The Greatest American Martial Arts Films


It may’t be denied that so far as martial arts films go, one of the best ones come from Asia, notably Hong Kong throughout their motion heyday, which was arguably the 70s, 80s and first half of the ’90s. That mentioned, martial arts films have been additionally making a foothold within the States on the time, thanks primarily to Bruce Lee-mania following the discharge of Enter the Dragon. Earlier than that film, only a few actors in Hollywood appeared like they have been credible martial artists, besides possibly James Coburn, a scholar of Lee’s, who pulled off some fairly handsome strikes within the in any other case foolish Our Man Flint films. Steve McQueen additionally had coaching however didn’t use martial arts on display screen.

As much as then, although, essentially the most notable makes use of of martial arts in films normally revolved round Judo, with James Cagney exhibiting off some good strikes within the movie Blood on the Solar, whereas Spencer Tracy – who was HEAVILY doubled, demolished Ernest Borgnine within the traditional thriller Dangerous Day at Black Rock with just one arm.

However, within the seventies, struggle sequences began to get higher, with the Asian affect particularly notable in Blaxploitation films as a result of most of the stars, together with Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly, had legit coaching. When Chuck Norris got here alongside in direction of the top of the last decade, you additionally began to see mainstream stars dip their toes into martial arts. Nonetheless, typically the outcomes weren’t fairly, corresponding to when Richard Burton makes use of drunk-fu to beat up a racist within the abysmal melodrama The Klansman (try my selection for the worst struggle scene ever proper right here). 

Within the eighties, fights in American films began to get good. Nevertheless, the best way they have been shot usually didn’t fairly match as much as what was occurring in Hong Kong, with an important instance being the climactic struggle between Mel Gibson and Gary Busey in Deadly Weapon. Each actors had been extensively educated in a variation known as Jailhouse Rock, which was widespread in prisons, however there was an excessive amount of rain and shut chopping to showcase the flicks. 

That mentioned, there have been some nice American martial arts films then – and a great deal of nice ones are being made now, so right here’s our checklist of one of the best American martial arts films ever made. Be aware that films like The Matrix or John Wick, which married martial arts with gunplay, didn’t make the checklist, with this devoted extra to straight-up martial arts mayhem.

Honorable Point out: The Undisputed sequels:

So, if motion, our mentioning these sequels most likely established us as considerably legit, as director Isaac Florentine and his main males, Michael Jai White (who holds seven black belts!) and Scott Adkins, introduced one thing new and contemporary to the DTV world. The primary two sequels, Undisputed 2 and 3, are arguably extra well-known than the now obscure Walter Hill film they’re sequels to. 

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10. Kill Invoice:

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Invoice pushed the envelope for martial arts mayhem, however then once more, being a scholar of movie, must you anticipate anything? Tarantino had Yuen Woo Ping as a choreographer plus, The Avenue Fighter himself, Sonny Chiba, together with the very proficient David Carradine (who solely actually reveals off his strikes in a deleted sequence reverse Michael Jai White), and Uma Thurman. For my cash, one of the best struggle sequence within the movie is the primary one, the place Thurman goes at it with Viveca A Fox, however the Home of Blue Leaves sequence can also be a traditional.

Director John Carpenter thinks the concept of his 1986 classic Big Trouble in Little China would make for a fun video game

9. Massive Bother in Little China:

On the time, this film was a field workplace flop, however years later, individuals lastly caught on and began digging the truth that John Carpenter was making a good looking Hong-style motion fantasy film within the vein of Mr. Vampire and Zu Warriors. The martial arts on this beats something occurring in American motion films on the time, even when a lot of it’s wire-fu within the traditional WuXia trend.

best American martial arts movies

You may’t do a finest American Martial Arts film checklist and never embrace Steven Seagal. Granted, he by no means actually made a pure martial arts film in his heyday, however the ultra-violent aikido type he broke out in Above the Legislation and people first few films have been extremely influential on American motion films of the realm. At his finest, Seagal was glorious, nevertheless it could possibly be argued that the lean and imply Seagal was solely ever current in these first 5 films, with the whole lot after Underneath Siege going downhill. Too unhealthy.

