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8 Stock Characters in Classic Kung Fu Films

Kel Fabie dissects the Kung fu genre by (hilariously) naming these 8 archetypes—complete with sound bytes!

| August 15, 2013

8 Stock Characters in Classic Kung Fu Films

8 Stock Characters in Classic Kung Fu Films
When I was a kid, I always loved watching Kung fu movies in hopes of imitating their moves in case I would ever need to use them in a fight. It took me another decade of watching before I realized exactly how useless those moves are in an actual fight, but not before I started recognizing a pattern: it didn’t matter what Kung fu movie I was watching, there were 8 characters you were absolutely bound to run into at some point in the film. Always.

Think back to those days. I’m certain you remember…

8. The Guy Who Orders Tea in a restaurant, then provokes a fight

8. The Guy Who Orders Tea in a restaurant, then provokes a fight

He sounds gruff, curt, and has a peculiar laugh. He will always come across our intrepid hero, tick our hero off, then promptly have his backside handed to him. This scene often establishes just how much of a badass our hero happens to be.

Often Heard Saying: Hey, you! Give me some tea!

 

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7. The Poor Restaurant Owner whose restaurant gets totalled in a fight

7. The Poor Restaurant Owner whose restaurant gets totalled in a fight

He’s always mild-mannered, tries his best to serve his customers whatever they want or need, but at some point, his customers will refuse to take their differences outside and destroy each other—and the owner’s restaurant in the process.

Often Heard Saying: One tea coming up!

 

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6. The Love Interest who is also always a Damsel in Distress

6. The Love Interest who is also always a Damsel in Distress

She is always pretty, has her hair tied in a preposterous bun, and is always in need of saving, which would definitely annoy Maggie Q and Zhang Ziyi today. Think about it. How many female leading ladies in classic Kung fu films could actually hold their own in a fight? Even Bruce Lee himself, in the revered Enter the Dragon, fell for this sexist trope, despite having some of the best female fighters in the world to star with him at the time.

Often Heard Saying: You must defeat him! Please! For the sake of our tea!

 

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5. The young, clean-shaven Kung-Fu Hero out for revenge

5. The young, clean-shaven Kung-Fu Hero out for revenge

He never has facial hair *(kickass sideburns don’t count), always fights to avenge his parents/master/brother/sister/girlfriend/wife/children/dog, and only after suffering such a loss and enduring a lengthy training montage would he find it in him to utterly defeat the evil overlord. He is often aided by our #4.

Often Heard Saying: You have killed my master, my family, my dog, and you have ordered some hot tea. For that, you must pay.

 

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4. The Old and Wise Yet Perverted Master who the Kung-Fu Hero can never beat yet dies to the Evil Kung-Fu Overlord

4. The Old and Wise Yet Perverted Master who the Kung-Fu Hero can never beat yet dies to the Evil Kung-Fu Overlord

The old and wise master has a thing for young women despite easily passing as their grandfather. During training, the old man is practically untouchable and unbeatable to our Kung fu hero, yet for some reason, our master will fall to the Evil Kung fu Overlord. In fact, if you’re cast as the master in a Kung fu movie, consider yourself lucky if you make it to the end credits alive.

Often Heard Saying: You cannot defeat him without my help! Now, go buy me some tea!

 

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3. The Evil Kung-Fu Overlord with a suspiciously high-pitched voice and always in possession of a ridiculously impractical weapon

3. The Evil Kung-Fu Overlord with a suspiciously high-pitched voice and always in possession of a ridiculously impractical weapon

Unlike the Kung u Hero, the Evil Kung fu Overlord will always have facial hair, normally a thin mustache. He will also be dubbed with a high, snivelling voice, and carry a chain and an iron claw, or a metal fan, or something as hilariously useless in actual combat, yet manage to kill or maim a bunch of people important to the Kung fu Hero with it.

Often Heard Saying: Nyeheehehehe! Your tea is no match for mine! Now you must die!

 

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2. The Fat Comedy Relief whose mouth moves insanely differently from what he says

2. The Fat Comedy Relief whose mouth moves insanely differently from what he says

Now you know why Samo Hung is famous. He always had the funniest lines, but because they were lost in translation, we only relied on physical comedy to make us laugh. He would normally have a lot of dialogue but the dubbing would end up reducing his lines to next to nothing.

Often Heard Saying: Hey, you spilled my tea! That’s very rude!

 

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1. The Evil Minion With the Impossibly Southern Accent

1. The Evil Minion With the Impossibly Southern Accent

While everyone had normal voices dubbed on, there’s always that one guy who had to dub so many characters, so was forced to differentiate between his Evil Kung fu Overlord voice and Evil Minion voice by adopting a ridiculous accent nobody in China would ever have.

Often Heard Saying: Oh, no! The tea is spilled, my lord! This is very bad!

 

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