77 Best Martial Arts & Kung Fu Movies Worth Watching

best martial arts movies, best kungfu movies, fighting movies
Find the motivation to kick into high gear.

Must Watch Martial Arts and Kung Fu Movies 

Kung Fu movies, and martial arts films in general have a huge influence on American culture.

As martial artists became synonymous with badassery, the demand for action films with fighting scenes skyrocketed.

This rubbed off on us, making us crave that idea of power, the ability to transform our bodies into weapons. But the really dedicated ones watched these movies for more than just entertainment.

Just as books, and scrolls held ancient wisdom, films are being used to deliver powerful messages from strange lands.

If you are looking for that motivation to get out there and become a more focused, and serious fighter, then check out these movies.

77.   Tai Chi 0 (2012)

I’m sure there is some Freudian reference about this.

An important aspect as a fighter is protecting yourself, and not hurting yourself in the process of improving. This movie touches upon that concept beautifully, presenting a young man whose devastating ability is also endangering his own life. He must seek out a special Tai Chi style that may save his life, but in order to train, he must gain the trust of the villagers that protect it. The film is produced in the unique Chinese fashion many Kung Fu enthusiasts will be familiar with.

76.   True Legend (2010)

Some people need a little more personal space than others.

The all too familiar tale of a fighter finding the passion for fighting. “True Legend” encompasses the important points of martial arts: humbleness, redemption, victory, and inner strength. The story is told in two parts, the tail end of the dynasty period, and beginning of the colonial era in China. We find ourselves following the life of a general, who humbly passes on leadership to his step brother in order to find peace in martial arts. However, his step brother takes advantage of this new mindset to take revenge for a past grievance.

75.   Dragon Eyes (2012)

This neighborhood watch is a little more active than the rest.


Street fighting is always brought up as the antithesis to martial arts. Well here comes a film that brings the grittiness of the raw brawl, to the elegance that can be found in a martial artist. Two rival gangs terrorize the citizens of St. Jude. One man arrives to bring down both forces using techniques learned from another inmate in prison. But as his efforts begin to show promise, he learns that the gangs are just puppets in a greater scheme beyond their own control.


74.   The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)

Don’t worry, he says he’ll fight fair.

Concocted by the Wu-Tang Clan rap prodigy, RZA, comes a very off the wall movie that ties together the high flying expectations we have of martial arts films. It is about a blacksmith who creates weapons for rival clans in the “Jungle Village”, but is inadvertently drawn into their conflict. His original plan is to buy the freedom of his loved one from the Madam of the local brothel. However this simple task is complicated when he betrays his decision to remain neutral, and assist a young man seeking vengeance.  

73.   New Police Story (2004)

The sales in Toys’R’Us must have been insane back then.

Resiliency is the binding force of a great fighter. “New Police Story” tackles this with a powerful narrative. Chan was once hailed a hero cop, but after a deadly encounter with a new type of criminal enterprise, he finds himself disgraced and defeated. A young rookie enters his life and is eager to get him back on his feet. Chan finds himself back at it again with the same criminals, but this time with a lesson learned under his belt.

72.   Saving General Yang (2013)

Whole lot of shirtless going on for a war, don’t you think?

Harking back to the warring Chinese era, comes this tale of a legendary family of generals. A film built on an old Chinese legend, the storytelling relies on drama to convey an important message about resolve and honor. General Ye Yang is abducted by the Khitan Army, who use him as bait to force his wife to send her sons to his rescue. Led by the eldest son, and joined by a small band of elite soldiers, they must brave the trap set for them, and bring their father back home.  

71.   Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010)

Just from the look in his eyes, you can tell this isn’t a knighting  ceremony.

Often compared to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes”, Detective Dee is an original Chinese Kung Fu detective tale. Set in the Tang Dynasty, Dee Renjie is tasked by the first Empress of China with discovering the cause of several strange deaths. The victims are being burnt alive, and seemingly without cause. He is joined by the empress’ most loyal servant, and embarks on a strange tale through a turbulent China.

70.   Ninja: Shadow of a Tear (2013)

Despite all the burning items in the background, this movie was not made in the 80s.

Ninjas have become synonymous with fighting, and the mastery of martial arts. In this sequel to “Ninja”, Casey Bowman has found the life he wanted, complete with a wife and a child on the way. This is cut short when his wife is murdered, throwing him into a depression. An old acquaintance offers to help him overcome his grief in Thailand, where he trains  at a local dojo. Little does Casey know that this will push him headlong into an ongoing drug war.

69.   Man of Tai Chi (2013)

None of that “Slo-mo” Tai Chi crap in this film.

Tai Chi is often ignored for more flashier martial arts, but this flick may make you take a second look. Tiger Chen is a gifted Tai Chi practitioner, having mastered the physical aspects of fighting. However, his Sifu suspects that he may not have the proper mindset needed to continue down this path. Regardless, Tiger enters the local martial arts competition, and is spotted by a ruthless kingpin, determined to add Tiger to his roster of underground fighters.

 68.   Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist (2014)

It’s crazy where $100, good friends, and extreme fandom can get you.

Hailed as the best adaptation of the global gaming sensation, “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist” is a fanboy’s fantasy come true.  The series explains many questions die-hard fans want to know, and it can do so because it was officially endorsed by Capcom. The story follows Ken and Ryu as they uncover the secrets of their master, and the Ansatsuken (Assassin’s Fist) fighting style.

