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The Best Martial Arts Movies and TV Shows on The Criterion Channel

Finding a good Martial Arts movie and TV show to watch can be hard, so we've ranked the best ones and included where to watch them. Check out our list of the best Martial Arts movies and TV shows of all time streaming on The Criterion Channel.

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1. Seven Samurai

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.6/10
Reelgood Logo
92/100
Released: 1954
Drama, Action & Adventure

What it's about: A samurai answers a village's request for protection after he falls on hard times. The town needs protection from bandits, so the samurai gathers six others to help him teach the people how to defend themselves, and the villagers provide the soldiers with food. A giant battle occurs when 40 bandits attack the village.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 5 services (iTunes, Google Play & 3 others).

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2. In the Mood for Love

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.1/10
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87/100
Released: 2000Rated: PG
Drama, Romance

What it's about: Taking place in Hong Kong of 1962, a melancholy story about the love between a woman and a man who live in the same building and one day find out that their husband and wife had an affair with each other.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy).

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3. Yojimbo

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.2/10
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86/100
Released: 1961
Drama, Action & Adventure

What it's about: A nameless ronin, or samurai with no master, enters a small village in feudal Japan where two rival businessmen are struggling for control of the local gambling trade. Taking the name Sanjuro Kuwabatake, the ronin convinces both silk merchant Tazaemon and sake merchant Tokuemon to hire him as a personal bodyguard, then artfully sets in motion a full-scale gang war between the two ambitious and unscrupulous men.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX & The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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4. Sanjuro

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.1/10
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82/100
Released: 1962
Action & Adventure, Drama

What it's about: Toshiro Mifune swaggers and snarls to brilliant comic effect in Kurosawa's tightly paced, beautifully composed "Sanjuro." In this companion piece and sequel to "Yojimbo," jaded samurai Sanjuro helps an idealistic group of young warriors weed out their clan's evil influences, and in the process turns their image of a proper samurai on its ear.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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5. Police Story

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.6/10
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80/100
Released: 1985Rated: PG-13
Action & Adventure, Comedy

What it's about: A virtuous Hong Kong police officer must clear his name after he is framed for murder.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX & The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 3 services (iTunes, Prime Video & Vudu).

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6. Samurai Rebellion

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8.4/10
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77/100
Released: 1967Rated: G
Drama, History

What it's about: Toshiro Mifune stars as Isaburo Sasahara, an aging swordsman living a quiet life until his clan lord orders that his son marry the lord's mistress, who has recently displeased the ruler. Reluctantly, father and son take in the woman, and, to the family’s surprise, the young couple fall in love. But the lord soon reverses his decision and demands the mistress’s return. Against all expectations, Isaburo and his son refuse, risking the destruction of their entire family. Director Masaki Kobayashi's Samurai Rebellion is the gripping story of a peaceful man who finally decides to take a stand against injustice.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel & Kanopy).

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7. Lady Snowblood

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7.7/10
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77/100
Released: 1973
Action & Adventure, Drama

What it's about: Yuki's family is nearly wiped out before she is born due to the machinations of a band of criminals. These criminals kidnap and brutalize her mother but leave her alive. Later her mother ends up in prison with only revenge to keep her alive. She creates an instrument for this revenge by purposefully getting pregnant. Yuki never knows the love of a family but only killing and revenge.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX & The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 3 services (iTunes, Google Play & Prime Video).

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8. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx

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8.0/10
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75/100
Released: 1972
Action & Adventure, Drama

What it's about: In the second film of the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Ogami Itto battles a group of female ninja in the employ of the Yagyu clan and must assassinate a traitor who plans to sell his clan's secrets to the Shogunate.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $1.99 on 5 services (iTunes, Google Play & 3 others).

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9. Shogun Assassin

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7.4/10
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75/100
Released: 1980Rated: R
Action & Adventure

What it's about: A Shogun who grew paranoid as he became senile sent his ninjas to kill his samurai. They failed but did kill the samurai’s wife. The samurai swore to avenge the death of his wife and roams the countryside with his toddler son in search of vengeance.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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10. Police Story 2

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.1/10
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74/100
Released: 1988Rated: PG-13
Action & Adventure, Comedy

What it's about: The Hong Kong super-cop must stop a group of blackmailing bombers at the same time that the villains of the first Police Story are out for revenge.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 1 service (iTunes).

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11. The Sword of Doom

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.0/10
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72/100
Released: 1966
Action & Adventure, Independent

What it's about: Ryunosuke, a gifted swordsman plying his trade during the turbulent final days of Shogunate rule, has no moral code and kills without remorse. It’s a way of life that leads to madness.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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12. A Touch of Zen

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.6/10
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72/100
Released: 1970
Action & Adventure, Drama

What it's about: Ming dynasty noblewoman Yang must escape from the evil eunuch Hsu. She seeks refuge at a decrepit town where she gets assistance from a naive scholar & a group of mysterious yet powerful monks.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 4 services (iTunes, Google Play & 2 others).

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13. Dragon Inn

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7.5/10
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68/100
Released: 1967
Action & Adventure

What it's about: After having the emperor’s minister of defense executed, a power-grabbing eunuch sends assassins to trail the victim’s children to a remote point on the northern Chinese border. But that bloodthirsty mission is confounded by a mysterious group of fighters who arrive on the scene, intent on delivering justice and defending the innocent.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Google Play).

