Nothing hits the spot for action quite like a martial arts movie, whether it be one of the many classic kung fu flicks of the 1970s or one of the more modern examples depicting combat styles from around the globe. The genre is replete with films that are considered all-time great movies, but the following are the cream of the crop.
“The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” (R)
By any name, “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin,” also known as “The Killer Master” and “Shaolin Master Killer,” is revered as one of the finest kung fu films ever made. Produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers, directed by Lau Kar-leung and starring Gordon Liu, the film depicts the transformation of student Liu Yude into Shaolin kung fu master San Te and features some exceptional fight sequences that put many modern-day action films to shame. This film not only spawned a pair of sequels and kick-started the subgenre of “guo shu pian,” but it was also one of the many influences that led to the creation of the Wu-Tang Clan’s seminal 1993 debut album, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).”
“The Raid: Redemption” (R)
“The Raid: Redemption” introduced much of the world to the traditional style of pencak silat with visceral fight sequences that have to be seen to be believed. This taut Indonesian action film follows a police raid on a drug operation run out of a high-rise in Jakarta; the squad is met with resistance shortly into their journey to the building’s 15th floor, and the race to the top plays out not unlike a video game with exquisite battles and plenty of twists and turns. “The Raid: Redemption” was a considerable hit around the globe, leading to the release of a sequel in 2014 and earning stars Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruyhian and Cecep Arif Rahman a memorable cameo in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
“Enter the Dragon” (R)
A list of the best martial arts films ever made could easily consist of all five motion pictures starring Jeet Kune Do founder and pop culture icon Bruce Lee. 1973’s “Enter the Dragon,” which was released in Hong Kong less than a week after Lee’s death, is arguably the best of the bunch and was deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress in 2004. The climactic fight that resolves in a hidden mirror room is among the most influential sequences in all of cinema, often imitated but never duplicated. Not to be outdone, the fight between Lee and the character O’Hara is the essence of the man himself — he coolly disregards his opponent’s board-breaking bravado by telling him that boards don’t hit back, then proceeds to decimate his adversary seemingly without breaking a sweat.
“Ip Man” (R)
Donnie Yen has been one of the biggest stars of Hong Kong cinema for more than three decades and is known for using mixed martial arts choreography in his films, demonstrating proficiency in everything from Hapkido and kickboxing to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling. The martial art that Yen is arguably most associated with is Wing Chun, helping raise its popularity with his portrayal of the style’s grand master in the 2008 film “Ip Man.” While the biopic is surprisingly affecting in its portrayal of the strife caused by the Japanese invasion of China at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, its highlight moment is arguably a sequence in which Ip Man takes on 10 karateka at once and dispatches them with ease.
These martial arts movies will get your pulse racing, and they may even inspire you to get off the couch and take up a new hobby. By watching these flicks, you’ll earn your black belt in action without breaking a single board.
This article is presented by Colonial Buick GMC in Watertown, Massachusetts.