The Best Kung Fu Movies of All Time, Ranked

In many ways, what Clint Eastwood or John Wayne were to westerns, Bruce Lee was to martial arts movies. But while Eastwood and Wayne had decades and dozens of films to establish their legacy, Lee did it in a fraction of the time.

In what would be Lee’s last film before his untimely death at the age of 32, ‘Enter the Dragon’ hit the screen icon as a skilled martial artist sent undercover to compete in a tournament. fight organized by a dangerous international criminal. Almost unquestionably the most influential kung fu film of all time, “Enter the Dragon” is considered Lee’s masterpiece. It’s also one of the most financially successful films ever made, grossing more than 400 times its estimated budget of $850,000 (in the 2010s the film grossed around $350 million, or about $2.2 billion). inflation-adjusted dollars, via The New York Times).

At the time of its release, “Enter the Dragon” received mixed to average reviews, although later reviews were much more generous, complimenting the film’s action, music, and performance. Howard Thompson of The New York Times wrote of the film, “The image is expertly crafted and meshed well; it moves like lightning and is bursting with color. ) you’ll ever see anywhere.” Further evidence of the film’s prestigious place in the kung fu genre came in the early 2000s, when the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of the Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

The lasting influence of “Enter the Dragon” can be found not only in nearly every kung fu film that has followed since, but also in modern video game series, manga, and anime. The film’s plot resembles the basic premise of “Mortal Kombat”, and the film has been cited as a key influence on the “Dragon Ball” franchise (the name “Dragon Ball” being a direct reference to “Enter the Dragon “).

All these decades later, the movie still shapes much of pop culture. Lee’s fighting style in the film also had a major influence on the world of MMA; in the opening scene, Lee dons the now standard UFC attire of smaller shorts and kempo gloves, demonstrating several moves that would become commonly used in MMA fights. According to UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber, “this was the time” when modern MMA was born.

“If you look at the way Bruce Lee trained, the way he fought, and a lot of the stuff he wrote, he said the perfect style wasn’t a style,” said the UFC President Dana White in 2020, calling Lee “the father of mixed fighting”. arts.” “You take a little something from everything. You take the good stuff from each different discipline, use what works and throw the rest away.”

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