We’re already headlong into 2023, KFK readers, and with any new year always comes new possibilities. For lovers of action, that inevitably entails new possibilities at their local cinema or preferred streaming platform.
When looking at what 2023 has coming up, it’s a diverse set of offerings, to say the least. From sci-fi epics to ensemble action movies to the latest DTV hidden diamond, 2023 has a lot on the docket to look forward to.
Add in Jackie Chan’s latest adventure and a deluge of new chapters in the “John Wick” universe, and this year’s list is a packed one, to be sure. So buckle up for a high-octane ride – as here comes KFK’s rundown of the Top 15 Most Anticipated Martial Arts Movies of 2023!
15. Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Role-playing gamers and action movie lovers are about to be united in “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves”.
The legacy of Dungeons and Dragons is well-known among the nerd crowd, but what makes “Honor Among Thieves” a must for action fans on the 2023 calendar is the influences used for it.
The writer-director of “Honor Among Thieves”, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, specified Jackie Chan as a big influence on the movie’s action in a trailer breakdown for IGN. That alone is plenty to make “Honor Among Thieves” a must for role-players and action fans alike, and the abundance of “Assassin’s Creed”-style parkour in the trailer makes the sell that much more potent.
As far as KFK is concerned, hell yeah! bring on the Jackie Chan-style “Dungeons and Dragons”!
14. Creed III
Adonis Creed is back in the ring again, this time with his most personal enemy yet in his old friend Damien (Jonathan Majors).
After years in prison, Adonis’ old friend Damien is resentful of his success as a professional boxer, and is determined to take back everything he feels he was robbed of.
Michael B. Jordan makes his directorial debut with “Creed III”, and has described the boxing fights of the movie as having an anime influence.
That’ll definitely be a unique take over the boxing action of “Creed” and “Creed II”, which already had that art mastered arguably more than even the “Rocky” movies.
Judging from the trailer below, the boxing fights of “Creed III” certainly appear to be Earth-shattering indeed with their anime roots!
Donnie Yen steps behind the camera again for the wuxia epic “Sakra”.
Based on “Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils” by Jin Yong, the wuxia adventure marks Donnie Yen’s first directorial outing since 1998’s “Shanghai Affairs”, and the trailer shows all the flair of a “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” level epic.
“Sakra” has already been released overseas in China and Hong Kong, so news of its Western debut should be forthcoming in relatively short order.
12. The Expendables 4
It’s been nine years, but the boys are back in town once more for “The Expendables 4”.
The next chapter of “The Expendables” franchise will prove to be somewhat bittersweet, with Sylvester Stallone declaring it to be his final ride in the action ensemble franchise he helped create, and a passing of the torch to Jason Statham.
While it may be Sly’s final rodeo, it will be the first “Expendables” ride for Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais, the latter playing the movie’s villain. That alone ensures that “The Expendables 4” is on the radar for martial arts fans ahead of its September release. No trailer yet for “The Expendables 4”, but that should change before the summer arrives…so stay tuned!
11. War Paint
One might be compelled to think that Scott Adkins had been cast to play Nightwing from the photos and test footage released for “War Paint”, but he’s a quite different kind of vigilante from Batman’s most famous apprentice.
In “War Paint”, Scott plays Marcus Price, the twin brother of murdered Hollywood action star Michael Price who goes on a mission of vengeance with kali sticks, body armor, and the war paint mentioned in the title.
No trailer at the moment, but the look of Scott in “War Paint” alone puts a strong foot forward – and it won’t be Scott’s only 2023 movie where he undergoes a noticeable makeover, but more on that in a moment.
10. Hounds of War
The GOAT of DTV martial arts, Isaac Florentine is back behind the camera again in the upcoming “Hounds of War”.
Focusing on a mercenary team on a mission to avenge the death of one of their members, the “Hounds of War” ensemble includes Frank Grillo, Rhona Mitra, and Robert Patrick, along with martial artists like Joey Ansah, Mark Strange, Mike Moeller, and Seydina Baldé.
