30+ Martial Arts Films to appreciate

by wbrown21 | created - 22 Jun 2011 | updated - 22 Jun 2011 | Public

I'm convinced that a Kung Fu movie was playing in the delivery room, the day i was born. I put this list together to highlight my favorites.

(in no order)

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1. Yip Man (2008)

R | 106 min | Action, Biography, Drama

59 Metascore

During the Japanese invasion of 1937, when a wealthy martial artist is forced to leave his home and work to support his family, he reluctantly agrees to train others in the art of Wing Chun for self-defense.

Director: Wilson Yip | Stars: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Siu-Wong Fan, Ka Tung Lam

Votes: 188,645

The story telling, character development, and acting in this movie is outstanding and almost outweighs the martial arts. Good movie about a great man.

2. A Man Called Hero (1999)

R | 116 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Episodic saga from the first half of the 20th century follows Hero Hua from an ill-omened June day in his youth to a showdown 17 years later with a disaffected member of his martial-arts ... See full summary »

Director: Wai-Keung Lau | Stars: Ekin Cheng, Qi Shu, Kristy Yeung, Nicholas Tse

Votes: 1,660

This was my first Ekin Cheng/Andrew Lau movie and I was immediately blown away. To this day i consider it one of the pioneers of movie that understand how to perfectly blend real action and fantasy. (unlike Crouching Tiger).

3. Enter the Dragon (1973)

R | 102 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A martial artist agrees to spy on a reclusive crime lord using his invitation to a tournament there as cover.

Director: Robert Clouse | Stars: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Ahna Capri

Votes: 84,335 | Gross: $25.00M

R.I.P. Bruce Lee! Nothing can surpass such a classic movie.

4. Five Element Ninjas (1982)

R | 107 min | Action, Drama

A young martial artist seeks revenge on the Ninja who kills his martial arts brothers and teacher. He finds help in the form of a new teacher (who knows Ninjitsu) and new brothers. Together... See full summary »

Director: Cheh Chang | Stars: Tien-Chi Cheng, Tien Hsiang Lung, Meng Lo, Michael Wai-Man Chan

Votes: 1,632

The movie that started it all for me. I was about 5 or 6 when I first saw this movie. And right after, I saw Five Deadly Venoms. I'm waiting for a remake, because i think that with today's technology someone can deliver an excellent copy. After hunderds of movies, I say this probably has the most sentimental value to me and will always be #1.

5. Five Deadly Venoms (1978)

R | 97 min | Action

The final student of a dying martial arts master is instructed to locate the previous five students and defeat any evil ones among them.

Director: Cheh Chang | Stars: Sheng Chiang, Chien Sun, Phillip Chung-Fung Kwok, Meng Lo

Votes: 4,866

The Venom Mob explodes onto the scene in an undeniable display of martial arts skill and "who done it" suspense. An instant classic for me.

6. 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 »

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen | Stars: Jackie Chan, Siu Tin Yuen, Jang Lee Hwang, Dean Shek

Votes: 8,965

Chan's first hit. And honestly, it's his best display of raw natural talent. For about 5 years i thought the "Cat's Craddle" was the best fighting style of them all LMAO. (20 years later, i say Tai Chi is the best).

7. Siu nin Wong Fei Hung chi: Tit ma lau (1993)

PG-13 | 85 min | Action, Crime, Drama

79 Metascore

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.

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen | Stars: Rongguang Yu, Donnie Yen, Jean Wang, Sze-Man Tsang

Votes: 14,083 | Gross: $14.68M

A lot of my friends who were into the "old school" style of hand-to-fist combat finally crossover to the modern age because of this story. Donnie Yen steals the show but many battles can't compare to the first fight between Iron Monkey and Donnie.

Also, IMO, this is the movie that Slouching Tiger tried to copy (at least the jumps).

8. Qi jian (2005)

Not Rated | 153 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Seven warriors come together to protect a village from a diabolical General.

Director: Hark Tsui | Stars: Leon Lai, Donnie Yen, Charlie Yeung, Honglei Sun

Votes: 8,445

This movie (but really Red Cliff) made me start appreciating good story telling in Martial Arts cinema.

9. 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.

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen | Stars: Jackie Chan, Siu Tin Yuen, Jang Lee Hwang, Dean Shek

Votes: 29,683

Chan's second hit. I challenge you to name 3 fighters who can do a better drunken style.

10. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

R | 99 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

78 Metascore

In Shanghai, China in the 1940s, a wannabe gangster aspires to join the notorious "Axe Gang" while residents of a housing complex exhibit extraordinary powers in defending their turf.

Director: Stephen Chow | Stars: Stephen Chow, Wah Yuen, Qiu Yuen, Siu-Lung Leung

Votes: 109,873 | Gross: $17.11M

People don't give this movie enough credit. Yes, it was a satirical story, and yes, there were some cheesey moments. But some of the fight scenes were spectacular.

11. Wong Fei Hung (1991)

R | 134 min | Action, Adventure, Biography

Set in late 19th century Canton this martial arts film depicts the stance taken by the legendary martial arts hero Wong Fei-Hung (1847-1924) against foreign forces' (English, French and ... See full summary »

Director: Hark Tsui | Stars: Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Biao Yuen, Jacky Cheung

Votes: 15,160

Introducing Wong Fei Hung!!! I just sat down and watched all the Once upon a times in one sitting. The first one always brings me back to the good times.

12. 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.

Director: Gordon Chan | Stars: Jet Li, Shinobu Nakayama, Siu-Ho Chin, Billy Chow

Votes: 20,074

Imagine a video game where you can place Jet Li's Mízōng style versus Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury style. Lee wins 10 out 10. But loooove this film.

13. Su Qi-er (2010)

R | 115 min | Action, Drama, History

62 Metascore

Su Qi-Er retired from his life as a renowned Qing dynasty general in order to pursue his dream of a family and his own martial arts school. However, Su's peaceful life is shattered when his... See full summary »

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen | Stars: Wenzhuo Zhao, Xun Zhou, Andy On, Xiaodong Guo

Votes: 7,861 | Gross: $0.08M

The build up of this movie was a lil over-hyped. I thought they had a great cast (especially the lead actor) and an okay story but they were calling this the best ever before it hit the big screen. I didn't see the 3-D version either.

Aside from the trailers, this was a heartfelt story with great fighting scenes. However, I couldve did without David Carradine.

14. Fung wan: Hung ba tin ha (1998)

PG-13 | 128 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

An evil warlord takes in 2 students (Wind & Cloud) in an effort to become invincible so he can take over the world.

Director: Wai-Keung Lau | Stars: Aaron Kwok, Ekin Cheng, Shin'ichi Chiba, Kristy Yeung

Votes: 3,396

Much like "A Man Called Hero," here is when Comics/Video Games come to life for me. They finally got it right. And the sequel, Storm Warriors was pretty good too.

15. Can que (1978)

R | 107 min | Action, Drama

Three men, crippled by an evil warlord, become friends and learn kung fu with the help of an old teacher and his idiot pupil.

Director: Cheh Chang | Stars: Kuan-Tai Chan, Feng Lu, Phillip Chung-Fung Kwok, Meng Lo

Votes: 1,806

Not quite 5-deadly venoms worthly. But again an amazing display of talent, athleticism, and acting (similar to great improvs).

16. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

R | 91 min | Action, Comedy, Thriller

A young man with superhuman strength is incarcerated at a prison run by corrupt officials and seeks to use his martial arts to clean up the system.

Director: Ngai Choi Lam | Stars: Siu-Wong Fan, Mei Sheng Fan, Ka-Kui Ho, Yukari Ôshima

Votes: 10,855

Someone hand me a napkin. The TV screen is bleeding.

What teen didn't enjoy watching Riki punch THROUGH people's skulls.

17. Blood and Bone (2009)

R | 93 min | Action, Drama

In Los Angeles, an ex-con takes the underground fighting world by storm in his quest to fulfill a promise to a dead friend.

Director: Ben Ramsey | Stars: Michael Jai White, Julian Sands, Eamonn Walker, Dante Basco

Votes: 28,050

I saw Spawn and watched a bunch of Youtube movies to respect MJW as a bad ass fighter. But not until Blood and Bone will you realize that he is 1st and foremost a gifted Martial Artist. Check it out.

18. The Warrior (2001)

R | 158 min | Action, Drama, History

1375. Nine Koryo warriors, envoys exiled by Imperial China, battle to protect a Chinese Ming Princess from Mongolian troops.

Director: Sung-su Kim | Stars: Woo-sung Jung, Sung-Ki Ahn, Jin-mo Ju, Ziyi Zhang

Votes: 10,283

Good flick. Some people get drawn into the story more than I do.

