Jet Li is an international martial arts action superstar of epic proportions, but he didn’t start out that way. For years, he made a name for himself in the East Asian action movie market before finally crossing over to Hollywood. Although he has largely returned to his roots, Jet Li remains one of the most recognized action stars ever filmed.
Although many may judge Jet based on his total work, they cannot forget his foray into the American action movie scene. Not all of his films were bona fide hits, but they were enough to put his name on the map and pave the way for other East Asian martial arts actors.
10 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008): 5.2
It’s ironic that one of Hollywood’s most iconic film franchises, and with one of the biggest budgets, ends up ranking so low, but it’s true. Jet Li traded places with originals Mummy The villainous Arnold Vosloo will play the evil Emperor Han, a powerful Chinese ruler cursed by a sorceress who is revived by an opportunistic general.
It’s up to the original mummy killers Rick and Evelyn O’Connell to defeat the Han Emperor before he and his undead army can conquer Earth. While the premise is familiar, the change of scenery and culture wasn’t enough to keep this movie off the critics list.
9 Cradle 2 The Grave (2003): 5.8
Director Andrzej Bartkowiak teamed up with Jet Li for the second time in this 2003 film that pitted him alongside DMX, who also appeared with Jet in Romeo must die. Here, Jet plays a Taiwanese intelligence agent who teams up with a master thief to retrieve a cache of stones that are far more than they appear.
The action sequences are kinetic and frenetic, but locked in time squarely in the early 21st century, for better or for worse. As the audience slowly descended from the Matrix trilogy, Bartkowiak tried to cash in on the insanity, but ended up damaging this movie in the process.
8 The One (2001): 5.9
Often forgotten The only is actually quite a unique and inventive image of Jet Li that saw him doing much more than just playing the soft-spoken martial arts hero. Here, he plays Gabriel Yulaw, a secret operative who watches over the journey between the dimensions that make up the multiverse. Yulaw has a theory that if he slays each and every one of his 124 doppelgangers from other dimensions, he will reach maximum power and become “the One”.
He pursues his ultimate goal, Gabe Law, in hopes of killing him and achieving his goal, but Gabe has also experienced the same increases in strength, speed, and stamina. Equally paired, the two battle across multiple universes to see who wins.
7 Romeo must die (2000): 6.1
After Jet Li’s explosive entrance to Western audiences with Lethal Weapon 4, Director Andrzej Bartkowiak decided to capitalize on his astonishing martial arts prowess by hiring him Romeo must die. It is notable for an interesting cast of characters and a rather silly love story involving a fight between two crime syndicates.
The late Aaliyah acted alongside Jet in this movie, and while their chemistry was dead upon arrival, they were a cute enough couple for audiences to take notice. The movie has some great action sequences that sadly come undone with the inclusion of some hilarious X-ray footage and hilarious dialogue. Other than that, great fun to watch.
6 War (2007): 6.2
Jet Li and outrageously hyped action star Jason Statham teamed up for the second time after starring The only, but this time, they were on opposite sides. Here, Jet plays Rogue, a former CIA assassin who decides to work for the Yakuza. Statham plays FBI agent John Crawford, a man with a personal vendetta against Rogue for the murder of his partner and family.
At least, that is what it seems. As the movie unfolds, the audience is thrown curveball after curveball until reality is turned upside down. It’s clever, if not a bit cliché, but Jet and Statham match up excellently and manage to tell an interesting story in the process.
5 The Expendables (2010): 6.5
Jet Li was cast by action mega superstar Sylvester Stallone for the first time Expendable Supply Items movie, and fit in perfectly with the rest of the clumsy and aging cast. While it was hilarious and fun to watch Jet Li take on the likes of Dolph Lundgren, he managed to show his martial arts prowess across the board, including a particularly excellent fight against Gary Daniels.
Jet would be featured less prominently in the other Expendable Supply Items movies as time went by, this first outing being the highlight, but it was a stroke of genius to add it to the list. By the time 2010 rolled around, he had certainly earned it.
4 Kiss of the Dragon (2001): 6.6
Jet Li starred with Bridget Fonda in this action thriller, which resulted in a strange but pleasant couple. Jet played Chinese intelligence agent Liu Siu-jian, a man sent to Paris to arrest a heroin dealer, and ends up being framed for his murder. While it’s relatively straightforward in terms of story and showmanship, the film’s rawness helped raise it up in IMDb ratings.
The film is memorable for the final scene in which Jet’s character uses an acupuncture needle to cause blood from the body to rush to the brain, causing a painful aneurysm known as the Dragon’s Kiss. Corny, maybe, but great.
3 The Expendables 2 (2012): 6.6
Jet Li fell a bit into the background with the second Expendable Supply Items film, especially in light of the appearance of Jean-Claude Van Damme as the main bad boy. Still, he managed to hold his own through the sprawling action pieces, particularly in the first act when he takes on a group of thugs and takes the live tar out of them with fists, pans, and whatever else he can get hold of. .
Unfortunately, he retires after the first 15 minutes, which is a shame considering what happens for the next 90 minutes, including a great cameo from the one and only Chuck Norris. Still, it makes a great entrance, not to mention an exit.
two Lethal Weapon 4 (1998): 6.7
Lethal weapon Fans were happy to see Murtaugh and Riggs on screen again, but they had some serious competition in the form of Jet Li, who made his American big screen debut in the fourth episode. Jet played Wah Sing Ku, a vicious member of a Triad gang who proves to be more than a match for both of them.
The movie is memorable for that final action sequence when Murtaugh and Riggs team up with Wah Sing Ku, only to have their asses painfully handed to them. Eventually, brute force overcomes form and Wah Sing Ku is killed, but it turns out to be the most brutal fight of Murtaugh and Riggs’ careers.
1 Unleashed (2005): 7.0
Jet Li shared the screen with none other than Morgan Freeman in this action epic where he played a character with a split personality. The former is a shy, passive, and socially inept young man, and the latter is a furious fighter capable of incredible feats of strength and brutality.
The film received high praise for Jet’s performance as a battered and traumatized man who was raised as a dog and forced into a life of merciless pit fighting. Here, you can display a wide range of emotions while learning to socialize and live like a normal human being, at least between all the beatings.
NEXT: The 10 Most Impressive Low-Budget Martial Arts Movies Of The 1990s
Sophia Loren’s 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes
About the Author