Singapore is a small island nation in Southeast Asia that has a vibrant and growing film industry. In recent years, Singaporean filmmakers have gained international recognition for their unique and diverse perspectives on Singaporean culture, history, and identity.

Some of the best Singaporean films are known for their experimental storytelling techniques, exploring taboo subjects, and depicting the challenges and triumphs of everyday life in Singapore.

These films often explore themes such as race, religion, gender, and socio-economic issues, and provide insight into the complex and multi-faceted nature of Singaporean society.

From classic films like “Mee Pok Man” to recent hits like “Ilo Ilo” and “A Land Imagined,” Singaporean cinema continues to evolve and push the boundaries of what is possible in film.

Best Singapore Movies

Whether you’re a fan of drama, comedy, or experimental films, there’s something for everyone in Singapore’s rich and diverse cinematic landscape.

1. Tiong Bahru Social Club (2020)

“Tiong Bahru Social Club” is a Singaporean comedy film directed by Tan Bee Thiam and released in 2020. The film follows the story of Ah Bee, a young man who is dissatisfied with his mundane and unfulfilling life.

Seeking a change, he joins the Tiong Bahru Social Club, a community organization that promises to help its members achieve happiness and success through a series of quirky and unconventional activities.

As Ah Bee navigates his way through the club’s various activities and social gatherings, he begins to question the true nature of happiness and whether the club’s methods are truly effective.

The film offers a humorous and satirical take on contemporary society and the search for meaning and purpose in life.

“Tiong Bahru Social Club” was well-received by critics and audiences alike and was praised for its witty humor, vibrant visuals, and insightful commentary on modern life.

The film is considered a notable achievement of Singaporean cinema and a significant contribution to the genre of comedy-drama.

2. Shirkers (2018)

“Shirkers” is a 2018 documentary film directed by Sandi Tan, a Singaporean-born writer, and filmmaker, who also serves as the film’s main subject.

The documentary tells the story of Tan and her friends who, in the early 1990s, set out to make a surreal and ambitious indie film in Singapore called “Shirkers.”

The film was shot but then disappeared when the director, Georges Cardona, vanished with the footage.

   

The documentary follows Tan’s journey to uncover the mystery of what happened to her lost film, while also exploring her experiences growing up as an outsider in Singapore’s conformist society.

“Shirkers” is known for its unique visual style, innovative storytelling, and its exploration of themes such as creativity, loss, and the power of cinema to inspire and unite.

The film was well-received critically and commercially and won numerous awards, including the Directing Award for World Cinema Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018.

Overall, “Shirkers” is a captivating and inspiring documentary that celebrates the creative spirit and the power of friendship and art to transcend boundaries and limitations.

It is a must-see for anyone interested in independent filmmaking, documentary filmmaking, or the history and culture of Singapore.

3. Money No Enough (1998)

“Money No Enough” is a 1998 Singaporean comedy-drama film directed by Jack Neo. The film follows the lives of three friends who struggle to make ends meet in Singapore’s rapidly changing economy.

The film explores themes of family, friendship, and the pursuit of financial success. It is noted for its frank portrayal of the struggles faced by Singapore’s middle class, as well as its witty humor and memorable characters.

“Money No Enough” was a commercial and critical success in Singapore, becoming the highest-grossing local film at the time of its release. It has been praised for its insightful commentary on Singaporean society, as well as for its warmth, humor, and emotional depth.

The film spawned two sequels, “Money No Enough 2” in 2008 and “Money No Enough 3” in 2018, both of which were also directed by Jack Neo and featured many of the same cast members.

4. 881 (2007)

“881” is a Singaporean musical film directed by Royston Tan. The film tells the story of two sisters, Papaya and Durian, who are both obsessed with the uniquely Singaporean art form of getai, a type of outdoor performance featuring music, dance, and comedy.

As the sisters work to build a career as getai performers, they face numerous challenges, including fierce competition from other performers, disapproval from their families, and their own personal struggles with love and identity.

“881” is a vibrant and colorful film that celebrates the unique cultural heritage of Singapore and the art form of getai.

The film features numerous musical performances, including both traditional getai songs and modern pop hits, and its bright and energetic style captures the joy and excitement of this beloved Singaporean tradition.

   

The film was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and has since become a beloved classic of Singaporean cinema. Its themes of family, tradition, and the pursuit of one’s dreams continue to resonate with audiences today.

5. Ilo Ilo (2013)

“Ilo Ilo” is a Singaporean family drama film released in 2013, directed by Anthony Chen.

The movie takes place during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and tells the story of a Singaporean family who hires a Filipino maid named Teresa (played by Angeli Bayani) to help take care of their young son, Jiale (played by Koh Jia Ler).

As the family struggles to cope with the economic downturn, tensions rise between Jiale and Teresa, who must navigate cultural and language barriers to communicate with each other.

