12 Great Martial Arts Movie Fight Scenes

Published 1 year ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 11:58 am,

Top 12 Martial Arts Kung Fu Movie Fights Scenes 12 Great Martial Arts Movie Fight Scenes

The Man with the Iron Fists is Wu-Tang Clan rapper-turned-actor/director RZA’s love letter to the martial arts movies – but he’s not the only hardcore fan of the genre out there. Martial arts films were a bridge between different cultures long before international cinema gained the sort of foothold it has today in the U.S., and there are plenty of people who can claim a kick-ass fight scene as an indelible part of their memory.

In honor of all that Man with the Iron Fists celebrates, we’ve gone back through the archives to pick out 12 martial arts movie fight sequences that earned a place in our hearts – whether it was the impressive fight choreography, the sheer scale of the battle, or simply because it featured some iconic martial arts stars throwing down against one another.

Check out 12 great martial arts movie fights (listed in no particular order):

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Neo vs. Agent Smith (The Matrix)

Admittedly, it’s hard to find a Hollywood film that can match the level of fight choreography being put out by the Asian film industry – but The Matrix was definitely one of the them – thanks in no small part to the influence of legendary fight choreographer/director Woo-ping Yuen, whose work appears numerous times in this list.

Aside from actors like Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving impressing us with their level of martial arts ability – and some clever little touches to the choreography (throat jab FTW!) - the climatic battle between hacker-turned-hero, Neo (Reeves) and the nefarious program Agent Smith (Weaving) included something that only the best cinematic duels do: great dialogue and character development.

Hearing “Mr. Anderson” utter the line “My name… is NEO!” before putting the finishing touches on that Agent Smith beatdown was at once a pivotal moment for our hero, and a kick-ass finale to a great fight.

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The Bride vs. The Crazy 88 (Kill Bill Vol. 1)

While there have been some truly legendary one-on-one fights in movies, it’s a whole other ballgame when one person takes on an entire multitude of enemies. In his own love-letter to the martial arts movie genre, Kill Bill, writer/director Quentin Taratino concocted and executed (no pun) a fight sequence that stands toe-to-toe with the very films that inspired it.

All things being honest, few people ever imagined that actress Uma Thurman could be taken seriously as an action star – let alone a martial arts action star. However, that all changed when Thurman (as the vengeance-seeking “Bride”) drew a katana sword and took on no less than eighty-eight members of O-Ren Ishii’s (Lucy Liu) Yakuza army – including psycho teenage bodyguard, Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama). Check out this epic battle to the last (wo)man standing:

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Tang Lung vs. Colt (The Way of the Dragon)

There are martial arts fight scenes that earn their reputation through sophisticated choreography – and then there are those that are remembered for their iconic nature. Even now, forty years later, it is still awesome to see Bruce Lee battling Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon.

Tang Lung (Lee) is trying to defend family and friends from a local Roman mafia – but when he proves to be an obstacle, mob lieutenant “Ho” hires foreign martial artists to solve the problem – including fearsome karate fighter, Colt (Norris). Like gladiators of old, Tang and Colt have their epic showdown in the halls of the Colosseum – and for awhile Colt holds the upper hand. But Bruce Lee is Bruce Lee, so losing was never really an option.

Even though the telegraphed punches and kicks seem dated by today’s standards, the awesomeness of seeing one of the greatest martial artists of all time battle one of the most badass action stars of all time never fades. Plus: there’s a kitty-cat referee!

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Lu Yan vs. The Silent Monk (The Forbidden Kingdom)

There isn’t much we love about The Forbidden Kingdom – a fluffy marital arts adventure film made by the guy who directed The Lion King - but it does contain a pretty epic showdown between two martial arts movie legends: Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

Both men were not exactly spring chickens when the movie was released in 2008 (Li was 45, Chan 54), but all things considered, they put on quite a show. When Drunken immortal Lu Yan (Chan) enters the temple of the silent monk (Li), the two have a “misunderstanding” in the form of a martial arts brawl.

While the choreography is a little silly (what with all the “wire-fu” aerial antics), the significance of seeing these two icons share the screen more than makes up for it.

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Tien vs. Imperial Guard (Ong Bak 3)

Tony Jaa became a breakout marital arts movie star thanks to Ong Bak, and there are certainly plenty of scenes from the franchise that would easily qualify for this list. However, Ong Bak 3 features the Muay Thai fighter in one especially crazy scene, taking on the soldiers of evil Lord Rajasena.

What is so crazy about this particular sequence, you ask? Well, for one it features Tien (Jaa) looking feral enough to be Blanka from Street Fighter; it also features Tien taking on a multitude of opponents at once. But if all that wasn’t enough, this particular fight sequence incorporates actual elephants into the complex choreography – yep, you read that correctly: ELEPHANTS.

