The legendary Jackie Chan built his early career in the Hong Kong film industry, but he has also been part of many great and not-so-great Hollywood action movies, the latter of which deserve a ranking of the worst to the best. Jackie Chan transitioned from stuntman to leading man in the late 1970s with his breakout hits Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master. While Jackie Chan became a huge star in the East with hits like the Police Story series, his ultimate goal was to achieve the same success in Hollywood.
After some failed attempts in the mid-1980s, Jackie Chan finally became a household name in the West with the 1998 buddy comedy hit Rush Hour. Jackie Chan followed that up with other popular action comedies like Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights, as well as his long-awaited team-up with Jet Li in 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom. Though Jackie Chan seldom makes Hollywood movies anymore, his career in the West is no less significant to the legacy of his one-of-a-kind formula of Jackie Chan-style comedic kung fu. Here is every Jackie Chan Hollywood movie, ranked from worst to best.
The Tuxedo (2002)
Far from simply being Jackie Chan’s weakest Hollywood movie, The Tuxedo is also one of the goofiest entries in his entire career. Jackie Chan plays James Tong, a hapless cab driver turned chauffeur to super-spy Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs). He finds himself thrust into an espionage role himself with a high-tech Tuxedo that turns him into a super spy and an invincible fighting machine. The silly premise of The Tuxedo sounds perfect for a Jackie Chan movie, but the movie involves a shockingly sloppy imitation of the kind of fight scenes and stunts of Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong heyday.
The Tuxedo doesn’t work much better as a Bond spoof either. The plot of the sinister Dietrich Banning (Richie Coster) to use water striders to make his bottled water business the world’s only source of hydration has plot holes one could spot a mile away, and there’s such constant non-comedic friction between Jimmy Tong and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Del Blaine to show that they’re clearly better off not working together. The Tuxedo is anything but a Jackie Chan career highlight, though Hewitt at least scores one unforgettable one-liner, throwing punches at one of Banning’s henchmen while exclaiming “Stomach! Head! Stomach! Head!”
The Cannonball Run (1981)
Jackie Chan took on a supporting role in his second American movie, The Cannonball Run, and his minor presence is really the best reason to give it a look. The Cannonball Run follows on a cross-country race, with Jackie Chan adding a dash of Bruce Lee-style kung fu as a competing Subaru driver. Despite an ensemble cast that includes Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Fonda, and Dean Martin, The Cannonball Run is short on fuel and energy. There is at least some decent kung fu action on the part of Jackie Chan, which is simultaneously well beneath his usual standards and still far ahead of most American action films of the time. In the end, The Cannonball Run is memorable as a footnote in Jackie Chan’s early Hollywood career but otherwise forgettable.
Cannonball Run II (1984)
Another minor appearance by Jackie Chan. Cannonball Run II is another mediocre action-comedy in which he is the brightest highlight. Another big race is the order of the day, with several cast members like Burt Reynolds and Dean Martin returning for the racing hijinks. Jackie Chan also adds some martial arts fun as a Mitsubishi engineer bearing his own name, but the movie is nonetheless as forgettable as its predecessor. Still, Jackie Chan’s minor role makes Cannonball Run II worth at least one view purely for the sake of seeing even what a held-back Jackie Chan can do in a lackluster action-comedy.
The Spy Next Door (2010)
It is unusual to say that a Jackie Chan movie came and went, but the uneventful 2010 release of The Spy Next Door proves there’s a first time for everything. Jackie Chan’s Bob Ho is a Chinese secret agent pulled out of retirement to stop a plot involving a Russian bacterial weapon, but it means blowing the cover he’s maintained as an unassuming neighbor to his friend Gillian (Amber Valetta). The Spy Next Door probably works best as a babysitting tool and entry point for young children just discovering Jackie Chan movies, and it gets the job done as family entertainment.
With that said, the action scenes are just a shadow of the best of Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong and even stateside work. The film inexplicably reminds you of this, with clips from the Armour of God and Rush Hour movies re-purposed to be Bob Ho’s spy history over the opening credits — with a few from The Tuxedo thrown in for good measure. The Spy Next Door is entertaining enough to be far from Jackie Chan’s worst Hollywood movie, but it is also the most disposable of that distinction.
