Martial arts movies have a long history. From the action-packed and often low-budget epics of the 1970s to post-millennial martial arts extravaganzas there are films to suit every kind of mood and every age group too – and Netflix is a great place to find some absolute gems.
The original Karate Kid might not be there any more but for fans of more grown-up stuff there are some genuinely great movies in Netflix's martial arts section – and you can find more with the special Netflix code 8985 (opens in new tab).
Here are three of our favourite martial arts movies on Netflix right now.
This is the first of a four-film franchise that manages to pay tribute to the classics of the genre while also having a bit of irreverent fun with them. It’s ostensibly a fictionalised biopic about the man who trained Bruce Lee, but it’s also a tribute to the fast and frantic martial arts movies of the 1970s that thrilled audiences with their kinetic choreography, visibly crap studio sets and dreadful dialogue. The film is rooted in a calm, charismatic performance by Donny Yen and the action sequences, choreographed by the legendary Sammo Hung, are explosive, exciting and truly extraordinary.
The script isn’t as good as the stellar cast, which includes Tony Jaa, Scott Adkins and Iko Uwais, but the action scenes are absolutely ferocious and the review describing it as a “high octane extravaganza” nailed the appeal. It’s not the kind of film that’ll have you stroking your chin in contemplation: it’s the kind of film where a whole bunch of absolutely incredible martial artists knock lumps out of bad guys in increasingly dramatic and thrilling ways. The story makes very little sense but this film is all about the action, which it delivers in ever more exciting and eye-popping set-pieces.
Kung Fu Hustle
If you’ve ever wished somebody would mash up martial arts movies and Looney Tunes cartoons, you’re going to love this. Kung Fu Hustle is about two hopeless would-be gangsters who pretend to be part of the dreaded Axe Gang – only for the Axe Gang to turn up to restore their tarnished reputation. Luckily for our heroes, three legendary kung fu masters live in the area and aren’t happy to see the Axe Gang throwing their weight around. It is very violent, very silly and very, very funny, and Stephen Chow’s direction keeps the gags and the punches flowing fast.
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