Stunts, tricks, and spinning kicks are just part of what we love about the fight movie genre. We all enjoy the heroic efforts of our favorite action stars, even in the face of the impossible. In that same vein, we’ve embarked on an impossible quest of our own…a list of the best fight flicks…
…of all time.
55. Street Fighter (1994)
Kicking off (literally) with this ironically hilarious cult classic.
Jean Claude Van Damme, in his Hollywood prime, stars as Colonel Guile, who is on a mission to stop the evil General M. Bison (Raul Julia) and his plot to create an army of genetically-modified troops.
Julia, who unfortunately passed away before the film’s release, is the star of the show, contributing to the film’s now-iconic special effects, fight moves, and epic one-liners.
Van Damme brings his usual package (and massive biceps) to the fore with a barrage of…interesting stunts as he tries his hand at comedy.
A great film that never loses re-watchability.
54. The Tuxedo (2002)
A forgotten Jackie Chan action-comedy that had some wicked fight scenes.
Chan plays Jimmy, a taxi driver who is forced to step into the (literal) shoes of Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), a secret agent with a cool set of threads.
With the aid of a high-tech tuxedo, Jimmy can implement all known forms of martial arts, dance styles, and languages. It’s basically Iron Man’s armor.
Unfortunately, Jimmy is forced to learn on the job as he tackles the Banning Corporation, a bio-terrorist group that seeks to poison the water supply and make everyone…thirsty.
Although the film is showing its age slightly now, it is still worth a watch for the epic stunts.
53. The King of Fighters (2010)
A science-fiction fight flick featuring future stars Maggie Q, Sean Farris, and Will Yun Lee as characters from the popular King of Fighters videogame series.
Produced by Double Edge Entertainment and directed by Gordon Chan, King of Fighters is an epic film featuring everything you would expect…other dimensions, secret agents, ancient magical artifacts, and awesome (yet hardly-believable) fight scenes.
If you’re a fan of the games, this one is especially for you.
52. Power Rangers (2017)
The Power Rangers were HUGE in the ‘90s, mainly because of the insane popularity of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers TV series. The Rangers had birthed a media and merchandise empire to rival any other from the late ‘90s to early 2000s.
Fast-forward to 2017, and the kids were all about the Avengers. A Power Rangers film was the last thing on anyone’s mind…
Yet there it was, a film that served as a reboot of the original show. And it’s pretty good.
Dacre Montgomery (of Stranger Things fame) stars as Jason Scott, the Red Ranger and the leader of the Power Rangers. The film co-stars Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, and Ludi Lin as the other Rangers. The legendary Bryan Cranston plays the equally-legendary Zordon, while Elizabeth Banks brings her comedic pedigree to the villainous role of Rita.
If you loved the original series (like we all did), the film has tons of nostalgia triggers with a modern twist.
Well-executed fight scenes too.
51. Expect No Mercy (1995)
The ‘90s were certainly a time for less talk and more action, which is exactly what this film delivers.
Expect No Mercy is a no-nonsense no-waste-your-time kind of film that has a very basic plot.
Because films like this aren’t about the plot…
Billy Blanks is the star of this one, playing CIA agent (and martial arts wizard) Justin Vanier. Vanier’s task is simple…beat up a group of virtual reality terrorists bent on taking over the world.
And beat them up he does, incorporating some classic ‘90s stunts and martial arts choreography.
A nice watch if you don’t mind older movies.
50. Mortal Kombat (1995)
Another videogame adaptation from the ‘90s.
Starring Christopher Lambert as Raiden, the god of thunder, Mortal Kombat was a very faithful adaptation of the first MK game. For the first time ever, fans got to see Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero, and more in live-action.
While it lacks the video game series’ famed gore (PG rating and all that), Mortal Kombat features a lot of well-thought-out martial arts sequences combined with stunning landscape locations.
Special effects are a little…aged, though, but it still passes as a classic.
49. Accident Man (2018)
This interesting action film follows Mike Fallon (played by Scott Adkins), a hitman who specializes in making his hits look like accidents. Mike is also a member of an assassins-only bar, the Oasis.
After he is attacked en route to collecting payment, Mike begins to suspect treachery from the Oasis’ paymaster, a man named Milton. The deaths of people close to Mike prove these suspicions, as he quickly finds himself in the middle of a deadly conspiracy…
Epic kung-fu ensues as Mike fights for answers…and his life.
Jesse V. Johnson was given the directorial reins for this one, and the likes of Ray Stevenson, Ashley Greene, and Michael Jai White form part of an awesome cast.
48. The Art of Self-Defense (2019)
Jesse Eisenberg brings his unique style of comedy to this Netflix production, playing the role of the nerdy Casey Davies.
After Casey is attacked by a bike gang, he ponders a suitable mode of self-defense. He considers getting a gun but soon stumbles upon a karate dojo and its charismatic teacher, Sensei.
What follows is an epic hero’s journey for Casey, involving revenge, betrayal, karate chops, and a surprising level of depth.
