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The most epic Bruce Lee fight scenes ever

Bruce Lee was a teacher, a philosopher, and a master of the one-inch punch. But most of all, Lee was a movie star. Even though he died when he was just 32, the Hong Kong actor achieved immortality with just a handful of movies and TV appearances. Thanks to his lightning fast kicks and ear-shattering cries, Lee mesmerized audiences with movies like Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon. Whenever this man stepped onto the screen, he moved at ridiculous speeds, took out legions of bad guys with his devastating punching power, and inspired audience members to sign up for martial arts classes in droves. With all that in mind, let's pull out the nunchucks, become like water, and take a look at Bruce Lee's most epic movie fights. (Before we get started, just know we'll be referring to the films by their American titles, instead of the original Chinese versions.)

Bruce Lee's ice factory fight in The Big Boss

In The Big Boss, Bruce Lee — in his first leading role — plays a young man who's trying avoid fistfights after promising his mom he wouldn't get into any more trouble. Unfortunately, things are kind of rough at work. Our hero spends his days sweating at an ice factory, and he soon discovers his boss is secretly a drug dealer with a bad habit of killing people... including members of Lee's family.

After his cousins go mysteriously "missing," Lee explores the ice factory and finds his relatives all chopped up and frozen. But before he can call the cops, an army of henchmen shows up, armed with everything from chains and knives to tongs and ice choppers. Fortunately for viewers, Lee isn't afraid to get inventive: He blinds his enemies with sawdust, cracks a dude's head with a flashlight, and slashes at his foes with a handsaw.

Sure, Lee is majorly outnumbered, but the odds are still on his side. He dodges knives and jumps over thugs like he's Superman leaping tall buildings. When Lee gets his own blade, we're treated to geysers of blood spurting across the screen. The man even grabs some thug by his crotch and tosses him across the screen. But the best moment comes when Lee punches a dude through a wooden shed, leaving a Looney Tunes-style hole in the wall, complete with outstretched arms. In other words, the ice factory fight is really, ahem, cool.

Bruce Lee's big showdown in The Big Boss

The Big Boss finds Bruce Lee as a man trying to stay out of trouble after promising his mother he'd give up violence. Unfortunately, when pretty much his entire family is murdered by a local drug dealer (Han Ying-chieh), he's forced to stop keeping promises and start breaking necks.

When Lee shows up at the bad guy's compound, he's so confident in his abilities that he's snacking on chips while fighting the drug dealer's goons. And when he reaches the titular big boss, Lee picks the dude up over his head and chucks him across the yard. When the bad guy pulls out some blades, Lee uses his own shirt to keep the drug dealer at bay. Both dudes are jumping around Crouching Tiger-style, and at one point in the fight, Lee takes the big boss to the ground, wraps his legs around the bad guy's legs, and starts rolling across the grass like a crocodile.

Finally, the fight ends in the most insane way possible. The boss hurls a knife at Lee, and our man kicks it back into the dude's stomach. If that wasn't wild enough, that's when Lee sticks his hands into the drug dealer's guts before ground-and-pounding him for what feels like an hour. It's a brutal ending, and thanks to Lee's high-flying kicks and powerful punches, The Big Boss became the highest-grossing film in Hong Kong history.

Bruce Lee's dojo battle in Fist of Fury

Set in the early 1900s, there's a lot of political drama happening in Fist of Fury. China has been divvied up by foreign powers, the locals are treated as second-class citizens, and the students at a Japanese dojo have declared war on Bruce Lee's martial arts school. Wanting to show these guys some manners, Lee pays the bullies a visit and teaches them a thing or two about Chinese etiquette.

Lee just casually struts into enemy territory like he's taking an afternoon stroll, and soon, he's surrounded by a circle of karate masters. It's a shot that obviously inspired the Crazy 88 battle in Kill Bill Vol. 1, and Bruce is just as devastating as the Bride. When the bad guys rush in, Lee opens up the fight with eight massive kicks in just six seconds, sending these fools flying. Crazier still, he grabs two dudes — one in each hand — and swings them in circles, helicopter style. 

