Enter the Dragon (1973)

enter the dragon poster 1973 movie bruce lee
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

One of the best martial art films ever

Nothing other than it makes you wishes Bruce Lee had the opportunity to make more films

Movie Info

Movie Name: Enter the Dragon

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre(s): Martial Arts/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): July 26, 1973

MPAA Rating: R

enter the dragon bruce lee vs bob wall

Everybody was kung fu fighting!

Lee (Bruce Lee) has been tapped to infiltrate the competition of international criminal Han (Shih Kien) for the government…but it is also personal.  With trained fighters coming from all over the world to Han’s island, Lee finds allies in martial arts street fighter Williams (Jim Kelly) and playboy gambler Roper (John Saxon) who have their own reasons for entering the competition.  The stakes are high, and Han isn’t going down without a fight!

Directed by Robert Clouse, Enter the Dragon (龍爭虎鬥 simplified as 龙争虎斗 or Lóng Zhēng Hǔ Dòu) is a martial arts action-adventure film.  The movie was released soon after Bruce Lee’s death and received positive reviews.  It was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2004.

enter the dragon williams roper john saxon jim kelly

Roper…I’m too dangerously cool. Bad stuff is going to happen to me!

Bruce Lee was already an established legend when I was little.  His films though few in number were massive and everything was compared to him.  While some of his movies might be better than others, they all have merit…and Enter the Dragon is the culmination of his work.

The story is classic and created a format.  The idea of an island contest of fighters has become the basis of games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and others.  The reason it works is that it is basic.  You can have action and fighting, but the writer can also establish a plot to the extent they choose.  Enter the Dragon finds a great balance and picks a smart group of heroes who face off against literally supervillains.

enter the dragon han razor hand shih kien

That was a close shave, Lee!!! How’s that for a punchline?!?!

Lee is magnetic in the movie.  His yowls, pristine poses, and fierce strikes demonstrate his fighting ability, but opposed to some action heroes, he isn’t that bad at some of the more subdued scenes.  The interesting thing about him (in most of his roles) is that it feels his characters are holding back, and it takes a lot to force him to unleash the rage and anger that is unleashed in battle.  Jim Kelly is also great at a more debonair fighter with a chip on his shoulder.  From his introduction where he’s forced to beat dirty cops (and steal their car to get to the airport) to his untimely death, the character is a lot of fun.  Saxon seems like an odd choice for “fighting playboy” considering his later roles, but he also works in the film.  I like Han played by Shih Kien (and voiced by Keye Luke) and his muscle thugs Bob Wall and Bolo Yeung.  I wish that there had been more scenes with Angela Mao Ying who would have had her own spin-off prequel series in today’s film.

enter the dragon bruce lee mirror room

The many faces of Bruce Lee

The movie also really captures the energy and thrill of the fight.  Martial arts fighting can either be beautiful and unrealistic as a means of battle or it can be hard and brutal.  The movie finds a nice middle ground and also creates memorable scenes like Lee’s final battle with Han in the hall of mirrors (which makes my head hurt in terms of trying to shoot it without capturing cameras in the shot).

Enter the Dragon is a classic, but it also leaves you sad.  Bruce Lee had such untapped potential that was just starting to come out and not only that he also had ability as a role model and ambassador for Asian actors if his performances success had been maintained over the years.  It could be debated that his young death raised his profile or if it cut short a great life.  Lee’s final film Game of Death was released in 1978 through editing and recasting and was received with controversy due to the filmmakers’ choices to create a movie that wasn’t as Lee envisioned.

Related Links:

The Big Boss (1971)

Fist of Fury (1972)

The Way of the Dragon (1972)

Game of Death (1978)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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