10 Greatest Martial Arts Movie Franchises Ever

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By Wanda

Several martial arts movie franchises have emerged over the years, but they differ in success and quality. Some have released back-to-back hits while some struggle to keep up their reputation.

Martial arts movie franchises have been produced in both Eastern and Western cinema, with some clearly outshining others in terms of quality. While martial arts films can excel as solo stories, as seen in classics like Bruce Lee‘s Fist of Fury, John Carpenter’s ’80s hit Big Trouble in Little China, or Iko Uwais’ debut Merantau, the showcase of character and action styles lead to the development o these franchises. Numerous exceptional martial arts movies have evolved into long series transcending their initial trilogies, achieving legendary status among martial arts enthusiasts. We’ve come up with a list of 10 such movies.

1. Ip Man

The Ip Man franchise began in 2008 and revolves around the story of a wise kung fu master, starring Donnie Yen, and his popular student, Bruce Lee. These films brought back interest in Wing Chun martial arts universally, with a fifth movie being developed currently. Known for its remarkable fights and the feature of a martial arts legend, the Ip Man series is known to be the greatest martial arts movie series ever.

2. John Wick

The John Wick franchise sets a new level in action cinema, due to its meticulous fight choreography. Keanu Reeves’ dedication to John Wick’s combat skills and an ensemble of martial arts stars like Donnie Yen make it a grasping martial arts action franchise alongside gun-fu.

3. Undisputed

The Undisputed franchise acquired DVD success, starting with 2002’s Undisputed and evolving with Undisputed 2, which featured Scott Adkins as Yuri Boyka. Subsequent entries, like Undisputed 3 and Boyka: Undisputed, showcased stunning fights and starred martial arts icons, solidifying its status among great martial arts movies.

4. Once Upon A Time In China

The Once Upon A Time in China series showcases the legendary iconic kung fu warrior Wong Fei-hung through epic storytelling and the best fight sequences. Jet Li’s portrayal is like a superstar, while Vincent Zhao continued the legacy. The franchise is a remarkable success, delivering captivating experiences in each movie.

5. Best of the Best

The Best of the Best franchise pays tribute to Korean martial arts, led by Phillip Rhee’s character, Tommy Lee. It grows around high-stakes MMA battles in Best of the Best 2 and delivers outstanding fight scenes in every film, strengthening its status as a martial arts cinema icon.

6. Police Story

Jackie Chan’s Police Story franchise brilliantly blends comedic martial arts with breathtaking stunts. The original trilogy showcases a combination of action and comedy, while New Police Story and Police Story 2013 take a more serious turn. Throughout, Chan’s worship for Hong Kong-style action and carefully choreographed fights shines, despite the physical strain.

7. Ong Bak

Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, in 2003, brought in Tony Jaa as a martial arts sensation. The trilogy, revolving around Ong Bak 2 and 3, advanced fight choreography by blending Muay Thai with various action styles, making it a popular martial arts series from Thailand.

8. Bloodsport

Bloodsport, despite its controversial beginning, is a cult classic that influenced martial arts tournament movies. Jean-Claude Van Damme’s exceptional role as Frank Dux defined the film. Daniel Bernhardt took the series forward with remarkable sequels, while a female-centric reboot, Lady Bloodfight, carried on the Kumite tradition with action-packed sequences.

9. The Karate Kid

The 1984 release of The Karate Kid solidified it as a master-student dynamic in American martial arts films and remains a long-lasting ’80s classic. It exceeded with three sequels and a 2010 reboot featuring Jackie Chan. Although it was on a low with 1994’s The Next Karate Kid, the franchise has experienced a modern reboot with the highly appreciated Netflix series Cobra Kai, showcasing its lasting impact on pop culture.

10. Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat, a popular video game franchise, had its low with Mortal Kombat: Annihilation in 1997. However, the movie franchise succeeded in paying tribute to the games. The 1995 film infused Hong Kong action excitement into video game adaptations, and the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy and the 2021 film wonderfully delivered iconic fatalities. With Mortal Kombat 2 in development, the series worships the supernatural, Enter the Dragon-inspired namesake effectively.