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Best Martial Arts Movies of All Time

Eric’s Far-From Authoritative ‘Best
Martial Arts Movies’ of All Time List

[If you have something important to do, don’t waste your time with this post. But if you’re looking to kill some time or procrastinate, dig right in!]

Let’s get one thing straight – I don’t claim to have good taste, be a movie critic, or even a movie buff. Hell I don’t even watch a lot of movies. But I knows what I likes so I’m going to share some of my favourite martial arts movies with you. Selfishly, I’m hoping you can share some of your fave flicks with me so I can better pass these rainy spring days.

So feel free to get all bent outta shape and rip into my choices if you want, “How dare you even CONSIDER The Matrix? That isn’t a martial arts movie – less than 10% of the actors are Oriental!? You’re a disgrace to the Chinese people.”

Or…

“Eric, How come Karate Kid 2010 isn’t on your best martial arts movies list? I thought you knew your shit?!? You are so st00pid. I hate you.”

Say whatever you want, I won’t take it personally. It’ll entertain me. Like I said, I knows what I likes.

karate kid martial arts movies

"In West Philadelphia, born and raised, in the DOJO is where I spent most of my days"

So without further adieu, let’s get to my Best Martial Arts Movies of all time…

Best Martial Arts Movies – #5 – Rumble in the Bronx

Yes, Jackie Chan makes it on my list due to his combination of equal parts martial arts skills, creativity, humour and stunts. (I know I’ll get some flack for this one, but bring it on – Jackie is awesome). You can’t beat Jackie when he’s in a room full of furniture and he’s fighting 10+ enemies. His use of chairs, tables, belts, jackets, and whatever other object is in close proximity is unparalleled. But what really impresses me about him is his stunts. He directs all of his stunts and does many of them. In Rumble in the Bronx, he busted up his ankle and finished the film with a cast. Here are some outtakes of his stunts:

 

Best Martial Arts Movies – #4 – The Matrix Trilogy

I can’t remember which one of these is my favourite, but one of them stood out above the rest (maybe you can remind me?). Sure, Keanu Reeves isn’t a true martial artist, sure there are a lot of special effects, but that’s the whole point. If you want real martial arts, watch MMA. Movies are meant for fantasy and that’s where the Matrix shines.

 

Best Martial Arts Movies – #3 – Bloodsport

Of course Jean-Claude Van Damme made it on this list. I think this is what I watched at my first sleepover party at my best friend’s house in Grade 4. It blew me away. The splits, on CHAIRS?!? WTF? And Bolo – he inspired me to be able to learn to bounce my pecs.But I think my favourite character was the Monkey man. Oh how I wanted him to win. Alas, it was not meant to be:

 

Best Martial Arts Movies – #2 – Ong Bak

Tony Jaa is a bad motherf*&#*$. And the opening scene hyped me up like no other opening scene from a movie, except I kind of remember the opening scene from Apocalypto was pretty crazy, I’ll have to check it out again. Anyway Ong Bak was the first movie I saw showcasing Muay Thai and I loved the flying knees and elbows… although the Double Elbow from Kneeling Mount on a Standing Opponent (at 1:29) was a bit much.

 

The #1 Movie on Eric’s “Best Martial
Arts Movies of All Time” List

FIST OF LEGNED starring JET LI

Have you seen this one? By far my favourite on the list. Tons of quality fight scenes, the beginning of Matrix style flying around, the epic battle between Karate and Kung-Fu, Japan and China, and a Boss-General modeled after Street Fighter’s Bison that you loved seeing get beat up. If you haven’t seen it, you have to watch it ASAP. Just thinking about it has me pumped. I might have to watch it tonight. Here’s one of many, many good scenes that even showcases some Bruce Lee style fighting:

 

So that’s my list. What do you think? Am I an idiot?

Have I wasted your time? [If so – read this training post and feel better that you’ve educated yourself at least a bit today.]

Got some recommendations for me?

Let me have your best martial arts movies below:

Leave a Reply

116 Comments on "Best Martial Arts Movies of All Time"


reven
3 years 10 months ago

Eric, being a van damme fan I would definitely have to say Kickboxer(first one only), No Retreat , No Surrender and then of course lately, MJ White with the Undisputed 2 & 3. I definitely agree with you with Bloodsport.

