Best Martial Arts Movies of All Time

Eric’s Far-From Authoritative ‘Best
Martial Arts Movies’ of All Time List

[If you have something important to do, don’t waste your time with this post. But if you’re looking to kill some time or procrastinate, dig right in!]

Let’s get one thing straight – I don’t claim to have good taste, be a movie critic, or even a movie buff. Hell I don’t even watch a lot of movies. But I knows what I likes so I’m going to share some of my favourite martial arts movies with you. Selfishly, I’m hoping you can share some of your fave flicks with me so I can better pass these rainy spring days.

So feel free to get all bent outta shape and rip into my choices if you want, “How dare you even CONSIDER The Matrix? That isn’t a martial arts movie – less than 10% of the actors are Oriental!? You’re a disgrace to the Chinese people.”

Or…

“Eric, How come Karate Kid 2010 isn’t on your best martial arts movies list? I thought you knew your shit?!? You are so st00pid. I hate you.”

Say whatever you want, I won’t take it personally. It’ll entertain me. Like I said, I knows what I likes.

karate kid martial arts movies

"In West Philadelphia, born and raised, in the DOJO is where I spent most of my days"

So without further adieu, let’s get to my Best Martial Arts Movies of all time…

Best Martial Arts Movies – #5 – Rumble in the Bronx

Yes, Jackie Chan makes it on my list due to his combination of equal parts martial arts skills, creativity, humour and stunts. (I know I’ll get some flack for this one, but bring it on – Jackie is awesome). You can’t beat Jackie when he’s in a room full of furniture and he’s fighting 10+ enemies. His use of chairs, tables, belts, jackets, and whatever other object is in close proximity is unparalleled. But what really impresses me about him is his stunts. He directs all of his stunts and does many of them. In Rumble in the Bronx, he busted up his ankle and finished the film with a cast. Here are some outtakes of his stunts:

 

Best Martial Arts Movies – #4 – The Matrix Trilogy

I can’t remember which one of these is my favourite, but one of them stood out above the rest (maybe you can remind me?). Sure, Keanu Reeves isn’t a true martial artist, sure there are a lot of special effects, but that’s the whole point. If you want real martial arts, watch MMA. Movies are meant for fantasy and that’s where the Matrix shines.

 

Best Martial Arts Movies – #3 – Bloodsport

Of course Jean-Claude Van Damme made it on this list. I think this is what I watched at my first sleepover party at my best friend’s house in Grade 4. It blew me away. The splits, on CHAIRS?!? WTF? And Bolo – he inspired me to be able to learn to bounce my pecs.But I think my favourite character was the Monkey man. Oh how I wanted him to win. Alas, it was not meant to be:

 

Best Martial Arts Movies – #2 – Ong Bak

Tony Jaa is a bad motherf*&#*$. And the opening scene hyped me up like no other opening scene from a movie, except I kind of remember the opening scene from Apocalypto was pretty crazy, I’ll have to check it out again. Anyway Ong Bak was the first movie I saw showcasing Muay Thai and I loved the flying knees and elbows… although the Double Elbow from Kneeling Mount on a Standing Opponent (at 1:29) was a bit much.

 

The #1 Movie on Eric’s “Best Martial
Arts Movies of All Time” List

FIST OF LEGNED starring JET LI

Have you seen this one? By far my favourite on the list. Tons of quality fight scenes, the beginning of Matrix style flying around, the epic battle between Karate and Kung-Fu, Japan and China, and a Boss-General modeled after Street Fighter’s Bison that you loved seeing get beat up. If you haven’t seen it, you have to watch it ASAP. Just thinking about it has me pumped. I might have to watch it tonight. Here’s one of many, many good scenes that even showcases some Bruce Lee style fighting:

 

So that’s my list. What do you think? Am I an idiot?

Have I wasted your time? [If so – read this training post and feel better that you’ve educated yourself at least a bit today.]

Got some recommendations for me?