67.   Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (2014)

I’m going with “foot odor strike” on that one.

Character is important to a fighter. In this film, Ma stands up to criminals and bullies alike, not allowing them to pressure him into a risky life. He is just seeking to make an honest living in Shanghai, but the city is unforgiving, and he finds himself facing Qi Long, the gang boss who is carving up the district in his favor. When these two hard headed individuals clash, there is no way to know who will end up on top. Too bad it isn’t always as simple as a fight in Shanghai.

66.   Rail Road Tigers (2016)

You can’t hide from the fashion police, Jackie.

A ragtag team of rebels fights against the Japanese occupation in China. Lead by a railway expert, Ma Yuan, they ingeniously sabotage the train system to divert supplies to their starving kinfolk, and destroy war assets. But their antics bring more and more attention to them, prompting the Japanese to retaliate heavily. Undeterred, Ma hatches his most dangerous scheme to date.

65.   Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

You can measure a martial artist by the height of his kicks.

Following in the vein of the original “Kickboxer” story, this reboot takes us to Thailand, where Kurt Sloane seeks vengeance for his brother’s death at the hands of a skilled Muay Thai fighter. He is ejected from the compound after a failed assassination attempt, and links up with the local police. A local master urges him to return to the United States, but Kurt is determined to convince the master to train him.

64.   Kick-Ass (2010)

Sometimes you need a set of balls, and boredom to be inspired.

Inspired by the comic book, “Kick-Ass” is a hilarious adventure through the world of a bored teenager who wishes to be more than just a citizen. Dave Lizewski is all around average, and is unnoticed in school. No tragedy has struck him, and there is only petty crime in his Staten Island neighborhood. But he is compelled to ask: Why hasn’t anybody tried to be a real-life superhero? His first venture leads to a life changing mishap, but it does not deter him from stepping out and making a name for himself as Kick-Ass.

63.   Little Big Soldier (2010)

Don’t you hate it when you have to carry the team to victory?

Not surprising anyone, Jackie Chan shines in this cinematic element, retelling Chinese tales for future generations. Chan plays a soldier who had been fighting since he was very young. He is tired of decades of conflict, wanting nothing more than to return to a rural life. His strategy of playing dead for every battle finally pays off, as he, and the wounded enemy general are the only two left alive after a bloody battle. He seizes this opportunity to capture the general, and present him to his superiors, in return for a pardon from service. But no plan survives contact with the enemy, as he now must keep his prisoner alive, amid assassination attempts from the general’s own side. It becomes clear to them that they must rely on each other if they want to make it out of this mess alive.

62.   Dragon Blade (2015)

Someone read my fan fiction, finally.

“Dragon Blade” touches on a rarely inspected part of history: the Silk Road, and all the nations involved in its trade routes. Set in China in 48 BC, Huo An is the captain of a group in charge of promoting peace by averting battles. These efforts are to preserve the Silk Road and its benefactors. However, amongst the group is a bad apple, and the government sends all of them to work construction at Wild Geese Gate Fortress. Once there, a Roman Legion arrives, seeking to assault the fortress for supplies. After a duel between leaders, the legion relents, forges a union with the inhabitants, and reveal the reason they are so far from home.

61.   Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Scenes like this add to the surreal beauty of kung fu films.

Nominated and awarded many times over, not many martial arts films compare. Detailing the love interest between two expert fighters, and their torrid relationships with external forces, the film is filled with tiny philosophical details. To fully explore the characters and their motivations requires a bit of open mindedness, and a full attention span. The powerful action scenes and detailed choreography help paint a vivid picture about the mindset of a skilled fighter.

60.   Punch Lady (2007)

Never underestimate your opponent’s desire to destroy you.

A dramatic take on domestic violence, Ha Eun takes on her abusive MMA fighter husband after he assaults their daughter. Arrested after knocking him out with a frying pan, she is spurred into action after he kills an ex-boyfriend in a match. She publicly challenges him to a fight in 3 months on live television. Now she must train, not only physically, but prepare mentally, and emotionally.

59.   Once Upon a Time in High School (2004)

Everyone has different a recollection of High School.

We get a look at the education system in Korea, and the problems that plague it, but the story is familiar. We have the new guy, who gets harassed by the designated bully. He falls in love with a girl, but has to compete with his best friend for her attention. At the same time he’s got to deal with his crazy dad, his authoritarian teachers, and the sense of hopelessness that accompanies you through your formative years. All that and he still has to make time for Jeet Kune Do.

58.   Volcano High (2001)

The entire movie is just “subtle” about its intensity.

The stakes are high for High School student Kyung-soo, having been expelled from multiple schools. He can’t seem to get control over his powers, and Volcano High is the last school that will accept him. He tries staying low key, but the school has other plans for him. The school is currently locked in a 17-year battle for control, and legend has it that one person can end the war if they can get their hands on the “Secret Manuscript.”

57.   Equilibrium (2002)

Gun Kata emphasizes the use of firearms as both a projectile weapon and a melee tool.

Bringing a completely fictional style of martial arts to the table, this dystopian future story is told through the eyes of John Preston. After WWIII, one small nation managed to rebuild, and in an attempt to end all conflict, forced its citizens to chemically abandon their feelings and reject anything that causes emotion. John is a high-ranking official in charge of seeking out “Sense offenders”, and destroying contraband. But one day he accidentally misses his daily dose, and enters the world as he has never experienced it before. Seeking to keep it a secret, he must now continue his duties without his offense being discovered.

