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A 2006 Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou (of Hero and House of Flying Daggers fame) Curse of the Golden Flower follows the imperial family in the Forbidden City and the various wheels within wheels they have going against each other.

The film is notable for its exquisite use of color, Mind Screw inducing visuals and epic battles. Curse managed to pick up an Academy Award nomination (for costuming). It's also one of the few Chinese films to use a visual metaphor for the Tiananmen Square uprising and get away with it.

Contains examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: The Empress.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Everyone with a position of authority is more badass than the individual soldiers. They seem to be badass in perfect relation to their level of authority, with the Emperor being the toughest guy in China.
  • Break the Cutie: Chan's last ten or so minutes on screen result in her literally running screaming into the night.
  • Broken Bird:
    • The imperial doctor's wife.
    • The Empress as well, as she does her best to appear cold and calculating, but she is terribly afraid and alone inside.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Chan and Wan, though they don't know it. Whoops.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience: The Empress has red-clad guardsman as well as a golden army of rebels. The Emperor has black-clad ninja-esque guards as well as a silver army.
  • Conspicuous CG: Prince Jai and the Emperor's armies specifically.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The golden army does pretty good, killing all the ninjas without much trouble. Then they run into the Imperial Guards, and the doors behind them slam shut...
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Deadly enough to kill off every major character except the Emperor and Empress.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: After the golden army is defeated, the bodies are cleared away and the smashed flower pots are replaced with fresh ones, making it appear that nothing happened.
  • Driven to Suicide: Twice, one botched.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: Or I'll beat you to death with it, Yu.
  • Downer Ending: You could see from the beginning that this story wouldn't have a happy ending. Major death and misery is foreshadowed from the start. Wan figures out Chan is his half-sister, and Chan promptly gets killed along with her mother. Yu kills Wan out of jealousy, the Emperor then beats the Yu to death, Jai attempts a coup, but fails spectacularly and commits suicide, and the Empress goes insane.
  • Fan Service: Chinese historical epics rarely have this much constant, gratuitous cleavage.
  • Extreme Melee Revenge: After the Emperor's youngest son kills the heir to the throne, his father pulls off his massive solid-gold belt and beats him with it, continuing to beat his corpse long after he's dead. His creepy little laugh doesn't help.
  • Gambit Pileup: The climax of the movie.
  • Hot Mom: The Empress. Then again, she is played by Gong Li...
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: To match the impossibly cool decor of the Imperial Palace. The climax also involves soldiers armored in silver and gold.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The Imperial Doctor uses his large golden spatula to defend his family from Imperial Ninjas.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: Although the film is set in China, the Emperor's black-clad guardsmen are obviously inspired by cinema ninja.
  • Jerkass: The Emperor is perhaps one of the biggest jerkasses ever.
  • Laughing Mad: The Emperor after his third son's death.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: The Empress's red-armored guards are one of the two groups of soldiers that can take on the Emperor's ninjas, the other being Jai and the captains of his golden army that we see later in the movie.
  • Maid Corps: The Imperial Palace is staffed by literally regiments of beautifully gowned young women.
  • Mama Bear: The First Empress. It doesn't work.
  • Missing Mom: Wan's mother died when he was very young, and he doesn't remember her. Subverted. The whole story is a lie.
  • Not Blood Related: The Empress and Prince Wan are stepmother and stepson, but the Squick is still very much present in their relationship.
  • Offing the Offspring: Prince Yu falls victim to this.
  • Oh Crap: A couple of times...
  • Perfect Poison: Averted with the Emperor using a poison that must be consumed every day for two months to become effective.
  • Poison Is Corrosive: The Empress flinging the poisoned tea after the climax of the movie, the splash somehow instantly corodes the table's engraved wooden chrysanthemum.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Emperor. Sure, he won, but lost pretty much everything he gave a damn about in the process, and the ending suggests that he's now going to be Lonely At The Top.
  • Rain of Arrows: Part of the Curb Stomp Battle
  • Redshirt Army: Every single time a new force of soldiers appear, someone else will show up that will wipe them out, and then get wiped out by the next guys.
  • The Reveal: Several in a row.
  • Royally Screwed-Up: The Empress is having an affair with the Crown Prince, and it all gets worse from there.
  • Sanity Slippage The effect of the poison.
  • Scenery Porn: In all of its technicolor, rainbow, golden, Imperial Palace glory.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Everyone but the Emperor and Empress have died by the end. No one has achieved anything they set out to do.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Subverted by the Empress as she's actually being poisoned.
  • Stepford Smiler: The whole Royal family.
  • Take a Third Option: Prince Jai kills himself rather than be executed or have to give poison to his mother.
  • The Unfavorite: Prince Yu. He literally stabs his eldest brother in the back in the climax, accusing his father of hating him. His father immediately beats him to death.
  • Xanatos Gambit:
    • The Emperor knew everything. Your scheme? He was on to it from the start. Your accomplices? He was the one who let your letters get to them. That time you stubbed your toe? He was watching!
    • Despite this, it's clear that there were a few elements he failed to predict, especially the death of all three of his sons, especially his heir.