Kevin
3 years 10 months ago

Really dig the list, and I’m way stoked you put Bloodsport on there. That’s definitely on my list, as is Ong Bak 1. Have yet to see 2 and 3, but one was such an awesome movie!

Well, here’s my list:
1. Enter the Dragon – Bruce Lee
2. Chinese Connection(I think that’s what it’s called, correct me if I’m wrong guys) – Bruce Lee
3. Bloodsport – Van Damme
4. Ong Bak – Tony Jaa
5. Karate Kid(The original) – Don’t remember the guy’s name…

another good one I watched recently is the Live action film for Tekken. The story was horrible, but the fight scenes were pretty well done.

Cameron
3 years 10 months ago

I hope you’ve seen Flashpoint with Donnie Yen. The last 20 odd minutes is an mma inspired fight with Colin Chou. Fantastic stuff. Also for pure 80’s entertainment you can’t beat Mismatched Couples. Donnie again at his breakdancing Kung fu’ing best.
The police story and project a series are some of jackie’s best.
Drive with Mark Dacascos was, until recently, the best American made ma flick.
My absolute favourite though is a tie between Fist Of Legend and Drunken Master 2.
Also, anything with Scott Adkins or Michael Jai White (black dynamite) will do you no harm. They are definitely the future of action.

Patrick
3 years 10 months ago

No Steven Seagal flicks!!!!!????? With all the nut hugging he’s gotten from the MMA community as of late.
I have to make a top 5 list just dedicated to him. Of course all 3 word titles:

1. Marked for Death
2. Out for Justice (seriously impressive stick fighting scene with he and Dan Inosanto)
3. Above the Law (some cool old school traditional aikido)
4. Hard to Kill
5. Under Siege (not 3 words and more action flick but still worthy)

Wayne Magruder
3 years 10 months ago

My top five

#5 – Lone Wolf McQuade – Chuck Norris and David Carridine
#4 – The Transporter movies – Jason Statham rocks
#3 – Bloodsport – Only really good movie VanDam ever made.
#2 – Game of Death – Bruce Lee – enough said
# 1 – Enter the Dragon – see comment for # 2

Tim
3 years 10 months ago

Fearless and Hero, starring Jet Li, are two of my favorites. Of course, I have to throw in some classics like the original Karate Kid movies. (Not the Next Karate Kid. That one was awful.)

Stian
3 years 10 months ago

Hey Eric.

1. Best of the Best 1 – the other ones are crap.
2. Never Back Down – like the training scenes and music
3. Kickboxer – big Jean Claude Van Damme fan growing up
4. Bloodspoort – Undisputed 2 or 3 – both are great

I see on 9 Sept theres launching a new MMA movie called Warrior – looks good! All the recent movies with famous fighters were crap!

Rgds.

Stian

Dwight
3 years 10 months ago

All very good nominations. I may actually add a few of the above to my *Need to be Seen* list.

Hopefully not repeating… a few that I think need special recognition.

1) Mark Dacoscos – Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des loups) – Although set in the French 1760’s, Dacoscos brings his martial arts flavor to the Iroquois Indian character he portrays. Highly recommend this foreign film loosely based on the French historical story of the Beast of Gévaudan.

2) Jeff Speakman – Perfect Weapon

Dwight
3 years 10 months ago
antony
3 years 10 months ago

Not sure if this one has been mentioned, but don’t forget ‘kung fu panda’. Amazing fight scenes!

cork_boi
3 years 10 months ago

Some cool choices above, here’s my top 5 (no particular order)
Ong Bak – Tony Jaa
Hard Boiled – John Woo (martial arts wt guns)
Yojimbo- Akira Kurosawa  ( or else the 7 samurai)
Police story (1 or 2) Jackie Chan
Enter the dragon (uncensored ) -Bruce Lee 

special mention : meals on wheels fight scene between Jackie Chan and Benny the Jet.
Bruce Lee Game of Death
Blood Sport ( Van Dame)

Gianni
3 years 10 months ago

all the above plus others I remember off the top of head
– Iron Monkey
– Tai Chi Boxer
– Blood & Bone
Anything with Jet Li, Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan.