56.   The City of Violence (2006)

You either become a better fighter, or you get better friends.

Four childhood friends are reunited at a former friend’s funeral. They all had taken separate paths, one becoming a police officer, another taking up mantle as a crime boss, another a debt collector, and the last a school teacher. Their friend was murdered, and they begin to suspect that this was not just a random attack, but more like an organized hit. When more and more violence is brought upon them, their investigation into the murder seems to be making waves with the local community.

55.   Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010)

Like a cannonball with limbs, Donnie Yen annihilates foes with savage attacks.

Chen Zhen is brought back from his previous exploits to battle the Japanese once again. This time Chen finds himself assisting local resistance forces in Shanghai against the impending invasion from Japan. He uncovers a plot to set local warlords against each other, and dons a superhero persona to sabotage the plans. This upset prompts the Japanese to publish a kill list, and their secret agency stationed in Shanghai goes to work. Chen must race to prevent these deaths, and stop the assassins before they can aid the invasion.

54.   Taken (2008)

Do not come between a man and his family, especially if it’s Liam Neeson.

Bryan Mills, an ex-CIA operative, is attempting to bond with his teenage daughter, but things go awry fast. On her extended trip to Europe she is kidnapped, and the only clues he has to her whereabouts are in the hotel. He travels to France, and begins the frantic search for anything that could lead him closer to the attackers. When his only lead dies, he turns to a former colleague for help, and they carve a blood bath to the kidnappers. With time running short, Bryan is determined to find his daughter at all costs.

53.   The Matrix (1999)

The spawn rate in the Matrix is ridiculous.

The movie that redefined action and fighting movies. The hacker Neo must make a choice: live his life in a fake comfort, or awaken from the illusion and fight for humanity. Prophesied as the savior to humanity, Neo accepts his role to defeat the Matrix, undeterred by the obstacles thrown his way. But will he be able to control the simulated world around him, as it is foretold? Mind blowing sequences, physics wrecking stunts, and a unique plot helped shape this movie as a fighting favorite.

52.   Unleashed (2005)

The fight for freedom goes beyond physical chains.

Shot in Glasgow, UK, “Unleashed” is the story of Danny the Dog. Danny is the sub-human enforcer for a loan shark. Once his collar is removed, he is violent, skilled, and ruthless. With the collar, he is timid, and cannot think for himself. The loan shark realizes that he could make way more money using Danny for underground fighting, however, he is shot, and Danny manages to escape. He is taken in by a blind piano tuner and his musically talented step-daughter, who help him become more civilized. This period of peace ends quickly when he is spotted and returned to the loan shark, and forced back into the ring.

51.   13 Assassins (2011)

The markings of true warriors: covered in blood, sweat, and deadly intent.

A Japanese tale, loosely based on true history, taking place in 1840s Japan. A corrupt and ruthless warlord inflicts his own brand of justice on the citizens in his care. He enjoys immunity from his crimes due to his relation to the Shogun. The Justice Minister tasks Shimada Shinzaemon with carrying out the assassination, giving them access to financial assets. He hires 11 samurai, and they booby trap a village for the oncoming conflict, and ensure that the warlord will have to travel through the village. Meanwhile an old childhood friend has sworn loyalty to the warlord, and will stop at nothing to sabotage Shimada’s efforts.

50.   The Karate Kid (2010)

A refreshing take at the teacher/student martial arts dynamic.

A pre-teen is transplanted from his home in Detroit, Michigan, and moved to Beijing, China. Tough enough as it is being the new kid on the block, Dre’s issues become worse when he is bullied by a young martial arts expert. He is spared by an older gentleman, who reveals himself to be an expert fighter. Originally rejecting Dre’s pleas to be trained, he is spurred to action when the local martial arts teacher refuses to reign in his pupils. He suggests that Dre enter the tournament, and stand up to the bullies there. “The Karate Kid” taps into the charm of its predecessors with quirky training mechanics, that teach the protagonist there is more to the art than just violence.

49.   Chocolate (2008)

How far will you go to save the most important person in your life?

“Chocolate” is a movie about family. A Japanese Yakuza and a Thai woman earn the scorn of her Gangster ex-boyfriend, who in a fit of jealousy, mutilates himself to force her to leave the Yakuza. After the gangster intimidates her, she is mutilated as well, and seeks to distance herself from him. She moves into a building shared with a Muay Thai school, where her little girl, Zen, absorbs the techniques by watching the students. When the mother falls ill from cancer, and they cannot afford the price of chemo treatments, Zen goes out to collect on the debts owed to her.

48. Dragon/Wu Xia (2011)

There is no safe angle from this fearsome fighter.

The year is 1917 in China. An ordinary man named Liu Jinxi lives with his family in peace. When the local general store is threatened by two bandits, he fights and kills them. Turns out that one of them was a dangerous fugitive, wanted by the government, which has the village cheering for Liu. However, a detective in charge of the investigation senses there is more to the story, and discovers that Liu is a highly wanted criminal. As a man of high moral standards, he seeks out a warrant for the arrest of Liu, but is blocked and is forced to pay a bribe instead.  The detective pays the magistrate for the warrant, unaware that his good intentions are about to have extremely negative consequences for himself and Liu.  

 47.   Ninja Assassin (2009)

Who else will kill the world’s greatest assassins?

