Top 5 martial arts films


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Closeup of male karate fighter hands.

By Kyron Lewis, Lifestyle Writer

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved action movies and the fight scenes that come with them. Luckily, martial arts films have lots of them. While I’d argue most of the films in the genre, especially older films, may be lacking in certain aspects such as plot and dialogue, they more than make up for it with well choreographed, entertaining fight sequences. Usually, my rankings fluctuate from time to time, however, here are my top 5 martial arts films.

5. “Five Deadly Venoms” (1978)

This film is a cult classic Hong Kong martial arts film. The film is directed by Chang Cheh and stars the Venom Mob, which is a group of actors from the Shaw Brothers Studio and are well-known creators of ‘70s and ‘80s martial arts films. Centered around the pupil of a dying master of the poison clan, Yang Tieh, played by Sheng Chiang, is sent on a mission to locate the previous five pupils and expose any evil within them. Each is a master in their own unique fighting styles named after five poisonous animals of Chinese folklore: the centipede, snake, scorpion, lizard and the toad. 

4. “The Last Dragon” (1985)

An underrated ‘80s gem, “The Last Dragon” is an American martial arts comedy film that pays homage to the legendary Bruce Lee while still having its own identity. It stars Taimak as Leroy Green (also referred to as “Bruce Leeroy”) as a New York martial artist who idolizes Bruce Lee. He has reached the final level of a martial arts accomplishment, and his master explains that those who reach this level are said to be able to harness a mystical energy known as “The Glow.” However, only a true master will be able to exhibit this ability over their entire body to essentially become “The Last Dragon.”

3. “The Raid” (2011) 

With the most brutal fight scenes on the list, “The Raid” is an Indonesian action thriller written, directed and edited by Gareth Evans. This film entails a S.W.A.T. team that becomes trapped in a high-rise building run by a ruthless drug lord named Jakarta, played by Ray Sahetapy. Starring Iko Uwais as the protagonist, Rama, this film is groundbreaking in its fight choreography and a thrill ride to keep you engaged till the end. 

2. “Ip Man” (2008)

This is a Hong Kong biographical martial arts film based upon the life of Ip Man, a Wing Chun grandmaster and also a teacher of Bruce Lee. The film is set during the Sino-Japanese war and depicts a dramatization of events that supposedly took place in the city of Foshan. “Ip Man” is directed by Wilson Yip and stars Donnie Yen as Ip Man.

1. “Enter The Dragon” (1973)

Starring the revered Bruce Lee, this is a must watch for martial arts fans and one of the most influential action films. Unfortunately, this was also Lee’s final completed film appearance before his death at the age of 32. 

This film was directed by Robert Clouse and combines martial arts with espionage elements and even slight nods to the blaxploitation genre. It centers around a martial artist from Hong Kong named Lee. Lee is recruited along with two others by a British intelligence agent to compete in a high-profile martial arts tournament. The event is run by a suspected crime lord involved in drug trafficking and also responsible for the death of Lee’s sister. The story is simple yet intriguing and has inspired many other fictional works throughout different entertainment mediums.