14 Best Hong Kong Action Movies of All Time That Need to Be On Your Watchlist

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Throughout its illustrious history, Hong Kong cinema has created some of the most exhilarating films ever made. From Bruce Lee’s classic martial arts films to today’s mega hits, audiences have been captivated by the violent scenes, riveting tales, and astonishing victories in Hong Kong action movies. Some of the most influential films in the history of the action cinema genre were produced in Hong Kong, and we’ll talk about them in the following sections. Lay back and be carried away to another dimension filled with thrilling fresh adventures.

If you are in a rush here are the top 3 of the best action films to come out of Hong Kong.

Last update on 2024-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

See below for more details on these movies and how to watch them.

1. Police Story (1985)

Police Story
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung (Actors)
  • Jackie Chan (Director) - Jackie Chan (Writer) - Raymond Chow (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)

Last update on 2024-02-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This Jackie Chan action flick is from Hong Kong and was released in 1985. Jackie Chan directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Edward Tang. In it, Chan portrays a police officer named Ka Kui, who takes on an elite criminal organization.

The plot focuses on Ka Kui as he endeavors to bring down a criminal organization while safeguarding his fiancée, May (Brigitte Lin). On his journey, Ka Kui has to deal with a slew of bad guys, including the vicious criminal head Chu Tao (Chor Yuen).

There are some of the most exciting and dramatic battle sequences in a film ever captured on film. The picture features some of Jackie Chan’s most impressive stunt work, cementing its place in cinematic history as one of the most legendary masterpieces in the action genre. Likewise, the film’s thrilling car pursuits and intense confrontations will have you on the edge of your seat.

This story leaves you wondering right up to the very conclusion because of all the unforeseen twists it takes. Jackie Chan and Maggie Cheung have fantastic quips lightening up an otherwise gloomy picture.

Police Story is a real cult classic for lovers of Hong Kong cinema; it is an amazing action picture that shows Jackie Chan’s martial arts expertise to its fullest and provides a captivating plot with many tension-filled scenes. Click here to stream it on Amazon.

2. The Killer (1989)

The Killer
  • The Killer - DVD Brand New
  • Yun-Fat Chow, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh (Actors)
  • John Woo (Director) - John Woo (Writer)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update on 2024-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

On the streets of Hong Kong, hired assassin Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat) accidentally blinds an attractive lounge singer, Jennie (Sally Yeh), during a shootout. Beset with remorse, he takes on one last job for double-crossing Triad boss Hai Wong Hoi (Shing Fui-on) to pay for her eye surgery, which brings him into direct conflict with Detective Li Ying (Danny Lee), who hopes to arrest Ah Jong and bring down the criminal underworld.

Some of “The Killer”s signature John Woo elements, such as a violent firefight in a chapel adorned with doves and lights, may appear over the top in retrospect. Still, they are also a big part of the film’s appeal. John Woo places more emphasis on internal issues than outward ones. Therefore the film veers between action and drama.

Violent, kinetic to a fault, filmed with panache and Woo’s trademark excess, The Killer is hyperactive 80’s Asian cinema at its goddam finest. It’s pulp action cinema, a template film that not only redefined action cinema but launched a thousand copycat efforts and sparked a huge interest in Hong Kong talent of the era. The Killer is spectacularly over-the-top, deliriously cheesy, and vigorously violent, an outright classic from Woo and a first-class trope-filled masterpiece.

If you are looking for a stylized and dramatic action film full of intense shoot-outs, John Woo’s “The Killer” is the film for you. Buy it now on Amazon.

3. A Better Tomorrow (1986)

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A Better Tomorrow [Blu-ray]
  • Chow Yun Fat, Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung (Actors)
  • John Woo (Director)
  • English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

Last update on 2024-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

A Better Tomorrow, directed by John Woo and premiered on August 2, 1986, is just one of numerous classics from the 1980s and 1990s, known as “the golden age of Hong Kong cinema.”

