Fighting movies are something that appears to be ingrained in the human gene. We as a species can’t help but watch and experience the adrenaline of conflict as it develops, whether it’s an epic MMA fight, a tough boxing contest, or simply a fistfight in the streets. As a result, the film industry has developed a plethora of fighting movies. We’ve compiled a mix of martial arts, boxing, karate, and everything in between if you’re seeking some of the finest combat-best fighting movies of all time.
16- The Raid 2
Release date: March 28, 2014 (USA)
Director: Gareth Evans
Budget: $4.5 million
Music by: Joseph Trapanese; Aria Prayogi; Fajar Yuskemal
Box office: 6.6 million USD (excluding Indonesia and Japan)
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics, KADOKAWA, MORE
Why: After seeing a lot of best fighting movies over the years, I have to say that this one has the finest battle sequences I’ve ever seen. The action is huge and realistic, and the plot is gripping from beginning to end. The new characters were a nice addition to the franchise, and I appreciated how the plot continued from the previous fighting movies.
I was surprised to learn that this epic film was directed by an Englishman after seeing the supplementary material on the DVD. I just hope he doesn’t sell out and start acting like a movie star. In any case, I doubt you’ll ever see something like this in your lifetime and it does put people like Jackie Chan and Jet Li to shame. A Great Watch!
Plot: He assumed the game was done. After battling his way out of a building full of criminals and madmen – a fight that left the remains of cops and gangsters alike stacked in the hallways – rookie Jakarta officer Rama felt his troubles were over and he could go back to his usual life. He couldn’t have been further from the truth. Rama’s opponents in that fatal building were little more than minuscule fish swimming in a pond far larger than he ever imagined conceivable, no matter how formidable they were.
And his victory against the little fry has piqued the interest of predators higher up the food chain. With his family in jeopardy, Rama has just one option for defending his young son and wife. He’ll have to go undercover to penetrate the criminal underground and work his way up the ladder of opposing factions until he reaches the top, where he’ll find the corrupt politicians and cops pulling the strings.
As a result, Rama embarks on a new expedition of violence, one that will require him to put his own life and past aside to assume the persona of the violent felon “Yuda.” In prison, he must acquire the trust of Uco, the son of a powerful gang boss, to join the gang and put his own life on the line in a desperate all-or-nothing ploy to put an end to the entire filthy enterprise.
15- John Wick
Release date: November 7, 2014 (Pakistan)
Director: Chad Stahelski
Music by: Tyler Bates; Joel J. Richard
Box office: 86 million USD
Produced by: Basil Iwanyk; David Leitch; Eva Longoria; Michael Witherill
Distributed by: Lionsgate Films, Summit Entertainment
Why: If you want to see genuinely action-packed fighting movies, this is the one to watch. The action tells the tale with minimum language, clear directing, and storytelling.
There are emotions, action, and a little excitement in this film, but nothing is overdone. Everything is in the appropriate proportions and is fairly objective.
Plot: John Wick leads a typical life with his wife Helen, with whom he has been happily married for the past five years. John is distraught when Helen succumbs to a serious disease. While grieving, he receives Daisy, a beagle puppy that Helen had planned for him to have before she died to help him cope with his loss.
Despite his austere approach, John develops a relationship with the puppy, and the two spend the day in his vintage 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 cruising about. He meets a trio of Russian thugs at a petrol station, the head of whom, Iosef, insists on buying John’s automobile, which he refuses to sell. The thugs break into John’s house that night, knock him out, kill Daisy, and steal his car.
Release date: March 20, 2010 (Japan)
Director: Dwight H. Little
Box office: $1.7 million
Adapted from: Tekken
Music by: John Hunter
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures, Sony Pictures, MORE
Why: This is a fantastic film adaptation of a video game franchise. Only Tekken 3 and the arcade game version come to mind. I was surprised to learn about this picture since, while the franchise was successful, it wasn’t as well-known as Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. So I went to see what was going on and was rather pleased.
Plot: It is the year 2039. Everything has been wrecked by world conflicts, and areas are now controlled by companies, the most powerful — and cruelest — of which is Tekken. In the slums of Anvil, Jin Kazama (John Foo) witnesses Tekken killing his mother Jun (Tomita). He enters a dangerous and potentially fatal combat tournament, vowing vengeance and relying solely on his street smarts and raw fighting abilities to defeat the world’s best fighters and become the “King of the Iron Fist.”
