Kung Fu Hustle (2004 Hong Kong) aka Gong Fu, film still courtesy of PHOTOFEST. Directed by Stephen CHOW Shown: Stephen CHOW (as Sing)

The Art of Action: 25 Years of Hong Kong Fight Scenes

It’s beyond question that Hong Kong filmmakers perfected the fight scene. From the 1970s through today, no one—not even Hollywood—can top the jaw-dropping stunts and awe-inspiring camerawork that are the backbone of any Hong Kong action movie worth its salt. In Hong Kong, fight scenes are an art form in themselves.

After reading R. Emmet Sweeney’s recent Film Comment piece on the best action scenes of the decade, I challenged him to come up with the 25 best Hong Kong fight scenes of the past 25 years, in celebration, of course, of the 25th anniversary of our Made in Hong Kong Film Festival. He did not disappoint. In the list below you’ll find everything from Jackie Chan’s comedic acrobatics to elegant, suspenseful Johnnie To-directed shootouts, and everything in between.

After you’ve gorged yourself on these clips (*not all scenes were available online), join Sweeney and me on Thursday, August 13 at 7 pm for a discussion about what makes a great fight scene. And if you don’t agree with us, we will fight you.

High Risk (aka Meltdown, 1995)
Scene: Hotel lobby shootout in car with flamethrower
Director: Wong Jing, stunt coordinator: Cory Yuen, Tak Yuen

Fox Hunter (1995)
Scene: Shootout in apartment building/rooming house
Director: Stephen Wai Tung, action coordinators: Stephen Wai Tung, Poon Kin-kwan, Kong To-hoi

Thunderbolt (1995)
Scene: Pachinko parlor
Director: Gordon Chan, stunt coordinator: Jackie Chan

Rumble in the Bronx (1995)
Scene: Market fight
Director: Stanley Tong, stunt director: Jackie Chan

The Blade (1995)
Scene: End fight
Director: Tsui Hark, stunt coordinators: Stephen Wai Tung (a.k.a. Wei Tung), Mang Hoi, Yuen Bun

Police Story 4: First Strike (1996)
Scene: Ladder fight
Director: Stanley Tong, stunt coordinator: Stanley Tong

Nice Guy (1997)
Scene: Mall/horse-drawn carriage
Director: Sammo Hung, stunt coordinator: Cho Wing

Full Alert (1997)
Scene: Jockey Club heist
Director: Ringo Lam

A Hero Never Dies (1998)
Scene: Final nightclub shootout
Director: Johnnie To, action director: Yuen Bun

The Mission (1999)
Scene: Mall shootout
Director: Johnnie To, action director: Cheng Ka Sang

Time and Tide (2000)
Scene: Apartment complex shootout
Director: Tsui Hark, stunt coordinator: Xin Xin Xiong (a.k.a. Hung Hung Yan-yan)

Shaolin Soccer (2001)
Scene: Championship match Part 1, Part 2
Director: Stephen Chow, action director: Ching Siu-Tung

Breaking News (2004)
Scene: Opening shot 
Director: Johnnie To, stunt coordinator: Yuen Bun

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Scene: Stephen Chow vs. Beast and the Axe Gang
Director: Stephen Chow, stunt coordinator: Yuen Woo-ping

Kill Zone (aka SPL, 2005)
Scene: Donnie Yen vs Wu Jing
Director: Wilson Yip, action director: Donnie Yen

Exiled (2006)
Scene: Final shootout
Director: Johnnie To, action choreographers: Ling Chun Pong, Wong Chi Wai

Flash Point (2007)
Scene: Donnie Yen vs Collin Chou
Director: Wilson Yip, action director: Donnie Yen

Red Cliff (2008–09)
Scene: Tortoise shell battle
Director: John Woo, stunt coordinator: Guo Jian Yung

Ip Man (2010)
Scene: Versus ten black belts
Director: Wilson Yip, action director: Sammo Hung

Dragon (aka Wu Xia, 2011)
Scene: Donnie Yen vs Kara Hui
Director: Peter Ho-sun Chan, action director: Donnie Yen

The Grandmaster (2013)
Scene: Brothel fight Tony Leung/Zhang Ziyi
Director: Wong Kar-wai, action choreographer: Yuen Woo-ping

Kung Fu Jungle (aka Kung Fu Killer, 2014)
Scene: Donnie Yen vs. Wang Baoqiang
Director: Teddy Chan, action director: Donnie Yen

Kill Zone 2 (aka SPL 2: A Time for Consequences, 2015)
Scene: Three-way finale Max Zhang/Wu Jing/Tony Jaa
Director: Soi Cheang, action director: Chung Chi Li

Three (2016)
Scene: Slow-motion hospital shootout
Director: Johnnie To

Paradox (2017)
Scene: Tony Jaa Vs Chris Collins
Director: Wilson Yip, action director: Sammo Hung

Tom Vick

Tom Vick is curator of film at the Freer and Sackler and the author of "Time and Place are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki and Asian Cinema: A Field Guide."

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