Do you remember the old Shaw Brothers martial arts movies? Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the pioneering and hard working Shaw Brothers produced a vast number of martial arts movies, and if you’re a kung-fu cinema fan worth your salt, you’ll have seen many of these Hong Kong films.
While piracy and the rise of television forced them to cease their movie-making operations in the early 1980s, today, Shaw Brothers films are renowned among kung-fu aficionados.
Here are ten landmark Shaw Brothers classics that aren’t necessarily their best work, but are all definite must-watch movies for martial arts buffs.
- King Boxer / The Five Fingers of Death / The Invincible Boxer
The success of this movie, starring Indonesian martial artist Lo Lieh, is mainly responsible for the eventual popularity of Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon, as it was one of the first films to mix the traditional martial arts style with more dramatic western elements.
- 36 Chambers of the Shaolin / Shaolin Master Killer
This film is regarded as one of the most influential martial arts movies of the whole genre, launching its star Gordon Lui as a kung-fu icon.
- The Five Deadly Venoms
The Five Deadly Venoms remains one of the Shaw Brothers’ biggest international successes — cementing its place as one of the most influential kung-fu movies of all time.
- Heroes of the East / Challenge of the Ninja / Shaolin Challenges Ninja
This Shaw Brothers production is a little different from their usual fare, as it also includes elements of comedy and romance, as well as Japanese elements. And no one dies!
- The New One-Armed Swordsman / Temple Irons
This film, which is considered a successor to the original One-Armed Swordsman movie (which is also a classic), is well-executed technically.
- Chinese Super Ninjas / Super Ninjas / Five Element Ninjas
This Shaw Brothers production is their take on the highly popular ninja genre that arose in the 1980s – meaning more blood and gore!
- The Crippled Avengers / Return of the Deadly Venoms / Mortal Combat
Considered by many to be the best of the Shaw Brothers’ Venom series, this film is extremely stylized and fast-paced.
- The Boxer From Shantung
This movie is a rags-to-riches story, highlighting a young martial artist’s adventures in the city. It is a film highly regarded for its epic sequences.
- The Flying Guillotine
A Shaw Brothers film that emphasizes the use of a unique Chinese weapon — the eponymous flying guillotine. This dreaded instrument of death is a bladed object strapped to a chain, and it was this movie that made it memorable in martial arts cinema.
- Dirty Ho
Well-known for its comedy and cleverly choreographed fight sequences, Dirty Ho, involves the main character having to hide his martial arts skills from those around him.
Have you seen any of these films? What other Shaw Brothers movies would you recommend?