Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Set in 7th century China, this is a great Western / frontier movie of honor and revenge. A At the command of the Chinese Imperial Emperor a Japanese swordsman must hunt down a renegade Chinese army commander before he is allowed to return home to Japan. But in the middle of their cat-and-mouse game, the two agree to team up to protect a Silk Road caravan carrying one of the most precious and most powerful treasures of the world: relics of Buddha.
I was totally engrossed in the stunning desert vistas of Western China. Not to mention fantastic swordfights and action sequences, as well as a completely addictive soundtrack by Bollywood master A.R. Rahman (I had to go out and get the CD). For those stuck in a Western-Tolkien fantasy rut, this movie is the perfect cure. It's different from "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" in that it's got the whole epic journey thing going on, but with a different kind of twist on honor, respect, and evil. I highly recommend this to all writers who are working on an epic fantasy, because this is a movie which utilizes Western movie fantasy conventions to tell a very Eastern tale, and can show you just how well nuances can be twisted to make something truly original.