Probably no genre of movie is more prone to craziness than Kung Fu films. From over the top deaths to sorcery, dragons and totally insane fight scenes, Kung Fu movies can quickly get out of hand and lead to some pretty crazy stuff. Often times these movies are unintentionally funny or downright baffling. Yet Asian cinema continues to love Kung Fu films and audiences around the world do too. So here is a list of 10 of the craziest Kung Fu movies ever made:
10. Heart of a Dragon (1985)
This Kung Fu movie stars Asian martial arts masters Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung as two loving brothers. Sammo Hung’s character is mentally challenged and Jackie Chan’s character, a police officer, dutifully takes care of his handicapped brother. The only thing is that Sammo Hung’s mentally challenged character seems to forget he’s disabled every time he opens a can of whoop ass on someone—which is almost all of the time. And not surprising, as people in the movie start beating up Sammo Hung every time he makes a mistake. In one scene, handicapped Sammo Hung orders a meal and then realizes he doesn’t have quite enough money to pay for it. How do the staff at the restaurant respond? By attacking him with Kung Fu, of course. And how does Sammo Hung respond? By taking on the entire restaurant in a monstrous Kung Fu free for all. The good news is that Jackie Chan shows up just in time to get in on the action—Kung Fuing restaurant patrons right out the window. It’s pretty crazy.
9. The Crippled Masters (1979)
Remember in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the black knight has his arms and legs cut off but keeps on fighting? Well, The Crippled Masters takes this concept and treats it seriously. The movie is about two Kung Fu experts who are betrayed by their master—one has his arms cut off and the other has his legs cut off. So how do they respond to these indignities? By kicking some Kung Fu ass, of course. The two ‘crippled masters’ train with an old man (naturally) and re-learn how to do Kung Fu so they can find their old master and get revenge on him. Along the way, they are forced to fight just about everyone they come into contact with as people, for no apparent reason, seem to take exception to the fact that these guys are missing their arms and legs. At one point, a bunch of local villagers even throw the two main characters off a cliff after seeing them struggling by with their bloody stumps. Oh, the humanity! Of course, they learn to do Kung Fu pretty well for a guy with no arms and a guy with no legs.
8. Swordsman with an Umbrella (1970)
Part Enter The Dragon and part Mary Poppins, this is one strange movie. It is literally as the title suggests a film—about a swordsman who is out for revenge and fights his enemies using an umbrella. The weirdness meter hits “10” when the main character uses the umbrella to inexplicably fly through the air and from rooftop-to-rooftop à la Mary Poppins. The umbrella is also thrown like a Chinese star or Frisbee and decapitates some people. In fact, the umbrella seems to become whatever the swordsman needs at any given moment. The swordsman kind of MacGyver’s it into different shapes and objects. There’s also a lot of goofy cartoon sound effects and even some animation in this movie—which, believe it or not, is played completely straight. At no time is there any sense that this might be a comedy.
7. The Story of Ricky (1991)
For a Kung Fu gore fest, look no further than the 1991 movie The Story of Ricky. It stars Asian action hero Ricky Ho as a man who is sent to prison after killing the man who drove his girlfriend to commit suicide. In prison, Ricky must contend with a corrupt warden and numerous prison gangs, and decides to take it upon himself to clean up the system. It’s like the The Shawshank Redemption if everyone in that movie were constantly doing Kung Fu on each other. What makes this movie standout are the over the top death scenes. Characters in this movie have their heads clapped off and crushed like watermelons. At one point a gang member in this movie gets a crane in his eye. A crane! Another character falls face first onto a plank of nails. Fortunately for Ricky, he has superhuman strength and is immortal. Thank heavens! For pure overkill, few Kung Fu films can match The Story of Ricky.
6. They Call Me Phat Dragon (1979)
Another bizarre one starring Sammo Hung as an extremely fat Kung Fu master who trains his students using food. Say what? Believe it or not, it’s true. In one memorable scene, a famished student tries to cross a slippery kitchen tiled floor to get to his lunch before Sammo Hung finishes eating it. And what happens after every meal? A Kung Fu fight breaks out. This movie see-saws between grotesque scenes involving eating too much to grotesque scenes involving over the top fights. And why is it that when two people start a Kung Fu fight, everyone who passes by feels compelled to jump in until an entire village is Kung Fu fighting? That song “Everybody was Kung Fu fighting” definitely got it right.