Imogen Poots and Alessandro Nivola serve as the perfect co-stars for Eisenberg’s character in this awesome action-comedy.
47. Triple Threat (2019)
Another Jesse V. Johnson picture. This time though, it’s jungle battles instead of urban brawls.
Triple Threat stars Michael Jai White as Deveraux, a “freedom fighter” who seeks help with freeing prisoners in Thailand. For this mission, Deveraux recruits Payu (Tony Jaa) and Long Fei (Tiger Chen), a pair of ”special trackers”, to help his team.
Unfortunately, the recruits quickly discover that the mission entails much more than they signed up for, as they realize that they’ve been hired by a gang of criminal mercenaries led by a man named Collins (Scott Adkins).
As you would expect, double-crosses, triple-crosses, and a whole lotta Muay Thai are the order of the day in beautiful Thailand.
The fight choreography more than makes up for the simple plot, with Jaa and Chen, in particular, translating their awesome martial arts knowledge to the silver screen once again.
46. Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019)
This direct-to-video crossover film is criminally underrated in many ways.
Not only is Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a vigilante dream team in theory, but it also delivers in practice. The animation, story, and pacing of the film are excellent, and so are the fighting sequences.
Batman and the Turtles team up to tackle the super-villain alliance of Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul, who are hell-bent on turning Gotham into an anarchic wasteland. Other DC villains like Penguin and the Joker also feature in this action-packed must-watch.
A strong voice cast includes the likes of Troy Baker, John DiMaggio, and Tara Strong.
45. The Accountant (2016)
Gavin O’ Connor directs this star-studded action-thriller, which features Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons, John Lithgow, Anna Kendrick, and The Punisher star Jon Bernthal. Instant hit.
Christian Wolff (Affleck) is a career criminal accountant who has to shake the government off his trail by masking his activities with an honest day’s work.
Explosions, mathematical wizardry, masterful acting, and world-class fight choreography are all brought together through divine cinematography. Top-notch filmmaking on the part of O’Connor and his crew.
The Accountant has been out for a while, but still no spoilers. Must-watch.
44. Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)
A major throwback with the legendary Chuck Norris, who was in the infancy of his leading action-hero hot streak following the success of Silent Rage a year earlier.
Lone Wolf McQuade focuses on Texas Ranger and ex-U.S. Marine J.J. McQuade (Norris), the brooding essence of the film. The man literally prefers to operate alone…and he has a wolf. What more do you really need?
Shootouts, car chases, Mexican horse thieves, and senor Chuck’s world-renowned roundhouse kicks all collide in this ‘80s banger. The story is also pretty good, as McQuade undergoes real character development that leads him to re-think his lifestyle.
43. Fast Five (2011)
Buckle up, Buttercup. We’ve got bad guys to catch…
While the Fast & Furious series had always been about driving on the wrong side of the road, it had mostly been about…driving.
However, following the middling reception to Fast & Furious (the fourth film), it was clear the series needed burying…or a boost.
Enter Fast Five, the crucial spark that has led to the series’ growth from cult favorite to global titan. This movie was insanely good, and arguably the best in the series (2 Fast fans don’t kill me), as it entered the action genre with style.
Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) gather a crack squad of drivers (and more) to pull off the most ludicrous heist since The Italian Job.
The franchise’s stars all shine, and it sees the debut of Hollywood heavyweight Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as super (and not-so-secret) agent Luke Hobbs, a no-nonsense, trash-talking Goliath who pushes bad guys (and t-shirts) to the brink.
Spoiler warning: this movie features beautiful Brazilian scenery, explosions, the step-mother of all car chases, obscene amounts of baby oil…, and The Rock v Diesel.
42. Bulletproof Monk (2003)
For readers too young to remember (or know), 2003 was one heck of a year for action movies, and we’ve got a really fun one for you.
American Pie hero Seann William Scott co-stars with Hong Kong icon Chow Yun-fat to bring you an action-packed comedy story by Ethan Riff and Cyrus Voris, creators of the Bulletproof Monk comic book series.
Scott plays Kar, a scruffy pickpocket whose path crosses with ancient Tibetan prophecy. Monk with No Name (Yun-fat) is the holder of an ancient scroll that grants supernatural powers to anyone who reads it. Powers include resistance to injury, youth, and wicked kung fu skills.
Naturally, Kar steals the scroll and unleashes a can of kickass on rival thieves before he learns of the scroll holder’s ultimate purpose…
41. The Expendables (2010)
This film could arguably be much higher on this list just on hype alone. I mean, this film was hyped-hyped back in 2010 off a series of trailers that had the world waiting with bated breath.
Stallone, Lundgren, Li, Statham, Rourke, Crews, Stone Cold, Willis, Schwarzeneggar, and more, make up a multi-generational all-star team of kick-ass. Even legendary composer Bryan Tyler is involved, contributing a mighty orchestral backdrop for the chaos that follows the heroes.