Rush Hour 3 (2007)
The Rush Hour franchise completely cratered with 2007’s Rush Hour 3, in which Lee and Carter venture to Paris to investigate the murder of a diplomat. While Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, as Rush Hour‘s mainstays, do everything they can to keep audiences invested with their culturally dissonant banter, Rush Hour 3 is completely on autopilot, with the plot and supporting characters even more of an afterthought than they are in its two predecessors. Rush Hour 3 also completely wastes the opportunities of its Parisian setting in more ways than one.
With the first two Rush Hour movies predicated on the cultural fish-out-of-water circumstances of Lee and Carter, Rush Hour 3 could have had the gimmick of both of them being out of their element. All that really comes of that is a flimsy love triangle between the two of them and Noemie Lenoir’s undercover operative, Genevieve. Meanwhile, the action scenes simply are not up to Jackie Chan’s par but could have been if Rush Hour 3 tapped into District 13‘s popularity with some parkour action. With Rush Hour 3, the franchise had clearly slowed to a crawl.
Battle Creek Brawl (1980)
Jackie Chan made his first earnest attempt to break into Hollywood with Battle Creek Brawl (a.k.a. The Big Brawl), and while only really fair by Jackie Chan standards, the movie has its moments where his unique energy really stands out. Chan plays Jerry Kwan, a young man in 1930s Chicago forced to defend his girlfriend and family from the mob. Unfortunately, Battle Creek Brawl does not have much going for it even with Chan as the protagonist.
Written and directed by Robert Clouse of Enter the Dragon (in which Chan also appears), Battle Creek Brawl is best looked at as a kind of appetizer to the full extent of Jackie Chan’s capabilities as an action-comedy lead, with the movie’s decent action scenes still only capturing a fraction of his full capabilities. Jackie Chan expressed disappointment at the more restrained approach to the action compared to what he was used to in Hong Kong, and it definitely is a step down for him, and even Clouse’s own work on Enter the Dragon. Still, as a sampling of what a Jackie Chan movie can deliver, Battle Creek Brawl has its moments.
The Protector (1985)
Jackie Chan’s second time leading an American movie was in 1985’s The Protector, and like Battle Creek Brawl, it is an entertaining but muted Chan vehicle. He plays New York City cop Billy Wong on a case against gangsters in the city. When it came to The Protactor‘s action scenes and stunts, Jackie Chan‘s creative disagreements with director James Glickenhaus led to two versions being edited and released, with the Chan-approved version featuring more Hong Kong-style action scenes.
Chan’s climactic fight with kickboxing legend Bill “Superfoot” Wallace is one of the biggest examples of this, and the differences between the two are plenty to argue that Chan was making the right calls on the action. After The Protector, Chan returned to Hong Kong to make Police Story as an action-comedy more his speed and essentially gave up trying to break into Hollywood until Rush Hour finally came along. Still, The Protector is worth checking out for a grittier Jackie Chan action movie with a fantastic end fight with Wallace (in Chan’s version), along with an exceptionally rare f-bomb on Chan’s part.
Rush Hour 2 (2001)
The middle chapter of the Drive-inspired Rush Hour trilogy takes Lee and Carter on a vacation to Hong Kong, only for them to tackle a case involving the Triads and the murder of Lee’s father decades earlier. The obvious gimmick of Rush Hour 2 flips the first film’s fish-out-of-water scenario onto Carter, and it is often hilarious in that endeavor from his Michael Jackson karaoke performance and poor understanding of Hong Kong’s cultural norms. Still, Rush Hour 2 is a step down from its predecessor in numerous respects, one of them being the film’s sudden abandonment of that very premise to bring the action back to America midway.
Jackie Chan’s action scenes are as amazing as ever in Rush Hour 2, while Zhang Ziyi steals the show as the villainous Hu Li, battling Carter in the final fight with a comically lucky victory on his part. Rush Hour 2’s thinner plot leaves Lee’s kung fu movie strength and his and Carter’s chemistry as the prime attractions. In the end, Lee and Carter’s first meeting might be where the Rush Hour franchise was at its hottest, but Rush Hour 2 is still worth a watch.
Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
A warrior’s work is never done, with Po the panda (Jack Black) and the Furious Five once again defending China, this time from the villainous plot of Kai (J.K. Simmons). By the time of Kung Fu Panda 3, the franchise had found the perfect groove for itself as an animated martial arts series like no other. While Kung Fu Panda 3 does little to revamp the series, the formula still works like a charm with the concept of chi figuring heavily into the plot and Po discovering a new side of how he was chosen to become the Dragon Warrior. With the Kung Fu Panda voice cast in full swing, Kung Fu Panda 3 is a relatively routine adventure for the series, but that routine hasn’t lost its inherent charm yet.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Po and the Furious Five return to defend China again in 2011’s Kung Fu Panda 2, this time going up against the sinister Lord Shen (Gary Oldman). The voice cast of Kung Fu Panda grows wider in Kung Fu Panda 2 with Jean-Claude Van Damme joining as the sardonic Master Croc, with Chan also back as Master Monkey and plenty of the first film’s light-hearted fun on display. Kung Fu Panda 2 was an even bigger hit than its predecessor, which showed the strength of the Kung Fu Panda movies was far from waning. Jackie Chan also knows how to insert his own patented levity from his stunt-filled live-action work into his voice roles and helps make Kung Fu Panda 2 an entertaining sequel to the phenomenon of the original.
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
The 2008 animated summer hit Kung Fu Panda introduced the eminently lovable Po the panda and made him into an iconic mascot of kung fu with some animated zaniness thrown in. With China facing the conquest of Tai Lung (Ian McShane), Po must train and become the fable Dragon Warrior in order to defeat him. Black has long been an animated whirlwind in his live-action work and has no difficulty in translating that into an actual animated role.
Po also finds help in his training from his mentor Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the Furious Five, with Chan voicing Master Monkey. Kung Fu Panda (with its Bruce Lee connection) has a lot of fun putting both an animated and comedic spin on the fable of a kung fu student training to become a warrior, and its popularity and enduring legacy are well-deserved while being a great venture in animated movies by Jackie Chan.
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
A comedic re-imagining of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, Around the World in 80 Days follows Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan) embarking on the title’s stated quest on a bet. Jackie Chan’s Lau Xing crosses into the story, adopting the pseudonym of Passepartout with Monique Laroche (Cécile de France) also boarding the quest. While fairly lightweight by Jackie Chan standards, Around the World in 80 Days still has plenty of fun with its story and cast.
Indeed, Around the World in 80 Days has fun with a laundry list of cameos and supporting characters including Chan’s long-time friend and collaborator Sammo Hung (who famously once fought Bruce Lee), along with Richard Branson, John Cleese, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Into the Badlands‘ Daniel Wu. Karen Mok also makes a literally scene-shredding impression as the villainess General Fang. In all, Around the World in 80 Days is a fun re-tooling of the novel that inspired it with another great comedy duo in Chan and Steve Coogan.
The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)
The Lego Movie franchise began to show signs of waning popularity with the diminishing returns of The Lego Ninjago Movie, an ironic turn of events for the lighthearted and engaging Lego adventure it offers. When Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) launches a campaign to conquer the city of Ninjago, it is up to his son Lloyd (Dave Franco) to stop him with the help of the kingdom’s ninja warriors and Master Wu (Chan). As the third chapter of the Lego Movie franchise, The Lego Ninjago Movie walks the same fine line between playing things straight and genre spoof as a sincere ninja martial arts tale with plenty of humor and animated vibrancy.
Though Jackie Chan is hardly a stranger to voice acting, his performance as Master Wu is one of his better ones in a mentor role, with Franco bringing the needed youthful enthusiasm as the eager Lloyd. The film also cleverly plays up Meowthra as a Godzilla-level monster dead-set on destroying Ninjago, landing an earnestly effective joke with Meowthra’s reveal as a normal-sized cat. With plenty of animated fight scenes with the well-known Lego-specific physics at play, The Lego Ninjago Movie has plenty of the honest-to-goodness animated fun that The Lego Movie franchise kicked off with.
As a Hollywood-Hong Kong co-production, Skiptrace is another hilarious Jackie Chan buddy movie pairing, this time with Jackass frontman Johnny Knoxville. Chan plays Hong Kong cop Bennie Chan, out to avenge his partner’s killing by a crime boss known as “The Matador,, with the fast-talking Connor Watts stumbling into being his partner on the mission. Directed by Renny Harlin, Skiptrace feels like a throwback to Chan’s Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon days as much for its comedy zaniness and martial arts fights as his buddy pairing with Knoxville. By the time of Skiptrace, Chan had mostly left Hollywood behind and had begun taking on more dramatic roles, which made the tone of the movie a welcome return to the style of a classic Jackie Chan adventure.
