BySteven Brinn, writer at
Covering action movies, horror and assorted other wackiness. Follow me on Twitter: @douchebagbatman
Steven Brinn

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been a huge hit for Disney, bringing in a whopping $290 million in its opening weekend and helping the House of Mouse to take in $7 billion, the most made by a film studio in a single year, ever. Not only a financial success, this film has been a hit with critics and fans alike thanks to its stellar action and unique, diverse cast.

Within an amazing cast, the film's breakout star is Donnie Yen, who plays Chirrut Îmwe, a Jedi Master who is the perfect mix of and a kung fu grandmaster. Whether it's the theories surrounding the relationship between Îmwe and his friend Baze (Wen Jiang) or his epic fight sequences, Yen and his latest fan-favorite character has captivated the imaginations of fans around the world.

But this is far from Yen's first major film. In fact, he is one of the biggest Chinese action stars of all time. might be his most high-profile film to date, but he has been in several important Chinese films of the past couple of decades and has won awards for his acting and fight choreography. So for those who are new to this martial arts star, here are 10 of his films you simply must see.

1. In The Line Of Duty 4

  • Director: Woo-Ping Yuen
  • Year released: 1989
  • Co-stars: Cynthia Khan, Michael Wong

One of Yen's first big roles was in the film In The Line of Duty 4. While he played a major part of the on-camera action, what Yen is best known for is his contributions behind the lens. This sequel to the long-running Yes, Madam! series is the first film to feature Yen as action choreographer, a role he would enjoy much acclaim for.

2. Blade II

  • Director: Guillermo del Toro
  • Year released: 2002
  • Co-stars: Wesley Snipes, Ron Perlman, Norman Reedus

One of Yen's first appearance in a major US film was 2002's vampire superhero sequel Blade II. He played Snowman, a silent swordsman who was a member of the Bloodpack, a group of vampires forced to team up with their enemy Blade. Unfortunately, most of his scenes were cut from the film. But like In The Line of Duty 4, Yen's biggest contribution was behind the scenes, again as the movie's fight choreographer. Mixing martial arts and swordplay is one of the big reasons Blade II represents the best in the series.

3. Hero

  • Director: Yimou Zhang
  • Year released: 2002
  • Co-stars: Jet Li, Ziyi Zhang, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai

His second — and much higher profile appearance — in the United States was in the Jet Li epic Hero. In this modern take on the wuxia genre, Yen is the assassin known as Long Sky. A skilled spearman, his big scene had him face Nameless (Jet Li) in a rainy chess courtyard. With only the sounds of weapons clashing and a Chinese guqin providing the soundtrack, this small but potent scene features these two martial arts legends doing what they do best.

4. SPL: Kill Zone

  • Director: Wilson Yip
  • Year released: 2005
  • Co-stars: Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Jing Wu

With Yen by now an established star, SPL: Sha Po Lang (titled Kill Zone in the US) saw him team up with director — and now longtime collaborator — Wilson Yip. A throwback to '80s Hong Kong action, it featured Yen as Inspector Ma Kwan who is entangled with crime lord Wong Po (Hong Kong legend Sammo Hung).

The winner of the Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Action Choreography, this film offers several dazzling fights featuring Yen and climaxes in a stellar battle with Hung. It is one of the rare movie fights that does a beautiful job mixing traditional martial arts and mixed martial arts. Clearly inspired by movies like 1987's City on Fire, it is the kind of film that would do '80s-era Chow Yun-Fat proud.

5. Flash Point

  • Director: Wilson Yip
  • Year released: 2007
  • Co-stars: Louis Koo, Collin Chou, Fan Bingbing

Yen reunites with Yip for Flash Point. If SPL is an old-school heroic bloodshed movie, Flash Point is like the Quentin version that comes out a couple years later. Another one that boasts all the trappings of an '80s Hong Kong action movie, only a bit more preposterous than its inspiration. As crazy as this film gets, the fight scenes are still top-notch. From chase scenes to a 20-minute sequence in an abandoned Chinese village, it's the perfect follow-up to SPL.

6. Ip Man

  • Director: Wilson Yip
  • Year released: 2008
  • Co-stars: Simon Yam, Lynn Hung

The story of Wing Chun grandmaster Yip Man, this is Yen's third film pairing with Wilson Yip to appear on this list. What makes this award-winning flick stick out is not the amazing action sequences, but Yen's acting. He brings a certain dignity that is required for such a role; a calm in the face of adversity that you expect from a person like Yip Man, who taught martial arts to the iconic Bruce Lee. As strong as the combat of this film is, it is the drama that holds together. With the movie being so great, it is easy to see why it spawned two sequels, with a third on the way.

7. Bodyguards And Assassins

  • Director: Teddy Chan
  • Year released: 2009
  • Co-stars: Tony Ka Fai Leung, Nicholas Tse

Set in 1905, Bodyguards and Assassins is a historical drama about the arrival and protection of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen. But instead of focusing on Yat-sen, this ensemble movie focuses on those who were chosen to protect him. One of the main bodyguards is a corrupt cop named Sum Chung-Yang, played by Yen. The opposite of respected Master Ip, this shady figure eventually proves his worth by giving his all to protect the political target. Part Seven Swords, part chase film, this is an enlightening look at a point in history many would be unaware of.

8. Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen

  • Director: Wai-Keung Lau
  • Year released: 2010
  • Co-stars: Shu Qi, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong

Things come full circle, with Yen portraying Chen Zhen, a character first played by in Fist of Fury. Returning from World War I, Chen Zhen poses as a wealthy playboy in 1920s China while also working with a group of patriots trying to stop Japan from invading their country. While replacing Bruce Lee sounds like a daunting task, Yen does the job admirably by bringing the kind of charisma and lightning-fast moves he brought to his portrayal of Ip Man. A mix of kung fu extravaganza and political intrigue, this wartime action flick has set pieces that will leave you breathless.

9. Dragon

  • Director: Peter Ho-Sun Chan
  • Year released: 2011
  • Co-stars: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Jimmy Wang Yu

While most of Yen's films deal with martial arts, some of his best work mixes this element with other genres. A perfect example of this is 2011's Dragon — titled Wu Xia on its original release — which is something akin to a wuxia take on A History of Violence.

Yen plays Liu Jin-Xi, a papermaker living a quiet life in a small village with his family, whose tranquility implodes when two criminals attempt to rob him. As Detective Xu Bai-Jiu (Kaneshiro) investigates, the case isn't quite as open and shut as it might have seemed. a martial arts-noir hybrid sounds crazy, but it works thanks to Yen giving one of his best performances to date.

10. Kung Fu Jungle

  • Director: Teddy Chan
  • Year released: 2014
  • Co-stars: Baoqiang Wang

Yen reunites with director Teddy Chan to create the ultimate tribute to martial arts cinema. Imprisoned for murder, police martial arts instructor Hahou Mo is released to help law enforcement track down a serial killer who is murdering martial arts masters. What follows is a barrage of pure fight-scene goodness. With Yen letting loose, we get scene after scene of he and co-star Baoqiang going at it. Featuring cameos from legends of the genre like Andrew Lau and Raymond Chow, Kung Fu Jungle is a must-see for any fan of Chinese action movies.

Of course, this is just scratching the surface of Donnie Yen's career. For more than 30 years he has been in lighting up the screen with his mix of charisma and martial arts prowess. No matter what your favorite part of Rogue One, there is something in his filmography for you.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas now. Which Donnie Yen movie is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

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