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Also known as Hong Kong Blood Opera, this is a genre of Hong Kong Action Cinema made popular by directors like John Woo and Ringo Lam and actors such as Chow Yun Fat. Heroic Bloodshed plots are primarily modern-day crime action pieces that focus on revenge, redemption or some kind of conflict between rivals or enemies on both sides of the law, with a special focus on gunplay. There's a very strong theme of honor, loyalty and betrayal in these movies, particularly those made by John Woo.

Characters spin, roll, and dive across the room while blasting away during shootouts, often with two guns at once. Often, a good dose of kung fu is also mixed in, particularly when kung fu stars appear in such movies. Heroic Bloodshed pictures, in keeping with their name, are also incredibly violent, with a good amount of blood flying and often substantial body counts before it's all over.

Protagonists are usually honorable criminals or hard-boiled enforcers of either the police or the criminal variety, resulting in very morally ambiguous plots, which makes for some interesting parallels with occidental Film Noir.

Not to be confused with old-style martial arts films, nor Wuxia which is Chinese classical Fantasy about feuding knights errant using Magical Martial Arts. These films instead prefer the modern cop and gangster milieu, and the martial art of choice is Gun Fu. Except when it's a Feng Shui game, then it's pretty much the same.

For more information about the genre, see The Other Wiki's article.

Common subtropes and related tropes:

Examples of this trope:


  • A Better Tomorrow - directed by John Woo. Stars Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun-Fat in his breakout role.
  • A Better Tomorrow 2 - directed by John Woo. Stars Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung, Chow Yun-Fat and Dean Shek.
  • A Better Tomorrow 3: Love and Death in Saigon - directed by Tsui Hark. Stars Chow Yun-Fat, Anita Mui and Tony Leung Ka-Fai.
  • Heroes Shed No Tears - the first gunplay movie directed by John Woo, released after A Better Tomorrow.
  • Hero of Tomorrow - directed by Poon Man Kit starring Max Mok.
  • Dragon Family - directed by Lau Kar Leung and starring Alan Tam, O Chun Hung and Max Mok.
  • Legacy of Rage - directed by Ronny Yu, noted for being Brandon Lee's first movie.
  • City on Fire - directed by Ringo Lam, starring Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee, noted for inspiring Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.
  • Killer's Romance - directed by Phillip Ko Fei and starring Simon Yam. Based on Crying Freeman.
  • Rich and Famous - directed by Taylor Wong and starring Chow Yun-Fat and Andy Lau.
  • Tragic Hero - directed by Taylor Wong and starring Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau and Alan Tam. Was intended as a sequel to Rich and Famous, but ended up getting released first.
  • Just Heroes - directed by John Woo, with none of Woo's previous stars, though Danny Lee, who plays in this one, would go on to appear in...
  • The Killer - directed by John Woo, and starring Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee.
  • Bullet in the Head - directed by John Woo, and featuring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Jacky Cheung, and Simon Yam.
  • Once a Thief - directed by John Woo, starring Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung and Cheri Chung.
  • Hard Boiled - directed by John Woo, featuring Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.
  • Full Contact - directed by Ringo Lam, starring Chow Yun-Fat, Simon Yam and Anthony Wong.
  • Exiled - directed by Johnnie To, starring Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Roy Cheung, Lam Suet and Simon Yam.
  • The Infernal Affairs Trilogy - directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Andy Lau. One of the more cynical series.
  • Hard Target - John Woo's first American movie, starring the "Muscles from Brussels," Jean Claude Van Damme.
  • Broken Arrow - directed by John Woo, starring John Travolta and Christian Slater.
  • Face Off - John Woo's best American flick, starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage as both hero and villain.
  • Mission: Impossible II - directed by John Woo, starring Tom Cruise.
  • The Matrix - The Wachowski Brothers pay homage to the genre in a big way, particularly in the first movie.
  • The Mummy Trilogy - Stephen Sommers just loves to pay homage to this genre, in particular the ranged combat style of the O'Connell family's men.
  • The Replacement Killers - directed by Antoine Fuqua and produced by John Woo. Stars Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino.
  • Equilibrium - Kurt Wimmer pays homage to the genre by means of inventing a new gunplay-based martial art.
  • Return to a Better Tomorrow - Wong Jing's attempt to revive the franchise created by John Woo. Wong Jing being Wong Jing, however, he's not too successful.
  • Heroic Trio follows this genre to the letter with the possible exception of gunplay. Only one of the girls uses guns.
  • American Yakuza, directed by Frank Cappello and starring Viggo Mortenson, Ryo Ishibashi and Michael Nouri.

Anime and Manga

  • Hellsing, while not explicitly falling into this category, draws strongly from it, with cool gunfighting and heavy moral ambiguity.
  • Black Lagoon may seem to be this genre at first, but on closer observation, it plays the cynical subtropes straight while mercilessly demolishing the idealistic ones. Unlike true Heroic Bloodshed, the series holds absolutely no faith in honor, hope or fundamental human decency.
  • Noir and Madlax are Bee Train studio's loving, if distinctly feminine, tribute to a once distinctly masculine genre.
  • Cowboy Bebop, specifically storylines involving Spike, Vicious and the Red Dragon.
  • Appleseed Ex Machina
  • Sanctuary
  • Although short on gunplay, the extreme balletic violence and perversely honourable moral element of the blood opera was part and parcel of Crying Freeman — for the superpowered leader a vastly powerful criminal conspiracy, Freeman Yoh spends a lot more time battling criminals and indirectly aiding the downtrodden than actually committing the kind of deeds which keep a crime syndicate afloat — it's like a mafia film which is all 'doing favours' and no 'collecting on debts'.
  • Gungrave, particularly its part that takes place in the past is a quintessential Heroic Bloodshed anime (the present-day part is similar story-wise, but its stylistic changes to account for various hypertech wonders).

Tabletop Games

  • If a game in the modern juncture of Feng Shui doesn't focus on Martial Arts, it's most likely this.
  • The Gunplay genre from Hong Kong Action Theatre! covers both the Heroic Bloodshed genre and other movies that have their characters using guns a lot.

Video Games

Western Animation

Web Original

  • Back in 2007, as part of the promotion for his new game Stranglehold, John Woo held a "True To John Woo" Short Film Contest in which he invited amateur filmmakers to make a short film in the Heroic Bloodshed style. Here's the link.