Born way back in 1940, it took bruce lee less than 33 years on this planet to leave behind a legacy so impactful you’d be hard-pressed to find even a teenager these days who hasn’t heard of him. Respect to John Wayne’s old Westerns, but no actor in the history of cinema means as much to a genre as Bruce Lee. When it comes to Martial Arts/Kung Fu movies, Lee is the measure. He’s the OG of the genre and it’s not even up for debate. There’s been a fair share of greats over the years. Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude Van Damme, it’s not a very long list, but it’s a strong list and one that wouldn’t exist if not for Bruce. Skill and on screen presence were two things Lee had in spades. He gave fans of all races reason to leave their house, go to the theater and pay good money to watch a badass Asian man portrayed in a fashion they had never seen before.

He was knocking down barriers and making audiences cheer one ass kicking at a time. There aren’t enough pages in this magazine to fully explain the impact Lee made in the world. His influence spans far outside the world of Kung Fu films. The appeal of an entertainer, the body of an athlete, the heart of an artist, and the mind of a philosopher, Bruce Lee is an icon in every sense of the word. Known as a profound thinker, his writings on things like Eastern Philosophy, Taoism, quantum physics, psychotherapy and the power of positivity are all as important to his legacy as any film.

From athletes and entertainers to real estate agents and business owners, tons of successful people today in all walks of life credit Bruce Lee’s way of thinking as a major influence on them. He emphasized the power of positivity and lived by example. His psychological and spiritual beliefs were for him, all he could do was put out that energy and be the person he wanted to be, not preach or force his beliefs on others the way Hollywood has sadly become known for in recent years.

One particular now-popular type of positive energy Lee believed in is known as “chi.” Lee once described what it felt like to summon this energy within himself:

I feel I have this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence… Whether it is the Godhead or not, I feel this great force, this untapped power, this dynamic something within me.

These are the words of a man who faced more than his fair share of racism from both sides growing up. Some Chinese people looked down on him for having a white

mother, while Hollywood thought he looked a bit too Chinese for their American audiences. I know it sounds cliché, but how many people out there would have just given up and said, “Poor me”? Not him. The power of positive thinking helped get him through his darkest of times. It didn’t matter if he was facing racism, going poor, or suffering a back injury so serious doctors thought he’d never practice martial arts again, he always resorted back to the way of thinking that ultimately shaped who he was. Here’s an incredible example of him putting that type of energy out into the world in his writings about the injury he suffered:

I mean who has the most insecure job AS I have? What do I live on? My faith in my ability that I’ll make it. Sure my back screwed me up good for a year but with every adversity comes a blessing… Look at a rainstorm; after its departure everythin grows.

Bruce Lee lived his life in a way we all should aspire to. His ability to overcome every obstacle thrown in front of him is unparalleled. Because of that, and in honor of him, I put together a top 5 list of Bruce Lee films you need to watch. Now if you’re already a fan you’ve definitely seen at least a few of these, so you know just how damn good they are. But if you’re a new to the world of Bruce Lee, then these are where I suggest you start.


The Kid (1950)

“A 10 year-old orphan is raised by his uncle, groomed by a skilled thief, and becomes involved in trouble around a factory.” Bruce was only 9-yearsold when he took on his first starring role, but his raw talents were still on full display. This was also the second film of which he worked alongside his father. A successful run at the box office led to plans for a sequel, however Bruce’s parents wanted him out of the spotlight for a while, making him pass on the opportunity.

the big boss (1971)

“When the new man shows his combat skills during a fight in the factory, the managers make him a foreman, promising him a meeting with the big boss. But when he discovers the factory’s covert criminal operations, he takes the law into his own hands.” Already a star in Hong Kong this could be considered the performance that made Bruce Lee famous to the rest of the world. The film banked $50 million in box office returns (over $300 million adjusted for inflation) on a $100,000 budget, and proved that Lee could very well be a marquee name in Hollywood.

fist of fury (1972)

“A young martial arts student returns home for the funeral of his martial arts teacher who died under mysterious circumstances. A rival Japanese academy are suspected but there is no proof.” Another box office hit, this film spawned three sequels, including one starring Jackie Chan, and a loose remake starring Jet Li. Each installment is respected in its own right, but none come anywhere close to the original and the way the period piece blends Lee’s charms with heavy themes of patriotism.


“An Asian (Bruce Lee) in Rome uses whirling ‘nunchakus’ on a gang and fights a karate champ (Chuck Norris) in the coliseum.” Don’t let this simplified synopsis deter you. Lee’s only directorial effort is a comedic, action-packed classic. It popularized a move now known as the oblique kick, and features an absolutely iconic fight sequence between Lee and a young Chuck Norris. If those aren’t reasons enough to check this one out, then let its record-breaking box office run prove that this movie is well worth the price of admission.


A martial-arts expert determined to help capture the narcotics dealer whose gang was responsible for the death of his SISTER, Lee enters a kung fu competition in an attempt to fight his way to the dealer’s headquarters with the help of some friends.

Everybody has their opinion, and movies are one of the most debatable topics there is, but few cinema buffs would deny that this is the greatest Kung Fu movie ever made. From criminal activity to an abundance of memorable fight sequences, Enter the Dragon defines what a great Kung Fu movie should be. It pulls no punches and delivers all the blows. There are a lot of good Bruce Lee films, but over the years this has become THE Bruce Lee film.

Sadly Lee never lived long enough to see the culmination of all of his work. Days before the American release of Enter the Dragon in 1973, Lee died in Hong Kong from an allergic reaction to pain medication he had taken. He was 32.

We’re now going on 48 years since his passing and yet still he’s delivering top level entertainment. Warrior, an hour long action series on HBO Max is executive produced by Shannon Lee (Bruce’s daughter) and filmmaker Justin Lin. This hit series which just finished up its second season is based on an original concept and treatment by Bruce him elf. Warrior is “a crime drama set in the 19th century that follows martial arts prodigy Ah Sahm, a Chinese immigrant who arrives in the City By the Bay under mysterious circumstances. Once he proves his prowess as a fighter, Ah Sahm becomes a hit man for one of Chinatown’s most powerful organized crime families. As he is mentored by the son of the crime family’s leader, learning the ins and outs of gang warfare, Ah Sahm wins the confidence of brothel Madame Ah Toy, eventually revealing to her his true intentions.” Praised for its talented cast, ambitious style, well crafted fight choreography and ability to tackle major issues affecting society today like prejudice, racism, greed and good vs. evil, Warrior carries on the legacy of Bruce Lee in a beautifully authentic fashion. If you haven’t already, we suggest moving Warrior to the top of your must-binge list ASAP. In one last effort to honor Bruce, I want to end this article on a positive note. The best way I could think to do that was with a famous quote f from the man, the myth, the legend himself:

Bruce Lee

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

About the Author: Robert Napolitano

Robert Napolitano

Related Posts