What do you think of when it comes to the martial arts genre? Spectacular in-camera stunts, fantastic action sequences and heroes to root for… Here’s some of the very best.
Martial arts films are quite often films that people watch with sheer amazement and wonder. The actors usually in the leading roles have spent most of their lives in intense training, and martial arts really is a driving force within their lives, and is seen as nothing more than a form of artistic expression as opposed to violent acts. Actors including Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan are known as international superstars, and quite often as a martial artist first, and a movie star second. Kung Fu Killer is released at cinemas on 20 February and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Platforms from 23 February, and this feature will take a look at the top martial arts films of recent times.
Kung Fu Killer (2015)
Donnie Yen stars as Hahou, a former martial arts instructor imprisoned after accidentally killing an opponent. When a vicious killer played by Wang Baoqiang starts targeting martial arts masters though, Hahou offers to help the police capture him in return for his freedom. Donnie Yen displays his incredible ability once again in this all-action feature.
Ip Man (2008)
This 2008 semi-biographical martial arts film is loosely based on the life of Yip Man, a martial arts grandmaster, founder of the martial art Wing Chun and master of Bruce Lee. It centres on the events in Ip’s life during the Sino-Japanese war. Donnie Yen stars as Yip Man, once again bringing his martial arts expertise to the big screen. Sammo Hung and Tony Leung Siu-hung designed the martial arts choreography for the film.
Once Upon A Time In China (1991)
Jet Li stars in Once Upon a Time in China- a film that alerted the world to the incredible talents of the unknown, but extremely gifted martial artist and actor. It follows his character Wong Fei-Hung and sees the locals being concerned with the growing influence and presence of Westerners and foreigners in Foshan. General Liu Yong Fu of the Black Flag Army approaches Wong Fei-hung and requests that he helps him gather and train a militia to assist in defending the town. Directed by Tsui Hark, the film is a dazzling and colourful spectacle. This film was one of the first (post Bruce Lee era) to cross over into western pop-culture and is a firm favourite of martial arts fans around the world.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
This is film that is already viewed as a classic, and has won many accolades, including the 2000 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film tells the story of Master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) an expert swordsman and martial artist and his warrior friend Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) on their search for a stolen sword. It is a kung-fu movie woven together by a love story. Director Ang Lee brought on the Matrix’s choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping to orchestrate the film’s incredibly complex fight scenes.
Enter The Dragon (1973)
A blockbuster hit when released, Enter the Dragon, is rightfully considered as one of the best martial arts films of all time and was Bruce Lee’s final film before his death. The film was the first Chinese martial arts film to be produced by a Hollywood Studio (Warner Brothers) and the story follows a n master martial artist who agrees to spy on a reclusive crime lord by entering a martial arts tournament as a cover. It is an exotic and extravagant spectacle and Lee is a unique and humble star who exudes emotion and unsurpassable martial arts prowess.
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
Set during the Tang dynasty in China, this film follows two police captains (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) on their search for the leader of the counterinsurgency group, the flying Daggers. Jin (Kaneshiro) poses as an average citizen and busts Mei (Zhang Ziyi,) out of jail because they believe her to be a secret member of the Daggers, but it turns out that nothing is quite what it seems. Directed by Zhang Yimou, this film contains fantastic fight choreography, dancing, traditional Chinese music, and of course: martial arts.
A Tough of Zen (1971)
A Touch of Zen made cinematic history when it became the first Chinese film to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971. It stars Feng Hsu as Ku, an artist who meets the beautiful Yang and discovers that she is being perused by agents of an Imperial noble who have murdered her family. He becomes caught up in her struggle to survive, and many fierce battles are fought before there is any resolve. The story effortlessly combines elements of comedy and romance along with its drama and action.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004)
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantio and starring Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 follow the story of The Bride, as she seeks revenge on an assassination squad led by Bill (David Carradine) due to his assassination attempt on her and her unborn child. The film received critical and commercial success. It is extremely unique in the martial arts genre as it stars an American female rather than an Asian male. It also co-stars Daryl Hannah and Lucy Lui proving that women can be deadly too!
Iron Monkey (1993)
Like Once Upon a Time in China, Iron Monkey also centres on the life of Wong Fei-hung, but focuses on an event in his childhood where he and his father, Wong Kei-ying, encounter the “Iron Monkey.” The film stars Donnie Yen and Sze-Man Tsang and was directed by Woo-ping Yuen, who also worked on Kill Bill Volume 2 and Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master.
Another Jet Li film, Hero is a wuxia film that is based on the story of Jing Ke’s assassination attempt on the King of Qin in 227 B.C. When the film was released it became the highest grossing motion picture in Chinese film history. The film was nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Li stars as Nameless, a master swordsman and the primary conspirator in the assassination attempt. He brings his usual style and energy, while the film also stars Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Chen Daoming.
In Ong-Bak, Tony Jaa stars as a young martial artist living in rural Thailand who goes to the big city to retrieve the head of his village’s sacred statue: Ong-Bak. The film used no special effects or stunt doubles, but you wouldn’t believe it when you watch Jaa’s speed and execution of his martial arts moves. The film was directed and written by Prachya Pinkaew and features stunt choreography by Panna Rittikrai. The fights are staged excellently as Jaa takes down every enemy that gets in his way. It was so successful that it also inspired two prequels: Ong-Bak 2 and Ong-Bak 3.
KUNG FU KILLER IS RELEASED AT CINEMAS ON 20 FEBRUARY AND ON BLU-RAY, DVD, AND DIGITAL PLATFORMS FROM 23 FEBRUARY