"I don't want no trabble!"—Pick a movie. Any movie!
Jackie Chan is, quite simply, Made of Awesome. He has hit the big time since being "discovered" by Hollywood in the mid-90s and films such as Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon, The Tuxedo and The Medallion have made him an American household name.
Chan is best known as a stunt performer and fight choreographer, and really that's the entire point of going to see any of his movies - watching dumbfounded as he does all sorts of insane tricks and stunts in jaw-dropping fight scenes. He reportedly says that he loves action, but hates violence. Rather than being bone-crunching kung fu instead he is heavily inspired by the physical comedy of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin (being that those were silent films, he was able to watch them without a problem with the language barrier). Most of his films are just backdrops to amazing stunts, creative fight scenes and little wire work.
Traditionally, Chan does all his own stunts and in his days of producing low-budget Hong Kong chop-socky that was the only way it was ever done. So, if you see Jackie Chan's character fall through three awnings onto the street below? Really him. You see Chan's character roll artfully over a running circular saw - a running circular saw people! - really him.
And in case you don't believe it, there's usually a montage of outtakes over the end credits showing things going wrong while filming (go to Youtube and search for Jackie Chan outtakes... and prepare to be amazed!). Often involving ambulances. It's a good thing he's been so successful, because he's gone on record in many interviews as saying that no insurance company in the world will give him coverage. As he's grown older, despite being one hell of a Badass Grandpa at the age of 57, he understandably has stopped doing 100% of his stunts, partly because he has been told that if he falls on his head one more time it will KILL HIM, also in part because in the Hollywood system, insurance for the stars is a must and, as aforementioned, he has a little trouble with that.
Chan has developed a distinctive fighting style, quite comedic and usually making extensive use of props, even those at first sight most unsuited to fighting, such as a
ladder stepladder. (Seriously, if you've somehow never seen his work before, you can spend many happy and amazed hours on YouTube watching fight scenes.)
Needless to say, he's been injured fairly frequently. His closest brush with death came from Armour of God when he fell from a tree and fractured his skull. A comparatively "safe" stunt, it was a reminder that he can't be casual about anything he does. Among his injuries he has dislocated his pelvis, broken his fingers, toes, nose, both cheekbones, hips, sternum, neck, ankle and ribs on numerous occasions.
A lesser-known aspect of his career (at least in America) is that he is also a professional singer, having recorded many albums and often performing the Theme Songs for his movies (ex. Who Am I?). This is a little less surprising when you know that he originally trained for Chinese opera, which features acrobatic fight scenes. He also has his own Animated Adaptation, Jackie Chan Adventures.
In the last decade, Chan has been the subject of much controversy in Asia. His political stance that Taiwan should reunite with China earns him few friends outside the People's Republic, but he cannot be accused of not putting his money where his mouth is, because this devastates his box-office profits in Taiwan.
In some parts of the global Asian community, he is also accused of being a sellout to his own culture, pandering to the western market by repeatedly portraying caricatures of the Chinese man. Reportedly advising that the protagonist role in The Forbidden Kingdom, originally intended to be a Chinese-American boy rediscovering his roots, be recast as a kung-fu obsessed white boy is sometimes advanced as evidence for this view. Further rubbing salt in wounds is his compliance to Sony's decision to force the The Karate Kid remake to bear its original title, rather than the proposed The Kung Fu Kid, in spite of the fact that the film is set in China and is about the Chinese martial art of Wushu (aka kung fu). The people who accuse Chan of this are probably right, in that Chan has admitted he does this. He claims he does it for the money, so that he can finance the films he actually likes to make, as well as fund his not-inconsiderable charity work.
It seems possible, however, that the strains of old age may have finally caught up with him, as is painfully evident from Rush Hour 3 onward wherein he is no longer able to perform stunts without the aid of computers that were second-nature to him only 5 years ago. As he has become more and more overshadowed by his younger and more athletic co-stars, as well as trapped by the formula of wholesomeness that the fans have come to expect from him, Chan finally announced that Armour of God 3 will be the last "big action movie" of his career, and intends to go out with a dignified slam-bang of a finale rather than as a faded shadow of his former glory.
When his series/movies is dubbed in Japan, his voice is usually dubbed by Hiroya Ishimaru. In Latin America, he's dubbed by Juan Alfonso Carralero, who also dubs-over for Will Smith and David Hasselhoff.
Anyway, here's a list of some of his most famous and/or best movies. Note that many fans consider his pre-Hollywood movies to be better.
- Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon: Yes, Bruce Lee's last movie was also one of Jackie's first... as one of the goons in the cave (Bruce snaps his neck). Even earlier, in Fist of Fury, Jackie was a stuntman, most notably standing in for the Big Bad when he falls to his death. He recalled that Bruce Lee was a harsh taskmaster but very appreciative of hard work, and as Chan got injured doing several stunts, including an accidental blugeoning by way of nunchaku. After said incident, rumors state he was promised to be in all of Bruce Lee's movies.
