Favorite Kung Fu Films From Muay Thai Champ Johnny Hunt

Formerly world-ranked Muay Thai champ-turned-celebrity martial arts trainer Johnny Hunt—who spent some of his formative training and fighting years in Thailand, Japan, and China—is a true foreign film nerd, with a particular affinity for Asian cinema. Everything from the legendary Kurosawa films and the days of John Woo and Wong Kar-wai to the more recent masterpieces coming out of Korea and everything in between. In honor of his Shaolin Kung-Fu themed collaboration with popular athletic brand Roots of Fight dropping today, we asked him to give us a few of his favorite kung fu films—impossible as it was to narrow down.

Iron Monkey (1993)

“Possibly my favorite martial arts film of all time. The original Chinese release with the original musical score—not to be confused with the American re-release, in which there were some unfortunate and inaccurate modifications made to it. I love Tarantino, he’s one of my favorites, but he did this film ugly. This original masterpiece was directed by the legend Yuen Woo-Ping starring Donnie Yen in his prime—one of the best on-screen martial artists of all time. Rongguang Yu is an actor not a ton of people are familiar with, but he’s a freak, he’s so ridiculously good. Him and Donnie Yen, at the top of their game, have some of the best fight scenes ever captured on screen. I must have watched it 100 times, and every time I watch it in awe.”

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Drunken Master II (1994)

“We’re talking about Jackie Chan, who needs no introduction. The king of kung fu films throughout the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s. The finale scene between Jackie Chan and Ken Lo—who also happened to be his bodyguard in real life at the time—is regarded to be one of the greatest fight scenes on film. As far as I’m concerned, Jackie Chan put drunken-style kung fu on the map. Chan came up and developed an entire style for the film. It’s awesome.”

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

“This movie basically introduced kung fu to the United States, along with The Matrix. What it had, unlike so many of those early kung fu films from the ’70s and ’80s is a pretty considerable budget compared to most martial arts films before it, as well as the top talent at the time. It’s a real who’s who of that genre. And, once again, the greatest fight coordinator of all time, Yuen Woo-Ping, handling all of the action scenes. Ang Lee directed, of course—he’s basically a God. Him and John Woo came to the US as absolute masters of cinema, but as they made American films had to deal with a lot more parameters that didn’t do justice to their brilliance. Of course, Lee made so many fantastic films, but this is one of his best.”

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Kung Fu Hustle (2005)

“Stephen Chow directed and starred in this film, which is a true homage to all the kung fu films past. It’s a masterpiece in the way it references and weaves in all of the different themes throughout those old films. If you know kung fu films, you’ll spot so many familiar themes and story lines, and the way it mixes humor with action. Not unlike Tarantino did with so many of his movies, Stephen Chow was clearly paying tribute to that entire era of martial arts movies. That’s why it won everything. It blew up overseas. Here, it probably went over some people’s heads. I love this film. It’s just so good.”

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Enter The Dragon (1973)

“How do you even tackle this one, right? It’s such an iconic film. It introduced the world the one and only Bruce Lee. Unless you’re a real kung fu film maniac, you probably hadn’t seen too much of his previous work. This was the one. Tragically, he never even got to see the reaction it got around the world because he died before its release. It premiered in LA one month after he died. It went on to gross 350 million dollars. That’s equivalent to one billion today. It was one of the most profitable films of all time, as well as the most profitable martial arts film ever. There’s a lot of rabbit holes you could get into of conspiracies about his death around that film, but we won’t go there. It’s such a special moment in cinema history. It birthed him. How iconic is he? He’s like a Muhammad Ali. There’s only one of these guys coming around every lifetime. He’s literally one in a billion. Not a million, a billion.”

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Hero (2002)

“I don’t even know where to start. You’ve got Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi—and my favorite Chinese actor Tony Leung —he’s not a kung fu guy, but he’s my favorite of the ’80s and ’90’s. He’s ridiculous, he was in so many great films. And he’s still around too. Anyone ever heard of Hard Boiled? That’s directed by John Woo. And he works like crazy today still. I digress. This movie came out two years after Crouching tiger. They threw down another masterpiece. The visuals and the colors are stunning. These big widescreen shots with these vibrant colors. And it has another iconic fight scene between Jet Li and Donnie Yen.”

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Jet Li, Hero, 2002