13- Never Back Down
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writer: Chris Hauty
Stars: Sean FarisDjimon HounsouAmber Heard
Why: It also is among the most masculine-positive best fighting movies I’ve ever seen! Sure, there’s a lot of sweat and a lot of hot muscle all over the place! However, actual character development takes precedence, with the major focus being on the muscle on the left side of your chest (Your Heart)! What a well-thought-out narrative! If Hollywood had the guts to try something like this more regularly –
A film in the vein of “Fight Club,” but with no exploitation or gore! This one-of-a-kind film is also appropriate for older children to watch! It’s so advanced that I’d recommend it as a great resource for Anger Management seminars!
Plot: Jake Tyler just relocated from Iowa to Orlando, Florida with his mother, Margret, and younger brother Charlie, a rising tennis player. The move was made to better his tennis career. His father was killed in a drunk-driving vehicle accident, and his classmates teased him about it. Due to an internet video showing him fighting with a disgruntled opponent player who makes nasty statements about Jake’s father when he was a football player at his old school, he has a rising reputation among the students at his current school.
Jake struggles to fit in at his new school at first, and while wandering, he witnesses Max Cooperman allegedly getting beaten up by bullies. When Jake attempts to intercede, Max and his buddies tell him that the “bullying” was a semi-sanctioned mixed martial arts bout. Jake is then invited to a party by classmate Baja Miller (about whom he develops a crush) where he is unwittingly drawn into a battle with the school’s MMA champion, Ryan McCarthy, who is also Baja’s boyfriend. Jake first refuses to fight, but after Ryan makes light of Jake’s father’s death, Jake gladly accepts to fight. Ryan easily overcomes Jake, and a video of the event is circulated across the school, humiliating Jake.
12- Rumble In The Bronx
Release date: January 21, 1995 (Hong Kong)
Director: Stanley Tong
Music by: J. Peter Robinson (US version); Nathan Wang (HK version)
Budget: US$7.5 million
Production company: Paragon Films Ltd
Distributed by: Orange Sky Golden Harvest, New Line Cinema, Hollywood Pictures
Why: Rumble in the Bronx is a fantastic Jackie Chan film that I like. It’s action-packed and hilarious as well. It’s also a film that catapulted Jackie Chan into the mainstream of American culture. So, if it hadn’t been for Rumble in the Bronx, the Rush Hour fighting movies would not have been. Many critics and American moviegoers praised Rumble in the Bronx for its stunts, action, and Jackie’s charm and performance. While Rumble in the Bronx may appear to be a Hong Kong film, it is also one of my favorite Jackie Chan films in the United States. However, one complaint I have is whether the fighting movies are trimmed and changed for the American version, which makes it quite confusing. However, if you’re a Jackie Chan fan, it still is a fantastic film to see.
Plot: Keong travels from Hong Kong to attend his uncle’s wedding in New York. While his uncle is on his honeymoon, Keong agrees to help out at his uncle’s market in the Bronx. Keong befriends a neighbor youngster and knocks up several local gangsters who cause trouble at the market during his stay in the Bronx. Meanwhile, one of the local gang’s small goons gets himself into a dangerous criminal scenario. His involvement brings his gang, the youngster, Keong, and the entire neighborhood into a fatal crossfire because he is blinded by money. When the inept cops fail to fix the problem, Keong takes matters into his own hands. There are, without a doubt, a lot of fantastic kung-fu and wild action moments.
11- Blood And Bone
Initial release: February 7, 2009
Director: Ben Ramsey
Music by: Nicholas Pike
Budget: $3,700,000 (estimated)
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Produced by: Matthew Binns; Michael Mailer; Nick Simunek; Michael Andrews; John Duffy; Michael Jai White
Why: A amazing fighting movies that ALL martial arts aficionados should see (it’s available for free on YouTube, so there are no excuses). Even when you know you’ve seen something in the film before, it seems fresh since it takes an unconventional approach. Everything is top-notch, from the acting to the battle sequences to the scenery. I’m hoping they get to make the sequel at some point. It’s taken much too long to arrive.
