The 10 best Michelle Yeoh movies, ranked

Images: Sony Pictures Classics / Warner Bros. Pictures / MGM Distribution Co.

Michelle Yeoh is undoubtedly an icon. The seasoned Malaysian-born actress has starred in a handful of classics from a couple of decades ago, all the way to the new blockbusters and award-winning dramas of today. She occupies a unique spot in the industry, as she arguably serves as a template for many other Asian actresses who have made the storied jump from the Asian film industry into the global big leagues. 

The Hollywood veteran started off her career as a ballet dancer. An unfortunate spinal injury would however derail her dancing career and she would later turn her attention to choreography and pageantry. At 20, she won the Miss Malaysia World contest, and later Miss International Tourism Quest pageant in Australia. This exposure helped her star in a commercial alongside the legendary Jackie Chan and this eventually opened up the door to the film industry where she initially took on martial arts roles (thanks to her choreography skills). Today, her enviable filmography is so extensive as it spans decades, but out of all her impressive works, these 10 films remain standouts. 

Here are Michelle Yeoh’s best films, ranked from least to best.

10. Yes, Madam

Directed by Corey Yuen, and produced by Sammo Hung (who also doubles as a popular martial art choreographer) Yes, Madam is a 1985 Hong Kong action flick that stars John Shum, Tsui Hark, Cynthia Rothrock, Michelle Yeoh, Wu Ma, David Chiang, and a host of others. Here, Yeoh (who was credited as Michelle Khan), plays Inspector Ng, a badass cop who teams up with Inspector Carrie Morris to retrieve a stolen microfilm from a couple of thieves. She was fierce and ferocious as she beat up the bad guys in style. 

9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

In this 2021 superhero film based on the famous characters from the Marvel Comics, Yeoh stars as Ying Nan, an aunt to the main character Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing, and also a guardian of a village rumored to harbor mystical beasts called Ta Lo. Her martial arts chops are very well on display here once again as she teaches Shang-Chi the fighting style of Ta Lo in order for them to protect Ta Lo from unwanted intruders. Here, she is joined by other popular faces like Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Benedict Wong, and Tony Leung. 

8. Master Z: Ip Man Legacy

Directed by Yuen Woo-ping, one of the most revered names in the Hong Kong film industry, Master Z: Ip Man Legacy is a spin-off of the Ip Man film series which came right after the third installment of the original movie. The action flick follows Cheung Tin Chi, a mercenary who was formerly defeated by Ip Man, as he navigates a tricky situation with a powerful foreigner. Yeoh plays Tso Ngan Kwan here, the leader of an organized crime syndicate.

7. Sunshine

Featuring an ensemble cast of some of the most talented acts around, including Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Hiroyuki Sanada Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Mark Strong, Troy Garity, Rose Byrne, Benedict Wong, Chipo Chung, and Cliff Curtis, Sunshine, a 2007 science fiction psychological thriller, follows a group of astronauts who dared to do the near impossible: revive the dying sun. The film has been lauded, especially for its acting, directing, and production, and it’s also received a number of noteworthy nominations and awards. 

6. The Soong Sisters

The Soong Sisters, Ai-ling, Ching-ling, and Mei-ling, were three Chinese Christian women who etched themselves into China’s history books, not just because of their incredible philanthropic works, but because of how they managed to influence their husbands, three of the most influential men in China at the time. A movie was created about them long after their death and it portrays how pivotal the sisters were in many major decisions made in modern Chinese history. Yeoh plays the eldest sister Soong Ai-ling, who marries K’ung Hsiang-hsi, a wealthy banker and influential politician.

5. Crazy Rich Asians

This Jon M. Chu romantic comedy-drama should be right up the alley of anyone who’s interested in watching a fabulous display of opulence and old money. Crazy Rich Asians, which stars an ensemble cast of Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, and Ken Jeong, centers on Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American Economics professor who travels down to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family and is surprised to discover just how wealthy they are. Yeoh here plays the unpleasant and domineering mother of the Nick Young, Rachel Chu’s partner, delivering a formidable performance as a disapproving matriarch.

4. The Lady

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese politician, diplomat, a former State Counsellor of Myanmar and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In this 2011 British biographical film directed by Luc Besson, Yeoh excellently plays Suu Kyi, chronicling how she went from being a stay at home wife to becoming an activist who devoted herself to political goals and causes that would better the lives of the Burmese people. 

3. Tomorrow Never Dies

Tomorrow Never Dies is the 18th installment in the James Bond film series. It stars the experienced and delectable Pierce Brosnan as James Bond alongside his ally Michelle Yeoh who plays Wai Lin, a skilled agent of the Chinese Ministry of State Security. Together, the duo try to bring down Elliot Carver, a media mogul who tries to initiate a third world war. Other names that star in this classic include Teri Hatcher, Götz Otto, Joe Don Baker, and Ricky Jay.

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Based on the Chinese novel of the same name, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a 2000 wuxia film directed by Ang Lee. The martial arts film starring Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, and Chang Chen, follows a young Chinese warrior who steals a sword from Li Mu Bai, a renowned Wudang swordsman, and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation.Yeoh excellently plays Yu Shu Lien here, a female warrior who heads a private security company. She’s incredibly graceful throughout the movie’s runtime, markedly showing her immense range and skill, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon remains one of the most lauded and successful films of all time.

1. Everything Everywhere at Once

Yeoh has appeared in several movies that cut across different genres: drama, action, science fiction and even thrillers. This Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert-directed 2022 absurdist comedy-drama is however the most left field movie she’s ever starred in, fusing several genres into one. It’s extremely gripping, chaotic and mind blowing. The script was initially written with legendary actor Jackie Chan in mind, but the main role was however reworked for Yeoh who gave a masterful performance as a Chinese-American immigrant named Evelyn Quan Wang. Her performance here has been lauded as one of the very best of 2022, and the finest display of her talent, probably ever.