10 Best Kung Fu Movies of All Time

There are very few cultural elements across the world which have been explored or exhibited in Cinema. I’m not talking about history or mythology, they have been used as a tool in film making. But culture as a whole, in majority of languages, has not excited film makers or writers for decades. However, there’s one particular culture called “Kung Fu”, which prevails in Eastern Countries like China and Japan. Usually, a culture of one country or region cannot be sold to vast number of audience in rest of the world. But, Kung Fu is probably one of very few cultures that has managed to blend into entertainment. Over decades, it’s safe to say that, Kung Fu has garnered lots of love and popularity in almost every continent.

But when an element becomes so popular and widely acknowledged, it is natural for it to be over-explored. Arguably, Kung Fu had many moments over years, where it almost seems like the saturation point has arrived, because the number of Kung Fu movies being made were extremely high. But rightfully so, Kung Fu movie makers found a way to expand the genre. And it’s apparent that it stood the test of time. If you are a Kung Fu lover, this list is for you. This is the list of top Kung Fu films ever. You might be able to find some of these best Kung Hu movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

10. Drunken Master (1978)

This movie is classic. This is the movie which made Jackie so popular. Not the best movie ever made, but on the other hand it is a classic Jackie Chan movie, and at least one of the most important movies ever made in Asian Cinema. It’s one of those movies which you can see and get an exact idea how the movies from that decade looked like. If you’ve missed seeing this movie, you really owe it to yourself to see it at least once.

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9. The Prodigal Son (1981)

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‘The Prodigal Son’ is well paced and driven by the story rather than a mere string of fight scenes. There is less fighting than some of Sammo’s other early films. But Sammo, the star Yuen Biao, Lam Ching Wing and Frankie Chan all give great fighting performances in fight scenes that are effectively spaced rather than lengthy. There’s a good deal of creative and amusing humor too, maybe not as funny as some Jackie Chan films but still far more effective than many Kung Fu films.

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8. The Way of the Dragon (1972)

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This film is basically your standard Kung Fu movie, with the obvious exception of being directed by Bruce Lee. Lee, who also stars in the film, is a surprisingly good filmmaker. He keeps the feel of the film light enough to avoid being laughable. This is the same simple formula that later made Jackie Chan a Kung Fu superstar. Don’t take the film to seriously, or it may come off as laughable. The fight with Chuck Norris is worth the price of this one, but it isn’t the only great scene.

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7. Fearless (2006)

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Based on actual events, the story focuses on Li’s Huo Yuanjin, martial arts master whose family is murdered, who flees his home. ‘Fearless’ shows us a moralistic China that is ruled by an honor that is now lost among the modern world. It is portrayal of upholding traditional values is a welcome move. It gives the film purpose, and not just an excuse to make good action scenes. Ironically, the film’s message is one of anti-violence, and if this is indeed to be Jet Li’s last martial arts film, then he has goes out on a high.

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6. Heroes of the East/Shaolin Challenges Ninja (1978)

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Most Shaw-Brothers films are pretty lacking Kung Fu wise; the fight scenes are usually pretty low quality simply not fun to watch. There is one exception however, and that exception is Shaolin Challenges Ninja. This film isn’t a classic because of its plot or acting, both are merely commendable, but because of the high quality of it’s many Kung Fu fights. Right from the start all the way to the bizarre final fight the film offers great “my style is better than yours” type fight scenes one after another. If you like old-school Kung Fu, this is a must watch.

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5. The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter (1984)

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‘The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter’ is an action packed film filled with terrific swordplay and choreography in the battles. It is a periodic film set during the Sung Dynasty, but just suffice to say there is usually something going on. One of the stars, Fu Sheng, was killed in a car crash midway through filming, so it’s a miracle the film was finished. There’s lots of blood, lots of yelling, lots of running around. As always with these kind of films produced by the Shaw Brothers, the colors are vivid.

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4. Fist of Legend (1994)

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It would be awfully difficult to find a Kung Fu movie that rivals Fist of Legend. The action choreography is done by the Woo-Ping Yuen who also choreographed The Matrix. It is in Fist of Legend where the guys behind Matrix realized they had to have Woo-Pint Yuen do their movie. This is technically a remake of Bruce Lee’s Chinese Connection. However this is a much deeper and complex story with better writing than it’s predecessor. Bruce Lee was probably the most skilled martial artist ever captured on film, Jet Li will probably be as close as we will ever see anyone get to being as good as Lee.

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3. 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

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36th Chamber is a brilliant martial arts film. It is artfully directed and edited, endlessly entertaining containing some of the most interesting “training scenes” in a martial arts film, or any film for that matter. The fight choreography is almost completely flawless throughout. And each fight seems to tell a story or have a purpose in the overall narrative. There isn’t fighting for fighting sake. While that may sounds like a drawback it certainly isn’t. Also, while seemingly a revenge flick 36th Chamber is more about the power of learning and teaching. The vast majority of the film contains some element of teaching or implementing teachings in one form or another.

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2. IP Man (2008)

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‘Ip Man’ is an extremely rose-tinted movie, as one might expect from a Chinese production about a national hero standing up against the tyranny of Japan. But despite its glaring nationalism, the film proves to be both a gripping drama and, of course, a bad-ass Kung Fu flick, with scene after scene of incredible bone-crunching mayhem. The hard-hitting close-quarter combat is brilliantly choreographed by Sammo Hung and flawlessly performed by Yen and his co-stars. This is an example how Kung Fu can be repeatedly renovated and rediscovered in the process of making modern movies.

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1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

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‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ proves Ang Lee’s ability of tailoring people of different tastes. In the form, this film has spectacular landscape, breathtaking fight scene, well-balanced story plot including the reserved and heart-wrenching romance between the two leading characters. Sure it has many more. Many take it as a martial art film, but definitely it is not your typical fast-food Kung-fu flick.

It goes beyond many other action movies and has deep touch of the principle, morality and philosophy of Chinese Kung Fu. It is not easy to produce a film that can not only deliver aesthetic entertainment but also provide room for audience to give deep thought about the nature of human being and their activities. The Movie serves us a banquet, which can be enjoyed at different levels.

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