Jet Li is one of the most popular cinematic martial arts actors that has graced the screens since the ’80s. He debuted as a Chinese actor in the film Shaolin Temple (1982) and then starred as a villain in a non-Chinese movie dubbed Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). If you have been a moviegoer for a long time, you must be synonymous with his superlative martial art skills. At age 59, Jet Li was devoted to charity work through his One Foundation, which provides counseling services to natural disaster victims and the youth battling mental health issues. Over the years, Jet Li has featured in a long list of movies, let us now cast a glance at some of his best gems.
9 Kiss of the Dragon (2001)
In Kiss of the Dragon, Jet Li grabs the attention of his audience with his nearly emotionless face. Throughout the film, he serves his fighting skills to dozens of bad guys in a Stoic fashion. You can hardly notice him breaking a sweat, as he punches his way through people’s faces, radiating that cool vibe. Chris Nahon, the director, delivers a slick and enjoyable film by adding hip-hop music to match the tempo of the action scenes.
The film is about Liu Jian (Jet Li), a Chinese secret agent, who travels to Paris to assist in the arrest of a drug kingpin. Armored with good intentions, a corrupt detective, Jean-Pierre Richard, betrays him by setting him up for killing the drug lord. The movie then focuses the story on Liu Jian working with an American woman, who is forced into sex work, to strike back, and stop Richard’s criminal endeavors and clear his name.
8 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
Jet Li is a versatile actor who both acts as a villain and hero in convincing ways. In The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, he plays the role of a ruthless dragon emperor, commanding a large army of fearless warriors. If you like movies with sorcery, ancient stones with immortal powers, tombs, mummies, and evil warlords, this movie is right up your alley.
The story begins with a long history of a mythic battle between good and evil in ancient China. Emperor Han, a power-hungry leader, vanquished every kingdom on his path, killing anyone who dared to resist his conquest. He was an emperor who had it all, but he still wanted more. What more could he want? The power to cheat death. Cursed by a devious and beautiful sorceress, the emperor and his army were buried in clay. Imagine a mad emperor, mummified for millennia trying to come back and enslave mankind; you do not want to be alive at that time.
7 Mulan (2020)
Jet Li has a thing for being an emperor in movies. In Mulan, he also plays a regal emperor, who calls upon every family to provide one man to fight against the invaders – the Rouran army. It’s funny that many fans who watched Mulan stated that Jet Li looked frail in his role, raising concerns about his health. But, that is far from the truth. He appeared strong, wise, and resolute in his role. According to USA TodaySteven Chasman, Li’s manager, sent a statement, “We appreciate everyone’s concern. But Jet is completely fine. There’s nothing wrong with him. There’s no life-threatening illness. He’s in great shape.” Mulan is a live-action remake of the animated version. The only reason why Jet Li took on the role in the film is because his daughters loved the original movie.
6 Romeo Must Die (2000)
Just by reading the heading, you immediately tune into Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In Romeo Must Die, Romeo is Jet Li, and Juliet is the late hip-hop sensation, Aaliyah. I can not begin to describe Aaliyah’s beauty, from her soaking eyes to her sultry voice; her death was a big blow to the entertainment industry. In this movie, Li plays an ex-cop investigating the murder of his brother, who was in bed with the Chinese mafia. Aaliyah, on the other hand, is the daughter of a Black American mob boss. The tension that spurs when both camps cross paths brings about exciting fights in clubs, explosions in barbershops, and in the midst of it all, love between Romeo and Juliet springs up, as they both work together to find his brother’s murderer. If you are a fan of Aaliyah, her musical soundtrack in the movie will bring back great memories of her performances.
5 War (2007)
If you are looking for a movie that deserves a beer at hand, check out War. Any movie that stars Jason Statham and Jet Li oozes fights and aggression. Li and Statham have appeared in other movies like The Expendables and The One.
In War, both stars are on opposing sides where Jet Li is a contract killer and Statham an FBI agent. Fans of Li will be in awe of his fluid fighting skills with swords and guns at age 47, and we all know Statham never disappoints. The movie has a storyline that creates intrigue and suspense. Along the way, you will encounter a plot twist that is impossible to anticipate; thank me later.
4 The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
How cool would it be to discover an ancient golden staff in a pawn shop? Only movie buffs have such kinds of dreams. In The Forbidden Kingdom, Jason discovers a staff that magically transports him to ancient China. As fate would tell, the only way he would travel back to his time is after successfully freeing the legendary warrior, the Monkey King (Jet Li). Guess who co-stars alongside Jet Li in this movie? Jackie Chan. The perfect combo of the two martial arts masters is an entertainment masterpiece that strikes sparks throughout the film; no wonder the movie performed well in theaters. Although some fans prefer to have watched the two talents in their prime, the movie still delivers the best of both actors.
3 Fearless (2006)
The story in the movie Fearless is about the act of instilling virtues in a young soul. We are familiar with the statement, “pride comes before a fall;” this is something that Huo Yuanjia (Jet Li) experiences once his family is murdered as a result of his foolish actions. As he wallows over his loss, Huo is showered with love, compassion, and other essential philosophical virtues that steer him to reform his ways and return to his hometown to be of service to others. The movie tilts on violence for the most part, but it wraps up with a strong moral lesson.
2 The Bodyguard from Beijing (1994)
Originally christened Bodyguard from Beijingthe film was later renamed The Defender for the American market. Jet Li plays Allan Hui Ching-Yeung, an elite security expert hired by a wealthy Hong Kong businessman to protect his beautiful maiden Michelle Leung, the only living witness to a murder committed by Triad gangsters. Michelle, who starts adamant about the 24/7 protection from the bodyguard, grows fond of him, and they become attracted to one another. The clear but dangerous love interest is never quenched, and the story ends on a smart but ambiguous note. The audience is left to wonder, “What if he stayed?”
1 Fist of Legend (1994)
Fist of Legend is a classic martial arts film with neck-breaking fight scenes and the infusion of an emotional story. The fictional character Chen Zhen was first portrayed by Bruce Lee in The Chinese Connection. Since then, many films and TV series have adopted this character. Although no one can outperform Bruce Lee, Jet Li comes close. As a tribute to the legendary Bruce Lee, the fights are pure in this film, where the star incapacitates the opponent in the most efficient way. The fist of legend is a story about Chen Zhen, who learns about his master’s death in a fighting match. After realizing that his master was poisoned, he goes after the Japanese and the aftermath brings about dynamic fighting scenes.
When the Wachowskis watched Fist of Legendthey had to contact Yuen Woo-Ping, the movie’s martial arts choreographer, to work on all the martial arts fighting scenes in The Matrix.