Dear Martial Arts Fans,
You know they say: the fist is more powerful than… the bullet?
On film, at least, nothing gets the blood pumping better than some well-placed kicks and punches. So our latest entry in the Greatest Movies A-Z series with WatchMojo is sure to raise your heart rate. Enjoy!
As you can see, we gave ourselves some guidelines:
- One film per letter
- Articles don’t count (the, an, a, etc.)
- Final list should encapsulate the genre
The last rule dictated a lot of our hardest decisions. It also made for some heated debates, which only barely avoided becoming all-out fights.
(Don’t worry. Cooler heads prevailed. Even if that goes against the spirit of the genre.)
So here’s some take-aways from our decision-making process.
TOP DECADE: 2000s
Ip Man, Ong-Bok, and of course the granddaddy of modern martial arts movies Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (not The Grandmaster, that’s 2013) helped usher in a Asian action cinema become mainstreamed in the U.S. in the 2000s. They of course owe a ton to the Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung pictures of the 80s and 90s, but Martial Arts movies really become the center of culture for a while after that.
HARDEST LETTER: F
Some people are probably asking what the F are we doing not picking Fist of Fury, but aside from our immunity to Bruce Lee mania, there’s just too much to choose from. Fist of Legend, Forbidden Kingdom, Fearless, and First Strike are all strong contenders. But hard to beat The Five Venoms.
OUT/NUMBERED: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin(1978)
We could have cheated by using some of the alternate titles (The Master Killer, Shaolin Master Killer or Shao Lin San Shi Liu Fang) but we play our own rules here to maintain honour. Even if that comes at the expense of one of the greatest kung-fu films of all-time.
BEST BATTLE: The Raid: Redemption vs Rumble in the Bronx
It’s hard to assess the impact the Rumble in the Bronx had on North American audiences. For many of us of a certain age, the film was our introduction not just to Jackie Chan, but to an entire new world of cinema. Yet Rumble hardly ranks among Chan’s best, and he is otherwise well represented on this list, so we had to go with new blood.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATION: The Karate Kid
Either a no-brainer or a brainless entry, depending on your perspective. The action and inventiveness can’t hold a candle to movies like Kung Fu Hustle, but it’s also maybe had the largest American cultural impact of any martial arts film - one that continues to grow with the embarrassingly enjoyable Cobra Kai TV series. We just couldn’t wax it off the list.
Think your list would be better? More balanced? Less heart-breaking? Let us know.
Dear Cast & Crew