Better still, this is the first time in cinematic history when Lee gets to show off his nunchaku skills, and he whacks a whole lot of skulls before dropping to the ground and slapping some shins. As the fight goes on, the circle of Japanese gets smaller and smaller, until Lee goes one on one with their teacher. Screeching like a tiger, he makes the master look like an amateur, and when he finally leaves the dojo, all the karateka are KO'd on the floor.

Bruce Lee meets the strongman in Fist of Fury

Bruce Lee is like the Chinese Terminator. You can't hurt him. You can't stop him. All you can do is run. But while Lee usually walks through his opponents, he finds a worthy adversary in Fist of Fury when he goes mano a mano with a Russian monster.

Played by Robert Baker, Petrov is a Russian karate expert and strongman, a dude who can bend metal bars and drive nails into wooden boards with his bare hands. The man's also a skilled martial artist and, unfortunately, best buds with the dude who murdered Bruce Lee's master. So when our hero shows up for revenge, first he's got to get through this curly-haired karateka.

Sporting a bow tie and suspenders, Petrov sends Lee staggering with a right hook from hell, and when the fight goes to the ground, the Russian nearly breaks Lee's arm with an arm bar. But we're not playing by UFC rules, and Lee escapes by biting the bad guy's leg. While Petrov might have the strength advantage, Lee is just too fast — so fast, in fact, that when he starts doing his kung fu moves, it looks like the man has dozens of arms waving through the air. It's a classic Bruce Lee scene, and he finishes the fight with a fatal chop to the throat. It just goes to show that size doesn't matter when you're up against those furious fists.

Bruce Lee's nunchucks versus katana

Here's a little tip for all you would-be bad guys: don't murder Bruce Lee's master. If you do, the man will teach you all about Jeet Kune Do. That's something Hiroshi Suzuki (Riki Hashimoto) learns the hard way in Fist of Fury. The master of a Japanese dojo, Suzuki had Lee's teacher killed, so when our hero shows up at the bad guy's house, he isn't there to play nice. But Suzuki is waiting with katana in hand, and Lee soon finds himself ducking and dodging as Suzuki wildly swings that samurai sword.

Lee quickly grabs a wooden post, but Suzuki whittles that thing down to a toothpick. After the katana gets too close to comfort, that's when the nunchucks come out. Lee keeps the swordsman at bay with his twirling batons, whacking the samurai across the face when he gets too close. Eventually, Lee knocks the sword across the room, but ever the sportsman, Lee tosses his own weapon aside and starts intercepting Suzuki's face with his fist.

Finally, the battle comes to an end when the two enemies jump at each other, and Lee kicks Suzuki through the air, sending him flying through the paper-thin walls (and briefly turning him into Jackie Chan). Evidently, it's one powerful kick, as the bad guy immediately starts throwing up blood before keeling over dead. Word to the wise, movie villains: If you're going to go around killing martial arts masters, just make sure they aren't teaching Bruce Lee.

Bruce Lee's back-alley brawls in Return of the Dragon

Bruce Lee made his directorial debut with Return of the Dragon (a.k.a. Way of the Dragon), a comedic kung fu flick that has Lee flying to Italy to dispense some Jeet Kune Do justice. A group of Chinese immigrants have opened a restaurant in Rome, but a local gangster wants to run them out of business. So when Lee isn't figuring out the Italian way of life, he's busy beating up bad guys.

Needless to say, these schlubby maifosos are no match for the Dragon. Hoping to scare him back to Hong Kong, the gangsters take Lee out behind the restaurant, where he grabs a wooden pole and shows off some bo staff skills that would make Napoleon Dynamite jealous. And when more punks show up to the party, armed with chains and switchblades, Lee pulls out two pairs of handy dandy nunchucks, and we all know exactly how that goes. 

Then, in perhaps the funniest scene in any Bruce Lee movie, a gangster gets his own pair of nunchucks and tries to battle Bruce Lee at his own game, but he only succeeds in whacking himself in the head. However, Lee isn't done just yet. When he steps inside the restaurant to rescue his friends, he takes out some thugs with homemade wooden darts, tossing these suckers like he's playing darts at the nearby pub. Lee might not understand Italian customs, but he certainly knows how to mess up some mobsters.

