There is no arguing that kung fu cinema comes across as a rather male oriented genre of film. But what about the fairer sex? Michelle Yeoh and Angela Mao may be the most recognized poster women when it comes to Hong Kong action but they typically play second fiddle to male leads.
Dig a little deeper into the genre, however, and you will find a veritable goldmine of fighting femmes.
1. Warehouse Ruckus
This incredible two-for-one highlights the talents of Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima. These two powerhouses were considered the faces of female fight films throughout the 80’s, starring in a number of films together. Here they are in the finale of “Iron Angel.”
2. It Doesn’t Get More 80’s Than This
No other western woman has had an impact on the genre like Cynthia Rothrock. Throughout her career, she has squared off against the likes of Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Richard Norton and even Hwang Jang Lee.
Here she is in a rather rare “westerner versus westerner” fight against Karen Sheperd in the modern classic, “Above the Law” aka “Righting Wrongs.”
3. Angels in the Gym
The “Angel Terminators” films are considered top tier girls-with-guns movies. Here’s Moon Lee again, this time going blow for blow with the lesser known Lee Fai.
4. Women with Weapons
Possibly the most well recognized woman on woman fight ever filmed. Ang Lee made a bold statement when he pit Michelle Yeoh against Zhang Ziyi in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” He upped the ante even further by making it an all weapons fight!
5. Rough and Tumble
Considered the “female Tony Jaa,” Jeeja Yanin has made some serious waves in the world of martial arts. Here she faces female bodybuilder, Roongtawan Jindasing in a bone crunching brawl from “Raging Phoenix.”
6. It Runs in the Family
While this fight is a little more on the humorous side, it is one of the few chances you’ll get to see Donnie Yen’s sister, Chris Yen, wielding twin nunchaku. Here, she takes on the infamous “twins,” Charlene Choi and Gillian Cheung in “The Proteges of the Black Rose.”
7. Amateur Hour
YouTube has been a thriving hub of amateur martial art activity. Out of the thousands of short fight films available, Amy Johnston and Mickey Facchinello have established themselves as two of the most ferocious female martial artists out there. Here they are in their brutal one-on-one, “Chapter C Part 1.”
8. Girls in Gis
As silly as this fight is, it features a bevy of talented ladies, including Cynthia Khan and legendary Shaw Brothers actress, Kara Hui. Taken from the seemingly ironically titled, “Inspector Wears Skirts.”
9. Blades, Boots and Bombs
If there are two competing queens of today’s martial arts cinema, they are Jeeja Yanin (seen earlier) and Luxia Jiang. Here, in “Bad Blood,” Luxia Jiang takes on a dozen or so henchmen before her final standoff with the formidable Bernice Liu.
10. Under Sammo’s Wing
While the 90’s were known as Sammo Hung’s winding down period, he choreographed some truly ferocious fights during this time. In “Ghost Punting” (directed by the big man himself) he cast Elaine Lui. He wouldn’t regret it as Elaine would deliver this ballistic near-end fight. In a mini-dress, no less!
So there you have it; more than enough proof that when it comes to world class fights, the girls are up there with the boys. So, next time you go digging for those lost kung fu classics, make sure you don’t skip any starring the tough as nails women on this list!