- New Fist Of Fury: After Bruce's death, Jackie starred here as the successor of Bruce, in what would be called a Brucesploitation. Unfortunately, this movie bombed big time, and could've been a Career Killer for Jackie. Fortunately for Jackie, future movies after this start developing his character in his much more well known slapstick badass style rather than imitating Bruce, growing out from his shadow, and it was good for his career from that point on.
- Drunken Master. One of his first breakout hits in Asia.
- Shinjuku Incident is his attempt to branch out into serious (and gritty!) drama.
- Police Story features some jaw-dropping amazing stunts (with no CGI!) and is sometimes called 'Glass Story', due to the ridiculous number of sugar glass panels that break in the final 20 minutes of so of the movie. It's also important to mention that it has three sequels.
- Project A: His first film to feature a show-stopping, gratuitously dangerous stunt; in this case, Jackie falling from a clock tower and smashing through two awnings that slow him enough to make the fall survivable.
- Even crazier is that he wasn't satisfied with the first take, so he did it two more times!
- Armour of God, and its sequel Armour of God 2: Operation Condor, later released in the US in reverse order as Operation Condor and Operation Condor 2: The Armor of the Gods.
- Armour of God 1 is notable for being the closest Jackie Chan has come to death, suffering a critical head injury after a stunt misfire. The irony is that the stunt wasn't one of his usual showstoppers; even the "little" stunts can kill you. The ending credit outtakes go into great detail on this.
- City Hunter: Based on the Hojo Tsukasa manga, and most famous for funny and enterprisingly well done Street Fighter 2 parody, which is usually considered to be better than the movie! Jackie personally dislikes it, though.
- Drunken Master II: Selected as one of Time magazine's All-TIME 100 Best Movies and the last 20 minutes has a fight that, according to Roger Ebert, 'may not be possible to film a better fight scene'.
- Rumble in The Bronx: His breakout movie in the U.S.; prior to this movie, he had been offered a roles in Hollywood (such as the villain in Demolition Man), but declined to avoid being typecast as either a villain or a bumbling Asian man. He wanted to succeed in Hollywood as Jackie Chan and not as a Bruce Lee Clone.
- First Strike, also known as Police Story 4: The stepladder fight? This is the movie it's from.
- Mr. Nice Guy: The saw blade scene? Yep, this is the movie.
- Rush Hour: Probably his most famous and successful movie in the world, it cemented him as a bona fide Hollywood action star.
- Shanghai Noon: Not as famous as Rush Hour, but some consider it superior, as the fight scenes are way better. Shanghai Knights features one of the most inspired "Singing In The Rain" tributes in cinema history.
- The Tuxedo: Bad, Hollywood. Bad. No biscuit.
- The Forbidden Kingdom: Part of his attempt to do more 'serious' movies and roles.
- Kung Fu Panda: Surprisingly, given his well-known difficulties in speaking English, he's the voice of master Monkey!
- The Karate Kid: Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi? Actually not that bad.
- Actor Allusion: There is a poster in his room of the Mitsubishi he drove in Cannonball Run 2.
- The Spy Next Door: This is, though.
- The Beast in the Chinese dub of Beauty and the Beast.
- Cannonball Run: Easy to miss as this movie was before he broke out as a international star. He and another Asian actor were brought over to be the tech-savvy Japanese racers who cannot speak a word of English.
- This is the movie that he credits with his decision to add outakes at the end of all of his movies.
- Wheels on Meals, which has what many consider to be one of the greatest fight scenes put on film.
- The Myth: Part historical epic, part contemporary action movie, featuring an impressively international cast.
- The Twins Effect: He has a supporting role as a paramedic in this Hong Kong vampire movie (the protagonists gate-crash his wedding).
- Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu: One of his early films, and the first to show his trademark comedic take on martial arts.
- Who Am I?: The climax features Jackie fighting two guys on a skyscraper rooftop, with all three actors spending a hair-raising amount of time close to the edge as they leap around fighting.
- Miracles, also known as Ji Ji or The Canton Godfather: One of Jackie Chan's lesser known movies, it's best described as Frank Capra meets Kung Fu. Ever seen a man stop a running fan with one hand? Ever seen one man fight 20 people in a rope factory? You will in this movie. Unsurprisingly, the outtakes are painful.
- Plus, Chan's own personal favorite of his films.
- Mulan, in the Mandarin AND Cantonese dubs. He does (and sings!) Shang's voice.
- 1911, Chan's 100th film. It concerns China's 1911 Revolution, which ended the rule of emperors. Unlike most of Chan's films, it contains little martial arts or comedy.
- Around the World in Eighty Days (2004)
- Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu. Also known as Jackie Chan. - NES and TurboGrafx-16
- Jackie Chan: Stuntmaster - PlayStation
- Jackie Chan: The Kung-Fu Master - Arcade
- Action Girl: Most of the women in his movies tend to not be typical Damsel in Distress characters. Even if not as crazy as he is, they tend to throw a hard punch or save his butt when necessary. Although Jackie admitted to being intimidated by Michelle Yeoh, worried that she might outshine him in the martial arts and stunts.
