Movies

36th Chamber of Shaolin (Chia-Liang Liu, 1978). This Gordon Liu kung fu classic has a horrible plot but some of the best Shaolin training sequences ever made.

Above the Law (Andrew Davis, 1988). This Steven Seagal action flick plausibly combines gunplay and martial arts in a modern setting.

Adventures of Robin Hood, The (Michael Curtiz, 1938). Features a Basil Rathbone vs. Errol Flynn fencing duel, plus cinematic archery!

Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005). This Batman remake sets a quest for the master (with an interesting turn), ninja, and a revenge quest against a superheroic backdrop.

Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986). An overconfident trucker gets entangled in magic and martial arts in San Francisco's Chinatown. First American attempt at a wuxia film is a mixed bag, but fun.

Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey (John Little and Bruce Lee, 2000). This documentary on Bruce Lee's life and his unfinished final film, Game of Death, has great footage of Lee in action - both in "cinematic" form and demonstrating his true skills.

Dirty Ho (Chia-Liang Liu, 1979). Groundbreaking kung fu comedy, with death-touch, proxy fighting, and a gullible thief dragooned into helping a master with a secret.

Drunken Master II (Chia-Liang Liu, 1994). Outstanding nonstop action and drunken-style kung fu. Possibly Jackie Chan's best work - although every Chan movie should be considered inspirational for comic games!

Duellists, The (Ridley Scott, 1977). Two Napoleonic officers are locked in an affaire d'honneur. Features duels with sabers and smallswords, and even one on horseback. Based on a Joseph Conrad story.

Enter the Dragon (Robert Clouse, 1973). Bruce Lee's influential final film introduced many common "action movie" tropes. Also check out The Big Boss (Wei Lo, 1971), The Chinese Connection (Wei Lo, 1972), and Return of the Dragon (Bruce Lee, 1972) - the first two of which are both sometimes called Fists of Fury.

Fatal Flying Guillotines, The (Raymond Lui, 1977). Cheesy kung fu action, unlikely weapons, bad acting, and poor dubbing make this worthy viewing for those running silly campaigns!

Hero (Yimou Zhang, 2002). A story of assassination and philosophy - told and retold several times as lies and deceptions are unmasked. Features beautiful wuxia action.

Karate Kid, The (John G. Avildsen, 1984). A bullied teen gets tutored in karate by an Okinawan master (played brilliantly by Noriyuki Morita).

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003 and 2004). Tarantino's two-part homage to kung fu, revenge, samurai, and the Hollywood Western. Volume 1 features a samurai-movie swordfest and a killer schoolgirl. Volume 2 features an Ancient Master, cinematic martial-arts training, and a Western-style brawl.

Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow, 2004). Gangster-wannabes trigger an escalating war between martial-arts masters. Mixes kung fu with dancing! The equally fun Shaolin Soccer (Stephen Chow, 2001) combines kung fu with soccer.

Once Upon a Time in China (Hark Tsui, 1991). Features Jet Li as Wong Fei-Hung. This movie and its many sequels (especially the first two) feature great martial-arts action set amidst Chinese nationalism and Western colonialism in late-19th century China.

Ong-bak (Prachya Pinkaew, 2003). A Thai villager - and Muay Thai and Krabi Krabong expert - uses flying knees and elbows to punish religious-artifact thieves.

Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980). This searing look at mid-20th century pro boxing features brutal fight scenes. Required viewing for a contender campaign!

Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976). A young boxer (a well-cast Sylvester Stallone) struggles for an unlikely title shot. Great training sequences. The sequels are formulaic.

Seven Samurai, The (Akira Kurosawa, 1954). Seven ronin help poor villagers defend themselves against bandits. A classic plot - and a fine example of how to assemble an "adventuring team" with diverse martial-arts experience and backgrounds.

Silent Flute, The (Richard Moore, 1978). A young seeker - accompanied by a blind, flute-playing master - sets out to defeat a legendary foe. Bruce Lee collaborated on the writing. Originally released as Circle of Iron.

Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960). A slave is trained as a gladiator before leading a revolt against Rome. Great training sequences, a famous gladiatorial duel, and an inspiring transition from a contender theme to a quest/war story.

Swordsman II (Siu-Tung Ching and Stanley Tong, 1991). A powerful warlord emasculates himself to achieve mystical powers. The heroes must use their own cinematic skills to stop him. Magic-heavy wuxia action ensues.

Three Musketeers, The (Richard Lester, 1973). This film and its sequel, The Four Musketeers (1974), feature excellent swashbuckling action.

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