5 Great Hand-to-Hand Combat Movies

Because who doesn’t love some movie in between face punches. Sometimes we see an absolutely terrific movie with well-drawn characters, a riveting script, terrific acting, elegant score, grandiose emotional swells— and realize we will never watch it ever again.  

But then there are wince-at-the-screen-while-a-mother-fucker-gets-throat-punched fighting movies. These movies can be watched over and over. Here are some hand-to-hand action movies that are always worth a revisit.

THE RAID (2011)

In the simplest of concepts, reminiscent of Game of Death, Iko Uwais is a cop with a bounty on his head, fighting his way to the top of a drug lord-infected tenement building. This movie has everything you want—a mob boss in front of a sliver bank of surveillance screens, family infighting, and a light bulb smashing fight finale that is worth the subtitles.


Sitting on your couch, you will look to your right and left numerous times to see if anyone else thinks this movie is as relentless as you do. Nonstop. This type of action can only be accomplished when a stunt man is directing, and a guy who knows how to actually ride a motorcycle IRL is handling the bike.

ROCKY IV (1985)

Did you know Dolph Lundgren is a Rhodes Scholar? Did you know he’s Swedish, not Russian? The only thing that helps you understand why there was a Cold War more than our last election is Rocky IV. This quotable blockbuster is the best fourth installment of any franchise I know.


Tony Jaa consistently impresses the audience by the sheer concept that someone so tiny could annihilate so much. While the fights are amazing, as Tom Brady would say – it’s the muscle pliability that prevents injury. Half circus contortionist, half lethal fighter, the stunts lead one to wonder how many bones were shattered in the making of this movie. With sliding splits under a moving car serving as the iconic trailer moment, this Thai cinematic gem almost hurts your balls it’s so good.

KILL BILL VOL. 1 AND 2 (2003, 2004)

No filmmaker knows and understands the history of international action films better than Quentin Tarantino. Easter egg eye-winks are too numerous to even begin to discuss, so just sit back and appreciate this amalgamation of every action movie you’re not cool enough to know about, captured in one epic modern masterpiece.  You will also be able to answer the SAT question: fight choreographer Master Yuen Woo-Ping is to wire work, as Heinz is to Ketchup.

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