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Enter the Dragon is a 1973 martial arts action film produced by and starring Bruce Lee.[1] The film, which co-stars John Saxon and Jim Kelly, was directed by Robert Clouse. It would be Bruce Lee's final completed film appearance before his death on 20 July 1973 at age 32. A joint American and Hong Kong production, it premiered in Los Angeles on 19 August 1973, one month after Lee's death and went on to gross US$90 million worldwide,[2] equivalent to US$508 million adjusted for inflation.

Enter the Dragon
Enter the dragon.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese龍爭虎鬥
Simplified Chinese龙争虎斗
Directed byRobert Clouse
Produced byBruce Lee[1]
Fred Weintraub
Paul Heller
Raymond Chow
Written byMichael Allin
StarringBruce Lee
John Saxon
Ahna Capri
Bob Wall
Shih Kien
Jim Kelly
Music byLalo Schifrin
CinematographyGilbert Hubbs
Edited byKurt Hirschler
George Watters
Distributed byGolden Harvest (Hong Kong)
Warner Bros. (international)
Release date
  • 19 August 1973 (1973-08-19) (USA)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryHong Kong
United States
Box officeUS$90 million[2]

Enter the Dragon is considered to be one of the greatest martial arts films of all time.[3] In 2004, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[4] Among the first films to combine martial arts action with the emerging Blaxploitation genre, its success led to a series of similar productions combining both genres.[5] Its themes have also generated scholarly debate about how they reflect the changes taking place within post-colonial Asian societies following the end of World War II.[6]



Lee, a highly proficient Shaolin martial artist and instructor from Hong Kong, is approached by Braithwaite, a British intelligence agent investigating the suspected crime lord Han. Lee is asked to attend a high-profile martial arts competition on Han's private island in order to gather evidence that will prove Han's involvement in drug and human trafficking. Initially hesitant, Lee is convinced to attend after he also learns that his sister's killer, O'Hara, is working on the island as Han's personal bodyguard. Also fighting in the competition are heavily indebted gambling addict Roper and his fellow Vietnam war veteran Williams.

At the end of the first day, Han gives strict orders to the competitors not to leave their rooms at night. Lee is able to make contact with Braithwaite's undercover operative Mei Ling, who explains she is running out of time before she is "disappeared" like the other girls before her. Lee sneaks out looking for evidence, but is noticed by Williams, who has ignored the warnings from his escorts and also left his room for some fresh air. Lee is subsequently discovered by several guards but manages to escape without being identified.

The next morning, Han orders his fearsome head guard Bolo to publicly kill last night's guards for failing in their duties. After the executions, Lee faces O'Hara in the competition and after an emotional fight, beats and kills him. Roper and Williams also successfully beat their assigned opponents, ending the second day of the competition. Afterwards, Han confronts Williams about him leaving his room the previous night, demanding to know who else left their room. Williams refuses to be intimidated, but underestimates Han and is beaten to death in the ensuing fight. Later that evening Han reveals his drug operation to Roper, hoping that he will join his organization and exploit his American contacts. Roper is initially relieved to finally see a way out of his gambling debts, but angrily refuses after Han shows him Williams' badly beaten body. Meanwhile, Lee sneaks out again and this time manages to send a message to Braithwaite, but is then captured after a prolonged battle with the guards.

The next morning, Han arranges for Roper to fight Lee, but Roper refuses. As punishment, Roper must fight Bolo instead, whom he manages to overpower and kill after a grueling encounter. Enraged by the unexpected result, Han commands his remaining men to kill Lee and Roper. Facing insurmountable odds, they are unexpectedly aided by the island's many prisoners, who have been freed by Mei Ling. Han flees from the battle but is pursued by Lee, who finally corners him in his private museum. After a brutal fight, Han escapes into a hidden room - a hall of mirrors - and Lee follows. Han initially has the advantage, but Lee breaks all the room's mirrors to reveal his location, and eventually kills him. Lee returns outside to the main battle, which is now over. A bruised and bloodied Roper sits victorious while the military finally arrive to take control of the island.