Plot: Isaiah Bone (Michael Jai White), a highly-skilled martial artist and ex-marine, moves to Los Angeles, where underground fights are held, fresh out of prison. One night, after seeing a battle with local champion Hammerman, Bone strikes a deal with promoter Pinball to get him into the fight scene for 20 percent of his profits; 40 percent if Pinball puts his own money on the line. Bone runs across crime leader James and his lover Angela Soto on the same night. Bone fights for the first time underground and beats his opponent with only two kicks. Pinball discloses to Bone that Angela was previously married, but that James put up her spouse Danny for a triple-homicide, resulting in his imprisonment. Once James found out she was expecting, he forced her to get an abortion. Angela has been addicted to drugs since then.
Release date: February 26, 1988 (USA)
Director: Newt Arnold
Music by: Paul Hertzog; Stan Bush
Box office: $50 million
Story by: Sheldon Lettich
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures, The Cannon Group, Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures Studios
Why: This is a famous Van Damme martial arts fighting movies. The music and scenery are typical of the 1980s. If you enjoy martial arts, this video is a must-see since it has spectacular kicks, throws, and splits, not to mention blood. There’s also a young Forest Whitaker to be seen. There are several unforgettable sequences and clichés in this film. The acting is mediocre, but that’s to be expected. Overall, it’s a lot of fun to see.
Plot: Tanaka has spent much of his life training Frank Dux to compete in the Kumite, the ultimate martial arts contest in which competitors are gravely hurt, if not murdered. Despite his superiors in the army telling him he can’t because they need him, Frank decides to depart. Two army officers are dispatched to track him down, and the trail goes to Hong Kong, but Frank manages to evade them. While Frank makes progress, he is aware that he may have to confront Chong Li, the reigning champion, who has already claimed the lives of a few competitors.
Release date: September 9, 2011 (USA)
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Featured song: About Today
Story by: Gavin O’Connor; Cliff Dorfman
Distributed by: Lionsgate Films
Nominations: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, MORE
Why: It’s the film that will melt a mountain’s heart. How can love, compassion, and the sense of being a part of something be required, and how can cold water be used to cool scorched areas? How three words, “I love You,” may alter everything; they may not be able to repair scars, but they can certainly put a stop to never-ending suffering.
Warrior will make you weep, and Unsaturated will make you want a different ending and a different method, but you will eventually realize that the fighting movies ended as they should.
The movie’s hypothetical “What if” plot has a real emotional response, which may have been more hot and rapid, but would it be realistic then?
In the end, Tommy searched for his father but, once again, his dad wasn’t present, however this time his brother was.
Warriors are Tearjerk, which I highly suggest.
Plot: Tommy Riordan, a U.S. Marine, travels to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to see his father, Paddy Conlon, a recovering alcoholic who has returned to his Catholic religion. Tommy had to flee Paddy as a youngster with his dying mother because Paddy was an aggressive drinker, and he has never forgiven him. Paddy attempts unsuccessfully to persuade him that he has changed. The next day, Tommy returns to the gym and promptly knocks out professional fighter Pete “Mad Dog” Grimes; a video of the bout becomes viral on the internet. Tommy begs Paddy to help him prepare for a titleholder mixed martial arts event called Sparta, where the winner would get $5 million, but only on the condition that Paddy does not try to restore their relationship.
8- Ip Man
Director: Wilson Yip
Writers: Edmond Wong(screenplay)Tai-lee Chan
Why: With superb production design, vivid cinematography, exciting combats, and magnificent moments, this sumptuous Kung Fu picture was brilliantly produced. Fighting movies has a lot of violence, action, thrills, and intense fighting. Bruce Lee, the renowned Kung Fu teacher, is the subject of this fascinating film. A semi-biographical story of Yip Man, the first martial arts instructor to teach the Chinese martial style of Wing Chun; Grandmaster Yip Man was employed as a police officer during the Japanese invasion, however, this is not stated in the film.
Plot: Martial arts schools may be found on every street corner in Foshan, China, in 1935. Ip Man is the unquestioned champion of mixed martial arts, but he has not dedicated himself to teaching. Regardless, it appears that all of the city’s kung fu experts are ready to battle him to better their reputation.
7- Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Writers: Panna Rittikrai(story)Prachya Pinkaew(story)Suphachai Sittiaumponpan(screenplay)
Stars: Tony JaaPetchtai WongkamlaoPumwaree Yodkamol
Why: This is how the best fighting movies should be made! Ting (Jaa) is tasked with rescuing an antique Buddha head from a band of thugs. He’ll have to use his lethal fists and feet to reclaim it.