Nathan mace
3 years 10 months ago

Master of the flying guillotine. Iron fist pillage. Dogeatdog.Hardboiled,any Chow yun-fat.Jackie Chan,fearless heyena,Crime story,Police story.Rutger Hauser,Blind Fury.Jet Li,Once A Upon A Time In China,Black Mask.Michelle Yeoh movies.The Last Dragon,Bruce Leroy lol.Chuck Norris,The Octagon.Bruce Lee,Game of Death,Big Boss.Van Damme.Hard Target,In Hell.Steven Seagal.Marked for Death,The GlimmerMan.Also the art of war

Dwight
3 years 10 months ago

Hi Eric! I just watched “IP Man” and that movie has all the elements guys like and all the elements a significant other would like too! It’s the story of one of the most famous martial arts practioners in the world. He was Bruce Lee’s teacher! I HIGHLY recommend it!

dragonmamma/naomi
3 years 10 months ago

Most martial arts movies are so over-the-top outrageous that I also prefer them with a big dollop of fantasy and/or comedy. Love the Stephen Chow movies (Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer) and all The Matrix movies. (Yes, even the much hated Part III.) The One is another “popcorn” movie that I’ve enjoyed multiple times when I don’t feel like thinking too much.

I don’t think anyone mentioned Big Trouble in Little China. Do you remember that this was one of Jackie Chan’s early movies before he became a star? He was one of Kurt Russell’s gang; very minor, non-speaking role.

frank
3 years 10 months ago

Shaolin soccer
Kungfu hustle
Jackie chan the legend of the drunken master (not positive on the name though)
Equilibrium(not martial arts really but there is this one awesome gunfight you have to see.)
Kill bill
Those are my 5 off the top of my head but yeah I’m sure ill think of better ones as soon as i try to go to bed or something.

Patrick
3 years 10 months ago

Ip Man of course, shame on you for not putting Ip Man on the list. And Jet Li’s The Legend. My 2 favorite of all time, both are very inspirational with AMAZING fight choreography.

Will
3 years 10 months ago

Great list going on here. The listings want me to make a movie holiday. I saw Enter the Dragon pop up on other people’s list a lot, but I ma going to have to say Return of the Dragon is my #1. Just because of the Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris scene. My #2 being Young Master with Jackie Chan. My #3 would have to be City of Violence (it’s a slow starter, but a lot of awesome fights through out the movie once it gets rolling). #4 is Blood Heat with Kane Kosugi, especially with the sledgehammer fight at the end. My #5 would have to be High Risk with Jet Li. I like the whole martial arts spin on Die Hard they did with that movie.

A lot to choose from, so if you ask me again tomorrow the list might change. I like a lot of the classics too, like 5 Fingers of Death, The 5 Deadly Venoms, Shaoling vs Ninja, Zatoichi, and some of the Hong Kong films like My Schoolmate the Barbarian, Ip Man, OCTB (organized crime and triad bureau), Young and Dangerous 4 and so on.

kennethy
3 years 26 days ago

High Risk – great choice. Loved it. along with Bodyguard from Beijing, especially the last fight scene where they were both fighting for air, same as the end of Black Mask. When Li fought that White guy at the end of Black Mask and kicks him 5 times with one leg, crossing sides of his leg – just awesome. I always have to rewind that scene just to make sure it was real.

I do not like wire work, but include FEARLESS in the mix. Along with the last fight scene in UNLEASHED especially when they are fighting in the bathroom.

wow.

MOnkey
3 years 10 months ago

great to see a lot of love for Drunken master – that original is prob my all time fave –

also liked ‘Ninja’ from 2009 – with Scot Adkins – some real nice framed shots and camera work – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1182921/

nathan o
3 years 10 months ago

never back down
anything with bruce lee
Red Belt ( Chiwetel Ejiofor )
Ip Man
Only the Strong

Ralph
3 years 10 months ago

I would throw in Chuck Norris films and one of my favorites “Billy Jack”, yeah I am sure I will catch hell here, but coming from a retired military special ops type maybe you can cut me some slack…

Erik
3 years 10 months ago

Eric,

I have to agree with most of the movies listed above. Two movies to consider The Best of the Best, excellent movie and one for you and her to watch Romeo Must Die.

