MMA, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC, it’s all taken martial arts whole different level of popularity in the last 20 years.
While the sport itself, the events, the crowds and the passion is very mainstream, MMA movies still aren’t quite as common as you’d think. At least not good ones anyway.
There’s some really ordinary films out there starring UFC fighters but I don’t want to waste your time with the sub-standard films. We want solid action and film-making surrounding the theme of Mixed Martial Arts competition and style.
Regardless of what people say, MMA is as much a style these days as any traditional martial art with it’s specific outlook on unarmed combat with the blending of striking and grappling arts. This is very well represented in certain films.
So we’ve previously explored the MMA vs Martial Arts Movie entertainment argument, so let’s put the two together! Here are the top MMA Themed Martial Arts Movies currently out there!
Never Back Down
One of the earlier entries to explore MMA in film, this mainstream movie follows a young guy named Jake trying to fit in within his new town.
In identical fashion to the Karate kid, he meets a skilled bully who makes his life hell and learns MMA to fight back in a final competition at the end of the film. It has some decent fights and is a pretty entertaining film. Well worth a watch!
This is perhaps the most popular MMA film out there about two brothers competing against each other both inside and outside the Cage.
Whist it’s more a drama than an action film it does has some very cool fights mixed into the story and is quite authentic in it’s portrayal of Mixed Martial Arts.
This is one you shouldn’t miss on this list! It’s considered the king of MMA films by many.
Never Back Down 2: The Beat Down.
That’s right, there’s a sequel!
This film stars and is directed by Michael Jai White, continuing the tradition of ‘The Beatdown’ from the first film.
While not as smooth as the first, this film is more authentic in it’s martial arts themes and has some very cool moments woven into it, backed by some top MMA personalities.
This film is actually more of a thriller surrounding a Vietnamese gang kidnapping an undercover cop and his girlfriend.
The reason it’s here though is because Donnie Yen wanted to represent MMA within the fight scenes as a way of introducing it to Hong Kong movie goers. He uses MMA techniques and groundwork in the fights quite effectively and is one of the most outstanding martial arts action films ever made.
I highly recommend this film!
This is the film that highlighted the potential and skyrocketed the career of Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins.
It tells the story of a boxer named Chambers (Jai White) who is thrown into prison and must win a fight against their fight champion Boyka (Adkins) to win his freedom. What we get is an evolutionary training style for Chambers as he adapts and expands his arsenal from boxing to Mixed Martial Arts, including kicks, takedowns and grappling.
This film really makes a statement about MMA and martial arts in general and is an excellent watch.
Blood & Bone
This is a film about a guy named Bone (Michael Jai White) who steps into the underground MMA circuit to infiltrate the gang of a crime boss who had his best friend murdered in prison.
It’s a cool action film with some excellent fights, heaps of cameos from world class martial artists and insight into martial arts technique and strategy (within it’s fight scenes) and a fun, easy to follow story line.
If you want one of the best martial arts films of the last 20 years, pick Blood and Bone…. Or anything with Michael Jai White (or Scott Adkins) thats on this list!
This sequel to Undisputed 2 follows it’s villain, Boyka as he becomes the lead “good guy” of Undisputed 3. Living a life of regret for his previously selfish and horrible ways, he decides to turn his life around when an inter-prison tournament is announced that grants the winner freedom. So naturally, Boyka cleans himself up and enters.
While the conceptual message of the previous film isn’t as obviously present in this film, the mixing of styles is more diverse as Boyka’s MMA style enters an arena featuring boxing, muay thai and capoeira fighters to create some of the best fights scenes recorded.
This is considered to be Scott Adkins’ best action film and cannot be missed!
The Philly Kid
The Philly Kid is a film that follows a local MMA fighter and ex-con named Dillon “Philly Kid” Mcguire (Wes Chatham) as he tries to save his best friend from a ruthless Loan Shark.
The movie itself tells an interesting story in dramatic fashion whilst also featuring some nice MMA action. It’s a well put together and entertaining film. It’s primarily a drama with action mixed in but still worth watching if you like seeing Mixed Martial Arts in film.
Here comes the Boom
This film is comedy featuring Kevin James who plays a school Biology teacher named Scott Voss. After some extra curricular activities in the school are threatened to be removed due to financial shortages, Mr Voss steps up and enters the Mixed Martial Arts Circuit in an attempt to raise money and keep the activities going.
