Given the solid amount of martial arts films, literally hundreds, we narrowed down a selection of ten that surfaced through the 1990’s. Featuring legends and veterans of not only action films but martial arts. The chosen films rely heavily on choreographed fight sequences but these martial arts masterpieces showcase wonderful talent, and are all around fun to watch. So gear up, grab a notepad and keep your eyes peeled for these action packed flicks that have inspired generations.
1. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)
– Starring Jason Scott Lee
Jason Scott Lee portrays the immortalized Bruce Lee in this early nineties film. The film depicts the emotional and raw journey of one of the, if not, biggest names in martial arts. Jason Scott Lee may not have had any previous martial arts experience but after training with a former student of Bruce Lee, he was able to invoke the spirit of The Dragon with true charismatic clarity.
Scene’s to look out for: Bruce Vs Johnny Sun; Bruce Vs Johnny Sun’s Brother
2. Lionheart (1990)
– Starring Jean Claude Van Damme
After showcasing his physicality in films like Bloodsport and Kickboxer, the “Bulging Belgian” started off a decade of annual film releases (sometimes two – three releases a year) with this slobber knocker. The story follows an AWOL soldier competing in an underground fight circuit to help support his dead brother’s struggling family. The film grossed over eight times as much money as it cost to film ($3,000,000).
Scene’s to look out for: Van Damme Vs Cynthia’s Fighter; Van Damme Vs ScottishFighter
3. Rapid Fire (1992)
– Starring Brandon Lee
Before The Crow and after Showdown in Little Tokyo, Brandon Lee starred in this violent action film about an art student who witnesses a murder by a mafiosa madman. Wanted by both sides of the law, Brandon Lee must fight his way through each group in order to keep breathing. Featuring chaotic fight scenes and shootouts, Lee delivers great stunt work and action that shows exactly why he is unarmed and extremely dangerous.
Scene’s to look out for: The Italian restaurant shootout; Brandon Lee Vs Al Leong
4. Jackie Chan’s First Strike (1996)
– Starring Jackie Chan
Since his first screen role in 1963 Jackie Chan has not slowed down. IMDB credits him with 135 film credits! The man is a martial arts movie making machine and I don’t know a single person who could argue his legendary influence. In this film, not only does he not fire a single gun, he takes out bad guys with a colorful array of equalizers ranging from broom sticks to my personal favorite, ladders. Also, the amount and type of stunts he performs in this film stack up against any of his previous or future work.
Scene’s to look out for: Jackie hanging from a helicopter; Jackie fighting with a ladder.
5. Rumble in the Bronx (1995)
– Starring Jackie Chan
Not the first or the last you’ll see Jackie Chan on this list. Not surprising either with his legendary career spanning over fifty years. Filmed in Vancouver, Jackie plays Keung, a man paying a friendly visit to attend his uncle’s wedding. As his vacation turns from bad to worse, Keung throws down with street gangs and the mob using his fast fists, reflexes, environment and anything he can lay his hands on to overcome the odds stacked against him. There are plenty of noteworthy stunts and fight scenes in this move for any martial arts fan to pick apart, including a fight scene that took twenty days to film!
Scene’s to look out for: Jackie jumping 28 feet from a building to a fire exit on another building.
6. Tiger Cage 2 (1991)
– Starring Donnie Yen and Robin Shou
This hardcore sequel to the successful first film, showcases a young Donnie Yen and a villainous Robin Shou (years before his Mortal Kombat films) with fast paced fist to face action and solid landing kicks. There are also fantastic choreographed fight scenes featuring the talents of David Wu, Cynthia Khan and John Salvitti. From Handcuffed fighting, to straight fisticuffs, to swordplay, Tiger Cage offers a lot of intense action scenes to please and fan of Hong Kong cinema. The climactic sword fight between Yen and Salvitti is often considered to be a highly impeccable fight scene.
Scene’s to look out for: David Wu vs Robin Shou; Donnie Yen vs John Salvitti.
7. Drunken Master II (1994)
– Starring Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan tears back into our top ten list with his classic and comedic portrayal of Chinese folk hero, Wong Fei-Hung. Do not be fooled because although Chan brings his trademark slapstick humor to the screen, he also brings his high energy fight scenes and often fatally dangerous stunts. The pacing of the film is great. As soon as you learn some of the story you’re immediately treated with a fascinating display of Jackie’s extraordinary action sequences. One sequence between Jackie and his at the time bodyguard (Ken Lo), took over three months to
film the greatness you see clocking in just under 8 minutes.
Scene’s to look out for: Wong Fei-Hung & Master Vs The Axe Gang; Wong Fei-Hung Vs John.
8. Fist of Legend (1994)
– Starring Jet Li
With a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, Jet Li takes up the lead in this remake to the celebrated Bruce Lee classic, The Chinese Connection. In this flick we see Jet Li in the role of the adaptive Chen Zhen, a chinese student who returns from Japan after learning of his master’s defeat in a battle to the death. Determined to find answers, the young martial artist punches and kicks his way through all who oppose him. The final fight scene, where Chen Zhen fights the very lethal General Fujita, is a long one and clocks in around 10 minutes. In no way is that a bad thing and should be enjoyed by every artial arts movie fan.
Scene’s to look out for: Chen Zhen Vs Japanese School; Chen Zhen Vs General Fujita.
9. Blade (1998)
– Starring Wesley Snipes
Not an entirely dedicated martial arts film but the starring lead, Wesley Snipes, has been a martial arts practitioner since the age of 12 and it shows in this film. Blade absolutely decimates a legion of Vampires using stakes, modified guns, his highly stylized custom sword and of course, his fists and feet. Grossing over triple the original budget, this action horror was a success and proves just how entertaining it is to see Wesley Snipes eradicate vampires that burst into ash or explode in gore upon receiving his unholy vengeance.
Scene’s to look out for: Blade Vs anyone.
10. Out for Justice (1991)
– Starring Steven Seagal
Last on the list is one of the many ultra violent films from Aikido master Steven Seagal. In this film, he ruthlessly tracks down an old neighborhood friend to bring to justice for another friend’s death. During the hunt, the big man finds himself in a bar smacking around patrons until a familiar face in the world of martial arts appears with a pool cue. This man is veteran Dan Inosanto, yeah, the guy who taught Bruce Lee how to use nunchaku. It’s a treat to see these two take swings at each other with busted pool cues.
Scene’s to look out for: Gino Vs Sticks; Gino Vs Goons in butcher shop.