Both worth watching.

jim g
3 years 10 months ago

enter the dragon, mortal kombat are 2 of my personal favorites…………..i was very surprised enter the dragon wasnt on your list bro……considering bruce lee is a legend and quite possibly the godfather of todays modern martial arts

William Blanscet
3 years 10 months ago

Old School B-movies
Breathing Fire – Bolo Young
Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) – Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
College Kickboxers (1992)
American Samurai (1992)

Gorgeous (1999)

Shootfighter – Bolo Young

Rapid Fire – Brandon Lee

Donnie Yen
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
Chen Zhen

2010 Ip Man 2
Ip Man

2008 Ip Man
Ip Man

2007 Flash Point
Det. Sgt. Ma Jun

2006 Dragon Tiger Gate
Dragon Wong

2005 Kill Zone
Insp. Ma Kwun

2002 Hero
Sky

Tai Chi master – Jet Li

Fist of Legend is the all time best.

kennethy
3 years 26 days ago

I would have to separate some of your movies – for instance, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO should be on this list , but the last 20 minutes of FLASHPOINT should.

Rapid Fire should not, you can see how slow Brandon is, even though I wanted that fight scene to be great. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa shouldn’t be in this list. Neither should Amreican Samurai. However, Jackie Chan’s 2 fights with his western stuntman in Gorgeous should be.

I used to like the classical movies but moved on to more realistic fight scenes now.

type WANG JANG LEE in youtube and see everything he did, including 2 with Jackie Chan.
Learn how to really kick to kill someone like he did in real life by typing THE ART OF HIGH IMPACT KICKING in youtube – see all 8 videos. Wang Jang Lee was the best villian of movies ever. He can really fight and trained the Korean Army in martial arts for many years.

kennethy
3 years 26 days ago

correction SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO should NOT be on that list.

Kent
3 years 10 months ago

Whoops, I see that Keith also mentioned 36th Chamber. Still an awesome movie.

Kent
3 years 10 months ago

One that no one has mentioned:

Master Killer (aka the 36th Chamber). Come on, a bald Shaolin monk undergoing awesome training sequences? I would have thought that was right up your alley!

Also, like a lot of people, I’m a fan of both Jet Li and Donnie Yen. One movie with both of them is “Once Upon a Time in China II.” The fight scene between them is epic.

Another movie that features a battle between two badasses is “Dragons Forever.” Jackie Chan fights Bennie “The Jet” Urquidez, and you get Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao as a bonus.

silven
3 years 10 months ago

Hi Erik
It is hard to choose only 5, but let’s go, here is my list
Undisputed 2 and 3
The Transporter,
Bruce Lee – Enter the dragon,
Best of the best

Patrick
3 years 10 months ago

Good pics Eric but I will echo the sentiments of others in saying that a tip of the hat to Bruce Lee was in order. One of the best martial arts flicks that nobody else seems to have seen was a Mark Dacascos movie called “Only the Strong” that featured some sick capoeira. Another campy b-movie fave was The Perfect Weapon starring kenpo flash in the pan Jeff Speakman. Last but not least, although it was pure camp, I can’t leave off 80s standout “Big Trouble in Little China” with Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall. Honourable mentions are “Rapid Fire” with Brandon Lee and 70s Sony Chiba classic “Street Fighter” for sheer brutality.

HitManHey
3 years 7 months ago

Great to see Sonny Chiba!! But if you are going to mention Big Trouble (which I agree is a great movie) then you have to mention The Last Dragon also

kennethy
3 years 26 days ago

Unfortunately, since I am Black, I found THE LAST DRAGON lame, and yes, I am a real fighter. However, Michael Jai White holds it down finally. Hollywood is racist and you never see any black fighters in movies, ask Taimak the LAST DRAGON as he said in the TV series UNSUNG.

