The 10 best martial arts movies (2023)

The 10 best martial arts movies (1)

10. Once upon a time in China

The movie that started the kung fu renaissance in Hong Kong cinema and propelled Jet Li into a future of crappy Western action movies. His subject was already well known to the local public: Wong Fei-hung was a real person: a turn-of-the-century martial arts master and healer who became something of a folk hero. Like Sherlock Holmes or Robin Hood, he has always been portrayed.Jackie Chanhe played him in Drunken Master, and a long series of Wong Fei-hung films in the 1950s and 1960s gave roles to Bruce Lee's parents and Yuen Wo-ping, among others.

Designed for Hong Kong in the 1990s, with the transfer of British sovereignty to China on the horizon, this story of a Chinese rebel fighting oppressive colonial powers added resonance. Its British and American villains are cartoonishly demonized, and the plot is often convoluted to the point of impenetrability, but what this film primarily delivers is stunning, colorful, kinetic pre-CGI epic spectacle. Director Tsui Hark, educated in the United States and Hong Kong, fills the screen with movement and energy. The cable fight scenes, inevitably choreographed by Yuen Wo-ping, are artfully staged. Earthly reality is long overdue.

And Li is just amazing. As an actor he's serious, but when he's in action he really takes a beating. He does everything: fights with his hands, feet, sticks, batons, umbrellas. He kills a villain with a bullet, without using a gun. But Li is also a gymnast, twirling pirouettes and somersaults across the screen with the agility of a cat. Without a doubt, he is the most elegant martial artist there is. These skills come to the fore in a final jubilant athletic duel that takes place in a warehouse filled with bamboo stairs. It is one of the most famous sequels in martial arts cinema and leaves you wanting more, which is not lacking: they made four sequels in the next two years.steve rosa

9. Yojimbo

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Akira Kurosawa drew on American pulp sources for Yojimbo's story, primarily Hollywood Westerns, but also Dashiell Hammett's melodrama The Dain Curse. Here, a lone, probably disgraced, certainly starving samurai (Toshiro Mifune, the wolf of the Emperor of Kurosawa) wanders through a city where two factions are in perpetual conflict, eyeing each other from their appropriated headquarters on opposite sides of the globe. western city. as the main street. With each faction lacking a formidable warrior to swing the balance of power in their favor, both desperately want the newcomer on their side, which the samurai discovers within moments and explodes throughout the film.

As the power plays near their nihilistic, corpse-choked conclusion, Kurosawa demonstrates mastery of his medium in nearly every frame. Its sense of spatial relationships is unrivaled: panels on the interior walls slide to reveal complete exterior cityscapes and crowd scenes perfectly framed in the new smaller frames. Intimate conversations take place as a turbulent battle unfolds in the background, in the center of the screen, between the faces of the speakers in the foreground. And what faces! From the goofy warrior with the single M-eyebrow and the giant wielding a giant hammer, to Mifune's increasingly battered, sarcastic, cynical, and ever-challenging face, every face is a landscape and a landscape. an epic poem in itself.

Along with all this comes Kurosawa's angry visual energy, his virtuosic choreography of moving cameras and the bodies of men at war; and his talent for adding enriching layers of kinetic and elemental movement to the violence already in play: falling rain, leaves, or smoke blowing in unrelenting winds. Yojimbo led to the Italian film A Fistful of Dollars, which over time completely reshaped the American Western and completed a circle of international cultural exchange that anticipates a give and take between international filmmakers that we now take for granted.Juan Patterson

(Video) Top 10 Martial Arts Movies of the Century (So Far)

8. A Touch of Zen

Harvey Weinstein's interest in Asian cinema stems from A Touch of Zen; it was afterQuentin Tarantinoshowed King Hus 1971wuxiathat the mogul went on a controversial spending spree in the east that led to his current controversial involvement in Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer. It's not hard to see why: Hu's film is extraordinarily epic for the genre, clocking in at over three hours, and made history by becoming the first Chinese film to win an award at Cannes, losing the Palme d'Or, but taking home the Technical Award.