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Ip Man vs. General Miura (Ip Man)

The movie Ip Man - based on real-life Wing Chun martial arts master Yip Man – is as much about the history of southern China as it is the titular character. This is why scenes of actual martial arts combat in the film hold such weight: they’re not just battles between men, they symbolize the ups and downs of China’s struggle against the Japanese invasion of the 1930s.

Martial arts movie star Donnie Yen plays Ip as the quiet, humble, and carefully measured man he was; however, when Ip is finally forced to display his Wing Chun martial arts against the heartless General Miura’s (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) karate assault, he unleashes the punishing wrath of not just Wing Chun, but all of China. In the end, ever the disciplined master, Ip Man spares his enemy and shows mercy – which is more than his enemy would ever do for him.

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Chen Zhen vs. General Fujita (Fist of Legend)

The character of Chen Zhen has appeared in numerous marital arts films and TV series, and has been played by famous martial artists that include Bruce Lee and Donnie Yen.

Jet Li stepped into the role of Chen for the 1994 film Fist of Legend, and his showdown with World Kickboxing champion-turned-actor Billy Chow (as “Supreme Killer” General Fujita) remains the stuff of martial arts movie… er, legend.

In the hands of a master, belt beats sword every time:

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Iron Monkeys vs. Governor Hin-Hung (Iron Monkey)

Fight choreographer/director Woo-ping Yuen gained fame with American audiences thanks to the release of The Matrix in 1999, but he had been making kick-ass marital arts films long before that – including the 1993 film, Iron Monkey.

A sort of twist on the Robin Hood tale, Iron Monkey follows benevolent doctor Yang Tianchun (Yu Rongguang) who moonlights as “Iron Monkey,” a masked hero who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The twist comes when another physician named Wong Kei-ying (Donnie Yen) moves to town with his young son; when corrupt local officials notice Wong’s marital arts prowess, they mistake him for being Iron Monkey and exact revenge.

The finale of the film sees the two doctors teaming up to save Wong’s son from Shaolin warrior-turned-corrupt Governor, Hin-Hung (Yen Shi-Kwan), in a battle that takes place on wooden poles over a fire pit. The scene remains, to this day, one of the greatest “wire-fu” fight sequences ever put to film.

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Rama & Andi vs. Mad Dog (The Raid: Redemption)

 The Raid: Redemption was one of the best action films of 2011 – arguably one of the best action films in years. The film – about a squad of cops stuck in an apartment complex filled with criminals – catapulted Welsh director Gareth Evans to stardom, while putting a spotlight on the Indonesian martial arts style, pencak silat.

Fight choreographers Iko Uwais and Yaya Ruhian play super cop Rama and super villain Mad Dog, respectively. In the film’s climatic battle, Rama tries to save his criminal mastermind brother Andi (Donni Alamsyah) from the wrath of Mad Dog. What ensues is one of the most brutal martial arts battles we’ve ever seen.

Check out what it takes to put a Mad Dog down:

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Wong Fei-hung vs. Axe Gang (The Legend of Drunken Master)

Before The Bride battled the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill or Rama took on the nightmarish machete gang in The Raid: Redemption, Jackie Chan was battling a horde of ax-wielding thugs while managing to make us laugh at the same time.

Legend of Drunken Master is the 1994 sequel to the 1978 classic, Drunken Master, which helped launch the international stardom of both Jackie Chan and Woo-ping Yuen. Woo-ping didn’t return to direct the sequel, but Legend of Drunken Master nontheless offers a sense of both fun and skill in its fight choreography. Stop for a second and consider just how difficult these stunts were – executed in the name of comedy, as much as action:

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Inspector Ma Kwun vs. Jack (Killzone – S.P.L.)

I must confess, Killzone (a.k.a. Saat po lang) is the one film on this list I haven’t seen – but I will be seeing it now, for sure. And this clip is the reason why.

Donnie Yen is a martial arts star that belongs up there with Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, etc. – though it somehow feels like he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves with international audiences. In any event, Killzone is a convoluted tale about where the moral line lies in the fight between cops and crooks – but one thing that is easy to understand is when Inspector Ma Kwun (Yen) confronts Jack (Jing Wu), the knife-wielding assassin who killed the men of Kwun’s unit:

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Yu Shu Lien vs. Jen Yu (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

With the exception of Kill Bill, pretty much every entry on this list has been about male martial arts stars – but ladies can be just as formidable as guys. Ang Lee’s martial arts drama Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon turned martial arts films into Oscar-wining cinematic art, and the performances of its stars – Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang – were a major contributing factor.

