Every film genre – action, science fiction, horror, comedy and even animated – has had a series of memorable villains that have stuck with us for most of our lives. Whether it be a sadistic teenager portrayed by James Spader; an emotionless cyborg represented by Arnold Schwarzenegger; a suave, humorous terrorist leader played by Alan Rickman; or even a scarred lion voiced by Jeremy Irons – it’s the bad guys who make the classics so great!
So what about villains in martial arts film?
Villains in martial arts film definitely don’t get enough attention, so we’re aiming to fix this right now. Remember: It’s not so much how they look or how many foes they’ve taken down, it’s more about their impact on modern pop culture.
In no particular order, we introduce The Most Memorable Villains in Martial Arts Film: Part II.
FUNG SHENG WU CHI
Played by: Kam Kong
Trademark: Blind guy with a grudge against one-armed men
Weapon: The flying guillotine
When his pupils die at the hands of the famed One-Armed Boxer (Jimmy Wang), blind man Fung Sheng Wu Chi goes on a killing spree in his pursuit of vengeance. It’s his weapon of choice that makes him such a memorable bad guy. Being a blind man, Fung Sheng must use his other senses to track his enemies. When he’s locked on target, Fung Sheng throws the flying guillotine (which looks like a funky hat on a chain) onto his opponent’s head. He then yanks back on the chain, taking the head clean off. It’s both shocking and kind of funny. – Kyle Warner
Played by: Wu Jing
Trademark: White suit, sunglasses, and blonde tints
After gruesomely murdering in cold blood all but one of Donnie Yen’s team in Sha Po Lang, there are not many fans out there who don’t have the image ingrained into their minds of Wu Jing standing at the end of the alley way, waiting to dish out some serious hurt to Yen. Decked out in a white suit and armed with a deadly blade, the ruthlessness and speed of Wu Jing’s icy killer left an impression that the actor hasn’t been able to top since. – Paul Bramhall
Played by: Ken Takakura (also by Koji Tsuruta)
Trademark: An unusually long katana
Miyamoto Musashi may be the most famous Japanese swordsman of all time but any telling of his story would be incomplete without the inclusion of his rival Sasaki Kojiro. Played by a young Ken Takakura in Tomu Uchida’s Miyamoto Musashi film series, Kojiro observes Musashi from afar for multiple films before finally facing him in Duel at Ganryu Island. Kojiro isn’t really an evil man but he becomes the primary antagonist for the hero Musashi as they both seek to master the sword. Kojiro had supposedly been undefeated until the bout on Ganryu Island and many historians suggest that Musashi had to cheat in order to win. When the greatest of all time has to cheat to win, you know Sasaki Kojiro was a man to be reckoned with. – Kyle Warner
Played by: Scott Adkins
Trademark: A mohawk and more tattoos than you can shake a stick at
Weapon: He is the weapon
How do you know Boyka is a top villain? Well, how many other characters can you think of that aren’t even in the first movie of a series, have a supporting role in the sequel, but go on to become the star of both the third and fourth!? Boyka is that character, and while he may not remain the villain for the whole series, he left enough of an impression after throwing down with Michael Jai White in Undisputed 2, that he definitely deserves an entry on this list. – Paul Bramhall
Played by: Yayan Ruhian
Trademark: A ferocious temper
Weapon: A flurry of fists and feet
What Ruhian lacks in height, he more than makes up for in pure unadulterated rage. As the character of Mad Dog he was like a one-man army in the Indonesian action movie The Raid, tearing through key members of the SWAT team assigned to take out a crime lord with joyful abandon. What really remains in the mind about Mad Dog, is not only his wince inducing Silat skills, but also his love of inflicting pain on his hapless victims. A true villain in every sense of the word. – Paul Bramhall
Played by: Darren Shahlavi
Trademark: A metal eye mask
Weapon: Furious feet
Long before Donnie Yen hunted kung fu serial killer Baoqiang Wang in Kung Fu Jungle, Gary Daniels was after the original kung fu killer in the 1997 Seasonal Films production Bloodmoon. Sporting a cape, metallic eye mask, and rock star hair, Shalvavi’s Killer was memorable for all the right reasons. When he wasn’t laying waste to hapless martial arts experts, he was spouting such memorable lines as, “Did you notice, there’s blood on the moon tonight?” A true Shakespearian villain in every sense. – Paul Bramhall
Played by: James Hong
Trademark: Big hat and long fingernails
Weapon: Dark magic
Lo Pan may not be the most formidable villain on this list but he’s probably the most quotable. The sorcerer lived for thousands of years waiting for the right girl with green eyes to lift his curse only to have a bumbling idiot like Jack Burton come along and mess up his plans. Played with comic glee by James Hong, Lo Pan and Jack Burton make for a perfect hero/villain duo in Big Trouble in Little China. – Kyle Warner
Played by: Leung Siu-Lung
Trademark: Flip-flops and a tank top
Weapon: Superhuman fighting skills
When the Axe Gang is unable to defeat the landlady and landlord of Pig Sty Alley, they seek out the most dangerous man alive to do their dirty work for them. Meet the Beast, an unkempt, unimposing middle-aged man in flip-flops. But looks can be deceiving. A beating that would kill a normal man only gives the Beast a bloody nose and his skills as a fighter appear to be unmatched. When finally challenged by an unlikely hero in the film’s finale, the Beast takes on the attributes of a toad and starts hopping all around the place, destroying much of Pig Sty Alley in the process. Kung Fu Hustle plays like a live-action kung fu cartoon full of larger-than-life characters, and the villainous Beast is among the film’s most memorable. – Kyle Warner
If you missed it, be sure to check out Part I of this article. Until then, we’ll be working on The Most Memorable Villains in Martial Arts Film: Part III. Any suggestions?