Raizo is an orphan taken in by the Ozuno Ninja Clan. All of his “siblings” are orphans, and they are all training to become ninjas to serve Lord Ozuno. Raizo is treated differently as he is selected to become the successor of the clan. When he witnesses his love interest attempt escape, and be publicly executed as a result, he hatches a scheme to escape as well. His attempt is successful, but the assassination of Lord Ozuno is not, and he is left for dead in a river. From this point on, he trains to intervene in the assassinations of the Ozuno Clan.

46.   Rush Hour 2 (2001)

Down to their bare essentials, these two are still a dangerous pair.

The second installment in the “Rush Hour” series, sees the comedic duo Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan blaze through Hong Kong. Carter convinces Lee to take a break from work, vacationing in Hong Kong. An explosion at the US Consulate building drags Lee back into work, much to Carter’s disdain. Carter has to cope with the language barrier on turf that Lee is highly familiar with. Their investigation leads them to trouble, with Carter being ordered back to the United States. Lee accompanies him, and they continue their investigation with new leads.

45.   Rush Hour (1998)

The character dynamic is genuinely funny, and complements the action well.

Detective Inspector Lee is assigned a major case. He is to investigate the disappearance of a diplomat’s daughter. However, the FBI do not want to take on responsibility for him, instead pawning him off to the LAPD. The LAPD assign him James Carter as punishment for his recent poor performance. Lee is unfamiliar with the ways of American culture, and it is up to Carter to keep him in the loop. As they pick up clues on the kidnapper, they get more and more wrapped up in the politics of international relations, until a botched ransom drop gets Lee sent back to Hong Kong, but Carter is not willing to just drop the case.

44.   Police Story 2 (1988)

A master of his art and his environment.

The second installment of the wildly popular “Police Story” series, Chan is faced with the consequences of his actions from his previous adventure. The criminal he put behind bars is released due to medical issues, and vows to ruin his life for as long as he is alive. This leads to several attacks on Chan and his loved ones. He is enraged by the brazenness of the attacks, and takes matters into his own hands, viciously retaliating against the criminals responsible. His actions reflect negatively upon his character and he decides to resign from the police force, and take a vacation with his girlfriend. Little does he know that he is never too far from good police work.

43.   Fearless (2006)

Every weapon can be yours, regardless of who is wielding it.

Not many films capture the magic that is the pride of a martial artist. “Fearless” does so using a historically based narrative to drive home a magnificent point. It tells the tale of Huo Yuanjia, a skilled martial artist whose excellent fighting skills helped build pride in China’s citizens. Beginning from his childhood, seeing his father defeated due to his honor, Huo vows to regain the pride of his family’s name. He trains behind his father’s back, and becomes extremely proficient, thus winning many matches. He becomes famous for his skills, but is arrogant and bloodthirsty. When a conflict between his rival, and one of his own students comes to his attention, he goes out of his way to teach him a lesson, but instead he sets off a chain reaction of dark events.

42.   Dragon Tiger Gate (2006)

All you need are skills. And lots of skilled friends.

This complex tale is about two half-brothers separated by circumstance. Dragon, the older of the two, serves a triad boss as a bodyguard, whereas Tiger still resides at the Dragon Tiger Gate academy. Both were orphaned when their mother died in a fire, a two-piece amulet being the only thing that they have in common. While the triads wrestle for control of a symbolic plaque, Dragon encounters Tiger, both unaware of their relation. They meet under different circumstance later, realizing their relation due to their pendants. Their reunion is brief, as Dragon’s boss wants out from the organization, which means trouble for Dragon as well.

41.   The Grandmaster (2013)

The title of Grandmaster is sacred to all arts, and Ip Man earns it thoroughly.

The legend that is Ip Man starts here, in this biographical view of his life. From his beginnings as a martial arts disciple, his ascension as a skilled fighter, to his eventual death in 1972, the movie covers the important factors. Central to his character is Gong Er, the daughter of a skilled martial arts champion, who challenges Ip Man to a fight after her father admits defeat by philosophical values by him. Embarrassed for this disappointing fight, she establishes a special rule for the fight, to which Ip Man agrees. He loses, but they remain on good terms, keeping in contact long after they’ve parted ways. This friendship is key to the lesson learned in “The Grandmaster.”

40.   The Protector (2005)

Tony Jaa explodes on screen with his signature savage strikes.

An endearing tale about a man who goes above and beyond the call of duty to protect those sacred to him. Kham is the last of a long line of war elephant guards. He has formed close bonds with the elephant entrusted to him, and its calf. However, a corrupt Member of Parliament assists poachers in stealing her from him. Kham gives chase all the way to Sydney, Australia, where he is met with heavy resistance from local police and the criminal underground. He finds himself assisting a disgraced police officer, who is facing serious false charges. Nothing and nobody can stand in the way of his mission to find his beloved “family.”

 39.   Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003)

The price paid for being an obstacle in someone’s conquest.

From the heart of Thailand, home of Muay Thai, comes the debut of Tony Jaa. Wanting to share Muay Thai with the rest of the world, Tony worked hard to have this film enter mainstream media. Ting is the hero of the story, who is tasked with retrieving the head of the Ong-Bak buddha statue. He travels to Bangkok on a lead, and meets up with his cousin, who has since cast off his rural ways. Dragged into desperate situations, Ting must utilize his superior Muay Thai skills to overcome the obstacles thrown his way. Through coincidence he finds the people responsible for the theft of the statue head, and urges his cousin to assist him in the retrieval.

