As we continue to plunge headlong into 2019, there’s one thing we can look back on and totally agree about – last year had some absolutely stunning action for us martial arts lovers to collectively sink our teeth into! Whether superhero fights, wire-fu battles, sci-fi showdowns, or down and dirty brawls that kept their feet planted in reality, 2018 took us on one wild ride of martial arts mayhem!
As 2019’s unfolding…we’re of course beginning to look ahead to see what kind of hard-hitting action awaits us on the big and small screens. However, before we can do that, we must take a look back at what 2018 treated us to and decide on what were the best of the bunch. So strap yourselves in for a high-octane trip down memory lane, readers – here (in descending order) are KFK’s Top 10 Martial Arts Movie Fights of 2018!
First off, an honourable mention to:
Bumblebee vs Dropkick and Shatter — “Bumblebee”
The “Transformers” movies have long been thought of as two hours of fire and brimstone mixed with rock ’em, sock ’em robot action. However, “Bumblebee” brings the series down to Earth for a much smaller scale, warm and fuzzy helping of Spielbergian nostalgia. Aside from being 2018’s surprise of the year overall, this 80’s-set prequel also benefits from the best robot action the series has ever seen by far. In Bumblebee’s final battle with the Decepticons, Shatter and Dropkick, we’re treated to Judo throws, spinning kicks, and pro-wrestling techniques rendered with a crispness that has simply never been seen before in battles between towering robots. “Bumblebee” truly sets a new standard for the “Transformers” franchise, and shows that martial arts action created via motion capture can be some of the best the big screen has to offer. Bring it on, “Alita: Battle Angel”!
- Alley Fight — “Titans”
- Grey vs Fisk — “Upgrade”
- The Bathroom Fight — “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”
- The Submarine Fight — “Aquaman”
- Donnie vs Viktor 2 — “Creed II”
- The Battle in K’un-Lun — “Iron Fist” Season Two
- Mike Fallon vs Jane The Ripper — “Accident Man”
- Sunny vs M.K. — “Into the Badlands” Season Three (part one)
- The Prison Fight — “Daredevil: Season 3”
The first series of the DC Universe streaming platform kicks things off in the hardest-hitting, most brutal way possible. Dick Grayson may have parted ways with Batman, but his old life as Robin keeps pulling him back to clean up the mean streets of Detroit, and he certainly leaves no stone unturned. Under the action direction of Larnell Stovall, the fight sequences in “Titans” are among the most shockingly violent superhero fights in recent memory. But that ferocity serves a purpose within the story of the former Robin who’s come to loath the man he becomes in costume, but who also can’t stand idly by when innocent people are in trouble. The Boy Wonder also wastes no time in breaking out his trademark weapons, the bo-staff and “R”-shaped shuriken while dishing out his righteous fists of fury – much to the delight of DC fans everywhere!
Leigh Whannell’s “Upgrade” was the undeniable surprise of the summer for action fans, and one of the biggest reasons is that its fight scenes are not only great, but unique. Logan Marshall-Green portrays our hero, Grey, who after being crippled for life, gains superhuman fighting abilities thanks to the experimental A.I. installed in his nervous system, “S.T.E.M.” Whenever a threat emerges, Grey’s just along for the ride as S.T.E.M. takes over to fight their adversary off with robotic, sharply articulated movements. Grey runs into a more challenging enemy in the form of his fellow “Upgrade”, Fisk, leading to the most exhilarating fight sequence in a sci-fi thriller that’s absolutely chock full of them. Realistically, a kung fu “Robocop” was pretty much inevitable, and with “Upgrade”, Leigh Whannell delivers those goods in spades!
The sixth instalment in the long-running “Mission: Impossible” franchise is without question the “Mad Max: Fury Road” of spy thrillers. One need look no further than Tom Cruise’s infamous ankle injury that shut down production for several weeks for proof of that. And on top of the wild, death-defying stunts that the former “Top Gun” is ever eager to dive head first into with the same vigour as Jackie Chan, the fights in “Fallout” are simply out of this world, including and especially the film’s absolutely rollicking bathroom brawl. Beyond the havoc our heroes and their opponent wreak upon an innocent public restroom, the sequence was instantly immortalized forever with Henry Cavill’s shotgun-like fist-cocking as he heads back into the heat of battle. It’s just one highlight among the many that make up “Fallout”, but it’s one doozy of a throwdown that made the summer movie season very memorable indeed. Be sure to also check out our rundown of the TTop 5 “Mission: Impossible” movie fights, as well!
There may have been a time when Arthur Curry was the punchline of superheroes, but the days of the term “lame” being remotely applicable to Aquaman are long gone! Jason Momoa is as flawlessly cast in the title role as Hugh Jackman was for Wolverine, and he makes one hell of an entrance in the submarine battle that kicks off James Wan’s “Aquaman”. Like a pro-wrestling match set on high seas, Arthur’s submarine smackdown is every bit the slam dunk of superhero action as the legendary warehouse battle in “Batman v Superman”. The sequence also serves as the origin of Arthur’s famed arch nemesis, Black Manta, who goes on to make quite an impression himself later on in the film. It’s been a long time coming for the King of Atlantis to take centre- stage in the golden age of superhero cinema, and it’s safe to say that he’ll reign for a long time to come. We were pleased to get an insider (ahem) deep-dive into the film with its fight coordinator, and you can certainly check out our exclusive interview with Jon Valera!
