It’s no secret that America loves the action film. From the car chases to the explosions, people enjoy getting lost in a storyline full of chaos. A popular subgenre of the action film is the martial-arts film. Though these have been blockbusters in Eastern countries, it wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that they’ve became popular in the West. While many of the classics are still considered underground cult hits, the popularity hasn’t waned. In fact, many popular action-movie franchises star trained martial artists to film convincing and accurate fight sequences in modern films. Here are some classic films everyone in the martial arts industry should see:
“Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires”
Originally given the mouthful of an American title, “The Seven Brothers and Their One Sister Meet Dracula,” this 1974 Hong Kong film is a rare cross-genre martial arts film. It tells the story of Dracula’s trek to rural China where he meets a cult of Chinese vampires. In true Dracula-series form, Van Helsing, played by Peter Cushing, sets out to defeat the legendary vampire once and for all, in addition to the cult of vampires.
Though this film has a reputation for being just as ridiculous as it sounds, it’s great fun to watch fight sequences with vampires and martial artists.
This 1974 film was groundbreaking, due to the fact that instead of a male star, it featured Taiwanese actress Angela Mao. “The Tournament” is about a Muay Thai tournament between Hong Kong and Thailand. Mao’s character fights with the vigor of the men, at times taking on more than one opponent at a time!
Mao had small and starring roles in many films from 1970 until 1992, which she trained extensively for. A notable role was Bruce Lee’s sister in “Enter the Dragon.” She’s skilled in hapkido, taekwondo and wushu.
“The 36th Chamber of Shaolin”
This 1978 Shaw Brothers film is widely renowned as one of the greatest kung fu movies of all time. Starring Gordon Liu, it tells the story of a young student who participates in a rebellion against the government, and goes to the Shaolin temple to learn kung fu so he can avenge the people killed in the uprising.
Liu is a Chinese martial artist who is most well-known for his role in “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” and its sequels. He was featured in martial films frequently in the 1970s through 1990s, before taking two roles as Johnny Mo and Pai Mei in parts one and two of Quentin Tarantino’s renowned “Kill Bill” movies. In 2008, he starred in the Bollywood film “Chandni Chowk to China.” He’s trained in kung fu.
“The Young Master”
This 1980 Hong Kong film is famous for being Jackie Chan’s first starring role. In this movie, Dragon, played by Chan, is entered in a Lion Dance competition in place of his brother, who is seemingly too injured to compete. However, it turns out that his brother faked his injury and competed with the rival school, and gets exiled. Dragon decides to set out to find his brother, where a mix of mistaken identity, mysterious old men and body casts make for one of the first martial-arts comedies.
Chan got his start as a stunt man, due to his extensive martial-arts training. According to Thrillist, he did stunts on the sets of Bruce Lee hits “Fists of Fury” and “Enter the Dragon.” A few varieties of martial arts that he has training in include Shaolin kung fu, judo and hapkido.