38.   Warrior (2011)

He should have seen this coming the moment he started rocking a mohawk.

Tommy and Brendan are polar opposites. Tommy is a U.S. Marine, at odds with their recovering alcoholic father. Brendan is a high school teacher and former MMA fighter, struggling with bills after a medical emergency. Both enter the world of underground fighting; Brendan to make ends meet, and Tommy does so to make a point. Tommy has not forgiven Brendan for the circumstances of their abusive father, and not being there when their mother became terminally ill. This grudge is the driving force of the movie, following the fighters through the tournament, where they face multiple opponents, and must face each other in the end.

37.   Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)

There wasn’t a single muscle in Bruce’s body that wasn’t capable of murder.

There are so many things to say about Bruce Lee, but thankfully this movie says the most important parts. A biography about his life, and rise to fame, it focuses on his journey to the silver screen. It starts with his relationship with his father, and moves on to his struggles in America, his controversial marriage to an American, and his goal of establishing a martial arts school. When his idea for a TV show places another actor in the role meant for him, he returns to China, where his previous show has brought him moderate fame. But his greatest role is just around the corner.

36.   Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)

The inmates compete for reduced sentences, pardons, or prison favors.

The third installment of the prison fighting franchise reintroduces Boyka as the protagonist. Boyka has simmered down since the events of the last film, but the enterprise of prison fights have only expanded. Boyka has failed his parole, but when he hears of the new tournament starting, promising cleared records and early release, he begins training again despite his old injury. He is transferred to another prison where he butts heads with an American boxer named “Turbo” Jones, who reminds him of his previous rival. But they will find little time to fight each other as they begin to uncover the futility of fighting against the new prisons champion?

35.   Undisputed II: Last Man Standing (2006)

Finding himself outmatched, Iceman will have to improvise to learn the ways of MMA.

Rolling off the end of “Undisputed”, “Last Man Standing” has “Iceman” Chambers going to Russia for a boxing competition. But he is framed, and thrown in jail again, and once more finds himself in the prison fighting scheme. Originally refusing to participate, he is egged on by a mob boss looking to profit from the fights. He must face the champion Boyka, the seasoned veteran to the inmate fighting ring. But he quickly learns that his one-sided style for boxing needs to be supplemented, and he seeks the help of other inmates to train him.

34.   Undisputed (2002)

Titles are just words. Put your money where your mouth is.

Prison is a tough place, so it’s a perfect place for an illegal fighting ring. Professional boxer “Iceman” Jones is sentenced to prison and finds himself faced with a world he does not understand. The prison’s current champion, Hutchens, is a quiet, reserved man, indeed the opposite of Iceman’s loud and boisterous personality. A well-connected inmate seizes the opportunity to bring forth a great fight between the undefeated Hutchens, and the skilled boxer.

33.   Drunken Master (1978)

Pain is weakness leaving the body. Or a hangover.

Wong Fei-Hung is in big trouble. He repeatedly disappoints his father, who sends him to train with a raggedy old man with a taste for sadism. Fei-Hung runs away, but ends up right back into the hands of the old man. When he is confronted by a legendary killer, he doesn’t back down and is beaten severely. Humbling himself, he returns to his new mentor and commences the rigorous training program.

32.   Blood and Bone (2009)

Bringing his unique style of crisp martial arts, Michael Jai White brings elegance to the street fighting scene.

Recently released from prison, Isaiah Bone is on a warpath. He goes directly to a LA Underground fight promoter, and signs himself right in. He sweeps his first opponents easily, but his attention is on the girlfriend of a mob boss. He sees her suffering, but he must bide his time. Meanwhile he climbs the rank ladder, and lands himself in the interests of an international fighting ring. Using this pull, he sets himself up for one of the biggest fights of his life.

31.   Never Back Down: No Surrender (2016)

Killing intent has never looked this dangerous.

Case Walker is back in the MMA world, but he is weary of it. He has relegated himself to the amateur side, teaching his opponents better fighting philosophies. There he meets up with an old acquaintance, who is signed on to the biggest fight of his life, and want Case to train him. They leave for Thailand, and Case immediately starts butting heads with the other trainer. Amidst all the drama, he finds himself attracted to the marketing director, and taking in two youngsters under his wing. Everything seems manageable, but Case isn’t too sure that this fight is right for his friend.

30.   Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (2011)

The team has to get past their differences and find common ground to train.

The first movie directed by Michael Jai White, the film features four young adults finding their way in the martial arts world. Case Walker is there to teach them, but first he must figure out their character and motivations for fighting. As any situation with high testosterone, the group butts head frequently, and eventually finds that one of them isn’t here for noble intentions anymore. Many MMA fighters make appearances in the film, showing a grounded sense of realism.

29.   Never Back Down (2008)

“Never Back Down” lives up to its name, never straying from the action.

New kid at the school, Jake, is hot headed, and quick to fight. He is constantly taunted about his late father who died in drunk driving accident. He is targeted by the school’s MMA prodigy, and publicly humiliated. To counter this loss, his only friend takes him to a local trainer who turns out to be a specialist in MMA. After the fruits of his labor are recorded and distributed around the school, the bully challenges him to work his way through the local MMA competition. Jake at first refuses, but after his friend is beaten to a pulp, agrees, and begins training harder than ever.

28.   Wild Card (2015)

Nick Wild, smashing his way through a problem.

