Top 5 Jackie Chan Movies for Newcomers

With the release of Jackie Chan’s The Foreigner (trailer) in theatres on 10/13 I think a lot of people will be asking themselves “Oh yeah, what ever happened to Jackie Chan?” The reality is, Chan has never stopped working. He has actually starred in over 25 movies since 2007’s Rush Hour 3, the film you probably last remember him from. He has voiced animated characters like Monkey in the popular Kung Fu Panda series, played a part in The Karate Kid reboot, and even co-starred alongside Johnny Knoxville in last year’s Skiptrace. So please, don’t call it a comeback. Below you’ll find a list of the best Jackie Chan movies through the years. Consider this a beginner’s guide to the most influential martial artist to hit the screen since Bruce Lee. 

jackie chan legend drunken master

The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)

In this film Chan plays a young martial artist who unintentionally gets himself caught in the middle of a dispute between a group who wants to export Chinese artifacts outside of the country and those who want them to remain in China. The young martial artist practices the fighting style known as Drunken Boxing, an ancient technique where the user becomes more fluid and powerful the more intoxicated he becomes. As you’d imagine, watching Chan stumble across the screen while gracefully taking down an entire army of local mobsters is not only hilarious, but hypnotic. The film adds a level of depth to the plot by making Chan’s father a pacifist who is against any form of violence. Hands down, this is the most well rounded film starring Jackie Chan and is a must see for all fans of martial arts.

jackie chan rumble bronx

Rumble in the Bronx (1995)

The mid-90s were a fantastic time for Jackie Chan fans. 1995-2003 are easily the most impactful years in Chan’s career and Rumble in the Bronx is arguably the film that kickstarted everything as it was his debut into Hollywood films. This time around Chan’s character Keon is traveling from Hong Kong to New York for his uncle’s wedding. While his uncle is on his honeymoon Keon is left in charge of his uncle’s convenience store. After protecting a friend, Keon stumbles into a fight with a local gang (a common martial arts trope), who then retaliate in a major way. At this point in his career, Chan is in the best shape of his life and has more energy than Jean Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger combined. This movie is often overshadowed by the immensely popular Rush Hour film which was released a few years later in 1998, which is sad because quite frankly this one is better.

jackie chan rush hour

Rush Hour (1998)

While Rumble in the Bronx may have been Jackie Chan’s debut into Hollywood films, he wasn’t a certified megastar until he paired up with Chris Tucker for Rush Hour a few years later. The film is a classic buddy cop action flick. The film relies heavily on the characters’ differences in culture, Chan being a reserved Beach Boys loving police officer from Hong Kong and Tucker being a loudmouth DMX loving cop from Los Angeles. In 2000 we saw the release of Shanghai Noon, a similar “buddy cop” film from Chan, this time starring Owen Wilson, which aside from the setting is very similar. Both films are great, but Rush Hour makes the list because of the influence it had on Chan’s career. To date there have been 3 Rush Hour films with Rush Hour 4 being rumored by Chan himself.

jackie chan fearless hyena

The Fearless Hyena (1979)

The Fearless Hyena is one of Jackie Chan’s earlier films and is included on this list because it is not only a great piece of classic Kung Fu film history it also marks Chan’s debut in directing. Yes, that’s right Jackie Chan has directed many of his films and this is where it all began. If you’ve ever watched an older Kung Fu film, this plot may sound familiar: a young martial artist living in a remote village is repeatedly told by his grandfather (and Kung Fu master) to not use his Kung Fu in public, which he of course does. This leads to the death of his grandfather, an incredible training montage, and a tale of revenge. If you’re a fan of Dragon Ball Z, then you’ll have extra incentive to check this out as the author of the Dragon Ball manga, Akira Toriyama, has said this film was a huge inspiration for his story.

jackie chan adventures cartoon

Jackie Chan Adventures (2000-2005)

So this one might be cheating, but it’s so good that I couldn’t leave it off. Jackie Chan Adventures was an animated TV series for WBKids that aired for 5 seasons. The show featured Jackie Chan as an archaeologist who discovers a magical talisman. He fights alongside his uncle and niece to protect the talisman from falling into the wrong hands. The show’s art style is bright, colorful, and a mix between American and Asian animation. Jackie Chan himself voices his character for all 95 episodes. The show also spawned a half decent Playstation 2 game of the same name. Check this out to see Chan’s first foray into animation.

There you have it, the Top 5 Jackie Chan films you need to check out in order to be up to speed on his extensive film career. I mentioned at the beginning of this list that Jackie Chan has been actively making films his entire career, but as you’ll notice there was a time when he was at his prime, firing off hit after hit. Unfortunately, after 2003 he released a string of flops which is why you probably thought he has been inactive. I think his luck is going to change with the release of The Foreigner, a high action suspense film in the vein of Taken. Be on the lookout for The Foreigner hitting theatres on 10/13, I know I’ll be there opening night.

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