Isaac has done military action movies with Hong Kong-worthy martial arts before in “Special Forces” and “U.S. Seals 2”, which sets the expectations for “Hounds of War” high indeed!
Isaac Florentine has not one but two actioners on the way in 2023, with the upcoming “Hellfire” on the docket right next to “Hounds of War”.
In “Hellfire” Stephen Lang plays a drifter who arrives in a small town and finds himself helping them fight off the criminal overlord who has them in his grip.
If “Hounds of War” is another Florentine-style military action movie, “Hellfire” sounds like it carries more of a Western feel.
“Hellfire” also has a big ensemble, with Stephen Lang joined by Harvey Keitel, Dolph Lundgren, and Power Rangers veteran Johnny Yong Bosch.
Like “Hounds of War”, “Hellfire” is sure to be a DTV action movie to put its big-screen competition to shame, as is often the case for a Florentine martial arts-heavy action flick!
8. Ride On
It’s hard to grasp that Jackie Chan has been working in action movies in some capacity – stunt man, leading man, director, or all three – for over fifty years, and he’s survived more abuse and mishaps than most people would ever endure.
Still, he’s continuing to go strong, and his upcoming action-comedy “Ride On” looks like a return to Jackie’s comedy hijinks.
Jackie reportedly plays a stuntman who falls on hard times, but who gets an unexpected resurgence after a fight with some debtors becomes an internet sensation.
Well Go USA will be handling the stateside distribution for “Ride On”, so news of its release should be on the way soon.
Jackie has done precious little equestrian action in his career, so his relationship with the protagonist’s beloved horse should enliven “Ride On” as much as the trailer indicates it will.
John Wick fans have a ton to anticipate in 2023, and not just from “John Wick: Chapter 4”.
On top of the TV series spin-off “The Continental”, the “John Wick” franchise will also have the big-screen spin-off “Ballerina”.
Ana de Armas portrays Rooney, an assassin on a mission of vengeance, with Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and Anjelica Huston also returning from the mainline “John Wick” franchise.
“Ballerina” will reportedly take place between “John Wick” 3 and 4, and fans of the series will doubtlessly welcome a double dose of Baba Yaga action.
Additionally, despite her relatively minor role in the James Bond movie “No Time to Die”, Ana de Armas flexed her action movie potential admirably.
Hopefully, Rooney and John’s team-up adds another great, action-packed chapter to the “John Wick” universe.
6. The Fist of the Condor
Marko Zaror is joining the epic ensemble of “John Wick: Chapter 4”, but audiences will also get two of him for the price of one in “The Fist of the Condor”.
Directed by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza of “Redeemer” fame, Marko plays two twin brothers with astonishing martial arts skills who go to war.
The idea of big-screen martial artists fighting themselves is a gimmick that Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, and others have put to good use, but “The Fist of the Condor” really looks like a unique spin on that concept.
Naturally, Marko’s exceptionally finessed techniques make it that much better, while the trailer teases it as a part one. Hopefully, news of part two arrives in the near future, but until then “The Fist of the Condor” is bringing everything and more to the table.
5. Rebel Moon
Zack Snyder is headed for the stars for a harrowing war in his upcoming sci-fi epic “Rebel Moon”.
If that pun seems over-the-top, it shouldn’t – “Rebel Moon” was originally Snyder’s concept for a “Star Wars” movie, which he subsequently retooled into the basis for an original sci-fi universe.
In “Rebel Moon”, the inhabitants of a planet in a far-off galaxy come under threat by the ruthless conqueror Belisarius (Ed Skrein), leading a young warrior named Kora (Sofia Boutella) to summon warriors from other planets to defend her people.
“Rebel Moon” is actually a two-parter, with part one to arrive in December. Snyder’s knack for action and fight scenes is well-known (and well-documented in KFK’s list of the Top 10 Zack Snyder Movie Fights).
