Martial arts films pride themselves on heroes fighting to overcome insurmountable obstacles but none more so than physical disabilities that force you to adapt. The blind warrior faces just such difficulties, having lost their most heavily relied upon sense (of sight) others have to be re-tuned to survive in society. Popular culture is full of stories with heroes overcoming visual impairment to fight the odds and vanquish villains, from Marvel Comics’ “Daredevil” to 1960’s TV show “Longstreet” starring James Franciscus and featuring the late Bruce Lee.
If the Paralympics teaches us anything it’s that visual impairment is no barrier to athletic success and martial arts entertainment emphasises this greatly. Stories of villains and heroes adapting and training their fighting skill to work around their impairment whilst facing significant challenges and saving the day are a staple of films and television shows. The blind warrior beats the odds with superhuman abilities and almost supernatural awareness adding heightened drama but also providing some entertaining comedy. So grab hold of our arms as we guide you through these Top 10 Blind Warrior Movie Fight Scenes (in descending order)…
- Game of Death (1978) – Bruce Lee vs Kareem Abdul Jabbar
- Daredevil (2003) – Matt introduces himself to Elektra
- The Book of Eli (2010) – Bridge Fight Scene
- Blind Fury (1989) – Nick Parker vs Assassin (Sho Kosugi)
- Daredevil Netflix TV series (Season 1) – Daredevil vs Wilson Fisk
- Zatoichi Challenged (1967) – Zatoichi vs Akazuka
- Blindsided (2016) – Eric Jacobus
- Zatoichi (2003) – The Blind Swordsman vs Ginzo & Gang
- Daredevil Netflix TV Series (Season 1) – Daredevil vs Nobu
Our action-packed top 10 starts with the late Bruce Lee’s unfinished magnum opus that was to be a martial arts epic. The posthumous version of “Game of Death” released in 1978 already featured this “David and Goliath” matchup between Lee and his Jeet Kune Do student basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar. In 2000 John Little’s documentary, “Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey” featured an extended version of this battle revealing Jabbar’s character, a fighter whose height and tremendous skill prove him to be unstoppable. The revelation that Jabbar’s villain is visually impaired adds a different dynamic with Lee truly matched up to this formidable foe.
Mark Steven Johnson’s take on Marvel’s own night-time vigilante, remains an unpopular one, now overshadowed by the far superior Netflix version starring Charlie Cox (more on this later). Affleck, who is currently far more popular as DC’s Dark Knight Batman, cut his superhero teeth in 2003 as Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer who fights for justice in the courts by day and on the streets by night. Whatever your feelings on this take, it’s fair to say it’s not without some enjoyable scenes such as this moment where Matt follows Elektra Nachios (the awesome Jennifer Garner) to the playground in what could be construed as stalking bordering on harassment. But as we soon find out, Elektra is more than capable of looking after herself; featuring acrobatics, some decent fight action, and wire-fu coupled with some solid chemistry between Garner and Affleck.
Denzel Washington’s Eli, the wandering nomad in this post-apocalyptic neo-Western is reminiscent of an assortment of visually impaired martial arts heroes, in particular David Carradine’s wandering “Blind Man” from the classic “The Silent Flute”. In his quest to carry an important book across the vast desert, Eli’s blindness is implied rather than stated leading some thugs to assume he is blind and helpless. In this scene he proves not to be the latter as our hero armed with a machete employs some deadly Escrima skills against his attackers. Washington reportedly learned Escrima under the tutelage of Guro Dan Inosanto whilst the superb choreography was done by the legendary Jeff Imada.
Producer Tim Matheson wanted to bring the beloved Japanese hero “The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi” to US audiences and he succeeded in this action comedy starring the enigmatic Rutger Hauer. There are so many wonderful moments in this film from Nick Parker’s training at the start, the first time we see him skilfully swing some steel, to his uttering of the line “I also do circumcision” after slicing a henchman’s eyebrows. It proves to be both an inspiration story of overcoming disability and an entertaining thriller. There is plenty of swordplay, action and comedy with Hauer doing much of his own stunts, made comical with villains which, as usual, underestimate our hero due to his impairment. Yet nothing tops this showdown between Nick Parker and the unnamed swordsman played by the ninja assassin for hire, Sho Kosugi.