best American martial arts movies

7. Revenge of the Ninja:

Cannon Footage did extra to carry Ninja’s into the mainstream than another film studio. Whereas their first Ninja film, Enter the Ninja, is a joke, the sequel, Revenge of the Ninja, which elevated the primary film’s unhealthy man actor, Sho Kosugi, to a hero, is a slick film and one of the best of their free Ninja Trilogy. The director, Sam Firstenberg, additionally did an important job with the primary two American Ninja films, due to the untrained Michael Dudikoff being a gifted mimic and athlete, who, seemingly, might have been a JCVD-level star had Cannon put more cash into his films.

6. Better of the Greatest:

Whereas the notion of casting James Earl Jones because the coach of a nationwide martial arts crew is sort of as foolish as the truth that the out of form Chris Penn performs one among their finest fighters, Better of the Greatest remains to be one of the vital legit martial arts movies of the period. It mixes the sports activities style with martial arts. It will get the angle of competitors higher than loads of different movies of this ilk, with it emphasizing sportsmanship and the stunning bond you identify along with your opponent, irrespective of who wins. Philip Rhee is a terrific lead on this, due to the truth that his abilities are legit. Nonetheless, Eric Roberts, regardless of no coaching, additionally acquits himself very properly, due to the truth that he took the choreography very severely and acquired himself into peak bodily form.

the last dragon taimak interview

5. The Final Dragon:

Martial Arts films had a big cult standing within the internal metropolis, and The Final Dragon is Motown’s tribute to the style, with a younger black marital artist named Taimak, our likeable lead, Leroy Inexperienced, aka Bruce Leroy. The music is superb, as are the fights, with the film stolen by Julius Carry as Sho’nuff, the shogun of Harlem. Carry wasn’t educated, however he proved to be an excellent mimic, and angle is the whole lot typically.

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4. Kickboxer:

Whereas usually overshadowed by Bloodsport, Kickboxer helped carry Muay Thai into the mainstream, and the film options Jean-Claude Van Damme at his finest, with terrific coaching sequences, an unimaginable closing battle between JCVD and Michel Quissi’s Tong Po, and Van Damme shaking his ass in a bar struggle. Additionally, who might neglect the opponents wrapping their palms in bandages and dipping them in damaged glass, which was despatched up brilliantly in Sizzling Photographs Half Deux

jcvd bloodsport

3. Bloodsport:

Extra JCVD, with this the film that made him a star. We’ve talked about this loads on JoBlo, nevertheless it launched the time period kumite into the mainstream and likewise showcases all kinds of various kinds of martial arts. It is a film made by individuals who genuinely know the style

karate kid

2. The Karate Child:

Whereas I preserve that the fights in these films have been by no means nice, with Ralph Macchio’s struggle abilities leaving loads to be desired (he’s higher as a martial artist on Cobra Kai – which has AMAZING fights), this film did extra for martial arts as a observe than another film on this checklist. It led to an explosion in Karate colleges throughout North America, and, due to the mild self-discipline and philosophy of Mr. Miyagi, proved that karate, and martial arts usually, is an artwork kind that may assist lots of people uncover an internal energy they by no means knew that they had.

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee’s solely American film, it got here out posthumously and was such a cultural phenomenon that it led to a kung-fu craze that was so massive, inside a yr, you had Roger Moore’s James Bond kung-fu combating his approach via The Man with the Golden Gun. Lee’s so rattling good on this, however John Saxon additionally acquits himself properly within the struggle scenes; Jim Kelly, in some methods, is sort of as iconic as Bruce is along with his huge afro.

In order that’s our checklist – particular due to EJ Tangonan, who edited this video, for serving to brainstorm this checklist.

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