The story, though secondary, is still very engaging, with an elderly Stallone leading an elderly group of mercenaries to take out a nasty South American dictator. As you would expect with guys like Stallone and Lundgren on the squad, what is supposed to be a stealth mission quickly turns into blazing carnage.
Jason Statham’s performance is particularly spectacular, as the Englishman produces some of his finest stunts and fight choreography. Jet Li’s in it too!
Nice throwback…and it has sequels.
40. The Transporter 2 (2005)
Speaking of Jason Statham, here’s another highlight.
Very rare for a sequel to be better than the original installment, but here’s the odd exception, although some fans will debate that the first film is better.
However, Statham’s ability to prove himself as more than a poor man’s Vin Diesel earns The Transporter 2 a spot here.
After his wild adventures in France, Frank Martin (Statham) moves to Miami to work for a wealthy government bigwig and his young family as a chauffeur. Naturally, the iconic Audi A8 is the vehicle of choice.
As is so often the case, the family’s son is kidnapped by villains looking for a payday, sparking a personal vendetta with Frank.
What follows is epic car chases, shootouts, and some gentlemanly hand-to-hand combat of course.
A classic installment in a classic franchise.
39. Batman: Soul of the Dragon (2021)
Honestly, these direct-to-video Batman flicks are all pretty good.
Here we have Batman: Soul of the Dragon, which is directed by Sam Liu and features voice work from David Giuntoli, Mark Dacascos, Kelly Hu, and Michael Jai White.
The film follows Bruce Wayne (Giuntoli) as he travels to Nanda Parbat, a monastery in the Himalayas, to learn ancient martial arts. Through the monastery’s head, O-Sensei, Bruce meets elite martial arts practitioners Shiva, Bronze Tiger, Jade, and Richard Dragon.
Soon, Batman realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew with a trip that ends up haunting him years later…
38. Kung Pow! Enter the Fist (2002)
This is an absolute must-watch if you haven’t and a must-rewatch if you have.
Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is not a serious movie at all. Which is why people love it.
The film is the brainchild of Steve Oedekerk, who serves as writer, director, and star of the show.
The Chosen One (Oedekerk) is a young wandering fighter on the hunt for the men who murdered his family. Along the way, he meets a quirky kung-fu sensei, a cow with a black belt (and lethal udders), an acolyte who has been purposely trained incorrectly, and a host of other zany characters.
A silly pick, but a great film nonetheless.
37. Wrath of Man (2021)
Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham have come a long way together, with the two collaborating on an unbelievable list of action hits. Needless to say, their latest project is true to form.
Statham stars as H, a security guard who is still learning the ropes at security and transportation company Fortico.
As it so happens, H needs no introduction to high-stakes situations as he goes on a solo kill spree against would-be armed robbers. Talk about employee of the month…
Through Ritchie’s directorial expertise, we get to see Statham execute his greatest hits. Chokes, kicks, knives, pistols, and various household appliances are all fair game as usual. Underwater stuff too…
The film’s been out for a year or so, but no spoilers from me.
36. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s quantum crescendo represents peak writing crossing paths with peak investment. The Avengers franchise certainly had its wobbles along the way, but the epic ramp up towards the end (Civil War, Black Panther, etc.) led to a perfectly stuck landing with Endgame.
With Thanos in full control of the universe, the Avengers (or what’s left of them) seem to be out of ideas. However, the mighty Ant-Man provides an equally tiny bit of hope from another dimension.
By putting their heads together, earth’s mightiest heroes piece together a comeback strategy to stop Thanos’ snap.
Robert Downey Jr.’s finest hour is complemented by $450 million worth of co-stars, crew, special effects, locations, post-production…and marketing. The fifth highest-grossing film of all time also features one of the gargantuan battles, as the Avengers assemble to save the universe.
35. Black Panther (2018)
Another box office giant from the MCU.
Black Panther was a literal crowning moment for the franchise and the late Chadwick Boseman. It also features some original action sequences and some seriously high stakes.
T’Challa (Boseman), aka the Black Panther, is the recently crowned king of Wakanda, a technological powerhouse in the heart of Africa. However, with the hot seat comes a whole lotta heat, as T’Challa finds himself surrounded by enemies…foreign and domestic.
Featuring a vibrant cast, colorful landscapes, and real emotional resonance, Black Panther was a breath of fresh air for the Avengers franchise and is always worth a revisit.
34. Mulan (1998)
Another Disney gem.
Mulan is perhaps unlucky to be overshadowed by its fellow animated features, but it is a darn good watch.
Directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, the film follows Fa Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na Wen), a young girl who defies traditional Chinese norms with her curiosity and adventurous nature.
When the nation is forced to defend itself from invasion, the emperor demands one man from every family. Unfortunately, Mulan’s elderly father, Fa Zhou (Soon-Tek Oh), is the only man in their family, which means he has to enlist.
To save her father, Mulan thinks quickly and sneaks off to enlist disguised as a man. Along the way, she meets a fellow impersonator, the dragon Mushu (Eddie Murphy). Mushu’s goal is to help Mulan and, by extension, redeem his stained honor.
