An unrivaled adrenaline rush is derived from watching a hyperactive, action-packed sequence take place on the big screen. And there's a particular brand of high-octane brutality that comes from watching movies full of brutal hand-to-hand combat mixed in with sick kicks and the clashing of steel on steel. The best fighting movies encapsulate the type of action that makes you shadowbox and walk with a new sense of intensity after you watch one of them in the theatre. Allow us to recommend you all 33 highly entertaining films that put the most famous and inspiring action movie stars on display. We're going to cover a wide gamut of the best fighting movies here, folks - we're talking martial arts flicks, boxing films, a cinematic sci-fi pioneer, and more. So without further ado, let's get into some big-screen action!
The 33 Best Fighting Movies of All Time
Best Fighting Movies
1. ‘Enter the Dragon’
We'd have to be sentenced to solitary confinement if we made a list of the best fighting movies and did not mention the legend that is Bruce Lee. The iconic founder of Jeet Kune Do made waves as a cinematic GOAT as he starred in a wealth of films that defined the martial-arts movie genre. One of his best posthumous onscreen performances is Enter the Dragon, which is an amazing film where Lee brawls with the best during a sinister karate tournament. Lee's underground prison infiltration scene sees him put in work on a bunch of hapless victims and deliver one of the best action sequences of all time.
Jean-Claude Van Damme was in his bag as the U.S. soldier who battles his way through the toughest foes imaginable during a high-stakes martial arts competition. Bloodsport is MMA before it even had a name - Damme and his fellow Kumite competitors use a variety of martial arts disciplines, which comes through in the form of exciting matchups that make this film such a fun watch. The final battle that takes place here between Damme and Bolo Yeung will always be a highlight-worthy encounter.
Chances are you, your fam, your friends, and anyone that's a Philly native have seen this movie hundreds of times already. Even still, it bears mentioning how much of a triumph this Sylvester Stallone-fronted film is and always will be. The very first Rocky is all about coming from underneath, never giving up, and shocking the world with one's undying passion & tenacity. You can't help but root for Stallone here as he does everything in his power to overcome his rival in Appolo Creed. That Rocky theme song will always get us ready to run in the cold, boy!
4. ‘Raging Bull’
This biographical film follows the boxing exploits of Jake LaMotta, which were amazingly detailed in the 1970 memoir Raging Bull: My Story. And in cinematic form, Robert De Niro embodies the indomitable spirit of the real-life pugilist during his in-ring clashes with the likes of Jimmy Reeves and the great Sugar Ray Robinson. De Niro's acting here is top notch and his in-ring acumen comes through wonderfully during his epic defeat of Sugar Ray.
"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?" How can you not get goosebumps every time you hear that epic proclamation? If you don't know where it comes from, just know it's delivered by Russell Crowe's Maximus, who fights for dear life throughout the entirety of Gladiator. You'll get the ultimate adrenaline rush as you watch Maximus fight alongside his fellow warriors in the ultimate coliseum clash and watch as he clashes with an undefeated champion while tigers rampage close by.
6. ‘The Way Of The Dragon’
Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris goes down in The Way of the Dragon - that's all the reason you need to watch this film from start to finish. Some of the other reasons you need to add this to your best fighting movies watchlist include Lee's 2v1 battle and all the nasty work he put in with nunchaku in hand. Lee's masterful fight choreography is all here and accounted for, folks.
7. 'House of Flying Daggers’
House of Flying Daggers is one of those beautifully shot action films that make you pause and appreciate the cinematic excellence taking place in front of you. Once the fighting begins, you'll quickly realize why this film is still talked about with great passion and respect. The Robin Hood vibes are strong here, so you'll definitely cheer on the main protagonists of this movie. The bamboo forest fight scene is simply awe-inspiring.