Spoiled rich girl Jen Yu’s (Zhang) immaturity brings chaos to the lives of aging martial arts warriors Li Mu Bai (Yun-Fat) and Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh) – an unrequited pair who were trying to leave the life of the sword behind, so that they might settle down together. Despite the warriors’ great patience, Jen pushes a delicate situation to dire straits, and Yu Shu Lien is the one who steps up to put the young girl in her place – by way of a kick-ass duel.

Using just about every weapon in a warrior’s dojo against the might of “Green Destiny” – the legendary sword Jen stole from Li Mu Bai – Yu Shu Lien helps brash Jen separate the fantasy of being a warrior from the harsh reality:

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TAGS: kill bill, the man with the iron fists, the matrix, the raid redemption

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  1. Im glad you included two jackie chan fights. though i know it was an iconic moment having Jackie Chan and Jet Li fight, Jackie has had far better fights in other films. but the ax fight is definitely awesome.

    I think the final fight scene in Who Am I? is really great to where Jackie is on top of the building fighting those two men.

  2. 1)Donnie Yen vs Jet Li, Once Upon A Time in China 2
    2)Bruce Lee vs. Japanese Dojo, Fist of Fury AKA Chinese Connection
    3)Donnie Yen vs Sammo Hung, SPL
    4)Jackie Chan vs Hwang Jang Lee, Drunken Master
    5)Jet Li vs Yasuaki Kurata, Fist of Legend
    6)Jet Li vs Billy Chow, Fist of Legend
    7)Michelle Yeoh vs Zhang Ziyi, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
    8)Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris, Way of the Dragon
    9)Gordon Liu, Kara Hui vs Shaolin traitors(?), Eight Diagram Pole Fighter
    10)Jet Li vs Gordon Liu. Last Hero in China
    Most of the fights are more rounded and don’t rely a whole lot of “wire” action and I don’t feel American produced martial arts scenes have the same quality or impact as Asian produced martial arts scenes

  3. Hmm…Great picks. It’s hard to argue against these choices since each one for one reason or another is well deserving of its place. Especially since I own all…

    P.S.. Yes Kofi, You Should see Killzone. My honorable mention(Only one that comes to mind :-( )is from the same film:

    Wong Po(Sammo Hung) vs. Ma Kwun(Donnie Yen)

  4. Should of put Bruce Lee vs Han from Enter the Dragon. And though many people hate this movie however I am a big fan, I would’nt of mind to of seen the fight in the Matrix Reloaded of Neo fighting the Merovengians henchmen on the list.

  5. There are some great martial artists, no doubt, but none had all of the talent, skills, swagger of Bruce Lee. Also, if you like martial arts swordsmanship, you should check out one (or the series)in video (description from Wikipedia):
    Lone Wolf and Cub
    is a manga created by writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima. First published in 1970, the story was adapted into six films starring Tomisaburo Wakayama, four plays, a television series starring Yorozuya Kinnosuke, and is widely recognized as an important and influential work.

    Lone Wolf and Cub chronicles the story of Ogami Ittō, the Shogun’s executioner who uses a dōtanuki battle sword. Disgraced by false accusations from the Yagyū clan, he is forced to take the path of the assassin. Along with his three-year-old son, Daigorō, they seek revenge on the Yagyū clan and are known as “Lone Wolf and Cub”.

    Excellent!

  6. Hello, Big Trouble in little China.

  7. @Kofi the man from nowhere made NO apperance?!?!?!?

  8. The last 20 minutes of ‘Warriors 2′ is insane.
    Don’t forget Sing vs The Beast in ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ :)
    BTW people mentioning SPL I like Donnie Yen vs Jing Wu.

  9. the tony jaa bone breaking scene and the final fight from the raid top all those old school trashy fight scenes. the only one that could even hold ground again those 2 would the the jet li vs chan fight scene, which whilst goofy was still pretty cool b/c that is/was a ‘what if’ question many had be pondering about ;)

    why weren’t any fight scenes from kiss of the dragon in there, the final fight with the twins or the one at the restaurant would have been great contenders… and far better then most the garbage listed.

  10. there’s some ridiculous recovery times, but the end fight in Flashpoint with Donnie Yen and Colin Chou is pretty sweet!

    • yes, how could i forget that, or the 10-1 fight towards the end of ip man…

      • or Jet Li vs. the black belts on Kiss of the Dragon

  11. Enter the Dragon. The underground complex battle. One of the best nun-chuck scenes ever. And I love the way he just calmly sits down when he realizes he’s trapped.

    • I think Lee’s work in the “Chinese Connection” was stronger.

  12. I’m still a bigger fan of the Ip man, ten men battle. But good picks none the less.

  13. You guys………you had me REAL worried, waiting for the very last entry to include Yu Shu Lien vs. Jen Yu (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

  14. just seeing norris standing waiting to fight and then seeing bruce lee enter to engage him, i got chills. its something that is so epic, so engaging, that as a fan of the genre and these two men, i just watched in awe.

