I was hanging out with a buddy of mine last night, his name is Tyler and he is an international student from Korea. We don’t see each other often due to busy schedules on campus , but every now and then he’ll bust in my door and yell, “HEY SKYLER!” at the top of his lungs. Then we start discussing who knows what usually Tyler starts, and many of the things he’s told me about are simply fascinating. He’s been all over the world so I’ll ask him what it’s like back in Korean and he will tell me, and then follow up with a story about when he was in say Egypt it’s fascinating. Last night we got into a discussion about martial arts due to the fact that he has a black belt in Judo and I in Tae-Kwon Do. From there we started discussing martial arts films, now if there’s one thing America isn’t very good at it’s serious epic martial arts movies. Granted we have our Jackie Chan stuff, but in the end none of that compares to some of the incredible stuff made by China, Japan, and Korea. After showing each other a couple of our moves, though, Tyler and I started discussing other foreign movies, which gave me the idea to compile this list of my top ten Foreign Asian films (most of which are martial arts films)! Check it out!
10. War of the Arrows
This film follows the character Nam Yi who is the greatest archer in all of Korea, but he is forced to flee for his life when the Qing Dynasty sends in troops to attack his people. His sister is taken captive and he must go rescue her. If you like archery then you’ll love War of the Arrows.
Oh and the guy is so good he can curve his arrows!
9. Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
I don’t know a whole lot of Chinese actors but I can quickly recognize Donnie Yen if he’s in a movie. Donnie Yen is one of my favorite actors of all time and that will be reflected in a lot of this list. In Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen Chen Zhen gets shot down and is thought dead, seven years later he resurfaces as a masked vigilante. It’s got some cool martial arts scenes and of course if you’ve read some of my other articles you’ll know I love vigilante-ism.
8. Kung Fu Dunk
I figured I should add a comedy in here somewhere. Kung Fu Dunk is about an orphan, Fang Shijie who is found in the garbage and raised by martial artists at an academy. He manages to get into basketball and because of the skills he developed at the academy becomes very good at basketball. It’s like Annie but with basketball and martial arts.
7. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
So the original reason I wanted to see this movie is because when I ran across the trailer there’s a brief scene where one of the characters full-on side-kicks a deer (which you can see in the gif below). I’m seeing this and I’m like, what the heck I wanna know the context here! I watched it and it was a pretty cool movie, a martial arts meets Sherlock Holmes kind of thing with a side of fantasy elements. Check it out!
If you look closely enough you might be able to notice differences in the martial arts styles in the movies. In Shaolin, since the whole movie is based on monks who are typically a peaceful group, it’s very easy to see. In Shaolin the warlord Hou Jie kills his rival but in the process loses everything he loves including his family. This leads him to join a nearby monastery of shoalin monks, learning their ways and changing his own in order to become a better man. But all doesn’t end well, warning: this movie has a sad ending.
5. Ip Man 2
Almost as good as the original, Ip Man 2 is a phenomenal martial arts experience. Ip Man moves to Hong Kong and sets up his own school to teach Wing Chun to anyone willing to learn, but times are tough and there are other groups not too fond of the man’s teachings. We also get to see a lot of interesting interaction between the Americans and Chinese of this time-period.
A little bit far-fetched but still really awesome!
4. Ip Man
Obviously the original Ip Man is going to be before the sequel, though both were great movies. The form of martial art featured in this movie is called Wing Chun is incredible to watch in action. The movie follows the story of Ip Man during the time when the Japanese were invading China. Yip Man must protect his family and his people from the Chinese soldiers.
OH MY GOSH SO MANY PUNCHES!!!!
3. The Raid
Possibly the most epic movie of all time, the only movie I could possibly rank above it is its sequel. The Raid follows an agent part of a S.W.A.T. team tasked with taking down a building run by a high-ranking drug lord. What happens inside, well, you’ll just have to watch it for yourself. And for those of you out there who hate reading subtitles, there IS an English dubbed version.
One of my favorite moments of the raid (way more epic in context).
2. Let the Bullets Fly
One of the first foreign Asian films I had ever seen, Let the Bullets Fly tells the tale of the bandit Pocky Zhang set in 1920s China. The bandit manages to shoot down a train car carrying an official who is about to start his work at a nearby town. Zhang takes him prisoner as well as takes his position but must deal with the towns crime-lord if he wants to make a profit of the situation. The movie features a really intriguing storyline with some comedy, some action, some sadness, and a decent amount of drama; all in all a fun movie to check out.
Here’s a little chunk from the trailer.
The Raid 2
As if the first movie wasn’t already almost too much epic to handle, the creators made a sequel that is even more mind blowing than the first. The movie continues on from where the last one left off so I’m not going to say a whole lot about the plot-line to avoid giving anything away but seriously it’s incredible. I managed to see it with my brother and it was so intense it had me sweating and on the edge of my seat the entire time.