Even if it’s not Asia’s biggest, Thailand’s film industry generates a decent amount of output. In 2019, Thai movies not only pleased audiences at home, but also attained screenings at international festivals in Toronto, Busan, and beyond.
At Cinema Escapist, we’ve compiled the Best Thai Movies of 2019 for any viewers curious about Thailand’s cinematic productions. These eight top Thai films of 2019 include not only mainstream movies, but also indie productions as well. They also represent a diversity of genres, including romance, action, horror, comedy, and documentary. Without further ado, let’s take a look at 2019’s 8 best Thai films.
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Director: Prachya Pinkaew | Starring: Ployyukhon Rojanakatanyoo, Nannapat Lertnamchusakul, Ratha Pho-ngam | Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Action
We begin this list of 2019’s top Thai movies with Sisters. This supernatural horror film centers on a pair of sisters named Veena and Mora. Their late mother was a krasue (a type of scary Southeast Asian female spirit) hunter and, as a result, the queen of the krause tribe vows revenge upon the girls. To protect her younger sister Mora, Veena must become a demon hunter herself.
While Sisters has mediocre CGI and a somewhat haphazard screenplay, it still managed to gain a slot at 2019’s Tokyo International Film Festival. Those who enjoy horror B-movies should get a kick out of Sisters though. In certain countries, the movie is even available on Netflix.
7. The Cave
Director: Tom Waller | Starring: Ron Smoorenburg, Kelly B. Jones, Lawrence de Stefano | Genre: Drama, Documentary
In the summer of 2018, Thailand captured global headlines when a junior football team became trapped in the Tham Luang cave. The football team’s dramatic rescue now has a cinematic treatment with The Cave.
Given its relatively heavy focus on Western rescue crews, this docu-drama won’t give you a taste of everyday Thai life and culture if that’s what you’re looking for. However, it’s a slickly-produced dramatization that doesn’t disrespect the original cave rescue. That’s no surprise, given The Cave‘s director Tom Waller had prior experience tackling weighty stories from Thailand—notably with The Last Executioner.
6. Inhuman Kiss
Director: Sitisiri Mongkolsiri | Starring: Phantira Pipityakorn, Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang, Sapol Assawamunkong, Surasak Wongthai | Genre: Horror, Romance
If you want more Southeast Asian folklore-infused horror, Inhuman Kiss also has you covered. This movie also features krause, though with a romantic twist.
In Inhuman Kiss, a teenage girl named Sai gets cursed to become a krause. This means that, upon nightfall, her head separates from her body and floats around in search of blood and guts. Local villagers become concerned when their livestock start disappearing, and form a krause hunting party. While this happens, Sai must navigate a love triangle between two boys who have different opinions about krause.
Compared with a lot of other Southeast Asian horror, Inhuman Kiss‘ production quality is pretty good. The movie was Thailand’s submission for 2019’s international feature Oscar (it didn’t get nominated), and also streams worldwide on Netflix.
5. Hope Frozen
Director: Pailin Wedel | Genre: Documentary
We venture from supernatural horror back to real life with our next 2019 top Thai movie, Hope Frozen. Directed by Thai-American journalist and filmmaker Pailin Wedel, the film dives into the internationally viral story of a Thai family who decided to cryogenically preserve their young daughter Einz’s brain.
On top of excellent editing and cinematography, Hope Frozen feels humanistic and poignant. The film explores how Einz’s parents—both of whom hold PhDs—reconcile their scientific training with the faith that cryogenics requires. Additionally, the documentary reveals the thorny complications that cryogenics presents within the context of reincarnation-centric Buddhism, Thailand’s dominant religion.
4. Krabi 2562
Director: Anocha Suwichakornpong, Ben Rivers | Starring: Siraphun Wattanajinda, Arak Amornsupasiri, Primrin Puarat, Nuttawat Attasawat | Genre: Documentary, Drama, Experimental
Many in the West know Krabi as a beautiful vacation spot replete with beaches and limestone cliffs. Krabi 2562 offers a trippy exploration of Krabi amidst the tides of tourism and consumerism, and is the most distinctively artistic Thai movie we’ve found from 2019.
In this experimental feature, a woman with an actively morphing identity guides viewers across vignettes that represent constantly intermixing time periods and settings. We see prehistoric humans cavorting alongside modern tourists on a beach in one moment, and stumble upon an urban landscape in the next. Krabi 2562 found a warm reception at 2019’s Toronto International Film Festival, and will delight those looking for more unconventional or innovative Thai films.
3. Where We Belong
Director: Kongdej Jaturanrasamee | Starring: Jennis Oprasert, Praewa Suthamphong, Saheoiyn Aophachat | Genre: Drama, Coming-of-Age, Family, LGBTQ
Amid a sea of horror films and sappy rom-coms, Where We Belong stands out with its heartfelt but brutally realistic coming-of-age story. The movie Jennis Oprasert and Praewa Suthamphong—members of popular idol group BNK48—as its two leads, a pair of best friends named Sue and Belle.
Eager to leave her small home town, Sue decides on a whim to study abroad in Finland after high school. She doesn’t tell anyone—including Belle—until the last minute. As the clock ticks down before Sue’s departure, the two girls begin to realize how much they’ll lose by being apart.
Where We Belong feels reminiscent of the award-winning Chinese movie Soul Mate—another female-centric story about coming-of-age and loss that we’ve greatly enjoyed on. Like Soul Mate, Where We Belong also has heavy LGBT undertones to its female friendship.
2. Happy Old Year
Director: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit | Starring: Sunny Suwanmethanon, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying | Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama
Renowned Thai blockbuster director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit returned in 2019 with Happy Old Year. This was one of 2019’s most anticipated Thai movies, given it also featured two huge stars: Sunny Suwanmethanon and Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying (of Bad Genius).
In Happy Old Year, Chuengcharoensukying plays Jean, a young woman who is trying to clean out her house Marie Kondo-style. As she goes through this process, memories of her ex-boyfriend Aim (Suwanmethanon) begin to resurface. The film becomes a poignant journey that plays to audiences’ sense of nostalgia, accentuated by excellent cinematography and Thamrongrattanarit’s trademark humor.
1. Friend Zone
Director: Chayanop Bunprakop | Starring: Naphat Siangsomboon, Pimchanok Luevisadpaibul | Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama
Our best Thai movie of 2019 is Friend Zone. As 2019’s highest-grossing Thai movie, Friend Zone captivated audiences throughout Thailand with its relatable story. We’ve picked it as 2019’s top Thai film because we think it has great international appeal, even if it isn’t a classic.
As you might suspect from the title, Friend Zone centers on a man who gets stuck in the dreaded “friend zone” of unrequited love. In this instance, Palm is the man. Since high school, Palm has had feelings for a woman named Gink—who only sees him as a good friend. Ten years later, Palm rediscovers Gink at a wedding, and his friend zone adventures comedically come to life again.
With amusing characters, easily understandable jokes, and a premise that audiences from Boston to Bangkok can relate to, Friend Zone is a lighthearted way to top our list of Thailand’s best films from 2019.
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