Milkyway Image

Last updated
Milkyway Image (Hong Kong) Ltd.
Type Production Company
Founder Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
HeadquartersMilkyway Building, 77 Hung To Road, Kwun Tong, Kowloon,
Key people
Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Dennis Law
Ding Yuin-Shan
Yau Nai-Hoi
Au Kin-Yee
Yip Tin-Shing
Catherine Chan
Elaine Chu

Milkyway Image (Hong Kong) Ltd. (Chinese :銀河映像(香港) 有限公司) is a production company based in Kwun Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong. The company was established in 1996 by prolific director Johnnie To in joint partnership with frequent collaborator Wai Ka-Fai. The company is known best for producing dark crime films inspired by the work of French director Jean-Pierre Melville and the genre of film noir. Milkyway Image's productions have been repeatedly praised as a bold move against the slapdash commercialism found in post-handover Hong Kong cinema, and have also attracted a significant international fan base.



Milkyway Image is principally engaged in providing comprehensive film production services for film companies, such as pre-production, shooting, and post-production services. Milkyway Image's films are not only box office hits, but they are also produced with cost-effectiveness and efficiency, bringing film investors promising revenue.


Johnnie To founded Milkyway Image (HK) Ltd. in 1996, together with his longtime partner Wai Ka-Fai. The early years proved to be difficult for the company, as its first productions were unsuccessful at the Hong Kong box office. Hong Kong audiences did not appreciate the bleak and intellectual tone of the films - later to become the company's signature style - which was very different from the highly commercialized productions usually present in cinemas at the time.

After more works in the same style and Johnnie To's first official directorial outing with A Hero Never Dies , neither of which managed to make a significant impact at the box office, the company shifted its focus to producing lighter films for the first time in 1999. This year saw the release of Running Out of Time , followed up by Needing You... in 2000. Both films became box-office hits and likely saved Milkyway Image from bankruptcy. Recognizing the surprising success, the company continued to produce films in a similar vein during the most critical years of the Hong Kong film industry, which - while already in decline by that time - was further wounded by the SARS crisis in 2003.

After putting out a string of successful mainstream comedies from 2000 to 2003, critics and fans who had previously been enticed by Milkyway's fresh take on the trodden triad film genre were starting to express concerns over the company's new direction. However, these concerns were quickly put aside with the release of PTU in 2003, a film that To had worked on for 3 years and which was greatly praised by critics worldwide, eventually becoming a poster child for To's company.

In 2007, Milkyway Image split from parent company Brilliant Arts and chairman, executive director and investor Dennis Law. [1]


Milkyway Image employs a unique business strategy among Hong Kong film production companies, as its output can mostly be divided into two categories: Inventive and gritty action dramas which sit somewhere between genre film and arthouse cinema and often go on to achieve significant critical recognition; as well as light-hearted romantic comedies and Lunar New Year films, geared for box-office success by utilizing popular singer-actors such as Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng. This for the most part clear distinction has sometimes been blurred thanks to productions such as Running Out of Time and Sparrow , which possess elements of both approaches and became local box-office hits as well.

The company has made a number of famous and successful films, which include Needing You... , The Mission , Exiled , My Left Eye Sees Ghosts , Election , as well as its sequel Election 2 (a.k.a. Triad Election), and Running on Karma . These films and more have either been produced and/or directed by both To and/or Wai.


Johnnie To is the principal director and filmmaker at Milkyway Image, as the majority of Milkyway Image films have been directed by him, sometimes in collaboration with Wai Ka-Fai. However, the company also works with other established Hong Kong directors such as Lawrence Ah Mon and nurtures young directing talent, for example To's longtime assistant director Law Wing-Cheong, writer Yau Nai-Hoi and Cheang Pou-Soi.

Writers of Milkyway Image films include Wai Ka-Fai, Szeto Kam-Yuen, Yau Nai-Hoi, Au Kin-Yee and Yip Tin-Shing. The company's writers are sometimes collectively referred to as the Milkyway Creative Team (Chinese :銀河創作組).

Patrick Yau controversy

In 1997, Johnnie To hired his former assistant director Patrick Yau to direct a number of low-budget crime films for To's then-young company: The Odd One Dies , Expect the Unexpected and The Longest Nite . However, due to a difference in opinions and To questioning Yau's ability to put his creative vision into place, he took over, directing The Odd One Dies and The Longest Nite himself. The same happened again with Expect The Unexpected. To eventually stopped working together with Yau.

