There’s something about Kung-Fu movies that inspires us all. The cheesy dialogues, the sometimes lame plots, the out of sync audio and video if you’re watching in English, and the most intense fight sequences, that put all other similar genres to shame. The best part about Kung Fu movies, is that you can literally pick up from anywhere, and stay glued to your couch.
Here are our top 10 Classic Kung Fu Movies you Must Watch!
#10. A Touch of Zen (1971)
30 years before Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the epitome of awesomeness came from “A Touch of Zen”. It is a textbook of martial arts ( WuXia ) films shot only by filming and editing in the era without digital effects. The results are stellar and will keep you hooked right through. The movie was so good, that it was rebooted last year (2016).
Visionary” barely begins to describe this masterpiece of Chinese cinema and martial arts moviemaking. A Touch of Zen (Xia nu) by King Hu depicts the journey of Yang, a fugitive noblewoman in disguise who seeks refuge in a remote, and allegedly haunted, village. The sanctuary she and her three companions find with a shy scholar is shattered when a nefarious swordsman uncovers her identity, pitting the five against legions of blade-wielding opponents. At once a wuxia film, the tale of a spiritual quest, and a study in human nature, A Touch of Zen is an unparalleled work in Hu’s formidable career and an epic of the highest order, characterized by breathtaking action choreography, stunning widescreen landscapes, and innovative editing.
#09. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001)
You knew this was on the list. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a cult classic. It interprets the martial world in Ang Lee’s mind and integrates large numbers of Chinese culture elements. It’s highly regarded as a milestone in the world of martial arts movies. Simply put it’s like watching a kick-ass fairy tale for adults, and there’s fighting in the trees!! Need we say more!
In the early 19th century, martial arts master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) is about to retire and enter a life of meditation, though he quietly longs to avenge the death of his master, who was killed by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei). He gives his sword, a fabled 400-year-old weapon known as Green Destiny, to his friend, fellow martial arts wizard and secret love Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), so that she may deliver it to Sir Te (Sihung Lung). Upon arrival in Peking, Yu happens upon Jen (Zhang Ziyi), a vivacious, willful politician’s daughter. That night, a mysterious masked thief swipes Green Destiny, with Yu in hot pursuit — resulting in the first of several martial arts action set pieces during the film. Li arrives in Beijing and eventually discovers that Jen is not only the masked thief but is also in cahoots with the evil Jade. In spite of this, Li sees great talent in Jen as a fighter and offers to school her in the finer points of martial arts and selflessness, an offer that Jen promptly rebukes.
#08. Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1992)
The most successful of the “Once Upon a Time in China” Trilogy, Once Upon a Time in China 2, is the a story of going up against all odds to protect the ones you love and the innocent. Fun, fast and furious is the only way to define this sequel, and it does not disappoint at any level!
In this sequel, martial arts expert Wong Fei-Hung faces Kung, a mercenary rival with skills to equal his own. In addition, Canton is convulsed by a struggle between the local representatives of the Chinese government and Europeans who want to control China, and Wong ends up in the middle of this fight. He is again assisted by young Chung, and again must protect Aunt Yee, his young, Westernized aunt-by-adoption with whom Wong has fallen in love. He also ends up with school-full of small children to protect!
#07. New One-Armed Swordsman (1971)
Again the 2nd of the Trilogy is the one that you must watch, The One-Armed Swordsman is great, and so is the 3rd part, The Return of the One-Armed Swordsman, but the 2nd part takes the cake as it combines the right balance, of humor, fighting, a pretty decent storyline and an insane bodycount!
Lei Li lost his right-arm in a sword duel with the master of a martial arts school, long ago. Now, he is able to defend himself well with just his left arm, and kung fu techniques. That he proves with just the help of his friend Chung-Chieng, when he crosses his path with a beautiful girl in need, Pao Chiao. Even against impossible odds, he will prove a great warrior.
#06. The Swordsman in the Double Flag Town (1992)
This is literally a Western in China! It’s interesting at some level, because they’ve tried to fuse the two cultures together, with mixed results. Nonetheless, it’s still a half way decent movie that deserves your attention.
A young man comes to double flag town in order to marry his promised bride. Both his bride and her father do not like him, because he seems to be a nothing without any skills just wearing two swords on his legs. When some vagabonds try to rape his bride, the young man is able to beat them easily in a sword fight. He suddenly realizes in this first fight he ever did that his father did teach him a superior fighting style. Will those talents be enough for the upcoming? All inhabitants of double flag town expect a bloody revenge by the vagabonds.
