Hero is a 2002 wuxia film directed by Zhang Yimou. Starring Jet Li as the nameless protagonist, the film is based on the story of Jing Ke's assassination attempt on the King of Qin in 227 BC. Hero was first released in China on October 24, 2002. At that time, it was the most expensive project and the highest-grossing motion picture in Chinese film history. Miramax Films owned the American market distribution rights, but delayed the release of the film for nearly two years. It was finally presented by Quentin Tarantino to American theaters on August 27, 2004.
In ancient China during the Warring States Period, a nameless prefect of a small jurisdiction arrives at the Qin state's capital city to meet the king of Qin, who has survived an attempt on his life by the assassins Long Sky, Flying Snow, and Broken Sword, and therefore forbidden visitors closer than 100 paces to his throne. 'Nameless' claims that he had slain the three assassins and he displays their weapons before the king, who allows Nameless to sit closer to him and tell him his story. Nameless recounts killing Long Sky at a xiangqi parlor; later to meet Flying Snow and Broken Sword at a calligraphy school in the Zhao state, where he set them against each other until Snow killed Sword and was herself slain by Nameless. As the tale concludes, the king expresses disbelief and accuses Nameless of staging the duels with the assassins, who surrendered their lives to allow him to gain the king's trust and take the king's life. Nameless admits that he is a native of the Zhao state and that his family was killed by Qin soldiers, and confesses that he defeated Sky without killing him and had proposed co-operation to Snow and Sword. After Snow's apparent death, Sword approached Nameless and told him that the only way to achieve peace was to unite the states under a common dynasty; namely that of Qin, which alone has the ability to do so, thus revealing why Sword gave up his earlier assassination attempt. The king, affected by the tale and by Sword's understanding of his dream to unify China, ceases to fear Nameless. He then tosses his sword to Nameless and examines a scroll drawn by Sword, and understands that it explains the ideal warrior, who, paradoxically, should have no desire to kill. When Nameless realizes the wisdom of these words, he abandons his mission and spares the king. Meanwhile, when Snow learns that Sword had convinced Nameless to forgo the assassination, she furiously challenges Sword to a fight and unintentionally kills him when he chooses not to defend himself so that she would understand his hopes for universal peace. Overwhelmed by guilt, Snow then commits suicide. At the Qin palace, the king reluctantly orders Nameless killed, being urged thereto by his officers. As the film ends, Nameless receives a hero's funeral and a closing text identifies the king as Qin Shi Huang.