Hollywood Donnie is back for round two in more ways than one when his father’s killer Ivan Drago and his fearsome son Viktor arrive in town to settle their unfinished business. Donnie’s rage at Ivan and Viktor’s efforts to get under his skin proves to be his undoing as he heads into their first fight without thinking, and pays dearly for it. Of course, since Donnie technically wins their first match on a disqualification on Viktor’s part, their rematch is inevitable, and Donnie is sure to keep his head on straight this time. Even within the “Rocky” franchise itself, you almost never see boxing fights nailed down to a science as much as in the “Creed” films. In the case of “Creed II”, the finale not only retains the incredible finesse of the original’s fight sequences, but marries it with the relentless viciousness of Ivan’s first smackdowns with Rocky and Apollo in “Rocky IV”. And, as with all great fights in the “Rocky” franchise, the film also knows just where to inject its emotional content at the right moment. A very worthy addition to the “Rocky” canon with no shortage of excellent boxing bouts (which by the way, you can see recounted in our rundown of the Top 10 “Rocky” movie fights)!
Season Two of Netflix’s “Iron Fist” excelled way past season one in virtually every conceivable way. And nowhere is that better exemplified than in the show’s martial arts action. Under the action direction of stunt veteran Clayton Barber, season two wastes no time in showing us the true power of the sworn protector of K’un-Lun. However, the high point of the season comes in seeing Danny Rand and his former friend Davos pit their might against each other for the right to become the next Immortal Iron Fist. With neither combatant willing to back down or able to best the other, both men spend the entire day beating each other to a bloody pulp in what Mr. Barber described in his interview with us as a “24-hour fight”. While the Iron Fist itself is certainly put to great use throughout the season, it’s a solid testament to the strength of season two, that its strongest fight is centered around who will earn the right to wield it!
As Mike Fallon tells us in “Accident Man”, Jane The Ripper earned her nickname with her exceptionally gruesome methods for taking out her male targets. And unlike most of his assassination missions, Mike doesn’t have the opportunity to make this one look like an accident. With the finale of “Accident Man”, Amy Johnston dives head first in the complete opposite direction to the more good-natured warrior also named Jane she portrayed in 2017’s “Lady Bloodfight”. And, of course, the egalitarian world of assassins means there’s total gender parity in both taking and receiving hits. There’s no shortage of glorious butt-kicking in Scott Adkins’ pet project, but the final smackdown with Jane The Ripper is the cream of a very rich crop indeed. Be sure to also check out KFK’s interview with Scott on the making of the film, while you’re at it!
As the world waits for the arrival of the second half of season three of AMC’s “Into the Badlands”, there’s no denying that the first half cemented the series’ place as the best of the best in small screen martial arts action. In maybe the most twist-heavy season of the show yet, the supernaturally gifted M.K. discovers a dark secret from Sunny’s past that instantly makes enemies of them. And when they finally cross paths again, M.K. lashes against the Badland’s most feared Clipper with the bloodthirsty rage of a Clipper himself. Looking back over the series as a whole, this really was the fight that ultimately had to happen at some point. Not only does the series lay the groundwork for it without subtracting from the twist factor, but it’s the clear high point of martial arts action for season three – and that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at in a show that’s stacked with high points of martial arts action. We’ll have to wait and see if the latter half of season three can top it, but considering the quality of show we’re talking about, that’s hardly a risky bet to make!
You can always count on “Daredevil” to deliver the most amazing single-take fight scenes imaginable, and season three doesn’t disappoint. It’s evidence to the calibre of season three that, for the first time on “Daredevil”, there’s a fight sequence to rival its obligatory hallway brawl. That, of course, comes in the form of Matt’s cat-and-mouse battle with the nefarious Bullseye in a blacked-out news office, that plays out like a superhero version of “Predator”.
However, as amazing as it is, the hallway fights just never fail to get better and better on this show. Coming in at an astonishing eleven minutes – the series’ longest to date – Matt is dropped right into the middle of a prison riot, while forced to battle the effects of a partial sedative injection alongside his dozens of adversaries. All of it, we must emphasize again, caught in a single-unbroken shot! With three increasingly wild single-take martial arts battles to its name, there’s no other way to put it – when it comes to action captured in a single shot, “Daredevil” is THE gold standard, bar none!
…and in at #1 is…
Ito vs Arian — “The Night Comes for Us”
You could probably keep the average blood bank stocked for a full month with the amount of blood that’s shed in Ito and Arian’s climactic smackdown. Timo Tjahjanto’s “The Night Comes for Us” is certainly not for the faint of heart, but if you’ve got a strong enough stomach, it’s an absolute beast of gloriously over-the-top Silat-driven action. Coming in at the tail-end of two hours of the veritable kick-fest preceding it, Iko Uwais gets the chance to step into the shoes of a villain for the first time, while Joe Taslim stands his ground as a bad guy turned less-bad guy. And they do not disappoint in a monstrously vicious final duel of former friends who leave each other simply shredded. Tjahjanto knows how to get his audience as emotionally invested in the pain he puts his characters through as he does in their fighting skills – I challenge anyone not to wince at the moment when Arian’s roundhouse kick connects with a metal pillar instead of his opponent’s head. We were served a megaton of frenetic force last year, for sure, but it’s “The Night Comes for Us” that ultimately earns the crown of 2018’s numero uno martial arts battle!
And there we have it folks, KFK’s countdown of the Top 10 Martial Arts Movie Fights of 2018! Which of your picks made the list; which others deserve a shout out? We’ve got some superb actioners already simmering for 2019, so before they pop, which are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram. (Enter the growing FUniverse for more Top 10’s, -including the Top 10 Martial Arts Movies 2018– competitions and exclusive interviews coming up for 2019, and why not subscribe for videos too!)