best martial arts movies everby rastachild | created - 11 May 2012 | updated - 18 Jun 2013 | Public
the best of the best!!!
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2. The Chinese Connection (1972)
R | 107 min | Action, Drama, Romance
A young man seeks vengence for the death of his teacher.
this movie is actually 'fists of fury', but due to an international mix-up when bringing this and 'big boss' overseas, it got named chinese connection. either way, this one is so much better than 'big boss' (what eventually got named fists of fury in the states). i think bruce got more time to work out the fights and every 'bruce-ism' is present. acting-wise, you get to see a little more range. but for the most part, he's just seething and pissed off. of course, the fighting is what makes this film legendary. where big boss fell short, fists of fury makes up for this in spades. there is so much of bruce's unbelievable speed on display married with that swagger that we all know and love. you can see how bruce was infusing a lot of his real style into the fights. the one with the russian is amazing to watch, especially when gets into his sideways horse stance and really digs in. still is extremely impressive 50 years later because there were no wires and no cg. bruce is king.
3. Drunken Master (1978)
PG-13 | 111 min | Action, Comedy
Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) is a mischievous, yet righteous young man, but after a series of incidents, his frustrated father has him disciplined by Beggar So (Yuen Siu-Tien), a master of drunken martial arts.
4. Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (1978)
PG | 90 min | Action, Comedy
Jackie Chan is a boy who is used as a janitor at his kung-fu school. Jackie Chan can't fight and is always getting bullied by the teachers and pupils. One day an old man helps Jackie train ... See full summary »
5. Jing wu ying xiong (1994)
R | 103 min | Action, Drama, Thriller
In 1937, a Chinese martial artist returns to Shanghai to find his teacher dead and his school harassed by the Japanese.
while i absolutely love the chinese connection (or as it's originally titled, fist of fury), fist of legend is one badass flick. you gotta have balls to remake one of bruce's best movies, but jet li pulls it off excellently. one thing that makes this work is that it modernizes and fleshes out the story, which ultimately makes it almost like a completely different movie. and jet li has never hit as hard as he does in this movie. it's a true jet li tour de force.
6. Xiao quan guai zhao (1979)
R | 98 min | Comedy, Action
Jackie Chan is a youngster, living in a remote village with his grandfather who teaches him Kung-Fu. He keeps getting into fights, even though his grandfather warns him not to show their ... See full summary »
8. Siu nin Wong Fei Hung chi: Tit ma lau (1993)
PG-13 | 85 min | Action, Crime, Drama
A martial artist/doctor steals from the corrupt authorities as a masked thief to give to the poor while another martial artist/doctor is forced to hunt him down. But a major threat unites them as a powerful and traitorous shaolin monk takes over the authorities.
Votes: 13,969 | Gross: $14.68M
probably my favorite wu xia title, this robin hood inspired tale unfolds like a fable. colorful characters and yu rongguang and donnie yen make an excellent team. while the title is misleading for martial arts fans (no monkey fu in this title), the kung fu featured is badass. my first and favorite tsui hark experience.
9. Zhong hua zhang fu (1978)
R | 105 min | Action, Comedy
A Chinese man (Liu) marries a Japanese woman through an arranged marriage and manages to insult all of her Japanese martial arts family by issuing a challenge to her that is misinterpreted ... See full summary »
an amazing vehicle for gordon lui featuring some of the most realistic and authentic kung fu styles going head to head against a horde of japanese weapons experts. the choreography is excellent thanks to chia liang liu's masterful vision. story-wise it's a little lopsided; most of the story occurs in the first third of the movie. after that it's pretty much non stop fighting. Yasuaki Kurata as the main opponent (the ninja) is extremely formidable and the fights are tight. i don't think anyone else could have pulled off 'crab style' with this much credibility. another great aspect of this film is the respect and care that is taken with the japanese martial arts. while it's a given that the chinese hero will trump the japanese, the japanese are not villified in this movie (as they are in movies such as 'fists of fury'). this is without a doubt my favorite gordon liu movie
10. The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
R | 102 min | Action, Comedy
A young martial artist is caught between respecting his pacifist father's wishes or stopping a group of disrespectful foreigners from stealing precious artifacts.
