Jackie Chan's 15 Greatest Fight Scenes Ranked

I recently had the pleasure of ranking and writing about the 15 best Jackie Chan movies. You might think that would be enough on the subject, but you'd be wrong — because I'm back to celebrate the best of Chan's many, many fight scenes! While there's some crossover between titles, the beauty of Chan's talent is that even his lesser films often include terrific action sequences.

The focus of the list that follows, though, narrows the field specifically to fights. His bigger action sequences remain awesome, but I'm ranking the brawls, the scuffles, the beatdowns, and the exquisitely choreographed faceoffs between Chan and one, two, or several opponents. A lot goes into making of a great fight scene, from the technique itself to filmmaking choices that capture the action. For my money and time these are the best fights featuring Jackie Chan. My only rule? Only one entry per film. The odds are good that at least one of your own favorites has made the cut here — unless that favorite is the epic clash between Chan and Don Cheadle in "Rush Hour 2" (2001), in which case you are sadly out of luck.

15. Chan vs. market thugs — Shanghai Knights (2003)

It may be sacrilege, but in the great culture war between Chan's US franchises, I'm team "Shanghai Noon" and "Shanghai Knights" over the "Rush Hour" trilogy. They're just more fun (and less sketchy with their race-related humor), and while there's entertaining action to be found in all five films, one sequence stands out: the marketplace street fight that combines combat, intricate choreography involving clothing, and a delightful nod to "Singin' in the Rain" (1952).

Chan and Owen Wilson stop some thugs from harassing a child and wind up in a running chase with multiple bad guys. Chan uses carts, tarps, and even lemons as weapons, and there's an entertaining Rube Goldberg-esque feel to much of the action. It all culminates in a real highlight as Chan weaponizes umbrellas before hopping on top of some shifting boxes for a Gene Kelly homage that's as silly as it is beautiful.

14. Chan vs. Bill Wallace — The Protector (1985)

Look, I get it, nobody likes "The Protector." While I'm a fan of Chan's Hong Kong cut, it's still not all that great. That said, there's some solid action to be found amid the gunfire and Danny Aiello's bellowing. An early fight in a massage parlor sees Chan demonstrate the kind of room decorating skills he's famous for, but it's the final set piece that earns a spot here.

Bill Wallace is a karate champion who made his screen debut facing off against Chuck Norris in "A Force of One" (1979), but while that was a competitive fight in the ring, his fight with Chan here is a dirty, scrappy brawl. Chan struggles at first against the bigger man and has limited props at his disposal, but the pair turn in a nasty little back and forth ... and that's even before Wallace brings out the circular saw.

13. Chan vs. Hwang In-shik — The Young Master (1980)

It's subjective, but while I enjoy martial arts films from the '70s, the fights themselves are typically less memorable than those from later decades. The choreography can be strong, but older films often execute the movements at a slower pace in order to highlight the individual steps. Early fights in "The Young Master" follow that trend, but Chan's end brawl against Hwang In-shik (a 10th-degree black belt in hapkido) cuts loose with speed, contact, and aggression.

Chan spends several minutes having his ass handed to him before catching on to his opponent's methods, which include Hwang's terrific stealth kick that strikes from nowhere while his other leg distracts. The pair trade fierce blows, and some of their throws and flips see them hit the ground hard. Chan ends it with a back-breaking move, although that doesn't stop him from pummeling the unconscious Hwang a little bit more.

12. Chan vs. thugs — Rumble in the Bronx (1995)

"Rumble in the Bronx" rewatches make me laugh and shake my head at the street gang — terrible dubbing, the United Colors of Benetton cosplay — but there's no denying the fun action beats that Chan and director Stanley Tong squeeze out of the thin setup.

Chan faces off against the gang members a few times before going after the diamond thieves who are terrorizing "NYC" in a giant hovercraft — a set-piece that still rules, by the way — but the highlight of the film is the brawl in the gang's clubhouse. Chan takes on the entire group and destroys their place in the process. It's still one of the best examples of Chan's mastery over his environment and a showcase for his use of set dressing as offensive and defensive weapons. Refrigerators, skis, chairs, pinball machines, and more let him play havoc with the thugs, and it's a blast.

11. Chan vs. auto plant thugs — Twin Dragons (1992)

While Chan has been a trendsetting action star for years, he's not above borrowing from other talents. "Twin Dragons" seems inspired by Jean-Claude Van Damme's "Double Impact," released the year before, with Chan playing identical twin brothers who get caught up in criminal shenanigans. One's a very capable fighter, while the other only uses his hands to conduct music.