The battle sequences in the film are incredible! All of the feats were performed by Jaa. There were no doubles or CGI used. It’s all pure kick-ass action here. Ting needs to knock out three opponents in a row, and he uses everything he has to stop them, even a refrigerator, in one of the finest bouts in the film. The automobile pursuit with the tuk-tuks was handled well.
Plot: Booting lives in a quiet, little village. An unethical businessman steals a precious Buddha sculpture named Ong Bak from the hamlet one day. Boosting (Phanom Yeeram), a selfless young man is shortly tasked with tracking down the thief in Bangkok and reclaiming the sacred treasure. Boosting uses his incredible agility and traditional Muay Thai abilities to defeat his opponents along the road.
6- The Matrix
Release date: March 31, 1999 (USA)
Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Budget: $63 million
Music by: Don Davis
Produced by: Joel Silver
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Roadshow Entertainment
Why: The Matrix is one of the finest vintage science fiction best fighting movies I’ve ever watched! It is one of the best science fiction films of all time, as well as one of the best films of any genre.
I’m not a big fan of Kean Reeves, but he’s fantastic as Neo, and the supporting cast is fairly good as well, with Laurence Fishbourne as Morpheus and Carrie Anne Moss as Trinity. Agent Smith, played superbly by Hugo Weaving, is one of the most memorable villains in cinema history, and he’s in fine form. The premise is great, and this is a unique picture with terrific writing.
It’s sophisticated, intellectual, dramatic, emotional, and features fantastic action sequences, and notions like bullet-time forever impacted cinema. Content that is very good, intriguing, intellectual, and entertaining.
Plot: A police team cornered Trinity in an abandoned hotel, but she overpowers them with her superhuman talents. She runs, chased by the cops and a team of suited Agents capable of superhuman feats of their own. She disappears after answering a ringing public phone.
Thomas Anderson, better known online as “Neo,” a computer programmer, is perplexed by frequent meetings with the phrase “the Matrix.” Neo is contacted by Trinity, who informs him that a man named Morpheus has the answers he wants. Agent Smith leads a team of agents and cops to Neo’s workplace in search of him. Despite Morpheus’ best efforts, Neo chooses to submit rather than chance a perilous escape.
The Agents try to persuade Neo to assist them to find Morpheus, whom they accuse of being a terrorist. The agents fuse Neo’s jaw shut and implant a robotic “bug” in his stomach if he refuses. Neo awakens from what he thinks is a nightmare. Trinity takes Neo to visit Morpheus shortly after, and she removes the bug from him, revealing that the “nightmare” he had was genuine.
5- The Way Of The Dragon
Release date: June 1, 1972 (Hong Kong)
Director: Bruce Lee
Languages: Mandarin; Cantonese; English
Music by: Joseph Koo
Box office: US$130 million
Distributed by: Orange Sky Golden Harvest, Miramax, Media Asia Entertainment Group, Concord Production Inc.
Why: Among all of his fighting movies, this is my personal favorite. Although the screenplay isn’t great, the action is superbly coordinated, edited, and shot. Each action moment and sequence has a thought process behind it. The greatest sequence is the climactic one. He did an amazing job choreographing the battle between him and Chuck Norris. His attention to detail in set design, camera movement and positioning, the cat symbol, editing, staging, and the usage of background soundtrack is captivating. Simply outstanding.
Plot: Tang Lung travels to Rome to assist his restaurant-owning cousins. They are under duress to sell their land to the syndicate, which will go to any length to obtain what they desire. Tang offers a fresh challenge to the syndicate when he arrives, and they are unable to destroy him. To combat Tang, the syndicate head sends the greatest Japanese and European martial artists, but Tang simply dispatches them. Colt, an American martial artist, is hired and has a fight with Tang in the Colosseum in Rome.
4- The Fighter
Release date: December 6, 2010 (USA)
Director: David O. Russell
Music by: Michael Brook
Story by: Keith Dorrington; Paul Tamasy; Eric Johnson
Awards: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, MORE
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures Studios, The Weinstein Company
Why: The above movie The Fighter is about sports, which I enjoy a lot, and I also enjoy boxing, which I have never done before but would like to do someday because I am very strong like a bull, powerful like a bull, and I am a flexible kind of person, and I enjoy training for it. It’s also about drama, which I enjoy a lot because I enjoy drama fighting movies and I enjoy watching them.
