Martial arts movies first originated in China with The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple (1928). It was a silent movie directed by Chinese director Ying Yunwei and produced by the Mingxing Film Company.
Fast forward to this day, martial arts and kung fu movies have come a long way giving fans thrilling fighting choreography, and stunning acting from legendary actors such as Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jett Lee, and more.
Al Bawaba has got you covered with our must-watch list of martial arts movies from all over the world.
Must-watch martial arts and kung fu movies
1) The Raid Redemption (2011) – Country: Indonesia
The Raid Redemption was the movie to put Indonesian martial arts films on the map. It follows the story of a S.W.A.T. team invading a residential building owned by a mobster and his gang of ruthless killers.
It stars Iko Uwais as Rama and Joe Taslim as Jaka, both of them elevated the movie further with their amazing fighting choreography and acting.
Stay tuned since The Raid has two movies out already and a third one on the way.
2) Ip Man (2008) – Country: Hong Kong
Starring the legendary Donnie Yen, Ip Man tells the true story of Bruce Lee’s mentor during the Japanese invasion of China and the people around him trying to survive it.
Ip Man has a total of nine movies, four of which star Donnie Yen.
3) Shaolin Soccer (2001) – Country: Hong Kong
Shaolin Soccer is what happens if you combine football and Shaolin kung fu together.
It’s a comedy and drama movie starring the one and only Stephen Chow as a Shaolin follower as he forms a football team of kung fu brothers to take on the world of Hong Kong football.
4) Rush Hour (1998) – Country: United States
You can’t make a martial arts and kung fu list and not mention the iconic Jackie Chan!
Rush Hour is Al Bawaba’s favorite movie on the list, it stars the iconic cop duo, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan.
The story follows a dedicated Hong Kong policeman and an LAPD detective on their journey to save the Chinese Consul’s kidnapped daughter and arrest a dangerous crime lord.
Rush Hour has a total of three movies and they all have the charm of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
5) Kung Fu Hustle (2004) – Country: Hong Kong
Kung Fu Hustle is another hilarious movie fan favorite starring Stephen Chow and some of Shaolin Soccer’s cast.
It follows the story of a wanna-be gangster and his dreams of joining the “Axe Gang” in Shanghai, China in the 1940s vs. a bunch of powerful residents who want to protect their turf.
6) Kill Bill (2003) – Country: United States
Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill revolves around an assassin who wakes up from her four-year coma and swears revenge on a previous team of assassins who betrayed her.
The movie is known for its stunning cinematography, fighting scenes, and acting. there are two volumes of it and rumors about a third one in the works!
7) Enter the Dragon (1973) – Country: Hong Kong
The legendary Bruce Lee is the reason behind the popularity of kung fu movies in the West. He was a dominant figure in the martial arts entertainment industry and inspired many entertainers who followed in his shoes.
Enter The Dragon is not Bruce Lee’s first Hollywood film but it was the one that turned the Hong Kong star into an international icon.
It follows the story of a martial artist who travels to an island to spy on an opium lord through a fighting tournament.
8) Ong Bak (2003) – Country: Thailand
Ong Bak is Tony Jaa’s international breakthrough and it was what contributed to the popularity of Thailand’s Muay Thai in the West.
The story follows Ting (Tony Jaa), a martial artist who travels to the big city in hopes of retrieving a stolen head from a sacred statue residing in his village.
Ong Bak has three movies but only the first two are loved by fans.
9) The Karate Kid (1984) – Country: United States
Wax on, wax off!
We couldn’t make a martial arts movie list without adding the iconic 1984 movie, The Karate Kid! This movie was the childhood of many people worldwide because of its beautiful characters and story.
It tells the story of a martial arts master living in the US who agrees to teach Karate to an American kid who gets bullied.
Mr. Miyagi and Daniel LaRusso’s relationship is what makes this movie so special to a lot of people around the world.
The Karate Kid has three movies and a series that is currently running on Netflix under the name of Cobra Kai.
10) Police Story (1985) – Country: Hong Kong
The Police Story is considered one of Jackie Chan’s most iconic films because of its gripping storyline and the amazing stunts done by the legendary actor and stuntman.
Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong policeman who has to clear his name after being framed by a drug lord for murdering a dirty cop.
This concludes our list of the 10 must-watch martial arts and kung fu movies, Al Bawba hopes that you give these movies a try!