Article: Chinese Martial Art Movies

Asian countries like China, Korea, and Thailand have paved the way for modern martial arts movies. The realistic depiction of hand-to-hand combat in Chinese martial art movies revolutionized the action genre. The sub-genre of Chinese martial art movies includes Kung Fu films, Wuxia, Muay Thai, Karate, and Judo films. The martial arts films of China revolve around the skills, philosophies, and exploits of the specific fighting style.

1. Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man is a biographical martial arts movie that tells the story of Yip Man, who was a Chinese grandmaster of Wing Chun. Yip Man used to teach Wing Chun in China, and his most famous student was Bruce Lee. Ip Man (2008) is an action-packed, highly stylized movie, and Donnie Yen Ji-dan plays the role of Yip Man. Donnie Yen is a multiple-time world Wushu tournament champion, which helped him make the moves look credible and realistic. The movie transcends the sports genre because it is characterized and story-driven and carries several philosophical messages about life and martial arts.


2. Fist Of Fury (1972)

Fist of Fury, directed by Lo Wei, is an action movie starring Bruce Lee in his second appearance in a feature film. This film presented the brilliance of Bruce Lee to the world. Bruce Lee plays the role of Chen Zhen, a student of martial arts who returns home to investigate the mysterious death of his martial arts teacher. This movie has everything, including Bruce Lee’s iconic war cry, lightning speed movement, and balletic footwork. Fist of Fury garnered positive reviews worldwide from the critics and the general audience. This movie is the pioneer of all the martial art movies that followed.


3. Drunken Master (1978)

Drunken Master, directed by Yuen Woo-ping, is an action-comedy martial arts film about a mischievous young boy and his journey of becoming one of the best martial artists among his peers. Wong Fei-Hung, played by Jackie Chan, is an undisciplined young boy who disgraces his father through wild acts and careless behavior. Through a series of events, Wong comes across Beggar So, a martial arts teacher who is also a drunkard. Beggar So pushes Wong into his rigorous training program, which Wong resented to and fled away after a few days of training. But, after being brutally defeated and humiliated in a street fight, he returns to Beggar So and dedicates himself to learning martial arts. Beggar So teaches a style of boxing known as Drunken Boxing. This type of fighting is a highly fluid form of boxing that is heavily dependent on quick head movement, swift footwork, and fast punches. Wong’s father got targeted by a deadly assassin who has never lost a fight. Wong uses his martial art skills to defeat the killer and protect his father.


4. The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin (1978)

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, directed by Lau Kar-Leung, was grounded in realism and was an explosion of rigorous training sequences and graphic violence. It follows the story of San Te, who learns kung fu to avenge the death of his family. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin has a genuine emotional resonance. Its characters are well-drawn, and it has more political and philosophical depth than an average revenge plot. After completing the training, San Te sends a petition to the Temple to open a ’36th Chamber’ that allows laymen to learn kung fu. Thus, he made an army of martial artists ready to start a full-blown revolution against the Manchus. San Te also created a four-joint Nunchaku, a work of art when it is in motion.


5. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Kung Fu Hustle, directed by Stephen Chow, is an action-comedy that exaggeratedly depicts martial arts, but some scenes are grounded in reality and show actual fight moves. It is a story about a man who aspires to join the notorious gang known as Axe Gang. This film is a parody of all martial arts movies, but it became a cult classic by itself. Kung Fu Hustle is hilarious, highly stylized, and feels like a rollercoaster ride of action and comedy. The members of the Axe Gang try to terrorize and extort the residents of a housing complex in the slum but surprisingly, the residents demonstrate extreme physical prowess and expertise in martial arts. What ensues can only be defined as kung fu madness, which serves as a visual treat for the audience. Our list is incomplete without this movie because it flipped the concept of martial arts movies on its head and produced a masterpiece that gets treated as a cult classic even to this date.


6. Fist Of Legend (1994)

Fist of Legend, directed by Gordon Chan, is a remake of Fist of Fury. Chen Zhen, played by Jet Li, returns home to Shanghai after news that Ryuichi Akutagawa killed his mentor in a fight. Chen defeats Ryuichi after he challenges him to a contest. Suspecting that someone inside set up his master, he orders to have an autopsy performed on his master’s body. The story of Chen Zhen’s excellent fighting skills spreads among new students, and they start to seek his guidance.


7. The Way Of The Dragon (1972)

The Way of the Dragon, directed by Bruce Lee, is a cult classic that is a must on every martial art movie lover’s list. This movie is Bruce Lee’s only complete directorial film and featured Chuck Norris in his debut screen role. These two martial art legends come face to face in an action sequence and leave it all out on the battlefield, which happened to be in the Roman Colosseum. This movie is a guilty pleasure for the fans of martial arts.


8. Once Upon A Time In China (1972)

Once Upon a Time in China was directed by Tsui Hark. Filled with emotion, deep-rooted historical context, and mesmerizing visuals, Once Upon a Time in China is an epic martial arts movie revolves around love, war, death, and betrayal.


9. Dragon (2011)

Dragon, directed by Peter Chan, is an action-thriller movie that revolves around an expert martial artist, Donnie Yen, who had a dark past. So, when he decides to live his life in peace and harmony, he gets chased by a detective and his former master. This movie has modernized the martial arts genre and introduced a strong character development for all the actors involved. This film is fast-paced, gritty, clever, and entertaining enough to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Liu Jin-Xi, played by Donnie Yen, is hunted by Detective Xu Bai-Jiu, who investigates his dark past and former master. After his village gets attacked, he seeks vengeance against the perpetrators.


10. The Assassin (2015)

The Assassin, directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien, is a movie that follows the story of a female assassin who is sent on a mission by her master to assassinate a person finds out that the man whom she is supposed to kill is a person from her past whom she used to love. The film unfolds like a poem, and Shu Qi steals the show as the female assassin Nie Yinniang.