If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that the world needs laughter, and the combination of action and comedy is a powerful one indeed. Without it, the world would never have seen the great silent comedians like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, and that great national pastime that is America’s Funniest Home Videos would never have even registered as a blip on the radar. And that’s without even delving into such supremely talented action comedians as Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow!
And while the cinematic art of kicking people in the face is often played in a straightforward manner, it’s also given way to countless set pieces of comedy gold and that, dear action-fu fans can only mean one thing: fasten your seatbelts it’s time for your funny bones to get tickled with KFK’s list of the Top 10 Hilarious Martial Arts Movie Fights! (in descending order)
- Ace Ventura vs the Wachootoo Warrior – “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”
- Lloyd’s Restaurant Fight – “Dumb and Dumber”
- Coolie, Tailor, and Donut vs Fifty Gangsters – “Kung Fu Hustle”
- The Nunchuku Fight – “Way of the Dragon”
- Deadpool vs Ajax’s Henchmen – “Deadpool”
- Lee vs Bar Fighters – “Rush Hour”
- Chon Wang vs London Gang – “Shanghai Knights”
- Black Dynamite vs Richard Nixon – “Black Dynamite”
- Jackie Chan vs Ken Lo – “Drunken Master II”
This might seem like an unexpected entry, but it needs to be said that few people who do not bear the name “Jackie Chan” can make a fight sequence as out-and-out hilarious as Jim Carrey, as seen in everything from the first “Ace Ventura” to “Liar Liar“. For the second adventure of the world’s greatest pet detective, our hero finds himself in the Wachootoo Circle of Death, forced to do battle with the tribe’s greatest warrior. For Mr. Ventura, his fatal mistake is one of hubris, and he pays dearly for it when his opponent proceeds to thoroughly kick his butt. But the saying that the shortest distance between two people is laughter rings true here and ultimately saves Ace’s life when his opponent brings a spear into the fight. Then again, Ace should consider himself lucky that he’s not in the African nation of Wakanda – their king is rumored to be quite the fighter himself!
It’s always great when a movie lives up to its title, and 1994’s “Dumb and Dumber”, which solidified Jim Carrey’s meteoric rise to stardom that year certainly accomplishes that goal with the misadventures of its two heroes, who between them possess the I.Q. of a doorknob. However, one of our heroes, Lloyd Christmas, will not stand for the honor of the love of his life, Mary Swanson, to be besmirched, leading to some very dire consequences for one of the men attempting to ruin their evening, as you can clearly see! KFK did a piece a few years ago on Jim Carrey’s extensive history in martial arts, from his time as a Shaolin disciple to his days teaching women self-defense prior to his later stardom. Judging from his performance in “Dumb and Dumber”, he hasn’t let himself go out of practice!
Arguably the most beloved martial arts comedy of all time, Stephen Chow’s “Kung Fu Hustle” took the Looney Tunes-esque craziness of his previous film, “Shaolin Soccer” to new heights of wacky cartoonishness. However, this particular sequence comes on the list from an unexpected angle in comparison to the rest. Specifically, this battle in “Kung Fu Hustle” is testimony to the fact that you can actually work in legitimately hard-hitting action into a comedic romp. “Kung Fu Hustle” also marked the first big role for former Shaolin disciple Shi Yan Neng, credited here and throughout much of his career as Xing Yu, in the role of the kicking machine, Coolie. It goes without saying that there’s wire-fu to spare here, but it couldn’t be in a more fitting context, and in comparison to “Shaolin Soccer”, the hits leave an impact that one would more readily associate with a film with a more hardcore approach overall. “Kung Fu Hustle” is one of the all-time great martial arts comedies, but it’s also proof positive that humor and rough-tough action are not mutually exclusive!
Bruce Lee made his directorial debut with 1972’s “Way of the Dragon” (aka “Return of the Dragon”), and while it remains most renowned for pitting Bruce against karate legend Chuck Norris in a battle to the death in a Roman Coliseum, the film was also where Bruce first got to show off his comedic talents, as well. From the fish-out-of-water hijinks of Tang Lung acclimating himself to Italian culture to possibly the greatest English-language dub ever on one of the villains’ henchmen (watch out for those “Chinese spare ribs“!), Bruce poured more comic relief into his first directorial outing than anywhere else in his filmography. Nowhere is that better exemplified than in the back-alley bout with the henchmen harassing the local Chinese restaurant – Bruce coiled like a python as his terrified opponents each work up the courage to attack him, only to get their clocks cleaned one after another. One of them even tries his hand at wielding our hero’s weapon of choice and well, let’s just say he illustrates why one should never try to handle a weapon of battle they’re not intimately familiar with!
Comic book movies don’t come any crazier than 2016’s “Deadpool”, which for millions of fans still with their jaws agape at the notion of Mr. Wilson’s mouth being stitched shut was a godsend of fourth-wall breaking, potty-mouthed, family un-friendly fun. Full disclosure – I’m of the unpopular opinion that “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is a bit on the underrated side and Wade’s mouth being sewn shut was the film’s bad attempt at a joke, but audiences around the world, along with Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, and Scott Adkins all seemingly beg to differ. C’est la vie! In any case, The Merc With a Mouth kicked-off his long-awaited return to the big-screen with quite possibly the best opening credits sequence ever created, one which ties right into the fight scene in question – a more comedic variation of the car chase brawl from “The Raid 2” and a direct recreation of the test footage leak that ultimately got the film greenlit in the first place.