Bruce Lee's battle of the titans in Return of the Dragon

What do you do when all your henchmen can't beat Bruce Lee? Well, if you're the evil crime boss from Return of the Dragon, you hire Chuck Norris, of course.

These days, Norris is most famous for his all those terrible jokes about his overblown persona. But we often forget he's a legit martial artist who won multiple karate championships. (In fact, the man had way more fight experience than Lee, who never fought professionally.) But when the shaggy ninja shows up for a showdown, he gets some free hair removal and a really bad beating.

The two legends throw down in the Coliseum — watched the whole time by a curious cat — and after some pre-fight stretching, the battle of the titans begins. Norris is absolutely ferocious, and it's clear this guy has the strength advantage. He drops Lee with a spinning roundhouse kick, lands a solid combination of elbows and body shots, and then judo tosses Lee to the floor. But everything changes when Lee starts dancing around the Coliseum like he's Muhammad Ali.

The movement makes all the difference, and the flat-footed Norris can't keep up. In a beautiful slow motion sequence, we watch Lee doge and parry blows before unleashing a stunning four-kick combo that turns the fight in his favor. Eventually, Lee brings the greatest martial arts showdown to a close by killing Norris with a sick guillotine choke. Try walking that off, Texas Ranger.

Boards don't hit back (but Bruce Lee does) in Enter the Dragon

The movie that turned Bruce Lee into an international star, Enter the Dragon follows our high-kicking hero as he's tasked with joining a mysterious martial arts tournament and bringing down the criminal kingpin running the contest. But the stakes are personal for Lee. One of the competitors is responsible for the death of Lee's sister, so when the two are pitted against each other, Lee isn't going to turn the other cheek. Instead, he's going to turn the other guy's cheek with his incredible punching power.

Played by martial artist Bob Wall, O'Hara is the psycho on Lee's hit list. The dude has an attitude as big as the scar running down his face, and when he squares off against Lee, he tries making a big impression by punching a wooden board in half. But Lee isn't fazed and famously tells his opponent, "Boards don't hit back." Bruce Lee, on the other hand, hits back a whole lot. Every time they face off, Lee lands the first blow, and then he sends O'Hara soaring with a scary slo-mo kick.

Infuriated, O'Hara grabs some broken bottles and plans on carving Lee up like a Peking duck. But after a well-placed kick to the jaw, Lee jumps on the dude's head and breaks O'Hara's neck. It just goes to show that Bruce Lee isn't a forgive and forget kind of person. He's more like a blame and beat up kind of guy.

Bruce Lee versus every martial arts bad guy ever in Enter the Dragon

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee plays a Shaolin superspy who infiltrates the island stronghold of a criminal mastermind. But when he sneaks into the bad guy's opium factory, he suddenly finds himself face-to-face with seemingly every martial artist who's ever shown up in a Hong Kong action flick.

These bad guys are coming around every corner, and Lee is throwing debilitating punches, dropping goons left and right. He does a jumping double kick, he curbstomps a dude to death, and he even snaps Jackie Chan's neck. He grabs a bo staff and plays baseball with some bad guy brains, and with his eyes bulging out of his head, he picks up a pair of rattan sticks and turns one poor dude into a drum set. But the highlight of the scene comes when he picks up those tried and true nunchaku.

Honestly, watching Bruce Lee fight is like watching Fred Astaire dance. His movements are so fluid, everything looks so effortless, and he destroys his enemies with a terrifying grace. And when he pulls those nunchucks out, it's one of the greatest displays of physical skill and coordination we've ever seen in cinema. He twirls those sticks for about 11 seconds, spinning them at mind-blowing speeds, and if there's one scene from Enter the Dragon that made Lee a star, we're thinking it has to be this impressive display of nunchuck know-how.

