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Ranking All 20 Bruce Lee Fight Scenes From Great To Legendary

Includes all fight scenes from The Big Boss, Chinese Connection, The Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon, and Game of Death.

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From 1971 to 1973, Bruce Lee filmed five feature-length martial arts films, that would cement his legacy as one of the greatest martial artists of all time. In total, there are 20 fight scenes in all five films (not including the fight scenes with fake Bruce Lee in Game of Death). It's safe to say that the man did not have a bad fight scene. And so, I've decided to rank all 20 fight scenes, based on a scale of zero to five nunchakus. The scenes are ranked based on two things: "WOW" factor and character development.

Please note: For the purposes of this ranking, we will be referring to the re-mastered cut of Game of Death featured in the 2000 documentary Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey and NOT the 1978 Game of Death, directed by Robert Clouse (even though it features one of the best musical scores of all time by John Barry).

Without further ado...

20. Opening Fight at the Shaolin Temple

Warner Bros.

From: Enter the Dragon, 1973

In Bruce Lee's first Hollywood-produced film, and his last film ever, Enter the Dragon starts off with a short fight scene that establishes Lee as an expert Shaolin martial artist. While the choreography of this scene is entertaining to watch, there's not much else happening. Nonetheless, it's fun to watch Lee defeat a very young Sammo Hung.

The real golden nuggets actually come after the opening fight, when he dishes out some philosophical musings, like “It's like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory."

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19. Cheng Chao-An's First Fight

Golden Harvest

From: The Big Boss, 1971

Lee's character, Cheng Chao-An, moves to Thailand and swears an oath of non-violence. He works with his cousins in an ice factory, run by a ruthless Hsiao Mi, also known as The Big Boss. In this scene, we see the workers go on strike. The Big Boss sends a group of men to viciously attack the workers to get them back to work. This is when we finally see Cheng break his oath and defend his coworkers against the antagonizing men. The scene is short, and it doesn't come until nearly 45 minutes into the film, but it displays just enough of Lee's incredible martial arts ability to hook the audience in.

18. Tang Lung vs. The Mafia

Golden Harvest

From: The Way of the Dragon, 1972

In his directorial debut, Lee showcased a new side in the form of Tang Lung, a naive and innocent man from Hong Kong who travels to Italy to help out a friend's Chinese restaurant that's constantly hazed by the Italian mafia. We see a more comedic Lee, departing from his prior outings in The Big Boss and Chinese Connection. But when it comes time to opening a can of whoop ass, he will become the badass we all love to watch.

After the mafia kidnaps his friend, Tang Lung and an entire Chinese restaurant staff go to the mafia's headquarters and wreak havoc. Lee leads the melee, and once and for all puts the Italian mafiosi in his place.

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17. Tang Lung vs. Italian Thugs #1

Golden Harvest

From: The Way of the Dragon, 1972

In this first fight scene from The Way of the Dragon, we see Tang Lung take on a group of Italian thugs sent to harass the Chinese restaurant. The scene is fun and comedic, with Tang Lung accentuating his Chinese boxing poses. While the thugs laugh at the smaller Tang Lung, he proceeds to dish out and impressive beat down, forcing the thugs to retreat. The restaurant staff laud Tang Lung for being the first man to successfully fight back against the mafia.

16. Lee vs. Han

From: Enter the Dragon, 1973

In the final fight scene to Enter the Dragon, we see Lee face off against Han, the film's antagonist. It's clear that Han is no match for Lee, even if he is using his Wolverine-like claw. But when Han runs off into the mirror room, the fight scene turns into an actual living metaphor. There's no fighting, only brief moments of action. The mirror room confuses Lee, and Han uses misdirection to attack Lee with his claw. Lee suddenly remembers what his master taught him: "The enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image and you will break the enemy." And so, Lee breaks all the mirrors in the room, finds Han and kicks him onto a spear, killing him instantly.

While it doesn't come close to being the best fight scene of Lee's career, it's certainly the most iconic. The beautiful shots of the mirror room, and Lee's slashed face and torso are images that will forever be embedded in pop culture.

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15. Tang Lung vs. Italian Thugs #2 "The Double Nunchaku Scene"

Golden Harvest

From: The Way of the Dragon, 1972

After Tang Lung defeats the Italian thugs the first time around, the mafia returns for revenge, this time with more men and ONE gun. But these Italian thugs aren't enough for Tang Lung, who quickly takes them down with the use of two nunchakus.

Lee showcases not only his incredible nunchaku skills, but also his impeccable comic timing. He delivers a martial arts clinic while maintaining the character's sense of humor.

14. Cheng Chao-an vs. The Big Boss

From: The Big Boss, 1971

This brutal one-on-one confrontation in the climax to The Big Boss is by far one of the most violent scenes in Lee's career. The fight is an old-fashioned throwdown between our hero Cheng and The Big Boss. Even though The Boss uses two knives to his advantage, Cheng still manages to kill him in a gruesome fashion: Cheng kicks a knife into The Boss' torso, and then stabs him with his fingers. That's right – HIS FINGERS. He then proceeds to repeatedly punch the dude in the face until he dies.