Disney’s fluid animation brings this new world to life, and the fight sequences are particularly eye-catching. Mulan finds herself up against real men with real weapons and real evil intentions, but with the aid of her ingenuity and her friends, she secures a happy ending in spectacular style.
33. Blood and Bone (2009)
Unfairly labeled as a “poor man’s Fight Club”, Blood and Bone ignores all the philosophical spiel to focus on the core business of beating people up.
Michael Jai White shows everyone why he is one of Hollywood’s go-to martial artists as he stars as Isaiah Bone, a former US Marine who has just been released from prison.
Given his criminal record and need to make ends meet, Bone decides to move to Los Angeles to check out the underground fight scene.
As usual, our hero makes a splash in his new environment, earning himself a few friends and more than his fair share of haters.
As a direct-to-DVD release, Blood and Bone is one of the less-heralded films on this list. However, it more than deserves its spot here due to the sheer violence and well-executed choreography.
32. Alexander (2004)
This historical epic was one of the biggest films of the early 2000s, with a titanic budget and an elite cast. Alexander depicts the life and times of Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, from his infamous birth to his famous victories and his mysterious death.
Colin Farrel takes on the titular role, with Angelina Jolie playing his mother (and alleged puppeteer) Queen Olympias. Other noteworthy cast members include Val Kilmer, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, and the late Christopher Plummer.
Heavyweight director Oliver Stone ties it all together, as we revisit some of Alexander’s greatest battles and the political moves it took to build the world’s largest empire.
31. The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)
The Lego films and tv shows have certainly been a stellar addition to the world of animation.
The Lego Ninjago Movie upholds that standard excellently, with a fun story that is sprinkled with loads of action. The film serves as a tie-in for the events in the Ninjago television series.
The story is about a teenager named Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco), who also happens to be the Green Ninja of the heroic Secret Ninja Force. Lloyd is also the son of the film’s main baddie, Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), and he must battle this constant inner conflict to protect the city of Ninjago from his father’s clutches.
Other stars include Michael Pena, Abbi Jacobson, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, and the legendary Jackie Chan.
30. The Matrix: Reloaded (2003)
The sequel to the reality-bending The Matrix follows up the first movie with the same fast-paced action and red-pill moments.
Neo (Keanu Reeves), now more up to speed with his powers and potential role in a potential prophecy, is now partnered up with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss)…in every sense of the phrase.
Together with Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), the couple heads to Zion and encounters the mass of free people living in the underground city.
With the Sentinels preparing to launch a deadly assault on Zion, Morpheus and Neo turn to the Matrix to seek the Oracle. Unfortunately, a whole range of villains stands in their way. The persistent Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) returns with more friends than ever, but he’s probably the least of Neo’s worries.
The Matrix Reloaded and its meme-friendly stunts are always a great watch.
29. The Great Escape (1963)
It goes without saying that World War 2 often saw all sorts of franticness occurring all at once…
With the German forces stretched between efforts on the frontlines and containing the insane number of prisoners of war (POWs), a gap for potential escape plans was emerging.
The Great Escape is a microcosmic look at that era, as well as the men who had to join their wits to make it home in one piece.
Daring escape plans, diverse skills, and a fair bit of violence serve as the tools of choice, with many men facing now-or-never scenarios with their Nazi captors.
One of Steve McQueen’s best-ever performances sees him play the stubborn Cooler King Hilts, a thorn in the side of every prison camp that’s ever tried to lock him down. Relive the old drive-thru cinema days as McQueen performs outrageous action sequences, including a certain bike chase.
He’s also joined by the likes of James Garner, Richard Attenborough, and many more.
Fun Fact: The Great Escape inspired a 2003 videogame of the same name, based on the film. Check it out if you’re up for a few rage quits.
28. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Next up, we have the final installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. And what a finale it is.
Starring Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (later Darth Vader), champions of the Jedi cause following the infamous Clone Wars.
However, with suspected subterfuge within the Jedi Council itself, it quickly becomes apparent that a new war is afoot…
An awesome installment in the franchise, featuring one of the most dramatic hero-to-villain tales in pop culture.
Oh, and cool lightsaber action comes standard.
27. Ali (2001)
The eternal Muhammad Ali stands above even the most iconic sports stars because he employed his heroics beyond his sport.
Will Smith is the man tasked with recapturing Ali in his boxing and socio-political prime, and the Fresh Prince delivers.
The story of the film covers the period between 1964 and 1974, which features Ali’s first title win against Sonny Liston, his opposition to the war in Vietnam, and the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” against Joe Frazier.
Ali was directed by the evergreen Michael Mann and co-stars Jamie Foxx and Jon Voight.
A must-watch for all boxing fans.
26. Under Siege (1992)
Starring the ever-serious Steven Seagal, Under Siege is a story that features a battleship, a terrorist group, a giant birthday cake, and a cook.