A Touch of Zen is most notable today as the inspiration for Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which tells the story of a 14th century artist, Ku, who meets a beautiful woman who lives with her elderly mother in a house in ruins . It's truewuxiaHowever, fashion isn't all it seems, so the story develops until Ku realizes he's in the middle of a major dynastic war between rival factions. And as the story unfolds, effortlessly absorbing elements of both comedy and romance, so does the spectacle, growing in scale and scope in ways that would be unimaginable today.

It's those fight sequences that endured, thoughwuxiafell out of favor soon after, Hu's influence on the blockbuster martial arts films of recent years is plain to see. Even more than Crouching Tiger, A Touch of Zen casts a long shadow over the Chinese director's films.Zhang Yimou, whose House Of Flying Daggers references Hu's film directly in its bamboo forest bravery sequence. But it's Hu's deadpan sense of grandeur that keeps this incredible film fresh, with its themes of justice and nobility imbued with an uncanny spirituality that gives the film its title in a sequence featuring a group of dazzling Buddhist monks.wise damon

7. The Attack

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As a brutal and breathless martial arts thriller shot in Jakarta and directed by a Welshman, The Raid would have been remarkable in itself. The fact that this is a film of precision and ingenuity, transporting the combat sequences into the realms of horror, slapstick comedy and even the musical, guarantees its place in the history of action cinema. The plot is as simple as its choreography is complicated. A police unit sets out one morning to take over a tall building in Jakarta that has fallen into the hands of a gang. But not just any gang: this mafia equipped the skyscraper with sophisticated CCTV and PA systems, monitored from a control room on the top floor. The mobster watching the security cameras sends a call to his tenants: "We've got company. You know what to do." He doesn't mean to put the kettle on and whip the cream.

In the absence of much dialogue, the weapons do the talking: guns, knives, swords, hammers. A man is given an ax on his shoulder, which is used to drag him across the room. A refrigerator is also a bomb. The gang's most ruthless member, Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian, who also served as one of the film's fight choreographers), serves as a mouthpiece for the film's philosophy. Lowering the guns, he explains, "Using a gun is like asking for food." If that's the case, Mad Dog would deserve a handful of Michelin stars.

Some of the fight sequences are claustrophobically locked in hallways where the only option is to use walls as steps, a la Donald O'Connor. Others, like an accumulation of dust in a drug lab, expand into dance numbers. Evans' main achievement was making a frantic adventure that he excelled in clarity. Unlike most action movies, the frenzy comes from the casting, not the editing; No matter how hectic things get, we never lose sight of who is cutting whose windpipe in karate.ryan gilbey

6. Young Back

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Hands and feet are one thing in martial arts; Elbows and knees are something else entirely. And after watching this muay thai showreel you would use Tony Jaa against every other fighter on screen. Even in the scenes where Jaa isn't fighting anyone, he's just doing some moves, it's incredibly impressive.

The Ong Bak movie is quite simple: village villains steal a village's Buddha head; A simple pawn retrieves it, crushing each opponent individually with bare hands in the process. That's all I need. Ong Bak's main purpose is to say, "Do you believe this guy?" And with the added hint that no stunts or special effects were used, it's more than enough. Fight after fight, Jaa unleashes moves that make you think, "This must hurt," if not, "This will require a major skull reconstruction." There are no blocks and only a few punches are thrown, but instead of brute force, marvel at Jaa's speed, technique and pain threshold. Fights are cleverly staged, especially a thrilling three-round bar fight that leaves no opponents or furniture standing.

