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FOOT FIST FRIDAYS: Tommy Lee and Dae Han Engage in the Last, Great Movie Fight of the 80’s in BEST OF THE BEST!

Welcome to FOOT FIST FRIDAYS! A weekly dose of fight action where the experts share their thoughts on some of the greatest scenes of fisticuffs in action cinema history!

This week, The Cinema Drunkie tackles the epic and climatic fight between Phillip and Simon Rhee from the 1989 martial arts classic BEST OF THE BEST! This film is required viewing for any serious martial arts action movie junkie!

By: The Cinema Drunkie

In November 1989, I was just a 5 year old boy playing with his He-Man toys when my father came home from work and asked “Hey son, wanna go to the movies?” Being a huge movie fan even then, I was like “YA!” He told me to pick it out. So I looked up and down the newspaper for the perfect movie to watch. And there it was, in all its glory. I told my dad “I got it, Pop!” That movie was…

The Bear

Not what you were thinking, huh? Needless to say, my dad didn’t want to see that. So he picked the movie for us to see, and off we were. And as I sat down in the theater with him, I realized the movie he had taken us to see was the taekwondo sports drama Best of the Best.

A team from the United States is going to compete against Korea in a Tae Kwon Do tournament. The team consists of fighters from all over the country–can they overcome their rivalry and work together to win?

Now, I had seen the tv spots playing for it all the time, and thought it looked cool. So I wasn’t opposed to seeing it. Being a martial arts movie fan already, even at that age, Best of the Best was right up my alley. And I really liked it. 5 year old me thought it was great. 

Especially the fighting. One particular fight scene stood out to me so much that since that night, it has been one of my favorite fight scenes of all time. I’m of course talking about the final fight between real life brothers Phillip and Simon Rhee.

Now, if you haven’t seen the movie before, allow me to provide context: Phillip Rhee plays Tae Kwon Do expert Tommy Lee, who was chosen to take on the leader of the Korean team, the eye patch wearing Dae Han, played by Simon Rhee. Tommy is apprehensive about it since Dae Han was responsible for the death of Tommy’s brother in a match years ago. But he decides to go along with it because his team needs him. And this may be his one shot at redemption, and maybe even revenge.

Let me tell you something: this scene is the perfect example of why it is called the martial ARTS, because this scene is pure art in motion. Watching these two masters put on a Tae kwon Do clinic on screen is astonishing to say the least. Beautiful to the most. Like Ahmad Rashad said in the movie during the fight “This spectacular aerial display is the trademark of classical Tae Kwon Do!” And he’s right. This truly is one of the best fight scenes ever. I’m even gonna go out on a limb and call this the last great movie fight of the 1980s.

 I just can’t say enough good things about this scene. What the Rhee brothers gave us here is exceptional in its flawlessness. And it was choreography like this (as well as the characters) that kept us coming back for the movie’s three sequels. And although I do prefer the second one, nothing in the series has a fight that comes close to topping this one. 

So thanks, Pop. Thank you for disregarding my original choice (I still have yet to see The Bear, by the way) to take me to see this instead. I will always be grateful for that. You’re the man, Pop.

Even though you thought the movie sucked.

About The Aurthor: With his mind utterly intoxicated off of a steady stream of movies, comics and cartoons, a young boy from Brooklyn, New York grew up to become the man known as… THE CINEMA DRUNKIE!!!

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