8. ‘Police Story’
There's a long line of Hollywood stars that are considered Kung Fu film royalty. We've already spoken about Bruce Lee and now it's about time we dedicate a few spots on this list to the incredible Jackie Chan. Chan's claim to fame is his outlandish stunts, which he's known for performing in real life without a stunt double to rely on. Police Story showcases those insane skills of his in a bus chase sequence that makes you understand just how awesome Chan has been and always will be. And the fight in the mall is just...*chef's kiss*
9. ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’
Everyone and their grandmother had to have seen this movie in theaters when it dropped in the year 2000. If you still haven't watched it yet, you owe it to yourself to see what all the hype is about. Luminaries of the big-screen martial arts genre such as Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun-fat, and Zhang Ziyi come to blows in this movie that's all about vicious swordplay and other weapons being implemented into some wild displays of fighting action. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is simply goated.
10. ‘Fight Club’
Fight Club is as gritty and gruesome as it gets. Edward Norton, Bradd Pitt, and Jared Leto are just a few of the big names that pop up in this film that's all about an underground combat club that provides some sort of excitement in the lives of men living boring lives. The epic twist that goes down at the end of this film is pretty mindblowing - thankfully, the basement brawls that take place before that huge revelation are worth sitting through.
Fathers across the world totally vibed with this film. Bob Odenkirk plays the non-assuming, everyday guy known as Hutch Mansell, who reverts back to a more violent part of his life to take revenge on the individuals that robbed him and his family. Nobody shows how a mild-mannered man can lose his composure and turn into a killing machine when someone wrongs his loved ones. The bus fight scene and Mansell's final crusade against the mob stand out as the most memorable scenes in this explosive piece of action cinema.
12. ‘Once Upon a Time in China’
There's Bruce Lee. There's Jackie Chan. And then...there's Jet Li. His martial arts movie run goes hand in hand with some of the most legit picks for the best fighting movies. One of the greatest Li movie performances we have to highlight here is his starring role in the first installment of this amazing series. Once Upon a Time in China shines the spotlight on a Chinese folk hero that rises up to protect his country from foreign invaders and protect Aunt Yee from certain harm. Li's ass-kicking expertise comes through in full during a sequence where he and his foe battle atop sets of ladders.
13. 'The Matrix’
The Wachowskis changed the world of cinema and action movies as a whole when they dropped this mind-bending epic. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie-Anne Moss don their finest leather jackets and all-black drip as they fight against an army of cloned secret agents that seek to destroy them within their true reality. The slow-mo gunfights are equally on par with the martial arts spectacles that erupt at certain parts of this classic film. When Reeve's Neo battles Mr. Smith in the train station, greatness ensues in The Matrix.
14. 'The Legend of Drunken Master’
Yep, it's time to have a chat about Chan's legendary status once again! And this time, we feel like it's the appropriate time to talk about his time spent onscreen whuppin' ass with his Drunken Boxing. The Legend of Drunken Master sees Chan put his skills to the ultimate test in a bid to keep some evil foreigners from stealing priceless Chinese artifacts. The final fight scene between Chan and fellow martial arts movie great Ken Lo is GOAT-tier fighting movie material.
15. 'Million Dollar Baby’
"I don't train girls," says Clint Eastwood's character to Hilary Swank's character...at first. But once that rule is broken and Morgan Freeman's character chooses to assist Swank's character to ascend to boxing preeminence, we truly get to witness a film on par with Rocky. Million Dollar Baby is another one of those films focused on the rough and tumble come-up of a boxer that wants to be more than just a nine-to-fiver. Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald's in-ring clashes will get you out of your seat, we're sure of it.
16. ‘Iron Monkey’
Whenever the convo turns to the best fighting movies, we're quite certain that any film starring Donnie Yen will come up during someone's passionate speech about his performances. We adore that man, which is why we had to show some love for his Robin Hood-inspired classic Iron Monkey. Yen stars as the beloved hero that fights for the poor and downtrodden against a corrupt government. Do yourself and look up "Iron Monkey Pole Fight" on YouTube to have your mind completely blown!
