Martial arts film

Martial arts film
For other uses see Martial arts (disambiguation)

Martial arts film is a film genre. A sub-genre of the action film, martial arts films contain numerous fights between characters, usually as the films' primary appeal and entertainment value, and often as a method of storytelling and character expression and development. Martial arts are frequently featured in training scenes and other sequences in addition to fights. Martial arts films commonly include other types of action, such as stuntwork, chases, and/or gunfights.[1][2][3]

Hong Kong kung Fu film. The poster of "The Big Boss"

As with other action films, martial arts films are dominated by action to varying degrees; many martial arts films have only a minimal plot and amount of character development and focus almost exclusively on the action, while other martial arts films have more creative and complex plots and characters along with action scenes.[4] Films of the latter type are generally considered to be artistically superior films, but many films of the former type are commercially successful and well received by fans of the genre.[5][6]

Martial arts films contain many characters who are martial artists, and these roles are often played by actors who are real martial artists. If not, actors frequently train in preparation for their roles, or the action director may rely more on stylized action or filmmaking tricks like camera angles, editing, doubles, undercranking, wire work, and computer-generated imagery. Trampolines and springboards can also be used to increase the height of jumps. These techniques are sometimes used by real martial artists as well, depending on the style of action in the film.[7]

During the 1970s and 1980s, the most visible presence of martial arts films was the hundreds of English dubbed kung fu and ninja films produced by the Shaw Brothers, Godfrey Ho, Joseph Lai, and other Hong Kong producers. These films were widely broadcast on North American television on weekend timeslots that were often colloquially known as Kung Fu Theater, Black Belt Theater, or variations thereof.

Martial arts films have been produced all over the world, but the genre has been dominated by Hong Kong action cinema, peaking from 1971 with the rise of Bruce Lee until the mid 1990s with a general decline in the industry.[8] Other notable figures in the genre include Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Donnie Yen.

Sonny Chiba has appeared with karate and jidaigeki from Japan of the 1970s. Hollywood has also participated in the genre with actors such as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee), Wesley Snipes, Gary Daniels, Mark Dacascos, and Jason Statham.[9] In recent years, Thailand's film industry has become an international force in the genre with the films of Tony Jaa,[10] and the Indonesian and Vietnamese film industries have followed suit with Merantau starring Iko Uwais[11][12][13] and The Rebel (2007 Vietnamese film) and Clash (film) starring martial artist and film star Johnny Tri Nguyen. Women have also played key roles in the genre, including such actresses as Kathy Long, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Mao, and Cynthia Rothrock.[14][15][16] In addition, western animation has ventured into the genre with the most successful effort being the internationally hailed DreamWorks Animation film franchise, Kung Fu Panda, starring Jack Black and Angelina Jolie.



Kung Fu films are a significant movie genre in themselves. Like westerns for Americans, they have become an identity of Chinese cinema. As the most prestigious movie type in Chinese film history, Kung Fu movies were among the first Chinese films produced and the wuxia period films(武俠片) are the original form of Chinese Kung Fu films. The wuxia period films came into vogue due to the thousands of years popularity of wuxia novels(武俠小說). For example, Jin Yong[17] and Gu Long,[18] their wuxia novels directly led to the prevalence of wuxia period films.

In Chinese-speaking world, martial arts films are commonly divided into two subcategories - the wuxia period films(武俠片), and the more modern Kung fu films(功夫片, best epitomized in the films of Bruce Lee).[19]

