10 Incredible Asian Action Movies You Have To See Before You Die

A violent feast from the Far East.

ip man donnie yen
Mandarin Films

When Bruce Willis starts dissing Hollywood action movies, you know there's a problem somewhere. The man who made his name on gun battles, fireballs and one-liners questioned the direction of the genre a few years back during the promotional tour of pyrotechnic snore-fest Red 2, echoing the opinion of many when he told reporters that he was bored of typical action movies that relied on big explosions for effect.

Sadly, the problem has only worsened since.

We all love seeing a building completely engulfed in flame, though the problem with so much over-the-top computer-generated destruction is that the human element of stories tends to get suffocated and a lack of genuine jeopardy creeps in. When your hero can be blown half to hell and walk away with little more than a scratch, it becomes hard to see the villains as a genuine threat.

The solution is simple, and it is one that Hollywood's Far Eastern counterparts discovered long ago - if you want the action to feel real, it has to look real.

Asia has a proud history in the action genre, from the early Samurai epics to the bullet-ballet movement that was born in 1980s Hong Kong. While Japan and China dominated cinema in the region for many years, nowadays a number of Asian countries are producing high quality action flicks, taking those early techniques honed by their neighbours and blending them with their own national fighting style.

From ultra-violent South Korean westerns to bone-breaking Indonesian thrillers, here are 10 incredible Asian action films you have to see before it's too late...

10. The Man From Nowhere (2010)

ip man donnie yen
CJ Entertainment

From: South Korea

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

The highest grossing Korean film of 2010, The Man From Nowhere stars heartthrob-turned-action-hero Won Bin, an A-List South Korean actor who was inspired to take his career in a new direction after the completion of his mandatory state military service. He plays a retired agent who runs a small pawn shop and lives in a basement apartment in the slums of Seoul, where the action takes place.

Although Mister (the only name Bin's character goes by) tries to avoid the gangs that operate in and around his building, he is forced to jump fist first into the city's violent underworld when one of his neighbours decides to steal a large amount of heroin from a local dealer. The fate of the addict is of no concern to Mister, but when the woman's daughter So-mi is kidnapped as a result of her mother's theft, the unassuming shopkeeper launches his own personal rescue mission.

Lee Jeong-beom directs with pace, showcasing a flair for action sequences that are not only thoroughly convincing and well choreographed, but manage to be emotionally engaging at the same time. The trend in modern South Korean action movies is extreme violence, and this eye-ball popping thrill ride is a perfect example of the country's commitment to pushing the boundaries the genre.


Phil still hasn't got round to writing a profile yet, as he has an unhealthy amount of box sets on the go.