Best of the Best: Top 10 Movie Fights

Life is full of many unsolvable riddles and unknowable mysteries, but one thing we can all agree upon – the “Best of the Best“, franchise is one of the purest and most enduring American martial arts movie series of all time.

Spanning four, action-packed martial arts adventures from 1989 to 1993, the “Best of the Best” franchise blends many different disciplines of martial arts into its action scenes, with Korean martial arts like Taekwondo and Hapkido being at the center of the franchise’s amazing fight sequences.

Of course, any martial arts movie series needs a strong protagonist to carry it, and in the case of “Best of the Best”, it’s the highly-skilled Tommy Lee, played by the uber-skilled Phillip Rhee.

The “Best of the Best” movies follow Tommy’s story from his competitive days on the U.S. Taekwondo team to fighting against fearsome warriors in a modern day underground Colosseum, to battling racism in the Deep South and stopping the sale of weapons technology to the Russian mafia.

With so many great villains, supporting heroes, and death-defying stakes, the “Best of the Best” franchise simply would not have the staying power that it’s had without plenty of exhilarating martial arts battles, which the franchise has in abundance.

And, of course, that can only mean one thing for KFK readers – the time has come again to fasten your seatbelts for another rundown of amazing movie melees. Here, in descending order, are KFK’s Top 10 “Best of the Best” movie fights!

10. Tommy Lee vs Donnie Hanson – “Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back”

The real villain of “Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back” is racism and bigotry, which Tommy Lee opposes in a white supremacist group that has taken a foothold in his hometown.

Tommy’s final showdown with the group’s leader Donnie Hanson (Mark Rolston) admittedly requires a bit more suspension of disbelief, with the completely unschooled Hanson holding his own against the vastly more skilled Tommy in the first round of their brawl before it transitions into a more even-leveled knife fight (this is the overall biggest hurdle of the latter two “Best of the Best” movies, which struggle to find a convincingly challenging enemy for Tommy after the towering, fearsome Brakus).

Still, that nitpick aside, the final fight of “Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back” concludes the film on a powerful smackdown that acts as a larger thesis on fighting the kind of ignorance that leads to hatred (which Phillip Rhee explains further in his interview with Scott Adkins).

9. Tommy Defending His Home – “Best of the Best: Without Warning”

Tommy Lee finds himself forced to defend his homestead and his young daughter, when the villains of “Best of the Best: Without Warning” invade his home to retrieve a missing disc they’re pursuing.

Tommy’s skill as a martial artist has long since been well established by this point in the “Best of the Best” series, but what adds more fun to this brawl in his house is Tommy’s strategic methods of shutting all the lights off, taking his opponents by surprise, and taking them down one-by-one.

Given Tommy’s previous showdowns in the “Best of the Best” movies, it makes sense that he’s begun thinking a little more like Batman in how to fight villains, while the final one-on-one of the movie’s house fight caps the whole set piece off with the hard-hitting fists and kicks that it needs.

8. Tommy and Alex vs Brakus’ Henchmen – “Best of the Best 2”

Tommy Lee and Alex Grady double-team against a group of Brakus’s henchmen right after declaring their vendetta to the man himself, and it’s an outstanding fight scene combining both Tommy and Alex’s different fighting styles and seeing the two work in tandem with each other.

Eric Roberts’ Alex is all offense with his fist, elbow, and foot strikes against his opponents, while Tommy’s Hapkido throws and Taekwondo kicks both deflect his enemies in one move and take them down the next.

Tommy and Alex clearly make a great action movie duo working together, while Tommy’s three-punch combo ends the fight on an appropriately eye-popping money shot.

7. Alex Grady and the Korean Team to the Rescue – “Best of the Best 2”

While Tommy Lee faces Brakus in the Colosseum, Alex Grady and three members of the South Korean Taekwondo team arrive to the rescue in the action-packed final showdown of “Best of the Best 2”.

Leading the charge is none-other than Tommy’s former arch-rival-turned-symbolic-brother from the first “Best of the Best”, Dae Han, played by fight coordinator Simon Rhee, who manages to be just about as much of a force to be reckoned with in his minor role in “Best of the Best 2” as he is in its predecessor.

Essentially, “Best of the Best 2” gives its audience two final fight scenes for the price of one, and the secondary finale with Alex, Dae Han, and the other Korean team members is the best any “Best of the Best” fan could ask for.

6. The End Credits Fight – “Best of the Best: Without Warning”

The “Best of the Best” franchise wraps up with an enthralling slow-motion training montage over the end credits of “Best of the Best: Without Warning”, with Tommy Lee demonstrating Hapkido throwing techniques against his students on the police force.

“Without Warning” re-introduces Phillip Rhee’s Tommy Lee as a police self-defense instructor, with their initial training scenes showing much more of the hard side of combat and the need to sometimes put some emphatic force upon one’s opponent in a self-defense situation.

The end credits scene of “Without Warning” bookends that beautifully with Tommy showing the other side of fighting, and that the path of least resistance can be just as effective without hurting one’s opponent as the final martial arts action scene of the “Best of the Best” series.

5. Tommy Lee vs Khan – “Best of the Best 2”

In Tommy Lee’s three preliminary fights in the Colosseum, he faces his most formidable and most personal enemy in the nunchaku-wielding Khan (Myung Ku Kim).