Nick Wild is a gambling addict who earns money as a bodyguard for hire. One night his presence is requested by a friend of his. An escort by trade, she was raped and dumped in a hospital parking lot, and she wants Nick to find out who committed this attack. Nick confronts the gangster responsible, and easily beats his henchmen. She seeks to mutilate the man responsible, but instead just steals cash from him instead and splits it with Nick. Nick immediately goes to gambling, and a strange run of luck makes him come to a chilling realization.

27.   The Mechanic (2011)

Jason Statham hates babysitting.

A Mechanic is a slang term for a mafia hitman. Bishop specializes in making his hits seem like accidents. He is successful due to his meticulous and detailed nature. Unfortunately, he receives a peculiar task, to kill his former mentor. Despite his doubts, he fulfills the contract, and at the funeral, meets his mentor’s off the wall son, Steve. Steve is hell bent on getting revenge, but Bishop intervenes, and instead takes him on as a pupil. While possessing the focus required to be a ‘Mechanic’, Steve blunders the first hit, but continues his training. However, Bishop encounters a ‘ghost’, someone whom he thought had been killed by his mentor.

26.   The Transporter 3 (2008)

The mark of a gentleman can be found in the flourish of his coat.

Frank Martin is back again, and this time in Europe. Another Transporter has gone rogue. Frank is reacquainted with him the same night, as he crashes his car into his home. The young woman in the backseat survives, but warns him not to remove her from the car, as both the driver and she are fitted with a device that explodes if they stray from the vehicle. A corrupt business man is demanding that the head of the Ukraine Environmental Agency renegotiate a contract that would allow him to import dangerous chemicals. He has something that the government official wants back, and now has forced Frank to transport the “Package” to him.

25.   The Transporter 2 (2005)

He’s probably had worse first dates, though.

Frank Martin has moved from France to the United States. In Miami, Florida, he works as the Transporter for a wealthy family, whose son he builds bonds with. During a routine medical checkup for the young boy, Frank realizes they are deep in a trap, and all hell breaks loose. They narrowly escape the hospital, but he is forced to concede and drive to their attackers. They take the boy hostage, and he is sent off, but not without an attempt on his life. He manages to save himself, but is disappointed at his inability to save the young boy. However, after a ransom is paid, he is returned to his family unharmed, but loaded with a deadly virus. Frank must track down the kidnappers, and find a cure before it is too late.

 24.   The Transporter (2002)

Better watch where you’re pointing that thing. You could hurt yourself.

Jason Statham brings to life Frank Martin, a Transporter, a man that will take anything, anywhere, anytime. Pay his price, and he will be there on time. He lives by a simple set of rules, which guide him through his career. While on a job for an American criminal, he violates one of his rules and discovers a young woman bound and gagged. Nonetheless, he delivers the payload, and receives his next job. Through a stroke of luck, he survives an assassination attempt orchestrated by the American, and decides to retaliate.

23.   Blade (1998)

Everybody finds themselves surrounded by people who sap their energy.

Marvel Comic’s first box office success, “Blade” showered the audience in violence, and clever visual effects. Blade is the Human Vampire Hybrid, who has taken a vow to protect humans from vampires. He expertly slashes his way through a nightclub for vampires, and as a result, has one of the vampires sent to the hospital. There, the vampire feeds on a young doctor, who Blade takes into his safe house to tend her wounds and spin her up on what’s to come for her. Meanwhile, the younger, less pure vampires are tired of living on the bottom of the social ladder, and their leader stages a coup against the elders that control them.

22.   Southpaw (2015)

A man who has found that he has something to lose is still a dangerous man.

You make enemies when you’re at the top. Billy Hope is undefeated, and this attracts all kinds of contenders. His wife urges him to retire, due to an eye injury sustained during his title defense match. However, a hungry successful boxer intentionally goads him into fighting, and Billy falls for it. During the chaos, his wife is shot and killed. This leads to a downward spiral of drinking, losing fights, and losing his possessions. He can no longer safely care for his daughter, who is taken by CPS. Broken down, he finds a job at a gym, where a seasoned veteran of the ring resides. He is taken under his wing, and begins training again, hoping to find his way back to the top.

21. Rocky Balboa (2006)

There’s only so much CGI can do to make Stallone look less goofy.

The direct sequel to the previous “Rocky” franchise, this tale is warm, and deep in meaning. Rocky has been retired for over two decades, a widower, and estranged from his own son. He runs a restaurant, but it isn’t enough to fill the void in his life. In the boxing world, a new up-and-comer is undefeated, but his ability is in doubt as he has not had a real challenge. The idea emerges that he could face the once famous Rocky, and prove his mettle. Both fighters are reluctant to do so, but end up agreeing to this match. Rocky is not aware of how much this one match could change his life.

20.   Creed (2015)

Lightning punches and quick feet keep you glued to your seat.

The latest in the “Rocky” Franchise, we find the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis “Donnie” Johnson. He is released from prison, and is taken in by his father’s, now widowed, wife. He begins working a steady job, but soon quits to follow his dream of becoming a professional boxer. He attempts to join the gym owned by his half-brother, but is rejected. So instead he flies to Philadelphia to seek out none other than Rocky Balboa. The now elderly man agrees to training Donnie, but later learns that he is extremely ill. Meanwhile, Donnie makes a successful debut, and the world connects the dots between him and Apollo. He is urged to take on the “Creed” mantle, but is reluctant to do so.

