50 MAD AS HELL MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES
The world of martial arts cinema has been a major part of popular culture for many decades now. It essentially began to sweep across the world in the early 70s with such movies as Five Fingers of Death (1972) and Bruce Lee’s breakout smash Enter The Dragon (1973) as well as the hit TV series Kung Fu (1972-75) which starred David Carradine as an Asian-American shaolin priest who must flee China after which he travels throughout the Old West to find his half brother. Throughout the rest of the 70s and 80s these kinds of immensely entertaining action films introduced international audiences to a new style of cinema they hadn’t seen before. Many of the movies were based on historical legends which the filmmakers then heightened and filled with characters who possessed almost supernatural powers. These heroes could do such things as soar through the air like eagles and punch holes through dense wood using secret kung fu skills passed down to them from their wise old masters.
The films that were being released by studios such as Shaw Brothers, Golden Harvest and numerous other smaller distributors were especially popular in the inner city grindhouses in America. These theaters would show double and triple features which became a staple providing audiences with exhillerating experiences. After superstar Bruce Lee’s tragic death in 1973, actors such as Lo Lieh, Sonny Chiba, David Chiang, Jackie Chan, Jimmy Wang Yu and Bruce Li became the new silver screen icons who filled the void he had left.
For our new furious list we’ve handpicked 50 movies (old and new) that we think should give you a nice taste of what the genre has to offer. It should be pointed out that there are hundreds upon hundreds of these kinds of films, so this list isn’t meant to be a specific “Top 50 of All Time”, they are simply some of our personal favorites. Our hope is that if you aren’t already a longtime kung fu aficionado you’ll get enough of a KICK out of them to maybe become a new fan and explore. Along with the chosen titles we’ve added some special links to trailers and clips so you can get a peek of what the movies are like, as well as purchase them through Amazon.
Five Fingers of Death (1972, Dir: Cheng Cheng Ho)
Enter the Dragon (1973, Dir: Robert Clouse)
The Streetfighter (1974, Dir: Shigehiro Ozawa)
Fist of the White Lotus (1980, Dir: Lo Lieh)
Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978, Dir: Yuen Woo Ping)
Drunken Master (1978, Dir: Yuen Woo Ping)
The Big Boss (1971, Dir: Lo Wei)
The Chinese Connection aka Fist of Fury (1972, Dir: Lo Wei)
Five Element Ninjas (1982, Dir: Chang Cheh)
Executioners From Shaolin (1977, Dir: Lau Kar Leung)
36th Chamber of Shaolin aka Master Killer (1978, Dir: Lau Kar Leung)
Snake in the Monkey’s Shadow (1980, Dir: Sum Cheung)
Fist of Legend (1994, Dir: Gordon Chan)
The Hot, The Cool and The Vicious (1980, Dir: Tso Nam Lee)
Five Deadly Venoms (1978, Dir: Chang Cheh)
Master of The Flying Guillotine (1975, Dir: Jimmy Wang Yu)
The Chinese Boxer (1970, Dir: Jimmy Wang Yu)
Ip Man (2008, Dir: Wilson Yip)
Dirty Ho (1979, Dir: Lau Kar Leung)
Eagle’s Claw (1978, Dir: Tso Nam Lee)
Iron Monkey (1993, Dir: Yuen Woo Ping)
The One Armed Swordsman (1967, Dir: Chang Cheh)
Bloodsport (1988, Dir: Newt Arnold)
Sister Streetfighter (1974, Dir: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi)
Deep Thrust aka Lady Whirlwind (1972, Dir: Feng Huang)
The Crippled Masters (1979, Dir: Kei Law)
8 Diagram Pole Fighter (1984, Dir: Lau Kar Leung)
Fistful of Talons (1983, Dir: Sun Cheung)
Invincible Armor (1977, Dir: See Yuen Ng)
Triple Irons aka New One Armed Swordsman (1971, Dir: Chang Cheh)
Deaf Mute Heroine (1971, Dir: Wu Ma)
Black Belt Jones (1974, Dir: Robert Clouse)
The Blade (1995 Dir: Tsui Hark)
Once Upon a Time In China (1991, Dir: Tsui Hark)
Fist of Fury Part II (1977, Dir: Tso Nam Lee)
Kung Fu Hustle (2004, Dir: Stephen Chow)
Born Invincible (1978, Dir: Joseph Kuo)
The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe (1973, Dir: Mario Caiano)
Deadly China Doll (1973, Dir: Feng Huang)
Magnificent Butcher (1979, Dir: Sammo Hung)
Kid With The Golden Arm (1979, Dir: Chang Cheh)
Warriors Two (1978, Dir: Sammo Hung)
10 Tigers of Kwangtung (1980, Dir: Chang Cheh)
Boxer From Shantung (1972, Dir: Chang Cheh/Hsueh Li Pao)
7 Grandmasters (1980, Dir: Joseph Kuo)
The Buddhist Fist (1980, Dir: Yuen Woo-Ping)
Ong Bak (2003, Dir: Prachya Pinkaew)
Come Drink With Me (1966, Dir: King Hu)
The Prodigal Son (1981, Dir: Sammo Hung)
One Armed Boxer aka The Chinese Professionals (1972, Dir: Jimmy Wang Yu)
Special Thanks to our sister site: The Grindhouse Cinema Database for their comprehensive listing of titles we used as a guide for this feature!
Do you have any favorite martial arts films? If so, let us know in our comments!
I love all the moves wow i love kongfu
With films like – Iron monkey, The story of Rikki, The blade, Fist of legend, Once upon a time in China, Legend of the drunken master, Wing chun, Tai chi master, Legend of Fong Sai Yuk Amongst others i’d say the 90’s is the greatest decade for Kung fu cinema!
I need help finding a martial art movie I saw back in the 70’s or 80’s. Two guys were fighting using their long hair (cue) in which the hair broke/ destroyed everything. They wre fighting all over the place even on the mountains or hills. I do not know the name of the movie and I need to know. Thank you.
I’m looking for a movie where the main character has mediocre fighting skills, but has developed a technique with bricks that when rubbed together makes a noise and he’s nearly invincible.
“The Shaolin Plot” one of the best kungfu movies that I’ve ever seen!
Is this site a good one to purchase Kung fu movies
Hi I’m looking for a film that I saw when I was a teenager. It involved shaolin monk kids fighting three mercenaries one mercenarie was camp as hell and enjoyed biting the monks necks while killing them. And the shaolin monk kids master exploded from a large boulder after it spewed forth many coloured vapours. probably eighties or early nineteens. Can anyone help please . many thanks
Little hero of shaolin is the movie you’re talking about
Did they have white stools? And they battled against a spinning thing with blades on the sides.
I asked before but I guess no one knew the movie I’m looking for? It involves 2 Martial Artist fighting with their long braided hair, where they even destroy objects with their hair. Does anybody know the name of the movie? I’d say i saw it in the 70’s thur the 80’s.
try this one
Stranger from Canton
Hi all. This list of the best Martial Arts movies, is a good one. It shows that the makers of this list actually did a lot of research before building this list. Martial Arts movielogie is a field with a lot of hidden treasures. And this list has a few of those presented. Considering that a good movie should have an original plot, even if it is a sequel. There is still a few hidden treasures that are not in this list.
im looking for a movie thats martial arts based where there was a kid and his grandfather and the main character name is archie and when the kid dies archie becomes a cannibal
Where is Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon/Return of the Dragon(1972)?(!)