19. Joong-cheon (2006)

105 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

It is AD 924, at the end of the United Shilla Dynasty. Continuous riots sweep the land ruled by a corrupted government. Evil forces are rampant and malicious demons roam the land. YI Kwak, ... See full summary »

Director: Dong-oh Jo | Stars: Jun-ho Heo, Woo-sung Jung, Kwang-il Kim, Tae-hee Kim

Votes: 1,601

If you've ever played the PS3 video game "Heavenly Sword," then remember the end when you're fight endless foes with all your powers unleashed. That's how i think of this movie. Great story, fabulous cinematography, oh and the leading actress is hot.

20. The Last Dragon (1985)

PG-13 | 109 min | Action, Comedy, Drama

In New York City, a young man searches for the "master" to obtain the final level of martial arts mastery known as the glow. Along the way, he must fight a martial arts expert corrupted ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Schultz | Stars: Taimak, Vanity, Christopher Murney, Julius Carry

Votes: 10,563 | Gross: $25.75M

LEROYYYY.....KISS MY CONVERSE! You may laugh but this movie made me wanna kick every converse wearing Mo-fo's butt. This was one of my childhood faves.

21. Lung fu moon (2006)

94 min | Action, Drama

Three young martial arts masters emerge from the back streets of Hong Kong to help the powerless fight injustice.

Director: Wilson Yip | Stars: Yuk Long Wong, Louis Koo, Isabella Leong, Ella Koon

Votes: 5,791

Non-stop action, good flick

22. Wu Tang vs. Ninja (1987)

88 min | Action, Fantasy

Abbot Withe of the Wu Tang clan has teamed up with the Ninjas in order to destroy Shaolin this making him the most powerful fighter in the Martial world.

Director: Kuo-Ren Wu | Stars: Alexander Rei Lo, Kuan-Wu Lung, William Yen, Chiang Wang

Votes: 213

Man, i love the classics. To this day, i've been trying to do handstand-pushups on my index fingers.

23. Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (2005)

R | 107 min | Action, Drama, Fantasy

Star-crossed lovers must fight on opposing sides in a battle that will determine the next Shogun.

Director: Ten Shimoyama | Stars: Yukie Nakama, Joe Odagiri, Tomoka Kurotani, Erika Sawajiri

Votes: 11,456

Based on the cartoon series Basilisk. This films brings a Bad Ass Romeo and an Unbeatable Juliet together while leading hot-tempered Ninja clans. The cartoon was better but Gennosuke's and Oboro's gifts were AMAZING once revealed.

24. Tai-Chi Master (1993)

R | 96 min | Action, Comedy, Drama

Two friends, ex Shaolin monks, part ways as they brush with the ongoing rebellion against the government. The ambitious one rises up to be a powerful military commander, while his betrayed friend resorts to learn the calm ways of Tai Chi.

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen | Stars: Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Siu-Ho Chin, Fennie Yuen

Votes: 8,418

I saw The Evil Cult before this movie and thought Evil Cult was Jet Li's best Tai-Chi movie. Then I saw Tai-Chi master.

25. 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 »

Directors: Jing Wong, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung | Stars: Jet Li, Man Cheung, Chingmy Yau, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung

Votes: 2,817

I don't know what it is about 1993 Jet Li movies but this movie has 2 spots in my top 5 for best fight scenes. 1 for the fight between Li and the Shaolin monk and another, the last fight against the Xuanming Elders (the freeze brothers is what i called them) all while not using his powers and learning a skill simultaneously. Definitely a kick-ass moment if i've ever seen one.

26. Ying xiong (2002)

PG-13 | 107 min | Action, Adventure, History

85 Metascore

A defense officer, Nameless, was summoned by the King of Qin regarding his success of terminating three warriors.

Director: Yimou Zhang | Stars: Jet Li, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang

Votes: 160,408 | Gross: $53.71M

This was good but not the fighting you'd typically expect. This movie glorifies the beauty of martial arts, especially swordplay, all while creating a vengeful heartfelt story.

27. Fearless (2006)

PG-13 | 104 min | Action, Biography, Drama

70 Metascore

A biography of Chinese Martial Arts Master Huo Yuanjia, who is the founder and spiritual guru of the Jin Wu Sports Federation.

