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The Best Kung Fu Movies You Need To See

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): A young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation.

The martial arts genre of filmmaking has been popular for over half a century. From the first artsy chop-socky dramas to the modern-day epic action films, the genre has been evolving and providing viewers with some of the most stunning visual sequences in the film. Fewer filmmakers than the pioneers of kung fu cinema have perfected the intricacies of the art, even though many have tried their hand at making award-winning battle films.

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The fusion of drama, awe-inspiring choreography, and an electrifying aura intrinsic to kung fu cinema demands remarkable skill. In the forthcoming discourse, we shall delve into the pinnacle of this genre – a selection of ten cinematic masterpieces that demand your attention to genuinely fathom the grandeur of kung fu upon the expansive canvas of the silver screen.

Enter The Dragon (1973)

Regarding martial artists, nobody in cinema has been more influential than the late great legend Bruce Lee. Considered by many as the figurehead of kung fu in film, it only makes sense to begin this list with Bruce Lee’s legendary 1973 masterpiece Enter The Dragon – the directorial debut of Robert Clouse.

The film follows Lee as he investigates a strange island that acts as the training grounds for an underground martial arts tournament. Fuelled by a powerful performance from Bruce Lee steering the wheel, this classic kung fu flick is filled with amazing fight sequences that must be seen to be believed.

Drunken Master (1978)

Chan Kong-sang, commonly known as Jackie Chan, has been a major part of popular culture for many years. And while he’s produced more action films than most, his performance in the 1978 classic Drunken Master has captured the hearts of martial arts fans everywhere.

Eschewing the traditional comical kung fu style, Chan takes on the character of Wong Fei-Hung, a mischievous vagabond who, after being kicked out of his home, is taken under the wing of a local martial arts master. Chan’s outstanding portrayal of the character is only overshadowed by his extraordinary fight scenes and stunts, making this piece of martial arts cinema an absolute must-see.

Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983)

Prolific action filmmaker Tsui Hark created a real visual feast with his 1983 directorial effort Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain. In this epic story, a beautiful young woman is taken to a mountain that stands in the sky to find a missing magical book. She sets out on an adventure filled with unbelievable battles and stunning martial arts choreography after enlisting the aid of other warriors.

The film has since become a cult classic and features some of the best kung fu sequences ever put to film, largely thanks to producer Tsui Hark’s dedication to adrenaline-fuelled action.

Once Upon A Time in China (1991)

Jet Li’s performance in Once Upon A Time in China is beyond compare. Taking on the role of the legendary martial arts master Wong Fei-Hung, Li effortlessly melds old-school kung fu with the modern action style for a unique blend of thrilling action.

The story follows Fei-Hung’s attempt to protect the Chinese workers from an evil gang of mobsters, one of whom is played by Jet Li himself. While the film has jaw-dropping sequences and several great fight scenes, Li’s performance stands out.

Kill Bill (2003 & 2004)

The two-part martial arts epic Kill Bill directed by Quentin Tarantino, quickly secured its place among the greatest kung fu films ever made. This particular duology is so great because it combines elements of “old school” kung fu with intense action sequences and well-timed comedy.

The story follows Uma Thurman’s iconic character, The Bride, as she attempts to avenge a devastating attack that killed her cohorts and almost took her own life. While the first part of the franchise features some amazing fight sequences, it’s the second entry where kung fu shines.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Kung fu and soccer might not be the most common combination, but that didn’t stop Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow from delivering one of the most brilliant martial arts comedies of all time – Shaolin Soccer.

In this unique sports comedy, a group of Shaolin martial artists uses their abilities to aid a washed-up soccer player in setting up and training a ragtag team of misfits. The results are surprisingly effective, as the team rapidly rises to the top even as they evade the clutches of an evil soccer tycoon.

Ip Man (2008)

If there’s one man in the martial arts film genre whose name has become synonymous with greatness, it’s Donnie Yen. His performance in 2008’s Ip Man is no exception to that rule.

The movie chronicles the life of the real-life grandmaster Ip Man, who taught Bruce Lee the wing chun martial art. Yen’s portrayal of the complex martial artist perfectly embodies Man’s nuances and struggles through believable and heartfelt performances. The action sequences in the film are also fantastic, making this a must-watch for any fan of kung fu films.

The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter (1984)

If you want to experience some old-school kung fu action, then look no further than The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, the 1984 masterpiece directed by Liu Chia-Liang. The film follows a now-disbanded martial arts unit as they attempt to reunite and, in the process, battle through hordes of villainous attackers.

The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter features some truly astonishing fight sequences that are executed with a great sense of style. The fight scenes can sometimes be brutal, but that only adds to the excitement as the unit members utilize their skills to deliver satisfyingly intense action.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Widely considered one of the greatest kung fu films ever made, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a 2001 martial arts epic directed by Ang Lee that follows two master warriors pursuing a stolen sword.

What makes this particular entry so special is its Sisyphean blend of drama, romance, and martial arts action. The film’s fight sequences are a sight to behold, featuring daring wirework sequences and amazing choreography. With some truly memorable performances making up for a fascinating story, this martial arts classic is a must-see for any genre fan.

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