“Standing here is a dream,” said Jackie Chan at the podium. “After 56 years in the film industry, making more than 200 films, breaking so many bones finally this is mine.”
On 12th November 2016, one of the world’s greatest and most prolific action stars, Jackie Chan was awarded a long overdue and well deserved Honorary Oscar Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Governors Awards hosted by the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences.
At the beginning of the 1970’s, having trained as a child in Peking Opera, Jackie Chan began working as a stuntman in the burgeoning Hong Kong film industry, appearing in the Bruce Lee movies “Fist of Fury” and “Enter the Dragon“. He soon progressed to leading roles in his own right in films such as “Hand of Death” and “New Fist of Fury”, with limited success. It wasn’t until 1978 when he teamed up with action director Yuen Woo-ping and producer Ng See-yuen that Jackie was given the creative freedom to choreograph his own fight and stunt sequences. The result was the smash hit kung fu comedy “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow”, which was quickly followed by the classic “Drunken Master”. They firmly established Jackie Chan as the biggest and brightest star at the Hong Kong box office since the passing of Bruce Lee in 1973.
In the following years, Jackie Chan has gone on to become one of the world’s most successful and best known movie stars, delivering some of the most incredible action, stunts and fights ever committed to film.
Here we take a look at 10 of his best movie fights from the hundreds that he has filmed! in descending order:
10. Miracles (1989) – Teahouse Fight
As Jackie’s star continued to rise, he was given more and more creative freedom and allowed to direct his own productions. “Miracles” is his personal favourite of his own films. The brawl in the teahouse is a great compilation of fighting stunts, similar to those that audiences had witnessed in some of the earlier “Project ‘A'” and “Police Story” set pieces. Everything is used within the action choreography be it props, banisters, walls or staircases – even a gangster’s neck tie!
9. Who Am I? (1998) – Rooftop Fight
Jackie had made three or four films on the trot that all focused on a “big stunt” for their finale, rather than the martial arts action that had made him a star. For 1998’s “Who Am I?”, Chan revisited the format of the classic “end duel” with two high-kicking bad guys in the form of Ron Smoorenburg and Kwan Yeung!
8. Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) – Jackie Chan vs Hwang Jang-lee
Jackie Chan finally hit box office gold, launching his enduring career as one of Asia’s biggest movie stars, with the kung fu comedy “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow”. Working with Yuen Woo-ping, they took kung fu fight choreography to a new level with a mix of incredible physical skills and slapstick humour. Woo-ping cast his own father Yuen Siu-tien in what would become an iconic role as a quirky martial arts master and mentor and brought in the Korean star of “Secret Rivals” Hwang Jang-lee as the movie’s villain. Hwang Jang-lee’s thunderous kicking skills were the perfect foil for Chan’s energetic acrobatics. If you look carefully, Hwang actually kicked out one of Jackie’s teeth for real! He reveals that and much more in our exclusive interview.
7. Gorgeous (1999) – Jackie Chan vs Brad Allan
There is a relatively low count of action scenes for this romantic comedy, but Jackie more than makes up for this deficiency with two fantastic kickboxing-style bouts against stuntman Brad Allan. Australian Wushu Team member Allan first came to Chan’s attention on the movie “Mr Nice Guy”. Allan’s mix of martial arts and gymnastic skills led to him becoming the first Caucasian and full member of Jackie Chan’s Stunt Team (JCST). He was rewarded with a role as Chan’s adversary in one of his best fights in terms of speed, timing and rhythm since the famous battles with Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez!
6. Rumble in the Bronx (1995) – Fight in Gang’s Hideout
Jackie is noted for incorporating everything in a given environment in his action sequences as an obstacle or a weapon and this is one of his best examples. He takes on the entire gang single-handedly using a pool table, refrigerators, shopping trolleys, televisions and pinball machines. He even performs traditional Chinese spear techniques with a ski! It is one of the standout fights in the movie, with everything happening at breakneck speed!
5. First Strike (1996) – Step Ladder Fight
Initially promoted as “Police Story IV”, Chan’s “First Strike” used international locations and took a much lighter tone. The film is packed with stunts and slapstick action sequences. One of the highlights is Jackie’s confrontation with a Triad gang, in which he has to use all of his ingenuity to fight them off, including the brilliant use of a step ladder! “First Strike” remains Chan’s highest-grossing film at the Hong Kong box office.
4. Drunken Master II (The Legend of Drunken Master, 1994) – Purse Snatchers
Considered by many to be Jackie Chan’s last truly great martial arts film, he returned to the character that had established him as a star some sixteen years earlier. Every fight sequence in this film is a joy to behold, from Jackie’s initial duel with the legend Lau Kar-leung, to their teahouse brawl with the Axe Gang and the incredible extended end sequence featuring Ken Lo. In this scene, the audience get their first taste of the hero’s sublime drunken boxing skills!
3. Drunken Master (1978) – Jackie Chan vs Hwang Jang-lee
Jackie Chan and Yuen Woo-ping’s previous collaboration “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” had been a hugely popular film. Wisely they stuck to the same formula but upped the ante by making the fight choreography even more spectacular and acrobatic. They brought back superkicker Hwang Jang-lee as the villain and showcased Jackie’s incredible physical skills through his interpretation of the “Eight Drunken Immortals”. The result is some truly breath-taking and unique fight choreography leading to an even bigger hit at the box office!
2. Police Story (1985) – Shopping Mall Fight
In 1985, Jackie Chan set new benchmarks for stunts and action with the first of his “Police Story” films. The amazing, dangerous stunts and more realistic contemporary fight choreography were light years away from the stylised work of period kung fu films. Jackie himself considers this movie to be his best work in terms of action and it defined the style of Hong Kong “cops and gangster” martial arts movies for the next decade. The Shopping Mall conclusion showcases some of the best of Jackie and his stunt team’s work when it comes to flips, falls and frenetic fighting! And in at number one…
1. Wheels on Meals (1984) – Jackie Chan vs Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez
When Jackie fought real-life kickboxing champion Benny Urquidez for this movie, they decided that in addition to making the choreography fast, exciting and dynamic, they would ensure every bruising hit looked as authentic as possible. Urquidez even put cotton wool in his mouth so that Jackie could punch him for real in the face for a slow-motion close up! Their natural humour, rhythm and timing, combined with some spectacular high energy physical skills resulted in what is widely considered by many to be one of the best martial arts fights ever committed to film.
This is an especially tough list to compile with such a huge body of work and notable mentions go to the fight scenes in the “Police Story” sequels, “Project ‘A’ 1 & 2”, “Armour of God 1 & 2”, “City Hunter”, “Dragons Forever”, “The Young Master”, and many, many more.
Now in his sixties, Jackie Chan shows no signs of letting up and even as recently as the movie “Chinese Zodiac”, demonstrated he still has a gift for innovation with his “sofa fight” and the battle with the guards in a photographic studio. Long may he continue!
What are your fave Jackie Chan fight or action scenes? Comment and tell us which you’ve enjoyed most and why!