Let me have your best martial arts movies below:

Leave a Reply

116 Comments on "Best Martial Arts Movies of All Time"


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Tom
2 years 2 months ago

Hi,
I agree with your summary of great martial arts movies. I would add Dragon Tiger Gate to the list, simply because it is hard (even in slow motion) to believe that the heroes in the movie aren’t actually connecting with their foes. I know there’s special effects on how they are kicked backwards, but the hits are more real than I’ve ever seen.
I love the fantasy part of the movies as well, and especially love a martial arts movie with a great story line. The (original) Matrix, and Dragon Tiger Gate have good stories and amazing action. Bullet Proof Monk with Chow Yun-Fat is another one of my top 10 ten movies. They are not ‘American’ with their baddy/goody beat up script with no story line.

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Ranstorm
2 years 3 months ago

You forgot Enter the Dragon.

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tony
2 years 6 months ago

bloodsport is poo apart from the knee thing van dam is a wife beating bitch

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tony
2 years 6 months ago

the best fight sceens are in chocolate u retard eny1 dunt agree WATCH IT buy the way matrix 2 is the good one

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Brian
2 years 8 months ago

5. Ip Man (1-3)
4. Ong Bak
3. Undisputed (1-3)
2. Never Back Down (1-2)
1. Flash Point

i think i’m gonna add Bourne (1-3) here as well.

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dorota
2 years 10 months ago

Very good idea. I got Bloodsport and Fist of Legend to watch as I haven’t seen them yet.
Also, I think Jackie Chan is a wonderfull athlete and comic actor.
So here is my list in return (not much to do with MMA) 😉
Not very ambitious either mostly romance/comedy/bit of philosophy.

1. Rusalka [The Mermaid International (English title)] 2007 Anna Melikyan
2. Billy Elliot 2000
3. The Yes Man Fix the World
4. The Taste of Others 2000 Agnès Jaoui
5. Shirat Ha’Sirena [Song of the Siren] (1994) Eytan Fox
6. High Spirits 1988 Neil Jordan
7. Les visiteurs (original title) 1993 Jean-Marie Poiré
8. Game of Thrones (2011 TV Series)
9. Millenium 1-3 (Swedish, not Hollywood)
10. Harry Potter 1-7

😉

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2 years 11 months ago

You should also check out The Raid. The movie features awesome action scenes based on the Pencak Silat martial arts, which originated in the south east asia.

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2 years 11 months ago

I can’t believe you miss Warrior from that list. The fighting scene was realistically brutal and the story was incredible.

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Danny Atwater
3 years 3 months ago

Hi, How can you leave out all of Bruce Lee’s movies? The Chinese Connection should be in that list. Have you seen Blood and Bone with Micheal Jai White? That movie is off the hook. How about Undisputed ll with Micheal Jai White and Scott Adkins? These should be considered before the Matrix series. Keanu Reeves couldn’t fight his way out of a paper sack. Really?

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Rezbi Reply:

While Bruce Lee may have been a decent martial artist, he was never proven against anyone decent.

Having said that, this is not about the individual fighter. Rather about the best movies.

And, whether or not Keanu Reeves can fight is irrelevant.

The first Matrix movie was decent. Most of Bruce Lee’s movies – after the first watching – were boring.

I agree about Blood and Bone. I haven’t seen the others you mention.

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decko Reply:

knob head bruce lee films boring ya sound like your up your own hole

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Rezbi Reply:

Me knob-head?

People like you are so fan-boy about bluce ree you’d think you would actually have his babies, you fag.

3 years 3 months ago

While Bruce Lee may have been a decent martial artist, he was never proven against anyone decent.

Having said that, this is not about the individual fighter. Rather about the best movies.

And, whether or not Keanu Reeves can fight is irrelevant.

The first Matrix movie was decent. Most of Bruce Lee’s movies – after the first watching – were boring.

I agree about Blood and Bone. I haven’t seen the others you mention.

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2 years 8 months ago

knob head bruce lee films boring ya sound like your up your own hole

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2 years 8 months ago

Me knob-head?

People like you are so fan-boy about bluce ree you’d think you would actually have his babies, you fag.

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3 years 5 months ago

Michael Jai White – people, this man fought the entire Blood and Bone movie wearing Timberlands. That is right. He is hard core and has earned 7 black belts in seven different styles.