They never knew what to do with him or any physical action star. example: SPAWN and BLADE’s Wesley Snipes. We black can really fight. BLOOD AND BONE and NEVER BACK DOWN 2 along with UNDISPUTED 2. Check them out.

Keith
3 years 10 months ago

My vote is for Ip Man also…..Ip Man 2 was ok, a couple of good fight scenes, but sequel is always worse.

Another good Donnie Yen movie is Bodyguards & Assassins.

Jet Li’s Fearless was very good too.

OR…You can kick it old school and find some 70-80’s Shaw movies with amazing and long fight sequences like:
Five Deadly Venoms
Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms (aka Crippled Avengers)
Heroes of the East (aka Challenge of the Ninja)
Invincible Shaolin
36th Chamber

Also the History Channel and Channel both produced a series called Human Weapon and Fight Quest where the two hosts would travel to different countries, learn about the martial art of that country and then try to fight a high level practitioner of that art at the end.

You can find the torrents online.

That should keep you occupied Eric!

ominous
3 years 10 months ago

drunken master both versions
best of the best(made my girlfriend cry in high school!)
way of the dradon/return of the dragon (bruce and chuck)
ong bak
I can’t believe nobody has mentioned
kickboxer!
lionheart!
no retreat, no surrender!
great, no I feel old. lol

Willow
3 years 10 months ago

Fist of Legend is definitely the best martial arts movie of all time, a remake of Bruce’s Fist of Fury and an ode to his Jeet Kune do philosophy. There are some rare Kung Fu films choreographed by Yuen Wu Ping (of Kill Bill, Matrix, Crouching Tiger choreography fame) that are really fun to watch. Dance of the drunken mantis (mantis AND drunken style together, can you believe it?) and if you liked the monkey guy in bloodsport, there is one called mad monkey kung fu that is good, all monkey style kung fu and also on the animal style tip, Snake in the eagle’s shadow is a good old Jackie Chan one.
I think crouching tiger, hidden dragon would have to get a mention because it is a martial arts film your girlfriend would be ok to watch with you.
The new karate kid rates as well because I really think they gave the plot more depth and Will Smith’s kid is much less annoying than the original guy.
Huo Yuan Jia (I think it was called Unbeatable in the US) is a great Jet Li movie, about the first mixed martial arts events recorded in the world media. Fist of legend (and fist of fury) is a fictional story about a student of Huo Yuan Jia returning when he hears of his master’s death and wants to kick some japanese butt in foreign occupied Shanghai.
Ip Man (Ye Wen in mandarin) 1 and 2 are both kick ass films too. I live in China so there is no shortage of kung fu action to get your hands on here, it’s everywhere…
Also, I thought “the quest” was pretty good for Van Damme, it was a re-up of bloodsport, van damme plays a guy who gets given to a thai boxing camp as a kid…

Drackie
3 years 10 months ago

My best 4 actors:
Jackie Chan: Armour of God 1, 2 (and many others:-))
Mark Dacascos: Drive, Crying Freeman
Tony Jaa: Protector, Ong Bak
Jet Li: Fist of Legend, Tai Chi Master

Mark
3 years 10 months ago

1. Jackie Chan – Legend of the Drunken Master. The fight scenes are incredible

2. Jackie Chan – Who Am I. The fight scene on top of building is worth it alone

3. Jet Li – Fearless

Rob B
3 years 10 months ago

Karate Kid I and II all time classics. Ninja Assassins is the best new ass kicking movie in a loooonnnggggg time…especially if you’re into the gore stuff. Oh lets not forget The Machine Girl. Not mainstream for sure, but they have at the library. That’s 4, but I’m at work so shouldn’t be on here anyways. But if you haven’t seen the latter 2, highly recommend.

HitManHey
3 years 7 months ago

Machine Girl is more Splatter Punk than Martial arts… perhaps Verses would have been a better choice (a splatter punk movie with lots a great martial arts).

jose
3 years 10 months ago

Watz up coach enter da dragon is# 1 on my list way of da dragon shaolin temple iron monkey kill bill kung fu hustle. The one undisputed 2 all great movies as well

Gary Marsh
3 years 10 months ago

Hi Eric
It’s a good list. I would have to say my top 5 would have to be:-
Jackie Chan – Project A
Jet Li – The One
Chuck Norris – Side Kick
Jet Li – Hero
Jackie Chan – Karate kid

I must say that I also like all the Bruce lee film as well as all the Karate kid and Matrix films. There is also alot more that I like.

