5 Influential Local Movies

5 Influential Local Movies

With Singapore scooping home four Golden Horse awards recently; local films are slowly gaining a following beyond our shores. But, how well do you know your movies? And more importantly, what constitutes as a quintessential Singapore movie? 


Singaporean director Anthony Chen and team swept up four Golden Horse awards!
Photo sourced from channelnewsasia.com

While we brought you the hottest actresses and directors that Singapore has to offer, it is still a chore to sieve through their cinematic works. Hence, we decided to save you the trouble by picking out five timeless local films that everyone should watch. 

Whether be it for your own consumption or simply just a recommendation for overseas friends, we are confident that these landmark movies will pack as much of a punch now as when they first debuted. So without further ado, here are our local cinematic picks!     

Ilo Ilo (2013)


Photo sourced from westminster.ac.uk

Can up-and-rising local director Anthony Chen do any wrong at the moment? After conquering France and bringing home the Cannes Film Festival’s Caméra d’Or, Chen’s first feature Ilo Ilo garnered a historic win at the Golden Horse Awards. As the first Singaporean production to win four prestigious awards at the Asian equivalent of the Oscars, the honest heart-warming tale of a Singaporean family and their Filipino domestic helper has struck a chord in the greater Chinese region.


Chen directs the heart-warming Ilo Ilo, a tale of a Singapore family and their helper
Photos sourced from sindie.sg and straitstimes.com

With over 20 awards to Ilo Ilo’s name, it is no wonder that Chen sees his cinematic effort as a sign of our maturing cinema scene. Having signed with Hollywood management agency UTA, Chen is looking to the West for his next project. Regardless, the days of the modest local director finding only S$250 in his bank account look to be over!

15 (2003)


Stare hard at the interesting lives of three real-life delinquents!
Photos sourced from imdb.com and directorsnotes.com

Expanded from a short film, 15 tell the tale of three teenage gangsters in Singapore. As one of the select few local films to briefly feature full-frontal nudity, 15 launched the iconic career of local director Royston Tan. Known for his gritty portrayal of the Singapore heartlands, Tan kept the film as close to reality by recruiting real-life delinquents as his leads. He also made it a point not to script the movie so as to capture the essence of their lifestyle.   


Local boys just having fun!
Photo sourced from directorsnotes.com

Although it was a hit in foreign film festivals, 15 was initially banned in Singapore due to its strong language and graphic scenes. After being forced to make 27 cuts, Tan’s film was finally screened as a R21 film. Subsequently, it paved the way for the young director to make his wildly successful Getai musical movie 881.

Money No Enough (1998)


Photo sourced from en.wikipedia.org and krisandro.com

Touted as the landmark production that revived our ailing film industry, Money No Enough is a 1998 comedy movie that catapulted actors Jack Neo, Mark Lee and Henry Thia to stardom. Earning over S$5.8 million dollars, the relatable underdog story of three friends overcoming financial difficulties to start a successful business clearly resonated with local audiences.

While Neo wrote and starred in the light-hearted production, it was only after Money No Enough that he decided to take up the directing reins. Neo has since written himself into Singapore film history with his brand of heartland movies such as Liang Popo: The Movie, I Not Stupid and Ah Boys to Men.

The Teenage Textbook Movie (1998)


The coming-of-age story that every local 90s’ kid remembers: The Teenage Textbook Movie
Photos sourced from sinema.sg and mubi.com

Based on local author Adrian Tan’s novel, The Teenage Textbook Movie is essentially the coming-of-age story of four junior college students. Starring household names like Melody Chan, Steven Lim and Darryl David, the English language movie was the first production to have a truly local soundtrack.

Home-grown radio personality and artist John Klass wrote key movie tracks like Falling in Love, No More Tears and When Things Seem So Wrong. It proved to be a hit as it topped the Singapore box office for a month!

12 Storeys (1997) 


There is plenty of local drama in Eric Khoo’s 12 Storeys!
Photos sourced from latitudes.nu and is.asia-city.com

The sophomore feature effort of local auteur Eric Khoo, 12 Storeys revolves round the heartland stories encapsulated within a Housing Development Board (HDB) block. Inspired by American director Martin Scorsese, Khoo managed to capture the lesser known side of Singapore through the tale of four dysfunctional families. 

It was in 12 Storeys that local actor and future director, Jack Neo made his first foray into feature films. The local film was also the first to be invited for a screening at the Cannes Film Festival! An influential figure in Singapore cinema, Khoo would go on to start up his own production company and foster other local directors such as Royston Tan.

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