Any concerns regarding the news of Marvel rebooting Daredevil in partnership with Netflix, conjuring bad memories of the 2003 Ben Affleck film, were laid to rest. Charlie Cox brilliantly handled the dual role of blind lawyer Matt Murdock and the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen himself. The fight action featured throughout the show is one of its highlights; the hallway scene itself has become a staple of the Marvel/Netflix adaptations including “Iron Fist” and “The Defenders”. It is however the final battle with Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin, (a fantastically chilling Vincent D’Onofrio) that stands out. This showdown features the ninja-like agility of Daredevil against Kingpin’s skill and brute strength putting the odds in his favour forcing the vigilante hero to fight harder against his behemoth of a nemeses.
Considered to be one of the best of this epic saga of Japanese film and television that ran for over a quarter of a century, its star Shintaro Katsu made the role his own. Here our poet and masseur-swordsman honours a promise to a dying woman to protect her husband, an artist forced into producing illicit pornographic material for which he is sentenced to the death. The film’s finale, considered one of the best sword fights committed to film, sees our hero face up to mob enforcer Akazuka (Jushiro Konoe). The stylish cinematography and snow provide the perfect backdrop for this magnificent and dynamic duel.
Eric Jacobus is without a doubt the king of indie films, his short action pieces are the sort of stuff worthy of a cinema audience. Jacobus plays Walter Cooke who describes himself as “just a blind man who loves his apple pie”. Walter stops by the local store owned by Gordon (Roger Yuan) to find he is being threatened by a gang of loan sharks. The thugs, assuming Walter to be helpless soon learn the painful lesson that he is far more than he seems. Some slapstick comedy and fast-paced martial arts action are crammed into this 12 minute feature. Jacobus plays an excellent blind man which is no surprise given that (if you watch the end you’ll learn) the star actually took lessons on being blind.
Japanese action star “Beat” Takeshi Kitano brings the revered blind swordsman back to the big screen in this 2003 remake in which he both stars as the titular hero and directs. Dying his hair blonde as a nod to Rutger Hauer in “Blind Fury”, Kitano gives us a darker and more ruthless take on this classic hero of Japanese cinema. Here he helps two geishas exact revenge on the men who murdered their parents, a quest that brings him up against Ginzo (Ittoku Kishibe) and his henchmen. The finale sees Zatoichi call on his skills with steel to dispose of Ginzo and his gang before facing a deadly assassin whose skills match his own. A seriously stylish blood-soaked finale with plenty of sword play, as our blind hero dispenses some cutting edge justice.
Marvel brings on the classic Ninja vs Ninja battle with Daredevil himself facing off against fierce ninja warrior Nobu Yoshioka (Peter Shinkoda), one of the five heads of the notorious “Hand” in a fight to the death. Nobu’s stealthy skills heighten the blind vigilante’s senses to the max proving to be his most challenging adversary. Lots of aerial martial arts action infused with mysticism and superhuman-like abilities reminds us just why the new Daredevil rocked the world for Marvel’s fans.
…and in at #1 is…
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – Chirrut vs Stormtroopers
Who would have thought Donnie Yen would not only cast but steal the show in a Star Wars movie! Donnie’s climb into Hollywood was stealthy to say the least with low key appearances in “Highlander Endgame” and “Blade II”. His patience however paid off and thanks to the popularity of the “Ip Man” series, Hollywood banged down his door with major roles in action-stacked extravaganzas. In “Rogue One” he is the unassuming blind priest Chirrut who comes to the aid of rebel spies being arrested by Stormtroopers. Donnie Yen fans surely punched the air as Chirrut dispatched the troopers with some swift aerial wushu and weapons skills.
So there we have it folks, 10 outstanding blind warrior movie fights. Which ones struck you and engaged you the most, and which other seemingly ‘disadvantaged’ fighters do you appreciate and have won your respect? Let us know below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (Keep your inner-warrior skills sharp with our other Top 10’s for extra Jed-eye power!)