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List of Top Ten Kung Fu Movies
By Robert Vaux
Source: Kung Fu Cult Cinema
From their early roots in the Far East, kung fu movies exploded onto the international scene in the 1970s and '80s and have been boosted by such genre stars as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The kung fu genre has its share of masterpieces, though opinions differ as to which ones rank among the best. Many great kung fu films are rarely screened in the West, and the very definition of "kung fu" blurs at the edges of the genre.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonAng Lee's 2000 homage to the martial arts films of his youth has the distinction of being the only kung fu film to win a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Drunken MasterJackie Chan made his name as the knockabout clown of the genre, most notably in this 1978 effort about a form of kung fu which resembles the lurching stumbles of inebriation.
Enter the DragonBruce Lee may have single-handedly brought kung fu movies to the attention of the west. "Enter the Dragon," which opened just after his death in 1973, cemented his status as a legend.
Fist of the White LotusA 1981 effort from director/star Lo Lieh, it's most notable for the character of Pai Mei, a sinister yet almost invincible kung fu priest who appeared in numerous kung fu epics (including Quentin Tarantino's homage to the genre, "Kill Bill").
Five Deadly VenomsLittle-known outside of genre aficionados, 1978's "Five Deadly Venoms" tells the tale of five kung fu masters who do battle for a secret fortune. Plot comes secondary to action here, as the various match-ups between combatants serve as the primary draw.
HeroDrawing upon the success of "Crouching Tiger," direct Zhang Yimou sculpted a visually masterful epic about the foundation of China and the warrior (played by Jet Li) whose sacrifice allowed it to happen.
Kung Fu HustleDirector/star Stephen Chow created a near-perfect send-up of the genre in 2004, featuring fight scenes and physical acrobatics that are no less impressive for their absurdly funny tone.
The MatrixThough most definitely an American film, "The Matrix" helped expand the genre's popularity in the west while freeing legendary fight choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping from even the mildest constraints of gravity.
Shaolin TempleThe Shaolin Temple, where kung fu was purportedly born, was a popular subject for martial arts movies, and this 1982 film stands out as one of the best--in no small part because of its rookie star, Jet Li.
The 36th Chamber of ShaolinAnother tale of the Shaolin Temple, this 1978 entry depicts a student (Gordon Liu) who undergoes rigorous training at the hands of the temple's monks before returning to his home village to defeat an evil warlord.