12 Essential Martial Arts Movies

ongbak

Ong-bak

Tony Jaa’s breakout film introduced audiences to the ancient Muay Thai style, Muay Boran. Jaa spent four years training for the role of a skilled fighter from Ban Nong Pradu who ventures to Bangkok’s underworld so he can retrieve his village’s sacred, stolen statue. It’s another threadbare narrative, but the story offers Jaa an increasingly gritty landscape on which to pummel his opponents. There are no wires or effects — just crazy stunts, violent assaults, and awe-worthy athleticism. For action film fans new to martial arts cinema, this might be a good place to start.