^ I've seen all the korean and thai films you mentionned and, to me, only Ong Bak delivers all the goods. Even though it got a poor acting, and a poor direction, it contains some of the most amazings fights I've seen since a long time ! Unfortunately, the other films made by the same team (Bodyguard, Born to Fight & Tom Yum Goong) aren't as great as Ong Bak. If they're not simply boring and tasteless, they're just stupid freakshows - like a hardcore version of MTV's Jackass. Somebody have to draw a line in making action movies in Thailand. I think you can make them exhilirating enough without putting stuntmen's lives in serious jeopardy in the making. Hong Kong cinema showed us that such thing can be pulled properly (ie : Sammo Hung, Yuen Woo-Ping, Lau Kar-Wing, Jackie Chan, Hung Yan-Yan...and so on)...
Among the other titles you mentionned, Fighter in the Wind is the worst of the pack. It failed to give a well deserved hommage to the genius of Sensei Masutatsu Oyama. The film could have been good if it wasn't made in such a superificial way (the tasteless manga touch and tone, the use of wires, the style-over-content approach...). But what really pissed me off was that the techniques shown in the film are everything BUT Kyokushin Karate. What a waste ! If you want great Kyokushin action, check instead Sonny Chiba's Kyokushin Karate Kun, DVDs of Daido Juku tournaments or any MMA fight of Glaube Feitosa - this is the real deal !
And about your challenge - trying to come up with a top ten of non asian martial arts films - I got my own list, but I considers them simply as fight films.
Not necessarly in that order :
- Raoul Walsh's Gentleman Jim : The greatest film about pitfighting ever !
- Walter Hill's Hard Times : Big Chuck Bronson thrown in a fight circle with his fists doing all the talking. A classic !
- Newt Arnold's Bloodsport : Jean-Claude Van Damme's finest hour. The film that made me start martial arts...
- Chris Leitch's The Hitter : a "blaxpoitation" remake of Hard Times, set in dirty South, with the late great Ron O'Neal playing a tough Pitfighter making a habit of beating to a pulp strong martial artists, shady boxers and mob knuckleheads. A true MMA film. Great choregraphy from former golden gloves champion Harry Madsen, wonderful street-wise dialogues, and great performances from O'Neal, Adof Ceasar, Sheila Frazier and Bill Cobbs.
- Black Fist : great action-packed 70's flick starring Richard Lawson as Bogart, a tough brawler from South Central L.A. involved in the shady world of alley fights in LA's underworld. Again, a true MMA film. Action and blood galore. Watch for a quick cameo of Edward James Olmos and Philip Michael Thomas as two lousy bums.
- Dick Richards' Heat : Burt Reynolds at his best as Nick Escalante, an ex-special forces operator earning a buck whenever he can as muscles for hire in Las Vegas. Impressive Aikido and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques from Burt. Gory fight scenes, great script from William Goldman (Marathon Man, Misery, Princess Bride...) and a great performance from Burt Reynolds.
- John Ford's The Quiet Man : great fight film from the greatest (John Ford) with a wonderful fight between Duke and Victor McLaglen. A classic.
- Frank Lloyd's Blood on the Sun : only for the scenes with Jimmy Cagney fighting with Jiu-Jitsu techniques (key-locks, armbars, chokes...)
- Buddy Van Horn's Any wich way you can : Great action, great comedy scenes and, mostly, a GREAT NHB FIGHT between Clint Eastwood and William Smith.
- Tom McLaughlin's Born Losers : Maybe the first american martial arts film ever made. Great drama and good action scenes with McLaughlin beating the crap out of a biker gang with Karate Tang Soo Doo techniques. If you're curious, see also McLaughlin's The Master Gunfighter, which is a remake of Goyokin set in the old west, featuring good sword duels.
Even though, they're not "fight films" I would like to mention these titles because each contains awesome fight scenes :
- Robert Clouse's Darker than Amber : The Rod Taylor/William Smith final fight is so impressive that Bruce Lee hired Robert Clouse on the spot for helming Enter The Dragon.
- Phil Karlson's Framed : The bloody fight between Joe Don Baker and Roy Jenson.
- Walter Hill's The Warriors : Need I say more ?
- William Friedkin's To Live & Die in LA : The fight scene between Willem Dafoe, Jack Hoar and martial arts legends Steve James, Donny Williams and Ernie Hart JR is one sick moment !
- Burt Reynolds' Sharky's Machine : For the fights, tortures and beatings done by Martial Arts legend Dan Inosanto.
- Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon : The fight between Mel Gibson and Gary Busey is a real Vale Tudo bout choregraphed by Royce and Rorion Gracie. Can't get enough of that shot where Mel chokes Gary Busey with a Triangle Submission choke.
- John Flynn's Out for Justice : The scene where Steven Seagal beats the crap of NY hoods in the Pool parlor.
- Paul Greengrass's Bourne Supremacy : The fight in Munich between Matt Damon and the CIA Rogue Operative. Great choregraphy from Jeff Imada.