When a group of mercenaries takes control of the USS Missouri, a navy battleship, it is up to Casey Ryback (Seagal), a cook (and former Navy SEAL) to fight his way through the ship and save the hostages on board. Nasty knife skills and a microwave bomb are just a sprinkling of this chef’s lethal culinary skills.
Under Siege is an action-packed tale that went on to earn Oscar nominations and millions at the box office. The stunt work is very original, and director Andrew Davis does a great job of keeping you on the edge of your seat.
The film also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Erika Eleniak, and Gary Busey.
25. Kickboxer (1989)
After his brother is murdered in the ring, Kirk Sloane (Jean Claude Van Damme) decides to learn Muay Thai and seek revenge. Luckily for him, revenge finds him, as Kirk undergoes an incredible transformation to give us one of the defining action flicks of the ‘80s.
While Kickboxer has a somewhat limited plot, co-directors Mark DiSalle and David Worth more than make up for it with excellent action sequences and stunts. Van Damme also delivers with high octane energy and raw emotion. The intense location and spectators during fights also contribute to raising the already-steep stakes.
24. Rush Hour (1999)
The first film in a highly entertaining action-comedy trilogy sees Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker team up to save the daughter of Chinese Consul Solon Han.
After Han’s daughter is kidnapped in LA, he calls for the best Hong Kong detective he knows, Lee (Chan) to assist the FBI in rescuing her. However, the FBI decides to exclude Lee from its real investigation because of doubts over his utility on US shores.
After Lee figures out that he’s being kept out of the way, he and his new “partner” Detective James Carter (Tucker) carry out their own investigation and manage to set up a hostage drop for the young girl.
Using a combination of quick wits, clever police work, and dazzling kung-fu, Lee and Carter manage to prove everyone wrong and save the day.
23. Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge (2020)
These direct-to-video films seem to benefit from the lack of pressure that often comes with major theatrical releases.
Despite the lack of pressure, Warner Bros. managed to produce a diamond with Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, a bloody animated film with all the gore and mayhem we’ve come to expect from the classic videogame series.
The story primarily focuses on Hanzo Hasashi (voiced by Patrick Seitz), a grandmaster of the Shirai Ryu, and the events following the brutal massacre of his village and family by Sub-Zero.
After his own death, Hanzo is brought back to life in the Netherrealm and eventually meets the sorcerer Quan Chi, who offers Hanzo, now Scorpion, a chance at revenge at the upcoming Mortal Kombat tournament.
MK fans, and neutrals, are definitely in for a thrilling 80 minutes.
22. Shanghai Knights (2003)
Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson headlining a comedy action film certainly caught attention back in ’03, and the two stars were worth the eyeballs.
Shanghai Knights is exactly what you would expect from the relative carefreeness and fun-loving natures of both Wilson and Chan, as it dishes karate chops willy-nilly across the globe.
Although it is certainly a fun film, director David Dobkin does a great job of making the stakes feel real as the story progresses.
21. City of God (2002)
This beautifully saddening film is the creation of Brazilian writers Paulo Lins and Braulio Mantovani. The Oscar-nominated City of God is all about the fight for survival, in both the physical and spiritual senses.
Deep in the guts of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we find a sample of a world that is as thrilling as it is deadly. A city where violence is an official language, and where loudmouths collide…
It is in this world that youths like Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), Lil’ Ze (Leandro Firmino), and their respective friends and enemies must survive. The two boys share a common past but choose very different paths for the future.
The star of the film is its overall message, but the cast does a pretty great job too. City of God is somehow one of the most immersive films here despite being in Portuguese.
Great stories and great action translate pretty well it seems.
20. Troy (2004)
Another historical epic with an all-star cast.
Troy focuses on the Trojan-Greek war of the 12th or 13th century BCE, a war sparked by the Trojan Prince Paris’ (Orlando Bloom) affair with Queen Helen of Sparta (Diane Kruger), wife of King Menelaus of Sparta (Brendan Gleeson).
With the Greeks unified under King Agamemnon (Brian Cox), they set sail to lay siege to Troy and bring Helen back. Battles, betrayal, and sneaky tactics are the overall theme of the film, as director Wolfgang Petersen brings this part of Homer’s legendary Iliad to life.
The one-on-one battle between Greek champion Achilles (Brad Pitt) and Trojan Prince Hector (Eric Bana) is the heartbreaking highlight of the film.
19. Bloodsport (1988)
Another JCVD classic sees the Belgian play the role of Frank Dux, a US Army captain armed with elite ninjitsu skills.
Dux, against the wishes of his army superiors, signs up for an illegal mixed martial arts tournament known as the Kumite in Hong Kong.
What follows is an epic display of karate, as Van Damme forces his way into the ranks of Hollywood’s best-ever action stars. The stunts are bold and well-executed, while Van Damme proves his value as a leading man through his excellent charisma and martial arts expertise.
Every Van Damme fan has watched this movie. Heck, this is the movie that birthed Van Damme fans.
18. Creed (2015)
The seventh film in the Rocky franchise, and the first in the Creed sub-franchise.
