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15 Epic Martial Arts Movies You Have To See

Are you a martial arts fan and looking for those jaw-dropping, awesome fighting and gravity-defying films to watch this year and next?

No matter the year, martial arts films are classic and timeless movies anyone can get behind. Not only do these films show stunning fight scenes but they also feature personal discipline and fluidity in a way only characters in these movies can!

There are so many great flicks in this movie genre it’s difficult to know where to start. So, we’ve upped our game to bring you our extended list of top martial arts movies that we love. Read on to discover the top 15 best movies in this genre that you can enjoy today or in the future.

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

What can be said about this Oscar-winning epic? It is, by some way, the highest-grossing MA film ever. Yes, ever. Directed by the now very famous Ang Lee this film changed the cinematic landscape with its heavy martial arts scenes blended with a loveable romantic element that wowed viewers.
Director: Ang Lee

2. Ip Man (2008)

2008’s Ip Man is a semi-historical film of the legendary Wing Chun, a martial arts Grandmaster, This awesome movie is known to have taught many future martial artists and many have quoted it as an inspiration. 

This film takes place during the 1930s in the city of Foshan.

The story talks about how Ip Man, played by Donnie Yen, endured the Japanese invasion and occupation during WWII in peace. Certain circumstances rose and forced him to fight.

This is also the first instalment of the four-film series. The final movie, Ip Man 4: The Finale, released in 2019, was one of the latest fighting films pre-pandemic.
Director: Wilson Yip

3. Tai-Chi Master (1993)

Jet Li’s portrayal as Chang San-Feng in Tai Chi Master in 1993 flaunts his best fighting performance. Although, it’s undeniable that his character Wong Fei-hung in Once Upon A Time in China series is Jet Li’s most popular film.

Tai Chi Master showcases how greed for power can destroy even the strongest bonds. It also features amazing fighting scenes from Michelle Yeoh. Such as balancing on table-leg-turned stilts scene while fighting off an opponent.
Director: Yuen Woo-ping

4. Fearless (2006)

2006’s Fearless was the last self-proclaimed Wushu film of Jet Li. The film is a loose adaptation of the life of Huo Yuanjia, one of the most prolific Chinese martial artists. This film shows Huo Yuanjia as a competitive martial artist who fought for national pride.

It also features his journey in the founding of the Jing Wu Athletic Society. Li’s portrayal in Fearless is fluid and natural as he was once a competitive martial artist and a Wushu champion. One of the movie’s highlights is Jet Li’s Wushu performance on the mountains.
Director: Ronny Yu

5. The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)

The Legend of Drunken Master in 1994 was Jackie Chan’s best movie. The sequel showcases all the unique, prime elements of Jackie Chan’s martial arts movie stardom.

The Drunken Master film series is such a fun, fresh, unique film. Not only that, the stunt work in Drunken Master 2 is untouchable in quality and technique.
Director: Liu Chia-Liang

6. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

No martial arts movie list is complete without Stephen Chow’s 2004 comedy film, Kung Fu Hustle. This martial arts comedy is popcorn entertainment at its craziest but loveable for it!

The film combines some song and dance numbers and exaggerated kung fu parody. Kung Fu Hustle is, without any doubt, Stephen Chow’s most acclaimed film both as an actor and a director.

This film is a great option for watching movies with friends during your sleepovers. Just don’t try and copy the moves and chops!
Director: Stephen Chow

7. Once Upon A Time In China (1991)

Once Upon A Time in China, a Tsui Hark masterpiece, is an epic film series about the Chinese folk hero. The film follows Wong Fei-hung, a Cantonese martial artist. This was the film series that established Tsui as a master of Hong Kong cinema’s Golden Age.

Wong Fei-hung’s adventure in Once Upon A Time in China covers his training in the military to defend his country from the looming Western threat.
Director: Yuen Gai-Chi

8. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill is a homage to classic martial arts films and an entry to a genre unlike any other. This film builds an interesting assas movie plot of Uma Thurman’s character, the Bride. We follow her interesting, graceful, but gory battle scenes throughout the film.

Who can forget Uma in fetching yellow catsuit and samurai sword combo? Once seen, never forgotten.
Director: Quentin Tarantino

9. Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003)

Ong-Bak is Tony Jaa’s decade-long return to insane stunts and explosive action. This 2003 jaw-dropping film showcases an insane absence of wire-fu and CGI. However, it offers full viewing of crazy chase scenes and outrageous fight scenes.

Ong-Bak displays the honest physicality and impressiveness of martial arts in the new millennia’s big screens.
Director: Prachya Pinkaew

10. The Karate Kid (1984)

The original Karate Kid movie in 1984 is a classic martial arts movie that movie enthusiasts of any generation can enjoy. Not only is this one of the best films about Karate specifically, but it is also a great coming-of-age movie. Although it certainly lacks the hard action of other martial arts films, The Karate Kid offers lessons on life, growth, and family.
Director: John G. Avildsen

11. Enter the Dragon (1973)

Enter the Dragon is, without any shadow of a doubt, Bruce Lee’s most notable film. The movie gets on the classic tournaments bandwagon to give many interesting fight scenes.
Director: Robert Clouse

12. Fist of Fury (1972)

The 1972’s Fist of Fury was Bruce Lee’s second feature film. The movie showcases more raw actions, a bigger budget, and better production. Fist of Fury also offers a plot that speaks volumes about Lee’s values.
Director: Lo Wei

Best Of The Rest

13. Fist of Legend (1994)

Jet Li’s Fist of Legend is a 1994 remake of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury. This film showcases a more serious character for Li. The notable thing about Fist of Legend is Jet Li’s much more serious, hard-hitting, but still fluid martial arts performance.
Director: Gordon Chan

14. Hero (2002)

Zhang Yimou’s Hero is a complete martial arts epic. This 2002 film was one of the biggest and highest-grossing films in Chinese movie history during that time. Every scene is a stunning visual of martial arts and Ancient Chinese themes.
Director: Zhang Yimou

15. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

This 1978 film mythicises a legendary Shaolin disciple, San Te. This kung fu film showcases the Shaolin training sequences in a beautiful, fluid, and inventive way. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin infuses martial arts with such great dignity.
Director: Liu Chia-Liang

The Ultimate 2021 Watch Guide for Martial Arts Movies

From Bruce Lee’s classic Enter the Dragon to newer movies like Donnie Yen’s Ip Man, Martial arts movies are ageless, amazing films that are both elegant and brutish. This is certainly our best martial arts movies list – do you like similar or have your own ideas?

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