Due to the success with his earlier films, Warner Bros began helping Bruce Lee with the film in 1972. They brought in producers Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller.[12]


The screenplay title was originally named Blood and Steel. The story features Asian, White and Black heroic protagonists because the producers wanted a film that would appeal to the widest possible international audiences.[13] The scene in which Lee states that his style is "Fighting Without Fighting" is based upon a famous anecdote involving the 16th century samurai Tsukahara Bokuden.[14][15]


John Saxon is a black belt in Judo and Shotokan Karate,[16] who studied under grandmaster Hidetaka Nishiyama for three years.[17] In negotiations, his agent told the film's producers that if they wanted him they would have to change the story so that the character of Williams would be killed, not Roper. They agreed and the script was changed.[18]

Rockne Tarkington was originally cast in the role of Williams. However, he unexpectedly dropped out days before the production was about to begin in Hong Kong. Producer Fred Weintraub knew that karate world champion, Jim Kelly had a training dojo in Crenshaw, Los Angeles so he hastily arranged a meeting. Weintraub was immediately impressed, and Kelly was cast in the film.[19] The success of Kelly's appearance launched his career as a star: after Enter the Dragon, he signed a three-film deal with Warner Bros[20] and went on to make several martial arts-themed blaxploitation films in the 1970s.[21]

Jackie Chan appears as a guard during the underground lair battle scene and gets his neck snapped by Lee. He also performed several stunts for the film, including the scene where Lee's character quickly climbs a rooftop at night. However, Yuen Wah was Lee's main stunt double for the film.[22]

Sammo Hung appears in a brief fight scene against Lee at the start of the film.

An urban legend surrounding the making of Enter The Dragon claims that actor Bob Wall did not like Bruce Lee and that their fight scenes were not choreographed. However, Wall has denied this stating he and Lee were actually good friends.[23]


The film was shot on location in Hong Kong. All scenes were filmed without sound: dialogue and sound effects were added or dubbed in during post-production. Bruce Lee, after he had been goaded or challenged, fought several real fights with the film's extras and some set intruders during filming.[24] The scenes of Han's Island were filmed at a residence known as Palm Villa near the coastal town of Stanley.[25]


Argentinian musician Lalo Schifrin composed the film's musical score. While Schifrin was widely known at the time for his jazz scores, he also incorporated funk and traditional film score elements into the film's soundtrack.[26] He composed the score by sampling sounds from China, Korea, and Japan. The soundtrack has sold over 500,000 copies, earning a gold record.[5]


Box officeEdit

Enter the Dragon was heavily advertised in the United States before its release. The budget for advertising was over $1,000,000. It was unlike any promotional campaign that had been seen before, and was extremely comprehensive. In order to advertise the film, the studio offered free Karate classes, produced thousands of illustrated flip books, comic books, posters, photographs, and organized dozens of news releases, interviews, and public appearances for the stars. Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Newsweek all wrote stories on the film.[27]

The filmed earned a profit of US$25 million in the United States,[27] against a tight budget of $850,000.[28] It was one of the most successful films of 1973.[27] In Hong Kong, the film grossed HK$3,307,536[29]—huge business for the time, but substantially less than Lee's Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon.

In Japan, the film grossed ¥1.642 billion.[30] In India, the movie was released in 1975 and opened to full houses, including a packed 32-week run in Bombay.[31] In France, it was one of the top five highest-grossing films of 1974 (above two other Lee films, Way of the Dragon at #8 and Fist of Fury at #12), with 4,444,582 box office admissions.[32] In Germany, it was one of the top ten highest-grossing films of 1974, with 1.7 million box office admissions.[33]

Worldwide, the film grossed US$90 million,[2] including US$65 million in international markets outside of the United States.[1] The film's worldwide gross is equivalent to US$508 million when adjusted for inflation.

Critical receptionEdit

The film was well received by critics and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1973.[34][35][36][37] Critics have referred to Enter the Dragon as "a low-rent James Bond thriller",[38][39] a "remake of Dr. No" with elements of Fu Manchu.[40] J.C. Maçek III of PopMatters wrote, "Of course the real showcase here is the obvious star here, Bruce Lee, whose performance as an actor and a fighter are the most enhanced by the perfect sound and video transfer. While Kelly was a famous martial artist and a surprisingly good actor and Saxon was a famous actor and a surprisingly good martial artist, Lee proves to be a master of both fields."[41]

Many acclaimed newspapers and magazines reviewed the film. Variety described it as "rich in the atmosphere", the music score as "a strong asset" and the photography as "interesting".[42] Additionally, The New York Times gave the film a rave review. The review stated "The picture is expertly made and well-meshed; it moves like lightning and brims with color. It is also the most savagely murderous and numbing hand-hacker (not a gun in it) you will ever see anywhere."[43]