Creed is a masterfully executed project by Stallone, who enlists the aid of Michael B. Jordan to keep his epic universe alive.
Jordan plays Adonis “Donnie” Creed, the son of Rocky and Rocky II star and former heavyweight champ Apollo Creed. The young Donnie, with the aid of his step-mother Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), grows from wayward youth to promising amateur boxer.
However, the amateur ranks are not enough, and Donnie’s search for a pro trainer quickly leads him to a one-on-one meeting with Rocky Balboa (Stallone) himself. The ailing Rocky agrees and helps Donnie connect the dots in the ring and in his past.
Creed went on to be a hit with critics and fans, raking in millions and cementing Ryan Coogler as one of the best young directors of all time.
17. Never Back Down (2008)
Another cult fight-genre classic.
Never Back Down stars Sean Faris as Jake Tyler, a high school hothead who gets to learn, and eventually earn, some bloody respect.
Young Jake, having moved to a new school, arrives with a reputation for violent rage, a reputation the other students hope to see him live up to.
As you’d expect, Jake obliges and soon gets his behind handed to him by the school’s star jock Ryan “the Terror” McCarthy. Like all high school films, the school bully is also the boyfriend of our hero’s crush. That particular role is assigned to Amber Heard, who plays Baja Miller.
Jake quickly seeks to learn mixed martial arts to get revenge and repair his rep. He meets Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou), a wise sensei and life coach for the fatherless teen.
Never Back Down is a great watch if you want a simple plot and lots of action. It is a bit dated now, but it still serves as a time capsule for the genre.
16. 300 (2006)
More historical warfare and more angry Greeks.
We’re back in Sparta again as we follow King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), a hard man with a hard choice…
In the face of the all-conquering Persian empire, Leonidas has to decide whether he will submit to God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) or lead his kingdom into a war against insurmountable odds.
This stunning film features divine camerawork and revolutionary special effects, as 300 men of Sparta prove the worth of the human spirit. The battle scenes, featuring spears, shields, demons, and well-choreographed solo kills, are legendary and they have helped cement 300 as an all-time classic.
15. The Matrix (1999)
Some of you young folk may not understand that 1999 was the year of the conspiracy theory, what with Y2K “prophecies” and the end of the world.
Enter the Wachowskis, a pair of siblings that would, at the very least, end many people’s idea of the world as we know it…
The Matrix was so ahead of its time that many of its themes and philosophies fit perfectly almost a quarter-century later. What is reality? Do we live in a simulation?
As Neo questions his sanity in his mundane day-to-day existence, a white rabbit leads him to a world that is less than wonderful.
Morpheus’ guidance and Trinity’s affections prove to be the tools Neo needs to come to terms with real reality, while he revisits the computer program billions of enslaved human husks call the real world.
The Matrix is also an eternal reference point for physics-defying stunt work, CGI, and fight choreography.
A real landmark for the sci-fi action genre.
14. Southpaw (2015)
Jake Gyllenhaal delivers one of his most physically and emotionally demanding roles to date, with this somewhat cliched, but well-executed blockbuster, which also co-stars the likes of Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris, and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.
Southpaw is the story of Billy “The Great” Hope (Gyllenhaal), a pro light heavyweight boxer with a short fuse…
After attending a ball with his wife Maureen Hope (McAdams), Billy is goaded into a brawl with Miguel Escobar, a rival boxer, and his entourage. In the fracas, Miguel’s brother Hector brings out a gun and accidentally kills Maureen, sending Billy’s life spiraling.
After falling into a drug and drink-aided depression, Billy loses his next title defense fight, and in a blind fit of rage and confusion, headbutts the referee. This action earns the former champ a year-long ban, which then sets the stage for an epic comeback story.
With Billy on the brink of losing what’s left of his family, his career, and his mind, the only sliver of hope comes in the form of a switch of stance…
13. Fearless (2006)
Jet Li’s name will forever be etched in the history books because of movies like this one.
Jet Li’s Fearless is a semi-biopic of Chinese martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia, founder of the famous Chin Woo Athletics Association in Shanghai.
Huo (Li) is motivated to restore pride and honor to China by proving that his fighting style is superior to any other on the globe. As a proponent of the dying Qing dynasty, Huo’s determination was almost enough to extend the lifespan of an era.
Directed by Hong Kong legend Ronny Yu, Fearless features insane kung-fu moves and gravity-defying cinematography. Jet Li brings his world-renowned fight prowess to the film, as well as real character development for Huo.
If you love action films that also double as fun history lessons, Fearless is the film for you.
12. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
As you can tell from several entries in this list, action and comedy can blend well together. In that vein, we’ve decided to shine a light on a film that prepares that recipe far better than most others.
Kung Fu Hustle is one of Hong Kong director Stephen Chow’s biggest mainstream successes in the Western world alongside Shaolin Soccer.
