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Bruce Lee: Still Kicking

Getty Images / ABC Photo Archives / ABC

Bruce Lee: Still Kicking

Bruce Lee was the most influential martial artist of the 20th century, an iconic figure whose films brought him worldwide popularity and helped spark interest in the martial arts in the West. Though he died July 20, 1973, at 32, he still looms large on the pop culture landscape. Opening this week in Asia is Bruce Lee, My Brother, a film about his Hong Kong childhood as told through the memories of his siblings. Early next year Columbia Pictures will release a film version of Lee's 1960s American TV show, The Green Hornet, in which he starred as crime-fighting sidekick Kato. A Broadway musical based on the life of Lee is also due next year.

Lee was born Nov. 27, 1940, in San Francisco. In honor of his 70th birthday, we present some of his most memorable scenes.

Fist of Fury
Also known as The Chinese Connection, this was Lee's second major film. Set in early 20th century Shanghai, the film involves Lee's character defending the honor of the Chinese Jingwu martial arts school against the Japanese enemies of the Bushido school. In this scene, Lee singlehandedly defeats every single member of the dojo, including the sensei. This movie is cited as being largely responsible for starting the trend of open-hand combat in martial arts movies, which had previously been more reliant on swordplay. Both Jackie Chan and Jet Li have starred in remakes of the film.

Enter the Dragon
Enter the Dragon, a co-production between Hong Kong's Golden Harvest and Warner Brothers was the first big-budget Hollywood martial arts movie and remains a classic of the genre. Future martial arts stars Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung both were stuntmen in the film. For the scene below actor Bob Wall allowed Lee to kick him with force, as a fake kick wouldn't come across as well on film. Lee obliged and while delivering a side kick, broke Wall's sternum. Two of the extras standing behind Wall also broke their arms in the stunt and production had to shut down for three months (the kick in question occurs around the 2:02 mark).

Way of the Dragon
Lee had known Chuck Norris since they met in Long Beach at a martial arts demonstration in 1964. Lee was also in attendance the night Norris won the Professional Middleweight Karate championship title in 1968. Though Norris made his screen debut in the 1970 Dean Martin comedy The Wrecking Crew – a film for which Lee is credited as choreographing fight scenes – it was this classic scene in the Roman Colosseum fighting Lee that launched him into stardom. Norris would later be a pallbearer at Lee's funeral.

Game of Death
Released nearly five years after Lee's death, this film is remembered chiefly for the scene where 5-foot-7-inch Lee takes on 7-foot-2-inch L.A. Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who, judging from the marks left on Lee's yellow jumpsuit, must have had some very dirty feet). Abdul-Jabbar studied with Lee during his years in Los Angeles. Production on Game of Death was halted so that Lee could film Enter the Dragon. Lee died before Game of Death could resume, and the movie was later released with footage shot much earlier in Lee's career.