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These Are the Best Hong Kong Action Movies Ever

Great action movies have long been in the mainstream for generating a sense of excitement and adrenaline in the audience. It is without doubt that any great action movie will have fans believing they could take on the antagonist and complete the crazy, dangerous stunts depicted in the movie. The difficult and demanding action adventure movies are loved and appreciated worldwide, and it must be said that Hong Kong has contributed to some of the most action-packed and inspiring movies of all time.

These include some of the best action sequences of all time, especially impressive martial arts scenes. Although it is important to clarify the distinction between martial arts and Kung Fu within the action genre, as there’s a whole range of great martial arts movies that should likely stand on their own as a subgenre, set apart from more modern, action-packed films that rely on gunfights. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the greatest Hong Kong action movies that all include the qualities of the best classic action movie — car chases, plenty of bloody fistfights, balletic gunfights, and even the occasional robbery.

Updated on December 8th, 2023: Fans of Hong Kong action movies will be pleased to hear this list has been updated with even more movies and information.

10 Fallen Angels (1995)

Fallen Angels tells the tale of an assassin who looks to cut ties with his criminal career and his partner, who, unbeknownst to him, is in love with him. Quickly, this becomes a story of crossing paths, love, loss, and devastation against the backdrop of Hong Kong.

What Makes Fallen Angels So Good?

A film that has the same genetic make-up as the likes of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s 21 Grams, Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia in the way its characters are all inextricably interlinked with little knowledge of the poignancy of these ties. This is a potent character study and one that sees its titular protagonists deliver seriously rich performances. Stream on Prime Video.

9 Ip Man (2008)

2008’s Ip Man gave birth to an entire franchise, with a further five films being produced thereafter. However, it is the first installment that remains unparalleled. Set during the Japanese invasion of China, a dexterous martial artist, like thousands of others, is forced to abandon the life he knows and loves. Finding himself in Japanese-occupied territory, facing starvation along with his people, Yip must very literally, fight for survival.

Why Ip Man is Such a Brilliant Watch

This biopic, with the unassuming martial arts guru at its helm, is an utter delight. This true story of the courageous Yip, the man responsible for training the late, great Bruce Lee, is not only a brilliantly well-executed action drama with fly-kicks, and finger-jabs aplenty, but also a greatly inspiring chronicle of a man unburdened by fear and guided by a moral duty to his people. Stream on YouTube, Peacock, and Tubi.

8 Infernal Affairs (2002)

A film for the ages, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s all-absorbing, Infernal Affairs offers an enthralling number of twists and turns as it details the story of a burgeoning Police officer placed undercover in a notorious criminal gang while a member of the said crime organization becomes a mole in the police force. Facing a race against time to sniff the other out, it’s a case of whoever pulls the trigger first.

Why Infernal Affairs is a Masterpiece

It is no secret that Martin Scorsese was so enamored with Infernal Affairs, that he essentially ripped it off by creating The Departed in the film’s likeness. This Hong Kong action-crime-thriller is a lesson in how to create a truly affecting and perpetually riveting on-screen affair. Infernal Affairs is so much more than a classic cat-and-mouse story, it’s a palpably tense, suspense-filled saga of two up-and-comers looking to make a name for themselves. Rent on Prime Video and Apple TV+.

7 A Better Tomorrow (1986)

This 1986 action movie, directed by John Woo, had a profound influence on Hong Kong cinema and is still considered a landmark film that spurred on an array of bloodshed-filled, action-packed films. The story follows the relationship of Tse Ho, a top triad member and criminal, with his adopted brother from the organization, Mark “Gor” Lee, and his actual brother, Tse Kit, who has just graduated from the Police Academy.

Why Better Tomorrow is a Hong Kong Great

The movie is recognized for its machine-gun violence and intense moments of male bonding, as well as snippets of humor. A Better Tomorrow is filled with themes of redemption, grief, and morality, following the tense relationship story between the brothers after the death of their father. With both guns blazing, this action movie is an absolute classic. Stream on Pluto TV.

6 The Killer (1989)

Just a few years after A Better Tomorrow kickstarted John Woo’s movie career, 1989’s The Killer shot it straight into the limelight and at the time of its release it was one of the most successful action films coming from Hong Kong. The film is about Ah Jong, who is a brutal assassin, but during a job, he accidentally blinds an innocent woman. Even though he had previously decided to quit, he decides, instead, to take on one last job, in order to raise money to reimburse the girl.

