In Hollywood’s action universe, John Woo has built a reputation for himself and is still the undisputed king. His best work may be found here on IMDb.com.
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One of the greatest action film directors of all time, John Woo is a household name and does not need an introduction. He’s most known in the West for his work on films like Hard Target, Mission: Impossible II, and Face/Off, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his career achievements.
He has been creating movies since the late 1960s and has produced some of the greatest action flicks ever filmed.
1. Paycheck (2003) – 6.3
Face/Off and Mission: Impossible II have made John Woo a household name in mainstream Hollywood, thanks to their massive box office success. Paycheck, a fast-paced action film with a novel and engaging premise, was his next collaboration with Ben Affleck.
Reverse engineer Michael Jennings (Affleck) steals technology on behalf of other firms before he erases his recollection of his work. While trying to piece together three years of his life that he can no longer remember, Jennings finds himself in the midst of a job that seems to go terribly wrong.
2. The Dragon Tamers (1975) – 6.4
This 1975 martial arts film directed by John Woo for Golden Harvest was one of his earlier works. In this film, a Chinese student travels to Korea to learn the martial art of Taekwondo, only to discover that an infamous gang is trying to inflate its ranks by starting up local martial arts schools.
The film’s production helper, Jackie Chan, is a big draw. He could use it to get a taste of Woo’s trademark kinetic action sequences, which would later become his distinctive style.
3. Once A Thief (1991) – 6.8
One of my favorite John Woo flicks is Once A Thief, which tells the narrative of three master thieves on a mission to steal a prized painting that each of their pasts is deeply entwined with. A Woo picture once again featured Chow Yun-Fat, who would go on to star in 1992’s Hard Boiled.
One of his most critically acclaimed pictures that wasn’t a straight-laced action blood-fest, the film got six nominations for Best Actor, Film, Picture, Editing and Director.
4. Reign Of Assassins (2010) – 6.8
John Woo and Chao-Bin Su co-directed Reign Of Assassins in 2010, but the film has all the hallmarks of martial arts cinema, including prominent actors like Michelle Yeoh. Zeng Jing, a ruthless assassin, is the crux of the plot, which takes place in ancient China and revolves on the mysterious remains of a Buddhist monk being sought by her own kind.
In order to help director Chao-Bin Su out, John Woo stayed on the set for most of the filming. During post-production, he plunged into editing with the film’s editor, providing his expertise in a variety of areas.
5. Last Hurrah For Chivalry (1979) – 7.1
The 1970s came to a close with John Woo’s martial arts picture, which would serve as a template for many of his subsequent films. When a local shopkeeper seeks revenge against a kung fu master, two assassins agree to assist him.
To create an atmosphere of suspicion and duplicity, Woo used suspense and character development in the picture, which was heavy on action. Before he retired in 1993, Chang Cheh, a filmmaker who had made more than 90 films, was honored with a tribute in the film.
6. Face/Off (1997) – 7.3
When John Woo’s 1997 action film, starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage, was released, he became an overnight sensation. Following his work on 1993’s Hard Target, which starred Jean-Claude Van Damme, Woo’s powerful action style was already well-known to fans.
Face/Off was a triumph for director Woo in terms of grandiose set pieces, explosives, and fast-paced, elegant gunplay. Woo’s earlier film Hard Boiled is an homage to this picture with a cops and robbers concept and some of the most stunning action sequences ever seen on film.
7. Red Cliff 1 & 2 (2008 / 2009) – 7.4 / 7.6
208 A.D. was the penultimate year of the Han Dynasty in China, and John Woo’s Red Cliff tells the story of a group of Han soldiers battling for survival. Han’s desire to unify China by waging war on the South and West is shown in the story. They established a shaky alliance to counter the Emperor’s tyrannical rule.
For massive set pieces and spectacular wide-scale fights, Woo’s action experience was vital. Woo’s amazing attention to style and detail make this two-part epic a joy to watch and a pleasure to look at.
8. Bullet In The Head (1990) – 7.6
Bullet in the Head was Woo’s first stride toward international acclaim in the 1990s, following the success of The Killer just a year earlier. After killing a gang member, three pals depart Hong Kong for Saigon in this crime film.
During the Vietnam War, they get their start in the criminal underground in Saigon by running black market goods. Their friendship and lives are put to the ultimate test when they are captured by the Viet Cong.
9. The Killer (1989) – 7.8
A merciless assassin mistakenly blinds an innocent woman during a hit and tries to make amends by paying for an operation to restore her sight in The Killer, a film directed by John Woo and starring Chow Yun Fat. One more job is required to raise the money he needs to do so.
Things go awry when he’s double-crossed, leaving him with nothing. In addition, a local police officer is on the lookout for the assassin, who is pursuing him and ready to bring him to court, before he learns of his true objectives.
10. Hard Boiled (1992) – 7.8
Hard Boiled is the crowning achievement of John Woo’s illustrious career, neatly tied off with a bow. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a masterclass in action filmmaking, with a flair that would make even Jack Nicholson blush.
As a grizzled cop working alongside an undercover agent to bring down a ruthless crime lord, Woo once again partners up with Chow Yun Fat. To this day, no one has been able to replicate the film’s unique style of blood, violence, and intensity in any other action film. Definitely worth the time.