With over 35 years of experience in the martial arts movie genre and proficiency in multiple martial arts styles, Donnie Yen is already a legend. Whether new or old, the best Donnie Yen movies showcase the actor’s incredible fighting prowess and his equally captivating qualities as a dramatic performer.
Updated on January 7th, 2023 by Jordan Iacobucci: Donnie Yen’s career only continues to grow, especially after his introduction to a certain iconic Hollywood franchise with John Wick: Chapter 4, which is set to release March 2023. As Yen’s fans patiently await his appearance in the highly anticipated film, they can also look back at some of the best films in his career so far, according to the rating system of IMDb.
Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen (2010) – 6.2
Stream On Netflix And Peacock
Every Chinese martial arts actor wants to play the legendary role of Chen Zhen in one of the many renditions of the franchise. It is, after all, an honor to play the Jing Wu Athletic Association’s best student. Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen have all had the opportunity to portray Chen Zhen, with Yen acting as the latest rendition of the hero so far.
Donnie Yen played the iconic martial arts hero twice, in the 1995 Fist of Fury television series and later in the 2010 movie Legend Of The Fist: Return Of Chen Zhen. The latter of these proved to be a mixed bag, with some of the iconic features of the character and story resonating with fans, whereas others felt it was merely a mishmash of martial arts moments with little in terms of story or character development.
Chasing The Dragon (2017) – 6.7
Stream On Fubo TV
Chasing the Dragon is a 2017 action film wherein Donnie Yen portrays Crippled Ho, a fictionalized version of a real-life Hong Kong gangster. The film is a part of the Andy Lau Lee Rock franchise, while also acting as a remake of a similar 1991 Hong Kong film, To Be Number One.
Although Yen is best known for his heroic roles, it is also interesting to see the beloved actor take on a more villainous personality, as he does in Chasing the Dragon. The film itself had its issues, but Yen certainly disappoint in his portrayal of a complicated man on the verge of living a life of crime.
Flashpoint (2007) – 6.7
Stream On Peacock
In the 2007 film Flashpoint, Donnie Yen plays a police sergeant Ma Jun, who serves in Hong Kong just before the island was returned to China’s custody. He and his partner work to defeat a Vietnamese gang that is wreaking havoc throughout their territory.
Yen not only stars in this film but also worked on its fight scene choreography, adding an extra sense of realism to its action sequences. Flashpoint may not measure up to some of the actor’s greatest achievements, but it is difficult to deny the visceral realism of some of its fight scenes, which is largely a result of Yen’s efforts.
Blade II (2002) – 6.7
Stream On Hulu
Blade II is the sequel to the hit 1998 film starring Wesley Snipes as the titular Vampire Hunter. Donnie Yen joined the cast of the highly-anticipated second installment of the series, portraying the relatively minor character Snowman, a member of Dieter Rienhardt’s Bloodpack.
Though Blade II is far from a perfect film, it and its predecessor are largely responsible for kicking off the superhero film craze of the early 2000s and beyond. In hindsight, the 2002 sequel would have only been improved by an expanded role for Donnie Yen, though his work on the film primarily consisted of providing the fight choreography. This movie also served as one of Yen’s first Hollywood projects, opening up the door to his work in several acclaimed American films.
The Last Conflict (1988) – 6.8
The Last Conflict is a 1988 television film and another action crime thriller from director Raymond Lee. Starring Donnie Yen, Stephen Chow, Adia Chan, Francis Ng, Lau Kong, and Andy Tan, The Last Conflict is a story about several cops who are called up to investigate a forgery case. The story involved love, friendship, rejection, and revenge.
The film ran on TVB and is one of Donnie Yen’s most action-packed movies. It may not be on the pedestals of In The Line of Duty or Tiger Cage, but its fandom is certainly content with the action offered therein, allowing them extra insight into Donnie Yen’s starting years in the movie industry.
Bodyguards And Assassins (2009) – 6.8
Stream On The Roku Channel
Add typical action-film flair to a real-life historical event, Bodyguards and Assassins depicts the beginnings of Hong Kong’s revolution against Qing Empire China in a bid to become their very own independent nation. In addition to Donnie Yen, the film also stars several big-name actors, including Tony Leung Ka-fai, Nicholas Tse, Fan Bingbing, as well as many others.
