Features and Columns · Movies

How Leslie Cheung Changed Queer Hong Kong Cinema

If you were waiting for a sign to rewatch ‘Happy Together’ this is it.
Happy Together Cheung
Golden Harvest Company
By  · Published on March 30th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the career of Hong Kong queer cinema actor Leslie Cheung.


Even if you’re not familiar with every detail of Leslie Cheung‘s filmography, there is a good chance (if you’re reading this website and clicked on this article) that you’ve at the very least seen Happy Together. Directed by Wong Kar-wai, the 1997 film was revolutionary for approaching a queer relationship as just that: a relationship. It wasn’t focused on the systemic oppression and intolerance experienced by LGBTQ folks. It was, instead, about two men (portrayed Cheung and Tony Leung) navigating the same aches and pains as straight folks.

Attending to Cheung’s short, but brilliant, film career, is a helpful way to gain insight into how representation changed in Hong Kong cinema at the end of the 20th century.

From being treated like a punchline (1992’s All’s Well, Ends Well) to small steps towards empathetic, humanizing portrayals of queerness (1993’s Farewell My Concubine), Cheung’s filmography represents a turn in the tide of how gay folks were represented on screen. As an out bisexual man, Cheung was a trailblazer and an icon. So even if you’re only familiar with his work in Happy Together, the following video essay provides a helpful breakdown of the way his career motivated and responded to trends in queer representation in Hong Kong cinema.

Watch “Leslie Cheung & Hong Kong LGBT Cinema”:


Who made this?

These videos on the impact of Leslie Cheung on Hong Kong queer cinema is by Accented Cinema, a Canadian-based YouTube video essay series with a focus on foreign cinema. You can subscribe to Accented Cinema for bi-weekly uploads here. You can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).