  15. You forgot THe End fighht of Legend of Drunken Master. Legendary!

    • Yes! that whole movie is just awesome and every fight scene has something unique. but when jackie just tares through that ladder you would be crapping your pants if you were the other guy.

  16. Mad Dog vs The SWAT captain is another great fight from The Raid

  17. How about donnie yen in IP MAN vs the 10 karate masters? definately the best all time by far….

  18. Nice list, Kofi! My other martial-arts favorites who are fun to watch:

    Sonny Chiba
    Sho Kosugi
    Loren Avedon
    Cynthia Rothrock (le rowr-rowr)
    James Ryan
    Bolo Yeung
    Jeff Speakman
    Samurai Jack
    Ralph Macchio :)

  19. The fight scenes from Game of Death were pretty good IMO. Actually they were the only thing worth watching from that movie.

    Merantau should have also gotten an honourable mention.

    Oh, and one more thing. Not sure if anyone else noticed this, but it’s a bit confusing for the title to be “12 great martial arts movie fight scenes” and then have the text say there will be 13. There were to honourable mentions so that doesn’t explain it either since that makes it 14.

  20. Got quite a few overrated movies and/or scenes in this list. Kill Bill had the crappiest fight scenes ever. And as much as I like Donnie Yen, Killzone was a very overrated movie. I’d recommend Flashpoint over Killzone any day of the week.

    And Ip Man was a great martial arts movie, but in my opinion, the best fight scene wasn’t the final fight scene with the General, but one of the first at his house with the Northerner. Either that or at the dojo with the 10 Japanese fighters…

    And I also really liked the first Matrix, but let’s be honest, that’s not really a martial arts fight…

    • Although I do understand why the last fight is more worthy to be put on here. I enjoyed the fight with the Northerner more, but I guess General Miura was more of a worthy opponent, although not by much, lol. Too bad the sequel wasn’t that good…

    • @Ken J – You and I have always agreed on Ip Man – and we still do. I thought the scene with the 10 Japanese fighter was fantastic. Donnie Yen is freaking amazing. For the life of me I can’t recall the title but I watched a movie with him in it (I think it was him) where he was fighting the Japanese during the occupation of China. The opening scene had him and his soldiers pinned down by enemy gun fire and he single-handily crossed a couple city blocks and killed them all.

      I’d love to see him fighting Jet Li in Expendables 3.

      Paul

      • @Paul

        I think you’re talking about Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen.

      • @Paul Young

        Oh, one thing I forgot to mention. Apparently I learned a while ago that the actor who played General Miura in Ip Man actually doesn’t know martial arts in real life, lol. So all of that was just pretend on his part, which is pretty good actually.

        • @Ken J – Wow really? That’s as impressive as Jason Scott Lee playing Bruce Lee in The Dragon without having any martial arts experience.

          Thanks,
          Paul Young

  21. Baraka from Street Fighter?! You mean BLANKA!! C’mon! Get your video game references right!

    • Haha, and the link to the pic of “Baraka” from Street Fighter gives an error.

      Still, it would have been really interesting to see Baraka in SF IV (or even II).

      • I got it right – The ad company behind ‘Man with the Iron Fists’ chose to make their own version of this article, using a rough draft of my post. They didn’t do a good job.

        I’ve restored the finished version – with the CORRECT REFERENCE.

  22. I enjoyed the list. I’m probably more glad that i didn’t have to keep clicking ‘next’ to view the next video like some of the other features on the site.

  23. MOAR!!! Do a part 2!!!!

  24. How about — “Wheels on Meals – Jackie Chan vs. Benny “The Jet” Urquidez”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6eC-BAsVdQ

    One of my favorite fight scenes ever!

  25. THANK GOD this wasn’t presented as one of those execrable slideshows. I hope this means Screen Rant is doing away with those monstrosities.

    • Forsooth and verily.

  26. No Drunken Master 2? Are you out of you mind?

  27. Always loved the fight between Van Damme and Bolo Yeung at the end of Double Impact haha

    And between Van Damme and Lungren at the end of Univeral Soldier, that was quite epic, in the rain, super soldier beating the crap out of super soldier, injection of super serum, boom!

  28. I’m surprised that there aren’t any Jeeja Yanin movies like Chocolate because IMO that whole movie was insane

  29. Some of those Movies here i wouldn’t include !
    Too many quick cuts,and close ups,make them more seem like losers who don’t know how to fight,but actually they all know how to fight !
    Thanks to Directors who have no idea how to use such talent in front of the camera,and how to portray them ! Most look to Hollywood techniques,where stuntman and non fighters do the fights. I do not like this quick editing,especially if such talent is there who are really good fighters !

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