With not quite to the same heights as Jackie Chan’s powerhouse Police Story franchise, Skiptrace is still one of the highlights of his latter-day English-language movies. Even accounting for his more advanced age and a long list of injuries, the action scenes of Skiptrace are distinctly peak-era Chan goodness. Knoxville’s Connor Watts also fully earns comparisons to James Carter and Roy O’Bannon in the luminaries of Jackie Chan action-comedy buddies. With Eva Torres also leveling up the action scenes as the assassin Dasha, Skiptrace is an enthralling throwback to Jackie Chan’s past.
The Medallion (2003)
Coming off the misguided zaniness of The Tuxedo, The Medallion, a Hollywood-Hong Kong hybrid production, is a more well-executed endeavor in making Jackie Chan into a superhero. After Interpol agent Yang dies saving a young boy named Jai (Alex Bao) from drowning, he returns as an immortal warrior when Jai uses his magical medallion to resurrect Eddie. Directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Gordon Chan (director of Jet Li’s Fist of Legend), The Medallion strikes a fine balance with more classic Jackie Chan action in its first half, particularly a superb cargo ship battle with Eddie and a gang of henchmen. The Medallion also handles taking Chan out of his element into wire-fu and CGI with a surprisingly humanized approach to its visual effects echoing modern superhero movies.
There is also plenty of the requisite Jackie Chan comedy with his straight-man Interpol partner Arthur Watson (Lee Evans) and more headstrong love interest Nicole James (Claire Forlani), while Julian Sands portrays a cultured but formidable villain pursuing the medallion’s power in Snakehead. Adding a little magic to the Jackie Chan formula is hard to pull off, but The Medallion does so with entertaining results while bringing future Undisputed franchise savior Scott Adkins into the second Jackie Chan movie of his early career — following 2001’s The Accidental Spy.
Rush Hour (1998)
After Jackie Chan scored his first real hit in the West with the release of Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour finally made him a Hollywood leading man, simultaneously marking a breakout hit for Chris Tucker. When a Chinese diplomat’s daughter, Soo Young (Julia Hsu), is kidnapped in Los Angeles, LAPD detective James Carter (Tucker) is saddled by his superiors with the assignment of keeping Hong Kong cop Lee (Chan) away from the case. The tagline of Rush Hour promised “The fastest hands in the East meet the biggest mouth in the West,” and that accurate slogan paid off in spades with Rush Hour’s sleeper success.
Chan and Tucker’s comedic banter is some of the most quoted and hilarious of either’s careers and is the entire basis for why Rush Hour works so well. Jackie Chan’s inversion of Bruce Lee’s persona fit the tone of Rush Hour like a glove, and while his action scenes are not as spectacular as his grand-scale Hong Kong action comedies, he still brought a flair to his stunts and martial arts fights that were completely unique in Hollywood at the time. Rush Hour’s popularity is very well-deserved as one of the best buddy action comedies of the 1990s and the best of the Rush Hour series.
The Karate Kid (2010)
The 2010 remake of The Karate Kid re-imagined the story of its 1984 namesake with a setting in China and a shift to kung fu, and it brought Jackie Chan aboard for one of his best performances yet. When Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) moves to China with his mother, Sherry (Taraji P. Henson), he is mercilessly pushed around by bullies until finding a kung fu mentor in Mr. Han (Chan). As a franchise reboot, The Karate Kid 2010 doesn’t radically re-invent the original’s formula, while the title itself seems to have been retained primarily for name recognition (the film was re-titled The Kung Fu Dream in China). Still, the emotional foundation of Chan’s mentor relationship with Smith makes The Karate Kid a very worthwhile remake.
Chan does some of the most emotional acting of his career as Mr. Han, a deeply damaged man saved from his own despair by the support of Smith’s Dre. Martial arts lovers will also take delight in the training of the original being adapted to kung fu, trading fence-painting for hanging up a jacket with equal effectiveness. The Jackie Chan-less Cobra Kai might have deservedly taken center-stage in the franchise, but the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid deserves its place in the series with its excellent training and fight scenes and the captivating performances of Chan and Smith.
The Foreigner (2017)
The idea of a dark Jackie Chan movie has grown far less revolutionary in his 21st-century career, but Martin Campbell’s The Foreigner was a real change of pace in his Western filmography. Chan plays Ngo Minh Quan, a London-based restaurant owner determined to avenge the death of his daughter in a bombing by a revived IRA cell. The Foreigner was the first Jackie Chan movie that hit American cinemas in years, and it was a true re-invention of his image as a weathered but deadly warrior who cannot be deterred from his mission. As a glimpse of what Jackie Chan might look like in The Expendables, his action scenes in The Foreigner are also more simplified and much more brutally raw than what audiences associate with him, with Chan handling that switch with amazing ease.
