Bruce Lee Movies: Ranked From Best to Worst

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When it comes to martial arts, one name that comes to mind for people from every part of the world is Bruce Lee.

Bruce Lee has been a major part of the movie industry ever since his first debut in 1941’s movie titled, “Golden Gate Girl.”

He was just around a year old in this movie which shows that he was born into the movie industry.

Since he was born in San Francisco, most of the movies and shows that he played made a huge name in Hollywood which also helped promote Chinese martial arts in Western movies.

Most of the starting movies that he played in were Hong Kong movies since his parents were from Hong Kong and it was very hard to get roles in Western movies.

During the time when Bruce Lee was appearing in movies as a kid, he was also practicing martial arts.

In fact, Bruce Lee came up with his own fighting style known as Jeet Kune Do, which was a hybrid martial arts technique.

Here’s a list of the Best movies played by Bruce Lee

Movie Title Release Date
Golden Gate Girl (1941)* 1941
The Birth of Mankind (1946) 1946
Fu gui fu yun (1948) 1948
Meng li xi shi (1949)** 1949
Xi lu xiang (1950)** 1950
Ren zhi chu (1951) 1951
The Guiding Light (1953)** 1953
Ci mu lei (1953) 1953
Fu zhi guo (1953) 1953
Quian wan ren jia (1953) 1953
Wei lou chun xiao (1953)** 1953
Ai Shang ji (1955) 1955
Ai xia ji (1955) 1955
Gu xing xue lei (1955) 1955
Gu er xing (1955) 1955
Er nu zhai (1955) 1955
Zha dian na fu (1956)** 1956
Zao zhi dang cu wo bu jia (1956) 1956
Lei yu (1957)** 1957
The Orphan (1960)** 1960
Marlowe (1969) 1969
The Big Boss (1971) 1971
Fist of Fury (1972) 1972
Way of the Dragon (1972) 1972
Enter The Dragon (1973) 1973
Game of Death (1978) 1978

1. Enter the Dragon (1973)

Starting the list with one of, if not the best martial art movies of all time. “Enter the Dragon” was a show that many tagged “a low-budget James Bond rip-off” but the performance from the movie’s main character who was Bruce Lee made all the difference making the movie critically acclaimed as well as commercially successful.

Released on 19th August 1973, Enter the Dragon is regarded as the best project in that Bruce Lee ever appeared.

It was filled with a new milestone as it was the first movie he appeared in which was created by a major Hollywood studio, “Warner Bros.,” and also the final movie that Bruce Lee saw the release of.

The main reason behind it being the greatest Bruce Lee movie is because of how the movie is able to showcase his physical prowess and martial arts skills in full display for the audiences in theatres.

The film makes full use of Bruce Lee’s skills which is what many remember him. Unlike other martial arts movies, “Enter the Dragon” was a movie that was not limited to having good fight choreography but also delved into other aspects such as themes of betrayal and revenge.

This diverse storyline sets the movie apart from other similar martial art movies.

Even with the production company being a Western company, the feel of Bruce’s films was never affected in the process.

It has the same energetic feeling as his former projects that made it to the screen. The storyline of the movie is about a highly skilled martial artist and instructor from a Shaolin Temple named Lee.

In the movie, Lee is recruited by a British intelligence agent to investigate a suspected crime lord named Han.

In order to get close to Han and investigate him, Lee attends a high-profile martial arts tournament on Han’s private island.

This martial art tournament also provides impressive fight scenes between Lee and other competitor and the audience are served with another final fight with Han at around the end of the movie.

We recommend “Enter the Dragon” to anyone who is planning to watch a movie since it is entertaining and thrilling at the same time.

2. The Way of Dragon/ Return of the Dragon (1972)

The Way of Dragon, also known as Return of the Dragon, is another movie from the resume of Bruce Lee that can compete for becoming the very best of its time.

Just like many Bruce Lee films, this movie earned a major amount of money, $130 million, with a very tight budget, $130,000, which was not even a million.

Directed and played by Bruce Lee himself, The Way of Dragon is another action movie with aspects of martial arts and comedy.

The fact that the movie was directed, co-produced, and played by Bruce Lee is what makes this movie special. Being the director of the movie himself allows Bruce Lee to fully use all of his skills up his sleeves and showcase them in the movie.

Since the movie takes place in Rome, there are many instances where the film uses a comedic tone and makes the audiences laugh.