Votes: 37,727 | Gross: $11.55M
12. Du bei dao (1967)
R | 111 min | Action, Drama
A noble swordsman, whose arm had been chopped off, returns to his former teacher to defend him from a villainous gang of rival swordsmen.
my favorite jimmy wang yu movie, one armed swordsman is the archetype for not only many martial arts movies to follow, but also westerns as well. even knowing the title, you have to have a mild freak out when he loses his arm. the story is pretty good, but i think jimmy does a fantastic job of really making us care about the hero here. the fighting is very good for its time, especially the swordplay. one of my old school faves.
13. Shao Lin san shi liu fang (1978)
R | 115 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
A man studies kung fu at the Shaolin Temple to fight back against the oppressive Manchu government.
the definitive gordon liu movie that spawned countless shaolin training sequence movies (many starring gordon). the story unfolds at a nice pace and each chamber offers a new challenge that keeps us invested in the progress of our hero. gordon is definitely one of the greats of martial arts cinema.
14. The Big Boss (1971)
R | 99 min | Action, Crime, Drama
A young man sworn to an oath of non-violence works with his cousins in an ice factory where they mysteriously begin to disappear.
bruce's first, but not his best. still, it's bruce! it was hard not putting it in the top ten, but honestly it's not that great of a movie and it doesn't even feature the best of bruce's fight choreography. the movie teases you the first half and then when bruce finally gets to unleash, it's nearly the end. still, it is bruce's first and definitely has a lot of nostalgia for me.
15. Long quan (1979)
94 min | Action, Drama
A dishonored student of the Dragon Fist Sect seeks revenge for the death of his teacher.
one of jackie's early movies, a year after his breakthrough success with drunken master and snake in eagle's shadow. while this one is not close to being as good as those two excellent movies, it is very good. you also get to see jackie play a serious role and i think he pulls it off pretty well. the lovely nora miao plays a supporting role as well. i also really like the style jackie displays in this movie. the dragon fist looks hard
16. The Raid: Redemption (2011)
R | 101 min | Action, Crime, Thriller
A S.W.A.T. team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.
Votes: 163,376 | Gross: $4.11M
holy smokes...just saw this one a few months ago. i will definitely be keeping my eye open for iko uwais. silat is one bad ass martial art. the story here is pretty simple, but it is immersive and you do feel the intensity of being locked in a building with psychopathic killers. oh and maddog? holy shhhhhh.....
17. Return to the 36th Chamber (1980)
R | 99 min | Action, Comedy
The workers of a dye factory have their pay cut by 20% when the factory owner brings in some Manchu thugs to try and increase production. Desperate to reclaim their full wages, the workers ... See full summary »
not a true sequel to 36th chamber, but a surprisingly entertaining movie nonetheless. unlike the original, this one has a comedic tone throughout and while the story revolves around typicaly manchu occupation/oppression, no one dies in this movie. kind of a refreshing change of pace. gordon's hapless character is quite hilarious, but fear not, there are still plenty of the shaolin training sequences we know and love. and they manage to invent an entirely new type of kung fu in this one...scaffolding kung fu. lol. sounds ridiculous, but trust me, this is an excellent movie, almost as good as the original.
18. Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003)
R | 105 min | Action, Crime, Thriller
When the head of a statue sacred to a village is stolen, a young martial artist goes to the big city and finds himself taking on the underworld to retrieve it.
