Mention the name “Jackie Chan” anywhere on Earth (and that includes the island Tom Hanks spends four years shipwrecked on in “Cast Away”), and people instantly know who you’re talking about. Jackie’s blend of action, comedy, and death-defying stunt work is one that’s truly all his own; simply take him out of the equation, and you’ve got a completely different movie. However, you don’t get to become a living legend without slaying a few dragons who know how to breathe a little fire!
Over the course of his career, Jackie has squared off with dozens upon dozens of the world’s most insanely skilled martial artists. In fact, Jackie has frequently made a deliberate effort to make his on-screen adversaries appear far more formidable in the art of combat than him. As we all know, there’s nothing more boring than an easily vanquished villain, and if the plethora of big-screen baddies he’s faced off with over the years are any indication, perhaps none understand that better than Jackie Chan himself. All of that naturally leads to the burning question of who Jackie’s greatest on-screen foes have been, and that can only mean one thing folks – it’s time for another KFK countdown! So, get your jug of wine handy and fasten your seatbelts (just in case you get tempted to unleash, ahem, your own ‘drunken master’)…because without further ado, here are the Top 10 Jackie Chan movie opponents! (in descending order)
Honorable Mention – Bruce Lee – Enter the Dragon (1973)
This one is perhaps bending the rules just a bit, given that it sees Jackie not as some righteous warrior holding his own against his opponent, but as an anonymous guard who gets killed within seconds of attempting to restrain the intruder into Han’s underground lair. But let’s not kid ourselves – this is arguably the most famous neck break in cinema history, and it’s just one of many stories Jackie Chan can share about working with Bruce Lee on “Enter the Dragon“, including Bruce accidentally whacking him in the face with a bo staff, which Jackie has described as the most painful injury of his exceptionally injury-laden career. Not a grand showdown of kung fu masters by any means, but nevertheless, a proper viewing of “Enter the Dragon” just isn’t complete without gleefully freeze-framing on this history-making death years before Jackie himself shot to global stardom!
- Andy On – New Police Story (2004)
- Benny Lai – Police Story 2 (1988)
- Hwang In-shik – Dragon Lord (1982)
- Donnie Yen – Shanghai Knights (2003)
- Jet Li – The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
- Ron Smoorenburg – Who Am I? (1998)
- Brad Allan – Gorgeous (1999)
- Ken Lo – Drunken Master II (1994)
- Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez – Wheels on Meals (1984) / Dragons Forever (1988)
The “Police Story” series was the usual Jackie Chan blend of action and comedy in its first three instalments, but the series moved into much darker territory with 2004’s “New Police Story”, and our hero would face a new challenger in the form of Andy On. With its much bleaker tone, “New Police Story” takes the approach of pitting its aging cop against a younger set of enemies, and Andy On embodies the muscle of the terrorist gang Jackie must bring down in the role of Law, a swifter, more agile fighter with whom our hero can just barely keep up.
Being a newcomer to martial arts (at the time), you’d never guess it from Andy’s two match-ups with Jackie, where the villain truly gives the hero a run for his money, putting him through the emotional ringer with a vengeance. However, their rematch at the climax is the real show-stopper of the film, as Jackie and Andy square off in a LEGO display (and perhaps creating a prophecy of Jackie’s future involvement with “The LEGO Ninjago Movie”). It’s a perfect cap off to the return of the Police Story series, and leaves no question that Andy On is one of Jackie Chan’s greatest big-screen foes!
If you’re Jackie Chan, dislocating your pelvis and burning the skin off your hands while making “Police Story” isn’t going to slow you down for the sequel, and for “Police Story 2”, Jackie again pulls out all the stops. He took on even more daring stunts and fight sequences for the second film in the franchise, but it was his final enemy in the film, Benny Lai, who proved the most arduous obstacle to overcome. Fans of the series remember him as the “Abba-abba” guy, but that’s far from the only way he leaves an impression. Benny Lai’s kicking skills absolutely put our hero on the ropes, and anyone who’s taken a solid roundhouse kick to the head knows exactly what Jackie’s feeling when Benny kicks him in the temple in slow-motion. Of course, this being a Jackie Chan action-comedy, our villain gets quite a fitting comeuppance, but that can only come after solidifying himself as one of Jackie’s all-time greatest opponents. Seriously, that slow-motion kick he delivers to our hero’s head will brand itself in your mind as much as it did his!
