Top 10 Best Martial Art Movies

There is no doubt that the kung fu/martial film genre is full of titles that cannot be described as anything less than awesome. Martial arts movies have everything! They have heart-pounding action, steep, ancient traditions, amazing action sequences, some of the best choreography that exists in film, and almost always feature incredible lead men and women who are actually skilled at martial arts in real life… a fact that makes all the difference when it comes to stunts and fight scenes.

But with so many good martial arts titles out there, it can be VERY difficult to point out the best… which is exactly what this article is about. Today, we are going to discuss the top 10 best martial art movies of all time. If you have never seen any of these movies, then they will definitely give you some new films to add to you ‘watch’ list. If you love martial arts and you LOVE movies, then these are ten martial arts flicks that you cannot ignore!

#1… Enter The Dragon

In this film, starring martial arts icon Bruce Lee, Lee plays a very skilled and deadly Shaolin martial artist who is invited to a special competition on an island organized by a mysterious man who was also once a Shaolin student, but was expelled from the school for abusing the code of conduct. As it turns out, Lee goes to the island and helps British intelligence to uncover a major drug operation, which is being run by the owner of the island. Since there are no guns allowed on the island, Lee’s martial arts skills end up being the key to surviving the tournament and defeating the ex-Shaolin, once and for all.

This movie holds the number one spot on our list because it is, through and through, simply the best work of martial arts film to date. Even though it was made over 40 years ago, it is STILL relevant today. This was Bruce Lee’s final movie before his death, and it has definitely ended up being his most amazing masterpiece, and has set a high standard for martial arts movies that, in all honesty, has still not come close to being matched.

#2… The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

This film, led by Gordon Liu and directed by Liu Chia-liang, tells the story of a Shaolin martial arts student named San Te. It is a story of violence and tragedy, as well as a tale of vengeance and redemption, and has been hailed as one of the most prolific martial arts films ever created.

This film is number two on our list because it is, to put it simply, one of the most riveting and complete martial art film experiences ever released. It is a must-see for anyone interested in Kung Fu or the martial art movie genre.  

#3… Fist of Fury

In this film, which was Bruce Lee’s second major movie role, his character (who is a student of Huo Yuanjia) must fight to defend not only the honor of the Chinese, who are being threatened by foreign enemies, but also to avenge the death of his master, and to bring justice to those responsible.

Fist Of Fury has proven to be one of Bruce Lee’s most enduring works of art. It is number three on our list because it was partially responsible for ushering in what has been called the ‘Golden era’ of King Fu Cinema, which started in the 1970s.

#4… Legend Of The Drunken Master

This film, starring Jackie Chan, Yuen Siu-tien, and Hwang Jang Lee, tells the story of a young, mischievous martial artist who runs away from his problems, only to be faced by inevitable danger. He ends up seeing the help of ‘The Drunken Master’, and must face his dangerous and taxing training regimen to learn the skills needed to defeat the notorious killer Yan Ti San and become the new ‘Drunken Master’.

This film is number four on our list because it combines amazing martial arts sequences with classic Jackie Chan Kung Fu comedy. It also boasts a number of different martial arts techniques, which make it a very diverse and unique action-movie experience.

#5… Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior

This film, which is led by starring actor Tony Jaa, tells the story of a hero named Ting, who is an amazing athlete and Muay Thai warrior who vows never to use his skills for personal gain. One night, however, villains from Bangkok come to Ting’s peaceful village, and steal the Ong-Bak… a prized possession of the village in the form of an image of Buddha. Ting vows to find and recover the artifact, which leads him to the city and into a battle with several vicious gangsters and crime lords, whom he must defeat to recover the Ong-Bak and return home.

This film is number five on our list because of the bone crushing, neck breaking style of the combat performed by stunt-man Tony Jaa. His demonstration of the famed Muay Thai fighting style is interesting and unique, and also brings a different kind of brutality to the genre that makes this film riveting from beginning to end.

#6… Fearless

‘Fearless’ has come to be known as the last major wushu-style martial arts epic from top-notch martial arts superstar, Jet Li. It is based (loosely) on the life of a famed Chinese martial artist named Huo Yuanjia, who’s goal was to restore pride and nationalism to China by fighting foreign warriors in public events in the final years of the era known as the Qing Dynasty.

Fearless is number six on our list because it delivers amazing martial arts action, but also because it is accompanied by a story that is classic, simple, and relatable.

#7… The Chinese Connection

This 1972 classic has come to be known as the movie that ‘rocketed’ Bruce Lee to the status of superstar. This film tells the story of the true-to-life death of Huo Yuan-Chia… a legendary martial artist, and is well known for its epic fight scenes, especially the scene where Bruce Lee kicks seven different opponents during one incredible, unedited shot.

This movie is number seven on our list because it was very influential to the martial arts choreography style that was continuously evolving during this time, and for establishing itself as an instant martial arts classic.

#8… Hero (2002)

In this film, Jet Li plays an unknown, unnamed protagonist. The movie is based on the events surrounding the story of Jing Ke’s attempt to assassinate the King of Qin, which occurred in the year 227 BC. At the time, Hero was the highest grossing film in Chinese film history, and also had the highest cost of any film to make up to that date (2002). Though the film did not show in the United States until 2004, it was met with immediate success when it was finally presented by Quentin Tarantino.

This film is number eight on our list because it has been described as one of the most beautiful and beguiling martial arts films to date. Its compelling storyline, aided by incredible martial arts action and supported by beautiful cinematography, are a few of the reasons behind it becoming an instant martial arts film classic.

#9… Kiss Of The Dragon

This Jet Li film, which was written by Jet Li himself, was made as a response to Jet Li’s fans who were asking for a movie with more realistic fight scenes. The story, supported by fellow star Bridget Fonda, tells of a Chinese intelligence agent who arrives in Paris to help bring down a mob boss. Along the way, he meets and falls in love with Bridget Fonda’s character, who plays a prostitute whose daughter has been kidnapped by the mob. Jet Li fights not only to bring down the mob boss, but also to rescue the prostitute’s daughter in one of his most gritty, realistic martial arts films to date.

This film is number nine on our list because it combines a great story with very realistic martial arts action. True to his word, Jet Li delivered a movie that was as true to life as possible, using minimal CGI or wires to accomplish the amazing and action-packed fight scenes.

#10… Fist Of Legend

‘Fist of Legend’ is actually a 1994 remake of Bruce Lee’s epic motion picture ‘Fist Of Fury’. Starring Jet Li in place of Bruce Lee, this film is set in the dramatic backdrop of  the Shanghai International Settlement, which is a city occupied by Japanese forces during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

This film is number ten on our list because it is known as one of Jet Li’s most epic movies, and because it holds true to what it is… a well-crafted remake of one of the greatest martial art epics of all time.