Martial arts films are the genre that find their way into the hearts of nerdy men (and occasionally women) with the swiftness of a Wushu blade or Bruce Lee kick. It’s action and adventure mixed with lush Asian scenery that you just don’t always get with other country’s films.
There are varying styles of martial arts film as much as there are styles of fighting and I did my best to diversify the list, but you see that Jet Li and Jackie Chan take the cake for most entries.
10. Tai-Chi Master (1993): As an obsessive fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra, this was always a movie that made me realize that Waterbending is definitely real. The actions are as fluid as real life waterbendering would be and the story is a classic friend against friend scenario.
9. The Protector (2005): This only makes the lists for the action, strictly the action. It’s just a constant amount of punches, elbows, knees, and bone cracking for days. Tony Jaa needs to be the next Jackie Chan for viewers. He does his own stunts and most of the things he does are him actually doing it.
8. The City of Violence (2006): Without even discussing the martial arts for a moment, this is just a gorgeously realized film. The colors of the South Korean settings and the Asian landscapes are something worth watching alone, but The City of Violence is not just a blood splattered tale of vengeance, but politics and relationships.
7. Once Upon a Time in China (1991): An epic tale about the Westerners laying roots into the traditions of Chinese culture. It’s a prominent theme in Chinese aka Hong Kong action flicks and it never gets old. Again, Jet Li takes on the role as legendary folk hero Wong Fei Hung and kicks some serious butt in the process.
6. Iron Monkey (1993): To make the premise easy enough to understand, think of Iron Monkey as a Chinese Robin Hood of sorts. With that in mind, think of it this Chinese Robin Hood as one of the coolest fighters to be brought to screen, oh, and it has the underrated Donnie Yen cast in the film.
5. Police Story (1985): This is where we were able to see Jackie Chan at his craziest. He is without a doubt the greatest stuntman to ever live at this rate and he shows it by driving a car through a shack town, hanging on buses with an umbrella, and sliding down an cable full of lit light bulbs. Yeah.
4. Drunken Master (1978): One of Jackie Chan’s break out roles and one of his best. He plays a trouble making martial artist who learns from a mysterious and difficult mentor who teaches him the ways of Drunken boxing, a style of martial arts that gains strength the more they get intoxicated. It’s funny, action packed, and oh so entertaining.
3. Hero (2002): Want to know why this is ranked number three, read here
2. Kill Zone (2005): I don’t know what it is about this movie, but it’s just so fierce! Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung among others bring some of the most fast paced action to this cop drama and it barely stops. It takes only one scene to get the idea of the film all the way through and most who have seen it will know what I’m taking about.
1. Fearless (2006): Arguably one of the best action movies of all time, yes of all time, it mixes wire-fu with classic wushu battles, but is also a silent biopic about a legendary Chinese fighter never lost a fight in his whole career. Jet Li brings a troubled and driven character to life named Huo Yuanjia, a noble wushu fighter who fights externally and internally until he can have the peace he has been longing for. It’s beautiful, perfectly choreographed, and has all forms of fighting imaginable, and it brings in some really cool weapons. Three-section staff anyone?