Film / Enter the Dragon

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"Don't think. Feel."

Enter the Dragon is the fourth film (and final completed film) in the career of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. It premiered in August 1973, one month after Lee's untimely death. Enter the Dragon was the first of Lee's movies to premiere in America and the first to be recorded in English.

The film's story centers around Lee, a Shaolin monk and martial arts master, who is approached by Braithwaite (Geoffrey Weeks), a member of an international intelligence organization that wants Lee to become an undercover agent. The organization has been investigating a man named Han (Shih Kien), a former student of Lee's master, who lives in an island fortress and oversees a criminal empire that has its hands in kidnappings, drugs, and prostitution. Braithwaite's organization "know[s] everything but can prove nothing", so they recruit a reluctant Lee to infiltrate Han's island during a martial arts tournament held there once every three years and gather evidence that will uncover his crimes. Other central characters of the film include fellow martial artist Williams (Jim Kelly), martial artist and unlucky gambler Roper (John Saxon), and another undercover agent named Mei Ling (Betty Chung). Though the heroes don't often cooperate with each other directly, they each individually work to uncover the secrets of Han's underground operation, risking the deadly penalties imposed by Han and his Made of Iron bodyguard O'Hara (Robert Wall).

Enter the Dragon is still considered one of the finest martial arts films in history. Critics have often praised it for its ethnic equality, as it features heroes of European, African, and Asian descent. It also features Lee as a philosophical warrior, allowing him to tie in his own personal philosophies of martial arts by virtue of his personally rewriting the script to add dialogue at the opening Shaolin Temple scenes. Of course, the real beauty of the film is in the exquisite fight sequences showcasing Lee in his absolute prime alongside with an excellent supporting cast and stunt crew (including future martial arts stars Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan). See for yourself.


