‘The only thing better than seeing a kung fu master somehow manage to combine parkour with decapitation is watching the severed head explode, gruesomely, in a mix of what is clearly food-dyed oatmeal and Hawaiian Punch.’
The sugar-cookie high is starting to fade, and Uncle Marty’s drunken sex-life questions are only just beginning: Face it, if you’re going to make it through the rest of this holiday, you’re going to need some help.
Some deadly, deadly help.
10.) Enter the Dragon: Holidays are all about tradition, so I’m kicking off the list with one of Bruce Lee’s best. What could be better than a movie starring the grand-daddy of ass kickers? One that’s spiced with a dash of blaxploitation.
9.) Pray For Death: I’m sure I don’t have repeat the old truism, “you never know a ninja’s true strength until he moves his family to a depressed city in America, is threatened by a local crime syndicate, and, in order to avenge the wrongs done to him, goes back to his secret ninja teaching.”
Not ringing a bell? Then clearly you need to brush up on your Pray For Death.
8.) Supercop: Sometimes, when my mind is clouded with visions of Rush Hour 3 and the Jaden Smith Karate Kid, I forget that Jackie Chan is more than just a genial sidekick: He’s really, really awesome at kung fu.
Luckily, Supercop, packed with fight scenes, explosions, helicopter rides of death, and vaguely Kim Jong Il-looking military leaders reminds me why I loved him – and Michelle Yeoh – in the first place.
7.) Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame: Full disclosure: Detective Dee isn’t super-heavy on the fight scenes. But the ample doses of albino henchmen, underground hermit cave-cities, and spontaneous human combustion more than make up for that little oversight.
Fuller disclosure: if that’s not enough to make you want to watch Detective Dee, I don’t want to know you.
6.) Goemon: The story of a Japanese Robin Hood out for vengeance, Goemon has some of the best fight scenes of any movie on this list.
Though the dubbing is pretty terrible, and some of the flying-through-the-air special effects take away from the already-impressive-enough battles (Crouching Tiger was cool and all, but I, for one, don’t need every fight in a kung fu movie to take place in the sky), Goemon’s engaging story, often-beautiful aesthetic, and-did-I-mention-awesome-fights? make it a must-see for any kung fu fan.
5.) Raging Phoenix: The only thing more bad-ass than a kung fu master fighting his way through crowds of enemies to a bloody, hard-won revenge?
Lady kung fu masters.
Be forewarned, Raging Phoenix is a little too enamored of slapstick humor, easily provided by the drunken fighting style it showcases, and JeeJa Yanin, the lady-master who makes this movie worth watching in the first place, has been in much better kung fu movies, in particular 2008’s Chocolate.
But Chocolate isn’t available to stream, and you definitely need some JeeJa Yanin in your life NOW, so crack a beer and queue Raging Phoenix up.
4.) Merentau: It’s got street gangs. It’s got sexy, but unwilling and fundamentally good prostitutes. It’s got a weird British dude who is inexplicably good at fighting and bad at dying.
Really, do you need me to say any more?
3.) Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky: The only thing better than seeing a kung fu master somehow manage to combine parkour with decapitation is watching the severed head explode, gruesomely, in a mix of what is clearly food-dyed oatmeal and Hawaiian Punch.
Sure, you could watch Riki-Oh for the thin plotline and frequent fight scenes. But you HAVE to watch Riki-Oh for the cartoonish violence and comically poorly-executed special effects.
2.) Ip Man: The best thing about Ip Man, a sorta-biopic about the early days of Bruce Lee’s famed instructor, is the fighting. No, it’s the fact that even though it only came out in 2008, it shares the decades-long plotline of all great kung fu movies, which is (China or Japan) is superior to those sneaky, evil (Chinese or Japanese). No, no, no, I’ve got it. It’s that it allows you to discover Donnie Yen, the new millenium’s answer to Sammo Hung.
Whatever it is, it’s worth watching, then following its lure down a wormhole of Yen’s many other films.
1.) Ong Bak, The Thai Warrior: Forget the plot, forget the adorable elephants, forget even Tony Jaa’s amazing, god-like body, and remember this: a minutes-long chase scene through busy streets in which Jaa vaults himself OVER MULTIPLE CARS.
Seriously, this might be the best movie of all time. He also launches himself into the air, travels about 20 feet horizontally, after which his KNEES ATTACK PEOPLES’ FACES.
It’s not just Jaa’s abs that are god-like. I’m frankly a little afraid that the man actually has super-powers, and controls all of our fates.
Just remember, perfection like this is a lightning-strike event … so don’t make the mistake of thinking the sequels live up to the original, or even bear watching.