Voss is a a pretty unlikely candidate though as he isn’t very athletic and is seen as overweight and unfit. It’s a fun film with some good performances and good use of MMA – something Kevin James is heavily interested in and, according to friends, he is a skilled fighter.
This film also features some MMA personalities like Joe Rogan and Bas Rutten to add to its authenticity.
Green Street 3: Never Back Down
Green Street 3 the third film in the Green Street Hooligans franchise about the loud and violent soccer hooligans in Britain.
This film adds some martial arts and MMA credibility as it includes Scott Adkins, who plays professional MMA fighter Danny Harvey, who enters a team vs team Mixed Martial Arts fight circuit to get revenge for his dead brother.
The fights are solid and there’s some nice training sequences in this film. It’s definitely worth the watch for some entertainment.
The fourth film in the Undisputed franchise follows Boyka after he gets out of prison and is fighting in MMA to make his way into the big leagues.
After he accidentally kills his opponent in the ring, he vows to help his deceased opponent’s widow out after finding out she is in debt to loan shark. Boyka steps up to fight and defeat the Loan Shark’s fighters in order to wipe out her debt.
Another excellent Scott Adkins / Boyka outing with MMA style action and the energetic acrobatics that Adkins is known for. This is another must see.
Never Back Down 3: No Surrender
This is perhaps the best Never Back Down Film out there.
Jai White is back as Case and this time he’s helping a friend Brody (Josh Barnett) train for his championship fight in a big Mixed Martial Arts organisation. Case has trouble gaining acceptance from the rest of the camp for his unorthodox training methods and before long gains the attention of the corrupt promoters, who want to force Case to fight in place of Brody.
This film explores MMA and the concept of Karate being used effectively within it. It’s a solid film with some excellent fights that further elevate Michael Jai White’s collection of kick ass films.
The final film on this list, Red Belt, follows a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner and his quest to remain true to his values in a money hungry and corrupt world of professional fighting.
This film is more drama than action but has some very nice sequences showing off the martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu whilst promoting values and outlook on life and martial arts itself. It has some solid names in from the Machados, to Randy Couture and other MMA fighters as the lead character Mike Terry must fight in a Mixed Martial Arts tournament against his values in order to keep his BJJ club funded.
This film is very thought provoking and an excellent watch. I highly recommend it.
Did I miss anything?
I hope you enjoyed this post, if I missed a film you think should be included please leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading and I hope you have an excellent day!
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Great list Wade, I’ve watched them all and not just once! Have you watched “Unbeatable”? It’s a 2013 Hong Kong – Chinese film directed by Dante Lam, I am a fan of his movies by the way. It’s starred by Nick Cheung and Eddie Peng, I’m also a huge fan of those two. It might have the old story of “retired champion accepts to train an avid noob” but the stories behid these two characters and their troubled souls end up being an inspiring mix of laughs, tears, and sweat. And what makes it even special is that neither Nick nor Eddie are real martial artists themselves but if you look through YouTube the “making of” you’ll see that for example, Eddie Peng trained harder than an MMA athlete to make it look as real as possible. I soooo love that film, especially the training scenes. Hope you can check it out! Cheers!
Are you kidding me no IP man?
IP Man isn’t an MMA movie! But fantastic nonethless
A prayer before dawn….. Definitely worthy… Might be limited to just muay thai but any mma enthusiast would find it entertaining imo.
Awesome, I’ll check it out – I do intend on creating a Muay Thai list so that’d be a perfect fit and something I can link to from here.
The Aldo movie is called Stonger Than the World… it’s a cool movie and all, but it’s more a biopic than a MMA movie.
Ong bak 2, best mma movie.
i watch a film about aldo on netflix it was a great movie i dont remmber the name of the film
I’m always up for recommendations! Let me know if you remember
Stronger Than The World
‘Stronger Than The World’ is the name , but is published as ‘Mais Forte que o Mundo: A História de José Aldo’
Awesome, thanks for letting me I’ll check it out!
India’s Dangal movie u missed
Kickboxer Vengeance, Kickboxer Retaliation, and Female Fight Club are all pretty good as well.
True, note taken for the future update!
Another movie missing off the list is Unbeatable, similar to the Warrior, mostly a drama with some cool competition matches
Thanks mate for this great review, you pick all the best movies. Its awesome.
Thank you Mick!
You forgot the movies Clash with Johnny Nguyen and Special ID with Donnie Yen, otherwise good list although I would have left Warrior that movie is overrated