Mainland China gets a pretty bad rap when it comes to sexiness, with more of a reputation for smog than sensuality. Even in the world of Chinese film, Hong Kong gets to claim all the smouldering Wong Kar-wai movies and notorious stars, while the Mainland gets censorship and depressing dramas about historical massacres. Is that really the case, though? We think not. From banned bad boy directors to smash-hit romantic comedies, there are plenty of Mainland movies that are more than capable of getting you hot and bothered.
These are definitely the films to turn the heat up a notch on date night. Netflix and chill? That's so boringly Western.
Feng Xiaogang, Mainland 2008
I am totally the one
Chaste by modern Western standards, this romantic comedy may be ostensibly focused on true love but still packs in the bawdy jokes and eye candy. The film's unabashed romanticism caters to women, while its casting seems more motivated by the male gaze. While lead Ge You gives a great performance, let's just say that physically he's a niche taste.
We would've been happy to show you the trailer, only, well it's just that some do-gooder went to all the trouble of making this magnificent highlights montage accompanied by 'How to Save a Life' by The Fray, so of course we have to show you that.
Watch the highlights montage for If You Are the One [VPNs on].
Chen Kaige, Mainland 1993
Chen Kaige's Palme d'Or-winning classic is so revered for its mix of epic historical tragedy, personal suffering and on-offstage identity crises that it's easy to forget that the film's also a portrayal of seething, smouldering desire, both realised and not. The film often equates sex and suffering, but it's hard not to swoon at the very idea of Leslie Cheung and Gong Li as romantic rivals.
Watch the trailer for Farewell my Concubine [VPNs on].
Zhou Xiaowen, Mainland 1994
A young rural woman with an impotent older husband embraces China's newfound capitalist values in the hopes of showing up her neighbour's wife in this wry satire. Sure, there may be something sexy about money and extramarital affairs, but this movie knows where it's really at: noodles. No, seriously – the main character works out her libidinal frustration with some noodle-making action that's the most sexual approach to food this side of Tampopo.
See? Sexy plus noodle is a thing
Zhang Yuan, Mainland 1996
Plenty of films play up being banned in China as an overseas sales tactic, but East Palace, West Palace is the real deal – not only did director Zhang Yuan get his passport confiscated for it, but the film prompted the Film Bureau to formally outlaw unauthorised production. It's not hard to understand why. Through the story of a gay writer undergoing an all-night interrogation by a handsome cop, the movie lays out the relationship between state and subject as essentially sadomasochistic.
Johnnie To, Mainland 2015
This one is for anybody who's ever considered a workplace affair. To's odd beast of a musical rises above its bland score thanks to an inspired set and some bravura film-making, all in the purpose of exposing the tension and passions roiling beneath the white-collar office world. Considering the cast includes Tang Wei, Chow Yun-Fat and Sylvia Chang, we just wonder how such an attractive workforce ended up at one company.
Watch the trailer for Office [VPNs on].
Wang Xiaoshuai, Mainland 1994
Sure, Wang's micro-budget debut film is all about the slow, agonising death of a marriage, but the films kicks off on a note that belies the anti-romanticism to come. For a full five minutes, it opens with a sustained, languorous sex scene between its two leads, the kind of thing that makes you question why you need to go outside at all when you have another person in bed with you. No trailer for you. (Sorry.)
Lou Ye, Mainland 2009
The Sixth Generation really isn't sexy. The indie film movement's often grubby style and focus on modern China's problems are more likely to make you depressed than aroused. Lou Ye, however, is the big exception. Nowhere is his mix of dreamy, elliptical style and explicit sex more steamy than in this portrayal of nihilistic flings both gay and straight. You'd need a diagram to properly untangle both the characters' bodies and complicated, overlapping relationships.
Watch the trailer for Spring Fever [VPNs on].
So there you have it. Seven steamers to get you in the zone. And while we're at it, here's a list of Chinese cinema's best soundtracks – or your new sex mix, as it'll now be known.