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The Top 5 Movies about Kung Fu and Chinese Culture

The Top 5 Movies about Kung Fu and Chinese Culture

Written by Candice SongUpdated Aug. 31, 2023
Chinese Kung Fu Movies

Kung fu is one of the representative symbols of Chinese culture, which has helped to develop Chinese stereotypes through kung fu movies. Nowadays, it is a popular activity, which is practiced to keep healthy and strong, for entertainment, and for combat training.

Here are our top five recommended movies for you to enjoy watching kung fu performances and to learn about kung fu culture.

1. Kung Fu Panda, 功夫熊猫

  • Released: 2008
  • Age rating: PG
  • Directors: John Stevenson, Mark Osborne
  • Hero: Po, a panda
  • Kung fu style: very physical, lots of belly bumps

The Plot

Kung Fu Panda's model

From humble noodle restaurant beginnings, Po wins a kung fu competition to choose a warrior to fight the evil Tai Lung.

He is encouraged by the kung fu master, Oogway, and finally receives kung fu training from Master Shifu.

After extensive training, Po becomes a kung fu master and finally defeats the evil Tai Lung, making the Valley of Peace a safe place.

Why It Is Recommended

Kung Fu Panda is set in ancient China, so it is one of the best movies to learn about traditional Chinese culture and kung fu.

It is a world-leading action-comedy martial arts animation. Enjoy an archetypal kung fu narrative in animation form.

2. Tai Chi Master (1993), 太极张三丰

Tai Chi
  • Released:1993 (a.k.a. Twin Warriors)
  • Age rating:12
  • Director: Yuen Woo-ping
  • Hero: Junbao, a moral and disciplined Shaolin monk
  • Kung fu style: Jet Li's graceful and powerful form of taichi

The Plot

Junbao (Jet Li) and Tianbao were friends in a Shaolin monastery. They are kicked out of the monastery for being too rowdy during a kung fu tournament.

Tianbao joins an oppressive army and seeks to get as much wealth and prestige as possible. Meanwhile, Junbao stands alongside the oppressed rebels. Tianbao betrays Junbao and his actions lead to the deaths of nearly all his friends.

Junbao becomesa master of tai chi and develops the martial art into a deadly form of fighting. He finally defeats his old friend Tianbao using this new kind of kung fu.

Why It Is Recommended

Tai chi is one of the most popular forms of kung fu in China. Many Chinese people practice tai chi to keep fit.

Through this movie, you can learn about the Taoist philosophy of the forces of yin and yang.

Jet Li performs graceful and powerful tai chi moves, which have impressed millions of tai chi fans.

3. The Way of the Dragon,猛龙过江

Kunf Fu Practice
  • Released: 1972
  • Age rating: 18
  • Director: Bruce Lee
  • Hero: Tang Lung, a top martial artist
  • Kung fu style: Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do
  • Why it's special: It's the only movie that Bruce Lee wrote, directed, and starred in.

The Plot

In Rome, Chen Ching-hua and her uncle Wang own a restaurant, but a mob boss wants to take it over.

Chen asks Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) to help herdefend the restaurant from the mobsters. He teaches the employees how to fight and defeat the mob.

The mob boss hires two martial artists — a Japanese and an American — to challenge Tang, and a brutal fight ensues.

Why It Is Recommended

It's unique: the only movie that Bruce Lee wrote, directed, and starred in.

The final scene, the fight between Lee and Norris is a highlight among kung fu movies.

The different fighting styles will help you learn the differences between traditional Chinese kung fu, Western boxing, and Japanese karate.

4. The Shaolin Temple,少林寺

Monks in Shaolin TempleMonks in Shaolin Temple.
  • Released: 1982
  • Age rating:18
  • Director: Chang Hsin Yen
  • Hero: Jue Yuan, a vengeful Shaolin monk
  • Kung fu style: Shaolin kung fu
  • Why it's special: Jet Li demonstrates Shaolin kung fu with a variety of weapons.

The Plot

A traitorous general overthrows the emperor then kills the father of a young boy, Jue Yuan, who escapes to the Shaolin Temple. The monks take him in and gradually begin teaching him kung fu.

Because Jue Yuan's heart is set on revenge, he violates the monks' no-kill philosophy. In a battle with the traitorous general, Jue Yuan defeats and kills him, finally executing revenge for the murder of his father.

Why It Is Recommended

The Shaolin Temple is the most famous kung fu school in China. If you want to get some basic knowledge about Shaolin kung fu, including fighting with a variety of weapons, this movie is a good choice.

It's a groundbreaker: the first Hong Kong movie to be filmed in mainland China.

5. The Karate Kid (2010),功夫梦/功夫小子

  • Released: 2010
  • Age rating: PG
  • Director: Harald Zwart
  • Heroes: Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his kung fu master, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan)
  • Kung fu style: a combination of East meets West, romance, and fighting
  • Why it's special: It's a Jackie Chan movie with a Karate Kid plot set in China.

The Plot

Chinese Morning ExercisePeople are doing morning exercise.

Dre Parker and his mother move from America to Beijing. Dre falls in love with Beijinger Meiying, a Chinese girl.

Meiying, however, has also attracted the attention of another boy, Cheng. Cheng uses kung fu to beat Dre in a fight at school.

Then Dre meets kung fu master, Mr. Han, who teaches Dre kung fu, before he faces Cheng again in a tournament.

Why It Is Recommended

It should be "The Kung Fu Kid". It's important to set the record straight that this movie is actually about kung fu, not karate.

It has the winning Karate Kid combination of East meets West, romance, fighting, and the rise of the underdog that was popular in the earlier Karate Kid movies.

Our kung fu movie list should have a Jackie Chan movie, and this one is the best for Chinese culture content. (Drunken Master (1978, 12) is also highly acclaimed as a (Jackie Chan) kung fu movie: great comedy, fights with animal and drunken kung fu styles, and a Chinese backdrop.)

Experience Kung Fu in China

Practice Tai Chi with LocalsPractice Tai Chi with locals.

Our tours are customizable, so you can discover more of what you're interested in

If you want to learn more about kung fu, then we can help you to enjoy a kung fu show in Beijing, practice taichi with the locals on Shanghai's Bund, or visit the Shaolin Temple and meet the monks who practice kung fu. Contact us for a tailor-made tour.

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