Top 10 Best Martial Arts Movies of All Time
There are several sorts of thrilling action sequences within the action genre. Car chases are swift and often tense, gunfights are noisy and overpowering in the best conceivable manner, and massive explosions are seldom visually monotonous.
In the end, though, hand-to-hand combat may be the most exhilarating and awe-inspiring, since there is something visceral and awe-inspiring about seeing two (or more) competent fighters engage in close combat.
For this list, we want to honor the greatest kung fu, wuxia, muay Thai, and other martial arts films from throughout the globe, films whose stunt work and depictions of hand-to-hand fighting astound us. These are the top-ranked martial arts films of all time.
1. The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
The Legend of Drunken Master teaches us, maybe more than any other film, why martial arts are, well, art. Even when he's using booze to improve his power, Jackie Chan's fight choreography is really beautiful.
This sequel to the lesser-known Drunken Master is less stunt-heavy than some of Jackie Chan's previous films, but it has the ideal combination of action, humor, and drunken boxing beatdowns (with a few, completely outrageous stunts thrown in for good measure). It exemplifies all that martial arts films are about.
2. Ip Man (2008)
When Ip Man was released in 2008, Donnie Yen had already established himself as an actor and martial artist, but the film's popularity made him worldwide fame. The film depicts incidents from the life of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man during the Sino-Japanese War, which is based on his genuine narrative.
Man and his family experience destitution, famine, and persecution as a result of Japan's occupation. Man must battle to save himself and his people from tyranny, despite his reluctance to utilize his martial art for violence, even if it means facing 10 black belts at once.
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the most widely recognized martial arts film of all time, won Best Foreign Language Film, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score, and Best Cinematography at the 73rd Academy Awards.
Beautiful and romantic wuxia film that contributed to the rise in popularity of East Asian cinema worldwide. It is also notable for focusing on three heroic female protagonists, making it a more inclusive picture than the majority of the others on our list. Those unfamiliar with martial arts films may choose to begin here.
4. Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003)
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior is the movie that launched the career of Thai martial artist Tony Jaa. Since its premiere 10 years ago, its muay Thai combat choreography has not been exceeded.
His slicing elbows and leaping knees are set pieces in and of themselves. Instead of focusing on the plot, watch this film to see what Jaa can achieve with his fists (and feet, shins, and knees).
5. Enter the Dragon (1973)
No martial arts retrospective would be complete without Bruce Lee's adoration. Lee, perhaps the most renowned martial artist of all time, was instrumental in introducing East Asian combat sports to the West. Enter the Dragon is one of his finest masterpieces and represents a significant legacy.
Even its structure is iconic: a martial arts expert working secretly must compete in a tournament to get information on a drug lord. The finest martial arts film of the 1970s, Enter the Dragon has horrific bouts and a villainous ensemble that matches James Bond's.
6. Police Story (1985)
Police Story by Jackie Chan nearly exceeds the martial arts film genre. It has more in common with Hollywood's action blockbusters due to its high-speed chases, enormous explosions, gunplay, and parkour.
However, being a Jackie Chan picture, it also has some of the most stunning hand-to-hand fighting scenes in cinematic history. Chan's fight scene choreography is notable for the method in which it integrates props and death-defying stunt action. The climactic battle in a Hong Kong shopping center is one of Chan's career highlights.
7. The Raid: Redemption (2011)
The Raid: Redemption introduced the world to Indonesian martial arts movies. Iko Uwais, the film's principal actor, became one of the country's greatest stars after its 2011 release, not least because of his extraordinary physical strength and expertise in silat martial arts.
His fights with a character named “Mad Dog” in the film have become famous among martial arts enthusiasts and helped win The Raid a 2014 sequel.
8. Hero (2002)
Hero is maybe best defined as wuxia as high art. The picture is divided into five visually separate, color-coded sections: black, white, red, green, and blue. Its use of color is unrivalled (as discussed by Newhouse Insider).
Its ensemble cast, comprised of Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Maggie Cheung, and Donnie Yen, helps bring to life this grandiose depiction of medieval China.
9. The Protector (2005)
The Protector can teach all of us a valuable lesson: do not steal Tony Jaa's elephants. In a tale that will make you think John Wick meets Ong-Bak, an elephant keeper must go on the attack to recover his kidnapped beasts.
With Tony Jaa's tremendous muay-thai talents, this is a film to see for the battle sequences.
10. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Following the Wachowskis, Quentin Tarantino enlisted the services of famed fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping for his martial arts duology Kill Bill.
The combat in the House of Blue Leaves, a restaurant in Tokyo that becomes the venue of a gigantic death match between our protagonist (the Bride) and 88 Japanese warriors, earns Kill Bill: Volume 1 a position on our list. It boasts some of the greatest sword battle choreography in the history of movies.