Jaa also shows off his physical prowess in other ways, from an opening tree-climbing race to a Bangkok car chase that takes him on a hilarious course complete with cafe tables, market stalls, kids, cars, trucks, glass and barbed tires. Listening. It's almost too much to believe, and Ong Bak acknowledges our disbelief, frequently rewinding the plot to show us Jaa's movements in slow motion, as if saying, "Want to watch it again?" We do it.RS

5. matrix matrix

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Cocteau envisioned the mirror as a gateway to another world in his 1930 film The Blood of a Poet, and it is a testament to the persistence of that image that it lost none of its appeal when it reappeared in The Matrix. The film builds further guilt into its plot by suggesting that what we perceive as reality is actually a cosmetic facade constructed to hide a horrible truth about our existence. Neo, a geek played byKeanu Reeves, is chosen to carry the burden of enlightenment. Reeves' emptiness on paper is perfect, mainly because Neo just needs to show the skills and qualities that are downloaded into his brain. To master Jiu-Jitsu, you just need to install yourself with the right software. In no time at all, it evokes the gimmicks of 1970s martial arts movies, where a man can launch himself into a flying kick and somehow manage to make a cocktail in front of you, read a short novel and complete his tax return. come back with your feet touching the ground.

The film's Cocteau concept is used with some X-Files paranoia, but it's the dazzling martial arts work that gives the film its particular momentum. The directors, the Wachowski brothers, already had ideas about their stance when they created The Matrix (after all, their only previous film was the sweaty, claustrophobic thriller Bound). It was martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping who helped them reach the next level.

The film's combat sequences provide the purest source of amusement for several reasons. First, violence does not have redemptive connotations; It is performed for the thrill of the choreography, not the expectation of harm or righteousness. Death is careless, but it doesn't deliver any moral kicks. Second, the film introduced a strange new effect that has since been widely copied or parodied in everything from Charlie's Angels to Shrek: a character freezes in mid-air as the camera orbits the frame like a computer looking at a video. 3D representation of a 2D image. 🇧🇷 When the camera finishes moving, the physical movement of the scene resumes. Suddenly, before our disbelieving eyes, the monotonous vocabulary of action cinema expanded.RG

4. House of Flying Daggers

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(Video) Best Martial Arts Movies - The Prime Fighter | Chinese Action Movies Full Movie English

Watch the first 20 minutes of House of Flying Daggers and it won't be hard to understand why the Chinese chose its director, Zhang Yimou, to officiate at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. When the action takes place in the waiting room of a rather large brothel and not in a stadium, there are all the elements that Zhang would multiply by a thousand in 2008: traditional Chinese music, dancing, colored silk fringes, drums and, of course, Martial arts. 🇧🇷 It's a great show that sets the bar high for the rest of the film. Thankfully, there's even more spark to come in this sequel to Zhang's first.wuxiafilm, hero. Zhang's 2006 Curse of the Golden Flower ended the trilogy, but for many, the romantic, operatic, but satisfyingly compact Flying Daggers represents the best of all three.

During the Tang Dynasty, two police captains, Leo (Andy Lau, best known for the off-topic Infernal Affairs trilogy) and Jin (the handsome Takeshi Kaneshiro) search for the leader of the Flying Daggers, a counterinsurgency group. They suspect that the blind courtesan Mei (Zhang Ziyi) may be a secret member of the Daggers, so Jin releases her from prison as a commoner and leaves with her, pursued by Leo and several expendable officials. Love seems to blossom between Jin and Mei, but nobody and nothing here is what it seems.

Although the fights are excellently choreographed by Tony Ching Siu-tung, in particular a chase through the bamboo forest that defeats Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and an ultimate one-on-one in the snow, when compared to other classic martial arts films, Daggers is a bit real. light in fight scenes. In fact, the fighting is so stylized that it's more like dancing with knives. Regardless, the love story may be almost as incomplete as the film's rigorous color scheme, but the performance of the central trio is so powerful that the deep emotional depth seems to come out of nowhere.por Leslie Felper

3. Police record

While it was obvious at the time, it seems odd now that Jackie Chan was originally groomed by at least one Hong Kong producer to succeed Jackie Chan.Bruce Lee, the agile martial arts master whose style was almost laughably serious in its dark intensity. However, after a few tries at the genre, Chan took things down a much more comedic but no less athletic path, which is why the former stuntman found himself in Hollywood after his breakout role in the classic Drunken Master. 🇧🇷 In 1981, he added light relief to The Cannonball Run.