In this John Woo picture, colleagues Mark and Ho work as runners for a counterfeiting business run by a Hong Kong criminal organization. After being betrayed in a set-up, Ho surrenders to the authorities. Mark is shot in the crossfire of a retaliation attack. The plot thickens since Ho’s younger brother Kit is a rookie officer whose name has been sullied by his infamous gangster sibling.

When Ho is released from jail, he plans to begin a pristine untainted life. He has difficulty moving on from his criminal background, especially with Mark, his former companion, pressing him to rejoin the underworld. The different groups go at each other in classic Woo style, and our heroes get into a gunfight with the cops and the criminals.

Director John Woo and his cast, including Shaw brothers veteran Ti Lung and then rising actor Chow Yun-Fat, became instant celebrities thanks to this film. Joseph Koo’s evocative score propels a plot that follows a typical heroic bloodshed format.

A Better Tomorrow is a must-watch as it was largely responsible for the birth of the heroic bloodbath subgenre, which combines brutal and stylized action scenes with sentiments of dignity, fraternity, camaraderie, and devotion. Get it now on Amazon.

4. Hard Boiled (1992)

Hard Boiled
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Teresa Mo (Actors)
  • John Woo (Director) - John Woo (Writer) - Terence Chang (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Last update on 2024-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung feature in the timeless neo-noir action film Hard Boiled. The plot centers on an undercover police officer and his colleague attempting to bring down a major criminal organization. This picture has exciting action scenes, intriguing narrative surprises, and sympathetic protagonists. It’s easy to see why this film is revered among genre followers.

Hard Boiled is nonstop action and cutting banter that will have you on the edge of your seat. John Woo’s directing and cinematography are superb, resulting in a unique feel that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

A single stellar action scene doesn’t define the movie Hard Boiled. It’s packed to the gills with action, seamlessly transitioning from one high-octane firefight to the next through a tale about feuding criminals, the ambiguous boundaries of covert personnel, and miscommunication conflicts between multiple divisions. The conclusion lives up to the high standards set by the beginning of the film, which is both unique and memorable in its own right. There are long, uninterrupted views of slaughter, unparalleled pandemonium, and certain elements lifted out of “Die Hard.”

Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung do fantastic jobs as their characters, bringing them to life on screen. Thanks to their stellar performances, this is easily one of the finest movies of its kind ever filmed. Get it now on Amazon.

5. Infernal Affairs (2002)

Infernal Affairs (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Anthony Wong (Actors)
  • Andrew Lau (Director) - Felix Chong (Writer) - Andrew Lau (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Andrew Lau and Alan Mak directed the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs (2002) which is a crime thriller. To name a few cast members: Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen, and Sammi Cheng. In this film, we watch two Internal Affairs officials as they investigate allegations of misconduct inside their organization. As the two cops investigate, reports of corruption inside their department, tension, and mystery build throughout the film.

The fantastic acting was a major strength of Infernal Affairs; seeing Leung and Lau go head to head was like watching De Niro and Pacino in Heat. However, the characters they played were surprising, given their fame, adding another layer of subversion to an opus full of deception. The cinematography is also top-notch, successfully capturing Hong Kong underground’s filthy vibe while providing a pleasing viewing experience.

The film’s polarized concepts and mirror imagery captured Hong Kong’s dilemma with identity at the turn of the century. They made it a hit with moviegoers and critics worldwide, inspiring not one but two sequels, an Oscar-winning Hollywood remake (Scorsese’s The Departed), and numerous other theatrical imitations.

If you liked The Departed, Internal Affairs is a must-watch and must-buy on Amazon.

6. Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Simon Yam (Actors)
  • Wilson Yip (Director) - Edmond Wong (Writer) - Cheuk Kau Man (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Bruce Lee was one of the many disciples of martial arts teacher Ip Man, whose story is embellished in this film and its sequels.

Ip Man (Donnie Yen), a rich landowner in Foshan, China, during the 1930s, is widely regarded as one of the city’s best martial artists. However, he avoids the limelight and lacks his personal wing chun institution. Following the Japanese invasion of China, the cruel commander Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) sets his sights on Ip Man for an explosive battle in martial arts.

