My all time favorite is Hero; I love to watch it on Valentine's Day. The colors, the fabrics, the story, the movement, the sets, the characters so well brought to life by the very talented actors, the cinematography - everything about it is great.
This genre has a lot of history - which mostly I don't concern myself with too much. But really, it's quite interesting. Wuxia, chambara etc. & then the intersection when people like Tarantino & Rob Marshall get involved - fascinating, truly.
So, these are some of the ones I like.
I've seen some over the years that, quite frankly I can't even remember the names to - maybe that's a sign that they're not worth remembering?
& I'm broadening my definition here.
Some of these movies are more about war & the narrative than kung fu. & some are from different martial arts traditions - other than kung fu - but the films all share a common thread.
& just for good measure I'll throw in Memoirs of a Geisha & Kung Fu Panda.
Memoirs because it still captures the incredible movement & fluidity that martial arts possess - along with great costumes, artistic vision & that entrancing balance of grace & power - quiet but bold.
& Kung Fu Panda franchise because it pays homage (in its own way) to the genre & everything I find so cool about it, including some mysticism & philosophical discourse (go figure).
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
As a general rule I tend to adore anything with Zhang Ziyi. I think she's brilliant - beautiful, strong & brilliant.
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)
This movie won a bunch of awards & it's easy to see why. With the biggest budget of any Chinese film (at that time), the costumes & sets are just lavish. And #1) that gives a very authentic feel to the imperial court and #2) it creates a very visually stunning film. However, this movie is really more plotting & deception that kung fu. Completely gorgeous though.
Hot air balloons? Really?
An Empress and the Warriors (2008)
Jackie Chan = awesome
The Drunken Master (1978)
Jet Li in Fearless (2006)
Iron Monkey (1993)
Once Upon a Time in China - The whole franchise
Ong Bak - The whole franchise.
I mean, where else can you get elephant kicks like this?
The (new) Dragon Inn aka the Dragon Gate Inn is a remake of a 1967 film.
& in my opinion, not that great... EXCEPT for the ending. The ending makes the entire movie. It's ridiculous in the best possible way - like crazy good.
Bruce Lee taking names at the Colosseum.
Way of the Dragon (1972) - Classic.
Enter the Dragon (1973)