Pierce Brosnan’s Liam Hennessy also straddles a gray line of villainy. Chan and Brosnan’s against-type performances are easily the standout element of The Foreigner, Chan tackling a broken man running only on his anger and Brosnan embodying a panicked politician unable to hide that he knows more than he’s letting on. The Foreigner is by far the most un-Jackie Chan movie he ever made in his Hollywood career, and that very distinction makes it one of the best of that classification.
Shanghai Noon (2000)
Jackie Chan traveled back to the Old West for Shanghai Noon, playing Chinese Imperial Guard Chon Wang, who is dispatched to rescue the kidnapped Princess Pei-Pei (Lucy Liu) and unexpectedly teamed up with American outlaw Roy O’Bannon, played by the ever “wow” prone Owen Wilson. The buddy duo of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson is the whole show of Shanghai Noon, Wilson’s bumbling con artist Roy O’Bannon fanboying at Chon Wang’s kung fu skills and consistently mispronouncing his name as “John Wayne” in an Easter egg to the Westerns it’s sending up. Shanghai Noon also is the point where Chan’s Hollywood action scenes really started to have that Hong Kong feel he struggled to implement since trying to break into the Western market.
Shanghai Noon‘s comedic barroom brawl and Chon Wang’s gunslinger training with Roy, each set to contemporary rock music, clearly signal the tone of casual fun the movie is going for — Roy’s anachronistic James Brown quote “I don’t know karate, but I know ka-razy, and I will use it” is one of the movie’s standout lines for that exact reason. The silliness and Bruce Lee-worthy kung fu fun of Shanghai Noon is exactly what makes a great Jackie Chan movie, with Chan and Wilson’s outlandishly entertaining buddy comedy duo making it a must-see.
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
The world waited for ages for Jackie Chan and Jet Li to finally headline a kung fu flick together, and 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom made that wait well worth it. When American teenager Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) is transported back to ancient China, his only way home is to free The Monkey King (Jet Li) in order to defeat the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou). Chan’s Lu Yan and Li’s Silent Monk guide him and Golden Sparrow (Liu Yifei) through a kung fu adventure that’s equal parts Shaw Brothers and Journey to the West, with Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s dual roles in the film adding to the fun.)
Naturally, going into The Forbidden Kingdom, the fight that most excited audiences was Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s first on-screen match. While it remains a highlight of both of their careers, with Yuen Woo-ping’s exceptional fight choreography, Chan and Li’s excellent chemistry only leaves one yearning for them to unite again. Michael Angarano also brilliantly exudes a kung fu movie fanatic living a dream come true in his performance as Jason. The Forbidden Kingdom remains a genuine delight and a fantastical blast as the world’s long yearned for Chan-Li double-header.
Shanghai Knights (2003)
Talk about sequels that top their predecessors – Shanghai Knights is one for the books. Picking up in 1887, Chon Wang and Roy O’Bannon team up for a new adventure in Victorian England to retrieve China’s Imperial Seal and stop the assassination of the Queen. Much to Chon Wang’s chagrin, his martial arts warrior sister Chon Lin (Fann Wong) and Roy also develop a romance that puts a strain on his friendship with the latter. What drama that adds is completely overshadowed by the consistently hilarious comedy of Shanghai Knights, a movie rife with intentional historical inaccuracies and anachronisms that just make it even more of a fun romp, including Aaron Taylor Johnson’s portrayal of a young Charlie Chaplin.
Shanghai Knights also really enabled Jackie Chan to bring the most Hong Kong flavor possible to his action scenes, from a marketplace fight to the tune of “Singin’ in the Rain” and a battle with Royal Guards where old vases become an unexpectedly effective weapon. Shanghai Knights‘ exuberant Jackie Chan versus Donnie Yen fight is also made even more memorable with its fittingly wacky outcome. Shanghai Knights relishes rewriting history as much as it does doubling down on Chon and Roy’s chemistry. Where else can one see a pair of heroes manage a fall from Big Ben that works so much in their favor? Shanghai Knights is even more of the silly comedic kung fu fun of Shanghai Noon with an added heart in Roy and Lin’s romance, and it’s deservedly knighted as Jackie Chan’s best Hollywood movie.