History of Chinese Martial Arts Film Industry
The era of martial arts movies began as early as 1920’s in Shanghai, China and remained popular in China mainland through the next decade too as the films production moved to Hong Kong.
The movies initiating in 1920’s were mainly focused on the stories from the martial arts novels including swordplay and wirework.
Wong Fei Hung Character
Wong Fei-hung, a martial artist, acupuncturist, physician and a folk hero in China. He was an expert of Hung Gar style. Hung had been the subject of various television series and films.
In 1949, the first film with the character of Wong Fei Hung. Since then, this character has been played in numerous films, over 100, by even famous martial arts movie actors including Jackie Chan and Jet Li too.
Shaw Brothers Studio
Gradually the martial arts films industry grew, specially associated to the Shaw Brothers studio. They started as South Sea Film in 1930’s and were later renamed as Shaw Brothers Studio and began to make the most iconic and memorable films of the time on their largest privately owned studio in the world. Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan were casted as extras in some of the films by Shaw studios!
Martial arts movies trend in the west
Early martial arts movies were produced mainly for Asian market. However, Golden Harvest, formed by former Shaw Brothers Studio executives, started creating films for the western market.
Golden Harvest, unlike the original Shaw Brothers Studio, financed independent producers to create films for them instead of using the in house production model.
The era of Bruce Lee
Almost a year after the Golden Harvest was formed, they began the change of martial arts films industry forever, they signed a deal with an upcoming martial arts star, Bruce Lee. They also made films with other stars including Jet Li, Donnie yen and Jackie Chan.
The martial arts movies industry has been progressing since then and have combined the best of all past movies with special affects, humor and screen play, taking the industry to a whole new level for the modern audience!
Although the list may vary according to individual liking or disliking, we’ve compiled the list with all time favorite and best Chinese Kung Fu movies that you would enjoy watching as a source of entertainment as well as learning and information.
- One-Armed Swordsman (1967)
- The heroic Ones (1970)
- Five Fingers of Death (1972)
- Dirty Ho (1976)
- The Magic Blade (1976)
- Heroes of the East (1978)
- The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)
- Crippled Avengers (1978)
- Invincible Shaolin (1978)
- Five Deadly Venoms (1978)
The classic Chinese Kung Fu movies hit their peak in 1970’s and early 1980’s through the Shaw studio mainly. Lots of martial arts stars began their career in those years. The list includes only a few of the great martial arts movies and there are a lot of other masterpieces, too waiting to be seen by the curious audience!
Going to See Live Kung Fu Theater
For those with the opportunity of visiting the very birthplace of Kung Fu itself, there is an impressive theater spectacle performed at the Red Theater in Beijing, China. The show known as “The Legend of Kungfu Show”, has long roots to the traditions of old martial arts stories and have perfected this hour long production to represent the skill and marvel of the arts. The moving story is about a boy who takes the path of a Shaolin Monk to go through obstacles in life. If movies aren’t enough, then this is an absolute must see show!