Seven Best

Seven Best: Kung Fu Fights in Movies

A ranking of the best kung fu fights in cinema, from the Shaw Brothers films to some newer entries…does your favorite make the cut?

This month’s entries are:

  • Master of the Flying Guillotine
  • Five Deadly Venoms
  • Ip Man
  • Kung Fu Hustle
  • Enter the Dragon
  • 36th Chamber of Shaolin
  • Iron Monkey
  • The Legend of Drunken Master
  • Fearless
  • Five Fingers of Death
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Fist of Legend

As always, watch along with us during the month, and check back in for our final ranking!!

7. Fearless

Make your case:

Our first Jet Li entry in the list, but not the last. Also the first of a few movies with a fighting tournament, and all around top-notch fight coordinator, Yuen Woo-Ping.

So many common threads running through these movies. Pride, honor, wire work, killing a rival master, whose style of kung fu is better, oh and terrible fathers who believe in discipline over love.

This one has far deeper meaning than most on this list, and it’s based on the life of a real person, Huo Yuanjia. It’s about his growth as a man, but also about finding your own peace in the world.

Most fight scenes on this list don’t involve weapons, but they’re not ruled out. My vote goes to Huo’s fight with Master Qin Lei.


6. Kung Fu Hustle

Make your case:

If you didn’t know any better, you might think that Kung Fu Hustle was a martial arts parody. I know I did for the longest time. And while it’s legitimately hilarious at times, some of the kung fu is just spectacular. And why shouldn’t they be? In addition to Stephen Chow, fight scenes were directed by Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo-Ping.

I know this movie is a non-traditional pick. It’s not your typical kung fu movie, and the fight scenes often drift into the downright silly, but it has a mythology to it that I really enjoy. There are a myriad of killers, and each of the masters employs their own style. All in all, I think the scene I like the most is the fight in the night, between the masters and the musicians. Fun wire work, and the visuals add that mythical element that I really enjoy.

Natural born kung fu genius.


5. Iron Monkey

Make your case:

With the combination of Yuen Woo-Ping and Donnie Yen, you know this is gonna be high on my list. And it’s already the third Yuen Woo-Ping entry at this point.

It’s basically Chinese Robin Hood…and frankly better than all western Robin Hood movies that don’t star a cartoon fox. The governor and Chief Fox are hilarious parodies, and the addition of Wong Kei-Ying and his son to the narrative are a welcome change to the old fable. Speaking of which, Wong Fei-Hong has some pretty brilliant kung fu as well.

The final fight on the fiery poles is great, but I’m gonna give this one to Donnie Yen in his first battle against the disgraced Shaolin monks.


4. Fist of Legend

Make your case:

Jet Li makes the list for a second time. Also, oddly enough, not the only entry in the list that focuses on the the Japanese occupation of China. And guess what? Yuen Woo-Ping again.

This is a remake of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury, which didn’t make the list but easily could have. The story is about the Japanese/Chinese conflict in Shanghai, but also about the cultural differences. And when things are different, people FIGHT.

I love watching Jet Li fight. Especially when the story line allows him to be dominant. And that’s why this is the best scene.


3. The Legend of Drunken Master

Make your case:

Jackie Chan is not only one of the best martial artists in this list, he’s also easily the funniest. His physical humor translates to the screen in the best way possible, and his stunt work is the best in the business…and both PERFECTLY suit him to drunken boxing.

And while we finally have an entry that DOESN’T have Yuen Woo-Ping as the stunt director, he *did* do the original…

The best fight scene has to be the fight against the purse snatchers. “What does it mean when there’s a picture of a skull?”

I might do an entire month on the seven best Jackie Chan movies.


2. Enter the Dragon

Make your case:

I don’t know if it was the first “fighting tournament” movie or not, but it’s arguably the best. Almost everyone on this list owes what they are to Bruce Lee. And this was my first introduction to Bolo Yeung, who went on to be a staple martial arts baddie in so many movies throughout the 80s and 90s.

The story is a bit convoluted. A secret agency of some sort recruits Bruce Lee to investigate Mr. Han, a reclusive island dweller who’s running drugs…and trafficking women? And he’s a disgraced former student from Bruce’s school? And he’s running a fighting tournament. And his main henchman also attacked Bruce’s sister and caused her to kill herself? But we’re not here for the story…HEY LOOK, IT’S JIM KELLY.

So many fights to choose from. So many AMAZING fights to choose from. And while I loved the fight against O’Hara, I think I’m going to have to go with the factory fight.


1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Make your case:

This. Movie. Is. Gorgeous.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is easily my favorite movie on this list, and I believe the only Oscar winner. It’s beautiful in so many ways, not the least of which is the kung fu.

It’s a romance, wrapped in another romance, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in an action movie.

“A sword by itself rules nothing,” and the best fight scene in the movie, and in this list, is Yu Shu Lien against Jen Yu.

*cough* Yuen Woo-Ping *cough*


Honorable Mention: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Wu-Tang! Wu-Tang!

I grew up watching Shaw Brothers movies—Saturday morning Kung Fu Theater!!—but I think this one fell through the cracks until the Wu Tang album. It’s basically a video game, where each of the chambers are training exercises to prepare you for your final adventure. And even though Gordon Liu is a legend, this is his only entry on this list.