As I work on bringing you new interviews I thought it would be fun to put together a Top 10 list of My picks for The Greatest Martial Arts Movies Ever made
10. BloodSport: 1988, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb
I rarely see this movie listed in best of lists and it may be that it is somewhat outdated or maybe considered cheesy but that’s why I love it. It’s the story based on the life of Frank Dux who learns Ninjutsu from a Japanese Master and then goes to Hong Kong to fight in a Kumite (illegal, no holds barred fight) This story is so full of heart and soul I think I have seen it at least 50 times and I could go another 50. The Martial Arts displayed are culturally diverse, everything from Ninjutsu, Muay Thai, Wrestling, and Boxing just to name a few. There are also a few made up styles like the African Style that to my knowledge does not exist. Frank Dux was also the stunt co-ordinator for this film. Maybe in the current day of CG, and grande special effects, it is getting harder grip an audience with this kind of film but to me it is truly classic and I hope you check it out!
Dux still holds the record for:
Fastest Knockout – 3.2 seconds
Fastest Punch with a Knockout – .12 seconds
Fastest Kick with a Knockout – 72 mph
Most Consecutive Knockouts in a Single Tournament – 56
9. The Karate Kid: 1984, Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita
Yes I know there are probably a lot more expensive and visually interesting martial arts films out there but the themes behind The Karate Kid is what makes me love this film. Many martial artists struggled with bullies when we were young and maybe that is why some of us go on to learn to defend ourselves, this is that story. A boy is taken under the wing of a Karate master and is taught that strength is often not measured in the way one might think. Skill is not always taught through the media expected and heart is not something that can be bought, you are born with it and the spirit to accomplish any goal you set your mind, body, and spirit to! Wax on, wax off my friends and please do not miss out on this classic martial arts movie, it’s another one that used to make me dream of what I could accomplish too!
8. The Last Samurai: 2003, Ken Watanabe, Tom Cruise
This movie stars Tom Cruise as an American Civil War Vet sent to Japan to try to win contracts with the Emperor to train Japan’s first standing Army. I am a big fan of Samurai culture and the incredible weapons forged by masters, everything they did was for the love of honor, loyalty, and respect. I feel that this film shows a fairly clear representation of the landscapes, armour, and general culture of the Samurai during this period in history. The of blending and opposition of Eastern And Western ideologies against a backdrop of gorgeous scenery and Japanese tradition, a must watch for any martial arts lover.
7. Ip Man: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, 2008
There are not many martial artists I would say are legendary masters but the Yip man was definitely one of them. Taking place in 1935 in Southern China, where he is constantly challenged for supremacy because of his great skill. Based on the true story of a Wing Chun master and the strife that surrounds him during a very volatile time in history. I cannot express how good the martial arts in this film are, you have to see it to believe it.
6. Unleashed: 2005, Jet Li, Morgan Freeman
For me it was a toss-up between putting a Jackie Chan or Jet Li movie in this spot, because I love them both and maybe one day, I’ll expand this list or do another one? It is so hard to choose when there are so many great films to review. In the same style as “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrells.”This is a film about a man who has been imprisoned like an animal and is capable of unleashing incredible destruction upon his captors when set free. Of course there are a bunch of great Jet Li films but I feel the range of emotion shown by the actors and the storyline really make this film a winner.
5. Enter The Dragon: 1973, Bruce Lee, John Saxon
When it comes to Bruce Lee its hard to choose between the many awesome films he made but this one is definitely a contender, for my favorite. As we all know Bruce Lee is a legend whose skill and charisma cannot be matched. Included are other greats such as John Saxon and Jim Kelly no martial arts movie list is complete without this film, a must see! Bruce Lee is one of my hero’s for so many reasons and it always fills me with joy to watch him in action and this film has no shortage of that.
4. Brotherhood Of The Wolf: 2001, Vincent Cassell, Monica Bellucci
This fact based telling of the story of a terrifying secret haunting the forest of France and preying on its people. The cinematography in this film always blows me away and the stunts are incredible! It is unorthodox for a martial arts film and not to be missed if you love great fight choreography. Starring the brilliant Vincent Cassell and the gorgeous beyond words Monica Bellucci, who’s acting is A class. If you are looking for something a little different, a little dark and unusual, this is your movie.
3. The Matrix Trilogy: 1999-2003, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss
This film in many ways broke the mold when it came to blending special effects with martial arts and one of the most creative and possibly prophetic storylines I have ever had the pleasure to witness. Written and directed by the brilliant brother and sister teams, the Wachowski’s and starring Vancouver born actress Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves, this film has absolutely everything and more, with a cameo from my favorite actress beauty Monica Bellucci. The themes in this film are beyond interesting and added with the stellar fight choreography, it is in my opinion one of the greatest movies of all time, “woah” is right Neo! And if you haven’t had enough with the trilogy, do not hesitate to check out The Animatrix, anime film based on the The Movie.
2. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2000, Chow Yung Fat, Michelle Yeoh
A visually stunning masterpiece of a film, that is centered on a love story so epic that the scenery can hardly keep up. The art direction and cinematography is unparalleled for its time and it set the bar very high for future films, of the same genre. Actress Michelle Yeoh tore her ACL early in filming process so production had to be adjusted to make way for her knee to heel. It also boasts the most ever Academy Award nominations for a film in the “foreign” category. The quality of talent and fight choreography is not to be missed!
1. Ong Bak Muay Thai Warrior: 2003, Tony Jaa
Ok, so I admit I am totally biased on this one! This film does not have the intense special effects and polish of some of the previously listed films, however to me that is what makes it so special. Tony Jaa is nothing short of a beast and his moves are real, no lines, no rigging, just Tony and his fists, knees, and elbows of destruction. Muay Thai is and will always be close to my heart, it is offensive, aggressive and absolutely exhilarating when practiced. There is everything from action, romance, and comedy in this film and I just love the character of George “Dirty Balls” Humlea. You will not believe some of the moves pulled off by Tony Jaa with no help from outside forces, if you love film and the martial arts you cannot miss this movie!