There is also some cultural exchange among the characters from different backgrounds in the movie which is entertaining and also good to see.

The plot of the movie is about a skilled martial artist named Tang Lung who travels to Rome to help two people running a restaurant from a crime boss.

As the story of the movie proceeds, Tang has to prove his worth to the skeptical restaurant staff and defeat the crime boss.

One of the most memorable scenes of the movie is the final showdown battle between our protagonist, Tang Lung, and the antagonist, Colt, at the Colosseum.

This fight is the main feature of the movie and also the reason behind the movie being one of the best. The fight choreography is expertly crafted by Bruce Lee himself and each move and strike is perfectly timed and executed in the movie.

“The Way of Dragon” is a great Bruce Lee film to watch and it is also one of the greatest martial art movies of its time. We definitely recommend you give the movie a try.

3. The Orphan (1960)

“The Orphan” is a movie that features Bruce Lee during his peak age of eighteen years. It was directed by Lee Sun-Fung and was based on a novel that had the same name. It is considered one of the best movies that Bruce Lee appeared in as a teenager.

The movie was released on 3rd March 1960 and was Bruce Lee’s last movie before his return to the states. The movie is set to place during the Sino- Japanese War.

This aspect of the movie makes it very impactful and memorable among other Bruce Lee movies. It is not your typical martial art only action film but a movie that incorporates real-life events and creates an emotional scenario out of it.

In this movie, Bruce Lee is an orphan who turns to a life of crime after being abandoned by his family.

This sets it apart from other repetitive movies from Bruce Lee where he only appears as a martial artist. In the movie, Ho persuades Sam to turn his life around and returns the items he had stolen.

This movie covers the story of Sam as he tries to correct all of his wrongdoings.

The movie is a little different from other Bruce Lee films so you may like it a lot or hate it. There won’t be in-betweens with this movie.

If you’ve been watching a lot of martial art action with Bruce Lee and want a break then this movie works perfectly for you.

We recommend you watch this movie as it has emotional aspects to it that are enough to make a grown man cry.

4. The Big Boss/ Fists of Fury (1971)

Next up on the list is another Hong Kong martial art titled, “The Big Boss” also known as “Fists of Fury.”

The movie was released on 23rd October 1971 and was directed by Lo Wei and Wu Chia Hsiang. The movie was an instant success in the theatres of Hong Kong and also got some notice in the Western world.

The storyline of the movie is about a young man named Cheng Chao-an, who is played by Bruce Lee. In the movie, Cheng moves to Bangkok to work in an ice factory with his relatives.

However, later the factory becomes a front for an illegal drug operation. This causes Cheng to find himself in the middle of a very dangerous situation.

Even though the movie’s description includes martial arts, it is not the only thing that the movie has to offer.

The movie does an amazing job of portraying Cheng’s character. Due to the incidents that cause the death of his close people, Cheng is now a man torn between his personal values and his desire to avenge their death.

This internal conflict makes the movie very enjoyable as there is some realism to it. Cheng, however, ultimately decides to break the promise that he made to his mother to not fight.

This decision takes the movie to more of the martial art fights in the movie ultimately taking us to the ultimate showdown against the movie’s main antagonist, Hsiao Mi, a.k.a The Big Boss.

The movie was one of the first major movies in that Bruce Lee appeared as a main character, and we can see that he has given everything that he has to provide in the movie. From the fight scenes to the emotional scenes, Bruce Lee played the part perfectly.

The movie feels more than just a compilation of martial art fights as it offers the audiences more than them.

“The Big Boss/ Fists of Fury” is highly recommended to all Bruce Lee fans as well as general audiences who just want to have a nice time watching a good movie.

5. The Kid- 1950

Another movie that is a break from the martial arts action genre that features Bruce Lee is the movie that came out on 30th May 1950 titled, “The Kid” with alternative names Kid Cheung and My Son A-Chang. The movie features Bruce Lee when he was just a kid aged 9 years old.

The movie, itself, was actually an adaptation of a comic book which was written by Yuen Bou-wan. This was a major milestone in Bruce Lee’s acting career as his appearance in this movie is considered his first main role in a movie.

The storyline of the movie tells the story of Ho “Kid” Cheung, played by Bruce Lee, who lives in poverty and gets involved in a life of crime to survive.

One day, when a robber leaves a stolen necklace in return for his help, Kid’s life starts to drastically change.

