Next week heralds the arrival of the first major fantasy-action blockbuster of 2021 — Mortal Kombat. For everyone looking for a campy, gory, beautiful time, this film is likely to turn heads (and also smash them). To prepare for the upcoming gorefest, you might want to dip your toes into the action-brawler genre and explore a few films and TV shows that feature similarly meaty combat and high-speed fighting antics.
Nothing quite compares to the fatalities of Mortal Kombat, but there’s plenty of great screen entertainment you can check out if you’re in the mood for some brawlers.
Cobra Kai (2018)
Cobra Kai isn’t strictly a martial arts show. It’s more about old rivalries, living up to a legacy and redeeming your past with good deeds. But yes, it’s also a martial arts show, and there’s plenty of high kicks, dives and epic battles to pace this wonderful story out. If you loved the original Karate Kid movies or you just want a hefty dose of octane-fuelled fighting, Cobra Kai is a real winner.
Really, it’s a show that shouldn’t have worked, but it’s buoyed by excellent writing, perfect choreography and stunning performances from its main cast. If you’re looking for something more than a mindless, violent romp, Cobra Kai is great, action-heavy fun.
Cobra Kai is now streaming on Netflix in Australia.
He Never Died (2015)
He Never Died is a horror comedy about an ancient cannibal who attempts to withdraw from the world only to be brought back in when he meets his daughter for the first time. It’s fairly gory but always a bunch of fun and seeing Henry Rollins (of Black Flag) in the title role is a real joy. As Jack, he’s a deadpan snarker, an action cowboy and somebody you absolutely don’t want to mess with.
The action style here is more horror-slasher than martial arts, but there’s still plenty blood-and-guts, gnarly action and shocking violence to keep you entertained.
He Never Died is currently streaming on Netflix in Australia.
John Wick (2014)
Will there be a time when we don’t recommend John Wick on Gizmodo Movie Night? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still watch this incredible film. It’s got everything you’d want in a solid action-heavy brawler: guns, hand-to-hand fighting, martial arts, a deep plot and a whole lot of vengeance.
It’s not quite “save the world from an ancient evil wizard” but it’s still just as fun, wild and frantic as Mortal Kombat looks. Modern action movies don’t get better than John Wick and its equally brutal sequels.
Warrior (2019 – )
Warrior is a martial arts TV drama based on a story concept created by Bruce Lee. If you’re looking for high-flying action, incredible fighting sequences and tales of rival gang members jostling for glory, Warrior should be your go-to adventure series. It’s stunningly underrated right now and always delivers, so if you’ve got an interest in martial arts tales and you haven’t checked it out yet, now’s the time.
While it leans into the drama side of the action genre, there’s still plenty of thrills and spills to keep you hooked.
Warrior is currently streaming on Binge in Australia.
Street Fighter (1994)
The original Street Fighter movie is really emblematic of what happened to video game movies in the mid-90s. Take iconic characters, make great costumes, cast questionable actors and throw them into a nonsensical plot filled with wild action and wacky antics. But hey, it worked! Street Fighter is a campy classic, and well worth an afternoon watch.
If you don’t go in expecting a masterpiece, you’ll absolutely have a blast with this movie. Perhaps the weirdest thing about it is Kylie Minogue playing Cammy, but it’s the little details here that really make the film sing. It’s so, so strange and so, so loveable.
Sadly, Street Fighter is not currently streaming in Australia, but it is available to rent or buy on most digital platforms.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
The original Mortal Kombat isn’t a very good film, but there’s a whole lot of fun to be had in this cult classic. Sure, the plot’s all about Sonya Blade, Liu Kang and Johnny Cage hunting down an evil wizard, but there’s plenty of over-the-top action, terrible acting and awful dialogue to keep you entertained. It’s definitely in good-bad movie territory, and that’s what makes it so fun.
It’s actually aged surprisingly well and is still very entertaining today. It’s fairly faithful to the source material (which, after all, is just a game about making bloody violence) and it really is a beautifully-made film. If you’re looking for a fun, campy night out it’s hard to go past the original Mortal Kombat. This film walked so 2021’s Mortal Kombat could run.
Sadly, the original Mortal Kombat isn’t currently streaming anywhere but you can rent or purchase it from most digital platforms.
Gizmodo Movie Night is a bi-weekly feature where we share themed film and TV recommendations for you to enjoy on the weekend. With Mortal Kombat releases next Thursday on April 22, now’s the perfect time to dive in with a good action splatterfest.