During his short career as an actor, Bruce Lee starred in only a handful of movies, but all of five of them have become icons in the martial arts genre. Lee’s on-screen persona and skills as a martial artist made him a kung fu legend, and for this reason, all five of his films have been revisited by fans decades after being released.
Through his movies, Bruce Lee made a significant contribution to the entertainment industry by maximizing the public’s interest in martial arts, which greatly increased the demand for kung fu films. Prior his big screen debut, martial arts movies were already being made in Hong Kong and China, but Bruce Lee changed how filmmakers approached the business and made them realize that what audiences really wanted to see from these films were trained martial artists performing well-choreographed fight scenes. Thanks to Lee, the kung fu craze of the 1970s and 1980s began.10 SecDoctor Strange Looks Goofy AF Without CGI
Despite his fame, Lee was only in the industry for a short while. His career took off in the late 1960s when he played Kato, the sidekick to the titular hero in The Green Hornet TV series. In 1969, Lee played a small role in Marlowe, a detective movie which had James Garner in the lead. Later, Lee was cast in the film, The Big Boss, and this led to four more starring roles before his ɗᥱαꚍɧ in 1973. Here’s all five of Bruce Lee’s movies, ranked from worst to best.
5. Game Of ɗᥱαꚍɧ
Bruce Lee ɗ𝔦ᥱd before his last film, Game of ɗᥱαꚍɧ, could be completed, and it was five years before it finally saw a theatrical release. In Game of ɗᥱαꚍɧ, Bruce Lee (dressed in his iconic yellow jumpsuit) has to fight his way up a tower, facing different martial artists on each level. As he progresses, the fights become gradually more difficult. At one point in the movie, Lee clashes with a character played by basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The fights are well-done and live up to the expectations of a Bruce Lee movie, but there’s just one big problem: Bruce Lee ɗ𝔦ᥱd before Game of ɗᥱαꚍɧ could be completed. A large number of his scenes were never actually shot, and no amount of editing could have solved this issue – though its clear the studio tried. Stand-ins were used, one shot had his face laughably superimposed over a double’s face, and scenes from past Bruce Lee movies had to be included. They even used footage from Bruce Lee’s actual 𝘧unᥱrαl. When watching Game of ɗᥱαꚍɧ, it’s easy to see why the studio initially chose not to finish it. It was made from only part of a movie, and it shows. With these things in mind, it’s hard to call Game of ɗᥱαꚍɧ a good film, but Bruce Lee fans still regard it as required-viewing for its fight scenes alone.
4. The Big Boss
Released in 1971, The Big Boss is the film that launched Bruce Lee to stardom. In The Big Boss, Lee is Cheng Chao-an, a martial artist who goes to live with his cousins in Thailand and work at an ice factory. Before long, Chao-an starts helping his family look for two of his missing cousins and ends up earning the attention of a local gang. For Chao-an, his biggest problem isn’t defeating the gang, but the promise that he made to his mother that he would never fight.
Though initially looked down as a coward, Chao-an is pushed and pushed by the characters in the film until he predictably breaks his oath and lashes out against his enemies. It’s here where the movie really takes off, and the slow build-up to Chao-an’s climactic decision makes the fights that follow even more exciting. However, though Bruce Lee’s first movie was certainly a success, it’s not quite as compelling as his later films.
3. Fist Of Fury
Fist of Fury, a movie built on the theme of Chinese nαtionαlism, sees Bruce Lee take on the role of Chen Zhen, a man who returns home to find out that his kung fu master has ɗ𝔦ᥱd. While still reeling from his ɗᥱαꚍɧ, Chen is thrust into an ongoing dispute between his own school and a Japanese dojo. After the Japanese insult and demean his friends, he takes action against them and more battles between the two rival schools follow. The conflict heats up when Chen Zhen realizes that his master was ɱʋrɗᥱred.
Fist of Fury has been the subject of various sequels over the years, with actors like Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen playing Lee’s character. However, none of these films have been able to rival the original, which is an entertaining tale of revenge, packed with action. The saga of the kung fu hero who sets out to avenge his master is a story that’s been done hundreds of times in martial arts movies, but Fist of Fury is among the most memorable examples.
2. Enter The Dragon
Enter the Dragon, which was released shortly after Lee’s ɗᥱαꚍɧ, was the actor’s only Hollywood martial arts production. Unlike his past movies, Enter the Dragon centers on three protagonists: Lee (Bruce Lee), Roper (John Saxon), and Williams (Jim Kelly), all complete with their own individual backstories. After meeting, the three compete in a martial arts tournament, with Lee’s character secretly investigating the movie’s main antagonist, Han (Shen Kien).
Enter the Dragon is renowned as a classic for its martial arts choreography and impressive visual style, which are present through film. In the movie’s closing battle between Lee and Han, Lee remains in control, but it maintains an exciting feel through the emotion that Lee packs into every punch and every facial expression.
1. Way Of The Dragon
The first movie directed by Bruce Lee himself, Way of the Dragon follows the story of Tang Lung (Lee), a man who travels to Rome to help his relatives deal with a vicious gang. Chin Ching-hua (Nora Miao), believes Tang Lung to be too incompetent to help in any meaningful way, but she’s proven wrong when he effortlessly disposes of a group of thugs. Surprisingly, Way of the Dragon is able to entertain with action and humor, which isn’t normally seen in Lee’s films. The movie has quite a few comedic moments that enhance the tone and the characters.
The movie — which is exhilarating from start to finish — culminates in a final showdown between Tang Lung and a Karate expert named Colt, played by Chuck Norris. The raw, grueling fight that plays out between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in the Colosseum is a sight to behold, and its arguably one of the best movie fight scenes of all-time. Having two highly-skilled martial arts performing this fight allowed for few camera cuts, and made it all the more gripping and realistic.
It’s also superior to Enter the Dragon’s final battle, in terms of choreography. One of the things that makes Way of the Dragon so special comes from the fact that Lee wrote and directed it. Lee’s style is all over Way of the Dragon, in ways that it isn’t for any of his other movies. Being in the director’s chair gave Lee complete control over the film. Lee’s deep understanding of kung fu (and filmmaking) provided him with an opportunity to create a true martial arts masterpiece.