10 Great Martial Arts Movies You May Have Never Seen

5. Royal Warriors (1986)

First of all, watch “Yes, Madam!”. Another underrated film but rather the better known part of this franchise. In the Line of Duty is a series of girls with guns feature films produced by D & B Films which star, in the first two, Michelle Yeoh and this is the second installment. The film follows group of war veterans carry out a terrorist attempt which ends up being foiled by no-nonsense cop Michelle Yeoh. Yeoh had been a legend in Asian cinema for so long that this “Crazy Rich Asians” seemed like a good opportunity to give her some major nominations from award bodies in the West. Pity that the industry skipped her, maybe they’re not too familiar enough with her films. No wonder Jackie Chan wanted her for “Supercop”.

This movie has a lot of elements that made Yeoh a special star. The action scenes are all spectacular, especially the club scene. Yeoh doesn’t afraid of doing of her own stunts and her charisma makes it a compelling watch. It seems the movie had enough of budget because production design is also cool and it creates the right atmosphere you end up expecting from these kind of Hong Kong actions of the 80s. Script could have done her performance a more justice with giving her a better plot points to work with but this still remains as one of the best vehicles for her action star persona.


4. Wing Chun (1994)

Another Michelle Yeoh film that deserves more attention and yes, there’s always amazing Donnie Yen also but surprisingly, he’s more of a comic relief in this film which makes this movie even more interesting. It’s not a type of character you often get to see him. A brutal band of robbers made the province unsafe in medieval China at the time of the Manchu dynasty. Wing Chun lives in a tofu shop in a small village, with her aunt. Wing rescues a beautiful woman, Charmy and her sick husband from a gang of bandits that plague the locals but the husband dies. And then Wing Chun’s ex-lover Leung (Yen) comes to the village but since people think Wing Chun is a man , he starts to believe it’s Charm who is his wife-to-be.

The film gives spectacular action scenes but manages to avoid to get full violence. The humor might be silly to some but its charming enough. As it’s obvious from the plot, it plays a bit like a romantic comedy as well which only gives the film more uniqueness. Sound design and impressive cinematography adds a lot to enjoyment but the main important thing here is that you get to see Yeoh and Yen together.


3. Fatal Contact (2006)

Kong is a Wushu champion who earns a living from odd jobs between competitions. While working in a circus, he is spotted by gangsters who offer to fight for them in illegal boxing tournaments. A colleague, also his friend, convinces him to accept because he could earn a lot of money. You can imagine the rest will be a lot of bloody fights, right? Best known for “SPL” films, Wu Jing is surely a talented martial artist/actor that can make the movie engaging. Here he gets a lot of chance to show his particular set of skills.

While it has some humor in the beginning to make it more realistic, the film has a more serious tone. Not comic reliefs or anything to talk about much. The acting is all around good and for a film that could easily get a pass because of great action scenes, it still manages to develop its characters. There’s a love story that doesn’t necessarily works but it’s in the background that you don’t mind it much. The cinematography isn’t as spectacular as in “SPL” which made Wu Jing a big name and the plot is not also not as complex or thought-provoking as you can imagine but he’s in great form and it’s crazy entertaining to watch him do his things.


2. The Blade (1995)

The Blade

Maybe it’s not as underrated as one may think because if you’re a martial arts fan, you probably had seen it somewhere. It’s very notable for the way it filmed its fight scenes. In the west, directors like Quentin Tarantino has applauded its amazingness but it’s here mostly for casual martial arts watchers that needs to see something not as popular as “Police Story” or “Fist of Fury”.

The story is set in China, in the Middle Ages. A young blacksmith, Ding On, learning of his father’s tragic death, decides to find his murderer. Unfortunately, attacked by a group of bandits, he loses an arm. Found by a young girl who brings him back to an isolated farm, our hero then develops a new very fast and particularly violent combat technique to compensate for his handicap. Meanwhile, looters attack the sword factory where Ding On worked before fleeing. In 2014, Time Out polled several film critics, directors, actors and stunt actors to list their top action films and The Blade was ranked 43rd on the list. Maybe it should’ve been even higher given incredible and original use of camera work, colors and close-ups. One of Hark Tsui’s best films for sure.


1. The Prodigal Son (1981)

The Prodigal Son

Yuen Biao is a legend. If you’re not a big martial arts movie fan, you probably had seen him in some Jackie Chan movies doing some awesome stuff. He has worked on over 80 films as actor, stuntman and action choreographer. He’s incredibly acrobatic performer that his skills lead to great choreographies in films, very aesthetic and unpredictable.

The film tells the story of Leung Chang, the son of a wealthy man who is half-heartedly studying kung fu. Leung Jan (was a Dit Da and Wing Chun practitioner from Heshan, Guangdong. He was known in Foshan as Mr. Jan of Foshan and King of Wing Chun Kuen. It’s not his only portrayal in the movies. He’s played by Bryan Leung in “Warriors Two” which is another film noted for displaying the authentic version of the Wing Chun style. The character is a son of a rich family. He believes he’s the best fighter but in fact, his dad, anxious for his son’s safety, bribes all his opponents to lose. When he learns that he tries to become the best martial arts master for real. And the rest is just awesome. Sammo Hung is at the peak of his directing powers here, Biao is just excellent and the humor is used expertly as well. “The Prodigal Son” is best as Kung Fu movies get. Pure entertainment.