In the employ of Brakus, Khan killed Tommy’s adoptive brother James (Sonny Landham), which raises the revenge stakes of “Best of the Best 2” even higher, while Khan is quite the Hapkido fighter himself.

Khan’s astonishing nunchaku skills and ability to turn his cue into a defensive weapon add plenty of flash and pain to his and Tommy’s fight, while Tommy still knows how to use his opponent’s strengths against him.

4. The Dojo Fight – “Best of the Best: Without Warning”

The action highlight of “Best of the Best: Without Warning” comes in the form of Tommy Lee single-handedly taking on a half dozen henchmen in the movie’s rollicking dojo fight, and it also holds the distinction of being the first real blend of sword, stick, and hand-to-hand action in the franchise.

In addition to his skills in Taekwondo and Hapkido, Phillip Rhee is also a black belt in Kendo, which he puts to great use with the sequence’s stick and sword-based fight choreography.

The action of the gym fight is as fast and powerful as any “Best of the Best” fight sequence must be, and there’s even the nice touch of Tommy slamming his two sticks into the mat twice as if he’s an instructor teaching a class full of students – which he, indeed, arguably is with how much he shows his adversaries about holding one’s own against multiple opponents.

3. The Bar Fight – “Best of the Best”

The Bar Fight – “Best of the Best”

Martial arts movie bar fights are practically an art in and of themselves, and one of the all-time greats is the American Taekwondo team’s bar brawl in “Best of the Best”.

Each member of the team brings their own strengths and skills to the fight, and this is also the first time in the franchise that Phillip Rhee’s unique blend of Taekwondo and Hapkido is really shown for all that it is outside of a tournament setting.

Of course, no bar fight would be complete without the right soundtrack, and “Best of the Best” supplements the action on-screen splendidly with Gold Earring’s “The Devil Made Me Do It”.

With such a winning combo of action, atmosphere, and musical punch, the bar fight of “Best of the Best” is one of the greatest of the franchise, and also a luminary in KFK’s list of the Top 10 Martial Arts Movie Bar Fights.

2. Tommy Lee vs. Dae Han – “Best of the Best”

The match between the American and Korean teams in “Best of the Best” all finally leads to Tommy Lee’s match against the notorious Dae Han.

Apart from the breathtaking fight choreography on display, the final fight of “Best of the Best” has a thematic resonance unique to it for numerous reasons, due to Dae Han having killed Tommy’s brother in a match year’s prior and his Coach Couzo (James Earl Jones) carrying as much guilt as Tommy himself since he had been his brother’s coach.

Tommy is fighting his own blend of fear and vengeful rage as much as he is Dae Han himself, which makes the outcome of the fight and the ultimate reconciliation between Tommy and Dae Han even more emotionally impactful.

Additionally, the final showdown of “Best of the Best” is even more unique with Phillip and Simon Rhee being real-life brothers – and it is a rarity indeed for any martial arts movie showdown to feature real-life siblings doing what they do best at such an incredible level.

1. Tommy Lee vs. Brakus – “Best of the Best 2”

“Best of the Best 2” is, without argument, one of the best martial arts films of the ‘90s, and the epitome of what the underground tournament straight-to-video B-movie has to offer, with the added distinction of it being the rare one to make it to the big-screen.

Is it any surprise, then, that Tommy Lee’s final showdown in the Colosseum with the sinister, ruthless, towering warrior Brakus is the best fight of the series?

“Best of the Best 2” builds up Tommy’s match-up with Brakus in every way it can, emphasizing Brakus’s strength and fearsome reputation of vanquishing enemies in the Colosseum along with Tommy’s rigorous training to face Brakus in the Colosseum.

Moreover, Tommy and Brakus each enter their final smackdown with a score to settle, Tommy for Brakus’ killing of Travis Brickley (Chris Penn), and Brakus for the scar Tommy left him with in their first encounter, an insult to Brakus’ warrior supremacy that he cannot leave unanswered.

When Tommy and Brakus finally meet in the Colosseum, it’s every bit as fast, powerful, and epic as the movie has promised, even bringing bo staffs into the mix to add some weapons-based combat to their exchange of strikes.

Tommy’s ultimate victory is the most satisfying succession of spinning kicks and rock music of the whole “Best of the Best” franchise, and ultimately, Brakus’ pride even in the face of the mercy Tommy extends to him is his ultimate undoing.

Tommy Lee’s final showdown with Brakus in “Best of the Best 2” has long held a place of honor on KFK’s list of the Top 10 David vs. Goliath Movie Fights, and alongside that accomplishment, it earns the crown of being the best martial arts fight of the “Best of the Best” movie franchise!



So there we have it folks, KFK’s shortlist of the Top 10 “Best of the Best” Movie Fights!

Which are your fave fights from the list above? And which entry in the franchise did you enjoy the most? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation/share this on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter & Instagram!

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Brad Curran

From the earliest days of childhood, Brad Curran was utterly fascinated by martial arts, his passion only growing stronger after spending time living in the melting pot of Asian cultures that is Hawaii. His early exposure developed into a lifelong passion and fascination with all forms of martial arts and tremendous passion for action and martial arts films. He would go on to take a number of different martial arts forms, including Shaolin Ch'uan fa, Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate and remains a devoted student, avid and eager to continue his martial arts studies. Brad is also an aspiring writer and deeply desires to share his love for martial arts and martial arts movies with the world!

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