However, Chan's Hollywood career went awry, and after a letdown in 1985's The Protector (a collaboration with neo-Grindhouse director James Glickenhaus, perhaps not the most likable of talents), Chan returned to Hong Kong to settle the matter. problem on its own. With his own hands, he directed and co-wrote Police Story, in which he played a disgraced police officer who is forced to go undercover and clear his name after being framed by drug dealers.

In direct defiance of Hollywood's (sloppy and mediocre in his eyes) approach, Chan prioritized fighting and stunt work, using genre elements primarily as filler. By refusing to use a stunt double for every scene (except one involving a motorcycle), Chan began to earn his reputation as an innovative and gritty action star. In that film alone, he was hospitalized with a concussion, suffered severe burns, dislocated his pelvis, and was nearly paralyzed by a broken vertebra. The resulting film was a huge success and spawned five solid sequels. From today's perspective, it seems remarkably simple given what was to come next, the Rush Hour cartoon series, though Chan certainly must have enjoyed the irony of being embraced by Hollywood for a film that is essentially a critique of everything he's done. did it wrong.DW

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Why is Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon such a sublime experience? Maybe because every bone in your body says it shouldn't work. It's a smooth action movie. Who ever heard of one like that? And it's a love story with a kick: a kung fu kick. It all starts with stealing a legendary sword, the Green Fate. When the sword is stolen, the camera flies along with the thief, for whom gravity is an embarrassing garment that can be discarded at any time. The warrior Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) chases her and happily jumps across rooftops that glow silver in the moonlight. When the chase gives way to combat, the action movie rulebook is not just thrown away, but ripped to shreds. For viewers too young to remember the shock of seeing a shot of Sam Peckinpah when slow motion was more innovation than a nasty virus, the sight of these warriors soaring calmly to bloody heights will offer some of the same relief.

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The Matrix brought martial arts film duels to general audiences, and Lee hired the film's choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping (who went on to work on Kill Bill and Kung Fu Hustle) to further develop this style. The resulting wrestling routines are reminiscent of Olympic gymnastics, break dancing and those cartoon punches in which one of the Tasmanian Devil's limbs briefly emerges from a frenzied hurricane. And when Yu occasionally steps on her opponent's toes, she doesn't fight dirty, it's the only way to keep the fight on the ground.

For all the subtlety of the choreography, the action sequences would be shallow without the emotional weight that Lee brings to the scene, particularly in the unspoken tenderness between Yu and his wartime companion, Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat). As a director, he makes no distinction between tenderness and violence. In your hands, a love scene can turn brutal when a man's blood forms a fork in his lover's chest as they embrace as a battle between opponents rages in the treetops of the forest, the flexible branches They double as nests , catapults, steps and bungee. strings, achieves a sensual serenity.RG

1. Enter the Dragon

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Bruce Lee purists may or may not agree that Enter the Dragon is his best film. But this is what became legendary: It was the smash hit of 1973 and the most famous film by this incomparable martial arts superstar, who died of a brain reaction to painkillers the summer before its release. He shared with James Dean the grim distinction of appearing posthumously in his most famous painting. After a career as a child star in Hong Kong cinema, almost the Macaulay Culkin of his day, and an appearance on the television series The Green Hornet, Lee broke into action films that were so popular and profitable that Warner Brothers agreed to film. Enter. the Dragon, with Lee to star and co-produce: Hollywood's first martial arts film. It was directed by Robert Clouse and written by Michael Allin, author of the Isaac Hayes film Truck Turner. Lalo Schifrin composed the music.

