Beginning in earnest in the 1960s, a British colony with a land area of less than 450 square miles spawned a commercial film industry of stunning vitality. At its peak, Hong Kong was the world's third biggest film producer, exceeded only by the United States and India. Its well-developed galaxy of movie stars made films of every genre which commanded huge audiences at home, across East Asia, and eventually the West. While film production has slowed dramatically since the boom years of the 1980s and 1990s, Hong Kong cinema is still an international cult phenomenon, its influence felt all over the world. This legacy rests on one thing above all - action movies.
Despite the transformation of stars like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh into household names, and the contributions of directors like John Woo to American film, relatively few people in the West are watching Hong Kong action movies today. This is due in part to their fairly poor availability on home video and streaming services, a situation which is only slowly changing for the better. Quite often, seeing even the most iconic films is a matter of sourcing out-of-print DVDs, or even importing region-free discs directly from Hong Kong.
What follows is my brief, personal introduction to the remarkable world of Hong Kong action cinema. With many hundreds of films made in the genre across the decades, a comprehensive guide is all but impossible - but the key films and further readings listed here should provide a point of entry into the most unique and thrilling action movies there are. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.