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The Way of the Dragon (Chinese: 猛龍過江, released in the United States as Return of the Dragon) is a 1972 Hong Kong martial arts action comedy film written, produced and directed by Bruce Lee, who also stars in the lead role. This is Lee's only complete directorial film. The film co-stars Nora Miao, Chuck Norris, Robert Wall and Hwang In-shik. Way of the Dragon was released in Hong Kong on 1 June 1972.

Way of the Dragon
Hong Kong film poster
Traditional 猛龍過江
Simplified 猛龙过江
Mandarin Měng Lóng Guò Jiāng
Cantonese Maang5 Lung5 Gwo3 Gong1
Directed by Bruce Lee
Produced by
Written by Bruce Lee
Music by Joseph Koo
Cinematography Tadashi Nishimoto
(as Ho Lang Xiang)
Edited by Peter Cheung
Distributed by
  • Golden Harvest
Release date
  • 1 June 1972 (1972-06-01)
Running time
100 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Mandarin
Budget HK$130,000[citation needed]
Box office HK$5.30 million
(Hong Kong)[1]
US$5.2 million
(US/Canada) (rentals)[2]



In Rome, Chen Ching-hua and her uncle Wang experience trouble with their restaurant from a mob boss who wants their property. When Chen refuses to give the property up, the mob boss sends gangsters to scare away the customers. Appealing to an uncle in Hong Kong, Chen receives help in the form of Tang Lung, a martial artist. Disappointed, Chen asks how he can help her, but Tang confidently assures her that he is capable enough. At the restaurant, Tang learns that the staff have begun to learn karate, much to the annoyance of Quen, an employee who favors Chinese martial arts. Tang tells Quen that he should be open-minded and incorporate any moves that work.

Before long, gangsters appear at the restaurant, and chase off the customers, while Tang stows away in the bathroom. Upset by Tang's poor timing, the staff question his skill and the usefulness of his style. When the gangsters later return, the staff engage the thugs, only to be beaten. However, Tang single-handedly defeats the thugs, causing the staff to abandon their training to study under him. Wang warns them that the gangsters will be seeking revenge, but Tang vows to protect the restaurant. Chen and Tang grow closer, and she takes him on a tour of Rome, though Tang is unimpressed.

Ho, the mafia boss's consigliere, returns with armed thugs, and takes the restaurant staff hostage. Ho gives Tang a ticket back to Hong Kong, and tells him to go back, but when his men escort Tang outside, Tang disarms and overpowers the escort, followed by the rest of Ho's men. Tang warns Ho not to return, and the thugs leave the restaurant. The staff celebrate their victory, but the mafia boss threatens to send an assassin to kill Tang unless he leaves by Chinese New Year, and Wang urges Chen to convince Tang to leave.

When Tang refuses to abandon the restaurant, the assassin tries to kill him from a nearby rooftop. Already fidgety from nearby fireworks, Tang survives the attempt. He then tracks down and defeats the assassin after tricking him into wasting his ammunition. When he returns to the apartment, he finds out that Chen is gone. Assuming that Ho has kidnapped her, Tang goes to the mafia boss' headquarters with the restaurant staff, defeating the mafia boss's men. Tang issues a final warning to the mafia boss to leave the restaurant alone. The staff again celebrate, but a telegram for Tang cuts this short when they learn that he has been summoned back to Hong Kong. Tang assures them that he will not leave without seeing the situation resolved.

Ho hires two martial artists to challenge Tang, Japanese and American karate practitioners, who initially refuse to work together. When the mafia boss indicates that money is no issue, Ho also recruits the American's sensei, a world-class martial artist named Colt. Ho leads the restaurant staff to an isolated spot under the pretense of a truce, where the two hired martial artists ambush them. The martial artists defeat the staff, but Tang defeats them. Ho lures Tang away to fight Colt at the Colosseum. Meanwhile, Wang betrays and kills two of the staff, as he wants to sell the restaurant to the mafia boss, and return to Hong Kong a rich man.

In a decisive battle, Tang injures and disables Colt. When Colt refuses an offer of mercy, Tang kills him. The mob boss arrives, as Tang and Ho return, and shoots both Ho and Wang. The police arrive and arrest him as he attempts to also kill Tang. As Tang leaves for Hong Kong, Quen tells Chen that Tang is a loner, who will never settle down.



Bruce Lee formed his own production company, Concord Production Inc., with Golden Harvest founder, Raymond Chow.[6]



The film holds a 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on nine reviews.[7] The film set a new box office record in Hong Kong.[6] It ranked #95 in Empire magazine's list "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.[8] The film won the Golden Horse Award for Best Film Editing.[citation needed]

Box office

The film grossed HK$5,307,350.50 at the Hong Kong box office, beating previous records set by Lee's own films, The Big Boss and Fist of Fury, making it the highest-grossing film of 1972 in Hong Kong.[1]


In 1978 a sequel was released titled Way of the Dragon 2. The film starred Bruce Le and Bolo Yeung.


  1. ^ a b "劉偉強談香港電影時代拐點不再讓時裝片孤單". Sina News. 2011-05-11. Retrieved 2015-10-09. 
  2. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 46
  3. ^ Berkow, Ira (12 May 1993). "AT DINNER WITH: Chuck Norris; When That 97-Pound Weakling Grows Up". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  4. ^ Riccardo Billi played the bank teller in "Way of the Dragon"
  5. ^ Derbyshire, John (2003-10-15). "Thug (Uncredited)". National Review Online. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  6. ^ a b Lee, Bruce; Little, John; Little, John R. (15 November 1997). Words of the dragon: interviews 1958–1973. Tuttle Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-8048-3133-8. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "Return of the Dragon (The Way of the Dragon) (1974)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-09-12. 
  8. ^ "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema: 93. The Fourth Man". Empire. 

External links