10 Best Jackie Chan Movies
Sometimes he is better known to American audiences for his work with Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films or with Owen Wilson in the Shanghai franchise, but there is much more to Jackie Chan’s story. He began his career in the 1960s as a child actor in Hong Kong cinema. As a teenager he began doing stunt work in some of Bruce Lee’s films and eventually began receiving roles as an actor. In the early 1980s, he came to Hollywood with the intention of breaking into the American film industry. After an underwhelming couple years, he returned to Hong Kong. It was then, in 1983, that he began creating action comedies — films that remain some of Jackie’s best work even today. More than a decade later, with Rumble in the Bronx, Jackie did indeed break through to American audiences. Deservedly so—he is a marvel in front of the camera. He is a one-in-a-million talent—a master martial artist with the comedic sensibility of the silent-era clowns. He can communicate without so much as a word, through facial expression and pure physicality. He’s as funny as Buster Keaton. His action sequences are as intricate as ballet and as gutsy as anything Tom Cruise has done in the Mission: Impossible films.
Jackie Chan himself considers Police Story to be his best action film. He plays Inspector Chan Ku-Kai, a highly skilled police detective who is forced to become a fugitive when he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit. With the help of his girlfriend May — played by Maggie Cheung — he must clear his name. The film displays Jackie’s comedic timing and some of his most inventive prop work—in one sequence he uses a clothing rack to fight off henchmen. It is nothing short of a masterpiece.
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Rumble in the Bronx (1995)
Rumble in the Bronx is largely credited for bringing Jackie Chan to mass American audiences. He plays Ma Hon Keung, a man who comes from Hong Kong to the New York City borough for his uncle’s wedding. Keung attempts to help his uncle’s supermarket transition to its new owner Elaine. As a result, he quickly finds himself in an adversarial relationship with a small local gang who terrorizes the store. As if that is not enough, he also finds himself the target of a crime syndicate when their stolen diamonds end up in his possession.
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Drunken Master II (1994)
Released in the United States as The Legend of the Drunken Master in 2000, Drunken Master II is more a reboot of the original 1978 Drunken Master rather than a sequel. In both films, Jackie Chan plays Wong Fei-hung — a Chinese martial artist and folk hero who fights in a style known as “drunken boxing.” When Fei-hung inadvertently steals an antique Jade Seal, he finds himself the target of a corrupt British officer and his many lackeys. Watching Jackie play as a drunkard while doing gravity-defying stunts is a genuine delight.
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Project A (1983)
Project A was the first action comedy made by the triumvirate of Jackie, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao — all of whom went to the same boarding school They are often referred to as the “Three Brothers.” Jackie plays Dragon Ma, a 19th century Hong Kong Marine Police Sergeant. He discovers a conspiracy between the police force and pirates who have been terrorizing the area and seeks to uncover it. Project A is an incredibly funny film and features what is probably the most incredible stunt sequence ever done with a bicycle.
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Wheels on Meals (1984)
Wheels on Meals is another film made by the “Three Brothers.” Jackie and Yuen Biao play cousins who run a food truck in Barcelona. They find themselves both enamored by an enigmatic woman named Sylvia. This fascination gets the two cousins into trouble because of her connection to a criminal gang. The film builds to an incredible climactic battle and features an exciting — and fitting for its location — trumpet-centric score.
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Drunken Master (1978)
As in its successor Drunken Master II (also known as Legend of the Drunken Master), Jackie Chan plays folk hero Wong Fei-hung. His father punishes him for his unsavory behavior by forcing him to learn martial arts from a brutal trainer named Beggar So. Wong learns from him a boxing style called “the Eight Drunken Immortals.” While resistant to it at first, he commits fully to Beggar So’s teachings when Wong’s path intersects with a man named Yim Tit-sam, who uses a deadly fighting style called the “Devil’s Kick.” The film may be a very early example of Jackie’s action-comedy, but it is no less successful at synthesizing the two into a very satisfying piece.
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Police Story 2 (1988)
In Police Story 2, Jackie Chan reprises his role as Chan Ka-Kui, but he has been demoted from police detective to the highway patrol unit. The mob boss he put away in the first film — Chu Tao — has been released from prison after being diagnosed with a terminal illness and he vows revenge on Ka-Kui. Chu Tao successfully pushes him to resign from the police force entirely—but Ka-Kui cannot resist the call of duty for very long, especially after his girlfriend May is kidnapped. While it is not as front-to-back flawless as the original Police Story, the film is very fun and has no fewer breathtaking stunt sequences.
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The Fearless Hyena (1979)
The Fearless Hyena was Jackie Chan’s directorial debut. He plays Ching Hing-lung, a naive young martial artist who lives with his grandfather. He finds a job teaching kung fu at a nearby martial arts school, which draws unwelcome attention from a cruel martial arts master who finds and kills Ching Hing-lung’s grandfather, and naturally, he seeks revenge. Among its many great qualities, The Fearless Hyena is the originator of the trope in which combatants use chopsticks as weapons.
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Armour of God (1986)
In Armour of God, Jackie plays an Indiana Jones-inspired treasure hunter named Asian Hawk. His friend and former bandmate come to him asking for help — his girlfriend has been kidnapped by a religious cult, and to get her back, they must acquire all of the pieces of the so-called artifact the “Armour of God” for the cult. Full of car chases and big fake sets, it’s an incredibly campy film, but unarguably thrilling.
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Project A Part II (1987)
In Project A Part II, Jackie reprises his role as Sergeant Dragon Ma, but unlike the original, the film does not feature either of the other two “Three Brothers” Sammo Hung or Yuen Biao. Dragon is given charge of his own police force in the district of Sai Wan, most of whom are corrupt. With little help, Dragon finds himself with enemies in every direction as pirates, revolutionaries and a corrupt police superintendent all have an interest in him. While Hung and Biao are sorely missed, the addition of Maggie Cheung is welcome and it continues to illustrate the immersive excitement Jackie has made himself known for.
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