Since making her debut in Hong Kong action films in the mid-’80s (Yes, Madam!, Royal Warriors), Michelle Yeoh emerged as a budding action star. The Malaysian actress battled Jet Li in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, flung herself onto a moving car driven by Jackie Chan in Supercop and jumped off a skyscraper with Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies. She had starring roles in 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians and two roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The now 60-year-old Yeoh will next be seen in the second Avatar film, The Way of Water, out in theaters Friday, December 15. Many people may have caught a movie Michelle Yeoh was in, but it wasn’t until this March’s Everything Everywhere All at Once that people really started to notice and gave her her flowers.
In Everything Everywhere, Yeoh plays a character by the name of Evelyn Wang, whose laundromat business is being audited by the IRS. Her relationship with her daughter is frayed, she takes care of her decrepit father and she takes her husband’s love for her for granted. Everything changes when she learns there are multiple versions of the universe and that there’s a threat to them that only she can stop. The only problem is, she has to figure out how to jump between the different realities all while picking up skills the other versions of herself possess. Though the A24 film is filled with action and hilarious yet bizarre instances, Yeoh shows that she’s not just a martial artist, showcasing her acting ability in intimate moments. Jamie Lee Curtis, who played the irritable IRS worker Deirdre Beaubeirdra said it best: “Her facility to switch between comedy and martial arts and then real emotion. I challenge anybody to come up with a better performance.”
In her Time‘s Icon of the Year honor for 2022, Yeoh told the publication why Asian actors have long been given stereotypical or inconsequential roles and rarely top billing. “It shouldn’t be about my race, but it has been a battle,” she says. “At least let me try.” Though Yeoh has been a major star in Asia for decades, she landed her first major Hollywood role as Wai Lin, the Chinese secret agent in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.
Take a look below at our favorite Michelle Yeoh movies, which we’ve ranked: