No cage action? Time to watch some martial arts films

Bruce Lee: Enter The Dragon
Bruce Lee: Enter The Dragon

Once upon a time, during the 1970's, martial arts films littered the screen. Anyone from that generation can remember Saturday afternoon films on WPIX (here in NY). Since then, bad voice dubbing; scripts, filming, and acting in these kinds of movies have gotten way better; as has the understanding of the various forms of martial arts among the audience.

So while we have time away from the real fights dur to the outbreak of coronavirus, lets look back at some of the best films dealing with true martial arts. Outside of animated films there's an overall landscape of genres. From the silly to the serious to those with very deep hidden meanings in their plot.

Everyone, from the legendary Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sonny Chiba, Michael Jai White, and others drew consideration. Let's start with honorable mentions first. These are the films that are just fun to watch. A way to pass the time and forget about worldly worries. Since the UFC's rankings go by 15; here's 15 must see films. And for the record; they are in NO PARTICULAR ORDER!!

That said you have to start with Here Comes The Boom. Who can't crack a smile and laugh at a Kevin James and Adam Sandler project. Especially when sports are involved. And with Kevin playing a former college wrestler turned MMA fighter; it's not hard to picture something like this happening in real life. As a matter of fact; local indie organizations are filled with real life story lines like that.

The original Mortal Kombat from 1995 has since been duplicated a couple of times. But none can touch the 1st one. It may have some cheesy lines and scenes mostly with Bridgette Wilson-Sampras' version of Sonya Blade. But it has some half decent fight scenes like Liu Kang and Reptile.

The Karate Kid has to get a mention. Hokey 80's flick? yes, but it's one we can all relate to in getting even with the bully.

Wes Chatham, Devon Sawa, and the aforementioned Michael Jai White lead a gritty cast in The Philly Kid. Its message is clear in always push hard and do what's morally right.

Another common message is 'all that glitters is not gold'. That's true in the case of The Lady Hermit from 1971. It's arguably Pei-Pei Cheng and Szu Shih's best work together.

Yagyu Clan Conspiracy is led by Sonny Chiba (now-a-days known for Kill Bill). He's a multi-black belt wearing martial artist from the days of bad dubbing. Clan might not be his best work but the film has some incredible fight scenes with every actor doing their own stunts.

Brawler from 2011 is fight club before Fight Club with a mix of Cain vs Abel when pushed. If you've ever had family issues this is it on the big screen.

1978's Game Of Death is just one of the great Bruce Lee's films where he shows his array of skills. Now how would he ever have done in an MMA cage? Who knows. But it's undeniable that he gave a new meaning to the genre and to martial arts itself. Plus anytime you get to see Kareem Abdul-Jabbar willing to throw down, it's worth a watch. Although he only featured in the original and refused to do the remake.

Jet Li's Dragon Fight is by far one of his mid-road projects. However there's something that just draws you into it. Which makes it a solid view.

Jackie Chan and a host of incredible martial artists go at it in New Fist Of Fury. It comes with another common back story in the death of a grandfather. The genre again forces you to search your soul and reach your destiny regardless of landmines before you.

Blood And Bone not only stars Michael Jai White; but Gina Carano, Kimbo Slice, and Bob Sapp as well to name a few. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside when you see a friend keeping his word to a friend who has passed away.

Kickboxer as well, shows us that the family structure is a binding force reaching one's true potential. Jean-Claude Van Damme goes deep inside himself and has to learn old ways to reach that. And that's a story line for real life as well.

Based on Frank Dux's real life; another Van Damme film Bloodsport deals with a real kumite. And in the old school it can be win or die. The ultimate fight for your life.The fact that an American went and set records in Hong Kong is inspirational.

Nick Nolte, Tom Hardy, and Joel Edgerton display the family aspect in Warrior, and it's a brutal realization that sometimes family is only skin deep; which can be upsetting for some. There's lots of deep meaning in this piece and should be watched with one close to you. Afterwards, you may need a hug.

Last and absolutely not least may just be the best one ever. Enter The Dragon is arguably the most famous karate movie. Bruce Lee's final full-length film. One with old school outcomes of win or possibly die. Sort of the Mortal Kombat original thesis. With obvious character differentials.

Edited by Anurag Mitra
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