Top 10 Hong Kong Action Flicks

Get Ready to Kung Fu with These Iconic Movies

shao lin monks at mt song
Shao lin monk kung fu experts practice near Shao Lin Temple on Mt. Song. Nancy Brown / Getty Images

Since "The Matrix" introduced Western audiences to wire-fu, it seems we can't get enough of the flying, leaping, gravity-defying antics of the Hong Kong action heroes. While there are many movies to choose from in the genre, a few stand out as classics. These are the kung fu movies you have to see.

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"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"

This genre-busting milestone combines the action with a poetic heart and stunningly beautiful cinematography. Consider this a movie that you must-own.

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was released in 2000. It is directed by Ang Lee, the legendary Taiwanese director of films like "Life of Pi," "Taking Woodstock," and "Brokeback Mountain."

The movie tells the story of a Qing Dynasty (19th century) warrior seeking a stolen sword. His quest leads him on an action-packed journey, complete with martial arts and a number of plot twists that are sure to keep your attention.

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"Hard Boiled"

Superstar Chow Yun-Fat (also in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") and legendary HK director John Woo ("Windtalkers" and "Face/Off") are a duo to be reckoned with. Fans like to compare the team to Mifune and Kurosawa.

It's thought by many that "Hard Boiled" is their best work. This is a classic film from 1992 about a tough cop taking on a group of gun-smuggling mobsters. There's more than enough action to go around.

Some might call "Hard Boiled" over the top, but it is exactly what we expect from this genre. In fact, it's one of the best.

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"Legend of Drunken Master"

Jackie Chan returns to the role of Wong Fei-Hung in this madcap adventure. The fights are jaw-dropping and Chan's slapstick comedy works better here than in most of his films.

"Legend of Drunken Master" was released in Hong Kong in 1994 but did not make it to the West until 2000. The movie was cut for the various international versions. If you want to see the uncut movie, pick up the Chinese DVD.

Even if you're not Chan's biggest fan, you'll be surprised with this flick. It tells the tale of Wong Fei-Hung who learns a fighting technique called "Drunken Boxing." His skills are put to the test as he tries to thwart a plot to export ancient artifacts out of the country.

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"Once Upon a Time in China I"

Jet Li is at his best. Another film about folk hero Wong Fei-Hung fending off pesky foreigners and treacherous Chinese. Director Hark Tsui delivers the non-stop kickin' goods.

A 1991 release, this is classic martial arts films at its best. Voiceover dubs, kung fu glory, and twisted plots: it's all there and ready for movie night.

This is a binge-worthy movie, too. Within a few years after it's release, not one but three sequels were produced of "Once Upon a Time in China." Two and three also star Jet Li, though Wenzhuo Zhao takes over the lead role in the final installment.

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"Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain"

If you liked the flying monks in "Crouching Tiger," "Zu" will make you giggle with happiness. This special-effects freak-out is demented, goofy, and sacks of demonic fun.

"Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain" is vintage Hong Kong and was first released in 1983 but made its U.S. debut in 89. Sammo Hung and Brigitte Lin are the stars of the film that John Carpenter said inspired "Big Trouble in Little China."

It features a Canadian college student who's transported to ancient China in a dream. Ghosts, devils, monsters, and, of course, wise masters fill this iconic film with wonder.

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"Bullet in the Head"

For a tougher, bloodier angle, go with Woo's acclaimed 1990 drama about friendship, love, and betrayal set in Vietnam. It's intense and a film that every fan of the genre has to catch.

"Bullet in the Head" was originally written to be a prequel to "A Better Tomorrow." Apparently, there was a falling out between Woo and co-producer Hark Tsui and the two parted ways. Woo took his story to this flick and Tsui followed up with the prequel.

The action is non-stop as three friends flee Hong Kong after taking justice into their own hands. The drama continues in Saigon where the trio becomes intertwined with the raging war and the black market.

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"Police Story 3: Supercop"

How can you go wrong with Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, and Maggie Cheung in an international action adventure? You can't.

The third in the series of "Police Story" films, there's really no need to watch the others unless you're in the mood for a Chan marathon. "Supercop" stands on its own and many fans proclaim it the best of the lot.

Chan returns as Hong Kong cop, Ka Kui, and is sent undercover to the mainland to bust a drug smuggling ring. His counterpart, Yeoh plays the sultry cop and the plot just takes off from there. It's filled with action and classic Hong Kong drama.

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"New Legend of Shaolin"

Excellent kung fu and a bizarre sense of humor make this Jet Li vehicle a whacky Hong Kong favorite.

Also known under the title, "Legend of the Red Dragon," the movie was released in 1994. It didn't make its worldwide debut until 2002 and it quickly became the talk of martial arts movie fans.

If you're looking for an action flick with uncanny fight sequences, a few supernatural beings, and a dose of hilarity, this is it. There is even an iconic battle royale scene to top it all off.

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"The Killer"

This is John Woo's early masterpiece. The gloriously choreographed violence and overdrawn characters make it a keeper. The shoot-up in the church is a timeless classic.

The tagline for this 1990 release is "One Vicious Killer. One Relentless Cop... Ten Thousand Bullets." That sums it up perfectly.

Yun-Fat Chow plays the lead, supported by Danny Lee and Sally Yeh. The story follows an assassin who wants to take one last job before retirement. Little does he know that this may be his biggest challenge to date.

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"Once Upon A Time in China II"

While it's not quite as strong as the first film, the second entry in the series is still a historical kung fu bonanza. It will keep you grinning all the way through.

Hark Tsui returns as director and Jet Li takes the lead role in this 1992 sequel. The fight scenes are noted as being some of the best you'll find.

The legend Wong Fei-Hung is back and this time he faces off with The White Lotus society. These fanatics are trying to drive all "Western ways" out of China and it's up to Wong to defend the country's future.