What makes a good martial arts movie? Blood, awesome fight choreography, sinister villains, a damsel in distress, a knowledgeable master who’s there through thick and thin – without these essential elements, there would be no heroes left to save the day!
Here’s Evolve Daily’s selection of the 15 Greatest Martial Arts Films Of All Time:
Who doesn’t remember that infamous scream? In 40 seconds, Van Damme lets out his frustration while competing at the “Kumite”, an underground martial arts competition. In order to defend his master’s honor, he faces Chong Li, the ruthless and vicious defending champion who has killed a few participants in the past.
2) Karate Kid
Every kid from the 80s remembers Ralph Macchio’s crane technique that he used to defeat Johnny, a prized Cobra Kai student. This movie not only inspired numerous enrollments in martial arts schools but also defined the true meaning of martial arts. It embodied the belief that anything was possible if you worked hard enough.
3) Ong Bak
This movie is the epitome of the classic story of the humble villager taking on gangsters from the city to defend his town’s honor. Tony Jaa does all of his own stunts, leaving audiences in open-jawed amazement with his beautiful execution of Muay Thai techniques. If you didn’t practice Muay Thai before, you’d probably consider it after watching this movie.
Perhaps one of the greatest sports movies of all time, Rocky features the life of unknown boxer Rocky Balboa who gets the chance to compete for the heavyweight title. Rocky is, quite possibly, the greatest underdog movie to date. In this scene, both Stallone and his opponent go all out until the last round. Although Rocky loses the fight, he wins the hearts and support of millions of moviegoers around the world.
5) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Beautiful. If there was one word to describe this film, that would be it. From scenes of fighting in midair to fighting on treetops, this movie was as visually stunning as it was exhilarating. With the grace and serenity that each actor performed the fight scenes, there’s no doubt that this movie would make this list.
6) Kill Bill
This movie was Quentin Tarantino at his best – blood, gore and flashy fight scenes that are simply out of this world. In Kill Bill, Uma Thurman’s character takes on 88 yakuza members before taking on her most challenging opponent – Gogo Yubari with her meteor hammer.
Possibly the best movie about mixed martial arts today, Warrior is a film based on an unlikely reunion of two brothers inside the cage. Filled with drama, heartbreak and awesome fight scenes by Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy – you’ll definitely have to pull the tissues out for this one.
8) Cinderella Man
Russell Crowe stars as Jim Braddock, an impoverished former prizefighter willing to do anything to save his family from destitution. Scraping up the last bit of pride, strength and determination he has left, Braddock returns to the ring and eventually becomes a success.
9) Ali (2001)
Based on the story of the legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, the movie details his life in and out of the ring. From his controversial personal life to his road to winning the heavyweight title, this movie truly brings the story of greatest boxer in history to life.
10) Raging Bull
The rage that Jake La Motta felt fighting his opponents inside the ring would eventually lead to his demise outside it. In this movie, we see how La Motta’s life slowly falls apart due to his bouts of rage and paranoia. This is the ugly side of boxing, exemplified.
11) The Fighter
This movie tells the story of Micky Ward and his harrowing journey to winning the world welterweight title. Living in a world rife with drugs, violence and poverty, Ward must overcome these obstacles and train hard to win the title.
12) Drunken Master 2
According to Jackie Chan fans, this movie far surpassed the first Drunken Master. In his quest to stop the corrupt British consul from illegally exporting historical Chinese artifacts out of the country, he uses his drunken boxing skills to effectively put an end to it all.
13) Ip Man
Loosely based on Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun legendary grandmaster, this film takes place during the Japanese occupation of China. Forced to take matters into his own hands, Donnie Yen fights off the Japanese using beautifully choreographed Wing Chun. The result: a martial arts masterpiece.
14) Enter The Dragon
What’s better than watching Bruce Lee beat up a bunch of bad guys? What about watching Bruce Lee beat up Jackie Chan, or a guy with a claw? NOTHING. Possibly one of Bruce Lee’s most classic films, it was his final film before his untimely death.
Jet Li stars as Huo Yuanjia, the most famous fighter in all of China and the definition of a true martial artist. Self-taught, he went on to inspire his nation by competing in one of the most momentous martial arts events to ever take place.
Tell us, which of these films have you seen?