You have your old school Bruce Lee flicks and terribly directed Chuck Norris movies of the past.
Then there were the Van Dam movies like Kickboxer and Bloodsport which were classics and the often passed over, In Hell which was pretty awesome as well.
Then there was the Jet Li and Jackie Chan movies of the 90’s and early 2000s like The Legend of the Drunken Master, Kiss of the Dragon, Rumble in the Bronx, Romeo must Die and even Cradle to the Grave had their strong suits. Even Rush Hour had some amazing action and how many times have you used the line; “Do you understand the words comin’ out of my mouth?”
The past is the past and the modern is what we are talking about now.
Been a lot of hit and miss lately with the rise of MMA and the way the movie world attempts to capture the sport on the big screen.
Fighting with Channing Tatum was “meh” at best and featured Cung Le, Never Back down was decent but a lot of teenage drama somewhat watered it down. I personally enjoyed all of the Undisputed movies, especially 2 and 3. Blood and Bone was a nice refreshing surprise and it narrowly misses this list as does IP man.
Also lets be honest, Here Comes the Boom was terrible, but even it had laughable parts where as the Tapout movies are hard to even stomach 20 minutes of. I can’t stress how bad the Tapout movies are, if I had to make a list of the top 5 worst martial arts movies, I believe the Tapout movies would be all 5, if I had to makes a top 10 list, Tapout movies would be the top 7 followed by maybe Kickboxer 3: The Art of War and 3 Ninjas High Noon at Mega Mountain.
They’re that bad.
This list has got no time fuh’ dat.
Here are the top 5, hands down, 2 thumbs up, baddest ass, action start to finish, holy s%#@ that was awesome modern day martial arts movies:
5. Ong Bak
IMDB Rating; 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes; 86%
Sadly I have not seen this film so I can’t give a personal opinion, but due to popular demand of people telling me that this movie is a “Cult Classic” I had to add it.
Storyline: A highly heralded Buddha statue titled “Ong Bak” that is believed to bring rain is taken from a village by a twisted businessman. One boy, Ting who was an orphan trained to be a Muay Thai master by Monks, is gifted the task to travel to Bangkok to retrieve the relic in time for an annual ritual. He has to overcome his adversaries by way of unbridled athleticism to return the centerpiece.
Awards; 2004 Action Asia Award Winner (Prachya Pinkaew), 2003 Orient Express Award Winner (Prachya Pinkaew)
4. The Raid 2
IMDB Rating: 8.3
Rotten Tomatoes; 79%
This movie had stupid amounts of action from start to finish much like the first one, it kind of dragged in spots but more than made up for it with a more in-depth plotline than the first one. Raid 1 and 2 both brought martial arts movies up a notch with their crazy action sequences that made myself and all who I witnessed it with proclaim “rewind that s@#%” on a number of occasions.
Storyline: Mere hours after the end of the first movie, rookie Jakarta Cop, Rama learns that the drug lord and his cronies in the Hotel in the first movie were a minor step in a major plan. However attention from guys at the top was drawn to him, now Rama must go undercover to defeat his new foes and protect his family. Rama even goes to prision to gain the confidence of a drug Kingpin to join the gang himself.
Awards; IMDB Top 250: #212
IMDB Rating; 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes; 73%
This is my favorite Jet Li movie and I loved all the different styles of fighting this movie represented, sometimes you had weapons sometimes you didn’t but at all parts you were entertained by the jaw-dropping action and I really loved the cameo of former WWE Pro Wrestler, Nathan Jones.
Storyline: Martial arts legend, Huo Yuanjia was the most well known fighter in China, years of training let him win match after match in Tianjin. Then a bad fight leads to a master’s death and members of his family are slain which makes him realize the future of martial arts is in sportsmanship minus brutality and he forms the Jingwu Sports Federation where he competes in a tournament against a Brit Boxer, Spaniard Swordsman, Belgian Soldier and a Japanese Martial Artist.
Awards: 2007 Hong Kong Film Award Winner, 2007 HKFCS Award Winner for Best Actor (Jet Li), 2007 Film of Merit Award Winner, 2007 Huabiao Film Award Winner for Outstanding Co-Prodcued Film, 2006 Hundred Flowers Award Winner for Best Newcomer (Betty Sun).
2. The Raid: Redemption
IMDB Rating: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
This movie was a hair away from being number 1, the action is un-parallel and the pace is lightening fast and it’s almost half the time of the first movie. I’ve rewound this movie too many times to count to watch the scenes again and again and slower and slower. Every floor provides a different amount of drama for Rama and the final battle scene is one of legend.
Storyline: In Jakarta, Indonesia, a Lieutenant organizes an invasion of an apartment building that is run by a cruel drug lord Tama his ruthless gang. The police force gets trapped inside and the Lt. didnt inform his superiors prior to the invasion and now the cops are trapped and fave to fight with small amounts of ammunition against the gangsters that are armed to the T.
Awards: 2012 Silver Screen Award Winner for Director (Gareth Evans) and production company (Pt. Merantau Films, 2012 Audience Award Winner, 2012 Dublin Film Critics Award Winner, 2012 IFJA Award Winner for Best Foreign Language Film, and 2012 Director to Watch Winner (Gareth Evans).
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Where to begin with this movie? This movie appealed to not only martial arts fans but people that also enjoy a genuinely good movie. It had drama, action, suspense, the relationship of brothers and son to father and it depicted all the trials and tribulations that go with the sport of modern day MMA. With references to the UFC, Fedor, fighters that show too much flash, fighters that become viral famous, the fighters that work their way up and the washups that receive second chances. With cameos from Kurt Angle, Roan Carneiro, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, Nathan Marquardt, Rashad Evans and Stephan Bonnar as well as a jaw dropping, teeth gritting performance from Nick Nolte who will make you cry, this movie has it all.
Storyline: Tommy is an ex-marine who returns home to enlist his formally alcoholic father to train him in an upcoming MMA tournament where the winner is to receive a substantial amount of money. Also in the tournament is his brother an ex-MMA fighter, current school teacher who can’t make ends meet. Through the years of their life they separated because of their father’s episodes and it drove a wedge between all three’s relationship with each other.
Awards: 2012 Prism Award Winner for Substance Use in a Feature Film, 2011 SDFCS Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Nick Nolte)
IMDB Top 250: #143