7. Shaolin Temple (1982)
This was Li’s debut movie and his successful transformation from an athlete to a Kung Fu actor. This is the movie through which Li attracted filmmakers’ attention and gained popularity. This story is based on China’s Shaolin Monastery, depicting Shaolin Kung Fu. This was also the first ever Hong Kong production that was filmed in mainland China.
This movie was very well received and lead to the creation of more Shaolin based movies by the filmmakers in Hong Kong and China.
6. Ocean Heaven (2010)
This is one of the most intriguing movies for numerous reasons; most importantly it narrates the story of a young individual with autism and the struggle of his father to find the right support for his son. Li’s dramatic skills truly shine in his portrayal of the autistic man’s father.
You can feel the emotion and the desperate struggle of a father trying hard to make sure his son is taken care of after he is gone. We see a completely different persona of Li aside from his usual action characters. His great performance earned him a number of award nominations including the Jury Award for Best Actor.
5. Tai Chi Master (1993)
This movie is without a doubt one of the finest Jet Li’s Shaolin movies. It offers everything – comedy, murder, corruption, betrayal, love, and friendship, as well as plenty of Shaolin Kung Fu style. The story revolves around two monks who grow up together.
They get kicked out of the temple and have to survive the real world for the very first time. Not familiar with the real world, they end up selecting different paths. This is Li’s movie through and through as he clearly stands out from rest of the cast because of his outstanding performance.
4. The Legend (1993)
This is one of the rare martial arts movies in which a mother and son team up to fight against bad guys. Again one of the best Jet Li movies. He and Sio, playing his mother, make a remarkable kicking ass duo.
Li’s charismatic personality can clearly be witnessed in this movie and you can tell he is a natural with those breathtaking martial arts moves. A sequel, Fong Sai-yuk II, was released only four months later due to the splendid response of the first movie.
3. Fist of Legend (1994)
Li not only starred in this movie but also produced it. This movie was a remake of Fist of Fury (1972) that starred Bruce Lee. The story is set in 1937 in the Shanghai International Settlement during the second Sino-Japanese War.
This was indeed a huge challenge for Li to fill Bruce Lee’s shoes, who had already established his role of Chen Zhen, the national hero, in the original movie. However, Li successfully met the challenge and was highly appreciated for his role.
2. Once Upon a Time in China II (1992)
This is the sequel to Li’s Once Upon a Time in China I and the legendary warrior Hung has to take on the white lotus society which is a cult that is willing to do anything and everything to restore their power. Considered as the best installment in this series, this movie offers impressive choreography and execution of the fight scenes.
It brings together two brilliant martial arts actors Donnie Yen and Li. His impeccable acting and fight scenes earned him a number of award nominations, including Golden Horse Award for Best Leading Actor.
1. Hero (2002)
Even though Li continued on making films in Hollywood, his Chinese films are rated by the majority of his fans as the best when it comes to quality. The finest example is the movie Hero. This movie was once the highest grossing movie in the history of Chinese box office and maintained this title for a good number of years.
Li is as usual impressive in showcasing his martial arts skills. Quentin Tarantino became such a major fan of this historical movie that he actually lent his name to be included at the time of release – Quentin Tarantino Presents Hero. This movie still remains the highest-grossing Chinese movie in US box office history as it grossed about $53.7 million. It also received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
Aside from the above movies of Jet Li, the following deserve an honorable mention:
- The Expendables 2 (2012)
- The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
What do you think of these best Jet Li movies of all time? Are there any other movies you think should be included in this list? Do let us know in the comments below.