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She is renowned for her action roles but it is Michelle Yeoh's standout performance in Crazy Rich Asians that is generating Oscar buzz for the veteran actress.
In the hit romantic comedy—the first Hollywood film in 25 years to feature an all-Asian cast and the biggest studio rom-com in nine years, grossing $170 million in North America alone—Yeoh plays to perfection a domineering Singaporean matriarch who disapproves of her son's (Henry Golding) plans to marry an Asian-American economics professor (Constance Wu) whose family background she strongly feels is beneath theirs.
With a stellar career in film and television spanning over three decades, the 56-year-old has long shown that she is equally adept in dramatic portrayals as she is in action roles.
Besides Crazy Rich Asians, here are but five other must-see Michelle Yeoh movies that feature the Malaysian Chinese star in a prominent role:
1. 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (2000)
This groundbreaking wuxia (Chinese term meaning "martial heroes") film established Yeoh as the most successful Asian female action star of all-time. The Ipoh native had to learn her Mandarin lines phonetically but her emoting and fighting skills were clear for all to see: her duel with Zhang Ziyi is one of the most exhilarating sequences in the film, while her nuanced scenes with Chow Yun-Fat are laced with understated elegance.
Directed by Ang Lee, the 4-time Oscar-winning film (including Best Foreign Film) garnered a slew of global awards and nominations including BAFTA and Golden Horse Best Actress nods for Yeoh. She would reprise her role as Yu in the 2016 sequel, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, co-starring Donnie Yen and Harry Shum Jr.
2. 'The Lady' (2011)
From appearance to tone of voice, Yeoh's portrayal of real-life Myanmar political icon Aung San Suu Kyi in The Lady is arguably her best dramatic performance. To look the part, the actress adjusted her exercise regime in order to look as thin as the British-educated freedom fighter and even learned the Burmese language to make a key political rally scene look authentic.
Directed by Luc Besson, the French-British film—which focuses on the relationship between Aung and her writer husband Michael Aris (David Thewlis) as she becomes a symbol of Burma's democratic movement—is a well-filmed, brilliantly acted biopic which was sadly overshadowed by Meryl Streep's The Iron Lady, a portrayal of yet another famous woman politician, released the same year.
3. 'Supercop' (1992)
Yeoh had already made her name as an action star in the 1980s with kick-ass roles in Hong Kong films such as Yes, Madam! (1985) and Dynamite Fighters (1987). Starring in 1992's Supercop, the third installment of action superstar Jackie Chan's Police Story series, would propel the former model to worldwide recognition.
Renowned as one of the rare actresses who does her own stunts, Yeoh's achievements in the film filled with incredible stunts include the now-famous sequence where she rides and steers a motorcycle onto a moving train. Watch the outtakes where you will see the actress having to do a great number of takes before successfully executing the memorable stunt, as well as falling off a moving vehicle during another action scene as Chan failed to grab hold of her.
4. 'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997)
Making her first Hollywood appearance in James Bond 18, Yeoh not only became the first Chinese actress to play a Bond Girl, her character Wai Lin would go on to be widely regarded as one of the best Bond Girls in the British spy series.
Though she was not allowed to perform her own stunts, Yeoh did most of her fight scenes in the blockbuster hit herself. She and co-star Pierce Brosnan motorcycling frantically across the streets of Saigon and their drastic descent on a banner from a hotel rooftop remained two of the best action sequences ever seen in a James Bond movie.
5. 'Reign Of Assassins' (2010)
This China/Taiwan/Hong Kong film was Yeoh's first wuxia film since 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and boasts one of her best performances.
She plays a highly skilled assassin who takes on a new life as a simple village cloth merchant married to a loving, hardworking husband. Fate intervenes when her former gang hunts her down to retrieve a mythical power-wielding object that she was hiding.
Although the fascinating plot is rather convoluted with more twists than a croissant, the film's well-choreographed action sequences and stunning cinematography more than made up for it. Yeoh excelling in martial arts-laden scenes is a given, but what was really impressive is her ability to switch seamlessly between being a demure village woman and the cold-blooded assassin that her character used to be.
As she continues to bask in the crazy, rich success of Crazy Rich Asians, Michelle Yeoh's next film will be Master Z: Ip Man Legacy by action director and choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping. On the small screen, the versatile actress will reprise her acclaimed role as Philippa Georgiou in Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, premiering on January 17, 2019 on CBS All Access.Read also:
* 15 ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Locations You Need Not Be Crazy, Rich, or Asian to Visit
* 8 Michelle Yeoh Movies to Watch as 'Star Trek: Discovery' Beams up on TV