Chow also stars in the film, playing Sing, a low-life thug who aims to join the Axe Gang, a street crime outfit under the leadership of Brother Sum (Danny Chan Kwok-kwan). Unfortunately, Sing’s “interview” goes horribly wrong, as he and his buddy Bone (Lam Chi-chung) are taken prisoner by the gang instead.
However, Brother Sum is soon impressed by Sing’s lockpicking skills and recruits him into the gang with one mission…to free the Beast, a criminal kung fu warrior held up in a mental asylum.
With Sing’s dream in full realization, it dawns on him that being a villain is not as fulfilling as he thought it would be, prompting him to switch sides and protect the poor neighborhoods of Shanghai from the murderous Axe Gang and the Beast.
Kung Fu Hustle delivers plenty of action, plenty of laughs, and a well-thought-out story that makes it one of the best fight films ever.
11. Missing in Action (1984)
Chuck Norris is back with another one of his titanic films.
Missing in Action is another ‘80s classic that made Chuck Norris the undefeated legend he is today.
Norris stars as Colonel James Braddock, a US Army officer and former Vietnam POW. Braddock, haunted by the horrors he experienced at the hands of the Viet Cong, joins a government rescue party headed back to Asia to free more American soldiers.
Further intel leads Braddock and his men into the deep jungles of Thailand, where he unleashes a can of roundhouse kicks on his unsuspecting enemies and the evil General Tran (James Hong).
Missing in Action, which also has two awesome sequels, is always a great watch, and is often hailed as one of the best films of all time.
10. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Chuck Norris isn’t the only ‘80s action hero thwarting evil in the jungle.
Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo franchise is another box office behemoth based on the back of the Vietnam war, and with First Blood Part II, we might be looking at the best film in the series.
Shortly after the bloody Vietnam war, disgraced former soldier John Rambo (Stallone) gets a chance at a pardon by taking a risky assignment into the jungles of Vietnam to scout illegal POW camps.
As Rambo descends into the country, he experiences challenges with his parachute, which results in him losing most of his gear.
Armed with only a bow and a knife, Rambo and his accomplice, a Vietnamese intelligence agent named Co Bao (Julia Nickson), somehow make it out alive, surviving traps, and untold barrages of enemy fire.
Watching Stallone live out his dreams on the big screen is always a pleasure, especially when you consider what the actor went through to make it in Hollywood.
Rambo: First Blood Part II is a classic tale of fighting on when the chips are down, and it is a great first pick for our top ten.
9. Kung Fu Panda (2008)
This movie is just indescribable…
The aesthetics, the music, the animation… the fighting.
Kung Fu Panda is one of DreamWorks Animation’s highest grossing franchises, and one of its most critically acclaimed.
The story follows Po (Jack Black), a blundering Giant Panda, who helps his adoptive father Mr. Ping run a noodle restaurant in the Valley of Peace. Po is also a big fan of martial arts and the famed superheroes, the Furious Five (copyright???), and he makes a plan to attend a tournament in their honor.
Po, having made an impactful arrival is then “accidentally” handpicked as the Dragon Warrior, a role of extreme importance in kung-fu prophecy.
With no time to spare, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is tasked with his greatest challenge yet…transforming Po from a clumsy dumpling into a lethal weapon capable of stopping the deadly Tai Lung.
Kung Fu Panda ticks all the boxes. Great story, world-class cast, unique fight animations, montages, and more.
8. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
Quentin Tarantino rests comfortably in the pantheon of the greatest-ever filmmakers because of his out-of-the-box storytelling and his over-the-top violence and gore.
Kill Bill Vol 1 is true to form, as Uma Thurman stars as the beautiful (but deadly) Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo.
The Bride seeks revenge on her former lover and boss Bill, leader of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, after his attempt on her life causes her to have a miscarriage in the hospital. Epic carnage ensues, as the Bride hacks and slashes her way to legendary status.
Tarantino prepares his usual blend of serious violence and parody-esque characters, a formula that seems to troll the martial arts genre while remaining grounded in the fundamentals of fighting. Like all his films, it just…works.
I told you 2003 was an incredible year for movies.
7. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
While the feminist movement has led to a long-overdue shattering of the glass ceiling by women, very few people could have foreseen girl power shattering jaws as well.
That is exactly what Hillary Swank did in the iconic Million Dollar Baby.
With co-stars like Clint Eastwood (who also directed and co-produced the film) and Morgan Freeman, as well as a rich and inspirational story, this film is certified Oscar bait. And boy, did the Academy bite.
If you love the underdog, blood-and-guts action, and a bittersweet ending, you don’t need to look any further.
6. The Fighter (2010)
Marky Mark Wahlberg is the star of this gem, and he is aided capably by Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Amy Adams in this boxing biopic.
The Fighter is about Massachusettsan boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his heroic comeback from a brutal beatdown in a last-minute mismatch. When his drug-addicted brother Dicky Eklund (Bale) is arrested for impersonating a police officer, Micky tries to intervene, which results in one of the officers breaking his arm…
What follows is a tale of dusting off multiple setbacks, the difficulty of life away from the prize fights, and good old brotherly love. Director David O. Russel and his crew deliver a well-paced 116 minutes of pure emotion and raw fighting.
