If you’re into martial arts movies and haven’t heard of Jet Li or his best movies, then you’re severely uneducated!
Jet is one of the Hong Kong’s, and the world’s all-time greatest martial arts stars to ever grace the screen. So naturally, he has some absolutely fantastic movies to his name, with a diverse range of action levels.
So what are Jet Li’s top movies?
Although he’s slowing down now, his 30 year career has a number of really impressive titles, so below I thought I’d share the best with you 🙂
Fist of Legend
Fist of Legend is one of the greatest Kung Fu films of all time, naturally, it stars our man Jet Li.
It’s a remake of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury and follows the story of Chen Zhen as he investigates the death of his master, suspected to have been murdered by someone in the Japanese Military occupying the town.
This film is a remake of Bruce Lee’s fist of Fury from 1972 but with some added depth in different areas in the character of Chen Zhen. The film explores and changes a few racial themes and the character development of Chen Zhen to give its own unique standing.
This is Jet in his prime. He found his feet in the film industry but still has the youth and physical fitness to bring his A-Game in some game-changing fight scenes. Check this one out for sure!
Hero is another top Jet Li Kung Fu film which really made some noise during its release in the early 2000’s.
This film is a lot like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in the sense it is an operatic, story-driven film that uses amazing levels of creativity to unfold its plot and drive its action. The fight between him and Donnie Yen also helps boost the entertainment value and credit of the film.
Jet Li plays ‘nameless’ who recalls his assassination of two deadly individuals out to kill the Emperor. His audience is the Emperor himself and as his story is told it challenged and re-told in various ways until we learn what the real truth is.
It’s like a poem and amartial arts action film mixed together with strong visuals and use of color that make it something truly unique. It’s not the action junkie’s top choice, but it still manages to come close!
Kiss of the Dragon
This film is the most hard-edged film in Jet Li’s line up with one exception possibly being ‘Unleashed’.
Jet Li plays a Hong Kong police officer helping an investigation in France when his local French team, the true criminals, turn on him and make him out to be a fugitive. While hiding out he meets a young woman whose child is being held by the man in charge of the corrupt police team, and they work together to take them down and rescue the woman’s daughter.
There are constant fights as he flees, hides and eventually strikes back. Jet Li’s character ‘Johnny’ fights thugs, blackbelts and a variety of deadly criminals all out to take him down.
This is my personal Jet Li favorite due to the hard-edged nature of the film and the action.
Once Upon a time in China
This 90’s classic is a one of the fun and cheesy Kung Fu films packed with light-hearted comedy but backed by serious conflict.
Jet Li plays the infamous Wong Fei Hung and his struggle to keep foreign influencers from destroying their local culture. He comes up against a cult of bad guys in some really creative action which makes use of the environment around them in a totally unique way.
This is considered one of the early classic Jet Li films and is a must-see for fans of his work – also starring the legendary Yuen Biao!
The Legend (Fong Sai Yuk)
Jet Li’s The Legend is another classic film from the 90’s with some cool action and light-hearted comedy.
The film kicks off with local fighter Fong Sai Yuk (Jet Li), stepping into a competition to win the hand of a young woman. However, things don’t go as planned and Sai Yuk forfeits. Meanwhile, a secret organization threatens his family and Sai Yuk is forced to fight back.
This is not my favorite film (personally) but it has a strong following among Jet Li fans. I do recommend checking it out if you like the mid 90’s Kung Fu film style.
Unleashed (aka Danny the Dog)
This film is another unique role of Jet Li.
Jet Li plays Danny, a man who is trained to kill almost like a dog upon command by his ‘uncle’ the gangster and loan shark Bart. But at heart, Danny is an innocent, child-like, man who escapes his Uncle’s command when he believes him to be dead.
Danny finds a family and learns about life, becoming the nice person he desires to be. Finding much joy with his new family, Danny is haunted when his uncle discovers he is alive and wills top at nothing to get Danny back.
Some excellent acting in this by Jet Li backed with some savage action. I love the way Jet Li really connects you to his character in this film, investing you in his struggle. Make sure you see this film!
This is a fun an family friendly toned film surrounding a theme of Fantasy and magic.
It builds on something fans have wanted for some time – a team up between the two most popular 90’s Kung Fu stars Jet Li and Jackie Chan.
The film follows someone else though, a boy who is obsessed with Kung Fu films who is sucked into the past and must learn Kung Fu from Jet Li and Jackie Chan’s characters in order to rescue the imprisoned Monkey King. It’s packed with fantasy, Kung Fu and an adventure feel which make sit standout among modern day martial arts films.
