7 Malaysian Movies To Watch

30 November 2015

Renowned Malaysian film critic Hassan Muthalib reminds us that Malaysian cinema does have something to offer.

There is no shortage of Malaysian cinematic talent. There are household names like P. Ramlee and Saloma, for example. In the last two decades, M. Nasir stole the screen in Saw Teong Hin’s theatrical hit Puteri Gunung Ledang and Sharifah Amani won hearts in Yasmin Ahmad’s romantic comedy drama Sepet (both were released in 2004). Even as recently as 2012, Malaysia entered it’s own award winning Bunohan (directed by Dain Iskandar Said) at the 85th Academy Awards under the Best Foreign Language category.

But lately, Malaysian cinema seems to be flooded with formulaic entries that only leave viewers wanting more – more depth, more plot, more heart. “Real cinema has something to say about society, about real people and needs to show the culture of Malaysia,” explained Hassan. “I’m always interested in cinema, which has been eluding us for a long time, but we have yet to develop a Malaysian cinema. We have some mainstream films catering for the local class but they are cheaply made and solely to entertain - not worth watching at all. Every year we may have 3 or 4 that stand out.” But they slip unnoticed unless you’re following the industry carefully. Here are a few that Hassan thinks are worth your attention.


Note: some may not have English subtitles


Estet (2010)                         

Director: Mamat Khalid               

Genre: Comedy

Set in a rubber plantation called Cinta Manis, Farid must win a football match to win the hand of Geetha, the “villainous” estate owner’s daughter. Classic Mamat Khalid humour, with some hilarious scenes. Several reviews say this is not his best work but it is entertaining nonetheless. 


Jalan Pintas (2011)                       

Director: Nam Ron            

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Follows the story of Bakar, a young man who finds it difficult to make a living in the city while supporting his family back in the countryside. This movie wasn’t shown in cinemas because of its political intent and associations. For it to be released on the big screen, there was talk of cutting at least 18 scenes! 


Sini Ada Hantu (2012)      

Director: James Lee                     

Genre: Horror/Comedy

 Ah Meng and Bakri tell each other Malay ghost stories to pass the time on a long drive delivering the body of a deceased man in a large wooden coffin. Fun fact: James Lee recently won 7 awards at the Gong Creative Circle Awards for his latest short film called Last Day of School


Psiko: Pencuri Hati (2013)          

Director: Nam Ron            

Genre: Thriller        

Thriller novelist O.Sidi is trying to finish his latest novel Mangsa and becomes obsessed with a series of murders that have been occurring in the city. Sidi slips into a manic-depressive state, which prompts his friend to take him to an island resort where he meets Dr. Khai and his wife Wani. Psiko was nominated for and won several awards in 2014. 


Cuak (2014)                                                                                    

Directors: Khairil M. Bahar, Lim Benji, Manesh Nesaratnam, Shamaine Othman, Tony Pietra           

Genre: Romance/Drama             

Adam is about to get married and the story follows his “second thoughts” in a series of flashbacks. Did he make the right decision? Each segment of the story is told by a different director to reflect a key experience in the main character’s life. Whether you view >Cuak as a landmark Malaysian movie or a filmmaker’s experiment, these directors show us a new way to tell a story.  


Apokalips X (2014)            

Director: Mamat Khalid               

Genre: Futuristic Fantasy

 Apokalips X is a fantasy film set in a futuristic world destroyed by chemical warfare. The story tells of rival tribes fighting to gain control over what is left of the human race. It’s the first Malaysian fantasy movie that is visually appealing and professionally shot for its genre. 


Nota (2015)                         

Director: Yasau Tanaka              

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Kamal and Erin go on holiday to Bako National Park in Sarawak for their 10th anniversary. Erin hopes their time will together will help save their marriage but she finds a note Kamal has written with the intent to end their marriage, which leads her to plan Kamal’s suicide using the note as an alibi.  


Hassan Muthalib has dedicated more than 50 years to the Malaysian film industry. A self-taught artist, designer, animator, film director and writer, his love of cinema continues to drive his interest. He has won many awards including a special award presented by the Prime Minister naming him the Father of Malaysian Animation in 2013. He recently released a book analyzing the history of Malaysian cinema called  Malaysian Cinema In A Bottle. He still lectures locally and internationally and is taking more time to write. Click here for more information about his work, other film reviews and papers.

By Abigail Lo

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