7 best Asian American movies and shows to watch for AAPI Heritage Month

Best comedy movies on Netflix: Always Be My Maybe
(Image credit: Ed Araquel/Netflix)

Every May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month honors the contributions and accomplishments of Asian Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, and Native Hawaiians. One way to celebrate this month is by watching movies and shows showcasing AAPI voices and experiences.

AAPI representation and influence in the film and television industry has grown significantly in the past decade. A 2023 study from the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative noted that in the last 16 years, the percentage of Asian characters with speaking roles onscreen nearly tripled from 3.4% to 15.9%. The increase can be attributed to hits like "Crazy Rich Asians" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once," as well overseas sensations such as "Parasite" and "Squid Game."

We've selected some of our favorite movies and shows to enjoy while celebrating AAPI Heritage Month.

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’

This little indie-that-could pulled off a more exciting trip through the multiverse than Marvel and won the Oscar for Best Picture, all while featuring a mostly Asian cast led by Best Actress winner Michelle Yeoh. The title might as well refer to the mash-up of so many genres and tones, from Hong Kong martial arts flicks to science fiction to comedy. Yeoh’s Evelyn Wang starts off as a very ordinary woman living a very ordinary life. But then, she learns from an alternate version of her husband (comeback king and fellow Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan) that other realities exist and that she is the key to saving everyone from annihilation. But for all the action, multiverse-hopping and outright odd occurrences, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a moving story about a mother and daughter divided by generation and culture. 

Watch on Netflix

‘The Joy Luck Club’

Nearly 30 years before “Everything Everywhere All at Once” rather improbably won the Oscar, “Joy Luck Club” explored themes of Asian identity and complicated mother-daughter relationships. The adaptation of Amy Tan’s bestselling novel ranges across generations and continents to relay universal truths about love, loss and hope. The vignettes revolve around four older Chinese women (Kiều Chinh, Tsai Chin, France Nuyen, Lisa Lu) and their American-raised daughters (Ming-Na Wen, Tamlyn Tomita, Lauren Tom, Rosalind Chao). Flashbacks reveal the mothers’ hidden, painful pasts, which illuminate present-day conflicts.

Watch on Hulu, Paramount Plus or Peacock


As a Seoul-born immigrant who grew up in the South of the United States, “Minari” resonated especially strongly with writer/director Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical story of a Korean-American immigrant family who move from California to rural Arkansas in the 1980s. Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) takes over a small farm, hoping to grow produce to sell to buyers in Dallas. To make ends meet, he and wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) work at a nearby chicken factory. They bring over her mother (Oscar winner Youn Yuh-jung) from Korea to mind their two kids, forcing young David (Alan Kim) to share a room with his halmuni. The themes of hard work, sacrifice and risking it all for a dream will strike home with many in America’s Asian diaspora.

Watch on Netflix

‘Never Have I Ever’

Mindy Kaling’s semi-autobiographical teen comedy stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a 15-year-old Indian American girl living in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles. At the start of the series, she is dealing with grief for her father, who recently and suddenly died. Devi struggles to process her emotions, often lashing out at her mother Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan). At school, she gets entangled with her crush, Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet), and her academic rival Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison).Coming from an immigrant family myself, I really appreciate how deftly “Never Have I Ever” handles the Indian American experience and Devi's attempts to balance respect for her heritage and her modern teen sensibilities. These cultural issues also come up in other storylines, like Kamala's conflicted desires about arranged marriage and Nalini's plans to move back to India.

Watch on Netflix

‘Always Be My Maybe’

Few romantic comedies have Asian American leads. That’s something comedian Ali Wong and veteran actor Randall Park wanted to address by making an Asian version of “When Harry Met Sally.” They play childhood best friends — she’s literally the girl next door — who grew apart after an awkward teenage encounter. When they meet again as adults, Sasha is a celebrity chef and Marcus is still living at home, and they both have significant others. They still connect on a deep emotional level, though, and it’s not hard to see where this story is going (despite a surprising cameo by Keanu Reeves). Not only is the movie genuine and funny, but it highlights the vibrancy of Asian American culture.

Watch on Netflix 

‘Fresh Off the Boat’

Just the second-ever network primetime sitcom starring an Asian American family (after Margaret Cho’s short-lived 1994 comedy “All-American Girl), “Fresh Off the Boat” felt like a breath of fresh air. Created by Nahnatchka Khan (who directed “Always Be My Maybe”) and loose inspired by the life of chef Eddie Huang, it follows the Taiwanese-American Huang family in the 1980s after they move from Washington, D.C. to Florida so that dad Louis (Randall Park) can open a restaurant. Wife Jessica’s (Constance Wu) primary focus is her children — she’s a tiger mom before that phrase was coined — though she’s got her own side hustles going on. Hijinks and happenstances come across their way, but heart pushes the Huangs up and through.

Watch on Hulu


Road rage drives this half-hour dark comedy starring Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, two magnetic performers who share a palpable chemistry. They play two strangers who are involved in a vehicular incident in a parking lot. Their showdown escalates to a chase through suburban streets, then turns into an out-and-out feud that lasts for months. Danny (Yeun) is a failing contractor with debt and complicated family relationships. Amy owns a thriving houseplant business, but really wants to take time off to spend with her husband and child. The troubles in their individual lives only exacerbate their bitterness toward each other. Using very dark humor and biting wit, creator creator Lee Sung Jin explores mental health, the pressure to succeed and class differences through the lens of the Asian American experience.

Watch on Netflix

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Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.