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10 Best Martial Arts Movies to watch right now (ranked by IMDb rating)

In movies that feature a lot of fighting, we often feel like we’re the ones who are beating the bad guys. It’s not just about punches and kicks. Each move from a character tells a story—a story about bravery, justice, and sometimes even love. These martial arts films go beyond action scenes. They’re like pieces of art, showing us tales of heroes and their journeys. From the cool battles in ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’ to the graceful fights in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’ these movies mix fighting with storytelling with effortless ease. They’re special because they use martial arts to convey a larger message. Join us as we explore ten amazing movies where every jump and punch means something bigger. In these films, fighting is like a secret language. It tells us about the characters, their cultures, and what they believe in. Let’s dive into these movies and see how martial arts make the stories so powerful and unforgettable.

Kill Bill Vol. 1

IMDb Rating: 8.2/10

Tarantino’s magnum opus, ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1,’ is a kinetic symphony of revenge and artistry. The film’s fight sequences are a sight to withhold, choreographed with meticulous precision, and weave seamlessly into the narrative. Each punch, every swing of a sword, resonates with Uma Thurman’s pursuit of vengeance. The blend of various martial arts styles is breathtaking—emphasising the protagonist’s journey and her evolution as a true warrior. The brilliance lies not just in the action but in how it’s a language spoken fluently to convey emotions and depth. I personally believe that every Tarantino movie is a must-watch but this one definitely takes the cake with its brilliant portrayal of a strong protagonist and in-depth characters.

Cast

  • Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo
  • Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii
  • Vivica A. Fox as Vernita Green
  • Michael Madsen as Budd
  • Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver
  • David Carradine as Bill
  • Julie Dreyfus as Sofie Fatale
Director Quentin Tarantino
Release date September 29, 2003
Running time 1 hour 51 minutes

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

IMDb Rating: 7.9/10

Ang Lee’s ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ feels less like a martial arts movie and more like poetry. Its fight scenes, executed with gravity-defying grace, are visual marvels. The fluidity of Wuxia martial arts becomes a metaphor for suppressed desires and societal constraints. The film’s emotional landscape intertwines seamlessly with the physical, showcasing the longing and conflict within the characters. It’s a mesmerising display of elegance and power that transcends the genre. As we are talking about a movie made by Academy Award-winning Director Ang Lee, one of the first landmark movies, you can bet this piece of cinema is worth your while and so much more.

Cast

  • Chow Yun-fat as Master Li Mu Bai
  • Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien
  • Zhang Ziyi as Jen Yu
  • Chang Chen as Lo “Dark Cloud”
  • Cheng Pei-pei as Jade Fox
  • Sihung Lung as Sir Te
  • Fa Zeng Li as Governor Yu
Director Ang Lee
Release date May 18, 2000
Running time 2 hours

Hero

IMDb Rating: 7.9/10

Zhang Yimou’s ‘Hero’ is a rather underrated movie that celebrates emotions, culture, and martial arts prowess. The film’s use of martial arts is as much a spectacle as it is a reflection of the characters’ inner conflicts and the sacrifices they make. The distinct visual style in each fight sequence mirrors the intricate layers of the narrative. Every duel becomes a symbolic representation of loyalty, sacrifice, and the complex nature of heroism. If you’re a fan of Jet Li, you most likely would have already seen this brilliant movie and even if you’re not, you will become his fan once you watch this one.

Cast

  • Jet Li as Nameless
  • Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as Broken Sword
  • Maggie Cheung as Flying Snow
  • Zhang Ziyi as Moon
  • Donnie Yen as Sky
  • Chen Dao Ming as Emperor Qin Shi Huang
Director Yimou Zhang
Release date December 14, 2002
Running time 2 hours

The Raid 2

IMDb Rating: 7.9/10

Expanding on its predecessor, ‘The Raid 2′ takes martial arts storytelling to an intricate level. The film’s fight choreography is meticulously crafted and showcases the characters’ evolution in a sprawling crime epic. Each fight scene is a masterclass in tension and technique, intricately woven into a narrative that explores loyalty, betrayal, and the toll of vengeance. The martial arts sequences here are not just action; they’re an embodiment of the characters’ growth and their moral dilemmas.

Cast

  • Iko Uwais as Rama
  • Arifin Putra as Uco
  • Oka Antara as Eka
  • Tio Pakusadewo as Bangun
  • Alex Abbad as Bejo
  • Julie Estelle as Hammer Girl
  • Very Tri Yulisman as Baseball Bat Man
  • Ryuhei Matsuda as Keiichi
Director Gareth Evans
Release date January 21, 2014
Running time 2 hours 30 minutes

Enter the Dragon

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Bruce Lee’s iconic ‘Enter the Dragon’ isn’t just a martial arts spectacle; it’s a cultural phenomenon. Lee’s philosophy on martial arts is visible in every fight sequence, making them not just displays of physical prowess but reflections of spiritual discipline and honour. The film’s blend of different fighting styles becomes a canvas for self-expression, embodying Lee’s personal journey and beliefs. The action serves as a vehicle to convey deeper messages about unity, self-discovery, and the power of martial arts beyond combat. Enter the Dragon shows how prolific Bruce Lee’s career would have been in Hollywood only if he stayed alive for a few more years. Nevertheless, enjoy this movie as he shines the brightest in this classic.