#05. Iron Monkey (1993)
I have three words for this movie: Yuen Woo Ping. Iron Monkey is action packed with Ping’s trademark unique fighting sequences. Whether it’s bodies slamming through tables, hopping from roof to rooftop, there’s so much action, then story, then more action!!!
A martial artist/doctor steals from the corrupt authorities as a masked thief to give to the poor while another martial artist/doctor is forced to hunt him down. But a major threat unites them as a powerful and traitorous shaolin monk takes over the authorities.
#04. Swordsman 2 (1992)
Starring Jet Li, and the movie is a near perfect reflection of the world of Martial Arts in China. It’s the embodiment of Chinese Culture and how they embrace the discipline.
The movie continues the story from Swordsman (1990). Blademaster and his martial arts school decide to retire to a distant mountain. Before leaving, he visits his friends, a tribe of snake-wielding women warriors. He finds that they have been attacked, and their leader, Princess Yin-Yin, toward whom he has some romantic feelings, has been abducted. The attacker is her evil uncle Fong, who years before overthrew Yin-Yin’s father and took over their sect. Fong also has possession of a sacred scroll which tells how to achieve ultimate martial arts power. Blademaster decides to help Yin-Yin and her imprisoned father, and his romantic complications deepen when his childhood chum and Yin-Yin are joined by a new rival. Blademaster thinks she is an innocent village girl he has saved, but in fact she is Fong! The process of gaining ultimate martial arts power requires self- castration and transmogrification into female form.
#03. New Dragon Gate Inn (1992)
Considered by many to be a milestone of Chinese Kungfu movies and also the beginning of new martial arts (WuXia) films. New Dragon Gate Inn, is not for the faint of heart. It’s gruesomely comic violence, out-of-place black humor and nudityless strip tease nonsense interspersed with a level of melodrama that makes it all feel like a self-parody from time to time. But oh, you so do NOT want to miss this!
During the Ming Dynasty, Tsao Sui Yan, the power-hungry and ruthless eunuch leader of East Chamber, craves his own kingdom. He intends on destroying the rebelling clans by using a traitorous secretary’s children as bait. Ultimately, the two warring factions – the rebels led by Chow Wai-on and Mo-yan Yau, the East Chamber led by Tsao – end up in the rundown Dragon Inn right in the middle of the desert. Jade King, the beautiful owner and proprietor of Dragon Inn, hopes to cash in on the incident. But problems arise when Wai-on, desperate for the quickest route of escape, attempts to marry Jade in hopes of prying her for information; and the two clans go head-to-head in a no-holds barred finale battle.
#02. The Grandmaster (2013)
How does a movie that was made less than 5 years ago make this list? Well, if you watch it, you’ll know it’s an instant classic! Directed by Wong Kar-wai, starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. It displays the love and hate of martial world in The Republic of China era.
This film tells the story of Chinese Martial Arts Master IP man , the most famous fighter of China and around the world ; this is the tale of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee . In fact , Bruce Lee trained in Wing Chun and later developed his own hybrid martial arts philosophy .
Ip Man’s peaceful life in Foshan changes after Gong Yutian seeks an heir for his family in Southern China. Ip Man then meets Gong Er who challenges him for the sake of regaining her family’s honor. After the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ip Man moves to Hong Kong and struggles to provide for his family. In the mean time, Gong Er chooses the path of vengeance after her father was killed by Ma San.
#01. The Big Boss (1971)
Many may find this surprising, as to why we didn’t have Fist of Fury or Enter the Dragon as the #1 pick, but this was the first of his 4 movies, and while it’s crude, and uneven, it’s the one that started him on that short lived road to success. Unlike most martial arts movies of the time, the film was set in the present day and attempted things like characterization and even realism. These touches sometimes seem crude and even laughable now, but when the film came out, it was a major step forward. We’d like to call this a genre defining film, while they may be the most unusual, this is the one of the movies you have to see to truly appreciate how far Bruce Lee was evolved from his counterparts in Chinese Cinema.
Chein is a city boy who moves with his cousins to work at a ice factory. He does this with a family promise never to get involved in any fight. However, when members of his family begin disappearing after meeting the management of the factor, the resulting mystery and pressures forces him to break that vow and take on the villainy of the Big Boss.
Well, there you have it folks, our top 10 list of Classic Kung-Fu movies you absolutely must see! Tell us, in the comments, on what movies you think should have made the list!