After finding the necklace, Kid’s uncle returns it to the real owner, and Kid is offered a job at a school for poor children.

However, his life has far from changed as he faces bullying in school and also in other workplaces which he takes after getting expelled from the school.

As the story of the film proceeds, Kid learns the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of adversity.

He is influenced by the kindness and courage of Lui Mei, one of the female workers at the factory, who stands up for her rights and inspires Kid to do the same.

Although Kid was just a 9-year-old when he was playing the role of Kid Cheung, it felt like an amateur’s work during the movie.

He does an excellent job of playing the character and helping the audience emotionally connect with his character while watching the movie.

Even though this movie does not have the aspects of a normal Bruce Lee movie, it is a great watch overall.

The movie showcases the skills of young Bruce Lee before he got the attention he deserved. This is the movie that kickstarted our martial artist’s journey to Hollywood and becoming a world-renowned celebrity.

6. Fist of Fury/ The Chinese Connection- 1972

Bruce Lee movies have always suffered from poor translations of titles. Fist of Fury, also known as The Chinese Connection, was the name of another Bruce Lee movie that came a year earlier in America but the real Fist of Fury was actually the film that Bruce Lee played in and was released on 22nd March 1972.

The movie was another major film in which Bruce Lee appeared in a major role after the first one in 1971’s Big Boss.

It is filled with strong characters that audiences can have an emotional connection with and also outstanding action sequences that you would expect from a Bruce Lee film.

Fists of Fury takes the story of our protagonist called Chen Zhen, a student at the Jingwu School. In the summer of 1910, Chen Zhen who had left the school returns to marry his fiancée but the trip turns out to be a disaster after he finds out that his old master, Huo Yuanjia, had died of an illness.

During the farewell, a Japanese dojo school’s members come to insult the students of Jingwu.

This causes Chen to become embroiled in a conflict with the Japanese escalating into a bloody battle for honor and revenge.

In the fights, the movie is able to perfectly use Bruce Lee’s skills and showcase them to the audience.

It is not all about flashy moves though as it shows people standing up against oppression and fighting for their rights.

Bruce Lee’s performance in the movie is amazing coupled with the fact that the movie’s portrayal of Chen Zhen as a nationalistic hero resonated with many viewers. It is also one of the main reasons behind the movie’s success since the movie shed light on the Chinese resistance to the Japanese occupation.

Bruce Lee’s career was at its peak when the movie was out and he played an amazing part in this movie. It is highly recommended for any audience who wants to watch the legend in play. This was also among the final movie that he appeared in before its early death in 1973.

7. An Orphan’s Tragedy- 1955

Bruce Lee movie titles seem to have some similarities to them. An Orphan’s Tragedy has some similarities to the 1960’s film titled, “The Orphan.”

The movie was directed by Chu Kei and was released on 11 February 1955 in Hong Kong. It is supposed to be an adaptation of the novel written by Charles Dickens titled, “Great Expectations.”

Since it is based on the novel, “Great Expectation,” the storyline is similar to it. The storyline is slightly changed and also the English names from the novel are changed into Chinese names to familiarize the audience.

The film follows the story of Dickson Fan, a man who has been unjustly imprisoned for ten years, and his encounter with Frank Wong, a teenager who later helps him escape from the police.

The story has many plot twists in its run as we later find out that Frank Wong was actually the biological son of Dickson Fan.

The plot continues as the guy who wrongly accused Dickson Fan, which led to his ten years imprisonment, named “To Chai-yan” returns to target Wong in order to lure Fan.

“An Orphan’s Tragedy” was one of Bruce Lee’s earliest film appearances. He was only 15 years old when he appeared in this movie, and it was also one of his first credited film roles.

Just like “The Kid,” this movie provides us with a look into one of the earliest projects Bruce Lee appeared in and how his acting skills developed over the years.

It should be kept in mind that Bruce Lee only appears in the movie as the teenage version of Frank Wong, so as the movie goes through a time skip, we won’t be seeing Bruce Lee in the film. However, taking his place is Cheung Wood-yau who also has done an amazing job portraying his character.

The movie is another break from your typical Bruce Lee action movies and is very entertaining in its own right. It is highly recommended for Bruce Lee fans to watch and not miss it.

8. Marlowe (1969)

One of the few western movies that featured Bruce Lee is the 1969’s  Marlowe. Even though the movie does not feature Bruce Lee as the main character, he did an amazing job as a supporting character. The movie was a major step in making Bruce Lee famous in the western world.