Votes: 64,515 | Gross: $4.56M
my first introduction to tony jaa and what an introduction it was. this movie did a lot to help reinvigorate the martial arts movie genre. tony's brand of muy thai is very acrobatic and brutal...a winning combination indeed. the story and acting is fairly bleh, but there's so much action you won't care
19. Xiao ao jiang hu (1990)
TV-14 | 120 min | Action, History, Romance
When a scroll containing valuable martial arts secrets is stolen from the Emperor, an army detachment is sent to recover it. Blademaster, a young martial arts expert, accidentally ends up ... See full summary »
fantastic story and the wire fu is done very well. a very colorful cast of characters here and you have all sorts of deceit and trickery afoot. also, some very inventive techniques that deal all sorts of interesting deaths. i've yet to see the sequel with jet li, but this one was so good, i'm kinda sad that sam hui didn't reprise his role.
20. Jue quan (1977)
Unrated | 89 min | Action, Drama
An aging martial arts expert is gifted a plaque from the Emperor declaring him the Kung Fu World Champion. Unsure of whether or not be is deserving of this title, he embarks on a journey to defeat the 7 Grandmasters.
the first jack long movie i ever saw. wow, this dude is phenomenal. the fight choreography is fantastic. very tight and inventive. i wish i could've seen a sub instead of the cheesy dub, but the good thing about a dub is it allows you to focus in on the fighting. story is fairly banal and very predictable towards the end, but when the fighting is this good who cares.
21. Cha chi nan fei (1980)
96 min | Action, Drama, Mystery
definitely one of my favorite ti lung movies, mainly because ti actually gets to show off his considerable empty handed (and footed) kung fu quite a bit more than he typically does in his sword based wu xia dramas. which is a shame because ti is a fantastic movie martial artist, very underrated. the choreography is very good in this movie and there are lots of fights. story-wise, you have a pretty engaging whodunit style mystery and there are a ridiculous amount of twists and turns that occur all the way to the final frames of the movie. very recommended.
22. Di renjie: Tong tian di guo (2010)
PG-13 | 119 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
An exiled detective is recruited to solve a series of mysterious deaths that threaten to delay the inauguration of Empress Wu.
Votes: 8,978 | Gross: $0.46M
another tsui hark masterpiece, detective dee is an excellent mystery/suspense flick filled with some beautifully choreographed wire-fu, strong characters, high quality cg effects and an engrossing story. andy lau plays a chinese version of sherlock holmes who is released from prison by the empress to solve a series of gruesome murders that threaten her inauguration. the sets are lavish, but the story and the characters are the main focus here. one of my favorite tsui hark movies (although i still prefer iron monkey better).
23. Kung Fu Cult Master (1993)
99 min | Action, Fantasy, History
A wild and rollicking martial arts fantasy extravaganza that features prized swords -- and swordsmen, a crazy monk attached to a rolling boulder (yup!), serious clan and cult rivalries, and... See full summary »
this movie is crazy. pt1 of a trilogy that never was realized, you get to see some crazy pre-cg effects and some bizarre wire fu and costumes. it's silly, but i like jet li in this role and wish they could've finished the trilogy.
24. Two Champions of Death (1980)
R | 101 min | Action, Drama
The Wu Tang chief sends out his men, each of whom is given a symbol so they can recognize each other. The largest is given to Lee, whom the others are to obey.
as blasphemous as it is to say, i'm not a fan of the movie 5 deadly vemons. the kung fu is just not good enough. but this movie (which features 3 of the venoms i believe) is much better. lo meng and chiang sheng are fantastic in this movie and the kung fu is tightly choreographed. plus they kill a guy by ripping his balls off in mid flying kick...how cool is that??
25. The Delightful Forest (1972)
R | 93 min | Action, Adventure
Wu Sung, a military swordmaster, is acused of murdering his adulterous sister-in-law and a thug, and sent to exile in Meng Chou. At the prison camp, Shih En, son of the camp commander, ... See full summary »
one of the few ti lung movies where he actually does more hand to hand kung fu as opposed to weapon based kung fu, delightful forest is a seriously quirky movie. it's like cheh wanted it to be lighthearted and humorous at first and then halfway through decided to make it a serious 'out for revenge' affair. either way, the kung fu is very good and ti lung is a fantastic dramatic and physical actor.