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14. Last Hurrah for Chivalry

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.1/10
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66/100
Released: 1979
Action & Adventure, Drama

What it's about: Kao has purchased a new wife, but an enemy has paid her more money to kill him. Kao must recruit a pair of swordsmen to help defend himself and his family from his ruthless enemy. But Kao has his dark side as well. A complex early action film from master director Woo.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $1.99 on 1 service (Google Play).

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15. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril

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7.6/10
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59/100
Released: 1972
Action & Adventure, Thriller

What it's about: In the fourth film of the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Ogami Itto is hired to kill a tattooed female assassin and battles Retsudo, head of the Yagyu clan, and his son Gunbei.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 5 services (iTunes, Google Play & 3 others).

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16. The Young Master

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.2/10
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58/100
Released: 1980Rated: PG-13
Action & Adventure, Comedy

What it's about: Youthful martial arts master Lung is searching for his missing brother, when he is mistaken for a criminal on the run. He must prove his innocence by solving the case himself, while local lawmen and merciless mercenaries are hot on his trail.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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17. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.6/10
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58/100
Released: 1972Rated: R
Action & Adventure, Drama

What it's about: In the third film of the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Ogami Itto volunteers to be tortured by Yakuza to save a prostitute and is hired by their leader to kill an evil chamberlain.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 5 services (iTunes, Google Play & 3 others).

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18. Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.6/10
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57/100
Released: 1956
Action & Adventure, Biography

What it's about: A humble and simple Takezo abandons his life as a knight errant. He's sought as a teacher and vassal by Shogun, Japan's most powerful clan leader. He's also challenged to fight by the supremely confident and skilful Sasaki Kojiro. Takezo agrees to fight Kojiro in a year's time but rejects Shogun's patronage, choosing instead to live on the edge of a village, raising vegetables. He's followed there by Otsu and later by Akemi, both in love with him. The year ends as Takezo assists the villagers against a band of brigands. He seeks Otsu's forgiveness and accepts her love, then sets off across the water to Ganryu Island for his final contest.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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19. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons

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7.6/10
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57/100
Released: 1973
Action & Adventure, Crime

What it's about: In the fifth film of the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Ogami Itto is challenged by five warriors, each has one fifth of Ogami's assassin fee and one fifth of the information he needs to complete his assassination.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 5 services (iTunes, Google Play & 3 others).

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20. My Lucky Stars

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
6.5/10
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54/100
Released: 1985Rated: PG-13
Action & Adventure, Comedy

What it's about: Two Hong-Kong cops are sent to Tokyo to catch an ex-cop who stole a large amount of money in diamonds. After one is captured by the Ninja-gang protecting the rogue cop, the other one gets his old Orphanage gang, dubbed the "Five Lucky Stars," to help him. They don't like this much, but they do it.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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21. Fearless Hyena

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
6.7/10
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54/100
Released: 1979Rated: R
Comedy, Action & Adventure

What it's about: Lung (Jackie Chan) is a talented fighter but prefers to spend his time loafing around and picking fights, despite orders from his grandfather (James Tien) not to fight. Unknown to him, a brutal general (Yam Sai Kun) has been slaughtering all the people from his grandfather’s clan. When the general recognizes Lung’s style of kung fu during one of his street fights, he hunts down Lung’s grandfather and kills him.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (Prime Video, The Criterion Channel & Hoopla) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 1 service (Prime Video).

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22. Sword of the Beast

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.6/10
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52/100
Released: 1965
Action & Adventure, Independent

What it's about: Legendary swordplay filmmaker Hideo Gosha's Sword of the Beast chronicles the flight of the low-level swordsman Gennosuke, who kills one of his ministers as part of a reform plot. His former comrades then turn on him, and this betrayal so shakes his sense of honor that he decides to live in the wild, like an animal. There he joins up with a motley group who are illegally mining the shogun’s gold, and, with the aid of another swordsman, gets a chance not just at survival but to recover his name and honor.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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23. Chinese Odyssey 2002

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.0/10
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52/100
Released: 2002
Comedy, Romance

What it's about: The Emperor (Chang Chen) is desperate for the free-spirited life of a wanderer, and tries to escape from the royal palace with his sister, the Princess (Faye Wong). He's caught and returned to his angry mother by the royal guards, but the Princess, disguised as a man, manages to escape. Meanwhile, King Bully (Tony Leung) has returned to his hometown, where he is widely despised for his bullying ways, to run a restaurant with his tomboy sister, Phoenix (Vicki Zhao). They have a very close relationship. In fact, King Bully mistakenly believes that he can read his sister's mind. When the Princess arrives in town, King Bully finds himself drawn to her, but, believing she's a man, decides that his attraction is some kind of empathy with Phoenix.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $2.00 on 1 service (Vudu).

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24. Spiritual Kung Fu

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5.9/10
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47/100
Released: 1978Rated: PG
Action & Adventure, Comedy

What it's about: Jackie Chan plays the part of the class clown in a shaolin temple whose deadliest secret is stolen. All is lost until Jackie's character discovers dancing blue ghosts with bright red hair who haunt the library.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel & Hiyah).

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25. Sanshiro Sugata Part Two

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6.1/10
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40/100
Released: 1945
Action & Adventure, Drama

What it's about: In this government-suggested sequel, Sugata again grows as a judo master, and demonstrates his (and by extension, all Japanese) superiority to the foreign warrior.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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