Bruce Lee enters the maze of mirrors in Enter the Dragon

Enter the Dragon is the movie that made Bruce a larger-than-life star, so naturally, he needed to face a larger-than-life villain. And that's where Han (Shih Kien) comes into the picture. He's basically a Bond villain, with his island lair and his amputated hand. Of course, if you want to fight Bruce Lee, you need all your appendages, so Han keeps a collection of fake hands for any emergency. There's a metal fist, a bear claw, and a razor-sharp knife hand that would give Freddy Krueger nightmares.

And after a whole bunch of kung fu battles, Han and Lee finally square off in the film's big showdown. It's the Shaolin warrior versus the Shaolin renegade, in a scene filled with classic Bruce Lee moments. There's the kick from hell that nearly decapitates Han. There's the scorpion kick that leaves the villain hurting and humiliated. And then there's the insane scene in which a freshly cut Lee licks his own bloody fingers to prove he's a savage.

Finally, the showdown moves into a hall of mirrors, where Han uses the reflections to his advantage, hiding in plain sight. But after remembering some words of his wisdom from his old teacher, Lee smashes all the glass, so there's nowhere left for Han to hide. The crazy scene comes to an end when Lee sidekicks Han so hard that he flies straight into a spear, turning the kung fu killer into a Hong Kong shish kabob.

Jeet kune do versus escrima in Game of Death

Game of Death is one of the biggest "what ifs?" in movie history. Lee only shot 40 minutes of the film before his untimely death, but his vision sounds epic. The plot was going to follow Lee as he fought his way up a pagoda in search of a valuable treasure. Each time he reached a new floor, he would face a new boss who specialized in a specific martial art. Lee would have to overcome each master with Jeet Kune Do, a philosophy based on adaptability and using whatever works in a fight, regardless of style.

However, after Lee's death, the plot was completely changed, a Bruce Lee lookalike filled in for most of the movie, and only 11 minutes of the original Game of Death footage showed up in the final cut. Still, whether you're watching the theatrical version or the longer original footage, his battle with Dan Inosanto is a testament to Lee's swagger and speed. An escrima expert, Inosanto relies on rattan sticks to batter his opponents, but Lee fights back with a simple bamboo reed. Where Inosanto's weapons are stiff and rigid, Lee's is flexible, fast, and in the right hands, it "becomes a sword."

Lee is incredibly cocky here, and it's so fun to watch him dance, strut, and scream like a rooster-monkey hybrid. Eventually, the bad guy trades his sticks for nunchucks, and naturally, Lee pulls out his own pair. That's when both guys start twirling their weapons like they're Wild West gunfighters, showing off their tricks, and the battle ends when Lee garrotes Inosanto with the nunchucks. That ain't how you're supposed to use those things, but leave it to Lee to find new and inventive ways to kill his enemies.

It's David and Goliath in Game of Death

Game of Death gave us two iconic images: Bruce Lee wearing the yellow-and-black jumpsuit, and the sight of 5'8" Lee trading blows with 7'2" Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In the theatrical release of the film, Abdul-Jabbar is a member of syndicate that blackmails movie stars. In Lee's longer, original scene, the NBA player was the final boss at the top of a pagoda, guarding a treasure and accepting all challengers. But in both versions, it's a David and Goliath scenario, as Abdul-Jabbar's legs are almost longer than Lee's entire body. 

Sporting sunglasses and short shorts, the basketball player batters Lee with looping punches and long kicks, leaving a massive footprint on the front of Lee's cool yellow suit. For a good chunk of the fight, Lee has trouble closing the distance, and while he manages to get in some good shots, Abdul-Jabbar is so big that Lee gets clobbered anytime he gets close.

However, in the original footage, Lee discovers the giant has a weakness: sunlight. Lee begins smashing out windows, causing Abdul-Jabbar to cringe in pain as light floods the room. Eventually, Lee knocks the sunglasses off Abdul-Jabbar's face, leaving him defenseless as Lee sinks in a choke and puts the NBA star out of his misery. Of course, when they weren't filming, Abdul-Jabbar was actually training under Lee. And thanks to their martial arts abilities, the two put on a truly memorable fight — the last one of Bruce Lee's spectacular career.