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10 martial arts movies on Netflix you need to watch

The action flies fast and furious in these films.


John-Michael Bond


Posted on Apr 29, 2019   Updated on Jan 27, 2021, 3:57 am CST

Picking a list of the best martial arts movies is nearly impossible. It’s a world featuring thousands of fighting styles and just as many different kinds of stories. Your options on Netflix are limited, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful. Whether you’re just starting your journey with kung fu or personally practice silat, you’ll find something to love in this collection of the best fight films on the service. Here are the best martial arts movies on Netflix.

The best martial arts movies on Netflix

1) The Five Venoms (1978)

Honor can be a dangerous thing. As his master lays dying, Yang Tieh, the final student of a legendary martial arts school, promises to hunt down any former students who have turned evil. Each of these five students was taught a unique style of kung fu: centipede, lizard, scorpion, snake, and toad. How many of the Five Venoms have turned evil, and does Yang stand a chance against them? This classic, ultra-violent struggle easily makes The Five Venoms one of the best martial arts movies on Netflix.

2) Ip Man (2008)

Based on the life of Yip Ka-man, the man who taught Bruce Lee, Ip Man tells the story of what the master did during the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s. Forced into poverty by the invasion, Ip is forced to fight for the amusement of the Japanese. When a general tries to force Ip to train his men, the master refuses, setting a brutal conflict in motion. Beautifully acted and directed, Ip Man would be an incredible movie without Donnie Yen’s jaw-dropping fights. But of course, it’s those very fights that make it one of the best martial arts movies on Netflix. 

3) The Night Comes For Us (2018)

This Indonesian action extravaganza follows Ito (Joe Taslim), a mercenary for the Southeast Asian Triad who decides to leave his brutal lifestyle. But he quickly finds out that there are no clean getaways and everything has a cost. With the whole Triad out to get him, Ito must fight for his freedom and life. Writer-director Timo Tjahjanto delivers a raucous two hours full of intricate action scenes both huge and intimate in scale. This film is a must-see for anyone who likes action movies and doesn’t mind a little (or a lot) of bloodshed. —Eddie Strait

4) Legend of Drunken Master (1994)

If you only know Jackie Chan from his PG-13 American films, Legend of Drunken Master will be a bone-crunching change of place. This action-comedy features a much more violent side of Chan, along with some of his finest fights. Chan plays Wong Fei Hong, a master of drunken boxing, a combat style that gets stronger the more he drinks. Forbidden from fighting by his father, Hong tries to hide his secret war against a group of gangsters. The plot is slight, but the fight on hot coals demands attention decades after its release.


5) Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Steven Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle isn’t based on an anime, but it’s the closest we’ll ever come to experiencing an adequate, live-action Dragon Ball Z or One Punch Man fight onscreen. (You can just forget about Dragonball Evolution.) This tale of hubris and unexpected power focuses on a war between the residents of a slum and the brutal Ax Gang. At the center is Sing, a loser con man who dreams of joining the gang one day. Explaining more would give away the best gags in this hysterical action-comedy, but don’t let the genre fool you: The fights here are just as furious as anything you’ve ever seen.

6) Legendary Weapons of China (1982)

During the Qing Dynasty, Empress Dowager Cixi sends her men to find mystical warriors who are impervious to bullets. Unwilling to risk his men’s lives, one master disbands his group, marking himself a traitor in the process. The Empress sends assassins to kill him, leading to a seemingly never-ending barrage of intricate battles. Legendary Weapons of China lives up to its name, featuring 18 separate weapons over its runtime. From a historical perspective, seeing these martial arts weapons in action is fascinating, but the fight choreography is the real star. Giving each weapon time to shine, Legendary Weapons of China is a love letter to every kid who ever pretended a branch was a sword.

7) (2016)

Sick of wallowing in blood, a brilliant swordsman retires and begins a life of solitude as a vagrant. He gets a humble, fresh start by taking a job as a janitor in a brothel. Things are peaceful until a group of powerful criminals forces him to draw his blade again. Swordmaster‘s plot may be generic, but director Derek Yee uses modern special effects to bring the mystical martial arts battles to new heights, making this one of the most unique martial arts movies on Netflix. If only we could watch it in the original 3D.  

8) (2006)

Jet Li’s final martial arts movie is a love letter to the genre that made him an international superstar. Li stars as Huo Yuanjia, a Chinese martial artist who defended his nation’s honor in a tournament against Western and Japanese combatants in the early 1900s. Loosely based on Yuanjia’s real-life story, Fearless blends fantastical fights with stunning period details. While Li continued to make action films, his final martial arts film remains his high-water mark.  


9) (2011)

Indonesia put itself on the map as a home for action with 2011’s blood-spattered masterpiece The Raid. It was supposed to be a simple job: An elite SWAT squad infiltrates a gang-controlled high rise, arrests the boss, and gets out. But within minutes, almost all of the police are dead, leaving a small group of survivors to fight their way out with their bare hands. The Raid is best watched with a group of friends, since you might get embarrassed shouting “oh my God” every five minutes by yourself. 

10) (2001)

Before he wowed the world with Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow broke the mold of kung fu comedy with Shaolin Soccer. Drawing direct inspiration from manga and anime, Chow writes, directs, and stars in this superhuman soccer extravaganza. Years after the death of their master, a Shaolin monk reunites with his former brothers to fight an evil soccer team. Don’t let the premise keep you away; Shaolin Soccer is one of the best martial arts movies on Netflix precisely because it deconstructs everything you might expect from a kung fu movie.

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*First Published: Apr 29, 2019, 6:00 am CDT
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