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Top 5 Kung Fu Movies

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A look at a film genre that always delivers!

If there is one kind of movie that is almost always enjoyed, it would be kung fu films. Even if they aren’t the most well-written or give amazing performances, there is still entertainment value in the fight scenes that professional martial artists often do. With so many great films to choose from it would be impossible to know where to begin. So, to help you out on your kung fu movie journey, here are five films that stand out the best!

5. Legend of the Drunken Master (1994)

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Directed by Lau Kar-Leung and serving as the second installment in the Drunken Master Duology, this movie follows Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan), who practices the art of drunken boxing. This film is a gratifying watch. The martial arts sequences are magnificent, with each fight scene exciting yet also a bit humorous. The direction is decent, with the action being the movie’s strongest element. 

The comedy, for the most part, works, but there are times when the jokes don’t quite land. For some, it might not be a problem, but it depends on what they’re looking for. There is also one scene with the Fe-Hung family that, needless to say, can be uncomfortable to watch for numerous reasons. Aside from that, Legend of the Drunken Master knows how to have a good time. The acting all around is solid. Chan’s character is quite likable. As Ling, Fei-Hung’s stepmother, Anita Mui easily has the funniest moments in the film. Honestly, the comedy is at its best with her. Lau Kar-Leung as Fu Wen-chi was also entertaining and added some seriousness to offset the sillier moments. Then, there is the fact that the movie’s main plot is a mystery, which adds another layer to keep audiences invested. It’s not the most nuanced, but it is intriguing. In the end, this film will have audiences enthralled.

Legend of the Drunken Master is available to buy or rent on Google Play Movies & TV, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and YouTube. 

4. Tai Chi Master (1993)

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Directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, this movie follows two Shaolin Monks named Zoeng Gwanbou (Jet Li) and Dung Tienbou (Chin Su Ho) who, after being expelled from the Shaolin Temple, find themselves going on a journey that leads to them at odds with one another. This film has a great balance of being dramatic and comedic at the same time. Each furthers the story in an organic way and helps flesh out the characters. They’re not always wise and stoic, like how many characters in martial arts films are portrayed. They can also have a sense of humor, which helps make them more identifiable. The fight scenes are staged nicely and keep audiences on the edge of their seats. There is an action scene near the end of the second act that is entertaining, tragic, and hilarious. The dynamic between Gwanbou and Tienbou works well, as Li and Ho have excellent chemistry. The movie also features Michelle Yeoh in one of her earliest roles, and she has an interesting story that flows naturally into the main narrative. 

Another thing about Tai Chi Master is that Taoism plays a major role. This is effectively demonstrated with Gwanbou’s arc as he always tries to see the positive side of things. Dung is a good contrast by being more greedy and often doubts Gwanbou’s optimistic outlook on life. Overall, this film serves as a pleasant experience that never gets dull. 

Tai Chi Master is sadly not available on any streaming device or available to purchase at this time

3. Hero (2002) 

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Directed by Zhang Yimou and loosely based on real events during the Warring States Period in China, the movie stars Jet Li, who plays an unidentified assassin who sets out to kill the King of Qin, who is trying to unify the country’s seven divided states. The best way to describe Hero is that it is an over-the-top work of art. Everything, down to the cinematography, is done in a very operatic way, which works for the story in a non-linear fashion. The use of color is both beautiful and atmospheric. Yimou and cinematographer Christopher Doyle decided to divide the film into five sections and used mainly one color to reflect the overall theme of that section. It is shown off very well and gets the point across. 

When it comes to the martial arts sequences, they are truly extraordinary. This came out shortly after Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), and audiences can notice similarities with characters flying in the air through the use of wires, which are impressive. Speaking of Crouching Tiger, Zhang Ziyi, who played Jen Yu in that movie, is in this film as the character Moon, and she does pretty well here. Hero has quite a few recognizable martial arts stars, including Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, and Donnie Yen, who all do a wonderful job. Ultimately, this movie feels like watching a painting come to life and keeps audiences glued to their seats. 

Hero can be watched on YouTube for free or purchased on Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video. 

2. Police Story (1985)

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Jackie Chan returns to this list, this time in a movie he directed and starred in, playing Sergeant Chan Ka-Kui (or Kevin Chan, depending on which version), who is trying to take down a drug lord while also having to clear his name after being accused of murder. Although this is a martial arts movie, there is a good mix of comedy that doesn’t distract from the well-choreographed fight scenes. Chan’s direction for the action is fantastic as he makes them as destructive and engaging as possible. Whether it’s the iconic bus fight or the climax at the mall, the martial arts sequences are almost mind-blowing in how well they are. There is a moment with Chan that is played three times from different angles, which is glorious to watch. The comedy is just as brilliantly directed as the action, with the timing of the jokes practically perfect. Chan planned out and rehearsed both immensely, which paid off big time.

Then there is the cast, who are a lot of fun. Chan, of course, is great, as Ka-Kui. Salina Fong (Brigitte Lin) serves as an excellent comedic foil to Kai-Kui. Maggie Cheung, who plays Chan’s girlfriend, May, has some funny bits despite having a small role in the film. Ultimately, Police Story is a fun ride that will keep audiences thoroughly engaged. The film even launched a bunch of sequels, with Chan and Cheung appearing in some of them. 

Police Story is available on Max and Amazon Prime Video or can be purchased on Apple TV. 

1. Ip Man (2008)

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Directed by Wilson Yip and based on the real-life Grandmaster of Wing Chun who taught Bruce Lee, the movie follows Ip Man (Donnie Yen) during the Second Sino-Japanese War. This has everything to make for an enjoyable experience. The music is pleasant to listen to, the acting is all-around well-done, and the fight choreography is some of the best depicted in any movie ever made. The fight scenes are truly a spectacle to behold while also not being too outlandish. The direction is impeccable, making sure each fight is fully seen and doesn’t go on for too long. The actors are amazing at moving through each fight smoothly yet adding wait to each move. Donnie Yen is great as the wise Grandmaster by making him quite likable but still showing he isn’t perfect.

Some have described this movie as the Chinese version of Rocky (1976), and it’s not hard to see why since both involve their main character coming from nothing and rising to the top. However, the film diverges because it’s not about trying to win so much as wanting to stand up for those who can’t fight back. Ip Man is similar to Seven Samurai (1954) by having the main character train people to fend off against some bandits. Overall, this movie is an action-packed thrill from beginning to end. Like with Police Story, the movie spawned a few sequels so audiences can watch more of Ip Man’s life on screen.

Ip Man is available on several platforms, including Peacock, Tubi, and Pluto TV. 

Ip Man (2008) Mandarin Film Distribution Co. Ltd. Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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I am from Michigan. I am a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University majoring in Film Production with a minor in Media Production.
Matt Keyser is a recent graduate of Cal State Fullerton University with a bachelor's in Communications-Journalism. He is a freelance entertainment reporter with a focus on film and television. As a former senior programming coordinator for the Newport Beach Film Festival, Matt's experience with critiquing narratives and documentaries has helped showcase his passion for television and cinema through his writing.