The Donnie Yen(甄子丹Zhēn Zǐdān) was a stuntman in his own earliest films, Shaolin Drunkard (1983) . At the age of 20, he got his first acting role in the 1984 film Drunken Tai Chi and "Golden Shower from the East" (1985).

After filming Drunken Tai Chi and Tiger Cage (1988), Yen made his breakthrough role as General Nap-lan in Once Upon a Time in China II (1992), which included a fight scene between his character and Wong Fei-hung (played by Jet Li). Yen had a starring role in the film Iron Monkey in 1993. Yen and Li appeared together again in the 2002 film Hero, where Yen played a spear (or qiang) fighter who fought with Li's character, an unnamed swordsman. The film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 2003 Academy Awards.

In 1995, Yen starred as Chen Zhen (Cantonese: Chan Zan) in the television series Fist of Fury produced by ATV, which is adapted from the 1972 film of the same title that starred Bruce Lee as Chen Zhen. Yen reprised his role as Chen Zhen in the 2010 film Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen.

In 1997, Yen started the production company Bullet Films, and made his directorial debut[18] in Legend of the Wolf (1997) and Ballistic Kiss (1998), in which he played the lead character. Yen went on to choreograph fight scenes and appeared in minor roles in some Hollywood films, such as Highlander: Endgame (2000) and Blade II (2002).