Enter the Dragon contains the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Lee's sister, Su Lin, counts because of the trouble she gave The Dragon. (Angela Mao Ying would go on to be a martial arts star in her own right in Hong Kong.)
  • Action Prologue: Before the opening credits even begin, Bruce Lee fights and beats Sammo Hung in a nonlethal kung fu match at a Shaolin Temple in Hong Kong.
  • Afro Asskicker: Williams is the Ur-Example; he is a black man with an afro and serious martial arts skills.
  • Agony of the Feet: Williams throws a kick at Han, who blocks it with his metal prosthetic hand. Williams clutches his foot in pain.
  • Amazon Brigade: Han's daughters also serve as his personal guard. He is also accompanied by several female servants who are skilled with throwing darts.
  • And Starring: "Introducing Jim Kelly as Williams."
  • Anti-Climax: The fight with O'Hara. Up to that point, O'Hara was built up as some sort of Implacable Man who had Charles Atlas Superpower level strength and endurance (also, he was responsible for the death of Lee's sister) but Lee took him down with just a couple of kicks.
  • Arch-Enemy: Mr. Han to Lee.
  • Badass Grandpa: The actor playing the Big Bad, Shih Kien, was sixty years old when this movie was filmed, and still portrayed a convincingly worthy adversary to Bruce Lee (who was almost thirty years younger).
  • Beneath the Mask: In reference to Han, the villain, whose martial-arts tournament is a front for a really nasty operation: "You must remember... the enemy has only images and illusions, behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image, and you will break the enemy."
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Lee's sister Su Lin stabs herself with a piece of broken glass when she is cornered by O'Hara and his henchmen.
  • Big Bad: Han.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Williams, in conjunction with the Sacrificial Lion situation.
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: Subverted. Williams is among the martial arts contestants offered some feminine "company" for the evening from Han's Paid Harem. He picks out four of them, and then apologizes to the rest of the girls that, um, he's "a little tired" this evening.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Type 3. Han replaces his prosthetic hand with spiked and bladed weapons to fight against Lee.
  • Blade on a Stick: At one point, Han uses a spear against Lee.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Han's daughters are his personal bodyguards.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Han actually captures Lee at one point, after Lee has wiped out dozens of guards and made his intentions to sabotage Han's operation all too clear. But unlike how he handled Williams, Han doesn't kill Lee. Instead, he tries to get Roper to fight him to the death, apparently to set some kind of example (he calls it "edification") and also perhaps to test Roper's loyalty. However, Roper refuses (not really to Han's surprise) and chaos ultimately ensues.
  • Brick Break: O'Hara does this to a board with a standing punch right in front of Lee. Lee's response: "Boards don't hit back." It turns out that O'hara doesn't either.
  • Bullying a Dragon: There were about a dozen or so people on that boat. Parson decided Lee was the best one to pick a fight with.
  • The Casanova: Both Williams and Roper have a way with the ladies.
  • Catch-Phrase: Roper's appears to be "wanna bet?"
  • Cats Have Nine Lives: Han challenges Mr. Roper to pull the cord on a guillotine with a cat in said guillotine. Instead, Roper picks the cat up, says "Now you've got eight more" and lets it go.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: The military flies to the island just after the villains are taken care of and mere seconds before the end credits.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In one scene, Roper is taken through Mr. Han's museum, which includes a glass display case with several replacement weapon-hands. One of them, a metal claw, is used during the big fight with Lee in the end. In addition, during the big fight (which takes place in said museum room, acting as another Chekhov's Gun), Mr. Han tries throwing a spear at Lee, which goes through a wall and into the Hall of Mirrors beyond. The climax of the movie involves Lee kicking Han right into the spear and Impaling Him With Extreme Prejudice. Also, the advice that Bruce takes about "smashing the image" in order to defeat Han was itself a Chekhov's Gun given by Bruce's master near the very beginning of the film.
  • Clothing Damage: Lee's shirt gets torn at the beginning of the fight in the drug factory. He then ditches the shirt and spends the rest of the movie shirtless.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When Roper is caught in an armbar, instead of using a martial arts technique to get out of it, he opts to simply bite his opponent's leg.
  • Co-Dragons: Bolo and O'Hara are Han's two top enforcers on the island. Oddly, killing Bolo falls to Roper the con man, rather than Lee The Hero (who goes straight for Han as soon as Bolo is defeated, and who is The Dragon but not The Dragon).
  • Colour Coded Characters: In the Final Battle, all of Han's henchmen are dressed in white gi, while all of the shanghaied men are dressed in black attire.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Every hero (and even a villain in one scene) gets the chance to kick the crap out of multiple guys at once, but their one-on-one fights are more protracted.
  • Cultured Warrior/Genius Bruiser: Lee isn't just a kickass fighter; he's also a philosopher, as his teacher taught him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • The fight between Lee and O'Hara is almost literally this.