Marlowe is a movie that is based on the 1949 novel titled, “The Little Sister,” from Chandler. Taking the same storyline, the movie is about a private detective, Philip Marlowe, who is the titular character.

The character was played by one of the very best, James Garner, and appearing as a side character in the movie is Winslow Wong, who was played by Bruce Lee.

In the movie, Philip Marlowe is hired by Orfamay Quest, a young woman from Kansas, to find her brother, Orrin Quest.

As he continues his detective works, Marlowe soon finds himself in the middle of murders and blackmails.

While trying to figure out the case, he comes across Wingslow Wong. Even with a small amount of appearance in the movie, Bruce Lee was able to steal the spotlight from the other actors.

In his brief scene in the movie, Bruce Lee was able to display everything that he is known for. From intense athleticism to his own martial art techniques, Bruce Lee took every chance that was given to him by his student, Stirling Silliphant, who was the writer of the movie, as a gift.

It is said that the character of Wingslow Wong was solely made by Silliphant for his mentor.

The critics found the movie average at its best and the audiences were not very fond of it either. The reason why it is very low on the list is that Bruce Lee has made an appearance for only a slight period of time.

However, he did the things that everybody has seen him doing in Chinese films and made a name for himself.

Even though the movie has received mixed reviews from audiences, it is one of the few western movies played by Bruce Lee so we recommend you give it a try if you’ve already completed the movies above or if you just want to watch an English movie that features Bruce Lee in it.

9. The Guiding Light- 1953

Before being known for his martial art skills and his athletism, Bruce Lee was continuously playing the role of an orphan, infant, and teenager.

The same is the case for 1953’s The Guiding Light which features a teenage Bruce Lee playing the role of Tin Sang.

The storyline of the movie is very emotional as it follows a child, Tin Sang, who is up for adoption after his real family leaves him.

In the movie, later, Sang finds himself in a very difficult decision of whom to stay with. Right after getting adopted by a family, his real family shows up and wants to take him.

This creates a dilemma for him on whether to choose his real family who abandoned him or his new family.

The movie is also a piece of evidence of how the greatest actor was developing over the years. Even at the age of just 13, Bruce Lee was able to have the ability to leave a lasting impact on the audience with his performance.

The film explores themes of family and identity as Tin Sang goes on to make a hard decision with his parents.

“The Guiding Light” is not an action-packed martial art movie but a movie that provides an emotional feel with aspects of family love and finding one’s identity. It is an amazing watch for all people and we recommend not missing it has a well-crafted script.

10. Love- 1955

“Love” or the Chinese title “Ai Shang Ji”, is a melodramatic film that was released in 1955. There are two different parts to the film and has six different storylines, each dealing with different aspects of love.

This is also the reason why this movie has six different directors as each director directed one storyline of the movie.

During the shooting of the movie, Bruce Lee was just 15 years old which makes his role in this movie impressive.

In the movie, he plays the role of the youngest son in a family of struggling street performers in the fifth storyline.

He does an amazing job at accurately playing the character making the audiences feel an emotional connection with him.

The movie has Bruce Lee play the role that he was now being too familiar with. It can be seen from some scenes in the movie that he wanted something more than just playing a child character.

He was able to showcase his skills in one of the scenes that included his character doing performances. This was evidence that Bruce Lee always had the natural talent of an athlete.

The movie is very traditional and also has a unique way of portraying its story to the audiences with the use of different storylines in the same movie. We recommend this movie if you want to experience Bruce Lee in his early teenage years.

Even though he makes an appearance only in the fifth storyline, storylines other than the one with Bruce Lee are also very entertaining and emotional to watch.

11. In the Face of Demolition- 1953

Another movie that features Bruce Lee as a teenager is the 1953’s Hong Kong movie titled, “In the Face of Demolition.”

The movie was directed by Lee Tit and featured prominent cast members such as Mui Yee, Cheung Ying, Ng Cho-fan and Tsi Law-lin who were well-established actors/ actresses of their time.

The movie also features Bruce Lee as a side character of the movie. It resonated with general audiences since it covered the daily struggles of everyday people.

Even with the movie having a low budget compared to other films at the time, it was well-received among the audiences back then and the film is still watchable to this day.

The storyline of the film tells the story of the residents of an aging apartment complex who are facing eviction due to its impending demolition.

It showcases the struggles of these individuals as they try to come to terms with their impending displacement.

