Cobra Kai (2018 -) will be back in session as season five is set to premiere in September 2022. The sports drama stars William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence, the student turned instructor of the Cobra Kai Dojo. The TV series is set after the events of the 1984 film The Karate Kid where Johnny lost the “All Valley Karate Tournament” to Daniel (Ralph Macchio).
Johnny inspires a new group of students or gakusei to learn the art of karate at his new martial arts schools. This attracts the attention of his former rival, Daniel, who hasn’t forgotten his enemy and opened his own martial arts school. Before viewers get a chance to see what’s next for Cobra Kai as Daniel and Johnny now faced a new competitor, there are a few classic martial art movies worth watching that incorporate karate outside the tournament ring.
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Who doesn’t want to be a member of an organization that oversees the entire town? Sing (Stephen Chow) wanted to be accepted by the Axe Gang organization that controls Canton, China in the 1940s. If he couldn’t be accepted as a member, at least he could pretend to be a member to gain the respect of those around him.
This backfires for Sing, who faced a battle with both the Axe Gang and the landlords who are secretly masters of Kung Fu. Sing’s overconfidence gets the best of him in this hour and 40-minute movie that features humorous jokes and absurd cartoon gags. Kung Fu Hustle (2004) is currently available on Tubi.
Shanghai Knights (2003)
Stepping outside the films involving a tournament ring was Shanghai Knights (2003). Shanghai Knights continued the adventures of the unlikely duo: a martial artist and a cowboy. This time Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) and Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) were now in London to find the killers behind Chon’s father’s death.
Shanghai Knights added a new character, Chon’s sister, to the mix of martial art fighting scenes, while keeping the same level of comedic banter between the two main characters. Shanghai Knights remain one of those films that viewers can enjoy re-watching even if it’s seen as one of Chan’s underappreciated films. Shanghai Knights is available on Tubi.
Shaolin Soccer (2001)
“Shaolin Kung Fu” in the 2001 film Shaolin Soccer was a martial arts style that a group of friends learned together. As time passed, they went off on their own, but still reminisced on the memories they had together. Mighty Steel Leg Sing (Chow) decides to reunite with his group, but combined Shaolin Kung Fu with soccer.
Together they formed a soccer team, and they had a chance to win $1 million dollars if they won the game. This movie incorporates classic comedic elements of slapstick comedy while delivering a story about a group of underdogs looking to prove their worth. Shaolin Soccer is available on Hulu.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), a priceless sword, named the Green Destiny, was stolen from Yu Shu Lein (Michelle Yeoh). The Green Destiny belonged to Master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) who wanted to hand the sword over to Governor Yu. Shu Lein searched for the thief, leading her to find out that the thief lived in the same area as Governor Yu.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gave viewers a glimpse of the natural terrain in China. The warriors in the film focused on the lightness of their actions, making it seem as though their movements come with ease. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is on Peacock.
Rush Hour (1998)
After several mishaps, L.A.P.D. detective Carter (Chris Tucker) was assigned a partner to help him find a kidnapped girl. Carter’s partner, Lee (Chan), a detective, shared a mutual dislike for working together. The kidnaped girl was Soo-Yung Han (Julia Hsu), the Chinese Counsel’s daughter and a close friend to Lee.
Rush Hour (1998) doesn’t fall under traditional martial arts films where the main focus is a showdown between two strong opponents. Yet this film shows how martial arts can take down even the toughest criminals even if it’s with the items that they have on hand or a roundhouse kick. Rush Hour is available on HBO Max.
The Karate Kid (1984)
What’s a better classic to watch than the movie that inspired the Cobra Kai series? The Karate Kid (1984) starred Ralph Macchio as Daniel, who can’t adjust to his new life in Southern, California. When he loses a fight with the students from the Cobra Kai dojo, Miyagi (Pat Morita) agreed to teach him Karate.
The Karate Kid storyline of a protagonist building the skills and confidence to face their opponent can be easily compared to the storyline in the movie Rocky (1976). The Karate Kid II (1986) followed The Karate Kid as Daniel learned more about his mentor. The Karate Kid is available on the Roku Channel.
Drunken Master (1978)
Drunken Master (1978) puts a comedic spin on kung fu. In most martial arts movies, martial arts, including karate, is considered an art that involves attacking and counterattacking while being unarmed. In Drunken Master, Wong Fei-Hung (Chan) needed to learn responsibility, so his father sent him to learn kung fu with his uncle.
Among the techniques that he must learn to include the “Drunken Boxer,” which involved constantly tricking the opponent with hits and kicks to essentially catch the opponent off-guard. The fighting style in Drunken Master left viewers wanting more. The Drunken Master is available on Fubo TV.
Enter the Dragon (1973)
Widely recognized for his martial arts expertise, Enter the Dragon (1973) is one of Bruce Lee‘s famous films and his last film before his death in 1973. In the film, Lee portrayed an agent looking into the martial arts tournament that could be involved with the Opium trade. Lee soon learned the consequences of the competitors who refuse to take part in the tournament.
The martial art style that Lee used in the film used elements of Jeet Kune Do. Enter The Dragon is tied to influencing a whole range of martial art movies that followed it in the U.S. Enter the Dragon is available on Amazon Prime Video.
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