Top 10 Martial Arts Movie Actors
We ask all of our guests on the Martial Arts Radio podcast about their favorite martial arts actors. And now, after over 100 episodes, we have some interesting patterns to report on. Here they are, as voted on by our guests - the Top 10 Martial Arts Movie Actors.
For most of them, we even have a special profile episode of them on the show. In these short episodes, we dig into the history and martial arts foundation of each of them, giving you a better understanding of how they made it to the screen.
#10 - Steven Seagal
Though he may not be receiving the love that he once did, Steven Seagal has put out some incredible movies over his time. Above the Law has been named a few times on our show and if you've seen it, you know why.
Episode 97 - Steven Seagal
#9 - Tony Jaa
Perhaps the least well-known on the list, Tony Jaa has made a name for himself with his incredible martial arts choreography. Any true martial arts film fan knows the Ong Bak films, and it was in those movies that Tony Jaa earned a spot on so many fan's lists. We have a special profile episode of Tony that you can listen to and learn more about him.
Episode 117 - Tony Jaa
#8 - Jean-Claude Van Damme
Was there any martial arts actor more prolific in the 80s than Jean-Claude Van Damme? An outstanding talent, we never love his films for the acting - but for the raw strength and technique of his fights. As with Steven Seagal, there's a lot less said about JCVD these days, but recent films are aiming to change that. Remember Cyborg, Kickboxer & Bloodsport!? For many of us, those movies were watched until the VHS tapes wore out in the 80s.
Episode 123 - Jean-Claude Van Damme
#7 - Michael Jai White
Michael Jai White is an incredible martial artist, humble man, and a great actor. When his name comes up in conversation, people rarely criticize, because they know he's the real deal. While his films aren't the biggest or most well-funded, they are fun and full of excellent fight scenes. Blacky Dynamite has come up a few times on the show, but a scan through MJW's IMDb profile shows he has dozens of tv and film credits dating back to the 80s.
#6 - Jason Statham
This will likely be the most controversial entry on the list. While there's very little to point at for Jason Statham's martial arts background, there's a lot to point at for his skill. His fight scenes are beloved, and our guests on Martial Arts Radio speak of him often. You may not look at him and want to take a traditional karate class under his instruction, but you'd certainly not want to be against him in a movie fight. How can you forget the fight scenes in The Transporter series?
#5 - Donnie Yen
Donnie Yen has become a massive film favorite in a fairly short time, though he's no novice when it comes to martial arts. From the Ip Man movies to the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel, there's no denying that Donnie Yen has martial arts film star power. Our guests on the show wholeheartedly agree.
Episode 63 - Donnie Yen
#4 - Chuck Norris
How can you not love Chuck Norris? Perhaps second only to Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris is known and loved throughout the world, and not just by martial artists. It takes a special kind of person to embrace the Chuck Norris jokes that abound, but Walker Texas Ranger is a very special kind of person. Delta Force and A Force of One (with Bill Wallace) will always be fan favorites.
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Episode 43: Chuck Norris
#3 - Jet Li
Fist of Legend, Hero, The Forbidden Kingdom... for so many, Jet Li's movies are magical, unlike anything from other actors. His ability to hold your attention without saying a word is uncanny, almost making you feel like he could leap out of the screen and hit you at any time. There's a calm to his characters that's almost scary.
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Episode 50 - Jet Li
#2 - Bruce Lee
The one, the only. It would seem that Bruce Lee is the greatest martial arts actor of all time, but he holds the #2 spot according to our guests. If the survey question had asked about influence, certainly, Bruce Lee would be first. Enter the Dragon is responsible for a multitude of martial artists and remains one of the greatest martial arts films of all time. We don't know what the world have held for Bruce Lee had he not passed, but we can be thankful that we have his movies.
Episode 39 - Bruce Lee
#1 - Jackie Chan
Who else but Jackie Chan could be the most popular, favorite martial arts actor? No one but Jackie combines brilliant choreography with creative action and characters that are incredibly likable. For many, their first Jackie Chan film remains their favorite and for good reason. The first time you see what Jackie Chan can do it changes you - and it makes you hold all other martial arts actors to his standard. Few come close and, according to our poll, none bests him.