Donnie Yen, renowned in martial arts, plays the titular Ip Man. Western audiences may recognize Yen most from his roles as Rogue One’s Chirrut Imwe, John Wick’s blind, slick assassin Cain, or the overlooked antagonist in Jackie Chan/Owen Wilson’s movie Shanghai Knights.

Throughout Ip Man, we see various battle scenes, and they’re all fantastic. Sammo Hung, a veteran of kung fu films, choreographed the fights, which are both harsh and ingenious. The fight involving Ip and the 10 black belts is the movie’s (and potentially Yen’s) high point.

Ip Man is a great martial arts film and even the best to come out of China in the last decade. If you want to watch Donnie Yen kick some ass left and right, buy Ip Man now on Amazon.

7. Enter the Dragon (1973)

Enter the Dragon
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Ahna Capri (Actors)
  • Robert Clouse (Director) - Michael Allin (Writer) - Fred Weintraub (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Bruce Lee’s last movie is the only one that gives him the star treatment he deserves. His charismatic presence is remarkable in Enter the Dragon, and it’s a shame he didn’t have the chance to become the great, unique star he seemed destined to be.

Following Lee (Bruce Lee) as he’s tasked with spying on a crime lord at a martial arts tournament, the plot never gets more complex than that. We’re dropped into the film, shown clearly who is good and who is bad, and then that’s it. Enjoyable fights and shallow dialogue are to follow.

The movie itself, produced by Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller in association with Raymond Chow of Hong Kong’s Concorde Productions, is a whoop-and-holler entertainment, which is to say that it’s a lavish, corny action movie, not boring for a second and as outrageously wry as it is visually appealing.

Most of the time, the directors are content to ignore character development and unique framing in favor of the battle sequences and fights we randomly stumble into. Clouse orchestrates a few memorable sequences like the mirror maze, a technological wonder in its day, which holds up surprisingly well today.

Watch in awe at the legendary Bruce Lee’s magnum opus by buying it on Amazon today.

8. Once Upon a Time in China (1991)

Once Upon a Time in China and America
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jet Li, Jeff Wolfe, Joe Sayah (Actors)
  • Sammo Hung Kam-Bo (Director) - Cheuk-Hon Szeto (Writer) - Tsui Hark (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Once Upon a Time in China, one of the high points of the 1990s for Hong Kong films revolutionized the martial arts movie genre and made a name out of action actor Jet Li. It vividly recreates the vibrant culture of late nineteenth-century China, a time of tremendous historical and technological upheaval.

Conflicts between Western imperialism and established conventions emerged, and domestic stability was jeopardized by espionage from outside and growing nationalist sentiment. Wong Fei-hung, a historical martial arts expert, doctor, and cultural hero, stands out as a virtuous defender of traditional Chinese ideals against the broader context of China’s rapid modernization.

Not only did Once Upon a Time in China give rise to contemporary kung fu, but it also shot Jet Li to international stardom. Li, a past wushu champion, opted to pursue acting as a teenager rather than continue his path in pro martial arts. Li added nonchalance and composure to his part as Wong, in contrast to the more humorous Jackie Chan, who became famous for his death-defying exploits. Once Upon a Time in China has plenty of comedic moments, but not because of Li, who brings dignity, strength, and composure to his role.

Take a look at Jet Li’s first claim to fame and experience the start of Wong’s journey, available on Amazon today.

9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (4K UHD)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi (Actors)
  • Ang Lee (Director) - James Schamus (Writer) - Bill Kong (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The grandiose martial arts movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, helmed by Ang Lee, hit theaters in 2000. In this film, two heroes, Li Mu Bai, and Yu Shu Lien go on a quest to recover a plundered blade. Along the process, they have to face their own fears and build trust with one another.

Inspired by the Wudan martial arts tradition, whose practitioners get their strength and power from vast stores of centering and personal sacrifice, this masterwork is a high-flying, rapid-fire, and wholly engaging martial arts drama.

