Top 5 Martial Arts Actors of All Time

Martial arts has become significantly popular as a sports entertainment product in the 21st century. However, various forms of martial arts have taken center stage in films and television since the mid-1900s. While many elite martial artists have attempted acting careers, it is a rare combination when a lethal fighting machine also has a talent for the silver screen.

5 Jet Li

Jet Li is generally regarded as a notch below Jackie Chan in terms of his prominence as a martial arts actor. However, he has endured just as long in the film industry. Li made his first film in 1982 and is in production for “The Expendables 3,” which releases in 2014. The 2001, “Kiss the Dragon” film was one of his most notable. Fighting fans appreciate the regular fight sequences and action in Li movies.

4 Jason Statham

You could argue that Jason Statham is a rare martial arts start whose acting equals his fighting abilities. His films include starring roles opposite a number of other A-list actors, including 2003’s “The Italian Job” with Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron and 2013’s “Parker” with Jennifer Lopez. His role as Frank Martin in the “Transporter” film trilogy is likely his most universally recognized, though.

3 Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan is more commonly ranked near the top of martial arts actor lists and has certainly enjoyed a long and successful career in film acting. Like Lee, many of Chan’s early films were produced in Hong Kong and dubbed in English. The “Rush Hour” franchise is among Chan’s greatest film accomplishments. The star’s trademark is that he does his own stunts for his movies, which has often led to significant injuries.

2 David Carradine

Although his prominence in top martial arts actor lists varies, David Carradine had a similar foundational impact in this film genre as Lee. Carradine was a member of the Shaolin Temple, which centered more on peace and tranquility and self-defense as a means of avoiding fighting. This approach enabled Carradine to star in films and shows with well-developed plots and modest amounts of fighting. His popular “Kung Fu” television series aired on ABC from 1972 to 1975.

1 Bruce Lee

Virtually every list ever made of top martial arts actors positions Bruce Lee at number one, including lists from “Black Belt Magazine” and movie database site IMDb. Lee is widely credited with inventing or bringing to the forefront the notion of the “martial arts” movie. The Chinese-born Lee first appeared in movies made in Hong Kong that were later dubbed in English and marketed in the United States.

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