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Martial Arts Movies

This page is still a work in progress.

My son and I took Karate together, and we love to watch martial arts movies together though sometimes for different reasons: my son for action and bodycount (!), and me for the same, but also for the “art” of the martial arts: the rationale behind why people study, how it changes them, how they internalize it for their own transformation. There are many other movies that should make this list (including many from Hong Kong), but we narrowed it down to ones we could agree on.

1. Jet Li’s Fearless (HD DVD Combo Format) DVD ~ Anthony de Longis
 
  An instant classic. Not only some of the most magnificently staged sparring, including matching and different styles and weapons, but a true “art” in martial arts story, as a man’s pride and ego makes him forget what martial arts are truly about and his journey back to that truth. The story Huo Yuanjia, who was the founder of the Jin Wu Sports Federation.

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon DVD ~ Chang Chen
 
  This is one where my son and I disagree. A beautifully told story, a story of martial arts transformation and realization. Michelle Yeoh gets not enough credit in my opinion as one of the best female martial arts leads. Fantastic sword fighting. Amazing scenery. My son flinched at the subtitles, but I prefer it that way, as opposed to dubbing.
3. Fist of Legend DVD ~ Jet Li
 
  Interestingly, this is the story of a student of the main character in Fearless, who returns to China to find his master killed. My son liked the spectacular many vs. one fighting scenes, while I enjoyed the concept of “adaptation”, which one of Jet’s older Japanese opponents shows him in an intial sparring and which he employs in the final big bout. Unfortunatly, this version is dubbed.

4. Return of the Dragon DVD ~ Jon T. Benn
 
  The match between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris lands this movie on the list: soft fluid Jeet Kun Do vs. hard strong Tang Soo Do/Soo Bahk Do. Not the greatest acting or story, but enjoyable.
 
5. Hero DVD ~ Jet Li

 
  I like the three tales, versions of the same story, a man training all his life for revenge and finding that maybe his goal isn’t black and white. My son and his friends commented that the colors were weird and how come the hero didn’t use his skills to escape in the end? I made them watch it again.

6. The Legend of Drunken Master DVD ~ Jackie Chan
 
  Not chosen for the comedy aspects, but the concept of relaxation while fighting shown by drunken boxing, similar to Taiji and Systema…although drinking grain alcohol to gain that relaxation (as Jackie does in this movie) probably not recommended.

7. Enter the Dragon DVD ~ Bruce Lee

 
  The numchuks! What else needs to be said? I wish the camera angle would change in this sequence, but it is still amazing. Unfortunatly everytime I watch that scene I get a flash vision of the spoof of it in Kentucky Fried Movie.

8. Ong-Bak – The Thai Warrior DVD ~ Petchtai Wongkamlao
 
  We’d only seen a little Muay Thai, and this story is weak. But the martial arts, with no wires, and the moves with multiple camera views are out of this world. The side flip through the moving glass pane and the initial one punch fight have been worn out on our copy.

9. Bulletproof Monk DVD ~ Yun-Fat Chow

 
  Though it has some comic relief, still a great story of dedication and sacrifice, and also of transformation. And made me see Seann William Scott in a completely different light. Even though lots of wires in the fight scenes, my son scored them high.
 

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