You know your villain is the genuine article when it takes not one but two heroes to stand up to him, and even with their combined strength, they still face an uphill battle in bringing him down. That’s exactly the kind of villain Hwang In-shik embodies in “Dragon Lord”. One of the world’s most respected Hapkido exponents, Hwang had previously squared off against everyone from Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris to Bob Wall and Angela Mao, but he would add Jackie Chan and stuntman-actor ‘Mars’ to that list with “Dragon Lord”, and prove himself among the greatest opponents they’ve ever faced on-screen in one of the wildest, most insane fight sequences Jackie has ever orchestrated. On the off the chance that you still doubt that Hwang has earned his place of honor among Jackie’s best big screen foes, here’s a little trivia for you – director Gareth Evans modelled the climactic fight of “The Raid” on this fight from “Dragon Lord”, specifically with the idea of the villain facing two opponents at once, and walking all over both of them for most of their duel. Whether its “Dragon Lord” or “The Raid” we’re talking about, that’s one opponent who’s most certainly a Mad Dog. Check out KFK’s exclusive interview with Hwang In-shik below!
Here’s a little bit of perspective for you – anyone born in the year 2003 would be about fifteen years old now. The reason that’s important is because anyone that age or younger has never lived in a world where Donnie Yen was not yet a household name in the English-speaking world. Following “Highlander: Endgame” and “Blade II”, Donnie made what was just his third appearance at the time in a Hollywood film in 2003’s “Shanghai Knights”, tackling the role of the villainous Wu Chow. What that meant was, millions of Westerners not intimately familiar with Hong Kong cinema were essentially ‘meeting’ Donnie Yen for the first time in “Shanghai Knights” – while those of us who already knew him well were grinning ear-to-ear as our fellow audience members marvelled as he unleashed everything he had at Jackie Chan. Over a decade before becoming one with The Force in “Rogue One”, Donnie left his first big impact on Western audiences in “Shanghai Knights”, and how better to do it than as one of Jackie Chan’s greatest big-screen adversaries?
How long was the world waiting to see THIS battle of martial arts legends? 2008’s “The Forbidden Kingdom” marked the first, and thus far only, big screen team-up of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and even casting them both as good guys wasn’t going to prevent the duel between kung fu royalty the world was waiting for! And far from copping-out with a brief little scuffle, our two heroes made dead certain that the audience got their money’s worth and go at it like there’s no tomorrow. During the promotion of “The Forbidden Kingdom”, Jackie commented on the incredible ease he experienced in working with Jet Li to film their fight, and it shows. Li’s speed, timing, and precision are almost superhuman here, and he and Jackie even get to further liven things up by breaking out some Tiger and Mantis kung fu on one another. Jet Li may have stepped into semi-retirement in recent years to place more emphasis on his philanthropic work, but not before earning his place among Jackie Chan’s all-time best big-screen opponents!
Dutch-born kicking machine Ron Smoorenburg would make his film debut in 1998’s “Who Am I?“, as one of two opponents Jackie Chan is forced to battle in the film’s climactic rooftop fight. As a side note, “Who Am I?” was something of a first for me, personally, as it was the first DVD I ever bought when I got my first DVD player, and then as now, I definitely felt that it was money well spent! With his dexterous kicking skills and amazing flexibility – who can forget that standing split where our villains use his right leg like a coat hook? – Ron is simply astonishing in the final fight sequence. And this, being a Jackie Chan movie, round one is hilariously capped off with our hero and villain inflicting a painful case of shin splints on one another! Twenty years later, Ron’s resume would encompass everything from “Tom Yum Goong” to “Brothers”, and the upcoming “Triple Threat”, and it began when he first showed the world what he’s made of in Jackie Chan’s “Who Am I?”
It’s testimony to Jackie Chan’s ability to craft an amazing fight sequence that one of his most memorable big-screen adversaries comes in what is essentially a romantic comedy. However, Australian-born Brad Allan, the first non-Asian member of the Jackie Chan stunt team brings exactly that in 1999’s “Gorgeous”. The audience gets the chance to see Brad and Jackie go at it not once but twice, and Brad leaves the viewer simply gasping for air both times. True to form, Jackie always wants his adversaries to give him the most thorough pummeling possible in round one, and Brad simply leaves our hero, and the audience, in the wind. However, their rematch has got to be one of the top ten fight sequences Jackie has ever filmed with all the comedy his fans have to come to expect, especially at the very end. After “Gorgeous”, Brad Allan would go on to lend his talents as a stuntman and stunt coordinator on such action hits as “Ninja Assassin”, the “Kingsman” films, “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”, and “Wonder Woman”, but it’s through his amazing physical performance in “Gorgeous” that he earns his place among Jackie Chan’s best on-screen adversaries!
