1. Wing Chun- 1994 (Never Seen #1, Stars Michelle Yeoh #1)
One of Michelle Yeoh's Hong Kong films before she hit it big over here, this is a perfect example of a martial arts action/comedy in the Hong Kong style. Yeoh plays Yim Wing Chun, the legendary founder of the Wing Chun Kung Fu style, but the film mostly focuses on the romantic misadventures of Wing Chun, her stinky merchant aunt, and their beautiful servant. Excellent kung fu, great comedy, and fun characters made this a great watch for me. 4/5.
2. Supercop- 1992 (Old Favorite #1, Stars Michelle Yeoh #2)
Released in the US in 1996, I saw this in the theaters and then not again until today. It still holds up, and Michelle Yeoh is an excellent counterpart for Jackie Chan in skill, martial arts talent, and comedic versatility. She also does most of her own stunts here, just like Chan. Although not my favorite of either actor's films, this is still a great part of both their filmographies. 4/5.
3. The Heroic Trio- 1993 (Never Seen #2, Stars Michelle Yeoh #3)
I find it hard to believe this was done after Supercop, as it was so schlocky and lacking in polish comparatively. The film is about three martial arts superheroines who try to stop a freaky demon from kidnapping babies that might be the next emperor. Yeoh plays one of the villains' servants who becomes a heroine. The first half was confusing, the second half somewhat entertaining. It did feature multiple uses of a flying guillotine, though, which was cool. Overall, not so great. 2/5.
4. Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms AKA Crippled Avengers- 1978 (Never Seen #3, My Choice #1)
This is only called Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms because it stars 4 of the same actors who played Venoms in The 5 Deadly Venoms; plotwise, it has nothing to do with that movie. A Tiger style master and his son with no hands are total dicks and cripple four guys, making one deaf and dumb, one blind, one an idiot, and cutting off the last one's feet. Of course, the cripples learn kung fu and take revenge. The kung fu in this Shaw Brothers film is excellent, including some scenes with large iron rings that were breathtaking. 4/5.
5. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin- 1978 (Old Favorite #2)
One of the granddaddies of Hong King kung fu films, this introduced a lot of ideas that are commonplace now including the extended training sequence. It follows a young man, rebelling against the oppressive Qing government, who is driven from his home and goes to the Shaolin Temple to learn kung fu. The hero, San Te, is based on an actual historical figure, as these characters often are. The main actor, Gordon Liu, is a master of kung fu, as are most of the rest of the cast, and it shows in the amazing climactic fight sequence. I watched it with the commentary on, and it turns out that the RZA from Wu Tang Clan knows a shit-ton about kung fu movies. 5/5.
6. The One-Armed Swordsman- 1967 (Old Favorite #3)
The quintessential wuxia film, this kicked off a whole trend of movies. A martial arts student loses an arm, then is nursed back to health by a pretty farm girl. They fall in love, and she gives him an ancient book of martial arts secrets that teach him how to use a sword with just his left hand. After that, he's all about avenging his father and defeating his master's enemies. The story is pretty damn good here, and the kung fu is decent; it would get better in later films. Still, this was the start of something great. 4/5.
7. Ip Man- 2008 (From the 2000s #1, Never Seen #4)
Based on the true story of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, this follows a Japanese general in 1945 and a modest wing chun master as they duel, the one to show Japanese martial arts are better and the other to give his oppressed people some hope. Ip Man was Bruce Lee's wing chun teacher, and this film sparked a new interest in the martial art in China, so both the guy and the movie were pretty influential. The film is excellent; Donnie Yen is amazing both as an actor and martial artist. The fight scene in the paper mill specifically is not to be missed. 5/5.
8. Return to the 36th Chamber- 1980 (My Choice #2, Never Seen #5)
The loose sequel to The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, in this one an imposter monk goes to Shaolin to learn kung fu to defend his friends and ends up unknowingly learning it while performing menial tasks, 4 years before The Karate Kid was made. The final two fight scenes are amazing, using as weapons bamboo twine and wooden stools. Some crazy shit, but great to watch. This is also mostly a comedy, and it's pretty funny. 5/5.
9. Come Drink With Me- 1966 (My Choice #3)
This is an oddity among wuxia films because neither lead actor is a martial artist, leading to most fight scenes looking stylized and sometimes fake. Even so, it's considered one of the best of all time, though not by me. The story follows government agent Golden Swallow ass she tries to track down the bandits who kidnapped her brother. She meets and is helped along the way by kung fu master Drunk Cat (who, surprisingly, is not a drunken boxer, just kind of a slob). Cheng Pei-Pei, who plays Golden Swallow, is a ballet dancer, whih adds a real grace to her movements, but even so I could really tell that the fights scenes were faked and that brought my rating down. 3/5.
10. The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter- 1983 (My Choice #4, Never Seen #6)
Gordon Liu from 36th Chamber of Shaolin stars in this film focused around spear and staff fighting. He plays Yang brother 5, part of a large family of famous spear fighters who are betrayed in a battle and nearly wiped out. Afterwards, he becomes a monk and learns to fight with a staff instead. I must admit, the ending on this one surprised me a little. The kung fu is excellent. Worth noting is that Yang brother 4 also survives but is deranged, and his character was set to be the hero but disappears halfway through the film after the actor died during filming. 4/5.
11. My Young Auntie- 1981 (My Choice #5, Never Seen #7)
The quintessential kung fu comedy, this is the story of a young woman who marries an old man to keep his property out of the hands of his evil brother after he dies. This makes her the elder of his relatives, most of whom are far older than her. Much of the comedy comes from very Asian young/old stuff, alongside Confucian morals vs. western modernism. A great story with excellent acting and kung fu, this is one of my new favorites. 5/5.
12. King Boxer AKA Five Fingers of Death- 1972 (My Choice #6, Never Seen #8)
This film kicked off the kung fu craze in the seventies when it hit the West, followed later that year by Enter the Dragon. The story follows a martial arts student who recovers from a horrible injury to his hands to enter a martial arts tournament, despite interference from an unscrupulous master. The kung fu is good, and the soundtrack is excellent, but the story drags a bit before hitting the tourney. 4/5.
13. Chocolate- 2008 (From the 2000s #2, Never Seen #9)
The heroine of this film is a young autistic girl who learns kung fu from watching movies and actual fights. When her mother gets cancer and can't afford chemo, she and her friend set out to collect old debts. The film is surprisingly touching, and does an excellent job of portraying the lead as an autistic girl who happens to be a kung fu savant, instead of as a kung fu genius who happens to be an autistic girl, if you see what I mean. The fight scenes are extremely creative and quite entertaining. Excellent movie. 5/5.
14. Return of the One-Armed Swordsman- 1969 (Never Seen #10, My Choice #7)
This sequel pits Fang Gang against 8 bandit kings, each of which uses a different bladed weapon. The bandit kings capture the local sword masters, and it is up to Fang Gang to rescue them and protect their students. The weapons get pretty out there, like a poisonous gun sword and an extendible sword, but the story is decent and the action great. Plenty of fun. 4/5.
15. Ip Man 2- 2010 (From the 2000's #3, Never Seen #11)
Donnie Yen is back as Ip Man, this time alongside Sammo Hung in 1940's Hong Kong as he opens a Wing Chun school. After a British boxing champ beats Sammo to death, Ip Man agrees to fight him in a match (a plot seen often in Chinese films). The acting and kung fu continue to be excellent in this sequel; the fish market fight was amazing. 5/5.