With the sight of bad guys splattering all over the highway like bugs as Wade boots them from the speeding vehicle, it’s clear that not every superhero movie has to be good for children – let’s face it, Deadpool isn’t Deadpool without buckets of cartoon violence and terribly immature innuendo. And now, for no reason other than it just never gets old, the Deadpool rap anthem, because What Would Wade Do?
The operative phrase for 1998’s “Rush Hour” is “Culture Shock”. For Western audiences, “Rumble in the Bronx” might have been their first exposure to Jackie Chan’s unique blend of stunt-filled action mixed with vaudevillian comedy, but it was with “Rush Hour” that he truly solidified himself as the true master of delivering action, fu and comedy as a package deal. The culture shock of “Rush Hour” is further embodied by the film’s fish-out-of-water story of our hero, Detective Inspector Lee, not only setting foot in America for the first time, but being partnered with (as the film’s poster identifies him) the biggest mouth in the west, better known as Detective James Carter. Lee does his best to acclimate to the culture of Los Angeles, but Carter’s instructions for him to “do what I do” prove a bit too vague when Lee drops a little local lingo that lands him in hot water with the patrons of a local bar. But again, “Rush Hour” is all about culture shock and that proves to be a two-way street when Lee’s opponents discover the hard way that he means it when he says he doesn’t want trouble!
Possibly Jackie’s finest English-language hour, “Shanghai Knights” shifts from the wild west setting of “Shanghai Noon” to Victorian England, and sees our two heroes, Chon Wang and Roy O’Bannon cross paths with everyone from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jack the Ripper to Charlie Chaplin (two years before he was even born, no less) and a pre-“Ip Man” Donnie Yen.
Unfortunately, things get a little rough for our two heroes upon their arrival in London, giving way to the film’s funniest fight sequence, which soon morphs into a more kung fu-driven version of “Singin’ in the Rain”. Obviously, that’s just one of “Shanghai Knights” action-comedy highlights – running a close second is Jackie’s battle with a group of Royal Guards in a room of priceless artefacts that completely flips a similar sequence in “Rush Hour – but Jackie’s unique blend of stunts and hysteria reaches an absolute peak as he wards off his foes with everything from lemons to umbrellas in true Gene Kelly style!
If there’s one man who doesn’t enjoy having his kung fu interrupted, it’s Black Dynamite and he has an equally strongly intolerance for abuse of Presidential power. “Black Dynamite”, 2009’s throwback to the 70’s blaxploitation era, sees our titular social crusader uncover the nefarious plot of Richard Nixon (which shall remain unspoiled here!) with detective skills worthy of Sherlock Holmes. It goes without saying that he could probably write the Wikipedia page of the hierarchy of Greek and Roman Gods after reading past the coded language of Anaconda Malt Liquor. The concept of a Tricky Dick swinging a pair of nunchuku in the air in a martial arts battle with Michael Jai White sounds like something right out of the all-time greatest Saturday Night Live sketch, and after the seventy minutes preceding it, you can almost pinpoint it as the precise moment when Adult Swim greenlit the “Black Dynamite” animated series!
Even by Jackie Chan standards, he really puts himself through some pain here! Could anyone reading this honestly say they’d not only be prepared to fall onto a bed of burning coals, but would willingly do so TWICE?! The sequel to 1978’s “Drunken Master“, Jackie Chan returns to the role of the rebellious youth Wong Fei-hung, a master of Drunken Boxing for whom a jug of wine is like a can of spinach to Popeye – I seriously can’t be the only one hearing the Popeye theme in my head when Jackie breaks out his secret weapon! Pitting himself against his own former bodyguard, Ken Lo, Jackie devoted a whopping four months (more than most films allocate to their entire shooting schedule) to the finale of “Drunken Master II”, and well, the results speak for themselves. Jackie’s never been one to let himself appear less than overwhelmed at the skills of his final opponent, and Ken Lo is truly a kicking machine, but as you can also see, he would also never let Wong Fei-hung vanquish his foe without doing so in the most comedic way possible!
…and coming in at #1 is…
Jackie Chan vs Brad Allan – “Gorgeous”
1999’s “Gorgeous” has kind of slipped through the cracks of Jackie Chan’s illustrious career, which is surprising. It’s got no shortage whatever of the Jackie Chan trademark comedy we all crave; it’s also got some of the most amazing, pure martial arts action he’s ever assembled -so that’s NOT a statement to take lightly!
While Jackie has often resorted to improvising with whatever makeshift weapons he can get his hands on throughout his career, even within this very film, “Gorgeous” is the surprisingly rare occasion where he lays out some straightforward sparring. Even better, his opponent for the scene is the first non-Asian member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, Australian stuntman-supremo and choreographer, Brad Allan.
Ever eager to make his adversary seemingly more skilled than he, Jackie’s first skirmish with his considerably smaller opponent ends in defeat, but their rematch is easily one of the top five, and maybe even top three sequences of pure martial arts that Jackie’s ever put to film. Brad’s blindingly fast kicks are truly a sight to behold, but no Jackie Chan movie can deliver a final fight this impressive without plenty of laughs, and in everything from Jackie’s method of nullifying Brad’s kicks to the way each of them absorbs the final pummelling they deliver upon one another, the finale of “Gorgeous” has got the Jackie Chan recipe mix of action, fu and comedy mixed and baked to perfection – ready for your consumption, enjoy!
There we have it folks, KFK’s list of the Top 10 Hilarious Martial Arts Movie Fights. Which of your picks made the list and which others would you definitely include? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. And while you’re here, why not check out our other martial arts’ Top 10’s?