The film currently holds a 93% approval rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, with 46 reviews counted and an average rating of 7.8/10.[44] In 2004, the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[45]

The film also ranks No. 474 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[46]


After its worldwide release in 1973, the full uncut film was unavailable in the United Kingdom because all scenes showing martial art weapons like chainsticks or throwing stars were cut by the British Board of Film Classification over concerns they promoted violence. Although some cuts were restored in 1988, when the film was first made available on VHS, scenes involving chainsticks remained banned. It was not until 2001, when the film was reclassified for video, that all previous cuts were fully restored.[47].[48][49]


The film has been parodied and referenced in places such as the 1976 film The Pink Panther Strikes Again, the satirical publication The Onion,[50] the Japanese game-show Takeshi's Castle, and the 1977 John Landis comedy anthology film Kentucky Fried Movie (in its lengthy "A Fistful of Yen" sequence, basically a comedic, note for note remake of Dragon) and also in the film Balls of Fury. It was also parodied on television in That '70s Show during the episode "Jackie Moves On" with regular character Fez taking on the Bruce Lee role. Several clips from the film are comically used during the theatre scene in The Last Dragon.

In August 2007, the now defunct Warner Independent Pictures announced that television producer Kurt Sutter would be remaking the film as a noir-style thriller entitled Awaken the Dragon with Korean singer-actor Rain starring.[51][52][53] It was announced in September 2014 that Spike Lee would work on the remake. In March 2015, Brett Ratner revealed that he wanted to make the remake.[54][55] In July 2018, David Leitch is in early talks to direct the remake.[56]

The little-known 1985 Nintendo arcade game Arm Wrestling contains voice leftovers from the film, as well as their original counterparts.

The popular video game Mortal Kombat borrows multiple plot elements from Enter the Dragon.

The popular 1980s martial arts video game Double Dragon features two enemies named Roper and Williams, a reference to the two characters Roper and Williams from Enter the Dragon. The sequel includes opponents named Bolo and O'Hara.

Lee's martial arts films were broadly lampooned in the recurring Almost Live! sketch Mind Your Manners with Billy Quan.

Home mediaEdit

Most DVDs and Blu-rays come with a wide range of extra features in the form of documentaries, interviews, etc. In 2013, a second, remastered HD transfer appeared on Blu-ray, billed as the "40th Anniversary Edition".[57][58]


