In celebration of Ip Man 4: The Finale becoming the highest grossing Chinese movie of all time in Malaysia, we put together a list of the best fights in the entire franchise.
One of the few mass brawls in the franchise, this was also one of its most inventive, with shades of Jackie Chan's famous crowd fight scenes. Director WIlson Yip upped the stakes for the fight by putting Ip Man's young son in the middle of the battle, thus we got to see Donnie Yen's grand master in serious butt-kicking mode, going all out to protect his son.
Best part: Ip Man laying waste to a host of generic foot soldiers with a pair of bamboo sticks.
The fights in the first two Ip Man films were much more violent compared to the latter two, and this is arguably one of the more brutal ones.
Filled with rage after Sammo Hung's Master Hung is beaten up and killed by Twister (Darren Shahlavi), Ip Man enters the ring to fight the Western boxer, and despite being hampered by bias judges (who ban him from kicking during the fight), he still manages to hold his own until a dirty sneak attack by the boxer almost KOs him.
After realising that he can't match Twister for power, he draws inspiration from Hung's previous fight and executes deadly attacks to Twister's arms and neck, defeating him with repeated blows to the forehead.
Best part: THAT blow to Twister's ear. OUCH.
The former world heavyweight champion was not in the original screenplay, and was a last minute addition to the film, which explains why his role seems completely shoehorned into the story.
In an interview with StarLifestyle in 2015, producer Raymond Wong said he wanted a way to do justice to Tyson's status as a former boxing champion ("We can't just let Ip Man beat him up!" he said), which explains why a timer was used to draw a line under their fight so there wouldn't be a 'winner' per se.
Yen also said that Tyson didn’t have much experience in filming, which made their fight scenes quite dangerous. “His punch was like a train coming towards me. Being an experienced boxer, he would sometimes forget that he is filming a movie, and improvise his punches!” Yen recalled during our interview.
“On one hand, I had to keep following the script and stay in character; and on the other hand, I had to be very alert and prepared, in case he changes his moves. He is so much bigger than I am, and if he KO’d me, I wouldn’t be able to go home!”
Best part: After launching his counterattack from an unusually low stance, Ip Man then matches Tyson's massive punches with his elbows instead.
One of the best parts of the Ip Man franchise is watching him go up against different martial arts exponents. The latest film may have had him going up against Scott Adkins' combat karate, but that fight pales in comparison with the one where he faces off with the tai chi master Wan in his home.
The fight between two grand masters of traditional martial arts with very distinct characteristics was beautifully choreographed, and is arguably the highlight of the final film. (Though the fight between Bruce Lee and a random fighter in an alleyway was also pretty fun to watch).
Best part: Wan countering Ip Man's famous rapid-fire punches with some nifty moves of his own.
In terms of one on one fights, Ip Man 3 had some of the best in the franchise. This fight with Thai action star Sarut Khanwilai was a remarkably choreographed fight that starts out with a close quarters exchange inside an elevator, with Ip Man having to defend his wife from the blows while matching Sarut's attacks.
The exchange then continues outside the elevator as the two fight their way down a flight of stairs, with Ip Man clearly in control the entire way.
Best part: That initial exchange of blows inside the elevator.
Sammo Hung was responsible for the action choreography for the first two Ip Man films, so it was a thrill to see the legendary martial arts actor himself appear in Ip Man 2.
Despite the fact that his character was tragically killed in a fight with Twister, his role in the film will forever be remembered for this stunning fight atop a round table.
The only reason this isn't higher up on the list is because there was a degree of incredulity about the scene, especially with high-flying moves that were obviously done using wirework.
Best part: Come on, it's Donnie Yen vs Sammo Hung. It's all great.
The first major fight of the entire franchise introduced us to Ip Man's skills for the first time, and it was glorious.
A group of Northerners is going around Fo Shan defeating kung fu masters, and its leader, Master Jin (Fan Siu-wong), shows up at Ip Man's home to challenge him after hearing that he is the best fighter in town. While Jin's aggressive style of fighting seemed intimidating at first, it was clear from the get go that Ip Man was a class above him.
After an initial scuffle in which Ip Man is clearly toying with his opponent, a few items are broken around the Ip family home. Cue one of the funniest and most memorable scenes in the entire franchise - Ip Man's toddler son cycling in to pass him a message from his wife that if he didn't start getting serious soon, all the things in the house will be broken!
It leads to him finally rolling up his sleeves and dishing out a trashing so comprehensive that, within that single fight, the legend of Donnie Yen's Ip Man was born.
Best part: Angered by Ip Man's superiority, Jin attacks him with a sword, but the grand master nonchalantly picks up a feather duster and gives him a good spanking.
From the first fight of the first movie, we now come to its final fight, which pitted Ip Man against Japanese general Miura (played by Hiroyuki Ikeuchi). This was arguably the first time he comes up against an opponent who is more or less evenly matched... or so we think. After an initial exchange in which Miura lands a few telling blows, there is no stopping Ip Man as he moves in for the kill with a stunning array of blows that uses every single weapon he has in his Wing Chun arsenal.
The fight set a benchmark for all the other solo fights in the series, thanks to the combination of Yen's skills, Hung's choreography and film editing that allowed us to witness Ip Man's Wing Chun moves in all its glory.
Best part: Ip Man's final barrage of blows are juxtaposed with scenes of him practising on his wooden dummy, and underlined exactly how important and iconic that tool is to Wing Chun.
The only fight in which Ip Man is up against another fighter who is not only a fellow Wing Chun exponent, but also one who matches him in terms of skill and power.
Max Zhang Jin's Cheung Tin-chi issues a challenge to Ip Man by claiming to be the one and only true Wing Chun grand master, and the two eventually face off in a closed doors fight that involved not just their fists, but weapons as well. Without any external influences like death, hostages or rage, this is a fight of pure skill. Watching them transition from using poles to twin sabres, and finally their fists, this was, for me, THE perfect way to end the (then) trilogy.
The fight against Miura may have just how deadly Wing Chun was, but this fight gave us the ultimate showcase of Wing Chun at its finest.
Best part: Almost the entire fight is excellent, but the sabres exchange was particularly nerve-wracking.
"I WANT TO FIGHT TEN!" With that line, Yen wrote himself into the annals of legendary martial arts screen heroes.
Enraged by the way the Japanese are treating his fellow Chinese, this was the first time we see Ip Man fighting in fury. The 10 opponents he faced may have been nameless cannon fodder, but his rage is channeled into every blow he lands, every bone he breaks as he dismantles the 10 karatekas with cold, cruel efficiency.
The actual fight lasts about 90 seconds from his first blow to his last, but it stands out as the moment Yen's Ip Man is at his deadliest and most brutal in the entire franchise. Savour it in all its glory, for we never get to see another fight of its ilk in the rest of the franchise.
Best part: There is no best part. Just watch the whole thing.