With larger-than-life characters like Ray Fisher’s Blood Axe and Kora herself said to be a formidable martial artist, “Rebel Moon” is sure to be the sci-fu movie to beat in 2023!
4. Twilight of the Warrior: Walled In
It’s been a long time coming for the manhua “Kowloon Walled City” to make it from the pages of its comic book origins to the big-screen in Hong Kong.
Literally since the early 2000’s, in point of fact, it has had stars like Nicolas Cage, Chow Yun-fat, Donnie Yen, and John Woo himself coming and going over the years.
At last, the retitled adaptation “Twilight of the Warrior: Walled In” would get off the ground in 2021, under the direction of “SPL 2: A Time for Consequences” auteur Cheang Pou-soi, with big Hong Kong stars on board like Louis Koo, Richie Jen, Philip Ng, and the legendary Sammo Hung.
The great Kenji Tanigaki is also handling the action on “Twilight of the Warrior”, with Well Go USA handling stateside distribution ahead of the movie’s Hong Kong debut.
Hopefully, the release date of “Twilight of the Warrior: Walled In” will be announced before too much longer…
3. Warrior: Season 3
It’s been a long time coming, but the long-awaited third season of the hit Cinemax series “Warrior” is finally on the way!
Based on the concept created by Bruce Lee prior to his passing, “Warrior” was finally realized on Cinemax in 2020, but despite returning for season two, its future was uncertain when Cinemax announced it was ceasing original programming.
Fortunately, “Warrior” is set to continue on HBO Max, with its 2023 premiere date still forthcoming.
Not much is known yet about how it will continue the 19th century Tong Wars story on from the first two seasons of “Warrior”, but the great Mark Dacascos will reportedly join season three alongside regulars Andrew Koji and Joe Taslim, exciting news indeed for “Warrior” season 3. Until then, be sure to check out KFK’s in-depth interview with Shannon Lee!
2. Boy Kills World
If there’s one 2023 action movie that can be classified as the year’s biggest wild card, it has to be “Boy Kills World”, in which Bill Skarsgard portrays a deaf and mute man known only as ‘Boy’.
Following the murder of his family, Boy flees into the jungle, where he is mentored to become a warrior by a mysterious figure, played by Yayan Ruhian.
— Roy Lee (@royleeroy25) August 21, 2022
After frightening audiences as Pennywise in the “IT” movies, Bill Skarsgard seems to be making a bid for action movie stardom between “Boy Kills World” and “John Wick: Chapter 4”, and the former most certainly has enough of a primal, Tarzan-like influence to pique the interest of action fans, along with Yayan Ruhian and Andrew Koji being on-board.
No release date or trailer as of yet, but info on the release of “Boy Kills World” should be along later in 2023. Be sure to also check out the proof-of-concept short for “Boy Kills World” by checking out the video in the Tweet link above!
…And in at no.1 is….
John Wick: Chapter 4
Who didn’t see this one coming, right? At this point, the “John Wick” franchise is an action movie series beyond compare, but “John Wick: Chapter 4” especially is bringing, in the words of Keanu Reeves himself, lots of guns.
Not just in the literal sense either, though that much is patently clear in the requisite gun-fu action of “John Wick: Chapter 4”, but also in its supporting players alongside Keanu Reeves.
Big stars like Bill Skarsgard and Clancy Brown are joining the series, but for martial arts fans, the roster of “John Wick: Chapter 4” includes Donnie Yen, Marko Zaror, Hiroyuki Sanada, and a VERY unrecognizable Scott Adkins.
John and the Bowery King are headed into a war with the High Table in “John Wick: Chapter 4”, while Keanu himself calls the movie “banana cakes” and the most action-packed installment of the series to date in an interview with Total Film.
At nearly three hours (169 mins) and with the new crew the Continental is welcoming into the fold, what else is there to say except that the wick truly is lit to blaze with “John Wick: Chapter 4”!