the 1970-1980 era, it showed the Harimau Malaya team’s struggles and strengths both on and off the field. Directed by the same forces behind The Journey, Ola Bola had a winning storyline that impacted netizens and earned rave reviews on social media. This worked in Ola Bola’s benefit for word of mouth alone helped leverage their movie sales and within 13 days of release, Ola Bola earned RM8 million in sales.
There are a host of other Malaysian movies that deserve a mention as well, for the way they put our country at the forefront of the entertainment industry. If we missed any noteworthy Malaysian movies, let us know in the comment section!