So if you really want authenticity, watch his movies. He would kick virtually every martial artist featured on this page. He weighs 225 lbs and is 6 foot 3 inches. Everyone else listed is less than 200 lbs and most Chinese/Japanese/Thai fighters are below 190 lbs.

Since I am also Black, and heavier than most Asian movie fighters, I am partial to him in terms of who would do the most damage. Fighting with boots is not easy. Try it sometime. I did it many years while in the military.

Now did this:

Check out the final fight scene in BLOOD AND BONE. Flash back to when Bruce Lee was fighting in Enter the Dragon when He and John Saxon were fighting all of the guards, and when Bruce kicks this one guy 5 times, you can see the stunt doubles in the background laughing. Now remember that Bob Wall was in that movie as Han’s bodyguard.

Now fast forward to MJW fighting in the final fight scene in Blood and Bone. NOtice when MJW does a spinnng back kick, he does it again and hits the target, and guess who is in the background laughing in that scene??? Robert Wall as O’Hara, one of McVeigh’s bodyguards. Previously, he played a character also named O’Hara in Enter the Dragon.

Scott Adkins and MJW were both in Undisputed 2 Watch that movie please. Make sure you then get Undisputed 3. I hear that they are coming out with Undisputed 4 when he finishes shooting Expendables 2. Watch both of them. Now only if Tony Jaa learned English……..

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DrAgONzRuLe4554 Reply:

I will check out Undisputed II and III. MJW is a monster when it comes to MMA. Tbh he is my favorite actor.

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1 year 10 months ago

I will check out Undisputed II and III. MJW is a monster when it comes to MMA. Tbh he is my favorite actor.

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3 years 5 months ago

I can see that everyone is much younger than myself, but I have definitely seen more movies than anyone here because I was 14 when Bruce passed. So here is my list:

1. Michael Jai White/Scott Adkins – Undisputed 2 & 3 Michael Jai White in Blood and Bone
Anything either of these two are in off the chain. They are the new heirs of martial arts mastery along with
2. Donnie Yen – Ip Man 1 & 2, Legend of the Fist His scene are always realistic
3. Jackie Chan – Rumble in the Bronx, Meals on Wheels, My Lucky Stars, Police Story 2 – that fight scene in the playground and the final fight scene was off the chain. Include the mall fight scene from Police Story 1, and Super Cop
4. Jet Li – The Bodyguard from Beijing -, Black Mask , Fearless, My Father is a Hero
5. Bruce Lee – Return of the Dragon and Tony Jaa in Ong Bak, sorry but The Protector was too unrealistic at the end but the temple fight scene wit hLateif Crowder was good.
6. Sonny Chiba – All of the Street Fighter movies, and all of the Mas Oyama movies he did. Sometimes,l the fight scene were hookey, but when Chiba really wanted to get busy, he did.

No one asked about the best villians so here is my short list:

Wang Jang Lee (youtube him) He kicked Jackie Chan’s tooth out of his mouth and actually killed a man in real life. He was a trainer to the Korean Army. I love him and rooted for him in many movies. He is awesome. See him on youtube especially THE ART OF HIGH IMPACT KICKING instructional videos. You can really learn how to kick from watching all 8 videos.
Yu Rongguang (he is the Iron Monkey) who was a villian in THE KARATE KID (Chan) and MY FATHER IS A HERO

Hey now what about the women???

Yukari Oshima – any of her movies. she is the bomb.
Gina Carano – She is currently featured in HAYWIRE. She has a great future in martial arts films
Sue Shiomi – Sister Street Fighter

I do not like wire work, flying in the air or poor camera editing.

I am sorry, but Van Damme does not make my list because ,most of his fight scenes were too mechanical. I hate when another fighter doesn’t put up a fight. It is phony. People are not punching bags and real fighters DO fight. Most Van Damme fight scenes (except the movie KNOCK OFF and DOUBLE TEAM with Dennis Rodman) are pne sisded – he really needed a Chinese or Japanse fight chroeographer instead of the western fight directors he had (excluding John Woo). He had great potential but blew it once he started using drugs.

Anyway, I can provide a better list, but that should be a good start.

