Martial Arts Films have been one of the most popular genres, with audiences from across the globe loving their action scenes, expertise, and the elegance that all comes with the genre. The Chinese martial art of kung-fu, also known as “wushu,” opened the way for a slew of Asian martial arts to make their way into American cinema.
The fusion of different styles is one of the most unique and fascinating aspects of kung-fu, as opposed to its “real-life” equivalent, as seen in Hollywood and Asian films. With the rise in popularity of Bruce Lee, this genre became one of the most widely viewed worldwide with other great martial arts experts and astounding actors, one of the most renowned one being Jet Li.
His films were hugely successful in China, and Jet Li made his Hollywood debut in 1998 with a role in “Lethal Weapon 4.” “Romeo Must Die,” “Cradle 2 The Grave,” “The One,” “War,” “Unleashed,” “The Forbidden Kingdom,” “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” and “Kiss of the Dragon” were amongst Jet Li’s other American films. Jet Li: Rise to Honor, his own PlayStation 2 game, also featuring him. People are drawn to him because of his aura and expertise in martial arts.
After Bruce Lee’s death, it is widely assumed that he was responsible for reigniting interest in martial arts. And when he plays the bad guys, everyone goes to the cinema to watch Jet Li play the hero. Jet Li quit the sports field when he was 17 years old. He made his film debut in Shaolin Temple, directed by Chang Hsin Yen (1982).
Jet Li had become a celebrity in his home country due to the film, which spawned several sequels. Jet Li had moved to Hong Kong by the end of the 1980s, where he became active in the martial arts film scene.
From being a successful hit in Hollywood to having mass martial arts fame, his career was filled with fame. The most recent one starring Jet Li was the Disney-produced remake of the movie ‘Mulan.’ Now let us delve into the best Jet Li movies in the list below.
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#1 – Fist of Legend
“Fists of Legend” spends two-and-a-half hours unraveling the knotty saga of three middle-aged warriors, their grim mutual history, and their rugged path to salvation. It’s bloated but energetic, engaging but interminable, tortured but so far surprisingly enjoyable.
This maximalist male melodrama from Korean blockbuster helmer Kang Woo-suk is set in motion by a mixed-martial-arts competition, and it careens violently from vicious bouts to father-daughter angst to reality-TV humor to violent high-school flashbacks, like a wrestler forever teetering on the verge of desperation, making it at the top of the best of Jet Li movies.
#2 – Hero
The martial arts extravaganza “Star” is glamorous and beguiling, describing the styles and lives of its warriors within Chinese culture. It’s also a puzzle, like “Rashomon,” told from several perspectives; we learn many myths, all of which may be real or incorrect. Like several folk tales, the film begins with a storyteller standing before the throne of an imperious king, relying on his wits to protect.
A genre has a community of filmgoers who believe they hate it. Occasionally, a film comes up that they can watch regardless, like this Jet Li film. For context, if you’ve skipped any Marvel film, this is the one to watch. If you still hate martial arts after seeing “Crouching Tiger, Secret Dragon,” “Hero” may be the film for you from the Jet Li movies list.
#3 – Once Upon a Time in China
Wong Fei-hung is best known today for his depiction by Jet Li, who had been in the movie industry for almost a decade but soared to superstardom – and even fame in the West – due to his Once Upon a Time in China films.
Once Upon a Time in China was not only Hark’s most prolific performance to that moment but also one of his most intimate, finding a way to harness his inherent Chinese nationalism (and fears about Western influence) and using it to bring this celebrated folk hero to life, arguably better than anyone had ever done before or since in one of Jet Li’s best movies.
#4 – Kiss of the Dragon
Toward the beginning of “Kiss of the Dragon,” the Chinese cop played by Jet Li is hunted for weapons. They discover a ring around his hand with a lot of tiny needles trapped in it. This does not imply that he works as a tailor in his free time. These are acupuncture needles, and with only one deftly threaded spot, he may heal or destroy.
The film’s title refers to the ultimate use of a needle, as he defines it as “particularly immoral,” as it would be since it changes the body’s blood supply such that it all rises to the brain and explodes from any possible orifice. It irritates me when this happens.
Jet Li’s character in this film is also a practitioner of a wide range of martial arts, which he wants in this film when he is up against everything, which makes it feature in this list of Jet Li movies.
#5 – Unleashed
In this film, the dog has been trained as a killer since childhood and is loyal to its owner. It is passive when it wears its collar. However, it transforms into a ruthless murder machine when the collar is removed and an order is issued.
Then something strange happens. For the first time in its life, the puppy encounters goodness. Is this to say that the master is mistaken and must be disobeyed? The structure of the film is fantastic.
It features all of the martial arts action that any Jet Li fan might like, choreographed by Yeun Wo-ping, the kung-fu equivalent of Gerald Arpino, who makes unlikely yet fun ballets, chops, and socks leaps and turns, kicks, and improvisations.
#6 – The Legend
With a spirited depiction of Fong Sai Yuk, a kung fu wonderkid with a happy-go-lucky personality and gleaming grin, Jet takes another Chinese folk-hero into conventional action: considering their moral standings and martial artistry, Fong and Jet’s other alter-ego Wong Fei-hung has never been more different.
All just falls into place, and we’re left with a genuinely wonderful action romp, complete with special appearances by adorable comedienne Josephine Siao and Jet Li himself in one of the top Jet Li movies.
#7 – Romeo Must Die
When Han, a former Hong Kong officer, hears that his errant brother has been killed in a gang fight, he flees jail and makes his way to San Francisco’s streets. There, he becomes embroiled in a rivalry between Chinese and black gangs and falls for the daughter of one of the opposing mafia bosses. The fast-paced fight scenes in this movie make it one of the remarkable Jet Li movies.
#8 – Tai Chi Master
Jet Li in this film portrays the titular character, who studies Chuan fa at the legendary Shaolin Temple. There, he befriends Tian Bao, a fellow child monk whose vanity, defiance, and violence have them both kicked out before they reach adulthood. Soon after, their paths diverged, with Tian joining the oppressive imperial army and Zhang joining an underground society of revolutionaries, including Siu Lin.
#9 – Once Upon a Time in China 2
Jet Li and Donnie Yen (New Big Boss, Iron Monkey, New Dragon Inn), two of the best martial artists now working in action cinema (Jackie Chan, in my experience, lost talent in favor of gimmick in the late 1980s), team up with Tsui Hark, the director who almost single-handedly re-invented the genre, and probably the greatest action choreographer of all time Yuen Woo.
I’ll just recommend that you watch this film to see and learn what Jet Li is capable of before Hollywood softens him up any further. Between the two showdowns with Donnie, the battle with the White Lotus Cult’s chief is almost forgotten, but yeah, one of the best Jet Li movies to watch.
#10 – Fearless
Last, in the best Jet Li films are Fearless, based on the true story of Huo Yuan Jia (1868-1910), promised world-renowned martial artist Jet Li his greatest role, and not before the time: the 43-year-old Hero star has confirmed that this will be his final martial arts film.
Perhaps finding echoes of his own life in Yuan Jia, a young boxer who popularized martial arts, Li spent ten years developing the character himself. William Kong, the director of Crouching Tiger, Secret Dragon, and Hero, has put together an outstanding supporting cast of world-class warriors and wisely recruited Yuen Wo-Ping, the iconic choreographer of the Matrix and Kill Bill films.
In conclusion, the best of Jet Li movies is a must-watch for all movie lovers and martial arts lovers alike, and it is conclusively a great show of skills and elegance the same.