Nothing makes me happier than a good kung fu movie and today I will introduce you to a few of my favorites. It was hard to make it short so we’ve split it in to two categories of the Serious and the Silly. Today we will be looking at the movies with a more serious tone with great fight scenes, acting and storytelling.
DISCLAIMER: I apparently really like Donnie Yen and as I started to compile my list I realized three of these movies are Donnie Yen. So let me saturate your brain for just a few moments on some great Donnie Yen movies.
Wu Xia (Dragon) 2011
Directed by Peter Ho-Shun Chan
Runtime 1h 38m
My favorite Donnie Yen movie. A story of redemption with well-crafted characters and terrific fight scenes. A simple village man gets caught up in a murder case and a city detective is brought and stumbles upon more than he bargained for. The movie is well paced between adrenaline pumping fight scenes and dramatic detective work. It never feels too slow and you’re left to gobble up the story like a hungry bird, but I can tell you want some more Donnie Yen goodness.
Iron Monkey (1993)
Directed by Woo-Ping Yuen
Runtime 1h 25m
Backed by Quentin Tarantino, Iron Monkey tells the story of a traveling Chinese medicine man and his young son who visit a town that is plagued by a kung fu Robin Hood. He is mistaken to be this renegade and he and his son are hauled off to jail. To prove his innocence and save his son, this seemingly simple man must find the real bandit and deal with the inner struggle of turning in a man who is doing right or saving his son. I wouldn’t say this has the most captivating story, but it is light hearted and boy are those action scenes fun to watch!
Ip Man (2008)
Directed by Wilson Yip
Runtime 1h 46m
An inspiring story of a humble martial arts master as China is pressed by the Japanese invasion. Ip Man and his family, once wealthy, are forced in to severe poverty. Ip Man seeks any job he can to provide for his family and hears that the Japanese general enjoys sparring with the Chinese local’s in exchange for extra rice. The General takes it too far by dishonoring sparring rules and kills one of Ip Man’s friends. Ip Man’s jimmies get supremely rustled and a duel of epic proportions ensues. Ip Man has one of the greatest show cases of Donny Yen’s martial arts with its cinematography. This will conclude my Donnie Yen line up, but do not despair!
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)
Directed by Chia-Liang Liu
Runtime 1h 55m
No list would be complete without a Shaw Brothers film. I was introduced to these by one of my favorite channels, the El Ray network where they show case great Kung Fu films during Flying Five Finger One Armed Eight Pole Shaolin Exploding Death Touch Thursdays. I could include many more of those films, but that will be for another list, another day. This film is fantastic, you’ll get a little bit of everything as you follow Liu’s journey to train to be a master shaolin monk. He enters the temple to train to avenge his father’s death, but instead learns much more.
Directed by Yimou Zhang
Runtime 1h 39m
Hero is the dramatic tale of a ruler’s attempt to reign over the China’s seven kingdoms and those who look to stop him. Hero is a work of art, as the story unfolds in lush striking colors. The story telling is presented in a unique matter and is deeper then flashy fight moves dabbling in love, politics and calligraphy. Also, hah I lied; Donnie Yen is in this one too. Gotcha.
Directed by Chan-wook Park
This is a little bit of an odd one when a seemingly average man is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years without explanation. Only to be released back in to the world just as unceremoniously as he was removed from it. He is given a few resources and a mission. He seeks to find the reason why he was held captive and he’ll take down as many bodies as he needs to.
The Raid (2011)
Directed by Gareth Huw Evans
Runtime 1h 41m
An apartment building has become a notorious safe house for a powerful drug lord. When a SWAT team goes in to try and cut the head of the snake, they find themselves trapped with no one to come pull them out. With limited ammunition Lt. Whayu must use a different pair of guns to get what they came for and fight their way back out. This movie is jam packed with fight scenes and is exciting to watch. If you enjoy the first, you’ll enjoy the second, The Raid 2.
The Man from Nowhere(2010)
Directed by Jeong-beom Lee
Runtime 1hr 59m
The Man from Nowhere has one of the longest ending fight scenes , and it is epic. Ex-agent Tae is withdrawn from the world with his only real connection being a little girl So-mi. When a drug deal goes awry, So-mi is kidnapped and is in line to be the next victim of a cruel organ trafficking ring. Tae must risk his life to save his only friend.
No kung fu movie list would be complete without paying tributes to one of its greatest masters, Bruce Lee. Natually Enter the Dragon takes this one. It remains a timeless classic, inspiring other film makers and echoing through cinema. Many kung fu movies strive to achieve the same levels that Enter the Dragon has touched.
Didn’t see your favorite kung fu movie here? Let us know in the comments which one is your greatest!