While Yau is formally credited as the director of all three films, To has since gone on to confirm that he is in fact the director of the films. [2] When asked why he still let Yau be credited as the director, he responded, "I had wanted him to succeed and be recognized as a director. [...] Both he and Patrick Leung were my former assistant directors, and perhaps they both felt that I was supervising them. Therefore, if they left the company, it might be better for them." [3]

Festivals and awards

Milkyway Image's films have played around the international festival circuit. Throw Down was screened Out-of-Competition at the Venice Film Festival in 2004; Exiled was shown in Competition at the festival in 2006; Mad Detective was shown in Competition in 2007; Life Without Principle was shown in Competition in 2011.

Six of Milkyway Image's films were featured in the Cannes Film Festival: Breaking News in the Out-of-Competition midnight screening in 2004; Election in Competition in 2005; Election 2 (a.k.a. Triad Election) was shown as an Out-of-Competition midnight screening in 2006; Triangle was screened as an Out-of-Competition midnight screening in 2007; Vengeance competed for the prestigious Palme D'Or in 2009; Blind Detective was screened in Out-of-Competition midnight screenings in 2013.

Sparrow was also shown in Competition at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2008.

In North America, Milkyway Image's films have been consistently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Mission , Fulltime Killer , PTU , Breaking News, and Throw Down all screened between 1999 and 2005. In 2006, Election, Election 2, and Exiled were screened .

Election isn't one of "Quentin Tarantino presents...", but Tarantino loved this film so much and he still helped the DVD release of this film in someway; his quote "The Best Film Of The Year" is on this film's United States DVD cover.

In 2007, Election 2 (a.k.a. Triad Election) and Exiled were released in the United States theatrically. Johnnie To was also honoured as a "Filmmaker in Focus" of the 2007 Rotterdam Film Festival. In 2008, Mad Detective was given a limited release.


YearFilmChinese titleDirector(s)Notes
1996 Beyond Hypothermia 攝氏32度Patrick Leung
1997 Intruder 恐怖雞Tsang Kan-Cheung
The Odd One Dies兩個只能活一個 Patrick Yau Ghost-directed by Johnnie To.
Too Many Ways to Be No. 1 一個字頭的誕生 Wai Ka-Fai
Final Justice 最後判決Derek Chiu
1998 A Hero Never Dies 真心英雄 Johnnie To
Expect the Unexpected 非常突然Patrick YauGhost-directed by Johnnie To.
The Longest Nite 暗花Patrick YauGhost-directed by Johnnie To.
1999Where a Good Man Goes再見阿郎Johnnie To
Running Out of Time 暗戰Johnnie To
The Mission 鎗火Johnnie To
Sealed with a Kiss 甜言蜜語Derek Chiu
2000Help!!!辣手回春Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Needing You... 孤男寡女Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Comeuppance天有眼Derek Chiu
Spacked Out 無人駕駛 Lawrence Ah Mon
2001 Fulltime Killer 全職殺手Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Love on a Diet 瘦身男女Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Running Out of Time 2 暗戰2Johnnie To
Law Wing-Cheong
Gimme Gimme愛上我吧Lawrence Ah Mon
Wu yen 鍾無艷Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Let's Sing Along男歌女唱 Matt Chow
2002 My Left Eye Sees Ghosts 我左眼見到鬼Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Fat Choi Spirit 嚦咕嚦咕新年財Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Second Time Around 無限復活 Jeffrey Lau
2003 PTU PTUJohnnie ToAlso known as PTU: Police Tactical Unit; start of the Tactical Unit series.
Looking for Mr. Perfect奇逢敵手 Ringo Lam
Turn Left, Turn Right 向左走.向右走Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Running on Karma 大隻佬Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Also known as An Intelligent Muscle Man (大只佬/大块头有大智慧)
Love for All Seasons百年好合Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
2004 Throw Down 柔道龍虎榜Johnnie To
Breaking News 大事件Johnnie To
Yesterday Once More 龍鳳鬥Johnnie To
2005 Election 黑社會Johnnie To
2006 2 Become 1 天生一對Law Wing-Cheong
Election 2 黑社會以和為貴Johnnie ToAlso known as Triad Election
Exiled 放‧逐Johnnie To
2007 Triangle 鐵三角Johnnie To
Tsui Hark
Ringo Lam
Hooked on You 每當變幻時Law Wing-Cheong
Eye in the Sky 跟蹤 Yau Nai-Hoi
Mad Detective 神探Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
2008 Linger 蝴蝶飛Johnnie To
Sparrow 文雀Johnnie To
Tactical Unit – The Code機動部隊─警例Law Wing-CheongPart of the Tactical Unit series.
Tactical Unit – No Way Out機動部隊─絕路Lawrence Ah MonPart of the Tactical Unit series.
Tactical Unit – Human Nature機動部隊─人性Andy NgPart of the Tactical Unit series.
2009 Tactical Unit – Comrades in Arms 機動部隊─衕袍Law Wing-CheongPart of the Tactical Unit series.
Tactical Unit – Partners機動部隊─伙伴Lawrence Ah MonPart of the Tactical Unit series.
Accident 意外 Soi Cheang Originally titled Assassins (暗殺)
Vengeance 復仇Johnnie ToFrench-Hong Kong co-production
2011 Don't Go Breaking My Heart 單身男女Johnnie To
Wai Ka-Fai
Punished 報應Law Wing-cheong
Life Without Principle 奪命金Johnnie To
2012 Romancing in Thin Air 高海拔之戀IIJohnnie To
Motorway 車手 Soi Cheang
Drug War 毒戰Johnnie To
2013 Blind Detective 盲探Johnnie To
A Complicated Story 一個複雜故事Kiwi Chow
2014 Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 單身男女2Johnnie To
2015 Office 華麗上班族Johnnie To
2016 Trivisa 樹大招風Frank Hui
Jevons Au
Vicky Wong
Three 三人行Johnnie To
2020Septet: The Story of Hong Kong七人樂隊Johnnie To, Yuen Wo-ping, Sammo Hung, Patrick Tam, Ann Hui, Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark
TBAElection 3Johnnie To

