Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, released in 2000 and directed by Ang Lee, tells the story of two women, Shu Lien and Ziyi Zhang (Jen), both capable fighters, whose fates intertwine, when Hu Lien finds herself in Beijing, transporting 'Green Destiny' (an ancient sword) to Sir Te's estate, at the behest of her dear friend, Mu Bai. Both women yearn freedom in different ways: Shu Lien strives for freedom to express her emotions, and to fulfill her love for Mu Bai, but as we learn at the beginning, matters of the heart are difficult for her; Ziyi Zhang, on the other hand, is an aristocrat with a tumultuous past, who seeks to escape the constraints of her noble lifestyle and her upcoming arranged marriage.
A thief appears on the estate trying to steal the sword 'Green Destiny', and is later revealed to be Jen, who is working in cahoots with Jade Fox, an ignoble murderess, who is nonetheless a great fighter. Jade Fox is undercover as Jen's governess, but is really her mentor and teacher. Mu Bai discovers Jen's secret, but sees that she has great potential as a warrior and offers to become her teacher in the Wudang style of fighting. Jen, when she learns about Jade Fox's tainted past, banishes her, and returns the sword.
Lo, a long-haired, passionate bandit from the desert ('I may not be a cloud but I'm pretty dark') comes to Jen in the night, begging her to flee with him. We are given an insight into their history in a flashback, whereby Lo, heading a group of bandits, raided Jen's carriage, kidnapping Jen, and stealing her precious comb, which becomes a symbol of their love and trust of one another. Jen refuses to flee, so he puts a stop to the arranged marriage, but is intercepted by Mu Bai and Shu Lien, sending him to hide in wait for Jen at a safe location. After the wedding, Jen again steals 'Green Destiny' and runs away, and visits Shu Lien, who tells her that Lo awaits her. However, at this stage, it is clear that Jen is a danger to those around her, unsure of her destiny and winning duels in dishonorable fashion, and Mu Bai realises she is not worthy to be his student.
The film ends tragically, whereby Shu Lien too late discovers Mu Bai's love for her, and he dies in her arms, and Jen leaps into the clouds, apparently rejecting the Lo's love.
The film is remarkable in its dream-like scenes of the characters running through the air, over rootops, flying from branch to branch (apparently wire-work was employed and edited out), and the fencing scenes too were beautifully agile, like a dance. It didn't at all seem like a violent film. Also, the messages central to the film were strong and powerful, beautifully conveyed by characters who lived their truth. 'Real sharpness comes without effort. No growth without assistance. No action without reaction. No desire without restraint. Now give yourself up and find yourself again'. This spoken by Mu Bai reveals the truth and integrity of his character. And Shu Lien, advising Jen on her path through life tells her to be a part of Lo's life but 'always be true to yourself'.'