Top 10 Jackie Chan Films: If I say Chan Kong-sang, readers would do a double take about who this is. It is none other than Jackie Chan’s birth name, one he used to use before joining the school and embarking on a cinematic journey with over 100 credits in multiple roles. A thing to ask with any Jackie Chan film is whether it is a martial arts movie, a comedy film, an action film, or a fusion of them all.

The last one would be apropos of the genre under which his movies are in. Considering the uniqueness of the genre, or even his exclusivity in it, cinephiles may even identify him as the pioneer of the same. That’s not to say Jackie Chan hasn’t dabbled in other genres, as it will be seen in this list. Perhaps, he realized that this was necessary for him not to be perceived as a carbon copy of someone else.

For Jackie Chan, staying purely in martial arts, sans the comedy, would have made moviegoers consider him the second Bruce Lee. He tried taking such a path with New Fist of Fury, but things didn’t work out. Hence, Chan turned to finding his niche. With Drunken Master and Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow, he gave audiences a glimpse of a genre he would make his own.

Almost 45 years later, he kept performing his stunts, broke into Hollywood, starred in what people may label as their guilty pleasures, and earned worldwide acclaim. Sifting through Chan’s work to make a list of 10 is a difficult task. The list primarily focuses on ones that will stand the test of time, ones that succeeded and allowed the actor to expand on that genre and very few personal favorites. A thing I noticed is that Chan’s biggest hits frequently saw him playing a cop.

1. Chien-fu in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978)

Top 10 Jackie Chan Films - Chien-fu in Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (1978)

Over the years, there have been many different martial arts techniques that have come to the fore. To counter them or create new styles, inspiration has been taken from one’s surroundings or even other martial arts forms. This has given rise to techniques that are neither here nor there, resulting in creating something completely new. Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow pays tribute to the concept of martial arts fusion. Chan plays Chien-fu – a young orphan raised at a kung-fu school.

He works as a janitor and moreover serves as the school’s punching bag to amplify the skills of the students and satisfy potential clients. At one point, when the beatings and the harassment finally take a toll, Chien-fu uses his newly learned skills, learned from an older man, and embarrasses the school. Upon being banished, he finds the older man who taught him the snake fist and goes on to create something unique.

The chief highlight of this film includes the fight choreography. The ones of note have Chien-fu (with the help of Pai Chang Tian) vs. the school. Chien-fu vs Chao Chi and Chien-fu vs Sheng Kuan. The take-the-bowl challenge doesn’t see a single strike landed, but watching it is a sight to behold. If viewed in a particular manner, martial arts can be an art form.

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2. Wong Fei Hung in Drunken Master (1978)

Top 10 Jackie Chan Films - Wong Fei Hung in Drunken Master (1978)

This film may seem like Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, given its plot and direction. It has Chan’s character learn a form of martial arts from Yuen Siu-tien’s character and battle against Hwang Jang-lee’s character in the climax. However, the circumstances are different, and this is the film where the martial arts comedy genre came to the fore.

In this film, Chan plays Wong Fei Hung. He is the son of a rich and respected man who crosses the line. As a punishment, his training is intensified. But even there, Fei Hung comes up with ways to exasperate his father. This results in him being banished for a year to train in martial arts from Su Hua Chi, i.e., someone with a history of crippling his students. He aimed to add to his martial arts skills by infusing the famed drunken boxing.

Chan initially tried to flee but fell prey to Hua Chi’s skills. His training to get strong has a good payoff as he finally engages in drunken boxing, which ideally sees him away like an inebriated person and has a comical look as he feints, swerves, and thrashes his opponents. These scenes set the template for the classic Jackie Chan fight scene that audiences never grew tired of watching.

3. Thomas in Wheels on Meals (1984)

Top 10 Jackie Chan Films - Thomas in Wheels on Meals (1984)

Wheels on Meals sees the cream of Hong Kong stars come together in a film that has it all: action, martial arts, romance, comedy, and more. Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao join forces with Sammo Hung, who also directed this story about Asian immigrants finding work in Spain and crossing paths with an heiress and the ones after her inheritance. Chan and Biao play cousins Thomas and David. They run a food truck and make an honest living. The detective is their friend who is tasked with locating Sylvia,i.e., the same woman the duo have spent their time trying to woo.

