Now that we're 120 episodes deep into our martial arts podcast, Martial Arts Radio, we thought it would be fun to look back and see what our guests thought about movies. We ask all of our guests about their favorite martial arts movies. Some of them gush, offering several picks. Others might only choose one or two. So we went through and checked all of the martial arts film mentions, compiling this list. Includes all interviews through episode 118. Links are to podcast episodes that are either interviews with the actors or profiles of them or their films.
Top 10 Martial Arts Movies
10. The Last Dragon
The Last Dragon is a cult-favorite film with a lot of crossover appeal. We were fortunate enough to have the star on our show. Yes, Taimak Guarriello joined us back on episode 80 of Martial Arts Radio. You can listen to that interview and gain a lot of perspective on the real martial artist behind Bruce Leroy.
9. Only the Strong
In 1993 Mark Dacascos exposed many of us to a little known martial art called Capoeira. Through the years we've seen the Brazilian art grow tremendously, but many of us haven't forgotten how impressed we were with Dacascos character, Louis Stevens, and the way he looked so impressive dealing with those bad guys.
8. Ip Man
It's hard to not end up with an amazing movie when you're telling the story of Bruce Lee's teacher and the role is played by Donnie Yen. Despite being intended for an Asian audience, Ip Man did very well in America and it was that success that helped bring about the second and third installments of the film.
7. Billy Jack
Way back in 1971, before the world had fallen in love with Bruce Lee or the style of martial arts cinema we know today, there was a little movie called Billy Jack. We did a profile of the movie on Episode 91 and the actual martial arts training that Tom Laughlin undertook for the role.
6. Best of the Best
This 1989 film about a US Tae Kwon Do team competing against a Korean team in a movie that looked nothing like the competitions we'd ever seen. Despite some of the shortcomings, the fight scenes were creative and fast paced. Clearly, it still holds up for many of our guests.
5. Ong Bak
Most of us first learned of Tony Jaa from this 2003 film. From the Thai movements to the incredible acrobatic skill of Jaa, we'd never seen anything like it, and most of us were hooked. No stuntmen, no wires or nets, just Tony Jaa and his incredible body control.
4. Fist of Legend
Jet Li stars in this 1994 film set in the same time period as Ip Man. Here we get to see Li's unique blend of precision and power as he looks to avenge his teacher now that he's returned. While we know the plot, this movie stands out for the simple fact that few can do a movie justice the way Jet Li can.
Jean-Claude Van Damme plays as Frank Dux in this controversial movie some claim is based on the actual events of the real-life Dux. It was JCVD's first role and the one that launched him to fame. We also get to see Bolo Yeung again!
2. The Karate Kid (1984)
When the subject of martial arts movies comes up, non-practitioners inevitably think of the original version of The Karate Kid. It's hard not to as this movie had nearly everything a person could love - an awkward protagonist that gets the best of his enemies, a powerful mentor who helped him see his potential, and a brutal kick to the face to seal his victory. With stunts performed by Fumio Demura and a host of famous 1-liners, it would be hard to make a better martial arts film...
1. Enter the Dragon
According to our guests, only one film tops The Karate Kid, and that's Enter the Dragon. Bruce Lee's most popular work, the 1973 film gave us a slew of amazing martial artists, from Bob Wall to Jim Kelly as well as Jackie Chan & Sammo Hung. In nearly every modern martial arts film you can see elements of this one, which is why it stands at the top.
What do you think of the list? Was your favorite martial arts movie left off? There's a chance it might have been, because our guests gave us 73 different movie picks. We probably won't release the full list, because it's a lot of work, but we may update this one from time to time. Thanks for checking out our list of Top 10 Martial Arts Movies.