The finale goes down in an automobile testing facility courtesy of Chan's friends at Mitsubishi, and the action moves through crash tests, heat rooms, and all-weather environments, all of which affect the fights. The twins are still unknown to the other characters, meaning that baddies beat up the musician and are then confused when the more capable brother pummels the tar out of them. It's a smartly constructed set piece from directors Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam, and the fighting uses both martial arts and an abundance of unique props to deliver something memorable.

10. Chan vs. ladder thugs — Police Story IV: First Strike (1996)

"First Strike" is an example of a film that's mostly remembered for a single scene — the ladder fight. I'll go to bat for the whole movie, including its James Bond-inspired ski slope antics, but it's easy to see why this particular brawl has become an unforgettable one.

Chan's globe-hopping Hong Kong detective is pulled into a fight with some mourners and tries not to hurt anyone — at first — but as they kick up the intensity, he's forced to get even more creative with his defensive moves. After blocking hits with a dragon head and a broom handle, Chan picks up a collapsible metal ladder and wields it like an extra appendage. He hits, he blocks, he spins — just standing a ladder up straight can sometimes be a hassle, but Chan turns it into a weapon and makes it look easy in the process.

9. Chan vs. rope factory thugs — Mr. Canton and Lady Rose (1989)

Chan plays an accidental gang leader in this attractive period tale that never quite gets the praise it deserves for its action. There are scraps throughout that lead up to an elaborate brouhaha between Chan and a dozen thugs in a rope factory. Are rope factories a thing? I don't know, but if they are, I'll bet they aren't as well laid out for hijinks as this one.

Large thimbles (?) of rope stacked ceiling high, loose ones dangling from above, thick strands left looped here and there — it's a playground for someone like Chan, and he makes terrific use of it. Chan and his pursuers scale shelving, swing from ropes, and Chan even takes a few seconds to play jump rope. There are plenty of punches, kicks, and throws throughout as well, making this a set piece that barely gives Chan time to breathe.

8. Chan vs. Hwang Jang-lee — Drunken Master (1978)

One of Chan's breakout films, "Drunken Master" sees him bring a legendary Chinese character to the screen in a way that audiences hadn't seen before. Laughs, drunken fist-style fighting, and various animal styles come into play, but it's the alcohol-fueled martial arts that earn the film a spot on this list, as the big final fight offers up a parade of kinetic fun.

Chan goes toe to toe with Hwang Jang-lee's assassin, and he comes prepared with skills styled after the Eight Drunken Immortals. He unleashes a barrage of movements inspired by his inner strength and flute players with powerful wrists. Loosely based on real styles, the martial arts on display here are the creations of Chan and filmmaker Yuen Woo-ping. They add a unique flavor to the fight, as motions that might appear ridiculous on their own blend seamlessly into Chan's efforts as he lands surprise blows and absorbs hits with a rubber-band ease.

7. Chan vs. Brad Allan — Gorgeous (1999)

There's not a lot of action in "Gorgeous," but Chan does get to fight Brad Allan twice. Allan was a member of Chan's stunt team who found success as an action and fight choreographer on big studio films, but it's his fighting skills that shine here. The two men are similarly sized and both fast, and their first pairing is a playful demonstration in which Allan toys with the unprepared Chan.

Their second face-off is an epic display of combat artistry that also highlights the musical nature of fight choreography. Their footwork and rhythmic bouncing reveal two ridiculously light-on-their-feet fighters who shift instantly from a casual bounce to a blistering series of kicks. Both the artists and their characters also demonstrate a mutual respect for each other's skills, and even pause to help each other up at times. This isn't a fight to the death, but it's no less impressive for it.

6. Chan vs. teahouse thugs — Drunken Master II (1993)

While many of Chan's best fights pit him against just one or two opponents, there's fun to be found in seeing him take on multiple bad guys. This one isn't the only big brawl to make this list, but it's especially relevant as it unfolds in something of an iconic locale for martial arts films — a teahouse. Chan once again goes against the odds when he and Lau Kar-leung find themselves trapped on the second floor of the restaurant. Not only are dozens of thugs rushing in, but they're also all armed with hatchets.

The Axe Gang swarms like cockroaches, and both Chan and Lau fend off the blades however they can. Furniture shatters and bodies are tossed around like rag dolls. Chan uses a splintered bamboo pole that leaves both him and the gang scratched up and bloodied, and the choreography — including a shirt wrapped around the pole that lets Chan control the splinters to great effect — is spectacular. It's a dramatic fight, and it sets the stage for the doozy of an ending that follows.

5. Chan vs. playground thugs — Police Story 2 (1988)

The big fireworks factory fight that ends "Police Story 2" is terrifically mean, but it's this earlier brawl that I always return to. Chan and Maggie Cheung are enjoying a night out when thugs from the first film come looking for revenge, and it all goes down on a playground.

