For almost half a century, martial arts movies have been inspiring people to explore Asian culture, tradition, and philosophy. Also, watching the one could instantly push that ?call to action? button inside all of us.
Throughout the film history, vintage martial arts movies, especially the ones coming from the east, presented us with some of the most beautiful fight sequences! Combined with the admirable honor and tradition, these movies often wake up different feelings which are inspiring us to question our daily lives.
The martial arts movies exploded during the 1970s and their presence is still seen through modern movies such as ?The Matrix? and ?Kill Bill? which were following the same style and principle.
This week, we?ve decided to conduct a little research and bring you the top 10 underground martial arts movies! We bet you?ve forgotten or didn?t know some of the presented below!
Black Belt (2007)
Directed by Shunichi Nagasaki, this karate movie takes place prior to WW2 in the occupied region of Manchuria, Japan. The movie sees the corrupt Japanese army attempting to disturb the peaceful mountain life of the Karate dojos by using their training camps for military purposes. Before his peaceful death, the old master Eiken Shibahara (Yosuke Natsuki) traditionally passes the Kuroobi black belt to his three students Taikan (Tatsuya Naka), Giryu (Akihito Yagi) and Choei (Yuji Suzuki), and assigns them a mission to defend the homeland and wisely decide amongst themselves who deserve the precious belt the most.
We have to point out that this Shotokan-style movie is made up of many astonishing martial arts techniques that are actually performed by professionals! All three leading actors are a successful martial artist:
Tatsuya Naka (Taikan) ? 7th Dan JKA Shotokan karate
Akihito Yagi (Giryu) ? 7th Dan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate
Yuji Suzuki (Choei) ? 1st Dan Kyokushin karate
Ong Bak 2003
When Tony Jaa hit the scene he had an insane approach to martial arts, similar to a few of his predecessors like Jackie Chan he would do all his own stunts, but Tony took it to a new level in Ong Bak, with some of the most insane no rope stunts you will ever see in martial arts film.
?The Blind Swordsman?
The famous fictional character created by Kan Shimozawa was portrayed in many movies over the years, but this is the only version in which the movie director Takeshi Kitano plays the key role as well.
The story begins with the blind masseur/swordsman coming to a small town involved in the fierce Yakuza war. He meets the two geishas whose parents happen being killed during the robbery which developed into the massacre and offers help. After finding out the responsible Yakuza?s, the three join forces in getting revenge for the murderers and clear the town from the criminals.
This samurai drama is by far the most awarded on this list! The successful movie won the prestigious Silver Lion for Best Director award, and many other awards followed.
The Prodigal Son (1981)
?The Prodigal Son? is a martial art classic coming from Hong Kong. The movie carefully follows the life of the kung fu student Leung Chang who is also a son of a wealthy man. In the movie, Chang?s lack of skills and capabilities is obvious, and his father has to pay ringers to fight him and as expected, lose. Immediately upon discovery of the father?s offensive actions, Chang encounters the kung fu master and asks for help to discover the true ways of martial arts and life.
For many critics, this movie is well-balanced between drama and action. It even has some elements of comedy which don?t affect the overall impression. The movie director Sammo Hung is also a writer of the story and is a co-star in the film as well.
King Boxer (1972)
?Five Fingers of Death?
?King Boxer? came as a product of the largest Hong Kong movie production studio at the time and got released in the US by Warner Bros. The movie managed to successfully capitalize on Warner?s TV series ?Kung Fu? and was responsible for the popularity of the eastern martial arts movies on North American soil.
The movie is based around the two young students sent by their master to the martial arts school in order to learn the Iron fist (iron palm) fighting technique. Immediately upon arrival, they both enter the preparation for the All-China iron fist Tournament. On their journey, they both face all kinds of ups and downs but the sudden death of an old master gives them the necessary motivation to overcome the struggles.
Fighter in the wind (2004)
Originally South Korean film, ?Fighter in the wind? is based on the fictional book Karate Baka Ichidai which reveals a story of the Karate competitor Choi Yeung-Eui voluntarily going to Japan to take part in World War II as a fighter pilot. However, Choi became a different kind of hero, battling organized crime, corruption, and racism on the streets across the land of the rising sun. This martial arts drama is a unique entry into the world of martial arts and one of the most underrated Asian movies for sure!
Duel to the Death (1983)
In this directorial debut of Ching Siu-tung, every ten years the most skilled swordsmen from China and Japan are traditionally making a historical meet to prove their skills and fight to their death while representing the National pride. The two leading characters divide the same values but live different ways of life. Ching Wan is a respectful martial artist who typically enjoys a peaceful life and spends his time training with the Shaolin Monks. On the other hand, Hashimoto is a relentless person and the leader of Japanese Samurais. While preparing for the clash of swords, Wan and Hashimoto are fighting the conspirators who want to fix their battle and take advantage of each martial art.
Apart from the powerful story, the movie offers incredible martial arts and swords fighting scenes which will certainly blow your mind!
Wing Chun (1994)
Wing Chun is a martial arts action/melodrama which follows the life of a young lady who runs the family tofu shop in her village. Apart from the stunning beauty, Wing Chun is an experienced kung fu practitioner who will instantly put her skills to work after local bandits attempt to rob her humble family. However, her heroic actions triggered even more trouble against the notorious bandit brothers named ?Flying Chimpanzee? and ?Flying Monkey.?
If you?re a fan of Michelle Yeoh, don?t overlook this one! Many critics suggest Wing Chun is one of her finest performances!
Fist of legend (1994)
Fist of Legend is a remake of the 1972 Bruce Lee?s classic Fist of Fury (1972) and arguably the most underrated movie of Jet Li?s acting career. This historical action movie occurs at the beginning of World War I in 1914 during the Japanese occupation of China. During this time, Chen Zhen (Jet Li) lives as a Chinese student in Japan, but the tragic death of his Chinese teacher drove him to come back to occupied China and seek revenge.
Unlike from the majority of Asian martial art movies, Fist of Legend presents very realistic choreography and for some critics, it?s better than in the original! With this masterpiece, Jet Li demonstrated his incredible martial arts skills, and once again proved the doubters wrong!
The Chinese Professionals (1971)
Originally named ?One-armed boxer?, the movie is about Tien Lung, talented martial artist training at Ching Te martial art school. After he engages in a fight with the notorious criminal Hook Gang, Tien witnesses his master Hang Tui and the rest of his team members getting killed by the mercenary martial artists from Shanghai. During this bloody battle, Tien loses his right arm and becomes a ?one-arm boxer?. Losing everything naturally inspires Tien Lung to devote his existence to training and destroying everyone involved in murdering his loved ones.
Perceiving Tien Lung going for ultimate revenge will satisfy most bloodthirsty martial arts fans in the world! Although the movie has some bizarre mistakes (you can see the right arm in some scenes.), this classic represents a great introduction to the Asian cinematography.
13 Assassins (2010)
?J?sannin no Shikaku?
In a 2010 remake of the original Eiichi Kudo?s 1963 film ?13 Assassins?, Takashi Miike moved the version set toward the end of Edo Period. Based on the historical events, the movie follows the twelve assassins and a mighty hunter on their mission to eliminate the sadistic leader of Akashi clan and stop him from steering the country into war.
The movie is loosely based on historical events and it received a lot of positive responses from western critics. One of the critics perfectly describes this little masterpiece:
This slam-bang remake of a 1963 feature by Eichi Kudo builds slowly, accumulating characters and themes, then explodes into a prolonged and masterful battle sequence inside a deserted town. ? source
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