China-Underground Movie Database > Movies > Hero


Poster for the movie "Hero"

Hero (2002)

PG-13 99 min - Drama, Adventure, Action, History - 19 December 2002
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One man defeated three assassins who sought to murder the most powerful warlord in pre-unified China.

Director:  Zhang Yimou


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One man defeated three assassins who sought to murder the most powerful warlord in pre-unified China.

Collections: Zhang Yimou

Tagline: One man's strength will unite an empire.


Official Website: 
Country:   China
Language:  普通话
Release Date:  19 December 2002

Box Office

Budget:  $31,000,000
Revenue:  $177,394,432

Technical Specs

Runtime:  1 h 39 min

Hero” is a 2002 Chinese wuxia film directed by Zhang Yimou. This film features Jet Li as the nameless protagonist and is inspired by the historical assassination attempt on the King of Qin (秦王) by Jing Ke in 227 BC. Hero holds the distinction of being one of the most expensive and highest-grossing films in Chinese cinema at the time of its release.

Release and Reception

The film first premiered in China on October 24, 2002. It set records as the most expensive project and highest-grossing film in the history of Chinese cinema. Miramax Films managed the distribution rights for the American market. However, the American release was delayed for nearly two years and eventually introduced by Quentin Tarantino to U.S. audiences on August 27, 2004.


Setting and Introduction

Set during the Warring States period in ancient China, the story unfolds in the Qin state’s capital. The Qin king had narrowly escaped an assassination by three renowned assassins: Long Sky, Flying Snow, and Broken Sword. Subsequently, stringent security measures were implemented, including a rule that no one could approach the king within 100 paces.

The Arrival of Nameless

A Qin prefect named Nameless arrives at the palace claiming to have killed the three assassins. He presents their weapons as proof, earning the king’s curiosity and permission to approach within ten paces to narrate his story.

Nameless’s Account

Nameless recounts his encounters with the assassins. He first defeats Long Sky, then heads to a calligraphy school in Zhao to confront Flying Snow and Broken Sword. Nameless strategically commissions a calligraphy scroll from Sword to understand his swordsmanship. Discovering the growing rift between Snow and Sword, who are lovers, Nameless exploits this tension. Following a series of tragic events, Nameless kills the emotionally distraught Snow and presents her sword to the Qin king.

The King’s Skepticism

The king, however, expresses doubt over Nameless’s story. He suggests an alternative scenario where the assassins sacrificed themselves to facilitate Nameless’s proximity to the king for an assassination attempt.

The True Plan

In this alternate narrative, Nameless collaborates with Snow and Sword, faking their duels to gain the king’s trust. The plan involves Nameless using a special technique to simulate fatal wounds, allowing him to “kill” the assassins without actually harming them. However, tensions arise between Snow and Sword over who should pretend to die, leading to real injuries and altered plans.

Resolution and Reflection

Ultimately, Nameless abandons his assassination mission, influenced by Sword’s vision of a unified and peaceful China under the Qin king. The king, understanding Sword’s and Nameless’s motives, spares Nameless but later orders his execution to uphold the law and set an example for the nation. The film concludes with Nameless receiving a hero’s funeral, and the king is revealed as Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China.