Although martial arts movies still have their dedicated fan base, for the most part the genre had a disappointing decade at the box office. Only a handful of martial arts movies since 2012 have grossed over $50 million worldwide. On the other hand, between 2000 and 2011, Rush hour 2, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Karate Kid and the Kill Bill the films all grossed over $180 million each.
However, the success of Everything everywhere all at once suggests that the genre could once again gain popularity. Let’s hope that’s the case, because martial arts movies can be incredibly fun when done right. The genre’s most successful films of the past decade are acclaimed, entertaining, and worth watching.
‘Master Z: The Legacy of Ip Man’ (2019)
Raw: $21 million
Master Z is a spin-off of Ip-Man series, which dramatizes the life of the Wing Chun master who mentored Bruce Lee. The film follows Cheung Tin-chi (Max Zhang), a character from IP Man 3as he becomes a mercenary and tackles corruption in Hong Kong.
Although it is certainly not the best of Ip-Man saga, Master Z is a fast-paced action story with decent performances from Zhang, Dave Bautista, and michelle yeo. The fight scenes stay on top. Fans of the other films in the franchise are sure to enjoy.
‘The Grand Master’ (2013)
Raw: $73 million
the grand master is yet another take on Ip Man’s life. He is one of the directors At Wong Kar-wai’s best films, although he is also known for his crime dramas As the tears fall and Chung King Expressas well as romantic drama love mood. But the grand master focuses more on character and historical setting than fight scenes.
The film tells Ip’s (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) conflict with other martial arts masters who have different ideas, and the disruption of his life caused by the outbreak of the war between Japan and China, followed by World War II. Ip goes to Hong Kong, but then the government closes the border with the mainland, separating him from his wife (hye kyo song). the grand master documents these personal struggles in the years leading up to Ip’s first encounter with a young Bruce Lee.
‘Mortal Kombat’ (2021)
Raw: $84 million
The mortal combat were among the most popular and influential fighting games of the 1990s. Bringing them to the screen, however, proved tricky. Shot in Australia, 2021s mortal combat is a reboot of the film franchise following the disastrous Mortal Kombat: Annihilation released in 1997.
It follows the young man Cole (Lewis Tan) while being hunted by the assassin Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). Fortunately, the film mostly delivers, with solid fight scenes and excellent character design. Although not critically acclaimed, mortal combat was a commercial success and a sequel is currently in development.
‘Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings’ (2018)
Raw: $90 million
The Four Heavenly Kings is the third part of the Detective Dee series, which began with the 2010s Mystery of the Phantom Flame. The series follows the exploits of a notorious official assigned by the Empress to solve a series of murders. In The Four Heavenly Kingsyoung detective Dee (Mark Chao) finds himself falsely accused of several crimes. He must clear his name and bring the real culprits to justice.
The Detective Dee movies are made by Tsui Hark, a veteran of Hong Kong cinema. Tsui has produced classic action films including A chinese ghost story and John Wooit is A better tomorrow. The Detective Dee the movies don’t reach the heights of those movies, but they’re still entertaining and well done. The first film in the franchise received particularly high ratings, with TIME magazine even naming it one of the best films of 2011.
Raw: $91 million
Shadow is a wuxia film by Chinese director Zhang Yimouwho also led the 2004s House of the Flying Daggers. It follows Commander Ziyu to the court of King Pei who secretly trains the warrior Jingzhou to serve as his body double, or “shadow”. The commander needs this doppelganger in his plan to take over a legendary city, despite the king’s protests.
Deng Chao deserves praise for his performance as Commander Ziyu and Jingzhou. The cinematography and set design are also excellent and immersive. While the film was shot in color, most of the sets and costumes were done in black and white, to give Shadow the appearance of a Chinese ink painting.
“Everything everywhere at the same time” (2022)
Raw: $97 million
One of the surprise films of the year, and certainly A24’s best comedy film, is the absurd comedy-drama-fantasy-action Everything everywhere all at oncerealized by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. Stock iconMichelle Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American immigrant who must save the multiverse while her laundromat is audited by the IRS.
Everything everywhere all at once features gorgeous cinematography, plenty of wacky ideas, and a series of epic fight sequences. It drew overwhelmingly positive reviews and topped 2018’s Hereditary as A24’s most commercially successful film.
’47 Ronins’ (2013)
Raw: $151 million
Keanu Reeves stars in this fantasy film about a group of masterless samurai in 18th century Japan. It is loosely based on a Japanese tale but bears little resemblance to actual historical events. The film received mostly negative reviews and, despite grossing a relatively large amount, suffered a loss from a budget of over $175 million.
47 Ronins has interesting ideas but never quite rises to be the samurai the Lord of the Rings he aspired to be, the solid performance of a Reeves cannot make up for all the awkwardness. Netflix is expected to release a sequel later this year. Hopefully it will improve on the original.
‘Ip-Man 3’ (2015)
Raw: $157 million
The Ip-Man The films are undoubtedly the landmark martial arts series of the 2010s, earning big box office returns alongside positive reviews. The third entry in the saga follows Ip Man (Donnie Yen) as he faces off against a team of gangsters intent on taking over a local school.
Although not as good as the first two, IP Man 3 worth it just for Yen’s performance. He is calm, restrained and thoughtful. Much of the story centers on his relationship with his wife (Lynn Hung) and fellow grandmaster Cheung Tin-chi, allowing for a refreshing change of pace.
‘Ip Man 4: The Finale’ (2019)
Raw: $176 million
The final episode of the Ip Man tale is set in the 1960s and follows the grandmaster on his trip to the United States, where his student Bruce Lee caused a stir by opening a martial arts school in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Ip comes to terms with his recent diagnosis of throat cancer and his strained relationship with his son (You, he).
IP Man 4 is a fitting send-off for the martial arts icon, which wraps up most of the details and explores Bruce Lee taking over Wing Chun. As usual, the director Wilson Yip handles the story with style and skill.
‘Kung Fu Yoga’ (2017)
Raw: $257 million
Jackie Chan plays Jack, an archaeologist who finds lost treasure in Tibet. However, a team of mercenaries steals the diamond-encrusted artifact and puts it up for auction. Jack embarks on a madcap mission to recover the artifact and discovers there may be more to the treasure than he thought.
kung fu yoga is an action-comedy that plays to Chan’s strengths, transporting audiences with ease from one exotic location to another. It received mixed reviews, but was a box office success in China, becoming Chan’s highest-grossing film in the country.