This entry doesn’t feature many fight scenes as expected. There is no fighting at the drop of a hat, but the ones that take place in the castle will captivate one and all. Moby’s fencing battle without a face mask is eclipsed by the martial arts extravaganza featuring Jackie Chan’s Thomas against the henchman. A crucial takeaway from here is when Thomas pauses and sits down, reminding himself to take it like a training session. It’s often said that one feels in the zone during practice. Well, Wheels of Meals is a reminder of that.

4. Inspector Chan Ka Kui in Police Story (1985)

Top 10 Jackie Chan Films - Inspector Chan Ka Kui in Police Story (1985)

This franchise catapulted Chan to fame as a serious action star. Chan plays the role of Inspector Chan Ka Kui. He is assigned to protect a witness for the prosecution and hilariously devises a plan to make himself look good. Things eventually result in him having to actually look good. When justice doesn’t prevail and drug lord Chu Tao is acquitted, he doesn’t let bygones be bygones.

This results in large-scale property destruction and scenes showcasing Chan as a renegade, building his ‘Supercop’ persona that would be explored again a few years later. Police Story’s stunts see Chan drive a car through tin houses on a hillside, hang onto a bus window with an umbrella and leap onto a moving bus from a hill. The action and comedy are separate here, with both conceived in a distinct manner. The pulsating background score is powerful, but some audiences would say it is too loud and overpowers the dialogue. Overall, Police Story is a montage of comedy and insane stunts.

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5. Inspector Eddie Chan in Crime Story (1993)

Inspector Eddie Chan in Crime Story (1993)

Crime Story is a fictional take on a real-life series of events from Hong Kong in the early 90s. Chan plays Inspector Eddie Chan, a police officer tasked with protecting and finding an abducted businessman. How he goes about it, crosses borders, and battles those he trusts lets the film live up to its title. This film is unique on this list because it is a rare Chan film without exaggerated action. While audiences may dispute that, everyone would safely agree that Crime Story has no comedy element. It allowed the world to view Chan as not a one-trick pony as his character battles with stress.

The film opens with Inspector Eddie Chan’s character at a psych eval, where he retaliated with a threat to the doctor to do as she wished in her report of him. He even refused to take a leave of absence, putting duty above everything. This was evident when he didn’t care about his open wounds and half-done stitches when his men were in peril. The fight scenes captured the grittiness of police work as the criminals weren’t mere buffoons getting the hits for mere laughs.

Crime Story contains grittiness to reflect one’s understanding of challenging police work. It shows the desk life of a cop and how even the most important police officers cannot file a complaint in an emergency unless they identify themselves.

6. Chan Ka Kui in Police Story 3: Supercop (1993)

Top 10 Jackie Chan Films - Chan Ka Kui in Police Story 3: Supercop (1993)

Supercop finally sees Chan Ka Kui’s story move away from Chu Tao. In this installment, he also seems to shed the police role, as it feels more James Bond-esque. Ka Kui has to go undercover and help a gangster flee prison to go undercover infiltrate his gang and bring down the entire lot at once. Chan’s character welcomes this as he is someone who feels that sitting within the confines of the office is dangerous. However, his superior warns him that his mission is even more so.

And Indeed it is, with some of Chan’s most dangerous stunts performed in this third installment of his Police Story franchise. Ka Kui has to flee prison camp guards, dodge a shootout from the military junta, dangle from the rope ladder of a moving helicopter, and then engage in a brutal fistfight atop a train. The action comedy takes a backseat here, except for one scene towards the end where a henchman gets bamboozled. Another notable thing about Police Story 3: Supercop is the presence of Michelle Yeoh as Chan’s partner and undercover sister.