Bruce Lee possessed exceptional physical grace, ballet poise, deadly speed and explosive power. He was a master of kung fu, judo and karate and is considered the spiritual godfather of today's mixed martial arts scene. He wasn't a tall man, so the camera lens captured his presence better. He also had a delicate, handsome, almost boyish face, and charm and fluency in presenting his zen martial theories in interviews, more a philosophy of dynamic motivation than any fortune cookie cliché. Lee had presence and charisma on a par with Muhammad Ali, and that has perhaps never been better captured than in Enter the Dragon. Perhaps only Jackie Chan rivals him as an Asian star in Hollywood right now, and Hollywood hasn't shown much interest in promoting an Asian-American star since Enter the Dragon.

Lee plays a Shaolin master who is recruited by British intelligence to secretly participate in a martial arts tournament. This event is run by a sinister megalomaniac named Han, suspected of drug and prostitution involvement. Lee has a personal problem with Han, whose idiots terrorized Lee's little sister and tried to rape her; she committed suicide rather than submit. He appears on the island with a few American wrestlers: Williams, played by Jim Kelly, provides a Shaft-style street cred, while Roper, played by John Saxon, is a playboy who looks a lot like James Bond. In fact, of course, Lee is James Bond himself, but he's no womanizer. Bruce Lee has a monastic purity and spirituality, with a laser focus on exposing Han - and kicking ass, of course.

The film's look is exotic and extravagant, particularly its Hall of Mirrors-inspired showdown, in which Lee sports bizarre, almost tribal cuts above the waist. Its strange, animal, tremulous cry and piercing gaze are unique. But what allows Enter the Dragon to overshadow the rest is Lee's own quiet, almost innocent idealism. In the opening scenes, Lee humbly talks to the elderly abbot in his temple, drinks cold tea with the head of British intelligence Braithwaite, and interrupts the conversation to bring up teaching martial arts to teenagers. When this hot-headed young man is easily defeated in combat, Lee tells him with inimitable sincerity, "We need emotional content, not anger."pedro bradshaw

Another top 10 Guardian and Observer critics


What is considered the best martial arts movie of all time? ›

Enter the Dragon (1973)

Considered by many to be the best martial arts film of all time, Enter the Dragon would also tragically be Bruce Lee's swan song.

Who is the No 1 martial arts? ›

1. Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee is ranked first among the top 10 martial artists in the world in 2021. Lee Jun-fan (27 November 1940 - 20 July 1973) was a Chinese martial art performer, star, film maker, martial art teacher, and philosopher.

Who is the best martial artist in movies? ›

The Best Movie Martial Artists of All Time, Ranked
  • 8 Tony Jaa.
  • 7 Chuck Norris.
  • 6 Jean-Claude Van Damme.
  • 5 Jet Li.
  • 4 Michelle Yeoh.
  • 3 Donnie Yen.
  • 2 Jackie Chan.
  • 1 Bruce Lee.
Feb 16, 2023

What is the hardest martial art to beat? ›

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is considered to be the most difficult martial art to learn. Even to athletic students, mastering this discipline is unlikely to come easy.

What is the king of all martial arts? ›

1. Bruce Lee. The kung-fu king combined the cardiovascular capacity of an athlete with a bodybuilder's musculature. He performed finger-and-thumbs press-ups, inflated his lats like a cobra, leapt 8ft in the air to kick out a lightbulb and unleashed the legendary 1in punch.

What is the most ruthless martial art? ›

Bacom or Vacon is one of the deadliest martial arts in the world. This Peruvian martial art was developed in the streets of Lima for the development of the Peruvian Military. A Bacom practitioner is capable of injuring the opponents within a short span of time.

Who is the best martial artist alive? ›

Kalaripayattu, Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Muay Thai and Wushu are some of the most popular self-defence techniques.
Top 5 Martial Artists In The World & Yes, One Of Them Is Vidyut...
  1. Jackie Chan. jackiechan. ...
  2. Jet Li. jetli. ...
  3. Vidyut Jammwal. mevidyutjammwal. ...
  4. Steven Seagal. seagalofficial. ...
  5. Wesley Snipes.
Sep 28, 2022

Which is the oldest martial art in the world? ›

Kalaripayattu: India's martial art and the world's oldest - BBC Reel.


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