Since the release of The Matrix martial arts films have had to step up their game; going for bigger and better stunts all of the time. As big an action nerd as I am (and a martial artist) the trend of course excited me, as this past decade saw some of the craziest and some of the best fight scenes ever crafted in cinema history. Seeing as how I just finished watching the latest Karate Kid trailer, I felt it was high time to chronicle the best fight scenes the 00s have given us. Word of warning: after watching these clips you will be tempted to go out and try some of these things…don’t.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
This movie broke down many barriers and finally managed to engage a broad Western audience into these type of high-flying Kung Fu films. It was a good film and featured one of the coolest fight scenes around. Before this film, not much had been seen like it. While The Matrix preceded it, these are real martial artists moving with incredible speed that hasn’t been enhanced. The action is tight and fast-paced, barely giving the audience any time to breathe. By far, this is one of the most exciting scenes in this film.
Kiss of the Dragon (2001)
I think I have a love for this scene just because it’s Jet Li masterfully using my all time favorite weapon: the Escrima sticks (or Khali sticks depending on where you train). Before I saw this film I was training with the weapons and found a thorough love of them, and even managed to win a couple of competitions with them. After I saw this film and this scene, I realized just how much I truly suck. He takes on an entire room full of Black Belts (all of whom have weapons), and comes out on top. It’s just a great fight scene, that’s more than likely outside the realm of possibility, but just plain fun to watch.
On the whole, I absolutely loathed this film. I just couldn’t stand it, and thought it was lacking in many qualities. Which is odd because most people I know love it. Either way, that doesn’t mean this isn’t one of the coolest fight scenes around. The first one in particular is fun to watch, and definitely started this film out with a bang (too bad it didn’t finish with one). If you don’t like wires, and old style kung-fu choreography you might want to skip down, but give it a try nonetheless. It’s infused with plenty of practical moves to keep even the “grounded” fight enthusiasts happy.
The Matrix: Reloaded (2003)
You had to know that one of these films would pop up on this list. The Matrix was so influential on the film and martial arts world; totally resetting the bar for choreography, so it’s almost a no-brainer to see it listed here. The scene I particularly chose is the “Burly Brawl” where Neo first meets the various Agent Smiths in the park. The fight the ensues is ridiculous. Filled with a massive amount of fighters, this one takes the cake for multiple choreography. Yes it’s a bunch of wires, but it’s easy to admit this just looks cool. While the effects on the digital Neo haven’t held up well (truthfully I didn’t like it to begin with), the rest of the battle is stunning, and features a great song behind it.
One of the best films I feel to have come out. Many discount it, thinking it’s merely another Jet Li fight movie, but that’s not the case. The story is the driving force behind this film, and it really pulls at you, drawing you into the characters and their lives. The fighting really plays a more secondary role and is mostly a part of the story (unlike most fight movies which try to revolve a story around the fighting instead). This fight is most exciting for me when they burst into the lady’s bathroom across the way (and not for the reason you’re thinking). When they’re fighting up close in the bathroom stall they are literally less than a foot away from each other. Yet even so close, they are still moving incredibly fast and effectively. It’s a more realistic fight scene and martial artists can definitely appreciate it.
The Protector (2006)
I absolutely love this scene, not just for the martial arts, but from a filmmaking aspect. Watch closely and you’ll notice that this entire fight is one continual shot. There are no cutaways or anything like that. This is a one-take sort of deal. It speaks to both the talent of the camera man, as well as the incredible stamina of Tony Jaa and the other actors. Tony Jaa is by far one of my favorites in the martial arts film world these days, as his ‘no-wires’ stunts and acrobatics are second to none. While I don’t feel this is the best fight scene he’s had, I listed it because of the filmmaking prowess.
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
Finally, two of the greatest martial arts action stars around come together to duke it out. It’s a match up fans have been screaming for for decades. Too bad it was in a so-so film. It wasn’t bad, but it could have been so much better. Regardless of the story, this fight fulfilled just about every geek fantasy out there. It’s exactly what you would want to see between these two fighters. Lots of fast, intense action that demonstrates the best of both of their abilities. While there is no ‘official’ winner in the battle, I don’t think many people are complaining.
Ip Man (2008)
Here’s one I bet you guys haven’t even heard of. It’s the supposedly true story about the life and times of legendary Martial Artist Bruce Lee’s teacher. Ip Man is the one who taught Bruce Lee to be bad-ass. The movie itself take a ridiculous amount of liberties with the man’s life, but just about every five minutes there is a decent sized fight scene that is absolutely mind blowing. The scene I present you is just a taste of what the entire film is like. Every single fight is choreographed beautifully and I encourage you to watch the film if fighting is your cup of tea.
Ninja Assassin (2009)
You know for one of the biggest/craziest martial arts films to come out recently, it’s surprisingly hard to find any videos from it. I was searching all over and had the toughest time finding what I wanted. That and trying to find a fight scene that didn’t have copious amounts of blood was nearly impossible. I settled on this scene because not only is it just fighting (no huge stunts or CGI enhanced action) but they’re younger kids. These youngsters can whoop the snot out of just about anybody and look cool doing it!
There were so many fight movies to have come out during this past decade, it was truly hard to find the best. As stunts begin to become bigger and bolder, action films still have plenty of room to grow and impress us. With the bar being continually set higher, I can’t wait to see all that is coming next.