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johnnie To</span> Hong Kong film director

Johnnie To Kei-fung is a Hong Kong film director and producer. Popular in his native Hong Kong, To has also found acclaim overseas. Intensely prolific, To has made films in a variety of genres, though in the West he is best known for his action and crime movies, which have earned him critical respect and a cult following.

<i>Exiled</i> 2006 film by Johnnie To

Exiled is a 2006 Hong Kong action drama film produced and directed by Johnnie To, and starring Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Nick Cheung, Josie Ho, Roy Cheung and Lam Suet, with special appearances by Richie Jen and Simon Yam. The action takes place in contemporary Macau. The film made its premiere at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival, and was in competition for the Golden Lion.

<i>Election</i> (2005 film) 2005 Hong Kong film

Election, is a 2005 Hong Kong crime film directed by Johnnie To. Featuring a large ensemble cast, the film stars Simon Yam and Tony Leung Ka-fai as two gang leaders engaged in a power struggle to become the new leader of a Hong Kong triad.

<i>The Longest Nite</i> 1998 Hong Kong film

The Longest Nite is a 1998 Hong Kong crime thriller film directed by Patrick Yau and Johnnie To, starring Lau Ching-wan and Tony Leung Chiu-wai. The film was produced by To and Wai Ka-fai along with their production company, Milkyway Image.

<i>Election 2</i> 2006 Hong Kong film

Election 2, also known as Triad Election in the United States, is a 2006 Category III Hong Kong crime film directed by Johnnie To with a large ensemble cast including Louis Koo, Simon Yam and Nick Cheung. A sequel to the 2005 film Election, the film concludes the events of the first film centring on triad boss Lok, who struggles to get re-elected as his two-year term approaches its end. He faces competition from Jimmy, who wants to retire from the triad to be a legitimate businessman, but gets drawn into the conflict surrounding the election.

<i>PTU</i> (film) 2003 Hong Kong film

PTU, also known as PTU: Police Tactical Unit, is a 2003 Hong Kong crime thriller film produced and directed by Johnnie To, starring Simon Yam, Maggie Shiu, Lam Suet and Ruby Wong.

Wai Ka-Fai is a Hong Kong screenwriter, producer, film director, and former TV screenwriter and producer.

