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Classic Martial Arts: 5 Movies That Shaped The Genre

By    |   Friday, 22 January 2016 11:51 PM

The hallmark of the martial arts movie, besides the lone hero triumphing against all odds, is the visual artistry that shapes the fight scenes. Additionally, martial arts enthusiasts rate such movies not only on their artistry, but on their accuracy and respect for the fighting style. Here are five classic movies that left their mark on the genre.

1. "Yojimbo" (1961)
A hungry warrior wanders into a town in which two warring factions each want to recruit him. The movie's influence transcended genres. Director Akira Kurosawa drew on American Westerns and Dashiell Hammett melodramas, according to The Guardian.

Kurosawa gave the genre conflict as visual poetry, The Guardian said, and the influence went full circle when Yojimbo was remade as the spaghetti Western “A Fistful of Dollars,” which influenced the high-dollar American Westerns that followed.

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2. "Come Drink With Me" (1965)
Kung fu movies got their first screen heroine in Cheng Pei-pei, “The most renowned kung fu heroine in martial arts cinema history,” wrote said Dr. Craig D. Reid, author of “The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s,” according to Black Belt Magazine. The movie would inspire “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” 35 years later, and Cheng would be that movie’s femme fatale.

3. "Enter the Dragon" (1973)
It may not be movie martial arts master Bruce Lee’s finest film, but his last movie was his most famous one, The Guardian said – and it’s the movie that best sums up what made Lee so appealing to Eastern and Western movie audiences alike. “Bruce Lee has a monkish purity and spirituality, with a laser-like focus on exposing (the bad guy) Han,” The Guardian said.

4. "Drunken Master" (1978)
This one proved martial arts and comedy could mix. “When (movie producers) realized Jackie Chan couldn’t, wouldn’t and shouldn’t be the next Bruce Lee, they teamed him up with director Yuen Woo-ping ... Kung fu comedy was secured,” Reid wrote for Black Belt Magazine. The 1994 sequel was even better, he wrote.

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5. "The Shaolin Temple" (1980)
The first martial arts movie made in communist China, “Its most important impact was the reinstatement of the cultural value and historicity of Shaolin Temple,” Reid wrote. The temple, according to legend, was the last place to resist the Emperor Taizong in the 8th century, and is today considered a center of Chinese martial arts.

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The hallmark of the martial arts movie, besides the lone hero triumphing against all odds, is the visual artistry that shapes the fight scenes.
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Friday, 22 January 2016 11:51 PM
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