the 10 best martial arts movies / films of all time (that i’ve seen)

good fight scenes for guys are like dance scenes for girls: they require incredible skill, control, passion, and that “wow” factor that moves you…its what we watch for.  i don’t think it’s a coincidence that asians seem to dominate the group dance shows (many asian cultures are collectivist vs. individualistic)…good fight choreography can not be done alone; it requires quick responding members as well as powerful leads in turn.

this is an on-going list of the best martial arts films (and example scenes) I have ever seen (and many by means of the recommendations of good film buddies – especially Andy). in compiling the list i was trying to consider the film as a whole, of course weighing impact of the fight choreography over plot (which definitely makes a film better, but it is not the most important thing when it comes to a martial arts movie).  WARNING: many of the clips i’ve posted might feature fight scenes that 1) can be pretty bloody 2) might give away some of the best fight scenes in the film and 3) in some cases give away plot points.

10. Fist of Fury aka Chinese Connection (1972 – Hong Kong)

man…bruce was the (marital arts) man. only he could get away with screaming like a girl and being bad @$$.  he had such presence.

9. Feng hou aka Mad Monkey Kung-Fu (1982 – Hong Kong)

directed by one of my favorite fight choreographers ever, chia-liang liu, he also acts as the master.  the precision of the monkey style in this film, and the other main actor’s commitment to the part (like a real monkey), are a testament to his skill.

8. 13 Assassins (2010 – Japan)

a 45 min. straight samurai showdown sequence. ’nuff said.

7. The City of Violence (2006 – South Korea)

i just cant quite put my finger on the great work of this director and these actors…the action packed fight sequences in this film have so much tooth and nail intensity that i can almost feel the pain…esp. the sequence with the hall of gangsters with knives (see below)

6. Police Story (1985 – Hong Kong)

the craziest stunt work i have ever seen, directed by jackie himself! that bus scene…that final mall scene…jackie chan at his best…pure insanity!

5.  Ip Man (2008 – Hong Kong, China)

donnie yen is quickly becoming the bruce lee of this generation…and what’s more amazing is that he finally gets this recognition when he is now well past his 40’s too! donnie’s amazing speed, strength, and control are showcased in this wonderful film inspired by the life of the man who was bruce lee’s master.

4. Flash Point (2007 – Hong Kong, China)

this film came out of nowhere for me, demonstrating donnie yen’s true passion for marital arts as he integrates kung-fu, wrestling, and all sorts of mixed marital arts madness.

3. The Legend of Drunken Master aka Drunken Master 2 (1994 – Hong Kong)

this film, another directed by chia-liang liu, is the best blend of jackie’s comedy and awesome action…in “drunken” style!

2. Fist of Legend (1994 – Hong Kong)

a homage to bruce lee’s chinese connection (aka fists of fury) that still, straight-up, delivers the most and best hand-to-hand martial arts in a single film i’ve ever seen.  jet li has the fastest kicks.

1. Ong-bak (2003 – Thailand)

a consistently jaw dropping, bone crushing, and wow inducing film. tony jaa does all his stunts like old school jackie, with the acrobatic kicking of jet, and the power of bruce.


The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

another chia-liang liu directed piece… the whole movie is like a crazy montage training sequence of awesomeness.

Once Upon a Time in China II (1992)

great showdown between jet li and donnie yen.

Iron Monkey (1993)

yuen woo ping, pre “matrix” fame, directs this fun film.  the final fight sequence on poles over fire still stays in my mind.

The Protector (2005 – Thailand/USA)

some amazing fight choreographed scenes: from the single take shot up the flights of stairs to the capoiera fight to the consecutive bone breaking battle sequence.

Chocolate (1993 – Thailand)

from the same fight choreographer as ong-bak, panna rittikrai. featuring, “jeeja yanin” an up and coming female marital arts star from thailand.  homegirl does all her stunts with no doubles!


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