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Ben
3 years 8 months ago

By the way, you said the one film featured Bruce Lee style fighting, i would like to point out that Bruce Lee was trained in the style of Wing Chun, Which was Developed by Ip Man, of whom was Bruce Lee’s Teacher

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Chris
3 years 8 months ago

YES. Good list, fist of legend is #1 for sure and your other choices are good too.

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Josemm
3 years 9 months ago

Bruce The big boss, fist of fury
Blood sport1 and 2 ,the quest
few sequences from matrix
Kick boxer movies with sasha Mitchell
krav maga action in Bourne trilogy
the only capoeira movie i know Only the Strong with Mark Dacascos
Rocky

and what about fighting video games Eric?
I would go for Tekken
Virtua fighter
the one of the ufc
MMa from EAsports
The beat them up games from the 80`s like:
Double dragon
Streets of rage
etc etc

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KungFuMaster
3 years 11 months ago

-Ong Bak II
-The Protector
-Once Upon A Time In China I
-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
-Ip Man I

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Joshua Reply:

your list is the best.
I cant believe no one else put the protector

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Joshua
3 years 10 months ago

your list is the best.
I cant believe no one else put the protector

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4 years 9 hours ago

1. Jet Li Fist of Legend, 2 Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon, 3 Jet Li Fearless, 4 Bruce Lee Fist of Fury, 5 Jet Li Fearless. My 5 Stars are: 1 Jet Li, 2 Bruce Lee, 3 Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, 4 Chuck Norris, 5 Michelle Yeohe

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HitManHey
4 years 7 days ago

@Bakwena
Jacki is far FAR more than a stunt man!!
Have you seen how fast he is in his earlier Hong Kong movies??
He also brings a great sense of humour to his movies.
Jacki Chan must have made more great martial arts movies than anyone else going… the guy has been around for years!!

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HitManHey
4 years 7 days ago

1 Bruce Lee
2 Jacki Chan
3 Sonny Chiba
4 Donnie Yen
5 Tony Jaa

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HitManHey
4 years 7 days ago

! Enter the Dragon.
2 Kung Fu Hustle
3 The Street Fighter
4 Prodigal Son
5 Hero

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HitManHey Reply:

I should have added The Story of Ricky Ho in here somewhere but 5 is such a short list.

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HitManHey Reply:

DAMN!!! I keep coming up with great movies!!
my last choice… Kung Fu Pow!!! Hah hilarious movie. A must for all Old School Martial Arts fans!!!!

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HitManHey
4 years 7 days ago

I should have added The Story of Ricky Ho in here somewhere but 5 is such a short list.

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HitManHey
4 years 7 days ago

DAMN!!! I keep coming up with great movies!!
my last choice… Kung Fu Pow!!! Hah hilarious movie. A must for all Old School Martial Arts fans!!!!

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brenton
4 years 13 days ago

I did not see one person mention Van Damme? Come on now Bloodsport and Kickboxer are amazing martial arts movies, Van Damme is my hero and I’m a little dissapointed nobody mentioned him. Just about every movie he has made(except the newer ones) are good, some great! They are all worth watching

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kennethy Reply:

No one mentioned him because he had poor fight directors. He looked so mechanical and his fight scene were phony except when he was directed by Asian stunt choreographers. Westerners (except the Undisputed movies) do not stage great fight scenes. Cory Yuen is great having directed both Van Damme and Jackie Chan and Jet Li and Donnie Yen in many great martial arts movies.

Don’t get me wrong, even Bloodsport, after looking at it today, is not as good as Michael Jai White – See Universal Soldier 2 where they fight each other. When JCVD did KNOCK OFF and DOUBLE TEAM, he was much better than virtually all of his previous movie fight scenes. See for yourself.

MJW, instead of Denzel Washington, should have been cast in THE BOOK OF ELI. What a waste,

See NEVER BACK DOWN 2 for more on MJW.

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3 years 5 months ago

No one mentioned him because he had poor fight directors. He looked so mechanical and his fight scene were phony except when he was directed by Asian stunt choreographers. Westerners (except the Undisputed movies) do not stage great fight scenes. Cory Yuen is great having directed both Van Damme and Jackie Chan and Jet Li and Donnie Yen in many great martial arts movies.

