Martial Arts

What Martial Arts movie collection would be complete without Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, or Sonny Chiba? We have movies with these actors along with James Tien, Chok Chow Cheung, Shi-Kwan Yen, Kun Li, Tony Cetera, Martin Kove, Paul Chun and others. Directors in our Martial Arts Movie collection feature the incomparable Wei Lo, Chi-Hwa Chen, Jackie Chan, Shigefiro Azawa and Ryuichi Takamori.

Martial arts film is a film genre or category in itself, but remains  a subgenre of the action film genre.  Martial arts films contain numerous artistic fights between characters, usually as the films’ primary appeal and entertainment value, and often as a method of storytelling for 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.

As with other action films, martial arts films are dominated by action to varying degrees; many martial arts films have only a minimal plot or character development and focus almost exclusively on the action, while other martial arts films have more creatively complex plots and characters along with action scenes. Films of the latter type are generally considered: artistically superior films, but many films of the former type are commercial successes due to fans reception. One of the earliest Hollywood movies to deploy the use of martial arts was Bad Day at Black Rock.

Martial arts films contain many characters that are martial artists, and actors who are real martial artists often play these roles. 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 angleseditingdoublesundercrankingwire work, and computer-generated imageryTrampolines 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.

One of the earliest Hollywood movies to deploy the use of martial arts was Bad Day at Black Rock. 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 BrothersGodfrey 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 BossDrunken 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. Other notable figures in the genre include Jackie ChanJet LiSammo HungYuen 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 NorrisJean-Claude Van DammeSteven SeagalBrandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee), Wesley SnipesGary Daniels, Mark Dacascos, and Jason Statham. In the 2000s, Thailand’s film industry became an international force in the genre with the films of Tony Jaa, and the Cinema of Vietnam followed suit with The Rebel and Clash. In more recent years, the Indonesian film industry  has offered Merantau (2009) and The Raid: Redemption (2011).

Women have also played key roles in the genre, including such actresses as Michelle YeohAngela Mao, and Cynthia Rothrock. In addition, western animation has ventured into the genre with the most successful effort being the internationally hailed DreamWorks Animation film franchise with Kung Fu Panda, starring Jack Black and Angelina Jolie.

Kung fu films are significant  as a stand-alone movie genre, and like westerns for Americans they have become a symbol 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 are the original form of Chinese Kung Fu films. The wuxia period films came into vogue due to the thousands of year’s popularity of wuxia novels. For example, Jin Yong and Gu Long: 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. The film was based on the Wang Dulu series of wuxia novels, and earned four Academy Awards, including one for Best Foreign Film.

In the Chinese-speaking world, martial arts films are commonly divided into two subcategories – the wuxia period films, and the more modern Kung fu films (best epitomized in the films of Bruce Lee). Also in Chinese-speaking world, martial arts films commonly refer to a genre wuxia which presents historical background, usually in ancient dynasties, there lives a common person, usually poor and without social status, but possessing a kind heart and would like to help people and fight for justice, so the character develops through the plot fighting against the bad ones who hold the power and finally achieves the peace and justice for people and becomes a master of martial arts.

Martial arts westerns are usually American films inexpensively filmed in Hollywood‘s traditional Southwestern United States locations, transposing martial arts themes into an “old west” setting. (e.g., Red Sun with Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune).