Bruce Lee movies are loved by every action movie fan. In fact, Bruce Lee has his own fandom who can watch his movies on repeat. Bruce Lee grew up in an entertainment family. His father was a renowned Cantonese opera singer, and his mother was a designer. They were traveling through America when Bruce was born in 1940. He faced his first movie camera before he was old enough to crawl. His acting career started in earnest at the age of 6 after his family returned to their native Hong Kong. When he turned 18, he had made nearly 20 Cantonese films and none of them were kung fu flicks.

So, if you are a Bruce Lee fan, here is a list of the Worst and the Best Bruce Lee movies for you:

Worst Bruce Lee Movies

Game of Death (1978)

IMDb Rating: 6.1/10

Game of Death is the most hated Bruce Lee picture, even by his fans. In 1972, Lee shot 30 minutes of fight scenes for a movie about a yellow-jumpsuited hero who battles his way up a five-story pagoda to reclaim a secret treasure. Lee died before he completed the project. After five years, Golden Harvest studios found the footage, trim it down to seven minutes, and attached it to the end of a creaky plot about a Chinese stuntman who gets shot in the face, takes reconstructive surgery, and seeks revenge from beyond the grave. The whole movie is an undesirable confusion.

The Birth of Mankind (1946)

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

This was the movie in which 6-year old Bruce Lee faced the camera for the very first time. One of the directors saw his relentless energy when he visited the set with his father and offered him a part in this Cantonese tearjerker about a fugitive who becomes a pickpocket and, gets run over by a truck. The movie flopped at the box office and is only notable for typecasting young Lee as a cunning street urchin with a heart of gold.

Wealth Is Like A Dream (1948)

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

Bruce Lee’s father co-starred in the film and the promoters, trying to play off the family connection, provided Lee with a new stage name: Little Hoi-Chuen. The newspapers accompanied, naming him “Wonder Kid.” The son went on to spend the rest of his life determined to outshine his old man.

Thunderstorm (1957)

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Even though this movie brought a change in Bruce Lee’s career, it was a tricky transition. He tried to play against type and expand his range with mixed results. His character in the movie is decent, naïve, respectful, and wealthy, and in love with his family’s housemaid. Critics criticized the movie, singling out his performance as “rigid,” “artificial,” and “over-eager.” As a result, this ended up being his only attempt to play the refined gentleman.

Golden Gate Girl (1941)

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Esther Eng was a pioneering female film director who made patriotic war movies. While shooting Golden Gate Girl, she wanted a newborn girl for several scenes and asked Lee’s father if she could use his son. In one small appearance, two-month-old Lee is rocked to sleep in a wicker bassinet, donning a lacy bonnet and girl’s blouse. His mother was embarrassed to see her sensitive child so changed for the camera. In another close-up, a kindly wrapped baby Lee weeps inconsolably, eyes squeezed shut, mouth agape, arms swinging, chubby cheeks and double chin echoing.

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The Beginning of Mankind (1951)

Bruce Lee plays a poor kid who runs away to become a street urchin and small thief. In real life, Lee and his classmates had made an actual gang that would walk around in alleys looking for fights. That lived experience directed to a sharp performance in an oppositely dull film.

We Owe It To Our Children (1955)

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

In 1953, Lee entered a socialist collective of filmmakers and actors called Union Films, directing him to appear in a string of ethically informed, message-driven movies. In this especially serious melodrama, a poor mother and father give away their infant daughter to a childless middle-class couple, only to lament their decision. In the movie, Lee appears only briefly as the idle landlord’s son, regularly slicking back his oiled hair with a comb-like Elvis.

A Mother’s Tears (1953)

It is a family drama that was once deemed one of Lee’s missing films until the Hong Kong Film Archives finally located a scratchy print. Although it apparently would’ve been nice if they hadn’t, as it’s really only half a Bruce Lee movie. He plays the role of a kind son before getting replaced halfway through the film by an older actor.

A Myriad Homes (1953)

It is a social-realist parody contrasting the family life of a rich businessman with a poor car mechanic who earns an honest living, getting comfortable in his family. In a bit of a twist, Lee eventually plays a nice, non-urchin child as the mechanic’s bright son. Blink and you’ll avoid his grinning face in this mostly beautifying role.

Orphan’s Song (1955)

Bruce Lee, as the so-called orphan, doesn’t appear until the last 20 minutes. The movie is a long-drawn slog through thick gruel for what amounts to a pale performance, too quiet and shy to care about.

Darling Girl (1957)

Bruce Lee’s real-life dance partner, Margaret Leung, co-starred as a corrupted rich girl in this lighthearted rom-com. If you want to see Bruce Lee as a cool, sweater-vest-wearing toff as he cha-chas in a nightclub, this is the movie for you. The only bit of acting needed on his part is when Leung’s lover violently confronts him and rather than engaging, Lee’s character leaves in fear. It may be the only obvious case of Lee running away from a fight.

Too Late For Divorce (1956)

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

This is the third film in a romantic trilogy, starting with She Says “No” to Marriage (1951) and followed by She Says “No” to Marriage But Now She Says “Yes!” (1952). It is about a prosperous singer who is made to retire and wed a man she hates. Lee plays her son who is a dance teacher. Gaily dressed in modern clothing, beautiful but a little smug, this performance provides the best glimpse into what Lee was really like as a Westernized teenager in colonial Hong Kong.