The film blends ferocious battle sequences with delicate scenes of romance as the two characters strive for an answer to the truth. Because of its magnificent cinematography, outstanding performances, and thrilling action sequences, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is generally recognized as one of the finest martial arts films ever.

Even after all this time, Crouching Tiger hasn’t lost any depth, resonance, or aesthetic awe. It’s worth remembering again that the film’s breakthrough in 2000 had as much to do with its originality as with the universal truths it conveyed. You’d be challenged to pinpoint any movie, from any time or location, that is as deeply wonderful and artistically magnificent as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

10. Drunken Master (1978)

Drunken Master
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jackie Chan, Siu-Tien Yuen, Jeong-Lee Hwang (Actors)
  • Woo-Ping Yuen (Director) - Lung Hsiao (Writer) - See-Yuen Ng (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Drunken Master, the film that made a celebrity out of a twenty-something Jackie Chan and continues to be popular with viewers decades later, is a historic turning point in the development of kung fu films because it added humor to the genre. Yes, Bruce Lee did have some lighthearted times. But Chan was ahead of the curve in creating humorous characters, especially in his depiction of Wong Fei-hung.

Young Wong Fei-Hung reluctantly takes the instructions of Su Hua Chi (Siu Tien Yuen), a famously drunk martial arts teacher, after failing to reach a compromise with his dad, running out of money, and having no other place to can go. Su Hua Chi instructs Wong in Drunken Boxing, a combat style with extraordinary fluidity. When Thunderleg (Jang Lee Hwang), a formidable mercenary who has never been defeated in a duel, sets his sights on Wong’s father, Wong is tested.

Drunken Master is one long battle scene staged by Yuen Woo Ping, with periodic excruciating training set elements. The synergy between Chan and acclaimed Peking Opera actor Simon Yuen, who plays his unexpected master, carries over from their past success, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, and creates one of the most iconic and emulated teacher/student connections in the genre.

11. Rumble in the Bronx (1995)

Rumble In The Bronx
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Francoise Yip (Actors)
  • Stanley Tong (Director) - Edward Tang (Writer) - Barbie Tung (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Jackie Chan, a martial arts legend in his own right, portrays a tourist from Hong Kong who travels to New York (which looks eerily like Canada) to celebrate his uncle’s wedding. Things don’t go as planned when a mob and a band of street thugs assault his family’s grocery shop in the South Bronx. But in typical Chan fashion, he beats up everyone to make things right. That’s the end of it.

This is mostly a humorous and charming narrative with enough dramatic and emotional underpinnings to give it some credibility; it rarely tries to be beyond what it is.

Virtually everyone in the cast does a fantastic job acting. One was surprised to see Jackie Chan excel in his roles, but what surprises you is how excellent the supporting ensemble is. A film’s quality is often gauged by whether or not its supporting cast makes an impression.

Although the narrative and protagonists in Rumble in the Bronx are very shallow, the film’s production qualities, stunts, and combat choreography are remarkable. Its primary value is its accessibility to a wide audience, making it an ideal vehicle for Chan to achieve international fame.

12. The Grandmaster (2013)

The Grandmaster
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Hye-kyo Song, Cung Le, Chen Chang (Actors)
  • Wong Kar-Wai (Director) - Kar-Wai Wong (Writer) - Ye-cheng Chan (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Even though his movies are on the same subject as other directors, Wong Kar-wai’s are in a league of their own. “The Grandmaster’s” artistically lavish and distinctively gloomy tone exemplifies this point admirably.

The latest in a series of larger-than-life period films based on the life and times of the martial arts instructor who instructed Bruce Lee and propagated the Wing Chun kung fu technique throughout the globe, “The Grandmaster” took five years to make and supposedly 16 years to develop. Wong’s depiction, however, stands out from the others since it takes a less standard biographical approach.

This multifaceted but usually chronological tale never really documents Ip’s accomplishments. Still, it does provide a refreshing pageantry of martial arts institutions and their wildly varied practitioners. The video delves further into his interactions with other warriors, ultimately concluding that there is no singular “grandmaster.”

