Ever since her first film role in 1984’s The Owl vs Bombo, Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh has risen to international acclaim. Her latest flick, Everything Everywhere All At Once has hit theaters to rave reviews and with her upcoming roles in the Avatar sequels and Disney+’s American Born Chinese, she is not losing any steam.
While Yeoh is perhaps best known for her many martial art films, she actually trained in ballet, but her career paths changed and she found incredible success. Of her extensive credits, these are her ten highest-rated films on IMDb.
10 Wing Chun (1994) – 7.0
In her second of many collaborations with director and martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, Michelle Yeoh starred in the titular role in Wing Chun. She is joined by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story‘s Donnie Yen in this action film about a young tofu shop owner fighting to protect her family and village against a group of bandits.
The film and Yeoh’s role are both named after a specific style of kung fu, and as such the combat and movement are particularly important. Yeoh is swift and specific in each action, making every punch, kick, block and leap look effortless, and all with the necessary humor and seriousness as befits the scene.
9 The Lady (2011) – 7.0
Yeoh took on the intimidating task of showcasing a real-life story in Luc Besson’s The Lady as Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. It follows her, who served as the State Counsellor of Myanmar until 2021, during her rise to power in the late 1980s and 1990s in opposition to the country’s military and their ensuing coup.
Although the biopic was partly ill-received by some critics, Yeoh’s performance was highly reputed. She was rightfully recognized in a stacked year with the likes of Viola Davis in The Help and Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, earning a Satellite Award nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture.
8 Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) – 7.2
In the same year as The Lady, Yeoh also lent her voice to the sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2. She voiced the Soothsayer, an advisor to Lord Shen, voiced by Gary Oldman, joining Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, and Jackie Chan from the original film.
The film was well-received, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature and being the highest-grossing film solely directed by a woman until Wonder Woman six years later. After over a decade since its release, Kung Fu Panda 2 still remains one of her highest-rated films on IMDb.
7 Tai Chi Master (1993) – 7.2
Tai Chi Master marks the first collaboration with Yuen Woo-ping. In the film, she stars opposite legendary actor and martial artist, Jet Li, as Siu-lin, a young woman inadvertently caught up in the action against local rebels while fictionalizing the creation of tai chi.
Of course, Yeoh takes part in many of the incredible fights and duels throughout the film. Among the many thrilling options, perhaps her coolest one is early on when her character battles her romantic rival on stilts made from a broken table. Along with showcasing her incredible talents as an action star, Tai Chi Master allowed Yeoh to craft a sensitive and well-rounded character too through the simpler and calmer moments.
6 Sunshine (2007) – 7.2
Having turned to English-language films in the 2000s, Michelle Yeoh joined the impressive ensemble cast – including Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Cillian Murphy, and Hiroyuki Sanada, to name a few – for 2007’s Sunshine. She plays Corazon, a biologist and botanist, who joins an international crew sent into space to save the Earth from impending doom.
The science fiction film takes a turn and unexpectedly mixes in elements of the thriller and slasher genre, all enhanced by impressive performances from the cast, including Yeoh. In doing so, it drew comparisons to genre-bending classics like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ridley Scott’s Alien.
5 Memoirs Of A Geisha (2007) – 7.3
In Memoirs of a Geisha, Michelle Yeoh takes on the role of Mameha, a talented and prominent geisha who serves as the mentor to the main character, Chiyo, played by Zhang Ziyi. In preparation for the role, both actresses took part in a bootcamp of sorts to train them in traditional geisha practices.
In particular Memoirs of a Geisha was recognized for its visuals, earning Academy Awards for Cinematography and Costume Design. While the film did receive some mixed reviews from critics around the world, many people still find it a beautiful and impressive foray into an important aspect of Japanese culture.
4 Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) – 7.5
Michelle Yeoh showed off her combat skills recently in 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as the titular character’s aunt. This is actually not her first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, showing up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – joining Gemma Chan, Mahershala Ali, and Alfre Woodard as actors who have played multiple characters in the MCU.
Yeoh as Ying Nan provides an important foil to Tony Leung as the Mandarin by filling a parental and advisory void for Shang-Chi and Xialing. With the swift announcement following the film’s release that there is a sequel in the works, hopes are high that Yeoh will return to the MCU soon.
3 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – 7.6
It came as a surprise when Michelle Yeoh cameoed as Aleta Ogord in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. She shows up for Yondu’s funeral and later in one of the many post-credits alongside Sylvester Stallone, Ving Rhames, and Miley Cyrus. As the scene indicates, Aleta was once part of a team with Stallone’s Stakar aka Starhawk in a clear reference to the original Guardians of the Galaxy comic team.
While Stallone is set to reappear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, it has not been announced whether Yeoh or anyone else from that team will do so too. However, now that she was also part of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it seems unlikely that Yeoh will return as Aleta in the future.
2 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – 7.9
Following her turn in the James Bond franchise in Tomorrow Never Dies, the role that helped launch Yeoh to international acclaim came at the turn of the millennium with Aang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The film was released to both critical and commercial success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Film. In fact, it still remains the most highly-nominated non-English film in the Academy Award’s history, tied with Roma.
Yeoh herself earned many nominations for Best Actress for her work in the film, including from the BAFTAs and Saturn Awards. Furthermore, she returned to the role sixteen years later in its sequel directed by Yeun Woo-ping, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny.
1 Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) – 9.0
Michelle Yeoh’s latest film, Everything Everywhere All At Once, is currently her highest-rated film by viewers and very well might be her best one yet. In an age of multi-versal stories coming from the Marvel and DC with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and The Flash, this film set itself apart in approach and styling.
She stars as Evelyn Wang and is joined by Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and Jaime Lee Curtis and showcases all ranges and depths of her vast arsenal as a performer. Immediately following the film’s release in theaters, fans are expecting to call Michelle Yeoh an Academy Award-nominated – and hopefully winning – actress this time next year.
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