Best Bruce Lee Movies

Enter The Dragon (1973)

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Are you really a Bruce Lee if you haven’t watched this movie? This cheaply-made James Bond ripoff was thought to be Lee’s entrée into superstardom. Rather, his death a month before its release gave it the high-water mark of his career. The multiracial cast, the cat-stroking villain, and the tournament structure started the West’s kung fu craze and a thousand followers. Frightened that Warner Bros. would recut the movie to make John Saxon the star, Lee fought onscreen and off to impress his personality onto every frame. The result was a performance so great he appears to vibrate off the screen. Two hours of watching Lee punch, kick, and cut his way through dozens of bad guys motivated millions of Western kids to take up the martial arts. Enter the Dragon is the movie that plastered Lee’s legacy, in film and beyond.

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The Orphan (1960)

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Lee was never completely happy onscreen unless he was the star, and he had been expecting ten years, since The Kid, for a leading role. Wearing his confused teenage character on James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Lee presents his most emotionally complex performance as an actor in this film. One moment he is crying, the next laughing maniacally, and all the while spitting out a fetid stew of Cantonese street slang. Hong Kong boys were so overwhelmed with Lee’s swaggering outlaw that they started to follow how he smoked cigarettes and cha-cha danced.

Way of the Dragon (1972)

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Lee wrote and directed this movie and hoped that it would be his ticket back to Hollywood as a leading man. Lee plays Tang Lung, a naïve bumpkin sent to Rome to guard a Chinese restaurant from the Mafia. In his directorial debut, Lee was inadequate to balance the humor of the early fish-out-water scenes with the violence at the end. The film’s charm rests solely on his fight scene with his student, Chuck Norris. It was arguably the best one ever captured on celluloid.

The Big Boss (1971)

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

Lee had a liking for playing naïfs. In his first Golden Harvest movie, his character migrates to Thailand to work in an ice factory, which is really a front for a drug-smuggling operation. His primal performance is the movie’s primary game. He cuts through his enemies with lustful glee. Hong Kong audiences were swept away. The Big Boss transformed Lee into the biggest star in Southeast Asia.

Fist of Fury (1972)

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

This was Lee’s second contractual movie with Golden Harvest studios and his only period piece. He plays Chen Zhen, the student of a great kung fu master in 1930s colonial Shanghai. When Chen Zhen finds his master was killed by the Japanese, he unleashes his furious fists. The movie’s obvious ethnonationalism was like an adrenaline shot of pure patriotism. Many Chinese fans tore up their seat cushions and tossed them around the theater when Lee’s character walked into the Japanese dojo and declared, “The Chinese are not the sick men of Asia.”

The Kid (1950)

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

Lee got his first starring role with his fourth film, yet again about a strong street urchin with a heart of gold. At just 10 years old, Lee shows off a variety of emotions and natural charm. In one scene, he playfully imitates his teacher; in another, he fills himself up with cocky bravado by throwing his shoulders back and thumbing his nose at an opponent. This went on to become one of his signature moves as an adult actor. The movie was a box-office hit and a sequel was thought that might have transformed Lee into the Macaulay Culkin of Hong Kong, but his father denied to let him repeat the role. Lee was creating trouble in school and getting into fights on the streets, so his parents put him in show-business time-out until his behavior changed.

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Marlowe (1969)

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

This one was Lee’s first Hollywood cameo and a gift from his Oscar-winning kung fu student, Stirling Silliphant, who came up with the character of mob enforcer Winslow Wong for his mentor to play. There are times when Lee, who was self-informed about his Chinese accent, appears as tense and bothered as he returns snappy dialogue with James Garner’s Marlowe. But he finally loosens up during a scene in which he destroys Marlowe’s office in one constant ballet of directed violence. The movie failed at the box office and was criticized by critics.

Love: Part 1 & 2 (1955)

It is a two-part melodrama that unfolds in six episodes, dealing with six different aspects of love. In the fifth storyline, Lee plays the youngest son in a family of fighting street performers. A flashback of father and son playing for a crowd allows Lee to showcase his talent for showmanship. It’s completely beautiful and one of the best scenes of Lee’s career.

The Guiding Light (1953)

IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

It is yet another message-driven melodrama. A foster child gets adopted by a doctor and his wife, who operate an orphanage for blind girls. When Lee’s character grows up, he finds the cure for blindness. The movie finishes with a direct-to-camera plea: “Every child can be just like him. Poor handicapped children are waiting for your love, for education and nurturing.”

An Orphan’s Tragedy (1955)

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

In this movie, Lee plays a cheerful orphan, albeit shortly: His rural country life gets interrupted by an escaped criminal who turns out to be his biological father. The scenes where Lee is caught in a shack with this wild, mad man are the best of the movie, essentially because it’s entertaining to watch a 15-year-old Bruce Lee attempt to play vulnerable.

In The Face of Demolition (1953)

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

After WWII, millions of refugees from China’s civil war engulfed the British colony of Hong Kong. This classic film braids together the stories of the many poor families all living in one growing, soon-to-be-demolished tenement building, with Lee playing the faithful son of one of the poorest tenants. In less than five minutes of screen time, he succeeds to give a standout, moving performance in a movie loaded with them.

Sweet Time Together (1956)

IMDb Rating: 7/10

It looked natural for Lee to try his hand at comedy at some point. He achieved that in this age-reversal slapstick comedy, playing a doltish teenager who gets himself caught in more absurd romantic situations. Yet the actual humor comes from seeing the King of Kung Fu stammering and jerking like a fool. Lee’s comedic idol was Jerry Lewis, and he performs a convincing imitation, using the white sailor-boy outfit, and black horn-rim glasses.

Bruce Lee died too soon but his movies paved his way to stardom. Watch these Bruce Lee movies to experience what a brilliant actor he was! You can also check out these greatest anime movies of all time.


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