What Makes The Killer Such a Seminal Movie?

The Killer is full of John Woo’s well-known trademarks as a filmmaker — slow motion, incredible gun shooting sequences, and impressive camera shots, all of which add to the tension and classic action movie atmosphere, making The Killer a rip-roaring depiction of a mega-hunt for forgiveness and a desperate attempt to attain redemption. Currently unavailable to stream.

5 Hard Boiled (1992)

Released in 1992, Hard Boiled is still considered one of Hong Kong’s best action movies and one of the best films of all time. When a cop loses his partner in a shoot-out, he works with an undercover officer working as a gangster hitman, on a mission to find the gun smugglers that killed his partner.

Why Hard Boiled Is Such a Compelling Movie

As expected, the movie is action-packed and, of course, brutal and bloody, which every action fan loves to see. Not to mention that this movie was action at its craziest, with stunts like never before, and undoubtedly set the bar extremely high for the future of action movies both in and out of the Hong Kong film scene. John Woo is in fine form as the aptly named Bartender. Rent on Prime Video.

When Jeff, who works as a nightclub bouncer in Bangkok, saves his friend Sam from a beating by the local loan shark, the two team up with Sam’s cousin Judge to rob an arms shipment. The loan shark must then persuade Judge to turn against him.

Related: Best Martial Arts Movies from the ’70s, Ranked

Why Full Contact is One of the Best Hong Kong Action Movies

1992 Hong Kong action movie, Full Contact, is a suspense-filled epic, perennially balanced on a knife edge. While there is substance aplenty, it is Full Comtact‘s characters, who are, of course, insanely cool, especially among the action sequences. Throughout the film, themes of loyalty, betrayal, and redemption are all explored, though there are several plot twists keeping it unpredictable, meaning the audience is kept on tenterhooks. Currently unavailable to stream.

3 Police Story (1985)

Police Story is a 1985 Hong Kong action movie, starring and produced by Jackie Chan. The story follows Chan’s character, Kevin Chan, trying to protect the girlfriend of a gangster from being abducted and killed, but must clear his own name after being accused of murder.

Why Police Story is Great

Of course, in true action style, there are a lot of twists in the script and brilliant physical acting, like brutal fight scenes and crazy stunts. The movie was a massive hit and played overseas in arthouse cinemas and was a pivotal role in Chan’s career. Police Story was the first of a brilliant action film series. It was so successful that it led to three sequels, a spin-off, and two reboots, but the original remains one of the best detective movies from the ’80s and one of the best action films of its decade. Stream on Max and Prime Video.

2 Long Arm of the Law (1984)

1984’s Long Arm of the Law brought a more realistic view of criminal life to Hong Kong cinema screens and paved the way for action filmmakers. The story follows a gang of thieves who have taken up temporary residence in Hong Kong to plot a robbery on a jewelry store. Each one of them plans on taking their gains to the mainland and living filthy rich. However, things don’t go to plan and quickly spiral out of control, tackling mayhem on the streets of Hong Kong.

Why Long Arm of the Law is Such a Hit

The gritty film utilizes the crime genre to create an explosive gun-filled thriller, whilst also looking at the issue of Hong Kong’s strained relationship with Mainland China. With perfectly timed pacing and potent antagonists, who are seriously unlikable, Long Arm of the Law is irrefutably one of the best Hong Kong action flicks of all time. Stream on Prime Video and YouTube.

1 A Hero Never Dies (1998)

The 1998 Hong Kong action crime drama A Hero Never Dies was directed by the brilliant Johnnie To and was his first of many great works for Milkyway Images. The action movie is a violent tale of Triad rivalry and friendship in the middle of gang violence.

Related: Best Hong Kong Action Movies from the 90s, Ranked

Why A Hero Never Dies is the Best Hong Kong Action Film of All Time

It has been likened to the 1986 film A Better Tomorrow, as both men are betrayed and deceived by their bosses, but To’s specific trademarks as a director make the film transcend any influences and lead the way for 21st-century Hong Kong cinema. The movie is filled with visually impressive action that is spread throughout to keep the audience entertained with classic action characteristics, like plenty of shocking shootouts and a magnificent finale. Stream on iq.com.


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