Plot: Micky Ward is a welterweight boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, United States. Micky was managed by his mother, Alice Ward, and coached by his elder half-brother, Dicky Eklund, and became a “stepping stone” for other fighters to overcome on their way up. Dicky has acquired a crack addiction after reaching the zenith of his career by going the distance with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978. He’s being videotaped for an HBO documentary about his “comeback,” which he believes is about him.
3- Romeo Must Die
Release date: March 22, 2000 (USA)
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Music by: Stanley Clarke; Timbaland
Adapted from: Romeo and Juliet
Story by: Mitchell Kapner
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Why: This is among fantastic fighting movies. The acting of Aaliyah and Jet Li was outstanding. Even though virtually all of the negative reviews came from white film critics with their agendas, the cultural significance of breaking down barriers of interracial love and uniting the black and Asian communities could not be overlooked. It kind of shows how, even back then, the majority of cinema ratings were influenced by wealthy White males who would purposefully downgrade films that didn’t match their narrative or ideal image of the world. This is a film that I strongly suggest.
Plot: Jet Li, a kung fu action hero, portrays Romeo to hip-hop diva Aaliyah Haughton’s Juliet in this modern-day Romeo and Juliet. Li is a former detective who is investigating the assassination of his brother, who had links to the Chinese mafia in the United States. Aaliyah portrays the daughter of a crime lord in the United States. Because neither side approves of their relationship, kung fu action follows, along with an Aaliyah soundtrack.
2- Fight Club
Release date: November 11, 1999 (Germany)
Director: David Fincher
Adapted from: Fight Club
Music by: The Dust Brothers
Box office: $101.2 million
Distributed by: 20th Century Studios
Why: Fight Club is without a doubt one of the best fighting movies ever filmed. I’ve never seen such outstanding acting. It’s the kind of film that holds your attention from start to finish. It’s also advantageous in the sense that it awakens a section of your brain you didn’t know existed before. It makes you consider your place in the society we live in.
I’d strongly advise anyone who hasn’t watched it to do so. You’ve undoubtedly heard it referenced once or twice in your life, or even in another film, and trust me when I say that the excitement is true.
Plot: The Narrator, a car recall specialist, is dissatisfied with his work and belongings, and suffers from severe sleeplessness. To get rid of it, he goes to support groups and pretends to be a sickness suffering. His pleasure is disrupted when another fake, Marla Singer, starts attending the same groups as him. They decide to join different organizations.
On a flight returning from a business trip, the Narrator encounters soap salesman Tyler Durden. When the Narrator goes home, he discovers that his flat and all of his possessions have been destroyed by an explosion. Disgusted by the loss of his possessions, he contacts Tyler, and the two meet at a bar. Tyler informs him that he is enslaved by consumerism. He asks the Narrator to hit him in the parking lot, and that they have a fistfight. They agree to do it again because they found the experience cathartic.
Release date: December 25, 2001 (USA)
Director: Michael Mann
Featured song: Tomorrow
Box office: 87.7 million USD
Awards: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture, MORE
Nominations: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, MORE
Why: “Ali” is more than simply fighting movies about the world’s best heavyweight champion; it’s also a personal historical drama about the man’s lifelong battle to discover who he was both inside and outside the ring. Will Smith’s portrayal of Ali is spot on, while Jon Voight’s portrayal of sports broadcasting commentator Howard Cosell is unforgettable, thanks to their on-screen chemistry and the realistic and adrenaline-packed boxing action.
Plot: Cassius Clay, a brash new pro boxer fresh off an Olympic gold medal triumph, bursts into the scene in 1964. With his arrogant public self-confidence and shameless belief that he is the best boxer of all time, he creates a whole new image for African Americans in sport. To his credit, he sets out to show it, with his very nimble and aggressive style quickly establishing him as a potential heavyweight contender.
With his loyalty to the Nation of Islam, his connection with the controversial Malcolm X, and the abandoning of his slave name in favor of Muhammad Ali, he has a colorful personal life.
Conclusion: If you enjoyed our list of best fighting movies then please also check out our other post 20 Best Asian Action Movies.