The police arrive shortly after, and like a good man, Cheng surrenders himself.

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13. The Ice Factory Fight

From: The Big Boss, 1971

In this scene, we see Cheng take out The Big Boss' entire criminal outfit, including his son. While Cheng is outnumbered by almost ten-to-one, he still manages to overcome the odds and takes out every single henchmen. In the end, he kills The Big Boss' son with a devastating punch to the stomach. This is one of the Lee's more violent fight scenes, featuring lots of blood and a high body count. It's also the scene where we see a once-innocent Cheng cross the point of no return, having killed over ten men in a matter of minutes.

Behind the scenes, Lee disagreed with Director Lei Wo about including the now famous shot where one of the henchmen crashes through a wall, leaving behind a comical human outline. Wo persisted and the shot was kept in.

12. The Final Melee

Warner Bros.

From: Enter the Dragon, 1973

Lee is known for whooping ass in large quantities. This scene is no different. When Roper (played by John Saxon) kills Bolo (played by Bolo Yeung), Han's right-hand man, an enraged Han sends his men to kill Roper and Lee. But Roper and Lee prove too much for the countless men in white. And then, a large group of prisoners that Han kept in captivity are released, and a whole melee begins between the prisoners and Han's men.

This scene is the beginning of the end for Han. Lee taking out Han's men is a joy to watch, and it's all set to a sweet soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin. At the end, Lee chases Han to a secluded area, where they have their final confrontation.

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11. Chen Zhen vs. The Japanese Dojo #2

From: Chinese Connection, 1972

Although Chen Zhen had already defeated the entire dojo once (see below), he returns to the dojo once more after learning the dojo's master, Hiroshi Suzuki, was the one responsible for poisoning his master. Chen Zhen isn't interested in merely defeating those responsible – he's there to kill.

While we see Chen Zhen take on a couple of students, the focal point of this scene is his fight against head instructor Yoshida, who uses a samurai sword to attack Chen Zhen. What makes this fight so intriguing are the pauses, where we see Chen Zhen think carefully about his next move, adding to the realism of the scene. Ultimately, he uses his speed and agility to find a way to kill Yoshida without ever laying a finger on the sword.

10. Chen Zhen vs. Hiroshi Suzuki

From: Chinese Connection, 1972

In the climax to Chinese Connection, we see Chen Zhen finally go one-on-one against Hiroshi Suzuki, the man responsible for killing his master. A cowardly Suzuki uses a katana sword to fight, but Chen Zhen also pulls out his weapon of choice: The nunchaku. It's an unorthodox fight scene that pits two completely different weapons against each other, but it works. Chen Zhen uses his speed to overcome Suzuki's katana sword. And once he disarms Suzuki and turns the fight into hand-to-hand combat, he kills Suzuki by kicking him in the throat – a kick so powerful it literally sends Suzuki flying through a wall.

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9. The Underground Drug Lab Fight

From: Enter the Dragon, 1972

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee plays a character that's equivalent to James Bond. He's a man trying to uncover the dirty secret of a man named Han. His secret? He runs a drug ring and uses an international martial arts tournament to lure potential business partners. When Lee goes incognito and infiltrates the underground drug lab, he's caught, and has to fight his way out.

In one of the most famous Bruce Lee fight scenes, Lee fends off henchmen left and right as if they were fruit flies. The camera solely focuses on Lee, allowing the viewer to sit there and marvel at his astonishing skill. In this fight, he takes out his enemies with expert hand-to-hand fighting. When his enemies start wielding weapons, he uses a large stick, two batons, and a nunchaku to dish out a beating. In the end, he gets trapped, but not before leaving a trail of fallen henchmen behind.

8. Lee vs. O'Hara

From: Enter the Dragon, 1973

This scene proves that a fight scene doesn't always have to be fast and flashy. In this fight, we see Lee go up against O'Hara, the man who drove Lee's sister to commit suicide. The choreography of this fight has no steady flow. Instead, it stops and starts a lot. Whenever Lee connects with a punch or a kick, there is a pause. Each pause serves to accentuate the action in the scene and adds emotion to every punch and kick. The fight eventually picks up the pace, slightly, and builds to Lee killing O'Hara, by stomping and snapping his neck (a snapping is heard off-screen). It's a beautifully choreographed scene that led to Bruce Lee actually cutting his hand for real.

On a side note, Bob Wall took a real-life kick from Lee that actually sent him flying into the crowd and broke an extra's arm. This would be the second time he's taken a real kick from Lee on-camera (see below).

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7. Tang Lung vs. The Two Guys in the Gi Outfits

From: The Way of the Dragon, 1972

Lee's kick-heavy fight scene with American martial artist Bob Wall flows beautifully from the start to the abrupt ball-buster finish. It's an enjoyable fight, that's riddled with intricate movesets and brutal connecting shots. According to Wall, Lee did in fact land some real kicks throughout the scene. This was done because "you can't fake getting hit for real."

