This article contrasts a range of films from around the world that take place within port cities. It presents the port city film as a case of transnational “geographic imaginary” that dramatizes spaces of contact across lifeworlds. The authors find that there are two primary narrative modes in the port city film: a dominant mode in which gender, ethnic, class, and other identities bestowed by the geographic imaginary become inescapable, and a resistant or transformative mode in which characters are offered the opportunity to locate a new identity within a world of ephemeral relationships. Themes of criminality, poverty, and urban constituents struggling for personal agency, however, run counter to many city-branding narratives. The article concludes by comparing these fictional representations to a number of promotional and nonfictive examples of Chinese and British port city representations offering a very different vision of transnational contact—one that emphasizes a nation-building and growth “cleaned” of the human struggles for hybrid identity so vividly dramatized across port city fictions.

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