Cast

  • Bruce Lee as Lee
  • John Saxon as Roper
  • Jim Kelly as Williams
  • Ahna Capri as Tania
  • Kien Shih as Han
  • Robert Wall as O’Hara
  • Angela Mao as Su Lin
Director Robert Clouse
Release date July 26, 1973
Running time 1 hour 42 minutes

The Raid

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Gareth Evans’ ‘The Raid’ is an adrenaline-pumping movie that combines relentless action with a gritty narrative. The martial arts choreography here is not just about combat; it’s an extension of survival in a brutal world. Each strike, each moment of hand-to-hand combat, propels the story forward, creating an atmosphere of tension and unwavering determination. The rawness of the fight sequences speaks volumes about the character’s desperation and the unforgiving nature of their surroundings.

Cast

  • Iko Uwais as Rama
  • Joe Taslim as Jaka
  • Donny Alamsyah as Andi
  • Yayan Ruhian as Mad Dog
  • Pierre Gruno as Wahyu
  • Ray Sahetapy as Tama Riyadi
Director Gareth Evans
Release date September 8, 2011
Running time 1 hour 41 minutes

The Legend of Drunken Master

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Jackie Chan’s ‘The Legend of Drunken Master’ is a breathtaking showcase of his unmatched physicality and comedic timing. The use of Drunken Boxing as a martial arts style is both exhilarating and innovative. Chan’s choreography blurs the lines between comedy and action, infusing the fight scenes with a unique charm. The martial arts sequences, particularly those employing the Drunken Boxing technique, highlight the protagonist’s unorthodox yet effective fighting style, adding depth and entertainment value to the narrative.

Cast

  • Jackie Chan as Wong Fei-hung
  • Anita Mui as Ling
  • Ti Lung as Wong Kei-ying
  • Felix Wong as Tsang
  • Lau Kar-leung as Su Hua Chi
  • Chin Ka-lok as Fo Sang
  • Cheung Chi-pong as Tso
Director Chia-Liang Liu, Jackie Chan
Release date February 3, 1994
Running time 1 hour 42 minutes

A Touch of Zen

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

King Hu’s ‘A Touch of Zen’ is a masterpiece that intertwines martial arts with meditative storytelling. The film’s deliberate pacing and elegant fight sequences reflect the characters’ inner struggles and spiritual growth. Each martial arts encounter is a visual poem, conveying themes of courage, enlightenment, and the pursuit of justice. The use of martial arts here isn’t just about physical combat; it’s a means of transcendence and self-realisation.

Cast

  • Hsu Feng as Yang Hui-zhen
  • Shih Jun as Ku Shen Chai
  • Pai Ying as Abbot Hui Yuan
  • Tien Peng as Ouyang Nian
  • Roy Chiao as Lu Siniang
  • Han Ying-chieh as Scholar Wen
Director King Hu
Release date November 18, 1971
Running time 3 hours 20 minutes

The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter

IMDB Rating: 7.4/10

Lau Kar-leung’s ‘The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter’ is a martial arts epic that embodies the essence of honour and sacrifice. The film’s martial arts choreography, particularly with the pole fighting techniques, serves as a symbolic representation of the protagonist’s journey from tragedy to redemption. Each fight becomes a cathartic release, blending action with a poignant narrative, showcasing the protagonist’s struggle for retribution and inner peace.

Cast

  • Gordon Liu as Fifth Yang, Yan-chun
  • Alexander Fu Sheng as Sixth Yang, Yan-lui
  • Kara Hui as Lady Fong
  • Phillip Ko as Fourth Yang, Yan-tin
  • Lily Li as Mrs. Yang
  • Johnny Wang as Second Yang, Yan-ji
  • Lau Kar-leung as Chief Abbot
Director Chia-Liang Liu
Release date February 17, 1984
Running time 1 hour 38 minutes

Dragon Inn

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

King Hu’s ‘Dragon Inn’ is a classic martial arts film known for its ground-breaking action sequences. The film’s use of martial arts isn’t merely about combat; it’s a dance of strategy and skill. The choreography, set against the backdrop of political intrigue, underscores the tension and stakes of each encounter. The martial arts here are a language spoken fluently by the characters, shaping the power dynamics and the narrative’s momentum.

Cast

  • Shih Jun as Xiao Shaozi
  • Pai Ying as Zhao Shao Qin
  • Polly Shang Kwan as Gu Shaotang
  • Miao Tian as Ouyang’s Servant
  • Sit Hon as Hsiao Shao-Tien
  • Cho Kin as Gu Senior
  • Han Ying-Chieh as Wu Ning
Director King Hu
Release date October 21, 1967
Running time 1 hour 51 minutes
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