Lists · Movies

The Top Ten Martial Arts films


Everybody was Kung Fu fighting
Those kids were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit fright’ning
But they did it with expert timing

Carl Douglas – “Kung Fu Fighting”

The theme for the 2015 Oscars may have been, “Hey, we can make quality movies beyond superhero flicks,” but there is one genre that Hollywood has not been able to master. Even with one century+ of experience of movie making under its belt, the concept of a quality martial arts film escapes them. Perhaps they can not construct a set in Vancouver or Toronto that can accurately depict feudal China or Japan. To be fair, there are plenty of low-quality martial arts movies coming out of Hong Kong every year. If you check that one kiosk at the mall, or stop and take a look at the DVD inventory of the one particular street vendor, you’ll probably notice dozens, if not hundreds of titles that are complete garbage. 

When we think of a martial arts films, we usually think of ridiculous dubs, horrible edits, paper-thin plots, cheesy f/x (e.g. fake blood squirting from obviously fake severed limbs), and insane action sequences. The same holds true from every B-movie ever made here in the States. So why does the horror, slasher, action, and sci-fi genres get a pass, while the martial arts genre gets snubbed? At least we can take solace that the majority of martial arts films that do get exported here via a major distributor tend to be on the high-end of the quality spectrum.

The Top Ten Martial Arts Films

Keith’s List

Title (Year)

  • 10. Kill Bill Vol 1 (2003)
  • 9. Unleashed (2005)
  • 8. Rumble in the Bronx (1995)
  • 7. Bloodsport (1988)
  • 6. 5 Deadly Venoms (1978)
  • 5. Equilibrium (2002)
  • 4. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
  • 3. The Last Samurai (2003)
  • 2. Enter the Dragon (1973)
  • 1. The Matrix (1999)

My List

Title (Year)

  • 10. Hero (2002)
  • 9. Kill Bill Vol 1 (2003)
  • 8. Ip Man (2008)
  • 7. Seven Samurai (1954)
  • 6. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
  • 5. Ong-Bak (2003)
  • 4. Fearless (2006)
  • 3. The Way of the Dragon (1972)
  • 2. Drunken Master II (1994)
  • 1. Enter the Dragon (1973)

Honorable Mentions: The Chinese Connection (1972); Drunken Master (1978); Police Story (1985); Once Upon a Time in China (1991); Police Story 3: Supercop (1992); The Legend of Drunken Master (1994); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000); House of Flying Daggers (2004); 13 Assassins (2010); The Raid: Redemption (2011); The Raid 2 (2014)

Next Podcast Unlimited List: Top Ten Cover Songs that surpass the original.


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