This is such a subjective post as it could be different but right in any one readers opinion. Got a differing opinion? Please share it.
5. Game of Death- While Lee’s original concept could have been a wonderful film, the Frankenstein job the producers did with G.O.D. is an abomination. The fortress scenes involving the real Bruce are really all that is worth watching. The inclusion of Lee’s actual funeral is very disturbing and disrespectful in my opinion. As high as the G.O.D. imagery is in historical content 80% of the film is not worth the view. the small percentage of beauty is worth its weight in gold though.
4. Enter the Dragon*- Lee’s true brilliance was in the Hong Kong trio. I have directed some animosity toward this film, but it is more at its big budget production and favoritism that Hollywood sends its way then its content. Compared to other films from other actors I love Enter the Dragon, but weighed against Lee’s own work I find that Hollywood neglects to mention other films because of the financial bias they have involved in the discussion. EtD is responsible for starting the Kung Fu craze in America and possibly the single most famous film in the genre, but I just don’t think money translates to brilliance. If Lee’s other films were not to exist this would easily be in my top 5 of all time, but it is the company that it keeps that holds down it’s ranking for me.
3. Big Boss- Lee’s feature debut a true gem. Frankly the difference between 3 and 4 is so small you can argue a different ranking by each day. Big Boss suffers most from its poor production financing, but the restoration process in recent years has greatly improved its picture. Boss’ story is simple yet brilliant, naive boy comes to work with family. Family disappears, boy goes into a rage. Lee’s style is so far above and beyond other actors that its easy to see how only one film made him a star in the East.
2. Way of the Dragon- This could easily have been #1 and sometimes it is, but mostly the picture quality and some shotty dialogue is what puts Way of the Dragon at deuce instead of the top. Bruce had total control on this film and it vastly improved his character projection because he played more of himself, but other characters began to suffer because they didn’t seem to portray his style as well. In the first 30 minutes there is 3 toilet jokes, I assume there was some love of toilet humor or inside joke Lee was trying to relay but I have never found the answer, if you have a source please tell me. My only assumption is that it may have been cut out of final draft and Lee’s character could not use an American toilet because of its differing style. Way of the Dragon has the most humor of any of Lee’s film and it builds the framework for what would make Jackie Chan the box office bonanza he became using humor and action to captivate the crowd. Chuck Norris as the final boss fight is possibly the best one-on-one in all of cinema. There is a rumor that Norris was to play a boss in Game of Death, how amazing that would have been. The only difference between 1 and 2 is the picture, if it was pure content Dragon would reign supreme.
1. Fist of Fury- Cinematically this is the most beautiful of all of Lee’s films and many of the actors between Fury and Way of the Dragon blend in role and screen time. The only true way to watch Fury is in Cantonese with English subtitles, frankly that is the only way I watch Hong Kong Kung Fu films. The actual acting is great and tone leads to the experience, the dubbing loses all this soul. Fury’s story of honor and message of crime/vigilantism does not go unpunished is fit for an after school special if it were not for the excessive violence and death. The school fight scene is not only Lee’s best but also introduce the nunchuku to the world and swayed the use of swords and need for death from the films… even though Lee used the nunchuku as fatally as a sword at times. Fury also had moments of acting greatness and humor from Lee as he used disguises to infiltrate the henchmens’ fortress.
Lee had issue with the racial content of the film and with good reason, it was bad for the Japanese to always be portrayed as the enemy to the Chinese if they wanted the films to grow. No future films of Lee’s implied any racial tension not just between Asian cultures but all races. Lee’s future films included all races and cultures in prominent roles.
Off Lee’s 4 completed films there are no bad choices, just differing tastes.
*While I may not consider Enter the Dragon cinematicly Lee’s greats film it is the most important. While I allege a Hollywood bias that pushes Enter the Dragon because of its connection to western cinema it connected an entire culture to a genre they never had been exposed to on film. Never has a film been so important to bringing down race-walls. Lee did not make an Asian Kung Fu film, its three heroes represented an array of ethnic races in African-American in Jim Kelly, white John Saxon and of course Asian Bruce Lee. No film in those days were so vast and open and for Bruce to engine such a parade it lends to has futuristic vision to diversity.
Thank you for your vision Bruce.