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Film

The top five most badass Bruce Lee moments in movie history

There are few real-life action stars as iconic and as dangerous as Bruce Lee, aside from perhaps his sparring partner Chuck Norris, with the American actor and martial artist becoming an icon of pop culture in the late 20th century. Known for his acting capability for film roles such as in Enter the Dragon, The Green Hornet and Way of the Dragon, Bruce Lee was a multifaceted star known for his philosophical worldview and sagacious attitude to life. 

As well known for his poetry, as well as his forays into acting and martial arts, one of Bruce Lee’s most famous verses appeared in The Warrior Within by John R. Little where Lee wrote, “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water”. Continuing, it reads: “When you put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow – or it can crash. Be water my friend”. 

Though his film filmography is relatively brief, including just 32 projects in his 32-year career, Bruce Lee’s legacy in the industry remains mighty, becoming well known for his fight with Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon as well as his role as Kato in The Green Hornet. As a confident and outspoken individual, Bruce Lee is known for his behind-the-scenes antics, with his personality known to both inspire and irritate those around him.

Let’s take a look back at five of his most badass behind-the-scenes moments. 

The five most badass Bruce Lee moments:

Film extra vs Bruce Lee

As possibly the most deadly man in the world with his bare hands, it is natural that over-confident individuals would challenge the icon to a brawl, even if the conclusion was inevitable. 

This is exactly what happened on the set of Enter the Dragon, where Bruce Lee taught many techniques to extras on the film, including a young Jackie Chan. Though, when one cocky extra challenged him to a fight, Bruce Lee didn’t take the challenge lightly. As Thomas Nilsson recalled to Black Belt magazine: “Bruce played with him for a couple of minutes, then slapped him around until the guy was all bloody and messed up”. 

The moral of the story? Don’t try to fight a black belt athlete.

Standard film cameras couldn’t capture his speed

Known for his lightning-fast punches, kicks and reaction time, even film crews were surprised in 1966 when they found themselves with a technical issue whilst filming The Green Hornet, with cameras unable to capture Bruce Lee’s speed. 

Moving at a speed quicker than 24 frames per second, the speed of Bruce Lee on camera caused significant problems for the crew who eventually had to capture the action as if in slow motion. As Bruce Lee recalls in a biography named after the actor, “Even when I slowed down, all the camera showed was a blur,” with Lee suggesting that he be recorded at a higher frame rate to ensure that his moves could be registered on camera”. 

Burt Ward was frightened of him

The 1966 show The Green Hornet was a camp piece of pop culture joy that captured the imagination of the American public to the extent that the two lead characters made a crossover appearance in the iconic Batman series.

At one point in the programme, Bruce Lee’s Kato was due to fight Burt Ward’s Robin, though Ward was very much against the idea. As reported in Newsweek, “Burt Ward was absolutely petrified when he was going to work with him”. In addition to this, in the original script for the episode, Kato loses to Robin, an addition Bruce Lee despised, walking off the show he said: “‘I’m not going to do that.’ He said, ‘There’s no way that anyone would believe I go in there and fight Robin and lose’”. 

He taught Steve McQueen how to fight 

In the 1960s Bruce Lee was one of the biggest names in show business with everyone wanting a part of the martial artist and film star. Whilst this included film crews wanting to cast the actor in their productions, it also meant big names hiring Lee to teach them martial arts. 

Such stars of movies and sports included James Coburn, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and even the action movie icon Steve McQueen. Paying Bruce Lee to not only teach them physical moves and self-defence, but the stars also wished for the actor to show them new ways of thinking. Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen grew so close that the Great Escape actor even acted as a pallbearer for the martial artist’s funeral in 1973. 

He got bitten by a cobra on the set of Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee’s final film role in Enter the Dragon would be released in the very same year of the actor’s untimely death, with the thrilling film acting as a great lasting legacy for the iconic actor and martial artist. 

The nature of the actor’s high-flying moves and violent actions meant that he often put himself in the line of fire when it came to injuries. Two of these moments came in Enter the Dragon, with the first involving the actor punching a real glass bottle, resulting in 12 stitches, whilst the other involved Bruce Lee being bitten by a cobra that had thankfully had its deadly venom removed. Brushing off the incident, it is stories such as these that have consolidated the actor in the legacy of popular culture.