6. The 4th Floor "The Hapkido Master"

From: Game of Death

Before accepting the role in Enter the Dragon, Lee was working on a self-produced film that took place in South Korea called Game of Death. The premise was simple: three men had to fight their way up a five-story pagoda, each floor being guarded by a fighter who specialized in a specific form of martial arts. Lee filmed three fights before heading off to do Enter the Dragon. He died shortly after, leaving behind an unfinished film.

The point of Game of Death was to deconstruct the principles of martial arts. Lee defeats each of his opponents by finding flaws in their restricted style and technique. In this scene, we see him take down world-renown Hapkido master Ji Han-Jae. Lee believed in fluidity and unpredictability, blending multiple forms of martial arts as opposed to sticking to just one. In the end, this philosophy helps him to defeat Han-Jae, who restricts himself to only using Hapkido to fight Lee. This scene showcases some of Lee's most intricate fight choreography of his career.

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5. The 3rd Floor "The Nunchaku Duel"

From: Game of Death

Danny Inosanto plays the guardian of the 3rd floor of the pagoda. His specialty is weapons. The pace of the scene is slow at first. Lee uses a thin bamboo stick against Inosanto's red batons. Lee dominates Inosanto due to his ability to fight in "broken rhythm," as opposed to Inosanto who relies solely on his fixed style and technique. The fight takes it to a whole new level when they switch weapons and carry out a legendary nunchaku duel.

The fight ends with Lee breaking Inosanto's neck with the nunchaku.

4. The 5th Floor "Mantis"

From: Game of Death

In the final fight in Game of Death, Lee faces off against his real-life Jeet Kun Do student, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The visual element of this fight scene is stunning from the beginning, seeing a nearly 7-foot tall Abdul-Jabbar facing off against a 5'7" Bruce Lee. Despite the height difference, Jabbar matches Lee in speed and agility. According to Abdul-Jabbar, "we had to slow everything down because we were moving too fast and it looked too jerky on the film." But within the fight, Lee uses his short height find and exploit Jabbar's weak spots, focusing on hurting his legs and delivering several groin shots in the fight.

The fight comes to a close when Lee realizes Jabbar is sensitive to light. So he pokes holes in the wall to allow sunlight to shine through. He knocks down Jabbar, and break his neck with a headlock.

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3. Chen Zhen vs. An Entire Japanese Dojo

From: Chinese Connection, 1972

After people from a Japanese dojo show up unannounced to Chen Zhen's master's funeral and insult the Chinese, he takes matters into his hands by paying a visit to the Japanese dojo. He then proceeds to defeat the entire dojo ALL BY HIMSELF.

This is the first fight scene from Chinese Connection, and it establishes Lee's Chen Zhen as a hero, fueled by anger, fighting for the oppressed and the honor of China. Throughout his career, Lee filmed many fight scenes where he takes on multiple opponents at once. But none of them could top this legendary scene, that single-handedly established Lee as a force to be reckon with. And to top it off, this scene also introduced the world to Lee's jaw-dropping nunchaku skills.

2. Chen Zhen vs. Petrov "The Japanese Garden Fight"

From: Chinese Connection, 1972

After making his way through the Japanese dojo, Chen Zhen finally gets to Suzuki. Only one thing– Suzuki has his Russian friend Petrov, who happens to be the world's strongest man. The two decide to duke it out in the Japanese garden.

While it might seem like Petrov could easily crush the smaller Chen Zhen, he uses his agility and speed to his advantage. He quickly moves around Petrov in circles and exploits his weak spots. For every punch that Petrov throws, Chen Zhen lands ten. When Petrov tries to wrestle Chen Zhen to the ground with an armbar, Chen Zhen BITES his way out. In the end, although Petrov can bend iron bars, he's simply too slow for Chen Zhen, who ultimately kills him with a swift kick to the temple and a chop to the throat.

1. Tang Lung vs. Colt

From: The Way of the Dragon, 1972

This scene is a masterpiece. It's the climax to The Way of the Dragon, and it features the one and only Chuck Norris as the expert martial artist Colt, hired by the mafia to eliminate Tang Lung once and for all.

This final fight takes place inside THE Colosseum in Rome, the only location worthy of holding such a fight scene. The two have a stare-down, reminiscent of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. Before either one throws a punch, they mutually decide to give each other time to warm up just before they fight. A cat's scream engages the battle and the two square off, exchanging blows with such masterful grace. It's in this fight that we finally see a vulnerable Tang Lung, who's finally met his match. Lung strategically uses the "Ali shuffle" (jumping on his toes) to move with more fluidity, gaining an advantage over Colt, who fights in a very stagnant karate style. Lung chooses to take mercy on Colt, and allows him to surrender. But Colt's pride will not allow him, and In the end, Lung breaks Colt's neck and kills him.

Afterwards, we see Lung place Colt's karate belt over his fallen opponent as a sign of respect.

Not a single word is uttered throughout the fight, yet it packs so much suspense and drama. It's a powerful scene that transcends the confines of the film.