Don’t get me wrong, even Bloodsport, after looking at it today, is not as good as Michael Jai White – See Universal Soldier 2 where they fight each other. When JCVD did KNOCK OFF and DOUBLE TEAM, he was much better than virtually all of his previous movie fight scenes. See for yourself.

MJW, instead of Denzel Washington, should have been cast in THE BOOK OF ELI. What a waste,

See NEVER BACK DOWN 2 for more on MJW.

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Abz
4 years 18 days ago

donnie yen (ji dan) is already a master in wing chun he didnt need training months before the movie sorry but most of people lists are just really bad

hard to pick a top 5 but mine is

5 Enter the dragon/5 deadly venoms
4 Ong bak
3 Iron Monkey
2 Fist of legend
1 Ip Man

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Bakwena Reply:

Nice choice Abz.U know your story very well.

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Bakwena
3 years 8 months ago

Nice choice Abz.U know your story very well.

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4 years 1 month ago

Guys we must remember that Jackie Chan is just a mere stuntman,but the following movies are still the best.

1.Iron Monkey(Donnie Yen)
2.The Fist of Legend(Jet Li)
3.The Protector(Tony Jaa)
4.Fearless(Jet Li)
5.Ongbak 2(Tony Jaa)

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4 years 2 months ago

I like this site very much so much superb information.

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[…] hard drive, looking for the movie ‘Fist of Legend’ because the post I made about the ‘Best Martial Arts Movies of All Time‘ got me excited to watch it […]

Joe
4 years 2 months ago

Wonderful choices Eric!
Thank you!

Fist of Legend is an excellent choice.
Here is a list in no specific order:

1. Ong Bak, the Protector-Tony Jaa.
2. Fearless- Jet Li.
3. Enter the Dragon – Bruce Lee.
4. Fist of Iron- (I can’t recall).
5. Death ring- Ti Lung & Chen Kwan Tai

There are so many that I many which I may have forgotten.
Enjoy

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4 years 2 months ago

I don’t usually like jet Li’s fight scenes – they’re too flowery for my taste. But I quite like this one.

Never seen it before.

He seems to be doing a bit of what Bruce Lee did in one of his movies. Although I can’t remember which one.

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4 years 2 months ago

Enter the Dragon is by far the best martial arts movie ever produced….no one can compare to the legendary Bruce Lee, a man decades ahead his time…..

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Ben Suff
4 years 2 months ago

1) Hands down, Drunken Master 2 starring Jackie Chan takes the top spot.
2) Enter The Dragon
2) Ali
3) Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
4) Dragon : The Bruce Lee Story
5) Kill Bill

Karate Kid 1, The Seven Samuri, Ninja Turtels 1, Rumble in the Bonx all take honorable mentions.

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Phillip
4 years 2 months ago

Top 5 movies for me…

1) Way of the Dragon
2)IpMan 1,2
3)Game of Death
4)Rapid Fire
5)Ong Bak1,2

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ali
4 years 2 months ago

1)Bruce Lee
2)Bruce Lee
3)4) Jet Li or Jackie Chan
5)Ip man1-2 main Actor (Donnie Yen)

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ali
4 years 2 months ago

and by the way #1 fist of legend jet li is a jeet kune do martail artist in this movie which bruce Lee created the jeet kune do same as mma bruce didn t wih to name his way of martail art …..

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ali
4 years 2 months ago

I am really desapionted in u
u didn t put the godfather of mma the one n only bruce lee u better remake ur list of martail arts

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Paul B.
4 years 2 months ago

1) The Protector
2) Ip Man
3) Fist of Legend
4) Drunken Master
5) Chinese Hercules

I have a few others but you said 5, lol.

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Pete
4 years 2 months ago

5 Deadly Venoms
Death Duel of Kung Fu
Twin Warriors
Fearless

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PJ
4 years 2 months ago

Unleashed with Jet Li, from memory, not a pure martial arts fill but some of the action in it is awesome

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Andres
4 years 2 months ago

Don’t forget Drunken Master 2.

One of the best of all time.

