7 movies to stream during AAPI heritage month

These films show the vastness of the Asian American experience.

Strand Releasing; A24; Nikki Arai/Courtesy of Nancy Park; Stage 6 Films/Sony Pictures

When I ask my friends what Asian American films and TV shows exist, they name the obvious: Joy Luck Club, Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell, and Fresh Off the Boat. But I’ve spent the past week immersed in stories that span the range of Asian American experience, from queerness to country music, incarceration to solidarity with radical Black politics — and watching them affirms that Asian American experiences are joyful, varied, and as political, rich, and vibrant as any other culture’s.

We need more stories told from different points of view, with characters whose desires are shaped by their own histories, created by the very people who will, in two decades, make up the majority of this country — especially amid the rise of attacks against Asian Americans. These 7 films portray the vastness of the Asian American experience.

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Spa Night

Andrew Ahn directs this coming-of-age film set in L.A.’s Koreatown. When his father’s alcoholism tanks the family restaurant, 18-year-old David — who’s struggling with expensive SAT prep classes — gets a job at a Korean men’s spa mopping floors. There, he observes men cruising and hooking up, slowly becomes aware of his own desires, and has his first sexual encounter with another man. The failure of the American immigrant dream is doubly enforced by both generations in this unsentimental film about masculinity and identity.