Growing up I always looked forward to Saturday afternoons because that was when they showed martial arts movies on t.v., such as Five Deadly Venoms and Clan of the White Lotus. Well times have changed; now when I want to watch a great karate (or kung fu) flick, I generally look to Netflix.
The difficulty I find is if you do not know what you are looking, then it is really hit-and-miss. This is why I am writing this piece. The following will be a list of must see martial arts movies on Netflix streaming service.
However, I do have to add two disclaimers: 1) There will be no Bruce Lee movies on this list. The reason? You will look him up without me telling you 2) This list is written for newbies to this genre; fans of this genre will already have seen the movies that I suggest.
The list is in alphabetical order, so they are in no way ranked. Thanks for taking the time to check out this post and I hope you find some new flicks to enjoy.
U.S. soldier Frank Dux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) has come to Hong Kong to be accepted into the Kumite, a highly secret and extremely violent martial-arts competition. After enduring a difficult training, Frank is given the opportunity to fight. But can he survive?
This movie offers great fight scenes, a solid storyline, and some comedy relief. It also has a fantastic villain, Chong Li, played by legendary Bolo Yeung. Fans will remember Bolo from Enter the Dragon. This movie came out in 1988 when Jean-Claude was starring in a string of highly enjoyable movies.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
In 19th century Qing Dynasty China, a warrior (Chow Yun-Fat) gives his sword, Green Destiny, to his lover (Michelle Yeoh) to deliver to safe keeping, but it is stolen, and the chase is on to find it. The search leads to the House of Yu where the story takes on a whole different level.
Ang Lee’s movie completely transformed the way martial arts films are depicted. He added a stylized quality to the fantastic performances by Chow-Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, and (my favorite) Ziyi Zhang. This film won Academy Awards for cinematography, best art direction, and best foreign film.
I strongly suggest that you search Netflix for Chow-Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, and Ziyi Zhang because they always seem to be in good movies.
The story of the martial arts master (Ip Man) who taught the Wing Chun style of kung fu to Bruce Lee.
Bruce Lee is obviously world-renowned, so it makes sense that everyone wants to know about the man that taught him. The Grandmaster is one of many current movies about the life of Ip Man. This one has a great story, along with phenomenal fight scenes. The battles between Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang are truly epic.
The life story of Yip Man, the first person to teach the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun.
Yes, another Ip Man movie, but it is a completely different story. Donnie Yen (another must watch artist) gives an absolutely outstanding performance. Most people I know (who are into this genre) generally have this film in their top five.
The Legend of Drunken Master
From a land where honor and tradition reign, comes the legend of a martial-arts hero unlike any other — the “Drunken Master” — who can turn just one drink into devastation and humiliation for his enemies. His technique is fast, furious… and powerfully funny.
This is really Jackie Chan at his best. Do not let the comedy aspect fool you, this movie still offers fantastic fights. Jackie Chan is a highly underrated martial artist. This movie allows him to show off both his fighting and comedic skills.
Man of Tai Chi
A young martial artist’s amazing skills in tai chi grant him entry into an underworld fight club.
Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut is right in my wheelhouse. He puts together a solid story with incredible fight scenes. It was also nice to see Tai Chi finally get some love.
In Thailand, the impoverished village of Ban Nong Pradu has its most precious Buddha statue stolen from the temple. Luckily the small town also has a very skilled fighter in the form of Ting (Tony Jaa), who sets out on a quest to recover the cherished figure.
Thailand gets into the mix with a movie that spawned a few sequels. Tony Jaa is absolutely amazing, and he is also someone whom you should check out. The story seems simple, but there is some added complexity. The real joy of this movie is the fight scenes.
There are many great martial arts films on Netflix, but these are a great starter set. Now you also have to check out the must sees that are not on Netflix, namely my two favorites: The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2: Berendal. I also strongly recommend John Wick (Keanu Reeves) because of the great action and epicly basic story.
Please leave a comment below with your favorite martial arts movie, which everyone should see.
This is a sample of the tamest fight scene in The Raid: Redemption. I do not want to show the best ones because I do not want to spoil the phenomenal fight scenes. Gareth Evans is the best director in this genre.