Wong’s art house fans will also find a lot to enjoy, with the main protagonists emanating a sense of aching that identifies the filmmaker’s work. In contrast, martial arts fans will uncover pleasure in the combat scenes (a complete mess with more-than-explicit precursors from a few combatants regarding the particulars of their disciplines).

13. Iron Monkey (1993)

Iron Monkey
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Yuen Woo-ping (Director) - Hark Tsui (Writer) - Quentin Tarantino (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Iron Monkey is a Hong Kong variation of Robin Hood. Corrupt officials of a Chinese village are robbed by a masked bandit known as “Iron Monkey,” named after a benevolent deity. When all else fails, the Governor forces a traveling physician to find the bandit. The arrival of an evil Shaolin monk brings the physician and Iron Monkey together to battle the corrupt government.

Iron Monkey, without overstatements, ranks among the finest martial arts pictures created in the past decade. It’s one of the most action-packed movies ever made. With artists like Donnie Yen’s undeniable combat prowess, the wirework is more of a finishing touch than trickery, making the spectacle feel more genuine.

Moreover, the story has many of the wuxia genre’s classic features. The picture features both villainous and heroic performances, unethical officials, gorgeous women, rooftop clashes, the titling of fighting styles, Shaolin monks, and stunning entrances. Throw a bit of comic relief and tension, and you have the perfect makings of a solid wuxia.

Despite its short length (just 86 minutes), the film’s focus on its cast of characters distinguishes it unique compared to other kung fu chronicles. The prostitute-turned-medical-assistant is well fleshed out, too. Most movies in this genre would ignore her, but Yuen and the writer’s team urge viewers to get invested in her story.

To put it mildly, “Iron Monkey” is the kind of film that every wuxia and martial arts lover should own because it is a true genre gem. Get it now on Amazon.

14. Police Story 2 (1988)

Police Story II
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung (Actors)
  • Jackie Chan (Director) - Jackie Chan (Writer) - Raymond Chow (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)

Last update on 2024-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

With the profits from the previous film serving as a cushion, producers Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho and superstar Jackie Chan set out to develop a more business-friendly film emphasizing action.

Jackie Chan is back in uniform as Police Officer Ka Kui, but he still can’t fit in with the rest of the department. At the film’s start, he is serving on traffic duty, performing with his usual zeal even though he has been demoted. After learning about an extortion plan involving a group of bombers, his former supervisors are considering restoring him to his previous post.

The bad guys from the previous film are out for revenge, but he also has personal issues. He loves his work, but it’s beginning to damage his connection with the woman he’s involved with, May (Maggie Cheung). He has to give his best to find a solution to both these problems.

Filmmaking-wise, Police Story 2 is a huge step forward over its predecessor. The director’s inventive use of viewpoints, shaky camerawork, and depiction of apparently commonplace events elevate the film’s visual quality significantly above the original. While the original film’s action sequences were thrilling, the script was mostly a jumble of unconnected events intended only as a backdrop for the stunts. The story of Police Story 2 is based on tropes from police procedurals and thrillers, which is why it’s such a big step forward in this respect.

While not a masterpiece per se, it’s a great film to have in your kung-fu flicks collection. Get it on Amazon now.

Final Words

In the end, the best Hong Kong action films are a testament to the incredible talent and artistry of Hong Kong’s filmmakers, actors, and stunt performers. These films have captured the imaginations of audiences around the world with their thrilling action sequences, vibrant characters, and captivating stories.

From the groundbreaking work of Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon” to the daring stunts of Jackie Chan in “Police Story,” Hong Kong action films have set a high standard for the genre. They have pushed the boundaries of what is possible in action filmmaking and inspired countless filmmakers and fans alike.

Despite facing challenges and changes in the film industry, Hong Kong action films continue to captivate audiences and influence filmmakers worldwide. With their unique blend of action, humor, and drama, these films remain a timeless testament to the artistry and innovation of Hong Kong’s film industry.

In the end, the best Hong Kong action films stand as a proud legacy of the filmmakers, actors, and stunt performers who created them, and a thrilling tribute to the art of cinema itself.