This just a fun action film, I highly recommend giving it a try!
Once Upon a time in China 2
Much like the first ‘Once Upon a Time in China’, this film carries some light-hearted comedy mixed with serious conflict.
Jet is back as Wong Fei Hung except that this time he is fighting for acceptance of both Western and Eastern culture, to form mutual relationships between them. Naturally, there’s a group out to make life difficult, this time lead by one of Kung Fu’s all-time greatest stars – Donnie Yen.
Donnie Yen vs Jet Li. Need I say more? Fantastic.
Romeo Must Die
This film is one of Jet Li’s top American action movies as he fights for the attention of a girl named Trish (played by the late Aaliyah). It’s one of the line up of English speaking Hollywood films Jet was involved in back in the day.
The film is loosely based on the original Romeo and Juliet, with a Gang war representing the same conflict between families. It has some solid action sequences and is another example of Jet Li doing his thing!
This Science Fiction film is so much bloody fun!
What do you get? Jet Li vs Jet Li action, a young Jason Statham by his side and a rocking soundtrack of early 2000’s hard rock / heavy metal. Jet Li plays a Police officer who meets another version of himself from a parallel universe who is trying to kill him.
The action is very sci fi / kung fu as it uses his usual movements but adds a superhuman revved up feel to his fighting.
The reason? So he can kill off all versions of himself and become ‘The One’, an all-powerful being who absorbs the strength and power of his alternates. It has some cool action but also a heavy metal soundtrack top back with music by bands like Disturbed, Papa Roach and more.
This one is fun, check it out!
Tai Chi Master
This classic 90’s film follows expelled Shaolin Monks as they take different paths in the world outside of the Shaolin Temple.
While Jet Li’s character teams up with Michelle Yeoh to fight against an oppressive military, Jet’s Shaolin brother joins the military and the two end up becoming enemies. It’s a fun movie once again with Jet Li in his prime doing plenty of Wire Fu.
This movie is utterly fantastic.
Jet Li plays Huo Yuanjia, the real-life teacher of the Chin Woo Athletic Association in China, who fictional Bruce Lee character Chen Zhen enacted his revenge on in Fist of Fury.
This film has a lot of heart and shows the path of Huo as a character goes from cocky and arrogant to a changed man looking for peace and friendship. Of course, it’s also packed with some spectacular martial arts action – some of the best in Jet Li’s career.
If you have never seen this movie, I highly recommend getting a copy!
As always there are a few films worth mentioning due to their significance. If you’re enjoying the Jet Li style, check these out too.
The Shaolin Temple
This 1982 film is Jet Li’s very first film.
Jet Li plays a young slave who escapes danger after a Tang Emperor is betrayed by one of his generals. He joins the Shaolin temple and learns their art and ways. They then work together in order to save the true emperor in this film which is based on Shaolin Folklore.
A fun film and of course, Jet’s first movie role, so it’s worth seeing 🙂
Leathal Weapon 4
This film was Jet Li’s debut in the United States, and boy were audiences impressed!
This film follows Riggs and Murtah, two cops investigating a group for illegal immigration and counterfeit money. Eventually, they meet the tried in control of the illegal operation, played by Jet Li, who gives them some trouble with his incredible and ruthless martial arts skills.
Jet plays an excellent bad guy in this film, with a piercing stare and presence that is backed up by his ruthless wushu style and insane speed. He’s the best Lethal Weapon villain in my opinion!
I highly recommend it!
Expendables 1 & 2
If you haven’t seen the Expendables Films, then you’re missing out on one of the biggest action star lineups of all time. Jet Li teams up with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Van Damme, Statham (etc), to create these fun action films.
Although not ‘martial arts’ films specifically, they do include brief moments of excellent martial arts choreography including Jet Li kicking ass with pots and pans, fighting Dolph Lundgren and some martial arts from Jason Statham (who Jet Li starred across in The One and War). Well worth the watch!
Jet Li is in the third film, but not for very long, hence I didn’t mention it.
Did I miss anything?
I know you may be a bigger Jet Li fan than I am! Chances are you have some favorites I didn’t mention for whatever reason so let’s hear all about it!
Jet is one of the greatest and most notable martial arts / kung fu stars of all time so his best films are some of the best in the genre. What have you seen that isn’t mentioned here?
Let me know by leaving a comment below, also if you want more information on action & martial arts movies, consider signing up for our email newsletter directly below – you get a nice freebie 😉