Director: Ronny Yu | Stars: Jet Li, Li Sun, Yong Dong, Yun Qu

Votes: 66,862 | Gross: $24.63M

Jet Li back to kicking but Fong Sai-Yuk/Wong Fei Hung style!

28. The Legend (1993)

R | 100 min | Action, Comedy, History

This Hong Kong martial-arts extravaganza tells of evil emperors and true love. The secret Red Lotus Flower Society is committed to the overthrow of the evil Manchu Emperor and his minions. ... See full summary »

Director: Corey Yuen | Stars: Jet Li, Josephine Siao, Michelle Reis, Sibelle Hu

Votes: 6,528

'93 Li. That's all i'm saying. It was his year.

29. The Duel (2000)

106 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

After a long absence, a master swordsman of royal blood, Yeh Cool-son, returns to the emperor's palace to challenge Snow, a reclusive master, to a dual on new year's eve. In the days before... See full summary »

Director: Wai-Keung Lau | Stars: Andy Lau, Ekin Cheng, Nick Cheung, Wei Zhao

Votes: 1,463

This movie has a strong build up to the end fight scene. I'm all for character development and this movie does a great job promoting a fight by focusing on the passion of the two duelist. Similar to how HBO has the pre-fight series.

30. Zu Warriors (2001)

PG-13 | 104 min | Action, Fantasy

Between the heaven and the Earth exist the Zu's mountain range, where live the immortals of Omei, the highest mountain of Zu, but the kingdom is in danger by Amnesia, a renegade immortal ... See full summary »

Director: Hark Tsui | Stars: Ekin Cheng, Louis Koo, Ziyi Zhang, Cecilia Cheung

Votes: 3,135

Okay, okay. They took fantasy a bit far in this one. But for a 2001 film, this was a work of visual art.

31. The Kid with the Golden Arm (1979)

R | 75 min | Action, Drama

Director Chang Cheh reunites the Five Venoms in his second biggest cult hit in the West. It's Lo Meng's most memorable performances whose showdown with fellow Venom Kuo Chue is artistically violent while being graphically artsy.

Director: Cheh Chang | Stars: Chien Sun, Meng Lo, Feng Lu, Sheng Chiang

Votes: 1,001

Venom Mob strikes again!

32. Shaolin Soccer (2001)

PG | 87 min | Action, Comedy, Sport

68 Metascore

A young Shaolin follower reunites with his discouraged brothers to form a soccer team using their martial art skills to their advantage.

Director: Stephen Chow | Stars: Stephen Chow, Wei Zhao, Yat-Fei Wong, Man-Tat Ng

Votes: 64,032 | Gross: $0.49M

Martial arts and sports packaged together. What more could you ask for? Great action and mild humor.

33. Basilisk: The Kouga Ninja Scrolls (2005)

TV-MA | 25 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy

The year is 1614 AD. Two warring ninja clans, each supporting a son of Hidetada Tokugawa as the next shogun, send ten representatives each to fight to the death for the possession Tokugawa ... See full summary »

Stars: Laura Bailey, Nana Mizuki, Kôsuke Toriumi, Troy Baker

Votes: 3,069

I wanted to leave off any cartoons for my next list but seriously, Basilisk was such an amazing story that it deserves to be on any list i have. It's jam packed with action, emotion, character dev, to the point where each person in the story plays a critical role. Please watch, then go see Shinobi.

34. Ninja Scroll (1993)

Not Rated | 94 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

A vagabond swordsman is aided by a beautiful ninja girl and a crafty spy in confronting a demonic clan of killers - with a ghost from his past as their leader - who are bent on overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri | Stars: Kôichi Yamadera, Emi Shinohara, Takeshi Aono, Osamu Saka

Votes: 29,710

Ninja Scroll, like Basilisk, is a work of beauty. Anime series and even new magnas often use Ninja Scroll as their inspiration for ideas. I just found out this week that they had a TV series of Ninja Scroll. There goes the weekend.

35. Wu ji (2005)

PG-13 | 121 min | Action, Drama, Fantasy

53 Metascore

Empowered by the love of a slave (Jang), a royal concubine (Cheung) is given the chance to make an extraordinary decision.

Director: Kaige Chen | Stars: Cecilia Cheung, Dong-Gun Jang, Hiroyuki Sanada, Nicholas Tse

Votes: 8,537 | Gross: $8.19M

I wasn't the biggest fan of this film but my friend loves it. Shout out to GT!