<i>Throw Down</i> (film) 2004 Hong Kong film

Throwdown is a 2004 Hong Kong martial arts film directed by Johnnie To and starring Louis Koo, Aaron Kwok, Cherrie Ying and Tony Leung Ka-fai. The film is one of To's most personal to date; he dedicated it to the late Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and, in making it, had drawn upon elements of Kurosawa's debut feature, Sanshiro Sugata. Throw Down had its premiere at the 61st Venice International Film Festival.

China Star Entertainment Limited is a Hong Kong film production company and film distributor. It was established in 1992 by film producer Charles Heung, and is a distributor and film producer of films made mostly in Cantonese.

Yau Nai-hoi is a Hong Kong screenwriter and director. He is best known as a frequent screenwriter for films produced by the independent Hong Kong production company Milkyway Image, notably films directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai. Yau often collaborates with fellow Milkyway Image writers Wai Ka-Fai, Szeto Kam-Yuen, Au Kin-Yee and Yip Tin-Shing. His directorial debut arrived with the 2007 film Eye in the Sky.

<i>Eye in the Sky</i> (2007 film) 2007 Hong Kong film

Eye in the Sky is a 2007 Hong Kong action thriller film starring Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka-fai and Miss Hong Kong pageant winner Kate Tsui in her film debut. Yam and Tsui play surveillance operatives on the trail of a gang of professional robbers led by Chan Chong-Shan (Leung). The title is derived from the casino surveillance tech "eye in the sky". It marks the directorial debut of Yau Nai-hoi, a long-time screenwriter for films directed by Johnnie To, who co-produced the film with his production company Milkyway Image. Eye in the Sky premiered as an Official Selection at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival, and as an Opening Film at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. It was released in Hong Kong on 21 June 2007.

Au Kin-yee is a Hong Kong screenwriter.

Law Wing-Cheong, also known as Vincent Lo, is a Hong Kong film editor, an assistant director, film director, and actor. He is best known for collaborating as an associate director for films made by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai of Milkyway Image.

<i>Mad Detective</i> 2007 Hong Kong film

Mad Detective is a 2007 Hong Kong action film produced and directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai. Mad Detective was first screened at the 64th Venice International Film Festival, and later premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, before being released in Hong Kong on 29 November 2007. The film's screenplay won "Best Screenplay" awards at various Asian film ceremonies.

Yip Tin-shing is a Hong Kong screenwriter.

<i>Triangle</i> (2007 film) 2007 Hong Kong action film

Triangle is a 2007 Hong Kong action film produced and directed by Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, and Johnnie To. The film's title refers to both the acclaimed trio of filmmakers and to the uneasy brotherhood of the film's three protagonists. Triangle tells one story which is told in three thirty-minute segments, independently helmed by the three directors. It stars Louis Koo, Simon Yam and Sun Honglei as a group of friends who uncover a hidden treasure that quickly draws attention among others. The film's tagline is "Temptation. Jealousy. Destiny." Each word is often associated with the segments that appear in chronological order.

Patrick Yau Tat-Chi is a Hong Kong film director and assistant director best known for making independent films for Milkyway Image, the production company owned by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai.

Cheng Siu-Keung, also credited as Alan Cheng or Milo Cheng, is a Hong Kong cinematographer, screenwriter, and director. He is known for frequently collaborating with directors Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai as a cinematographer for their independent film production company, Milkyway Image.

<i>Vengeance</i> (2009 film) 2009 film

Vengeance is a 2009 action thriller film directed by Johnnie To, and written by Wai Ka-Fai. It stars Johnny Hallyday, Anthony Wong, Gordon Lam, Lam Suet, Simon Yam, Michelle Ye and Sylvie Testud. The film tells the story of Francis Costello, a French chef and former assassin whose daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are attacked by a gang of Triads. Costello travels to Macau to embark on a quest for revenge, enlisting the aid of three hitmen. The film explores the themes of assassination, violence and the influence of Triads in modern society. Produced by Milkyway Image, the film was released by ARP Sélection in France, and Media Asia Films in Hong Kong.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johnnie To filmography</span>

Johnnie To is a Hong Kong film director, and producer.


  1. To departing Milky Way
  2. Teo, Stephen (2007). Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Film . Hong Kong University Press. p.  230. ISBN   978-962-209-840-4.
  3. Teo, Stephen (2007). Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Film . Hong Kong University Press. p.  228. ISBN   978-962-209-840-4.