As I explored the cinema of 1978, one thing I couldn’t help but notice was the abundance of excellent martial arts movies released in that year. You may have noticed that there were several examples of the genre in my Top 10 of 1978 list, but one of the challenges of such a list is to ensure some sense of diversity. I wanted to make sure the genre’s prevalence was represented, but I couldn’t very well list all of the martial arts films I loved without crowding out other films worthy of inclusion. It’s a balancing act and I think I did well enough on the list proper, but I figured we could use a little appendix of 1978 martial arts movies, because they’re worth a deeper dive.
As mentioned above, I’ve already discussed a few of the most important entries in the genre in my top 10 list (and earlier). That said, it’s worth giving them an additional curtain call, because they’re great. If you’re looking to dip your toes into martial arts cinema, these are a great place to start.
- The 36th Chamber of Shaolin – [Kaedrin Review] [Top 10 Review]
- Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow – [Kaedrin Review] [Top 10 Review]
- Drunken Master – [Kaedrin Review] [Top 10 Review]
Top 5 Additional 1978 Martial Arts Movies
Warriors Two – While my top 10 selections leaned heavily on Jackie Chan’s breakout flicks where he was finally allowed to embrace his comedic skills, there was another famed comedic martial artist breaking out at around the same time. Sammo Hung directed this excellent movie starring Casanova Wong (also known as the “Human Tornado”) to great effect.
Hung himself plays only a small role in the film, but would later emerge as a key player in the scene. While perhaps not as lauded or referenced as other examples of the genre, this one is absolutely worth seeking out. [Kaedrin Review]
The Avenging Eagle – This Shaw Brothers programmer doesn’t get a ton of love and it’s the sort of movie that I’d probably never have seen if it werent’f or an exercise like the 1978 project forcing me to find more obscure movies (or not – I’m sure there’s some martial arts movie expert reading this right now and shaking their head mournfully). As such, I was surprised by how much I loved this movie. As per usual, the story isn’t particularly distinguished, but the action is fabulous and the villain memorable. Well worth seeking out… [Kaedrin Review]
Flying Guillotine II: Palace Carnage – One of a long line of sequels (there are numerous official and unofficial entries in the series) that leverage the fanciful Flying Guillotine concept, a deadly weapon that can decapitate with the flick of the wrist. In case you can’t tell from my various writeups of martial arts movies, the story is rarely a selling point and this is not really any different, but I like how well they put the rather absurd concept of a Flying Guillotine through its paces here. Certainly one of the better sequels out there. [Kaedrin Review]
The Five Deadly Venoms – I watched this a few years ago because I had heard good things and found it slightly disappointing, but it’s reputation in my mind has only grown over time. Perhaps it’s because it takes a while for the action sequences to rev up, and perhaps it’s that the plot actually is a selling point here (one of the few examples of such things), but it’s a genuinely great movie. Plus, you can see its influence all over if you look for it, and not just in the obvious Tarantino homages in Kill Bill. [Kaedrin Review]
Crippled Avengers – Probably the more controversial entry on this list, this movie has quite a bonkers premise. This initially dissuaded me from the movie, but I’ve kinda turned a corner on this one, and it’s a memorable experience if nothing else. This one probably has the most qualified recommendation of any on this list, but if you’re up for it, it’s a fascinating little flick. [Kaedrin Review]
So there you have it. I probably watched about 10 other 1978 movies that could be considered martial arts flicks, which I think warrants this separate list. Almost done with the 1978 project, so stay tuned for some Closing Thoughts, coming soon…