Remember that moment in “Rush Hour”, in which Carter takes a rock solid punt to the face before asking “Which one of y’all kicked me?” The fellow in question was none other than Ken Lo, who not only holds the distinction of being Jackie Chan’s former bodyguard, but who also threw approximately one thousand more kicks at Jackie’s head just a few years earlier in “Drunken Master II”. It had been sixteen years since Jackie had last tackled the role of a tipsy Wong Fei-hung, so he knew he’d need quite the opponent for the legendary Chinese folk hero to overcome, and after “Drunken Master II”, no one with 20/20 vision can argue that he didn’t have one. Few people can make the act of standing on one leg while delivering kick after kick look as easy as Ken Lo does in “Drunken Master II”, and Jackie most certainly wasn’t going to let his talents go to waste, devoting a full four months to filming the film’s out-of-this-world finale. And after you see the sheer cartoon-like craziness of Ken’s kicking skills in “Drunken Master II”, it’s hard to argue with that kind of perfectionism!
Talk about a Clash of the Titans! The term “living legend” was created for people like Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez, one of the all-time greatest kickboxers the world has ever seen. Following his career in the ring, Benny would also make the leap into movies, and never has he left a more lasting impression than in his big-screen battles with Jackie Chan in “Wheels on Meals” and “Dragons Forever”. It’s a seriously tough choice to nail down just which skirmish between the two comes out on top, but “Wheels on Meals” would probably have to get the edge on that question because of its dynamic impact and how often it springs to mind whenever Benny’s screen fights with Jackie are on the table for discussion!
You just feel the raw power of every hit, and even more so the emotional flammability our hero is going through as his foe relentlessly taunts him throughout the fight. And, of course, there’s the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment of Benny putting out a row of candles with a single spinning kick, a happy accident that was left in the film for its rewindability! Still, Jackie and Benny’s duel in “Dragons Forever” is hardly unremarkable, itself. As I mentioned, a VERY tough choice, but any self-respecting Jackie Chan fan will do well to give them both another careful watch – and check out Benny’s interview below where he recounts the experience of working with Jackie, too!
…and in at #1 is…
Hwang Jang-lee – Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) / Drunken Master (1978)
Hwang Jang-lee, the legendary king of leg combat possessed kicking skills that were second to none! Like Benny Urquidez, Hwang Jang-lee faced off twice with Jackie, in “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” and later in “Drunken Master”, and here, too, it’s difficult to pick the best out of two of the greatest martial arts fights of all time. “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” was the film that first put Jackie on the map for Asian audiences as the anti-Bruce Lee, along with giving the world its first taste of Hwang’s extraordinary kicking repertoire.
However, “Drunken Master” was what really took Jackie over the edge and made him the first Asian action star to truly hit it big in the post-Bruce Lee era. And “Drunken Master” is also perhaps Hwang Jang-lee’s most memorable on-screen appearance. Jackie has always made it a point for the major villains he faces onscreen to seem vastly more formidable than him, and in the role of Thunderleg, Hwang comes across as the most impossible-to-defeat enemy Jackie has ever had to face in his entire career. Hwang’s (quite literally) lethal kicking skills prove a real challenge for Jackie to overcome, so much so that he requires an entire movie’s worth of training to do so – and even then, it’s no walk in the park to cut this enemy down to size.
Over the course of his almost five-decade long career, Jackie Chan has faced countless enemies with seemingly unconquerable combat skills, but without a doubt, Hwang Jang-lee is the one that leaves the most lasting, powerful, and unforgettably indelible impression as the assassin Thunderleg in “Drunken Master” – way to go, Hwang!
So there we have it folks, that wraps up our list of 10 of Jackie Chan’s best movie fight opponents! Did any of your faves make the list, which JC movie fight challengers entertained you the most? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram. (If you’re looking for an excuse to awaken your own drunken master, simply stumble on…into this FUniverse of more Top 10’s!)