5. The Street Fighter (1974)
With his intimidating, wolfish demeanor and practicality-over-flash style, Sonny Chiba was never going to be the mainstream star that Bruce Lee was. But his films were undeniably badass, and The Street Fighter was his finest moment. Chiba plays Terry Tsurugi, a stone-cold mercenary who decides to protect a wealthy heiress from the Yakuza after they give him a lowball offer for her kidnapping. IMDB says that The Street Fighter was the first film to get an X-rating for violence; though the flick may seem a bit tame by today’s standards, the testicle-ripping scene still makes us cringe to this day.
Best ass-kicking: Tsurugi beats down an entire karate school, though he has a little trouble with their rotund master. [Original clip pulled; you can watch the entire movie here.]
Classic quote: “Tell that bitch who sent you how sorry I am I can no longer be her friend.” (Terry Tsurugi)
4. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Quentin Tarantino regurgitated everything he loved about kung fu movies and the female-revenge exploitation sub-genre into this, the most frenetic and visually stunning film of his career. Brutalized and left for dead on her wedding day, the Bride (Uma Thurman) emerges from a coma four years later, intent on destroying her former associates/would-be killers in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, as well as her boss and former lover, Bill. Along the way, she picks up the blade-of-all-blades in Japan, thanks to retired swordsmith Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba in a brilliant cameo), and by the end, two names on the Bride’s death list are satisfyingly crossed out.
Best ass-kicking: The Bride slashes through the entire “Crazy 88″ bodyguard crew, turning the House of Blue Leaves into a gore-soaked killing floor; directly followed by the climactic snow-garden showdown with O-Ren Ishii.
Classic quote: “Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.” (The Bride)
3. Bloodsport (1988)
It’s everything that UFC 1 aspired to be. The Kumite, an ultra-secret underground fighting tournament in Hong Kong, draws the best in all disciplines from all over the world. Among them is Frank Dux, an American Army soldier and martial artist with an inexplicable European accent (?!). Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds is there too. Things get serious when Chong Li — with his enormous pecs and complete lack of ethics — takes a little too much pleasure in hurting people. He must be stopped. But by who? Could it be the clean-cut guy who’s banging the hot eighties blond chick? We won’t spoil it for you.
Best Ass-Kicking: You never think you’re going to need that blindfolded training. That is, until Chong Li blinds you — Mr. Fuji style — in your final match and you’re forced to win without aid of your vision. Thanks, Tanaka.
Classic Quote: “Aren’t you a little young for full-contact?” “Aren’t you a little old for videogames?” (Ray Jackson and Frank Dux)
2. Fight Club (1999)
It’s almost dismissive to refer to this as a fighting movie. It’s more a film about angst and modern masculinity with fighting as a vehicle for enlightenment. Or some bullshit like that. Beyond being extremely well-written and well-acted, not to mention being directed by the gritty, detail-obsessive David Fincher, it captured the zeitgeist of the corporate American consumer culture and threw in some bloody beatings for good measure. Not only did the opening of this movie prompt one CagePotato writer to dump a girlfriend who insisted it was “stupid”, it also still has the ability to immediately transfix 18-34 year-old males when it comes on HBO late at night.
Best Ass-Kicking: Edward Norton destroys something beautiful, and that something is poor Jared Leto.
Classic Quote: “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.” (Narrator)
1. Enter the Dragon (1973)
Perhaps the most perfect martial arts movie ever made. Bruce Lee infiltrates the secret island lair of an evil mastermind by way of entering his martial arts tournament. Not only does this film have all the prerequisite elements — faceless crowds of henchmen, evil dude with deadly hand attachments, philosophical digressions — it also features a cast that’s a who’s who of martial arts movies, including Black Belt Jones himself, Jim Kelly, as well as Bolo Yeung and Jackie Chan (uncredited). If the plot seems cliché, that’s probably because it’s been copied so much since then. Because it works.
Best Ass-Kicking: The penultimate fight scene, during which Bruce Lee takes on every martial arts extra in existence during the 1970’s.
Classic Quote: “Don’t think. Feel. It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.” (Lee)
Here’s the part where you tell us how we left out, like, the sickest fight movie ever. Throw in your $0.02 in the comments section.