7. Wong Fei Hung in Drunken Master 2 (1994)

Wong Fei Hung in Drunken Master 2 (1994)

This is not a direct sequel to the film mentioned earlier in this list. However, it takes its name as Drunken Master 2 as it takes forward the story of the iconic Wong Fei Hung. In this installment, Fei Hung is presented as an expert on drunken boxing. Thanks to a mix-up to avoid paying duty, Hung accidentally mixes up a valuable seal with ginseng and crosses paths with the British consul, smugglers, and a Chinese patriot. When trouble comes calling, and certain people visit, he is lured into the battle yet again.

Drunken boxing gets much more time to shine in the film, right from the instance when Fei Hung disobeys his orders not to drink or fight in the factory brawl. I liked how Jackie Chan glided his way through the battle with the British henchmen after they snatched his stepmother’s bag. However, what set the tone for this film was the fight right at the start between Fei Hung and Fu Wen-Chi. The most memorable battles would be the axe tang vs. Fei Hung and Wen-Chi and Fei Hung vs. the consul henchmen in the steel factory.

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8. Detective Inspector Lee in Rush Hour (1998)

Detective Inspector Lee in Rush Hour (1998)

Brett Ratner’s Rush Hour sees Jackie Chan play a Hong Kong police employee. Detective Inspector Lee works closely with the government and forms a close bond with Han. When Han moves to the USA to serve as consul, his daughter is abducted by the people Lee overpowered at the film’s start. Han wants one of his people on as he is in an unfamiliar land. However, the Americans don’t share this sentiment and assign a cop (Detective James Carter) to keep Lee far away from the case.

While Chris Tucker may have the more memorable moments in this film, Chan’s acting makes his co-star’s jibes even funnier. Carter and Lee’s interactions and comic timing keep things extremely entertaining. The film’s stunts are laced with the Jackie Chan staple of comically choreographed martial arts fights.

Seeing Lee pretend not to understand Carter prompts the hilarious, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” Association with Lee helps Carter transform, work with a partner and care about someone other than himself. Meanwhile, in a mirror to his real-life breakthrough in the West, Lee adopts the Western lingo (y’all) and understands what he can and cannot say in a new place.

9. Chon Wang in Shanghai Noon (2000)

Chon Wang in Shanghai Noon (2000)

Westerns have always been an iconic genre. With Shanghai Noon, Jackie Chan ventured into new territory that can be labeled as kung-fu Western. In this film, Chan plays the role of an Imperial Guard in the Forbidden City, who is asked to accompany a party led by the royal interpreter. They head to Carson City to rescue the kidnapped Princess Pei-Pei. Things go downhill when the Imperial Guards run into Roy O’Bannon’s group of Outlaws.

This, however, sets the path for Chan’s Chon Wang to have multiple collision courses with Roy, eventually resulting in the duo joining forces and winning the ‘Mexican standoff with no Mexicans.’ At its core, this is a tale of values with honor, devotion, and loyalty coming to the fore. Furthermore, it is quite a scream to see Chon Wang getting acquainted with life at Wild Wild West, struggling with his horse, and confronting prejudice.

The narrative is not laugh-out-loud funny, but things seem amusing, given how it all plays out in this film. The fight in the bar is one of the memorable stunt choreography scenes. Furthermore, using martial arts to deal with Native American tribes wielding pickaxes was unique and novel. It worked well within Chan’s body of work, allowing this film to stand out.

10. Quan Ngoc Minh in The Foreigner (2017)

Quan Ngoc Minh in The Foreigner (2017)

What is the extent to which someone will go in order to pursue justice? ‘The Foreigner’ is all about a father’s obsessive pursuit of justice. Chan distances himself from his usual martial arts comedy genre and plays a rather age-appropriate role. He is an outsider who runs a Chinese restaurant in London. Ngoc Minh Quan’s (Chan) life is uprooted as a terrorist attack claims his daughter’s life. This pushes Quan to take matters into his own hands as he hunts down the individuals Scotland Yard warns him to stay away from.

Jackie Chan’s performance as an aging and grieving parent seeking justice would surely be a pleasant surprise for everyone who has grown up watching his Buster Keaton-like stunt comedies. The violence here is very brutal, and an undercurrent of melancholy in Chan’s screen presence keeps the proceedings gripping enough.

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