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Nindz
4 years 2 months ago

Hi Eric

I have to say i’m huge nut when it comes to hong kong cinema style films in terms of choreography.
Love they way the are so detailed in moves/forms, it almost like a dance but with martial arts instead
These guys spend months on scenes and its no wonder they’re a joy to watch

My list of favorites is huge but for old school hong kong flicks i’d highly recommend the following

1.) 5 Deadly Venoms, some people have mentioned this above, awesome fights
2.) Fearless Hyena (One of Jackie’s earlier films)
3.) Born Invincible (Carter Wong is amazing in this one)
4.) The Prodigal Son (Yuen Biao & Sammo Hung utilizing wing chun)
5.) Warriors 2

You wont go wrong with these classics

[Reply]

HitManHey Reply:

The Prodigal Son is one of my all time favs :0)
It has the best, worst dubbing ever in any movie ever made… love it lol.
Some great fight scense… excellent choice!!

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HitManHey
4 years 7 days ago

The Prodigal Son is one of my all time favs :0)
It has the best, worst dubbing ever in any movie ever made… love it lol.
Some great fight scense… excellent choice!!

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Ben
4 years 2 months ago

Not bad. Here are some of my favorite Kung-fu movies:
36 Chamber of Shaolin
5 Element Ninjas
Magic Blade
5 Deadly Venoms
Ip Man 1 & 2
Masked Avengers

Most Of these films are the old-school Shaw Brothers films. If you like Kung fu films check these out.

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Adrian
4 years 2 months ago

5) Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

4) House of Flying Daggers

3) Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

2) Hero

1) Kung Fu Hustle

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Sean
4 years 2 months ago

how come nobody has mentioned forbidden kingdom? yeah its a little cheesy but jet li AND jackie chan… enough said! but also i think it would just be easier to list top 5 martial arts movie actors and heres mine.

5. steven segal
4. jet li
3. jackie chan (i like some humor in my martial arts)
2. chuck norris
1. Bruce Lee

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Tom
4 years 2 months ago

there’s some good ones there but 2 big ones missing.
RedBelt – cool BJJ movie about a guy walking the path of the warrior.
And Valhalla Rising – a really awsome battle saga.

And just for Laughs, what about American Ninja

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4 years 2 months ago

Oh, I forgot, Awesome film called ‘Iron and Silk’ – Biographical drama about a martial arts nerd who trains with a chinese master- see Imdb

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4 years 2 months ago

Some awesome films that haven’t been mentioned:

Drive (mark Dacascos), Blood and Bone (Micheal Jai White), Enter the Dragon, Dragon (Jason Scott Lee),
Eye for an Eye (Chuck Norris), Double Impact (JCVD), Under Siege, Lethal Weapon, Rocky 4, China o’Brien (just joking), The Protector (American Jackie Chan buddy cop film from early 80’s – WTF???) and Perfect Weapon (Jeff Speakman)

How about worst martial arts film? Gymkata?

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4 years 2 months ago

AWSOME VIDEO’S maan , i LOVED IT 😀

personally my favourite’s are

1) never back down
2) undisputed 3
3) big stan
4) karate kid

[Reply]

Ronaldoz
4 years 2 months ago

Would have to say

1: Undisputed 3
2: Enter The Dragon
3: Bloodsport
4: Ong Bak
5: Kung Fu Hustle (If you want a laugh)

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buster
4 years 2 months ago

sorry was ment to say you havent got SHOGUNS ASSASSIN not in your top 5

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buster
4 years 2 months ago

drunken master
snake in eagles shadow
enter the streetfighter {with sonny chiba
battle creek brawl
and cant believe SHOGUNS ASSASSIN in your to 5

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Michaelr
4 years 2 months ago

Last of the Mohicans w Dan Day Lewis has some of the best fight scenes ever

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MichaelR
4 years 2 months ago

No-one’s mentioned Lethal Weapon – the choreography was way ahead of it’s time – one of the Gracies was an advisor, there are also elements of 52 Blocks, Silat and Capoeira in the gritty mix. In a similarly urban vein, both Taken and the Bourne films have some great bone crunching action. While Filippino based, the latter owe much to Segal. Two of my all time favourites: Ghost Dog and The Seven Samurai

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