Martial arts film

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Martial arts film is a film genre. A sub-genre of the action film, martial arts films contain numerous martial arts fights between characters, usually as the films' primary appeal and entertainment value, and often as a method of storytelling and character expression and development. Martial arts are frequently featured in training scenes and other sequences in addition to fights. Martial arts films commonly include other types of action, such as stuntwork, chases, and/or gunfights.[1][2][3]


As with other action films, martial arts films are dominated by action to varying degrees; many martial arts films have only a minimal plot and amount of character development and focus almost exclusively on the action, while other martial arts films have more creative and complex plots and characters along with action scenes.[4] Films of the latter type are generally considered to be artistically superior films, but many films of the former type are commercially successful and well received by fans of the genre.[5][6]

Martial arts films contain many characters who are martial artists, and these roles are often played by actors who are real martial artists. If not, actors frequently train in preparation for their roles, or the action director may rely more on stylized action or film making tricks like camera angles, editing, doubles, undercranking, wire work, and computer-generated imagery. Trampolines and springboards can also be used to increase the height of jumps. These techniques are sometimes used by real martial artists as well, depending on the style of action in the film.[7]

During the 1970s and 1980s, the most visible presence of martial arts films was the hundreds of English dubbed kung fu and ninja films produced by the Shaw Brothers, Godfrey Ho, and other Hong Kong producers. These films were widely broadcast on North American television on weekend timeslots that were often colloquially known as Kung Fu Theater, Black Belt Theater, or variations thereof. Inclusive in this list of films are commercial classics like The Big Boss, Drunken Master, and One Armed Boxer.

Martial arts films have been produced all over the world, but the genre has been dominated by Hong Kong action cinema, peaking from 1971 with the rise of Bruce Lee until the mid-1990s with a general decline in the industry.[8] Other notable figures in the genre include Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Donnie Yen.

Sonny Chiba has appeared with karate and jidaigeki from Japan of the 1970s. Hollywood has also participated in the genre with actors such as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee), Wesley Snipes, Gary Daniels, Mark Dacascos, and Jason Statham.[9] In the 2000s, Thailand's film industry became an international force in the genre with the films of Tony Jaa,[10] and the Cinema of Vietnam followed suit with The Rebel and Clash. In more recent years, the Indonesian film industry has also become an international force in the genre, with the films Merantau (2009)[11][12][13] and The Raid: Redemption (2011).

Women have also played key roles in the genre, including such actresses as Michelle Yeoh, Angela Mao, and Cynthia Rothrock.[14][15][16] In addition, western animation has ventured into the genre with the most successful effort being the internationally hailed DreamWorks Animation film franchise, Kung Fu Panda, starring Jack Black and Angelina Jolie. Currently, an independent kung fu fantasy film called "Sins of the Dragon" is being produced by the new production company Platypus Underground, Ltd. It will be released in December.


Kung fu films are a significant movie genre in themselves. Like westerns for Americans, they have become an identity of Chinese cinema. As the most prestigious movie type in Chinese film history, Kung Fu movies were among the first Chinese films produced and the wuxia period films(武俠片) are the original form of Chinese Kung Fu films. The wuxia period films came into vogue due to the thousands of years popularity of wuxia novels(武俠小說). For example, Jin Yong[17] and Gu Long,[18] their wuxia novels directly led to the prevalence of wuxia period films. The most famous wuxia film made was the Ang Lee masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was based on the Wang Dulu series of wuxia novels: it earned four Academy Awards, including one for Best Foreign Film.

In Chinese-speaking world, martial arts films are commonly divided into two subcategories - the wuxia period films(武俠片), and the more modern Kung fu films(功夫片, best epitomized in the films of Bruce Lee).[19]

List of notable martial arts films[edit]

