It’s been 44 years since Bruce Lee’s death, and his impact on the movie industry is still felt today – like a roundhouse kick to the gut and an open-palm hit to the face.
When it comes to the mainstream attraction of martial arts films, it all started with this man. He brought his own brand of high-speed action to a worldwide audience and the massive influence of his work can still be felt in the construction of action scenes in movies today.
Not only that but Bruce has also become an icon in popular culture too, with video games and merchandise (the strangest item of which is an official rug) named after him. There’s an official Bruce Lee slot machine game playable on the Sky Vegas website too, featuring colourful graphics and brash sounds from the original movies. The site offers £40 free with a £10 deposit according to Oddschecker but the game can be tried for free.
But the big question remains – what are his five best films? Well, here are our picks (in no particular order).
1. Fist of Fury
Set loosely against real historical events in Shanghai, Bruce Lee is the prize student in a school of martial arts, whose master has been assassinated by an opposing Japanese school. As you’d expect with any action film, Lee’s character takes vengeance on the school – but does so in the darkest, most brutal action scenes this star has ever performed in.
Powerful stunts, varied combat scenarios, and the sound of breaking bones is enough to satisfy even the most battle-hardened action movie fans.
2. The Big Boss
Released in 1971, Bruce Lee plays an ice-factory worker, whose colleagues begin to disappear without a trace. After the factory owner’s drug-smuggling operation is accidentally revealed in a dramatic fashion, the action begins – but, in a rare break from the standard Lee movie, the fight scenes were sparse.
While this may seem like a downside, it really made the payoff of every fight so much sweeter, and played to the surprisingly tongue-in-cheek comedy that Lee could pull off. Another must watch, which shows off Bruce’s acting ability and serves as another great showing of his stunt-performing prowess.
3. Way of the dragon
Without a doubt, 1972 was the busiest year of Bruce Lee’s career, completing two feature films and working on many more. Way of the Dragon was the third film he both starred in and directed himself. Instead of taking the path towards making a darker and more serious film, he continued down the comedy route – playing the culture-clash kind of story where a Hong Kong native tried to fit into a different life.
Sight gags and fight scenes work rather well in this film, which crescendos to an epic fight between Bruce Lee and his real-life student, Chuck Norris, at the Colosseum. For a directorial debut, it was a good start for Bruce.
4. Game of Death
One of the most famous unfinished films in Bruce Lee’s repertoire, he completed three fight scenes and went off to finish another project that we’ll talk about next…
Sadly, Lee died not long after the production of his fourth movie, leaving this piece incomplete. That was until 1978 when ‘Enter The Dragon’ director Robert Clouse tried to complete it with clumsily put together stock footage, body doubles and real footage from Lee’s funeral.
While this part of the movie is definitely not great, the 40 minutes of footage that Bruce had already filmed showed an incredible physical prowess through action and some superb comedic timing.
5. Enter The Dragon
The legendary movie to top them all. Armed with a simple premise – enter a mob boss’ fighting tournament and take revenge on the gang who led Lee’s sister to commit suicide – the dark battle lines were drawn for a brutal film.
Enter the Dragon truly paved the way for all martial arts movies to come.