When it comes to martial arts movies, we have been treated to some true classics over the years and everyone has a favourite.
The martial arts movie is back on the big screen this week with Yakuza Apocalypse, which marks the return of Takashi Miike to the director's chair
To celebrate the release of the film, we take a look at some of the best martial arts movies that you really should not have missed.
- The Raid
In popular opinion, The Raid has to be on the of the best martial arts films in the past decade - and it is up there as one of my ultimate favourites. The choreography is unbelievable and Uwais and Yayan Ruhian deserve full credit for bringing Rama's fight for survival to life.
The connection between protagonist and viewer is real and Gareth Evans does a great job with his attention to detail and pacing. You're willing Rama to survive and battle his way out and the way he fights is truly mesmerising. If you want an action packed film from start to finish, then this is the movie for you.
Director Gareth Evans has delivered a film that moves at 100mph and never allows you to pause and catch your breath. The stunts and the set pieces are so ferocious and they really can't be faulted as the action pushes the story forward.
But you will not see a greater fight see this year than that between Iko Uwais, Doni Alamsyah and Yahan Ruhian towards the end of the movie, it really is hell in a cell.
For me, The Raid was one of the best movies of 2012 and is a must-see for anyone who truly loves movies in this genre. It is a classic and I hope that it doesn't get an American makeover.
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Hard to believe that it was back in 2001 when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon hit the big screen for the first time - yes, this movie really is fifteen years old this January.
This film addresses an amazingly emotive love story that forms the core of the film. Li, played by Chow Yun-Fat, is a master warrior in the province of China and when he decides to give it all up and pass his famous 'Green Destiny' sword onto a close friend, it's stolen by an unknown adversary.
If not for the beautiful cinematography, you should watch this film for the superb acting and sublime fight scenes (namely the one where Jiao Long fights a man whilst drinking tea with one hand.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon marked the return of Ang Lee to the director's chair for one of his greatest cinema triumphs. It is as great a watch today as it was back in 2001.
The screenplay was penned by Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus, and Kuo Jung Tsai and it is a powerful story that pulls audiences in from the opening scene to the closing credits. Lee really immerses viewers in this incredible, action-packed, and beautiful world. A true gem in this genre of film.
The movie went on to be nominated for ten Oscars - including Best Picture and Best Director. It would win four; Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction.
- Ip Man
This is one of the more modern takes on martial arts but also one with some history behind it as Wilson Yip took up the director's chair. The film documents a martial arts teacher who brings the style of fighting known as Wing Chun to the population.
Ip Man is the most revered fighter in Foshan, South China and the story follows other Kung Fu masters who want to challenge him to see just how good the legend says he is. You rally around the central character and as the film unravels you really see just how amazing some of the choreography is and all you can do is sit and watch in awe.
While the aesthetics of Ip Man may have been a little more muted than the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers, that does not stop it from being a wonderful looking film. However, it is the skills of the film's protagonist that take centre stage here and it is great to see a martial arts movie made in this way.
Ip Man was a critical and commercial hit and a sequel hit the big screen back in 2010. Ip Man 3 will be released later this month with Yip back in the director's chair.
- Kung Fu Hustle
It has been eleven years since Kung Fu Hustle hit the big screen for the first time and yet it remains a real gem of a martial arts movie.
Kung Fu Hustle was the fifth feature film for Stephen Chow and his first since Shaolin Soccer... however, it was to be a movie that would elevate his star even higher.
When you watch this film, you might immediately think 'this is ridiculous.' But as the film goes on, you start to warm to the charm of the humour and the crazy over the top fighting scenes. It seems to be a very tongue in cheek homage to the martial arts movies of old but has an underlying story of compassion.
Set in 1940's China, it centres on a young man's ambition to join the infamous Axe Gang which leads him to a small community in a housing complex who show their true colours in defence of their land. If you liked Yakuza Apocalypse, you will love this movie and vice versa.
At the time, the movie was the highest-grossing film in the history of Hong Kong as it was both a critical and commercial hit. While it did not win the awards, the movie was nominated at the Golden Globes and Baftas for Best Foreign Language Film.
- Enter the Dragon
Enter the Dragon is often considered one of the best martial arts movies of all time and was released in the UK back in 1974.
I'm pretty sure no martial arts feature is complete without at least one Bruce Lee movie and why not make it one of his most famous?
Enter the Dragon depicts a man hired by a spy agency to covertly collect information on a man called Han, who is believed to deal opium. Lee joins a tournament as cover and runs into Roper and Williams, two army vets who are there for different reasons but must help each other out if they want to survive.
If you can get past the now comedic screaming as they engage in combat, it's a truly epic film with phenomenal fight scenes.
This was to be Bruce Lee's final film appearance and he is the most iconic and loved martial arts star of all time.
- House of Flying Daggers
House of Flying Dagger is another martial arts movie classic of recent years and was released back in 2004 - another great film that is over a decade old.
House of Flying Daggers saw Yimou Zhang back in the director's chair for the first time since the success of Hero two years before. This was another gem from the filmmaker and it remains one of his finest films.
House of Flying Daggers takes us on a journey through the Tang Dynasty in China. A rogue, secret group known as 'The House of Flying Daggers' has risen to oppose the government. A young police officer known as Jin is sent to investigate a dancer called Mei who is believed to know more about this rebel force than she lets on.
Jin and Mei go on the run and we are taken through the beauty of the Chinese forests, the splendour of the different seasons and amazingly complex fight scenes. All I can say is... watch this film.
House of Flying Daggers is another visual extravaganza and is packed with fight scenes that will truly leave you breathless. This is another of my favourite films in this genre and it has not diminished in any way in the decade since I saw this wonderful film for the first time.
Despite being one of the best films of the year, House of Flying Daggers only picked up one Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Cinematography.
- Yakuza Apocalypse
This film is the reason we decided to look back on martial arts in movies over the years. The fight scenes are terrific and are matched with the original plot (because let's face it, who doesn't love Yakuza vampires?!) Kamiura is one of the most revered Yakuza bosses in the underground but has a secret to his success and supposed invincibility. He is a vampire.
Before finally dying, he passes on his power to his favoured underling, a man called Kageyama who with this new found strength, sets out to avenge his murdered boss. This film has it all, from strange fighting frogs to the growing of children (don't even ask, just watch) as well as Yayan Ruhian who played the main antagonist in The Raid.
Other great martial arts movies include Hero, The Raid 2, The Forbidden Kingdom, Ong-Bak, and Once Upon a Time in China.
Yakuza Apocalypse is out January 6th.
Tagged in The Raid