17. ‘Kung Fu Hustle’
Kung Fu Hustle is equal parts hilarious and hype when it comes to its display of badass hand-to-hand combat. The film's simple premise of a housing complex community having to defend themselves against an infamous gang leads to some outlandish interactions and fight scenes that are truly over the top thanks to some wild special effects. Stephen Chow and Yuen Qiu's characters in this film lead to some gut-bustlingly funny scenes and dope action sequences.
Alright, let's get back to these fire boxing movies! Next up is Southpaw, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a former boxing champion that hits rock bottom. In a bid to become great once again and restore his former glory as a competitor and family man, Jake's character (Billy Hope) trains with Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker). In the process, we witness Hope climbing the championship boxing ladder once again. Hope's climactic match with Miguel Escobar goes so damn hard, trust us on that one!
19. ‘Kill Bill: Volume 1’
One of the best fighting movies we've ever seen also happens to have one of the best revenge stories we've ever become engrossed in. Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 1 is all about Uma Thurman's role as "The Bride," who takes it upon herself to eliminate all the members of her former assassin clan that wronged her on her wedding day. A ton of blood is spilled and limbs are cut clean off during this gory movie full of exciting swordplay from an incredibly fearsome Thurman in all her action-movie glory.
20. ‘The Karate Kid’ (1984)
"Man who catch fly with chopstick, accomplish anything." That super inspirational quotable comes from this 80s martial arts movie classic. The Karate Kid will inspire anyone that watches it to rise up against their bullies as it focuses on a young Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio) training with a karate master in order to defeat his foes, who just so happen to be trainees of the Cobra Kai Dojo. The final tournament battle between LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence (played by William Zabka) still slaps to this very day!
21. ‘Fist of Legend’
First off, we gotta give a round of applause to Li's drip in this movie. The man was suited up to perfection and still beating the absolute breaks off of everyone who tried to best him. Fist of Legend has so much for it - its story sucks you in, Li's character of Chen Zhen is so easy to root for, and the fight choreography is God-tier. The dojo battles are worth the price of admission, but we really get a kick out of the fight that erupted between Zhen and Fumio Funakoshi (played by the legend known as Yasuaki Kurata). Fist of Legend will forever be held up as one of the best fighting movies.
22. ‘Fist of Fury’
Lee plays the ultimate pacifist turned enforcer when he's forced to take out the bloodthirsty drug ring that controls his factory and harms his family. Fist of Fury is definitely what you'd expect if you haven't seen it but know what the great Lee is all about - highly satisfying fight scenes that still entertain due to the nonstop martial arts expertise Lee shows to the world here. The way Lee bodies an entire dojo full of students is next-level, plus his final battle with Robert Baker always gets a replay out of us.
23. ‘Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior’
When this movie dropped in 2004, Tony Jaa hit the martial arts cinema scene as its most promising young star. And thanks to all the amazing feats of Muay Thai Jaa pulled off on the big screen, everyone who watched Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior emerged from the theater realizing it was a smash hit. The simple premise of a sacred statue head getting taken from a village leads to Jaa landing the nastiest strikes we've ever seen during his search for that object in the big city. All those underground fight club scenes show just how much of a killer Jaa can be.
24. ‘The Raid: Redemption’
The Indonesian-born actors Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian are the two sole reasons why you need to seek out this film. The Raid: Redemption should be on everyone's best fighting movies playlist thanks to the sick fight choreography that puts the martial art of Pencak Silat in the spotlight. After the cover of a SWAT team invading an apartment complex ruled by drug lords is blown, Uwais' character must rise up to see his team's missions through. Uwais' dissection of all the machete thugs he runs into in the hallway is insane!
25. ‘Rumble in the Bronx’
When this movie dropped in the States, a lot of folks finally started to recognize Jackie Chan as a mainstream star. As the Hong Kong policeman known as Keung, Chan embarks on a crusade against local street gangs that chose to terrorize a local Bronx store that belongs to a young woman. Chan ends up becoming the savior of the people residing in the famed New York borough - the vicious beatdowns Chan hands out during the supermarket sequence will have you in awe! Rumble in the Bronx is a bonafide martial arts movie classic.
26. ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’
The fate of the multiverse hangs in the balance. And the only person who can bring balance to it all is a random laundromat owner played by the incomparable Michelle Yeoh. Everything Everywhere All at Once is such a trippy ride that features great bouts of action and a whole lot of hilarious moments strewn throughout it. All the different versions of Yeoh's character are so dope to watch in action - watching the main universe iteration of Yeoh get into a keyboard battle with Andy Le's character is a prime example of how wild this movie can be.
27. ‘Ip Man’
Donnie Yen pops back up here in a biopic martial arts movie series that follows the exploits of Bruce Lee's teacher/mentor, Ip Man. This acclaimed figure is the world-renowned grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun. Yen does a sublime job as the ultimate martial arts mastermind in this film that beats back all challenges with relative ease. The first Ip Man has to be considered one of the best fighting movies of all time simply based on the scene where Ip Man defeats 10 Black Belts like it's nothing!
Warrior is a movie that's all about family. Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) are brothers who end up fighting their way into the same MMA tournament. And as you watch them notch hard-fought victories along the way, you'll get exhilarated by the inevitable fight between the two siblings. Warrior ends up making this list of the best fighting movies thanks to how real-to-life its MMA fights look. When Tommy takes on Mad Dog in the gym, you'll see why we hold this movie up as one of the GOATs.
29. ‘The Fighter’
The Fighter is all about redemption. It stars Mark Wahlberg, who plays a fledgling boxer that just can't seem to get a win even though he works hard to be the best thanks to his trainer's (played by Christian Bale) advice. Eventually, Wahlberg's inspirational boxer makes his way back from all his losses and finds a way to reunite with the family that got him into the sport in the first place. All the well-shot boxing sequences featured in this film are unforgettable alongside the top-notch acting of everyone involved. It's worth noting that The Fighter follows the real-life exploits of boxer Micky Ward.
30. ‘Cinderella Man’
And for the final pick on our list of the best fighting movies of all time, we have to mention this biographical film about James J. Braddock. Russell Crowe steps into the role of that sentimental character and shows the trials and tribulations that come with his career. You'll find yourself absorbed in everything Braddock goes through as he's forced to confront the spirit-breaking events that come with the Great Depression and his suffering a broken hand. And when it comes time to fight, Crowe looks great in the ring against all of his opponents (especially Corn Griffin!). Cinderella Man is required viewing.
The spinoff of the legendary Rocky film franchise ended up being a whole lot better than expected. And that's due to the quality acting of Michael B. Jordan and the incredible storyline of Rocky Balboa going out of his way to train the son of one of his greatest opponents. The first Creed film is an emotional roller coaster that'll make you jump out of your seat as if you were actually in the crowd for the epic final fight scene, which brings it to a satisfying conclusion.
32. 'Creed II'
Jordan makes his return as Adonis "Donnie" Johnson in Creed II, which follows the boxing prodigy as he steps into the ring with a dangerous new rival. Rocky's former nemesis Ivan Drago makes his return to the series with his own trainee named Viktor Drago, who definitely gives Donnie a run for his money in one of the most exciting boxing matches ever shot on film. The drama that takes place between Donnie, Rocky, and Drago will entice you while the fight scenes will excite you as you watch punches being landed in the most impactful manner possible.
33. 'Creed III'
And now let's have a chat about the third film in the amazing Creed franchise. Creed III once again follows Donnie as he's forced to contend with yet another intimidating pugilist. But this fight is a lot more personal since he has to throw hands with a former friend named Damian "Diamond Dame" Anderson (who's excellently played by Jonathan Majors. The breakdown in both men's friendship builds up to one of the most exhilarating boxing matches you'll ever scream your head off for on the big screen.
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