  1. ^ a b c "Enter the Dragon (1973-08-17)". BoxOffice. Archived from the original on 17 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon To Be Remade". Rotten Tomatoes. 10 August 2007.
  3. ^ "Top 10 martial arts movies". The Guardian. 6 December 2013.
  4. ^ FLANIGAN, b. p. (1 January 1974). "KUNG FU KRAZY: or The Invasion of the 'Chop Suey Easterns'". Cinéaste. 6 (3): 8–11. doi:10.2307/42683410. JSTOR 42683410.
  5. ^ a b Fu, Poshek. "UI Press | Edited by Poshek Fu | China Forever: The Shaw Brothers and Diasporic Cinema". Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  6. ^ Kato, M. T. (1 January 2005). "Burning Asia: Bruce Lee's Kinetic Narrative of Decolonization". Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. 17 (1): 62–99. JSTOR 41490933.
  7. ^ Ryfle, Steve (10 January 2010). "DVD set is devoted to '70s martial arts star Jim Kelly". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  8. ^ "Car Accident Claims Ahna Capri". Inside Kung Fu. Archived from the original on 11 March 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  9. ^ "Lee's Dragon co-star dies at 96". BBC. 5 June 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  10. ^ "Bob Wall Interview: "Pulling No Punches"". Black Belt. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
  11. ^ "A King of Kung Fu Films Savors Work and Honors". The New York Times. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  12. ^ Kim, Hyung-chan (1999). Distinguished Asian Americans: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 179. ISBN 9780313289026.
  13. ^ Locke, Brian (2009). Racial Stigma on the Hollywood Screen from World War II to the Present: The Orientalist Buddy Film. Springer. p. 71. ISBN 9780230101678.
  14. ^ Brockett, Kip (12 August 2007). "Bruce Lee Said What? 'Finding the Truth in Bruce Lee's Writings'".
  15. ^ "Bully Busters Art of Fighting without Fighting". 12 August 2007. Archived from the original on 11 January 2008.
  16. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 August 1973). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 3 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ "New Bruce Lee Film on its way to American movie theatres". Black Belt magazine. 11 (4): 11–12. April 1973.
  18. ^ Walker, David , Andrew J. Rausch, Chris Watson (2009). Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak. Scarecrow Press. p. 112. ISBN 9780810867062.
  19. ^ Horn, John (1 July 2013), "Jim Kelly, 'Enter the Dragon' star, dies at 67", The Los Angeles Times, retrieved 19 August 2015
  20. ^ Clary, David (May 1992). Black Belt Magazine. Active Interest Media, Inc. pp. 18–21.
  21. ^ Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak, 2009. pps.129-130
  22. ^ Boutwell, Malcolm (7 July 2015). "THOSE AMAZING BRUCE LEE FILM STUNTS". Archived from the original on 30 November 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  23. ^ Bona, JJ (10 January 2011). "Bob Wall Interview". Cityonfire. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  24. ^ Thomas, Bruce (2008). Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit. Pan Macmillan. p. 300. ISBN 9780283070662.
  25. ^ "Enter the Dragon Movie Shooting Locations". Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  26. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "Lalo Schifrin: Enter the Dragon [Music from the Motion Picture] – Review". All Music Guide. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  27. ^ a b c Peirano, Pierre-François (22 April 2013). "The Multiple Facets of Enter the Dragon (Robert Clouse, 1973)". InMedia. The French Journal of Media and Media Representations in the English-Speaking World (3). ISSN 2259-4728.
  28. ^ Variety says the film earned $4.25 million in North American rentals in 1973. See "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
  29. ^ "Enter The Dragon (1973)". IMDB. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  30. ^ 『キネマ旬報ベスト・テン85回全史 1924-2011』(キネマ旬報社、2012年)322頁
  31. ^ Khalid Mohamed (15 September 1979). "Bruce Lee storms Bombay once again with Return Of The Dragon". India Today. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  32. ^ "Charts - LES ENTREES EN FRANCE". JP's Box-Office. 1974. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  33. ^ "Charts - LES ENTREES EN ALLEMAGNE". JP's Box-Office. 1974. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  34. ^ Staff, Variety (31 July 1973). "Review: 'Enter the Dragon'".
  35. ^ "The Greatest Films of 1973". AMC Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  36. ^ "The Best Movies of 1973 by Rank". Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  37. ^ "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1973". IMDb. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
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  39. ^ The Fourth Virgin Film Guide by James Pallot and the editors of Cinebooks, published by Virgin Books, 1995
  40. ^ Hong Kong Action Cinema by Bey Logan, published by Titan Books, 1995
  41. ^ Maçek III, J.C. (21 June 2013). "Tournament of Death, Tour de Force: 'Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray'". PopMatters.
  42. ^ Staff, Variety (31 July 1973). "Review: 'Enter the Dragon'". Variety. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  43. ^ Thompson, Howard (18 August 1973). "Movie Review - - 'Enter Dragon,' Hollywood Style:The Cast -". Archived from the original on 31 January 2017. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  44. ^ "Enter the Dragon Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  45. ^ "Enter the Dragon: Award Wins and Nominations". IMDb. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  46. ^ "Empire's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire magazine. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  47. ^ "Enter The Dragon". Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  48. ^ "BBFC Case Studies: Enter the Dragon (1973)". British Board of Film Classification.
  49. ^ "Enter the Dragon: Bruce Lee vs the BBFC". MelonFarmers.
  50. ^ "Rumsfeld Hosts No-Holds-Barred Martial Arts Tournament At Remote Island Fortress". 17 March 2004. Archived from the original on 15 August 2007. Retrieved 15 August 2007.
  51. ^ Fleming, Michael (9 August 2007). "Warners to remake 'Enter the Dragon'". Variety. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
  52. ^ CS (5 August 2009). "Will Rain Awaken the Dragon ?".
  53. ^ Rich, Kathy (13 November 2009). "Exclusive: Rain Confirms He's Still Considering Enter The Dragon Remake". Cinema Blend.
  54. ^ Sternberger, Chad (16 September 2014). "SPIKE LEE TO REMAKE ENTER THE DRAGON". The Studio Exec.
  55. ^ mrbeaks (21 March 2015). "Brett Ratner Is Trying To Remake ENTER THE DRAGON". Ain't It Cool News.
  56. ^ Mike Fleming, Jr (23 July 2018). "Remake Of Bruce Lee's 'Enter The Dragon' Has 'Deadpool 2's David Leitch In Talks". Deadline.
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  58. ^ "Enter the Dragon (1973) Blu-ray comparison". DVDCompare.

External linksEdit