In this 2009 historical action film, Yen portrays the protagonist, Shen Chongyang, a destitute gambler who must find redemption among the revolutionaries. The film won numerous awards in Hong Kong, though Yen himself was not a recipient of any of these. Nevertheless, he does manage to leave an impact on the audience, even if awards ceremonies ultimately slighted his performance.
Tiger Cage II (1990) – 6.9
Rent On Amazon
Long before Donnie Yen found himself at the heart of the Star Wars franchise, he was starring in the 1990 Hong Kong martial arts flick, Tiger Cage II, directed by world-renowned director Yuen Woo-ping. It’s a fiery action spectacle that centers around Yen playing an ex-cop who finds himself caught up in a robbery gone wrong.
This film paired Yen up with fellow martial arts alum Robin Shou five years before he was cast as Liu Kang in the 1995 Mortal Kombat live-action film. The two played off one another quite well, marking one of the martial arts genre’s best behind-the-scenes team-ups of all time.
Wing Chun (1994) – 7.0
Rent On Amazon
One of Yen’s earliest works is Wing Chun, a 1994 action film also starring Michelle Yeoh as Yim Wing Chun, one of the principal founders of the Wing Chun kung fu fighting style. When her village is set upon by criminals, she uses this brutal fighting style to teach them a lesson but ends up courting more trouble than she bargained for.
Donnie Yen would revisit the concept of Wing Chun several times throughout his film career, most notably in his role as Ip Man, the Grand Master responsible for spreading martial art around the world. To this day, it remains one of the most effective forms of kung fu ever devised.
Dragon (2011) – 7.0
Stream On The Roku Channel
Dragon is a 2012 wuxia martial arts flick that injects a healthy dose of detective film-noir elements to weave a complex and riveting storyline. Donnie Yen stars as a reluctant craftsman who saves two shopkeepers from a pair of criminal gangsters, which ends up attracting all kinds of unwanted attention.
Soon, a detective starts investigating the incident and sets his sights on Yen’s character Liu Jinxi, believing he may have ties to a far more sinister history. The fight scenes and cinematography are top-notch, and the combination of story elements makes it an enjoyable 1-hour and 40-minute romp.
SPL: Kill Zone (2005) – 7.0
Stream On Tubi And PLEX
Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung teamed up in 2010’s Ip Man 2, but it wasn’t their first outing together. Their first pairing came in the 2005 action film, SPL: Kill Zone, which stars Yen as Ma Kwun, a Hong Kong police officer with a dark past who gets caught up in a deadly game of revenge between a vicious gangster and the cop who failed to put him away.
SPL: Kill Zone is a dark story with a tragic ending that sings the truth about the evil nature of revenge, and how it can cost a man everything. Furthermore, the onscreen pairing of Yen and Hung would indeed prove profitable, as they would team up again in future years.
Ip Man 3 (2015) – 7.0
Stream On Netflix And Peacock
The third installment of the Ip Man franchise continues the story of Donnie Yen’s eponymous martial arts legend as he begins to train the future action film star Bruce Lee. In this film, Ip Man must contend with a rival martial artist, who wants to dethrone him as the reigning champion of the Wing Chun fighting style.
Ip Man 3 may be the lowest-rated entry in the franchise, but it is still among Donnie Yen’s greatest films of all time. He once again proves why he was the perfect martial artist to portray this legendary figure, while simultaneously retaining his own place as one of the world’s leading action stars.
Ip Man 4: The Finale (2019) – 7.0
Stream On Netflix
Donnie Yen wrapped up his iconic martial arts biopic series about the life of famed Wing Chun practitioner and teacher Ip Man with the final installment in 2019. The series went off on a high note with a change of locale to the United States during the 1960s.
The film not only tackled Ip Man’s struggle to bond with his son following his wife’s tragic passing but also his own mortality after being diagnosed with cancer. Ip Man bravely battles both the disease and the inherent anti-Asian racism of the era in a stunning pitch to unite people regardless of their ethnic background.
In The Line Of Duty IV: Witness (1989) – 7.1
Stream On Fubo TV
A loose sequel set within the In the Line of Duty series of films, this 1989 action film follows an alliance between cops from both America and Hong Kong as they seek to take down two dirty cops in Seattle, Washington.
In the Line of Duty IV: Witness sees Donnie Yen portray the aptly named Captain Donnie Yan, who spearheads the operation to root out the corrupt cops in the system. As one of Yen’s earlier films, it brilliantly portrayed his martial arts skills, leading him to more and more roles in the future that would continue his world-class career.