- Afraid of Needles: Yes, even a guy like him who has gone through more near-fatal injuries than virtually any man could live through, has a fear of needles.
- Badass: Is a real-life master of several kung fu styles, including the five animal styles and Drunken Boxing, probably his most famous one.
- Big Name Fan: Several big stars like Sylvester Stallone and Robin Williams are big fans of his, which lead to their becoming friends.
- Book Dumb: Describes himself as this in his autobiography, because he didn't apply himself in grade school and spent a good portion of his youth in the Chinese Opera school. He laments that it means he's not as good with technology like computers that could have really helped his career.
- Bruce Lee Clone: Started out as this in his early roles. Hilariously enough, he points out that in his old movie posters, the words "The Next Bruce Lee" are written above his name in much bigger fonts.
- The Danza: In several of his films his character is named (or translated as) simply "Jackie."
- Determinator: He's broken pretty much every bone in his body and has a hole in his head, but keeps going like it's nobody's business.
- Dish Dash
- Everyone Went to School Together: Justified, as there were only so many Chinese Opera schools; several of his classmates are famous in their own right, like Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao.
- Excuse Me While I Multitask
- Faux Fluency: In most of his English-language movies, he plays characters that speak more fluently than he can. He does speak English fairly well, just not as naturally as some of his characters.
- Fish Out of Water: Going by the stuff he says, his early experience in Hollywood is like this in regards to the way they do their stunts.
"I asked Mr. Spielberg how he put all the dinosaurs and people toogether and he says it's easy, just push button, button, button. Then he asks me how I can jump from building to building. I say that's even easier. Rolling, jump, cut, hospital."
"They want to inflate this big cushion, set up wires... it takes five hour! And I'm just like 'Look, let me jump between buildings, give me the money! Just give me the money, I'll do it in two minutes!'"
- Hilarious Outtakes: A staple of many of his films, most of them are multiple takes of stunts fights that just didn't go right. Once he started making movies for Western audiences more traditional ones of him flubbing his lines started to make it in.
- According to the man himself, this was inspired by Cannonball Run.
- Improvised Weapon: It's safe to say that Jackie would be invincible if he got into a fight at Wal*Mart or Home Depot.
- It Will Never Catch On: Lo Wei, the first director who gave Jackie a chance, actively worked to prevent him from making comedic kung fu movies and forced him to work on endless Bruceploitation films. Obviously, Jackie won that argument.
- Juggle Fu
- Made of Iron: Did you read yet about all the injuries he's had over his career?
- Dented Iron: The reason he doesn't do as many stunts.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Jackie abhors violence in real life and claims to having only been 1 fight his entire life and only then because his friends dragged him into it.
- Most of his characters, though, are normally nice guys pushed too far.
- Money, Dear Boy: Does not hide the fact that he does movies, particularly American movies, for the money and makes pragmatic decisions to make them sell. He's also got his own clothing line among his many franchises. Also, in Ellen's talkshow, he gives us this line:
"(Talking about the elaborate setups for stunts in America) Just give me the money, and I'll climb that tree! No need for all this complicated stuff."
- In particular, he doesn't care for the Rush Hour films, doesn't get the American humor, and only did a second film because they offered him an "irresistible" amount of money (reportedly something like 20 million to match his co-star Chris Tucker's salary). When it came time for a third one, they had to give Jackie and Chris Tucker both 25 million, promise Chris Tucker 20% of the gross, and give Jackie the distribution rights to the entire continent of Asia.
- Mr. Nice Guy: Despite the above trope, he's a genuine philanthropist who builds schools all across China where they are needed, among other things. He also has yet to play any truly villainous role.
- In fact, he does the money roles specifically so he can continue his philanthropy.
- Old Shame: The City Hunter movie mentioned above. He also played a minor role in a Sex Comedy called All In The Family with Sammo Hung waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy back when he was pretty much a nobody in the industry. There was an Urban Legend perhaps spread by Cracked.Com that it was a porno that was in black and white (the article featured a black and white picture). In actuality, it would be tame by modern Western standards but was racy for 1970's China and is available on YouTube.
- His autobiography includes a filmography with comments by the man himself. One film he laments was completely gratuitous and nonsensical (as in, a drug den staffed by naked women), and another contains his only on-screen sex scene (which he says was terrible and nobody should ever want to see it).
- Some Call Me... Tim: His real name is Chan Kong-Sang; "Jackie Chan" comes from when he lived in Australia and a family friend named Jack got him a job as a construction worker. Nobody could pronounce his Chinese name, so Jack said "I'm Big Jack, right? So just call him Little Jack", which was eventually shortened to "Jackie". He's also known as Cheng Long/Chen Lung in some countries..
- Though he was born in Hong Kong, where it was fairly common (in British times, pre-1997) to have an English forename.
- Take That: His stage name "Cheng Long" means "already a dragon" and was intended as a dig at all the Bruce Lee Clones with stage names like "becoming a dragon".