19.   Ali (2001)

Will Smith delivers a smashing performance as Muhammad Ali.

“Ali” is a biographical account of Muhammad Ali’s career, his ups and downs for the title of Heavyweight Champion. Beginning at his fight with Sonny Liston, the movie takes the audience through his conversion to Islam, his refusal to participate in the draft, and loss of title and boxing license. His conviction is overturned later and he makes a great comeback. But to regain the title of Heavyweight Champion he must face Joe Frasier, his first real challenge.

18.   The Fighter (2010)

A film that paints its scenes with pain, and fills the air with drama.

Mickey is a boxer from Massachusetts, managed by his mother, and trained by his half-brother Dicky. His mother is manipulative, and Dicky is a drug addict. Mickey doesn’t see a lot of respect come his way as a boxer, and a fight with a mismatched opponent makes this ever so clear to him. He retreats and meets a woman he begins a relationship with. His mother and her siblings berate him for “losing motivation”, blaming his new relationship, whereas Dicky tries to dissuade him from finding better opportunities by offering him more money to stay. Their tumultuous relationship begins to crumble after Dicky lands himself in jail for a botched scam.

17.  Anderson Silva: Like Water (2011)

Touted as one of the greatest fighters in the world, Anderson Silva is a destructive force to be reckoned with.

Anderson Silva has become a household name thanks to the widespread of the UFC. But what more is there to say about the man with the longest title streak in UFC history, which lasted over six years. He was born in Brazil, to a poor family, and involved himself in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at a young age, despite having little to no money. His rise through the cutthroat world of MMA is detailed, and highlighted with footage from actual fights, as well as his own personal anecdotes about the sport.

16.   Unbeatable (2013)

Sometimes a man must make a choice, and live with this choice for life.

Fai is in trouble. A disgraced boxing champion, he now owes debts to the Triads, who will stop at nothing to get their money. When they torch his taxi, he escapes to Macau. Once there he is hooked up with a job at the local gym, and offered a room with a young girl who is taking care of her distressed mother. At the gym, a fighting newbie asks for his help, and he offers to train him. At the big tournament, Fai’s pupil makes steady progress, reaching the semifinals. This attracts the attention of the loan sharks, who attack Fai and the family he is living with. His pupil on the other hand is beaten, and suffers debilitating injuries, preventing him from continuing. Fai decides that it’s time to take this into his own hands.

15.   Fight Club (1999)

Ain’t nothing like breaking the first rule of “Fight Club.”

The unnamed protagonist is a strange concept in films, but no other movie has gone quite to this length to impress us with the implications of not knowing who we are watching. After his apartment explodes, and he loses all his possessions, the Narrator gets in contact with Tyler Durden, a renegade soap salesman. He offers him a place to stay. The two have a strange dynamic, and Tyler introduces people to the “Fight Club,” where the everyday man can put out his aggression. But the Narrator starts questioning whether Tyler is taking things too far.

14.   The Raid 2 (2014)

“The Raid 2” features heart pounding action and a complex plot.

An action-packed adventure in the heart of Jakarta, our story deals with rugged gangsters, corrupt police, vicious assassins, and a few people who want to set the world right. Honest cop Rama, is tasked with going undercover to uncover the shady dealings of a few corrupt officials in the police department. To gain access to the target gangs, he commits a “crime” and gets sent to the same prison where the gang boss’ son is incarcerated. Protecting him during a riot, Rama is released soon, and joins the gang in hopes of penetrating further into the trail of corruption.

 13.   War (2007)

Locked in a battle, the two must consider what they are fighting for.

The loss of his partner at the hands of the assassin ‘Rogue’, has CIA operative Crawford devastated. Rogue emerges years later amidst the chaos of an ongoing feud between the Japanese Yakuza and the Chinese Triads. He begins stoking the fires to incite a deadly war, hoping to destroy both in the process. Crawford gets himself involved in the case again, and is hell bent on avenging his partner’s death. The two of them chase each other around tirelessly, trying to maintain the upper hand on each other.

12.   Rise of the Legend (2014)

Wong Fei-Hung is the legendary Chinese Martial Artist known for his “No Shadow Kick.”

The Chinese legend of Wong Fei-Hung, the master of Wushu, is well renowned in all of China. Part of his story is told in this Kung Fu epic. Wong Fei-Hung involves himself in a gang turf war, and his success lands him in great favor to the boss. He is highly revered and his skill even admired, and he is named a godson to the boss. But Fei-Hung’s ambitions do not stop there, as he attempts to ascend into a higher status.

11.   The Hammer (2010)

Being deaf just means you can’t hear people criticize.

Based on a true story, “The Hammer” details the struggles of Matt Hamill, a deaf collegiate wrestler who went on to become a three time NCAA champion. He graduates high school as an accomplished wrestler, but finds it hard to cope with college life due to his disability. In addition to being socially awkward, his grades begin to fall and he must drop out. However, his amazing talent with wrestling earn him an opportunity to attend a college with a special program for people with disabilities.

10.   Bodyguards and Assassins (2009)

Making sure you are remembered in history is just as important as staying low key.

A vital revolutionary is coming to town, and the locals have heard of the plot to assassinate him. Instead of sitting by idly, they band together and hatch a counter-assassination plan. They will need all the help they can get, as the days get closer and they witness their benefactors assaulted or killed. Despite the strong opposition, they continue to resist, and set up a distraction for the coming assassins.

