The Best Jackie Chan Fight Scenes
Jackie Chan has a new movie in theaters this week called The Foreigner. Directed by GoldenEye and Casino Royale’s Martin Campbell, the film mixes British politics with intense action, with Jackie on a relentless quest to find the people responsible for planting a bomb that killed his daughter. His search leads him to Pierce Brosnan’s sleazy government official, who he begins hounding for information. When Brosnan’s Liam Hennessy refuses to help Chan’s Quan, he goes off. Cue the Jackie Chan fight scenes!
For four decades, Chan has been one of the movies most dependable supplier of exciting, beautiful, hilarious action sequences. He claimed he was retiring from action earlier this decade, but if The Foreigner is any indication, it thankfully didn’t take. As a sort of internet appetizer for the main course of The Foreigner this weekend, I’ve assembled my personal list of 12 favorite fights from his long career. You might prefer others to the ones here, but I can guarantee these are all fantastic.
From Drunken Master II
Jackie Chan’s masterpiece may well be this 1994 sequel about a guy who becomes an unstoppable fighter when he’s blitzed (but not too blitzed, then he’s just sloppy). And Chan’s greatest fight scene ever might be the conclusion of this film, where he drunken fights the film’s bad guy in insane, remarkable fashion. When we talk about martial arts fight scenes we often discuss the choreography, the timing, the shot length. When I watch Drunken Master II I marvel at Jackie’s acting; how he does all of the physicality while giving this amazing performance as a dude drunk off his gourd.
The Ladder Scene
From Jackie Chan’s First Strike
Many of Jackie Chan’s best fights make clever use of props and his environment. In this standout sequence from Jackie Chan’s First Strike (AKA Police Story 4: First Strike), Jackie inventively incorporates tables, folding chairs, papers, sticks, scaffolding, and ladders. This is the one and only time in the history of cinema a man has looked cool wearing bright yellow overalls.
From Police Story
Pour yourself an Orange Julius and bask in the glory of this early Chan classic, an absurdly elaborate fight and chase through a shopping mall, distinguished by some jaw-dropping falls. And they don’t just crash into (and through) stuff; note the shot where Jackie wrecks a store display, and then slowly stumbles back to his feet and runs off. It’s not enough to do these wild stunts; they’ve got to be incorporated into the flow of the scene.
A Rumble, in the Bronx
From Rumble in the Bronx
Although he was already an international star for decades by the mid-’90s, this humble thriller became Jackie Chan’s U.S. breakthrough, hitting number one on the domestic box-office chart in its opening weekend. It’s certainly not Chan’s greatest film, but the rumbles deliver the goods, including this one inside a gang’s hideout. The stuff with the pool table and the bottle is unforgettable.
The Playground Fight
From Police Story 2
Jackie Chan is able to turn almost any setting into a jungle gym where he can do acrobatic stunts, so how about an actual jungle gym? This terrific tussle from Police Story 2 turns a child’s playground into a deadly battleground. This is found object choreography at its very best.
Jackie and the Jet
From Wheels on Meals
Though Jackie is generally at his best in fights that pit him against many opponents in prop-heavy environments, he has the skills and the speed to do mano-a-mano sequences as well. This justifiably famous scene from the evocatively titled Wheels on Meals sees him square off with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, a legitimate kickboxing champion. Benny gets the coolest moment, when he blows out a bunch of candles with a single kick, but the whole thing is great.
From Shanghai Knights
Jackie’s American productions rarely matched his Chinese films for audacity and intricacy. This busy chase in a bustling Western marketplace is one of the few that manages to capture the energy and spirit of Chan’s best work. There’s props galore, beautiful movements, and wacky comedy all rolled into one. The gag with the canopy launching the guy into the air alone makes it a must on this list.
Marvel at this Two-On-One
From Dragon Lord
The stereotypical Jackie Chan hero is the underdog in every fight, outmatched against impossible odds where he runs, punches, and kicks for his life against entire squads of baddies. This outstanding scene from 1982’s Dragon Lord (which Chan directed as well as starred in) actually reverses that dynamic; here he’s one of several guys fighting a lone master.
Never Get Into a Fight in a Wind Tunnel
From Armour of God II: Operation Condor
One of the coolest visual ideas in all of Jackie’s films: A fight in a gigantic, working wind tunnel. The choreography isn’t elaborate and the speed isn’t there, but there’s nothing quite like watching these men lean and fly as they exchange blows.
From Who Am I?
Jackie’s sense of humor is basically unparalleled in his field. This scene starts with him kicking a guy in the shins over and over until they have to stop and rub their legs because they’re both sore. There are some great traditional thrills in this scene (kicking someone as they dangle from a great height is always fun) but I just love the humanity and the whimsy of that moment. Jackie isn’t a superhero, despite all his athleticism. And that’s why we love him.
Another classic riff on the Jackie formula: Cramped quarters, waves of bad guys to fight, unexpected weapons, and astounding acrobatics. I don’t need to know how to punch or kick like Jackie Chan, but just once in my life, I’d love to do that cool move where he bounces to his back and immediately kips back up to his feet.
Sometimes Simple Is Best
We can all think of examples of action stars for whom fight scenes are less about excitement than a form of very expensive PR; puffing up their public images as unstoppable badasses. That’s never been Jackie Chan’s way. Throughout his career he’s been a giving scene partner who’s more than willing to let his onscreen opponents shine. This sequence is a showcase for Brad Allan, one of the members of Chan’s stunt team, and a stunt choreographer in his own right. The delightful part where the fight organically transforms into a dance routine lays bare the connective tissue between musicals and martial-arts movies.
From Dragons Forever
Jackie Chan: Keeping the stunt glass industry in business for 40 years.
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