With the new documentary I Am Bruce Lee about to hit theaters, it's a good time to recall Bruce Lee's 10 Most Memorable On-Screen Moments:
10. Bruce vs James Garner's office (Marlowe)
One of Bruce's celebrity students was screenwriter Sterling Silliphant. Silliphant, who won an Oscar for In the Heat of the Night, became good friends with Bruce and wrote a part for him in the 1969 film Marlowe. Bruce plays a heavy sent to warn private investigator Phillip Marlowe (James Garner) off a case. Bruce does this by demolishing the guy's office with a flurry of kicks and chops and a flying kick that takes out an overhead light. This scene was Bruce's first appearance in a feature-length Hollywood picture.
9. One on one against The Boy Wonder (Batman)
This one makes it purely on the novelty factor. The second season of the Batman TV series featured a crossover episode where the Green Hornet and Kato fought and later teamed up with the Batman and Robin (Burt Ward.) On the day this was filmed, Bruce (as a joke) pretended he was pissed off and intended to fight Ward for real. Ward repeatedly backed away from Bruce and tried to remind his opponent that it was “only a TV show”. Only after Bruce could no longer keep a straight face did he let the terrified Ward in on the gag.
8. Battling Chuck Norris in the Roman Colosseum (The Way of the Dragon aka The Return of the Dragon)
A classic fight against the world's second most famous martial artist, filmed in an incredibly unique and exotic location.
7. Slow motion hands (The Way of the Dragon aka The Return of the Dragon)
Okay, I know all they did was run the camera at a faster frame rate and slower shutterspeed, but 40 years later it still looks WAY cool.
6. Nunchaku showdown against Dan Inosanto (Game of Death)
In Game of Death, Bruce plays a retired martial arts champion forced to infiltrate a heavily guarded pagoda. Bruce fights his way up the five-story structure, facing off against a different martial arts master on each level. Incredibly, Bruce never had extensive training with “nunchucks” and had only learned to use them a few years earlier.
5. 1965 screen test
Hollywood “discovered” Bruce at the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships, where a producer saw him performing his famous “one-inch punch” and two-finger push-ups. This eventually led to this famous screen test where Bruce charmingly converses with his director and then explains and demonstrates kung fu. (By the way, couldn't they have found someone under the age of 80 for Bruce to demonstrate his moves on?)
4. Taking on entire an Bushido school (Fist of Fury aka The Chinese Connection)
In Fist of Fury (previously known in the states as The Chinese Connection) Bruce seeks revenge against a Japanese school that has insulted his people and poisoned his master. Here, Bruce takes out every last student and their sensei. The victory despite overwhelming odds, as well as the overhead camera angles and intermittent dance-like choreography in this scene is emulated in The Bride vs The Crazy 88 battle in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 1.
3. Tie: Owning Bob Wall (Enter the Dragon)...
In Enter the Dragon, Bruce warns his opponent, “Boards don't hit back.” Still I always feel bad for Bob Wall. He gets housed in several Bruce Lee movies but is particularly humiliated here. Look at him... face all cut up, kicked square in the nuts, can barely stand or defend himself, and then he gets stomped to death... Sheesh!
and Bruce vs Kareem (Game of Death)
Before he was “Roger Murdock” in Airplane, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of Bruce's students. When shooting wrapped on The Way of the Dragon, Bruce learned that Kareem was in Hong Kong and quickly arranged a meeting to film fight scenes for the yet to be scripted Game of Death. Bruce gave Kareem his first movie role playing the villainous Hakim, and from a physical standpoint alone, the fight between the 7' 2” Abdul-Jabbar and the 5' 7” Lee is astounding to watch. (You've gotta love that seated snap kick that leaves the giant footprint on Bruce's chest!)
The iconic yellow and black track suit Bruce wears has been replicated and paid homage to in everything from video games, to SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons, Sugar Ray's “When It's Over music video, and numerous films including Revenge of the Nerds, Kill Bill, and The Last Dragon.
2. “Be water my friend.” (Longstreet)
Bruce's friend screenwriter Sterling Silliphant was executive producer of the 1971 crime series Longstreet, about a blind insurance investigator played by James Franciscus. Silliphant got Bruce a recurring role on the show as Li Tsung, an antiques dealer and martial arts expert. Much of the dialogue in the scenes between Bruce and Franciscus incorporates the principles of Jeet Kune Do, a new, less formal, more eclectic and flexible approach to martial arts that Bruce had recently developed. The “Be water” quote from one of the Longstreet episodes was later recalled in this interview Bruce did with Canadian reporter Pierre Berton and is now considered central to Bruce's ideaology and philosophical legacy.
1. Final fight against Han (Enter the Dragon)
The slashes across the face and chest, tasting his own blood, and of course all those cool mirrored reflections... It's Bruce's signature scene and still one of the best in any martial arts movie.
Read more about the new documentary I Am Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee on IMDB