Skip to main content
/entertainment

Top of the chops: The Screening Room's top 10 kung fu films

  • Story Highlights
  • Iconic kung fu star Bruce Lee hits the top spot with "Enter the Dragon"
  • Tarantino's genre tributes, "Kill Bill 1&2," are stylish and bloody
  • "The Matrix" is a sci-fi kung fu movie with slickly made fight sequences
  • But Jean-Claude Van Damme's "Street Fighter" lacks the killer punch
  • Next Article in Entertainment »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Bad dubbing, angry men with extraordinary facial hair, balletic fighting and more blood than you can shake a nunchuck at: just some of the key ingredients to make a perfect kung fu flick.

Tony Jaa may be the modern day Bruce Lee, and in "Ong-bak" he shows off his impressive skills.

Whether it's a traditional tale of ancient Chinese fighting mystics, or a slickly made, modern bloodfest, kung fu has always been a rich part of cinema.

We've compiled a list of 10 of the best. Don't agree? Think we've missed one? Share your views by using the Sound Off box below and we'll publish the best.

1. Enter the Dragon
(Robert Clouse, 1973)

Bruce Lee's last movie before his untimely death, this is him at his very best. A man on a revenge mission, Lee travels to a mysterious island to fight in a deadly tournament hosted by an evil billionaire. Along with being technically amazing -- the nunchucks scene is jaw-dropping -- it's the most stylish and iconic martial arts film ever made.

2. Ong-bak
(Prachya Pinkaew, 2003)

Tony Jaa is a modern master. He has appeared in very few major releases, but has already made a huge impact. "Ong-bak" is the perfect showcase for his extraordinary skills: whether he's fighting a roomful of people or taking part in the most exciting chase we have ever seen -- jumping through rings of barbed wire and sliding under moving cars while doing the splits -- he makes this film every bit the martial arts spectacle.

3. Wong Fei Hung (Once Upon a Time in China)
(Hark Tsui, 1991)

Part Chinese history, part gripping kung fu movie, this eastern epic has Jet Li demonstrating his talents as the eponymous hero who stands up to invading foreign forces in 19th century China. Armed with a limitless arsenal of martial arts moves, Li takes on masses of gun-toting, badly acting opponents. A visual delight and Jet Li's best work.

4. Kill Bill 1 & 2
(Quentin Tarantino, 2003/2004)

The Screening Room
CNN's monthly movie show brings you the inside track on the movie business.

Quentin Tarantino is a movie geek -- specifically, a B-movie geek -- and kung fu has long held a place in his heart. "Kill Bill," his tribute to the genre, ticks every box: revenge; a powerful, all-knowing nemesis; stylish fights, costumes and music; and blood, lots and lots of blood.

5. Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
(Ang Lee, 2000)

Every eye-catching detail of this touching and beautiful film works. A love story with outlaws, witches and Shaolin monks is augmented by breathtaking cinematography and some fantastic performances from Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh and newcomer Ziyi Zhang. This visual feast tugs at the heart strings better than any karate chop could.

6. The Karate Kid
(John G. Avildsen, 1984)

A simple but well-executed plot sees Ralph Macchio's underdog work his way up an unconventional path to take on the mean and nasty establishment. It spawned a spate of copycat films, while thousands of children signed up to after-school karate; everyone now knows how to defend themselves by waxing on or off and that the best fighting move is obviously The Crane. Hiya!

7. Ging chaat goo si (Police Story)
(Jackie Chan, 1985)

Jackie Chan is probably China's biggest export to Hollywood, well-known for doing his own death-defying stunts. This is one of the films that got him noticed in the United States. When he fights, Chan is unstoppable: he uses every prop on the set and puts himself in enormous physical danger. Out and out fun.

8. Shogun Assassin
(Robert Houston, 1980)

Referenced several times in Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films, this forgotten classic must have set a record for the amount of blood spilt as our hero crosses the country on a revenge mission. Early on, Tomisaburo Wakayama says "they will pay with rivers of blood"; he isn't wrong. Violent and wonderful.

9. Siu lam juk kau (Shaolin Soccer)
(Stephen Chow, 2001)

Should this be in the best or worst list? It's definitely unique. Once described as "the best kung fu football film of all time," this is one of the more ridiculous films of the genre. A group of down-and-out martial arts experts form a five-a-side football team to take on a group of evil, drug-taking clones. It's as simple, and as silly as that. And it's one of our guiltiest pleasures.

10. The Matrix
(Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999)

A sci-fi spin on the genre, this modern classic has all the key elements: our hero has superhuman powers; the bad guys, led by the relentless Agent Smith, form part of a shady, all-powerful organization intent on oppressing humankind; and the fight scenes are fantastically technical. Against all the odds, it appears Keanu really does know Kung Fu.

....................................

Don't agree? Think we've missed one? Read others' comments and share your views by using the Sound Off box below.

....................................

And the mainstream films that lacked the killer punch ...

Street Fighter
(Steven E. de Souza, 1994)

Jean-Claude Van Damme has made some good films, really he has. "Kickboxer" nearly made it into our top 10. But this is, by a huge margin, his worst effort. Most depressing, though, is that this was the last major outing for Raul Julia -- not the way he should be remembered. Great game; terrible film.

The Karate Kid, Part III
(John G. Avildsen, 1989)

The franchise came out of part two with a little credibility intact, but this last installment -- unless you include "The Next Karate Kid" (which no self-respecting "Karate Kid" fan would) -- managed to kill off our last shred of enthusiasm. Where the original might have inspired you to take up karate, this would put you off the sport, and probably kung fu movies too.

Bulletproof Monk
(Paul Hunter, 2003)

"I've got a great idea, let's take a well-respected Chinese actor and pair him up with an annoying teen-film actor in a mystical kung fu movie; it can't fail!" Unsurprisingly, this film was a disaster, shoe-horning silly fight scenes into a plot that spirals from implausible to disturbingly stupid. A frightful mistake, and one of our worst-named films to boot.

Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
(Geoff Murphy, 1995)

The first "Under Siege" was a surprisingly good film, and Hollywood's best martial arts expert acquits himself well, but this follow up is laughable. Seagal still fights like the best, but has lost the ability to speak, and whispers his way through the dialogue. Considering the action takes place on a train, we were amazed his co-stars could hear him. Come on, Steven, you were so much better when you were just a lowly, lowly cook.

Game of Death
(Robert Clouse, 1978)

Through no fault of his own, this is Bruce Lee's posthumous contribution to the list. This tacky movie features fight scenes shot before Lee died, interspersed with material filmed using lookalikes and a cardboard cutout of the great man. The fights are impressive, but the rest of the film smacks of a cash-in -- they even use footage from Lee's actual funeral. A desperate slur on Lee's memory. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print
Quick Job Search
keyword(s):
enter city:
Home  |  World  |  U.S.  |  Politics  |  Crime  |  Entertainment  |  Health  |  Tech  |  Travel  |  Living  |  Money  |  Sports  |  Time.com
© 2014 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.