5. Beverly Hills Ninja (1997)
Gotta give props to this Chris Farley masterpiece that is pure ridiculous fun and a send up of Kung Fu film conventions. The movie stars Farley as Haru, a totally out of place and inept Kung Fu protégé who travels to Beverly Hills to rescue a woman who’s been kidnapped. Featuring totally silly Kung Fu fights—one involving Chris Farley swinging dead fish around like nunchucks, as well as some sorcery and meditations in the clouds, this is a pretty outrageous Kung Fu film. And it never gets old seeing the overweight Chris Farley try to kick butt. There’s even some legitimate Kung Fu provided by martial artist Robin Shou, who plays Chris Farley’s competent half-brother Gobei. For a Kung Fu parody and a movie that is ridiculous on purpose, check out this vintage Chris Farley movie.
4. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Film critic Roger Ebert described Kung Fu Hustle as follows: “Imagine a film in which Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny.” That about sums up this totally weird Kung Fu film made by Steven Chow. One of the biggest hits ever in the Kung Fu genre, 2004’s Kung Fu Hustle is about gangsters in 1940s China who dance in perfect lock step with each other while wielding hatchets, shooting Tommy guns and running at light speed—all set to a soundtrack that includes the song “Ballroom Blitz.” The Kung Fu fights in this film are massive and feature a cast of hundreds, and the action is completely over the top—with bodies, limbs and objects flying every which way. For total insanity, there are few Kung Fu films that can match the wacky inventiveness of Kung Fu Hustle. The climactic battle features the axe carrying gangsters squaring off against a group of magical landlords who rule the local slum. And, of course, everyone in the movie is a Kung Fu master.
3. Ninja Hunter (1987)
Holy ninjas, Batman! There’s so much action in this movie, it’s like nobody had time to stop and write a screenplay or develop a story. This film has no discernible plot. It’s just 90 minutes of fighting and a whole lot of craziness. In this high kicking Kung Fu fest, ninjas douse themselves in acid before attacking their enemies; a ninja fight takes place with steak knives; one ninja transforms into a flying picnic blanket to attack his enemies; a man appears to absorb the life force of women; and one ninja shows up looking like Adolf Hitler, only he’s wearing cat ears. Why does any of this stuff happen? Can’t say. None of it is explained. Everybody is too busy fighting each other to stop and provide any explanations. At the end of this movie, I wasn’t even sure who the Ninja Hunter referred to in the title was. Totally nuts.
2. Legend of the Red Dragon (1994)
Jet Li is a legitimate martial arts action star, so it is strange to see him in this film from the start of his career. Based on a Japanese television series called Lone Wolf and Cub, this movie has Jet Li fighting numerous bad guys with his son in tow. And the movie has tons of weirdness in it. There are two Kung Fu masters who engage in a spitting fight and begin hurling loogies at each other for no discernible reason. Jet Li carries a magical spear that has its own super moves, and a character that Jet Li burns to death at the beginning of the film returns as a charred zombie who then turns into a car for no particular reason. But what seals the deal with this movie are the translated subtitles, which make no sense and are hilarious. At one point, Jet Li screams at an enemy: “I’m gonna eat that chicken’s ass!” Crazy, but true.
1. Five Venoms vs. Wu Tang (1978)
Five Venoms vs. Wu Tang is a zombie Kung Fu movie. (Yes, you read that correctly). The movie’s premise is about hopping zombies from Chinese folklore, and a magician who works to put the undead back in the ground and make sure they stay dead. That idea alone is pretty out there, but in this movie you also see the magician use a handwritten spell to take control of the zombies and make them do a calypso dance number. There is also a scene where a group of children engage in a Kung Fu fight to protect a baby Zombie and then return it to his zombie parents. Oh, and there is also a duel between two magicians who constantly sick the zombie hordes on each other. And, along the way, there are magical frogs and we see butterflies appear from the tips of swords. Weird, wonderful and wicked, this is one Kung Fu movie that goes to the extreme and then keeps right on going. A classic chop socky film, Five Venoms vs. Wu Tang takes the cake.