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Jackie Chan’s 10 Best Films

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan’s movie career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These 10 films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

In 1985, Chan thought he was ready to break into the American market. He teamed up with director James Glickenhaus and made the disappointing The Protector. Feeling a need to get his movie star mojo back, her took control of his next project, which ended up being the first in a franchise that has lasted 28 years. Chan himself considers this his best action film, and with good reason. The stunts are incredible, the fight scenes expertly choreographed and the storytelling lean, mean, and driven by a desire to entertain. Chan crafted the film like an old-time silent (building the narrative around the various stunts), and it shows. Everything about Police Story comes together into a Hong Kong martial arts masterpiece.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976 when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He’s a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he’s the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he’s a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long-running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it’s been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He’s not just an actor. He’s also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country’s cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it’s time to consider Chan’s creative canon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures of Jackie Chan’s career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to the formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like an original spectacle better than he.

Let’s start with an oldie but goodie…

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2) [1991]

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Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films — and it’s obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals [1984]

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They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it’s amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy [1997]

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Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan’s genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn’t, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan’s career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

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