Take care

Red
3 years 10 months ago

Ha I remember SideKicks, that movie was awesome!

I would add –
the Legend of Drunken Master – Jackie Chan being Jackie Chan
Kill Bill Vol. 1 – I know some people hate it but Uma was kicking major ass!
Kung Fu Hustle – It has an axe gang; need I say more?
I also like any martial arts movie that showcases different fighting styles like Bloodsport & the Quest (basically bloodsport 2.0)

Red
3 years 10 months ago

I almost forgot Unleashed with Jet Li. Great fight scenes in that one.

Al
3 years 10 months ago

Dude, you should have had atleast one Bruce Lee movie.. He tried to make his moves as close to realism as possible… I don’t care how old those Bruce Lee movies are!

3 years 10 months ago

Don’t get me wrong – I think Bruce Lee is the MAN. That being said, I’m not really excited at the prospect of watching his movies again. I thought Enter the Dragon was kind of slow. Yes, they were far ahead of their time, but nowadays, if I had to pick between a Bruce Lee flick or Fist of Legend… well, that’s easy.

Never seen anything from the Shaw brothers – will have to check em out!

Nick
3 years 10 months ago

totally agree with Al, at least one Bruce Lee movie should be on here…as well, where are the Shaw Brothers classics? 5 Deadly Venoms and my personal fave Chinese Super Ninja (known by other names) to name a couple.

oh and for good times, Gymkata!

nick viikinsalo
3 years 10 months ago

Undisputed 2 and 3. Amazing fight scenes, and some pretty amazing wushu stuff. Its about an organzied mafia that puts together a fight tournemant to determine the best prison fighter in the world.

jeff mann
3 years 10 months ago

I know it’s probably not a official martial arts movie But the wrestler starring mickey rourke Is amazing.

3 years 10 months ago

I’ll have to check that out for sure… I consider Wrestling a martial art…

Geoff
3 years 10 months ago

These are great movies… one of my favorite all time is Ip Man with Donnie Yen. Phenomenal fights seens plus a great storyline, directing, acting, choreography… it has it all!

Check out the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3367437849/

Geoff

3 years 10 months ago

Actually IP Man is the movie my buddy recommended I watch that I did watch a few weeks ago… To be honest, I was underwhelmed… that’s why it’s not on my list!

Geoff
3 years 10 months ago

You know, if they could make an ultimate Martials Arts movie a la the ultimate Action movie, The Expendables, with a bunch of the greatest action stars of all time. I think I’d be in Heaven.

It’d have to include at least (of the ones still alive):

1. Jackie Chan
2. Jet Li
3. Donnie Yen
4. Tony Jaa
5. Jason Stathom
6. and Chuck Norris too as the older, wise Master :)

Diego
3 years 10 months ago

I love the IP Man movies here my top 5
1) Enter the Dragon- There was Martial arts before Bruce lee
but after him it was never the same
2)Return of the Dragon- Bruce lee vs Chuck Norris one of the best fight scenes ever
3)IP Man series- bout bruce lee’s wing chung instructor evenn better if u even done
Any wing chung
4)Ong bak series- tony jaa athleticism & martial skill is amazing not to mention being in great shape
5)Fist of legend- jet li is tge man
5) Chocolate- bout an autistic girl who winds up roughing her moms
old gangster buddies to help pay for her mom cancer meds so great fight scenes
Its up there with the 1st Ong Bak

Timson
3 years 10 months ago

Good call coach, i gotta stick with geoff: Ip Man is my favorite movie as well…Donnie Yen started practising wing chun months before shooting the movie to be able to play master Ip Man as good as possible….

Geoff
3 years 10 months ago

Oh, I forgot to mention it’s inspired by the guy who ended up becoming Bruce Lee’s master.

Fight seens? heh, scenes. I hate my typos.