26. Duo gun (1979)
what a rare find. this late 70s comedic kung fu flick doesn't feature any big names, but the action is very tightly choreographed and the comedy is hilarious. it borrows heavily from the formula jackie innovated in his mid seventies kung fu comedies (drunken master, fearless hyena, snake in eagle's shadow, etc.), but when it's done this well you won't care. late 70s, so the production value is very high. highly recommended if you can find it.
27. Jade Tiger (1977)
classic story of clan vs clan, but with a philosophical message embedded in the story. action is quite good and ti lung once again shows us his mastery with various weapons. it's wu xia, so expect some romanticism and tragedy, but this one has many twists and turns that distinguish it from your standard martial arts flick.
28. The Hammer of God (1970)
R | 90 min | Action, Crime, Drama
The golden age of kung-fu film's first superstar Jimmy Wang Yu (even before Bruce Lee) wrote, directed and starred in his classic favorite of a noble young martial arts student who won't ... See full summary »
a jimmy wang yu classic. not as good as the one armed swordsman imo, but the classic kung fu story of revenge is done quite well here. this is pre-bruce kung fu, so it's not as visceral as what occurs after he changed the kung fu movie world, but it's an excellent predecessor
29. She xing zui bu (1980)
Kwok Chung is a righteous rich kid whose hobby is to fight and brawl. One encounter nearly gets him killed, but he is saved by Yueh (Fong Hak On), the Snake Fist Master. Yueh befriends and ... See full summary »
aka snake deadly act. this is a hidden gem even though it blatantly is attempting to ride the coattails of the success of the more well known (and better) snake in eagle's shadow. the plotline has a few nods to several of jackie's earlier movies, the main character's demeanor is very much like jackie (troublemaker who likes to goof off) and even the guy who did the voice dub is the same guy who dubbed several of jackie's old movies. still, this movie has a lot going for it. first of all, there is an all star cast. phillip ko, snake fighter extraordinaire wilson tong (playing nearly the same characters he played in snake in monkey's shadow), and short cameos of angela mao (amazing sword fighting scene), bolo yeung and apparently yuen biao (must've missed him). there is a wealth of top notch grade A kung fu in this movie interspersed with comedy and brief suspense and drama. the main character lung chan is fabulous; his footwork is superb and he demonstrates his precise leg control quite often. Hark-On Fung as the teacher is very adept as well. the many training sequences may wear on some, but those are some of my favorite parts of old school kung fu movies. my main gripes with this one are the ever so slight speeding up of the kung fu (a standard practice back in the day. makes the action fast paced, but if the viewer is aware it can sour the experience), the odd characterizations (characters seem to change from good to evil without any warning) and the very bizarre ending. i know kung fu movies don't fool around with wrapping up loose ends or giving a story synopsis, but some of the nonsense at the end of this movie was just bizarre. still, we don't watch these for enthralling plotlines and deep stories...it's mainly about the fu and in that regard, snake deadly act comes through in spades.
30. Jian yu (2010)
R | 117 min | Action, History
Drizzle/Zeng Jing tries to start a new life after she had betrayed her gang and hid the remains of monk.
great story with a nice twist in the middle. features wire fu, but it's very well done and michelle yeoh is pretty phenomenal. i'd give it a higher rating if not for the lovey dovey crap
31. Shao Lin shi san gun seng (1980)
Unrated | 88 min | Action, Adventure, War
Set during the Sung Dynasty, patriotic monks of the Shaolin Temple fight against foreign invasion
the great thing about the very early 80s is that most studios had the formula for kung fu movies down pat. the bar had also been raised so high by the likes of jackie chan, 5 venoms, ti lung and of course bruce that the action in a lot of these movies is excellent. the downside is that the 80s marked the decline of the hong kong studios and the golden era of kung fu flicks in general. so most of the action in the 80s was coming out of taiwan. problem with these flicks is usually the production values, low budget sets and poor filming techniques. war of the shaolin temple suffers from all of these, but if you can get past the faults, the actual fighting choreography is phenomenal. you won't be wowed by a plot of course and one of the best physical actors (the crazy drunken monk) is severly underused, but there's still plenty of top notch fu.