Dragon Inn (1992) – 7.2
Rent On Apple TV
Released as New Dragon Gate Inn in Asia, Dragon Inn is a remake of the 1967 Wuxia classic Dragon Gate Inn. Tsui Hark produced the film and Raymond Lee directed it. It starred Brigit Lin, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Maggie Cheung, and Donnie Yen.
The movie is set in the desert during the Ming dynasty, wherein Donnie Yen plays a vicious prefect. When Some of the members of his cabinet plotted against him, he executes them and sent their children into exile in order to lure the others out. This film is highly praised among Yen’s other projects, showing a much more callous side of the actor than his fans are used to seeing. This will undoubtedly be a role that he looks back to as he portrays Caine in the upcoming John Wick film.
Once Upon a Time In China II (1992) – 7.3
Stream On Prime Video
Once Upon A Time In China 2 is one of the few movies that might make Donnie Yen lose some fans, due to the ruthless nature of his character therein. Yen plays Lam, a Chinese general whose mission is to eliminate all revolutionaries in the country. He plays opposite Jet Li, who portrays the Chinese martial arts folk hero, Wong Fei hong.
In a story set in the era when some men wanted to liberate China from imperial rule. The movie includes fight scenes between Li and Yen, and thereby certainly makes the most of their pair-up. The onscreen union between these two martial arts icons is enough reason for any fan of the genre to view this amazing film.
Iron Monkey (1993) – 7.5
Stream On Pluto TV
One of Yuen Woo Ping’s master classes in martial arts cinema, Iron Monkey features Donnie Yen as Wong Kei Ying, the Chinese martial arts folk hero who acts as the “Chinese Robin Hood,” stealing from the corrupt government and giving the profits to the poor.
Iron Monkey proved to be popular in both Hong Kong and America, foreshadowing Donnie Yen’s future roles in major films from both regions. It remains the actor’s highest-rated film in his early career, helping to establish him as a talent on the rise.
Ip Man 2 (2010) – 7.5
Stream On Netflix
Ip Man 2 expands Donnie Yen’s titular character, portraying the real mannerisms of the iconic martial artist. The film also featured the late Darren Shahlavi, an exceptional martial artist, who plays a British boxer harassing Chinese martial artists.
At the time of the film’s events, Ip Man and the Chinese martial arts association weren’t on the same page, leading to a conflict between the two parties that consisted of various fighting styles. Donnie Yen, vastly skilled in various different fighting styles, learned to box for the role, increasing his versatility as an action star.
Rogue One: A Star War Story (2016) – 7.8
Stream On Disney+
In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Donnie Yen plays Chirrut Imwe, a martial arts master and monk who trusts in the Force despite the odds that tell him otherwise. Imwe and his companion Baze Malbus become embroiled in the Rebels’ fight to steal the coveted Death Star plans, though they are ultimately killed with the rest of their crew in Rogue One‘s tragic ending.
Rogue One is undoubtedly the biggest film to feature Donnie Yen, premiering to the worldwide box office and earning a nice profit thereby. Though Yen is not typically involved in major franchises such as Star Wars, his appearance as Chirrut gave the film a heightened sense of notoriety, and he proved to be one of the best characters therein.
Hero (2002) – 7.9
Stream On Hoopla
Many fans of martial arts films must respect Zhang Yimou’s prowess in creating some of China’s biggest modern classics. Not only did he craft a cunning and creative film in 2002’s Hero, but he also combined many of the biggest martial arts stars of all time.
In Hero, Donnie Yen and Jet Li performed one of the most electric fight scenes in the history of martial arts movies. The idea of Jet Li’s nameless warrior challenging Donnie Yen to a fight excited fans everywhere, but especially in the Asian markets, where it broke many records upon its release.
Ip Man (2008) – 8.0
Stream On Netflix And Peacock
Donnie Yen returned to the limelight with the Ip Man franchise, proving that he had even more to offer after his performance in the hit film Hero. The first installment of Ip Man brought the famous Wing Chun (a Chinese martial arts style) master Ip Man onscreen for the very first time.
Amidst his long and storied career in the martial arts genre, Donnie Yen finds his greatest success as Ip Man. The franchise itself has been his most celebrated ongoing performance yet, as he brings both skill and charisma to the role. He would go on to play the martial arts icon for three more films, crafting a character that might very well define his entire career.