Year Title
1928 The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple
1943 Sanshiro Sugata
1945 Sanshiro Sugata Part II
1949 The True Story of Wong Fei Hung
1966 Come Drink with Me
1966 Dragon Inn
1967 The One-Armed Swordsman
1969 Chinese Boxer
1970 Vengeance
1971 The Big Boss
1971 Billy Jack
1972 King Boxer
1972 Fist of Fury (aka) The Chinese Connection
1972 Way of the Dragon
1973 Karate Kiba
1973 Enter the Dragon
1974 The Street Fighter series
1975 Champion of Death
1975 Karate Bearfighter
1977 Karate for Life
1977 Doberman Cop
1977 Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon
1978 Game of Death
1978 Shogun's Samurai
1978 Five Deadly Venoms
1978 The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
1978 Snake in the Eagle's Shadow[20]
1978 Drunken Master
1979 G.I. Samurai
1979 Knockabout
1980 The Octagon
1981 Tower of Death
1981 Samurai Reincarnation
1982 The Prodigal Son
1982 Shaolin Temple
1983 Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain
1983 Project A
1983 Winners and Sinners
1983 Shaolin and Wu Tang
1984 The Karate Kid
1985 Mr. Vampire
1985 Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
1985 Yes, Madam[21]
1985 Police Story
1986 No Retreat, No Surrender
1988 Above The Law
1988 Bloodsport
1989 Best of the Best
1989 Black Rain
1989 Kickboxer
1990 Hard To Kill
1991 Once Upon a Time in China
1991 Out For Justice
1992 Under Siege
1992 Supercop
1992 Rapid Fire (1992 film)
1992 Shootfighter: Fight to the Death
1993 The Bride With White Hair[22]
1993 Iron Monkey[23]
1993 Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story
1993 Only the Strong
1993 Hard Target
1994 On Deadly Ground
1994 Timecop
1994 Fist of Legend
1994 Drunken Master II[24]
1995 Mortal Kombat
1995 Rumble in the Bronx
1997 Mortal Kombat Annihilation
1998 Blade
1998 Rush Hour
1999 The Matrix
2000 Shanghai Noon
2000 Romeo Must Die
2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon[25]
2002 Hero
2002 Undisputed
2002 Blade II
2003 Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior
2004 House of Flying Daggers
2004 Kung Fu Hustle
2004 Blade: Trinity
2004 New Police Story
2004 Fighter in the Wind
2005 SPL: Sha Po Lang
2005 Tom-Yum-Goong
2006 Hak kuen
2006 Undisputed II: Last Man Standing
2006 The Rebel
2006 The Restless (2006 Korean)
2006 Fearless
2007 Flash Point
2008 Kung Fu Panda
2008 Chocolate
2008 Ong Bak 2
2008 Ip Man
2008 Never Back Down
2008 The Forbidden Kingdom
2008 Redbelt
2009 Ninja
2009 Blood and Bone
2009 Merantau
2009 Ninja Assassin
2009 Raging Phoenix
2010 True Legend
2010 Undisputed III: Redemption
2010 Ip Man 2
2010 The Legend Is Born – Ip Man
2010 Shaolin
2010 The Karate Kid (2010)
2010 Ong Bak 3
2010 Bangkok Knockout
2010 13 Assassins
2010 Reign of Assassins
2010 Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya
2011 Warrior (2011 film)
2011 Kung Fu Panda 2
2012 The Raid: Redemption
2012 Dragon Eyes
2012 The Man with the Iron Fists
2013 The Grandmaster
2013 Man of Tai Chi
2013 Ninja: Shadow of a Tear
2014 Kung Fury

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Problem With Fx". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  2. ^ Beale, Lewis (1986-04-20). "Martial Arts Pics--packing A Hard Punch". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  3. ^ "Martial arts moves get a hip-hop flair". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  4. ^ Wren, Celia (1992-02-23). "FILM; Martial-Arts Movies Find a Home In South Africa". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-05. 
  5. ^ "Maximizing The Matrix". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  6. ^ Film genre 2000: new critical essays. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  7. ^ "The Problem With Fx". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-12-16. 
  8. ^ Schneiderman, R. M. (2009-05-23). "Contender Shores Up Karate’s Reputation Among U.F.C. Fans". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
  9. ^ Beale, Lewis (1992-11-15). "Revenge of kungfu Martial arts films are socking away the dough". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  10. ^ Perrin, Andrew (2004-10-18). "Hitting the Big Time". Time. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  11. ^ "Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais talk Merantau". Twitch Film. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  12. ^ "Jury Winners & Audience Winner at FAantastic Fest 2009 Announced!". Ain't It Cool News. 
  13. ^ Brown, Todd. "UNDISPUTED 3, 14 BLADES and MERANTAU Win At Action Fest 2010. Chuck Norris Declines Lifetime Achievement Award!". Twitch. 
  14. ^ Meisler, Andy (1994-07-03). "TELEVISION; The Biggest Star You Never Heard Of". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  16. ^ Miller, Davis (1992-08-23). "MOVIES The Next Action Hero? Kathy Long is a champion kickboxer whose movie moves remind some of Norris and Van Damme". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  17. ^ "Jin Yong and Chinese Martial Arts Novels". Hong Kong Films Free Web. 
  18. ^ "Kung Fu (Wuxia) Novels Translation". Lannyland. 
  19. ^ "Everybody is kung fu fighting". MSNBC. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  20. ^ Klein, Andy (2003-02-27). "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  21. ^ Klein, Andy (2003-02-27). "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  22. ^ Klein, Andy (2003-02-27). "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  23. ^ Klein, Andy (2003-02-27). "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  24. ^ Klein, Andy (2003-02-27). "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  25. ^ Klein, Andy (2003-02-27). "10 classics provide visual poetry -- on video". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 

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