Photo of Jalal Merhi

Jalal Merhi

Professional Martial Arts Expert

Best Martial Arts Movies & Martial Arts Films

Choosing the best Martial Arts films is not an easy task. There are so many factors to consider. Having been involved in almost every aspect of the filmmaking process myself, and taking all of those elements into account, I have decided to choose what I feel are the best Martial Arts films that have had the greatest influence on the Western world. That does not take away from the superb Asian films that I enjoyed through the years, and to be truly fair, I feel the Top Ten for best fighting, best directing and best acting would all be another list. To prove my point, I called some of my friends such as Loren Avedon, star of “King of the Kickboxers,” and action scriptwriter, Glen Doyle, to see which films they would choose. Each of us had his own favorites. Here are mine.

Cheers,
Jalal Merhi.

Find the best martial arts movies with our experts' help. We suggest marital arts films that are the classics, from Billy Jack to the Karate Kid and so many more martial arts videos.

Best Martial Arts Films by Jalal Merhi

The Best You Can Get

  • Big Boss AKA Fists Of Fury

    Jalal says: I still remember as if it was yesterday, I was in my early teens. All of the older kids and my older brothers were talking about an amazing new action star, and they claimed he could beat up all the other current stars. The buzz was in the air, and if you did not see this new movie, you were not cool and you were out of the loop. The movie was “Big Boss” starring Bruce Lee.

    The “Big Boss” has the highest number of killings for Bruce. Definitely by today’s standard, I would not have been able to get into this movie due to the violence and action, but this was another era, no rentals or pay-per-view, so the theatre was the only way you could see a movie.

    Eventually, I went into a “two-for-the-price-of-one” rerun theatre, where they showed a drama and an action film. When I left the theatre, I felt like I could do anything, fight anyone, and from then on, I was hooked on Martial Arts films. Immediately, I joined the closest Tae Kwon Do school to my house which was 24K or 15 miles away, then a closer school of Shotokan karate opened, so I moved there, and when I moved to Toronto, I joined Master Mo Chow in his Kung Fu school. “Big Boss” definitely changed my life.

    • Starring Bruce Lee
    • Director Wei Lo
    • 1971
  • Enter the Dragon

    Jalal says: This was my first Hollywood Kung Fu film with some production value and I felt it was complete. After seeing this film, I thought to myself where is Bruce going to go after this? He couldn’t possibly top this performance.

    • Starring Bruce Lee
    • Director Robert Clouse
    • 1973
  • Seven Samurai

    Jalal says: For me, this was more than a film...it was an experience, and it did not take long for me to get lost in old Japan. This is a classic that quickly became a formula that was copied over and over again by Hollywood and others.

    • Director Akira Kurosawa
    • 1954
  • Billy Jack

    Jalal says: “Billy Jack protects all living things.” This film was truly an inspiration and had a profound effect on me. It appealed to my sense of freedom and my desire to change the world. That’s a powerful film. Starring Tom Laughlin, “Billy Jack” was the first movie to be marketed with the “BlockBuster” technique. It cost under a million and grossed over $60 million.

    • Starring Tom Laughlin
    • Director Tom Laughlin
    • 1971
  • Bloodsport

    Jalal says: When this film was released, Martial Arts films were on their way down. The Martial Arts world was looking for a savior. Enter Jean Claude Van Damme. Jean, a good-looking, fit actor that managed to get men AND women interested.

    At the time, I had a Kung Fu school in Toronto and the attendance doubled within a short time. I was also at the end of my competition days and was looking for a new way to use my art. Seeing JC gave me the courage to move into the action movie business (it is his fault).

    • Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme
    • Director Newt Arnold
    • 1988

You will be happy with any of these

  • The Karate Kid

    Jalal says: When this film came out, I saw another spike in attendance at my Kung Fu school. It was a great boost to the Martial Arts world and although the training was inspiring, the film did not teach authentic fight moves. I had to work hard to convince the new students that standing on one leg when you face an opponent was not a good idea, but “Wax on, wax off” works for me.

    • Starring Ralph Macchio
    • Director Daniel Larusso
    • 1984
  • Ong-Bak Muay Thai Warrior

    Jalal says: This was the breakout film for Martial Arts star, Tony Jaa. I had heard a lot about this film and decided to attend a screening at the Toronto Film Festival where the director of the film was present. I was immensely impressed with level of ability, originality and commitment. As I watched the film, I looked around at the audience and saw that not only did it appeal to the hard-core Martial Artist fans, but also seemed to impress and entertain everyone. Undoubtedly, Tony injected a new life into the Asian action films.

    • Starring Petchtai Wongkamlao
    • Director Prachya Pinkaew
    • 2003
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

    Jalal says: Although some people tend to look down on the genre, I feel Ang Lee added a quality and drama to this film that allowed it to reach the heart of all women and men.

    Mr. Lee created a movie with stylized violence, breathtaking action, superb drama, and a sophisticated love story.

    • Starring Yun-Fat Chow
    • Director Ang Lee
    • 2000
  • Once Upon a Time in China (Wong Fei Hung)

    Jalal says: This film successfully pays homage to ancient Chinese tradition and history by making it interesting and entertaining. Its strength is in its choreography. “Once Upon a Time in China” certainly does honor to the real Wong Fei-Hung. This witty, action-filled film, cemented Jet Li’s reputation. Ironically, I had tried hard to bring Jet Li to North America, and the same distributors I tried to convince later invited me to meet him when they brought him over in 1995, upon distributing one of his films… obviously without my involvement.

    • Starring Jet Li
    • Director Hark Tsui
    • 1992
  • One-Armed Swordsman (Dubei dao)

    Jalal says: This is a classic swordplay film. This film brought together some of the best elements of both Japanese and Chinese Martial Arts films, mixed with a youthful bad boy hero. It was the first of the new style of wuxia films (a sub-genre of the Martial Arts films concentrating on distinct quasi-fantasy) emphasizing male anti-heroes, violent swordplay, and heavy bloodletting.

    • Starring Yu Wang
    • Director Cheh Chang
    • 1967

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