In celebration of the growing popularity of martial arts cinema, Black Belt asked me to devise a list of the top 20 martial arts film stars. In reality, this list could have been different for each decade since the 1970s because in years past, one could reflect only on names with which the audience might be familiar. But today’s kung fu film fans are more sophisticated and aware of not only who the biggest martial arts stars of today are but also who the legends of yesteryear were. So this ranking promises to stand the test of time. The actors were chosen based not on their martial arts abilities but on their impact on the history and development of the genre.
Martial Arts Film Star #20: David CarradineOnly two Americans have influenced the essence of the martial arts in the West. Bruce Lee is one—we’ll deal with him later—and David Carradine is the other. Carradine’s original Kung Fu TV pilot and series, which ran on ABC from 1972 to 1975, is the only show that truly tried to reflect the soul and spirit of Shaolin Temple. It focused on living in peace, healing and learning the martial arts so one doesn’t have to fight—all of which are lessons modern students would do well to concentrate on.
Discover which Bruce Lee film Jackie Chan appeared in with our FREE guide—Our Bruce Lee Movies List: Little-Known Trivia From Bruce Lee's Pictures.