The Kung Fu Kritic returns to tell us about the best 1990s kung fu films including popular American comedy Rush Hour, Jackie Chan action extravaganza Police Story 4, and Jet Li great Once Upon A Time In China.
10. Rush Hour (Ratner, 1998)
Definitely a film that needs to be mentioned not only because it was a financial and critical success but it also proved to be a gateway for a larger Western audience to enter the world of kung fu courtesy of Jackie Chan. You don’t get a large amount of kung fu here and a lot of it are stock action set pieces found in his other films, but it’s still an overall enjoyable experience and if you haven’t experienced the world of kung fu this is a good way to get into it. How well you handle his co-star Chris Tucker is another story!
9. Wing Chun (Yuen Woo-ping, 1994)
Our beautiful lead Yim Wing Chun (Michelle Yeoh) stars in a film that at first glance looks very standard however boasts some fantastic cinematography along with a strong kung fu cast. Trying to defend her tiny village from robbers along with the stigma that women should not fight, Wing Chun has subtext within a basic plot that concludes with a fantastic ending.
8. Police Story 4: First Strike (Stanley Tong, 1996)
As a member of the Hong Kong police force Jackie Chan is set with the task of hunting down a terrorist organisation that takes him globetrotting all over the world. Maybe not the best Police Story film but it holds enough action, humour and ladder fights to get your heart pumping! Plus there’s a near-naked Jackie scene!! If you’re interested in a fuller review please make sure to check it out on my YouTube channel.
7. Fist Of Legend (Gordon Chan, 1994)
Our hero Jet Li returns to Japanese occupied Shanghai for his master’s funeral. He suspects foul play and soon discovers his hunch is correct. Still in his prime, Jet Li pulls off some spectacular moves here – my favorite sequence has to be the battle against the Japanese soldier, showing off fantastic physical prowess and some very slick moves.
6. Tai Chi Master (Yuen Woo-ping, 1993)
Jet Li and his co-star both grow up inside of a Shaolin Temple while learning techniques including a few forbidden ones. They are eventually ousted from the temple and pursue different lives: Li decides to continue his pursuit to become a kung fu master while his friend chooses a military career. This culminates in a spectacular sequence between the two former friends who become bitter enemies! They dabble a little bit with the “wire fu”; such practical effects/moves is always appreciated.
5. Rumble In The Bronx (Stanley Tong, 1995)
Jackie Chan is on vacation in New York City. He’s there to visit his uncle but stumbles upon a gang war. Taking place in New York City gives us a lot to enjoy that we don’t typically get to see in our kung fu films. Of course we get a lot of comedy as per usual in Jackie’s films but you can tell that this was definitely a movie trying extra hard to be made for a western audience. It stumbles in a few places but the amount of money and action they throw into this is fantastic. My favorite part definitely has to be the action sequences that occur in the grocery store; wonderful improvisation.
4. Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky (Lam Nai-choi, 1991)
A co-production film between China and Japan this gory supernatural film based on a Japanese manga is sure to serve your thirst for blood and gore. I would say the action/kung fu is decent enough but this is a film that you watch when you want over-the-top cheesiness with just the right amount of action to get you through the day! As a bonus they’ve even included a plot for you to enjoy haha! Don’t miss the last fight – after watching that try to eat a hamburger.
3. The Legend Of The Drunken Master (Chia-Liang Liu, 1994)
Jackie Chan revisits his role as the Drunken Master. It’s a period film that sees Jackie’s character trying to be a pacifist to make his father happy while at the same time witnessing the theft of precious ancient artefacts and feeling the need to defend his country’s history and heritage. This film is seen as one of Jackie Chan’s best as the drunken style and action sequences are some of the finest work he’s ever done! A favourite fight sequence is hard to pick but I would have to go with Jackie versus an entire army of men with axes.
2. Once Upon A Time In China (Tsui Hark, 1991)
Following the tale of Wong Fei-Hung (Jet Li) in 19th century China, this action packed story sees Li not only having to deal with evil foreigners from the West but also the local corrupt government and a member of the family who might have become too westernised! One of my favourite parts has to be the ladder sequence, it’s quite spectacular!
1. Iron Monkey (Yuen Woo-ping, 1993)
Iron Monkey is spectacular and boasts a wonderful cast including a young Donnie Yen! The plot is basically Robin Hood with a few twist here and there. The Iron Monkey gives to the poor and fights against corruption. As far as action goes this is probably some of the most stylish kung fu you’ll ever see. There’s more than a bit of wire work going on but the presentation and fantastic characters make this a must-see! Iron Monkey proves you can have wonderful heartfelt characters in a kung fu film! Love the cooking sequence – wish I could cook like that.
Written & Compiled by Kung Fu Kritic
Your turn? Name your fave 1990s Kung Fu films…