‘Once Upon a Time in China’ and Four More Films For Jet Li’s’ Birthday

It’s Jet Lis’ birthday! To mark the occasion, here are five of his best non-Hollywood performances. Check some of these out.

Once Upon a Time in China (1991)

Once Upon a Time in China is probably Jet Li’s best-known Hong Kong martial arts film. It was a box office hit and is largely credited with starting the period martial arts craze of the early to mid-1990s. The reason for this is simple. Blistering action. It has a bit of everything, from brilliant work on ladders to spectacular fights during torrential downpours of rain. It’s a pleasure to watch. The plot on the other hand is all over the place, with convoluted subplots and multiple warring factions. But none of that really matters when the action is this good.

Tai Chi Master (1993)

I’m a massive fan of Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh. So when I found out there was a martial arts movie that featured both and had somehow passed me by, it’s safe to say I was pretty excited. My expectations were high and I wasn’t disappointed. Tai Chi Master features an abundance of ‘wire fu’, and with two great performances from the ass-kicking leads, it’s an insane amount of fun. 

Fist of Legend (1994)

A remake of  Bruce Lee’s 1972 film Fist of Fury, Fist of Legend is set at the beginning of the Second World War, as the Imperial Japanese Army is stationed in Shanghai, China. Neither side is portrayed as the good guys or the bad guys in a refreshing change for the genre. Some fantastic set pieces and bone-crunching action make it a must-watch. You can read my full review here

Hero (2002)

One of the most beautiful films ever made, Hero’s use of colour as a storytelling technique is pretty spectacular. A different colour is used to theme each story that is retold, helping each of them stand out and feel completely unique. Hero became the first Chinese-language movie to place No. 1 at the American box office, where it stayed for two consecutive weeks. Jet Li had a big part to play in that, with his usual blend of flawless martial arts skills and acting. A masterpiece.

The Legend of Fong Sai-yuk  (1993)

If you’re familiar with Hong Kong martial arts films from the 1990s, you’ll be familiar with the goofy comedy that’s often interlaced in between the action. No other film exemplifies this blend better than The Legend. The chemistry between Josephine Siao (playing Li’s mother) and Li is constantly laugh-out-loud funny. Add in some amazing choreography including a jaw-dropping scene atop a bamboo frame, and you have another classic. 

What are some of your favorite films to feature birthday boy Jet Li?

Author: Lee McCutcheon

Happy to watch absolutely anything, with a soft spot for world cinema.