November 6, 2021 (NYC)–Top 10 Martial Arts Films of 2021. 2021 was a great year for Martial Arts movies. The globalization of entertainment combined with the multitude of outlets for viewing and streaming martial arts movies is a benefit to martial arts movies fans. We have had a chance to seen many of the movies released this year; however, if there was a great martial arts movie we missed please be sure to let us know. We would be happy to screen and review it. Here is our list of the Top 10 Martial Arts films of 2021:
#10: Mortal Kombat– This long awaited reboot of the Mortal Combat series contains some fun and interesting visuals. While it lacked the heart of some of the films on the list, it did have some very good redeeming features. In particular, Lewis Tan, a real martial artist provides a central character you can route for and connect with. The movie elevated the action to appeal to a more mature audience and it was successful.
#9: Ip Man-Kung Fu Master– There are many Ip Man variations. This one has no connection to the Donnie Yen films, and uses the early life of Master Ip as the basis to create an over-the-top and fun film that will keep you interested. This is fun and visually very engaging as long as you don’t expect the dramatic and realistic aspects highlighted in the Donnie Yen “Ip Man” films.
#8: Bruised– Halle Berry Directed and starred in this simultaneous Netflix and Theatrical release about a washed up MMA fighter on the comeback trail. It has many of the characteristics of the first Rocky film. Berry’s acting is award worthy, but her fight choreography is more note
worthy. This one evidences real attention paid to both the dramatic, as well as the martial arts’ aspects of this compelling story.
#7: Castle Falls– A late entry in the year, but a strong one. Dolph Lundgren’s adept direction combined with the dynamic action of Scott Adkins makes for a enjoyable and heartfelt martial arts action film. This one looked like it would be a casualty of the Pandemic when production halted due to the Pandemic; however, it eventually resumed for a worthwhile result.
#6: Kate– This Netflix original film was a surprise to our panel. While it did not get great reviews from fans or critics we thought it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours. Visually cool. Exciting fights. This one made us long for some Boom-Boom Lemon. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Woody Harrelson star.
#5: More Than Miyagi– The market is flooded with boring documentaries that are not particularly well done. This one does not fit into that category. While Pat Morita was not a martial arts movie star, per se, and the movie is about more than his famed character, it was definitely worth checking out.
#4: The Protege’– Maggie Q and Samuel L Jackson teamed up with famed action Director, Martin Campbell for one of the summer’s most exciting films. A good plot, a great sense of humor, and well filmed action made this one really a fun time, Michael Keaton is particularly impressive in the role as Q’s admiring adversary. Campbell managed to create some very memorable visuals in this one.
#3: Nobody– Bob Odenkirk starring as an unlikely action hero could have gone horribly wrong, but it didn’t. His immersion into the world of 87Eleven and Chad Stahelski’s stunt team made this “every man’s John Wick” for sure. This is fun and funny, but it is also a terrific action film. Unlike some of the films on the list this one had a solid budget and it went to good use. Hopefully Nobody is just the first film of a franchise.
#2: Raging Fire– Donnie Yen starring in Benny Chan’s final film is truly masterful. While the film is loaded with action and great fight choreography, it is the dramatic performances of Yen and costar, Nicholas Tse, that really take this film to the next level. This movie pays homage to old school Kung Fu action films; however, it elevates them on all levels.
#1: The Paper Tigers– Every once and while a movie comes along that reminds you that the heart of a good film is not the budget, the special effects, or even the high profile nature of the cast but the script, the direction, and solid performances. This is such a film. It is very hard not to find something to like in this film about three aging martial artists trying to cope with their mortality while finding their Master’s killer. This one is worth seeing more than once and this is a film that only comes around every couple of years. The Paper Tigers is not just the best film of the year, but one of the best you will ever see.
Worth Mentioning in 2021
Hell Hath No Fury– While this is not a martial arts film, it is made by and stars a terrific cast of martial arts and action stars. This World War II thriller from Jesse V. Johnson will grip you from the opening scene and keep you riveted. Nina Bergman is sensational in the lead role in this film.
Shang Chi: The Legend of The Ten Rings– This film has the distinction of having the most realistic and well choreographed martial arts action of any Disney Marvel film to date. Simi Liu is very good as this comic book character come to life. Awkwafina is even better as his wise cracking side-kick.
Escape From Mogadishu– This fictionalized tale of the fall of Mogadishu is a fantastic film. Told through the perspective of the rival embassies of North and South Korea it is a unique and personal look at the differences and mistrust between these formerly joined countries. This is excellent cinema and a must see. Well Go USA continues to provide great movies from around the world.
-by Marc Zirogiannis
Watch the latest episode of our weekly podcast* to hear the complete run down of the Top 10 Martial Arts Movies of 2021. *Presented by Bet Online-Your Online Sports Book Expert.