However, as the family’s problems escalate, Jiale and Teresa begin to form a bond that helps them both cope with the challenges of their circumstances.

“Ilo Ilo” received critical acclaim upon its release, with many praising its honest portrayal of family dynamics, strong performances, and realistic depiction of life in Singapore during a period of economic upheaval.

The film was noted for its exploration of themes related to family, identity, and the challenges of immigration and globalization.

Overall, “Ilo Ilo” is considered an important film in the history of Singaporean cinema and a powerful reflection on the experiences of ordinary people trying to navigate difficult times.

   
Ilo Ilo [DVD]
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6. Apprentice (2016)

“Apprentice” is a Singaporean drama film directed by Boo Junfeng and released in 2016. The movie explores the themes of guilt, redemption, and the price of justice through the story of a young correctional officer, Aiman, who becomes an apprentice to a veteran executioner, Rahim.

As Aiman struggles to reconcile his job with his own troubled past, he becomes increasingly drawn to Rahim’s world and the complex ethical and moral issues that surround the death penalty.

The film received critical acclaim for its nuanced performances, thought-provoking storyline, and hauntingly atmospheric cinematography.

It was screened at various film festivals, including Cannes and Toronto International Film Festival, and was Singapore’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards.

“Apprentice” stars Firdaus Rahman as Aiman and Wan Hanafi Su as Rahim, with supporting performances from Mastura Ahmad, Koh Boon Pin, and Nickson Cheng.

The movie is notable for its sensitive and empathetic portrayal of a difficult and controversial topic, and for its ability to inspire deep reflection and discussion about the nature of justice and human compassion.

The Apprentice: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel
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3 Characteristics of Singapore Movies

Multiculturalism: Singapore is a highly diverse society, and many Singaporean movies reflect this diversity, exploring the experiences of different ethnic and cultural groups in the country.

Singaporean cinema often celebrates the unique cultural heritage of the country, as well as the challenges and opportunities that arise from living in a multicultural society.

Social commentary: Many Singaporean movies serve as a form of social commentary, exploring issues such as race, religion, politics, and social inequality.

Singaporean cinema often tackles difficult or controversial subjects, offering a critical and nuanced perspective on the challenges facing Singaporean society.

Quirky humor: Singaporean movies are often characterized by a quirky and irreverent sense of humor, which can range from slapstick comedy to satire and parody.

Singaporean cinema often celebrates the idiosyncrasies and quirks of Singaporean culture, using humor to both entertain and engage audiences.

3 Reasons To Watch Singapore Movies

Cultural diversity: Singapore is a multicultural and multilingual country, with a diverse range of ethnic and religious communities.

Singaporean movies often explore the complexities of this diversity, reflecting on issues related to identity, culture, and language. Watching Singaporean movies can provide insights into the unique experiences of people living in this vibrant and dynamic city-state.

Innovative storytelling: Singaporean cinema is known for its innovative and diverse storytelling techniques, ranging from independent art films to commercial blockbusters.

Many Singaporean filmmakers explore unconventional themes and techniques, often blending different genres and styles to create unique and memorable cinematic experiences.

International recognition: Singaporean movies have received international recognition in recent years, with many films winning awards at major film festivals around the world.

Some of the most well-known Singaporean films include “Ilo Ilo,” “Pop Aye,” and “A Land Imagined.” Watching Singaporean movies can expose you to the work of talented filmmakers and actors, and broaden your understanding of global cinema.

Best Singapore Movies – Wrap Up

Singapore’s film industry has been steadily growing in recent years, producing an increasing number of critically acclaimed and award-winning movies. Here are some of the best Singaporean movies to date:

“Ilo Ilo” (2013) – directed by Anthony Chen, this film is a heartwarming family drama about a Singaporean family and their Filipino domestic helper during the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

“Apprentice” (2016) – directed by Boo Junfeng, this film explores the themes of guilt, redemption, and the death penalty through the story of a young correctional officer and his mentor, an experienced executioner.

“A Land Imagined” (2018) – directed by Yeo Siew Hua, this film is a noir-inspired mystery about a sleep-deprived police investigator who tries to unravel the disappearance of a migrant worker in Singapore.

“Pop Aye” (2017) – directed by Kirsten Tan, this film is a quirky and heartwarming road movie about a disillusioned architect who sets out on a journey across Thailand with his beloved elephant.

“12 Storeys” (1997) – directed by Eric Khoo, this film is a powerful and raw drama about the lives of residents in a Singaporean public housing estate.

“A Yellow Bird” (2016) – directed by K. Rajagopal, this film is a poignant and gritty drama about a former prisoner who tries to reconnect with his family and find a sense of belonging in modern Singapore.

These movies showcase the diversity and talent of Singapore’s film industry, which is continuing to produce high-quality and thought-provoking movies that are gaining recognition both locally and internationally.