List of notable martial arts films

Year Title
1928 The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple
1949 The True Story of Wong Fei Hung
1966 Come Drink with Me
1966 Dragon Inn
1967 The One-Armed Swordsman
1969 Chinese Boxer
1970 Vengeance
1971 The Big Boss
1971 Billy Jack
1972 Fist of Fury (aka) The Chinese Connection
1972 Way of the Dragon
1973 Karate Kiba
1973 Enter the Dragon
1974 The Street Fighter series
1975 Champion of Death
1975 Karate Bearfighter
1977 Karate for Life
1977 Doberman Cop
1977 Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon
1978 Shogun's Samurai
1978 Five Deadly Venoms
1978 The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
1978 Snake in the Eagle's Shadow[20]
1978 Drunken Master
1979 G.I. Samurai
1979 Knockabout
1981 Samurai Reincarnation
1982 The Prodigal Son
1982 Shaolin Temple
1983 Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain
1983 Project A
1983 Winners and Sinners
1984 The Karate Kid
1985 Mr. Vampire
1985 Yes, Madam[21]
1985 Police Story
1988 Bloodsport
1989 Best of the Best
1989 Kickboxer
1991 Once Upon a Time in China
1992 Under Siege
1992 Supercop
1992 Rapid Fire (1992 film)
1993 The Bride With White Hair[22]
1993 Iron Monkey[23]
1993 Only the Strong
1994 Timecop
1994 Fist of Legend
1994 Drunken Master II[24]
1995 Mortal Kombat
1995 Rumble in the Bronx
1996 Kickboxer
1997 Mortal Kombat Annihilation
1998 Rush Hour
1999 The Matrix
2000 Shanghai Noon
2000 Romeo Must Die
2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon[25]
2002 Hero
2002 Undisputed
2003 Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior
2004 Kung Fu Hustle
2004 New Police Story
2004 Fighter in the Wind
2005 SPL: Sha Po Lang
2005 Tom-Yum-Goong
2006 Hak kuen
2006 Undisputed II: Last Man Standing
2006 The Rebel
2006 Fearless
2007 Flash Point
2008 Kung Fu Panda
2008 Chocolate
2008 Ong Bak 2
2008 Ip Man
2008 Never Back Down
2008 The Forbidden Kingdom
2008 Redbelt
2009 Chandni Chowk to China
2009 Merantau
2009 Ninja Assassin
2009 Raging Phoenix
2010 True Legend
2010 Undisputed III: Redemption
2010 Ip Man 2
2010 The Legend Is Born – Ip Man
2010 Shaolin
2010 The Karate Kid (2010)
2010 Ong Bak 3
2010 Reign of Assassins
2010 Tekken
2011 Kung Fu Panda 2
2011 Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown

See also


  1. ^ "The Problem With Fx". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  2. ^ Beale, Lewis (1986-04-20). "Martial Arts Pics--packing A Hard Punch". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  3. ^ "Martial arts moves get a hip-hop flair". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  4. ^ Wren, Celia (1992-02-23). "FILM; Martial-Arts Movies Find a Home In South Africa". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-05. 
  5. ^ "Maximizing The Matrix". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  6. ^ "Film genre 2000: new critical essays". Retrieved 2011-9-8. 
  7. ^ "The Problem With Fx". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-12-16. 
  8. ^ Schneiderman, R. M. (2009-05-23). "Contender Shores Up Karate’s Reputation Among U.F.C. Fans". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
  9. ^ "Revenge of kungfu Martial arts films are socking away the dough". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  10. ^ "Hitting the Big Time". Time.,9171,725168,00.html. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  11. ^ "GARETH EVANS AND IKO UWAIS TALK MERANTAU". Twitch Film. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  12. ^ "Jury Winners & Audience Winner at FANTASTIC FEST 2009 Announced!". Ain't It Cool News. 
  13. ^ Todd Brown. "UNDISPUTED 3, 14 BLADES and MERANTAU Win At Action Fest 2010. Chuck Norris Declines Lifetime Achievement Award!". Twitch. 
  14. ^ Meisler, Andy (1994-07-03). "TELEVISION; The Biggest Star You Never Heard Of". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  16. ^ "MOVIES The Next Action Hero? Kathy Long is a champion kickboxer whose movie moves remind some of Norris and Van Damme". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  17. ^ "Jin Yong and Chinese Martial Arts Novels". Hong Kong Films Free Web. 
  18. ^ "Kung Fu (Wuxia) Novels Translation". Lannyland. 
  19. ^ "Everybody is kung fu fighting". MSNBC. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  20. ^ "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  21. ^ "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  22. ^ "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  23. ^ "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  24. ^ "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  25. ^ "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 

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