32. Lung ying moh kiu (1980)
92 min | Action
A tale of an underdog mistreated by his family, given kung fu instruction from an unlikely source, and redeemed when he comes back to take on foreign champions in a tournament staged before an imperial audience.
aka bastard kung fu master and aka ring of death. neither title adequately describes the story, which is actually well done, although very derivative (and obviously based off of the much superior 'drunken master'). ironically, hwang jang lee is also the final villian in this one, playing a very cocky tournament opponent. cliff lok is the main hero and puts on a very jackie chan-esque performance. as mention before, the story is highly borrowed from 'drunken master' with the hero being persecuted and embarrased by family, going off and finding a kung fu master (or two) and returning to get his revenge and kick ass. however, i will say there are some story devices that make this more entertaining than your typical kung fu flick (although these are also borrowed from drunken master). hwang jang lee is only in it at the end, but the fight is long and quite satisfying. i would recommend it, although it's hard to find on dvd.
33. Shui quan guai zhao (1979)
88 min | Action
After being beaten by some thugs, police officer Chin Tai Ba (Leung Kar Yan) learns the Sleeping Fist style from martial arts master Chung Yiu (Yuen Siu Tin). After mastering his training, ... See full summary »
aka sleeping fist. typically any movie with Leung Kar Yan (mantis fist martial artist extraordinaire) and Simon Yuen (aka sam seed) is automatically a recipe for awesomeness. well, not quite. sam and leung kar yan definitely hold up their parts of the movie. especially leung kary yan, who is in top form. it's that annoying little kid that they threw in for comic relief. i watched the dub, so that squeaky little british kid voice really started to grate after about 2 minutes. and the kid never shuts up. there's a good portion of the movie dedicated to this kid's hijinks as he appears to be one of the chinese opera 'super flexible' acrobats. it ruins what could've been a great kung fu movie. well, that and the plot that is really just a rewrite of drunken master with 'sleepy fist' substituted for 'drunken fist'. still, leung's fu is unbelievably good, so those who can withstand the brat are in for a treat.
34. He qi dao (1972)
R | 97 min | Action, Drama
Korea, 1934. During the Japanese occupation, there is open warfare between rival martial arts schools. There is a fight in the marketplace, and three Chinese students can't stand the unfair... See full summary »
aka lady kung fu, lol. angela mao was pretty damn awesome back in the day and this was a standard vehicle for her to kick ass, similar to 'when taekwondo strikes'. your standard story of japanese oppression, this time of koreans and chinese, so very similar to chinese connection in that sense. the action is above average although it is quite frustrating in the first half when they are trying to practice 'patience', lol. carter wong yet again plays angela's patsy, but you do get to see a young sammo hung in this one playing a lead role. i hear jackie chan's in this one too as one of the bad guy goons (think he is one in a black outfit waiting by the door of the japanese dojo when angela is trying to leave). anyway, the story tends to drag in places, but the kung fu is decent
35. Tai ji ba jiao (1982)
89 min | Action
Eight thieves steal a treasure map and split it into eight pieces, vowing to regroup three years later. But they'll have to deal with a deadly-kicking cop.
yet another shaolin title that has absolutely nothing to do with shaolin, shaolin deadly kicks at least has a lot of kicking, courtesy of tao-liang tan, who's kicking prowess is reminiscent (although not superior) of hwang jang lee. the story is your run of the mill "hunt down all the bad guys one by one" storyline and the characters are fairly one dimensional. the action is the main course here and it is choreographed quite well. not one of the best in the genre, but worth watching if you are jonesing for some kicking focused kung fu and have seen all the really good ones (i.e., all of hwang jang lee's lol).