Fun fact: Bale and Leo won Oscars for their tremendous supporting roles, while the film received seven nominations.
5. Hero (2002)
Another Jet Li classic, this time set in gorgeous Ancient China.
Nameless (Li) is a prefect in Qin state, China, during the Warring States period. While he seems relatively unassuming, Nameless is actually one of the deadliest swordsmen in the state, and his elite skills eventually grant him an audience with the king of Qin.
Nameless claims to have vanquished the king’s would-be assassins, a trio of warriors made up of Long Sky, Flying Snow, and Broken Sword. The dumbfounded king doubts Nameless’ claims and suggests that he is actually a fourth member of the hit squad, sent in to fool the royal defenses and finish the job.
Whose story is true?
Only one way to find out…
4. Gladiator (2000)
Ridley Scott’s directorial magnum opus, and one of the most iconic films of all time, features Russel Crowe as Roman general-turned slave Maximus Decimus.
Gladiator is a story of cutthroat betrayal (and literal throat-cutting) that sees Maximus fight for his life in the historic Colosseum and get revenge on Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), a tyrant who murders Maximus’ family as well as his own father Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris).
Using his military expertise and nothing-left-to-lose attitude, Maximus wins fight after fight until he finally gets a one v one duel against the evil emperor himself.
What can we say about Gladiator that hasn’t been said before? The story, the weaving of fiction and historical fact, the musical score, the locations…
It’s to die for.
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Another wuxia flick that brings Ancient Chinese kung-fu to the masses in stunning style. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a timeless piece of cinematic poetry directed by acclaimed Taiwan-native Ang Lee.
We visit the lives of Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat), a skillful swordsman, and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), a lethal lady who knows her way around a machete. The backdrop is the 19th century Qing dynasty, a violent time that keeps the pair, and their security company pretty busy.
The film focuses on events following the theft of Mu Bai’s gift sword, Green Destiny, from its recipient Sir Te, the security company’s main sponsor. The magical sword quickly creates a vortex of chaos and fighting that impacts the very heart of Beijing aristocracy.
I like to describe Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a violent love story. A story that suggests that love may be the most effective weapon of all…
The movie’s outstanding score also does a great job of guiding the audience on this epic journey.
2. The Way of the Dragon (1973)
The legendary Bruce Lee lives on with his incredible body of work, and The Way of the Dragon is his ultimate piece of creative genius.
Lee plays Tang Lung, a young martial artist sent to Rome to help protect a Chinese restaurant, and its owners, from nefarious mobsters. Upon looking at him, co-owner Chen Ching-hua (Nora Miao) is less than impressed. However, that quickly changes…
Of course, the film’s major wow moment is the iconic showdown between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris (who plays roundhouse-kick-for-hire Colt) at the Colosseum, a sufficient venue.
The Way of the Dragon was written, produced, and directed by Lee, who also headed the stunt team. Rumor has it he played a few chords in the music studio too. The movie won an untold number of awards and made untold amounts of money from a $130,000 budget. Not bad.
1. Fight Club (1999)
Talking about our number one fight flick pick would be breaking its first rule…and its second rule.
But Fight Club is beyond rules…
This is author Chuck Palahniuk’s wild thoughts brought to life in a hard-hitting lesson about life, love, the illusion of safety, and a bit of fighting of course.
Edward Norton plays the unnamed (yet multi-aliased) Narrator, a specialist in a department no one cares about, in a company that sounds the same as all the others.
Unfulfilled by the 9-5 grind and its so-called “fruits”, the Narrator adds a bit of spice to his life by attending support groups and garnering sympathy for diseases he doesn’t suffer from.
A sad life, really.
However, the Narrator quickly meets a free-spirited woman, “Marla Singer” (Helena Bonham Carter) who frequents these groups for…reasons. With matching worldviews, the two hit it off and begin an anti-romance of sorts.
Shortly afterward, the Narrator hops on a flight and meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a soap salesman who also has a free spirit…and free fists.
After an evening of drinking at a bar, the two men engage in a bit of bare-knuckle fist-fighting in the parking lot, an experience that exhilarates the Narrator like no other.
Tyler and the Narrator quickly gain a following of willing participants in the parking lot, and Fight Club is born.
Men of all walks of life step up to escape the stress of everyday life by beating the daylights out of each other, as the Narrator’s philosophical takes on events help the film transcend the simplistic prison-style fight genre. The beatdowns are bloody, and the camera angling puts you right in the middle of the mayhem.
Director David Fincher faced a tremendous fight of his own just to keep this project afloat, with many studio heads failing to see how Palahniuk’s book would connect with a mass film audience.
Well, Fight Club connected alright (and right in the kisser), as it blew away the critics and went on to become a cult classic. Tyler Durden has become some sort of underground anti-hero for those looking to break the mold…or somebody’s face.