Hero is a Chinese wuxia film set in the 3rd century BC, during China’s Warring States Period. Based on the story about Jing Ke’s assassination attempt on the King of Qin in 227 BC, and stars Jet Li as the nameless protagonist.

With its $31 million budget, it broke the record for most expensive movie project in China, but it also became one of the highest-grossing movies in China.

Hero premiered in China on 24 October 2002, but wasn’t shown in theatres in the United States until 27 august 2004. In many other countries it premiered in 2003. It did for instance go up in cinnemas in Sweden in March 2003 and in Finland the following month.

Miramax purchased the rights to distribute the movie in the U.S. in 2002, but then just sat on those rights until Quentin Tarantino, certain Disney executives and the Chinese Government convinced them to make the movie available for the U.S. Audience. Once released, it went directly to spot #1 at the U.S. box office list – the first time ever for a Chinese-language movie. It grossed well over $53 million in North America, and the total world-wide box office number for Hero is $177.4 million.

Hero was highly acclaimed by film critics world-wide, even though a few voiced concerns about the film’s promotion of autocracy. The movie holds a 95% score at Rotten Tomatoes and 85/100 points at Metacritic.


Basic info about Hero

Titel Traditional: 英雄

Simplified: 英雄

English titel Hero
Country China
Language Mandarin
Lenght 96 minutes and 23 seconds
Release date China: 24 October, 2002

Hong Kong: 21 December, 2002

United States: 27 August, 2004

Budget 31 million USD
Box office 117.4 million USD

The Director’s Cut version of the movie is 1 hour 47 minutes and 15 seconds.

Behind the scenes

Producer Zhang Yimou
Production companies Sil-Metropole Organisation
Elite Group Enterprises
Zhang Yimou Studio
Beijing New Picture Film
Director Zhang Yimou
Written by Feng Li

Bin Wang

Zhang Yimou

Music by Tan Dun
Cinematographer Christopher Doyle
Edited by Angie Lam
Distributed by In China: Beijing New Picture Film

In Hong Kong: EDKO Film

In USA: Miramax Films


Jet Li
Tony Leung
Maggie Cheung
Chen Daoming
Zhang Ziyi
Donnie Yen


Jet Li plays the character Nameless, a master swordsman and the prefect of a small province.

Tony Leung plays the character Broken Sword, a master swordsman. He is the romantic partner of Flying Snow.

Maggie Cheung plays the character Flying Snow, a master swordswoman. She is the romantic partner of Broken Sword.

Chen Daoming plays the King of Quin, who wants to unite all the kingdom’s of China and become the first Chinese emperor.

Donnie Yen plays the master spearman Long Sky.

Zhang Ziyi plays Moon, who is Broken Sword’s apprentice and skilled in using twin swords.


For the United States release, a Chinese sword held by Jet Li in the original promotional poster was replaced by a weapon resembling a katana, which was both anachronistic and incorrect from a cultural and geographical point of view. The film is set in China in the year 227 BC. Katanas were first made in Japan during the Muromachi period, e.g. 1392-1573 AD.

Examples of awards

Award Category Recipients
Golden Bauhinia Awards (Hong Kong) Best Cinematography Christopher Doyle
Berlin International Film Festival (Germany) Alfred Bauer Prize Zhang Yimou
Hong Kong Film Awards Best Cinematography Christopher Doyle
Best Art Direction Huo Tingxiao and Yi Zhenzhou
Best Costume Make Up Design Emi Wada
Best Action Choreography Tony Ching Siu-Tung
Best Original Film Score Tan Dun
Best Sound Design  
Best Visual Effects  
Hundred Flowers Awards (China) Best Picture Hero
(joint winner with Deng Xiaoping and Charging Out Amazon)
Golden Rooster Awards(China) Best Director Zhang Yimou
New York Film Critics Circle Awards (USA) Best Cinematographer Christopher Doyle
National Society of Film Critics Awards (USA) Best Director Yimou Zhang (also for House of Flying Daggers)