Thanks to the Hong Kong film fraternity, the entertainment industry has found a mainstream genre in Martial Art films. Although, martial arts were the key elements in most of the films produced in Hong Kong, the genre gained worldwide recognition highly because of the global popularity of action stars like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
In fact, these stars should be given the high credits for popularizing the trend of using martial arts as an entertainment factor in the movies. As the stardom of these action heroes reached each and every corner of the world over the years, the martial art genre became mainstream.
However, this genre has still not reached a potential such as Romance, Comedy or other major ones. Yet, there is a good list of movies produced year after year around the globe that are completely based on martial art training or martial art combats, highly choreographed using martial techniques such as Kung Fu, Kick Boxing, Karate, Taekwondo, Wing Chun and many more.
Owing to its rising popularity over the years, Hollywood has also joined the bandwagon, creating superstars out of Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes, Gary Daniels, Mark Dacascos, Jason Statham and Scott Adkins.
To offer a tribute to Martial Arts and its cult following in the entertainment industry, FilmyKeeday brings you a list of top 20 must watch Martial Art Movies in the history of cinema.
Best Films Based on Martial Arts
A list of martial art films is incomplete without a Bruce Lee movie on it. As a result, we have three of his films on our list with the first being Fist of Fury. The story of the movie focuses around Chen Zhen, played by Bruce Lee, who is determined to avenge his master’s death, a plot that was later used in many different movies. It was Bruce Lee’s second film that had a successful run not only in Hong Kong but also in Hollywood. If The Big Boss made Bruce Lee, a star across Asia, Fist of Fury extended his stardom all over the world.
Way of The Dragon (1972)
The first directorial venture of Bruce Lee had to be a special mention on our list without any doubt. Bruce Lee had already established himself as an actor as well as action director after just 2 major films and with his 3rd film, Way of The Dragon, he raised his own benchmark and with the success of the movie, he also added the title of director, writer, and producer onto his resume with pride. The film doesn’t have a strong plot, but it does display martial art in full flow with some well-choreographed fight sequences using both Chinese and Japanese martial arts techniques.
Enter The Dragon (1973)
Enter The Dragon is even today considered as one of the best and highly popular martial films in the history of cinema. Starring the Dragon himself in the lead role, Enter The Dragon was also the first Chinese martial arts film to be produced under a major Hollywood studio, Warner Bros. Largely set in Hong Kong, the movie is centered around a tournament, while the rest of the plot revolves around Lee, portrayed by Bruce Lee, and his quest to bust the drug trafficking and prostitution racket run by Mr. Han, portrayed by Shih Kien. Unfortunately, Enter The Dragon also marked Bruce Lee’s final film appearance before his untimely suspicious death right before its release. Enter The Dragon is also one of those early movies starring Jackie Chan as a mere stuntman, who later on becomes one of the highly popular action stars after Bruce Lee.
Drunken Master (1978)
If Bruce Lee set the trend of martial arts into cinema, Jackie Chan is highly credited for setting up a new genre of comedic Kung Fu. Drunken Master is the film that set the career path of Jackie Chan, as one of the highly acclaimed martial artist, an action star and one of the best comedians in the film industry worldwide. The film is all about Wong Fei-hung, played by Jackie Chan, and his master Beggar So, played by Yuen Siu-team and their quest to defeat a highly skillful martial artist, who is also a notorious killer. The film set new records at the Box Office becoming one of the highly successful Hong Kong films at that time.