Martial arts is incredibly popular in modern times, brought about by global promotions such as the UFC and ONE Championship. Before martial artists were given a platform to compete and showcase their skills, however, the usual career path involved going to Hollywood to become movie actors.
Great martial arts icons of yesteryear such as Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris never got to test their skills inside the cage, but they did, however make it big on the silver screen. Featuring real, authentic martial arts techniques, these superstars and legends lent their skills and expertise to storytelling, inspiring people from all over the world.
Martial arts fight scenes are flashy and engaging. And they invoke a sense of amazement and thrill in every second. It’s easy to get hooked once you start watching. There are so many iconic movie fight scenes scattered throughout history.
It’s time to appreciate some of those fight scenes by taking a look back at the classics, even a couple of the more recent ones.
In no particular order, we take a look back at some of Hollywood’s greatest portrayals of martial arts over the years. Today, Evolve Daily shares five of the best martial arts movie fight scenes of all time.
1) Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris in “The Way of the Dragon” (1972)
When you think of Hollywood martial arts action stars, you think of Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. The two actors are the most iconic of all time and have produced countless fight scenes and martial arts classics in their heyday.
This particular scene is where the two go head-to-head and serves as the climax to 1972’s “The Way of the Dragon”. Norris plays an expert martial artist named Colt, enlisted by the mob to take out Bruce Lee’s character Tang Lung.
The fight scene was shot inside the one and only Colosseum in Rome, Italy. It begins with an intense staredown as both men prepare for battle with their own signature pre-fight rituals. Before they proceed to try and kill each other, it’s amusing to take note that each fighter gives the other time to warm up with a few drills.
In the end, Lung defeats Colt, but not after Colt gives him one hell of a fight.
2) Jet Li vs Donnie Yen in “Once Upon a Time in China II” (1992)
Two incredible martial artists go face-to-face in the 1992 classic, Once Upon a Time in China II. For the longest time, Jet Li had been viewed as Bruce Lee’s heir apparent. And for the most part, he did a tremendous job in filling a huge void that Lee left when he passed away.
But every great martial artist needs a worthy opponent. For Jet Li, that would be the talented Donnie Yen.
The two martial arts action stars are evenly matched in both physicality and skill and were even once both members of the Chinese national Wushu Team in Beijing. The final fight scene of “Once Upon a Time in China II” is a masterpiece, and arguably the best in the entire series.
Featuring amazing fight choreography and exceptional performances from both men, it all comes to a head when Li and Yen finally face each other. The two just have great chemistry, and luckily for fans, that was depicted on the big screen.
3) Jackie Chan vs Ken Lo in “Drunken Master II” (1994)
Most people know of Jackie Chan from the famous “Rush Hour” movies, starring alongside comedian Chris Tucker. But true Jackie Chan diehards know that his 1994 masterpiece “Drunken Master II” is his signature film.
Chan plays a man who becomes an unstoppable fighting machine every time he gets hammered. The fight scene at the end of Drunken Master II is arguably Chan’s greatest fight scene ever, and one that he pulled off in remarkable fashion.
Chan’s unique style is displayed all throughout this fight scene, featuring incredible timing and precision, and amazing choreography, all in a seamless shot that is hard to pull off even today. The awesome thing about this is that there is absolutely no one who could play this role but Jackie. It seems as though the role was destined for him.
The same drunken style can then be seen in Chan’s later films, as he became insanely popular for this type of fighting and for performing his own stunts without a stunt double.
4) Donnie Yen vs Louis Fan in “Ip Man” (2008)
Before there was Bruce Lee, there was Ip Man. Although Lee was undeniably one of, if not the most popular martial artist of all time, he also had a mentor who taught him everything that made him the legend he eventually became. Ip Man was his master.
Featuring the art of Wing Chun, Ip Man’s story was told in the 2008 film of the same name and starred top Hong Kong action star, Donnie Yen.
Yen is a highly-skilled martial artist, well-versed in multiple styles including Tai Chi, boxing, kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Karate, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, and Wushu. He is a former world Wushu tournament champion.
Yen’s Ip Man is the role that has defined his career and watched him ascend into martial arts movie greatness. In this scene, Yen faces off against Louis Fan (Fan Siu-wong), showcasing Yen’s enthralling movement, pace, and martial arts skill. It’s one of the most entertaining fight scenes in history.
5) Tony Jaa vs Fight Club in “Ong Bak” (2003)
Thai martial arts actor Tony Jaa has lent his martial arts talent and expertise to many action sequences in Hollywood. With a knack for fight choreography, featuring a signature flair and excitement, Jaa has made a name for himself in the industry and continues to do a lot of his work behind the scenes to this day.
In 2003 however, Jaa starred in Ong Bak. It proved to be Jaa’s breakout film and soon shot him to superstardom as critics hailed him as the next major martial arts star. It features the art of Muay Thai, and Muay Boran, and showcases its most effective techniques including the use of shins, knees, and elbows.
One of the best scenes in the movie is a notorious fight club scene where fans first caught a glimpse of what Jaa was capable of. Set in a fictional establishment along Bangkok’s famous Khaosan Road, Jaa’s character Ting is caught up in an illegal fighting tournament. And as you can easily predict, Jaa absolutely smokes everyone.
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