Chan's outnumbered, which is just how he likes it, and as the thugs come at him with pipes and fists, he runs them ragged around obstacles designed for children. It's among Chan's most consistently fast-paced brawls, and the combat is intricately woven into the surroundings. You'll probably need a second viewing to catch everything that unfolds, as Chan executes hits, kicks, and throws within milliseconds of each other. Chan dives between monkey bars and parkours off swing sets, and one wickedly intense pipe fight rivals the best "sword" duels you've ever seen.

4. Chan vs. Yung Kwan and Ron Smoorenburg — Who Am I? (1998)

The first of four collaborations between Chan and director Benny Chan, "Who Am I?" doesn't get the attention it deserves. It delivers some fun action, including a foot chase and fight with Chan in clogs, and attractive international locales including the Netherlands, South Africa, and Malaysia. It earns a high spot here for its final fight, which sees Chan take on two thugs atop a high-rise building.

Both Yung Kwan and Ron Smoorenburg come at Chan with differing styles, and his defense varies accordingly. Kwan is using Choy Li Fut, and what looks almost like flailing is actually designed to expose then pummel his target. By contrast, Smoorenburg is a Dutch kickboxer who showcases some incredible leg strikes. The pair alternates as Chan fights back tirelessly, pausing only to dodge and weave around railings, ventilation shafts, and the rooftop's edge. There are stunts and laughs here, but the fighting is the focus, and it's fantastic. Watch carefully during some of Smoorenburg's fast kicking, and you'll notice it's actually Brad Allan doubling him (despite being nearly a foot shorter), delivering some wicked foot-focused choreography.

3. Chan vs. all the glass in Hong Kong — Police Story (1985)

While "Police Story" is rightfully praised for the amazing opening set piece and Chan's epic slide down the light pole, you can't ignore the brilliant choreography and execution of the mall brawl. It's once again a situation where Chan faces off against multiple enemies, but this time he seems equally furious at something else, too — glass.

Chan throws baddies through glass display cases, glass shelves, and glass dividers. He hits, kicks, and tosses with abandon, but he also takes a ton of punishment as the thugs come at him with bars, motorcycles, and more. It's a blend of martial arts, property damage, and pure carnage, and while many of Chan's fights have a degree of fun to them, this one is all about rage. The angrier Chan gets, the more pain he doles out for our pleasure. We love him for his sacrifice.

2. Chan vs. Benny "The Jet" Urquidez — Wheels on Meals (1984)

This is probably the least surprising entry to make the list, as it is universally beloved. "Wheels on Meals" is mostly an ensemble comedy with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao joining Chan in fighting some baddies, but it's Chan's fight against Benny "The Jet" Urquidez that rightfully steals the limelight.

Both Chan and Urquidez prove that sometimes big spoonfuls of ass-kickery come in smaller packages. The two hit so hard and so fast that it's easy to forget that they're performing choreographed moves with precision and immense skill. While too many film fights make it easy to spot the pulled punches and intentionally misaimed kicks, these two make it look as if they're truly trying to maim each other. Urquidez's style is also a great contrast to Chan's, as the former keeps his movements to a minimum even as Chan bounces around the room.

1. Chan vs. Ken Lo and Ho-sung Pak — Drunken Master II (1993)

Chan's sequel to his own late '70s classic is arguably among the best martial arts films of all time, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm breaking my own rule and giving it two spots on this list (trust me when I say I almost added a third: Chan's stellar fight against Lau Kar-leung beneath the train). There's just no way I could ignore the end brawl that sees Chan take on both Ken Lo and Ho-sung Pak. A fight in a steel factory that grows increasingly wince-inducing by the second, the set piece took over a month to film due to injuries as much as Chan's meticulous direction. It recycles some elements from the earlier marketplace fight, but the intensity and cruelty are kicked up a few notches.

Speaking of kicks, the long-legged Ken Lo makes for a fierce opponent as he unleashes some delirious footwork that both mesmerizes and hurts to watch. He was Chan's former bodyguard and a Taekwondo champion, and after plans to end the film with Chan fighting Ho-sung Pak one-on-one crumbled due to the latter's injuries, Chan added Lo to the mix, complete with months of additional training. 

The result is a thing of beauty as Lo's precise control — his whipping leg movements and standing split are endlessly impressive — and Chan's deceptively loose and casual drunken style blend like ass-kicking chocolate and head-spinning peanut butter. After being beaten and burned, Chan downs some alcohol to become a red-faced monster who tears through his opponents and everything else in his path. This movie is a gift that keeps on giving, and it ends with pure action bliss.