Movies & series, especially those about modern daily life, are great Mandarin learning materials since plain language is used. Plus they’ll also show you a more realistic picture of Chinese culture than you’d find in textbooks.
Scroll down for series & movies on Netflix.
Best movies & series for children for learning Chinese
Children can learn Chinese really well through watching movies in which Mandarin Chinese is spoken. They’ll get familiar to the sounds of the Chinese language, while reading subtitles in English (or another language). We specifically list only movies spoken in Chinese here, so some fantastic movies such as ‘Mulan’, ‘Kong-Fu Panda’, or ‘Over the Moon’ don’t count.
The language is easy to understand so it’s also really suitable for beginner Chinese learners. Great for a whole family viewing! You can find most of these movies on YouTube, iQIYI, or you can download them somewhere.
Suits children 6 to 15 years old
These two cuddly, funny, and sometimes a bit silly bears get into all sorts of trouble. They speak Chinese with a slight Dongbei accent, which is fine for you to learn Mandarin with. The movies and episodes are still being produced so they’re quite modern. The two main characters are Briar (熊大; Xióngdà) and Bramble (熊二; Xióng’èr). The Chinese name of this show is 熊出没 (xióng chūmò).
Happy Daddy and Son
From 3 year to 6 years old
The Chinese name for this show is 大头儿子和小头爸爸 Dàtóu er zi hé xiǎo tóu bàba, and many Chinese children identify with this parent-to-child relationship. There are movies and several seasons filled with episodes.
3 years and older
This series looks a bit like Disney’s Plane movie, with talking planes that rescue all sorts of people and animals. They travel to different countries to learn about various cultures. The Chinese name is 超级飞侠大百科 Chāojí fēi xiá dà bǎikē, which translates into ‘Super Flying Man Encyclopedia’.
Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf
From 3 to 10 years old
The Chinese name of this series is 喜羊羊與灰太狼Xǐyángyáng yǔ huītàiláng, and it’s known by many Chinese children. It’s about a wolf who wants to eat a goat, but of course, that never happens. The show started in 2005 and a movie was added in 2009. There are now 34 seasons and 2573 episodes. The hero of the story is Happy (sometimes translated in subtitles as Weslie) whose Chinese name is 喜羊羊; Xǐ Yángyáng). He’s a positive inspiration and loves sport (such as basketball).
Top Chinese movies from 2020 for learning Chinese
Although the worldwide movie industry has been greatly affected by covid-19 (the new James Bond has been delayed three times) — some great movies were released in China, some of which are also good learning materials for Mandarin learners. Here’s a list of movies from 2020 worth watching. These movies are all spoken in clear 普通话 Putonghua Mandarin Chinese language.
八佰《The Eight Hundred》
Based on the 1937 Battle of Songhu in Shanghai, this film tells the story of a reinforced battalion of the 524th Regiment of the 88th Division of the 3rd War Zone of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army, known as the “Eight Hundred Strong Soldiers”, who held the Sihang Warehouse on the banks of the Suzhou River in Shanghai, who blocked the Japanese army.
我和我的家乡《My People My Homeland》
The film 《My People My Homeland》continues the collective Chinese movies of 《My People My Country》, directed by five directors, and tells the stories of hometowns that take place in five major regions in China: East, West, North, South, and Central. These five stories are about insurance, rural tourism, education, helping farmers, and poverty alleviation, focusing on the stories of ordinary people and bringing out the favorable policies of the country. All of course in Mandarin Chinese.
This Chinese movie follows the Chinese female volleyball team during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The team had won several championships in the 1980s, but dire decades followers. Here’s the story of the team’s way back up to success, spearheaded by coach Lang Ping wearing her gold-rimmed glasses.
一点就到家《Coffee or tea》
Three young guys with very different personalities return from living in a big Chinese city to live in their tiny village in Yunnan. Of course, stuff happens; the guys end up on a detour, and start a business together in the countryside. They’re hugely out of place. Watch this tale about sincerity, openness, and an absurd yet pure entrepreneurial journey in rural China.
拆弹专家2《Shock Wave 2》
The film tells the story of the evil organization “Resurrection Society” to cause terrorist attacks in Hong Kong. Former bomb disposal expert Pan Chengfeng is being suspected of being involved in a bombing case by the police, and as the plot thickens, he can only set himself free by finding out the truth of the matter.
Bao Bao is a Chinese piano teacher who is passionate about making perfect plans, has a deep obsession with neatness, and always has to keep his hair neat. Finally, after a long time of internal struggle, he can’t stand it anymore and decides to end his life in a moment of despair. On the day Bao Bao decided to finish his final plan on time, Bao Bao met with Song. She has a warm personality, and this unexpected corner encounter changes the fate of them both. What follows matches the title of ‘Warm Hug’!
送你一朵小红花《A Little Red Flower》
A Chinese boy with cancer, Wei Yihang, who claims to be able to “see the future”, meets a girl with cancer, Ma Xiaoyuan. The film revolves around two sets of life trajectories of two families fighting against cancer, telling a warm and realistic story, thinking and facing the ultimate problem that every ordinary person faces – imagining that death may come at any time, the only thing we have to do is to love and cherish each other.
There were more good Mandarin Chinese movies in 2020 & the 2021 Spring Festival, such as《Hi, Mom》（《你好李焕英》）,《Assassination Novelist》（《刺杀小说家》）, 《Detective Chinatown 3》（《唐人街探案3》). These movies have hit commercial success in China, their directors and casts have great reputation, and so we wholeheartedly recommend these Chinese movies too.
Mandarin series on Netflix
Modern series (当代)
- Meteor Garden (流星花园) 2018 (Cute & widely recommended)
- Find Yourself (下一站是幸福) 2020
- Well-Intended Love (奈何老板要娶我) 2019
- Accidentally in Love (惹上冷殿下) 2018
Costume, novel drama (古装)
- The Untamed (陈情令) 2019
- Three Lives, Three Worlds, The Pillow Book (三生三世枕上书) 2012
- Once Upon a Time in Lingjian Mountain (从前有座灵剑山) 2019
- The Rise of Phoenixes (天盛长歌) 2018
Action, suspense (动作)
- The Disguiser (伪装者) 2015
- Tientsin Mystic (河神) 2017
- Day and Night (白夜追凶) 2017 (recommended)
Mandarin movies on Netflix
Chinese language Romantic comedy & drama (浪漫喜剧和戏剧)
- Us and Them (后来的我们) 2018 (Great ratings)
- This Is Not What I Expected (喜欢你) 2017
- Finding Mr. Right (北京遇上西雅图) 2013
- Ash Is Purest White (江湖儿女) 2018
- I Am Not Madame Bovary (我不是潘金莲) 2016, comedy
Mandarin action movies (动作片):
- Animal World (动物世界) 2018
- Operation Mekong (湄公河行动) 2016
- Railroad Tigers (铁道飞虎) 2016 (Recommended for beginners)
Chinese Fantasy & sci-fi (幻想与科幻)
- The Monkey King 2 (西游记之孙悟空三打白骨精), 2016
- The Mermaid (美人鱼) 2016
- The Wandering Earth (流浪地球) 2019
Historical series in Chinese language (历史)
- Curse of the Golden Flower (满城尽带黄金甲) 2006 (Oscar nomination)
- Coming Home (归来) 2014
- God of War (荡寇风云) 2017
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