Martial arts movies are a dicey proposition. Immediately, they turn off some folk. It's understandable, though. Oftentimes you find yourself faced with the same general plotlines and tropes just repackaged or mixed up slightly. A true martial arts movie will take a foreign, eastern culture and put it right in your goddamned face; leaving you, the western viewer, to try to make some semblance of sense of how any of this shit works.
The best martial arts movies do this without any self-awareness; without any shame. They just take you on their silly ride and if you want to come along... you know, that's cool. Just like porn, the plot is mostly there to fill in the minutes between the action. That's not to say that the plot can't be deep, though. And a certain duality comes with a good martial arts movie: it is almost zen watching these extended and meticulously orchestrated fight scenes with no dialogue, but the fact that it's people beating the crap out of each other or disemboweling one another ramps up the adrenaline of the viewer to the point where nobody would blame you for practicing your own spastic flailing punches and wispy kicks after the movie's over.
Not every martial arts movie is a Man Movie; just like not all Van Damme movies or Westerns are true Man Movies. There are a lot of shitty ones out there. And then you have several that hit all the right notes, but still manage to lack the indefinable soul that inhabits a Man Movie.
If you're not familiar with the genre, let us help you figure out what's worth watching. If you've watched the best that martial arts movies have to offer with an open mind and it still doesn't do it for you... that's fine. Nobody's perfect.