The first martial arts film was made in Shanghai in 1905. From the beginning in China there formed five martial arts cinema genres.
Films of the latter type are generally considered to be artistically superior films, but many films of the former type are commercially successful and well received by fans of the genre. One of the earliest Hollywood movies to employ the use of martial arts was the 1955 film Bad Day at Black Rock.
Martial arts films contain many characters who are martial artists, and these roles are often played by actors who are real martial artists. If not, actors frequently train in preparation for their roles, or the action director may rely more on stylized action or film making tricks like camera angles, editing, doubles, undercranking, wire work, and computer-generated imagery. Trampolines and springboards can also be used to increase the height of jumps. These techniques are sometimes used by real martial artists as well, depending on the style of action in the film.
Martial arts films have been produced all over the world, but the genre has been dominated by Hong Kong action cinema, peaking from 1971 with the rise of Bruce Lee until the mid-1990s with a general decline in the industry. Other notable figures in the genre include Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Donnie Yen.
Hollywood has also participated in the genre with actors such as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee), Wesley Snipes, Gary Daniels, Mark Dacascos, and Jason Statham.