9. Special ID (2014)

Donnie Yen revives an era of stunning visual feats, and violent encounters.

Dragon Chan is undercover in one of the most dangerous Chinese gangs. The gang boss suspects there are traitors in his ranks, and he will stop at nothing to weed them out. Dragon fears for his safety, but is more concerned about what would happen to his family, were his cover to be blown. Things start heating up for Chan when his other undercover colleagues are spotted one by one and eradicated.

8. Ip Man 3 (2015)

A clash of culture, as east meets west.

Ip Man is living life under the radar with his family in Hong Kong. He is introduced to Bruce Lee, who wishes to be mentored, but Ip is unsure about him and tells him to return at a later date. He witnesses the local Triad leader attacking the school headmaster, and intervenes, causing a cascading effect in which he is left no option but to protect the school with his pupils. The school is torched, but everybody comes away safely, with help from another martial artist. But the trouble has just begun, as the Triad leader does not take too kindly to being humiliated.

7.       Ip Man 2 (2010)

The impressive skills of his adversaries are outshone by his sharp counters.

Now residing in Hong Kong after escaping the war antics of the mid 1940s, Ip Man wishes to establish a school, but he has no connections, and can’t seem to be able to attract students. This changes when he is challenged, and then ganged up on by a random martial artist. Defeating them easily, they all become his students, and bring in more disciples. As his influence grows, he attracts the attention of other martial arts schools and clubs. He realizes that the schools are under a protection racket run by the superintendent in charge of the district. Refusing to pay the dues, he is harassed until he decides to move his school away from the area. Unfortunately, his previous enemy turned friend invites him to view a boxing exhibition, featuring an arrogant and disrespectful boxer who issues a challenge that can’t be turned down.

6. Ip Man (2008)

When faced with unbeatable odds, become an unbeatable obstacle.

Ip Man is portrayed by Donnie Yen, in this biographical retelling of his exploits. He is faced with the Japanese invasion of China. Ip is wealthy, and the invaders take over his home as the headquarters for their military. He is forced to work menial labor to provide for his family. Meanwhile the Japanese General sets up a fighting competition, promising the winners one bag of rice per win. Ip enters for the sake of his family, and subsequently attracts the attention of the general. Ip refuses to return to fighting, prompting the general to take drastic measures.

5. Flash Point (2007)

Ma delivers a savage kick right to the table, served up hot.

Nothing gets past Ma Jun, Detective Sergeant in the Hong Kong Police Department. Tough as nails, and very stoic in his approach to police work, he must apprehend three brothers setting up a cross gang drug deal. As the brothers attempt to clean up loose ends by intimidation or murder, Ma must protect his partner that was placed as a mole in the gang. When his cover is blown, it becomes an all out race to stay ahead of the trio, and protect any remaining witnesses, lest they all be killed.

4. Kill Zone [Sha Po Lang] (2005)

Ma Kwan has never shied away from a fight.

Police inspector Chan has spent a significant amount of his career chasing a notoriously slippery triad boss. He hits his breaking point while escorting a vital witness goes wrong, and they lose all ground they had gained. In addition to this, he learns that he is terminally ill as well, which just adds more flame to his fire. Three years pass, and he is still no closer to nailing the Triad. He is to be replaced by Ma Kwon, a police officer from another district with a turbulent past. Ma steps up to the new role, but is appalled at learning that Chan’s team has gotten desperate, willing to misrepresent a crime to implicate the Triad Boss.

3. Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Stephen Chow fires this silly adventure at us full speed.

Sing seeks to share the arts and mystery of Shaolin Kung Fu with the world, but can’t think of any way to make it stick. He meets a crippled soccer legend who offers to help him promote his sport if he can infuse it with soccer. He gathers his brothers, and together they cause an upset victory over a local team, recruiting them for their larger matches. They blaze through the Hong Kong open cup competition, making it to the finals, where they must face the sinister Team Evil.

2. The Raid: Redemption (2011)

The mission is dangerous, and the survivability is low.

Urban raids are dangerous, close quarters engagements, where the uncertainty of the outcome is multiplied with the speed of the assault. We follow a police squad on the verge of conducting a raid on a building owned by a cunning gangster. Jakarta is dangerous already, and this building is filled with dangerous criminals, taking advantage of the refuge provided. As their raid begins to go sideways, they begin to question the motives of their colleagues, as well as to why the enemy is so well prepared.

1. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

A weapon is as useless as its wielder.

A simple-minded thug named Sing tries to get himself and his friend inducted into a local gang. After they attempt to intimidate residents of a neighborhood, the gang leader sends his men to find Sing, and reestablish their dominance. The residents happen to be formidable martial artists, and defeat the gang’s henchmen. Sing and is friend are captured, but they prove to be incredible escape artists, impressing the boss, and he sends the pair out to free an unstable skilled martial artist from an insane asylum.

Did you find the right inspiration yet?

Just as the world of martial arts is vast and unbounded, so are the tales we tell of them. Without the infusion of culture, they would remain cold hard sciences. As we inflect these movies onto ourselves and future generations, we can be proud to preserve such awe-inspiring legends. And someday even our descendants will be inspired by them.

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Kat is a prolific writer and history major trying to seek out a destiny in the gaming industry while studying the past.
Gamer Since: 1999
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Mass Effect: Andromeda
Top 3 Favorite Games:Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Mount & Blade: Warband

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