The main character in the film is Lo Ming, an unemployed teacher who is forced to take a job as a rent collector to make ends meet.

More characters that were affected are introduced slowly in the film. Wah, a teenage child from one of the families in the apartment, is played by Bruce Lee.

He is portrayed as an optimistic kid who believes that everything is going to be fine. As the film continues, “In the Face of Demolition” shows why the title of the film makes sense and also helps us know our characters better and resonate with them.

Even though Bruce Lee has a minor role in the film, it is a good movie in and of itself. It tackles real-world problems that working-class families go through in different places.

We are introduced to a bunch of characters who are willing to risk their lives to fight for their homes and communities.

The movie has portrayed the problems that are caused due to urbanization for people that are not rich. We recommend watching this movie as it is a movie that showcases these problems accurately.

Even though we see less of Bruce Lee in the film, it is still one of the best movies that feature Bruce Lee in it.

12. Too Late for Divorce- 1956

Last on the list is another film that features Bruce Lee in his mid-teen years. The movie is titled, “Too Late for Divorce.”

The reason why the movie is very low on the list is due to the involvement of Bruce Lee being too small in the movie but not because of the movie itself.

“Too Late for Divorce” is a Hong Kong drama film directed by Wai-kwong Chiang that stars well-known celebrities such as Yanfen Fang, Kim-Fai Yam, Fung Woo, and Bruce Lee, who had made a name as the rising actors of his generation appearing in numerous child roles.

The movie was one of the earliest movies that included a few martial art skills from Bruce Lee. However, he was not the main character of the movie’s story.

The movie actually was about another character called Yuk-lan Lee, who is a successful singer. Later, she is forced to retire from her singing career and marry a man she despises.

After her husband’s death, she becomes a nun and takes in a young pupil whom she falls in love with. However, she refrains from acting on her feelings, as it would be considered improper of a widow to during those times.

The movie continues as she has to choose between her feelings and the rules that society has imposed on her.

Bruce Lee’s contribution to the movie is a minor one. He plays Yuk-lan’s son in the movie. In the movie, he is seen often getting caught up in the family drama.

Even though his role was relatively small, Bruce Lee was able to catch the attention of the main characters to him with his charm.

This movie allowed Bruce Lee to showcase some amount of martial art on the screen which also kickstarted his career as martial art actor.

The movie is a great watch for everyone. While Bruce Lee does not appear in the movie as often, it is one of the best that he ever appeared in due to it being visually stunning and emotionally powerful at the same time.

So, we recommend you watch it if you’re looking for a movie to look at after completing most of the above Bruce Lee movies.

What is considered the best Bruce Lee movie?

There are many good movies that Bruce Lee has appeared in. But, the cinematography and also the portrayal of martial art skills by Bruce Lee in the 1973’s action movie, Enter the Dragon, is unmatched by his prior projects.

The movie was one of the most successful movies of all time in his career and was also regarded as his last after his untimely death in that same exact year.

Why are there so few Bruce Lee movies?

Bruce Lee is a renowned actor who has played in many major films in his career. He has appeared in a total of 31 movies which is not “few” in any way.

He was appearing in movies and playing roles in them since the very beginning of his life. In fact, the first movie that he appeared in was when he was just a toddler. He was not even a year old when he appeared in 1941’s Golden Gate Girl.

Ever since that, Bruce Lee has appeared in movies at least once in 2 years intervals. He played the roles of orphan and child version of the main character in many of the major Hong Kong movies.

The main reason why it may feel less is that most of the movies were Hong Kong movies so Western audiences had limited access to them.

His untimely death at the age of just 32 is one of the major reasons why he has fewer movies in his name.

It was around this time that he started getting roles in Western movies, and he was definitely getting tons of offers from around the world to play in their movies. I believe he would’ve easily played more than 50 movies if it was not for his death at an early age.

What caused the death of Bruce Lee?

The world was shocked when the world-famous martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee, was deemed dead on 20th July of 1973, in Hong Kong.

At that time, there were many speculations and rumors that were going around about how such an energetic person died at such an early age.

Later, Bruce Lee’s death was classified as death due to acute cerebral edema, or swelling of the brain. The main cause of the swelling is still not officially confirmed.

However, many believe that it was due to an allergic reaction to a painkiller or a pre-existing medical condition. Recently, it was also said that there might be the possibility of drinking excess water and a prior kidney injury that caused his death.

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