    • Lee's fight with Han's minions in the drug factory counts as well. By the time Lee's captured, he's already mowed down at least a couple dozen of them. From the time the fight starts to the moment it ends, Lee takes down 50 people, most of them with one or two blows each.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Han trained his daughters as his personal bodyguards on the theory that no one will be more loyal to him. One of them tosses Roper clear off his feet rather than give him a handshake.
    Roper: Nobody's as loyal as Daddy's little girl.
  • Death by Cameo: Jackie Chan was a stuntman and extra for the film before he became famous; he appears during the drug factory battle, where he has a short fight with Bruce Lee before his neck is snapped. He is also one of the guards who Lee hits with a staff (Jackie was accidentally hit in real life in this scene).
  • Death Glare: Lee's response when a mook harasses him about not doing the morning routine in uniform. Said mook promptly leaves wordlessly.
  • Divide and Conquer: Defied. Han tries to force Roper and Lee to fight to the death but they refuse. He sends Bolo in to do the job instead.
  • Does Not Like Guns: Han does not allow guns on his island because he had a bad experience with them. It would also make him vulnerable to assassination and provide an easy pretext for outside forces to perform a raid of his island.
  • Don't Think, Feel: One of Lee's lines in this film is the Trope Namer.
    "It is like a finger, pointing away to the moon...(Dope Slap) Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory."
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: No one, not even Han, can reasonably match Lee in a fight. So he not only uses claw hands, but traps Lee in the famous Hall of Mirrors to try and even the odds.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him:
    • O'Hara's death should be expected, as he is a villain and Lee wants revenge for his sister's death, but instead of dying in the climax as is usually the case in revenge plots, he kicks it midway through the movie in a pretty one-sided battle against Lee.
    • The madam is killed offscreen and abruptly.
  • Duel to the Death: Several - Lee vs. O'Hara, Williams vs. Han, Roper vs. Bolo and Lee vs. Han.
  • Enter Eponymous
  • Epic Movie
  • Even Evil Has Standards: For all of Han's villainy, he is dead serious about the tournament rules; not even O'Hara is exempt. Han is visibly and audibly angered by his attempting to grab Lee's leg after being knocked down, and the last straw is when O'Hara attacks Lee with broken bottles. Once Lee has killed him, Han declares that "O'Hara's treachery has disgraced us" rather than being displeased at Lee killing one of his top men.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: It's a Bruce Lee movie. 'Nuff said.
  • Evil Plan: Han has a long running one involving drug and Sex Slave trafficking. He uses the tournament to recruit new talent.
  • Fighting with Chucks: As only Bruce Lee can.
  • Final Battle: A gigantic melee between Han's mooks in white and the freed prisoners in black. This is also the key sign that the film was shot in China, as they invert the western Good Colors, Evil Colors convention.
  • Finishing Stomp: Lee finishes off O'Hara with a leaping, two foot stomp.
  • Flashback: Several early in the movie, showing the backstories and motivations of the characters.
  • Foreign Queasine: Williams is disgusted by the food at the banquet.
  • Genre Refugee: Williams is a Blaxploitation character in a martial-arts film.
  • A Glass in the Hand: After being soundly defeated by Lee, O'hara grabs a bottle and shatters it, intending to use it on Lee. Unfortunately for O'hara, this wasn't enough to prevent him being literally crushed underfoot.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: In Chinese culture white is associated with death and black is associated with life. In the Final Battle, Han's mooks all wear white and all of the prisoners fighting them wear black.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Subverted. O'Hara has a (usually) heroic "crossing one eye but not damaging it"-scar, but is definitely evil.
  • Good Weapon, Evil Weapon: Lee uses a Simple Staff, Eskrima sticks and nunchaku on occasion and his own style of martial arts the rest of the time, while Han's evilness is emphasized by his penchant for sinister-looking claw hands.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: O'hara is getting destroyed by Lee, and in frustration grabs a bottle from an on-looker and smashes it. In the scene where he actually breaks it, he ends up with a very tiny stem of the bottle in his hand, with very small jagged edges to act as a weapon. In the next scene cut, he is threatening Lee with a more visually appropriately broken bottle. Of course, it still doesn't do him any good...
  • Groin Attack: Lee's sister gives one to a mook in a flashback, Lee also delivers one to O'Hara during their fight, and Roper gives one to Bolo.
  • Guile Hero:
    • Roper is a gambler who begins to purposefully lose a fight in order to swindle a spectator out of money and is upfront about the fact that he plans to trick Lee into losing money. Despite this, he is still seen as charming to both the audience and the other characters.
    • Lee codified this as part of his fighting style, "The Art of Fighting Without Fighting".
  • Hall of Mirrors: The setting for the final showdown is one of these where Han avoids Lee through the reflection trick.
  • Hero of Another Story: All of the heroic characters had ongoing and past adventures.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: Lee teaching a younger student to kick with feeling.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Han throws a spear at Lee, which goes straight through a wall and stays there. During the fight, Lee kicks Han into the spear and kills him.
  • Hustling the Mark: Roper and Williams pull this trick in a tournament fight.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Han tests Roper's limits with a near-literal example of this. When Han places his pet cat onto a guillotine, Roper saves the cat, says "Now you've got eight more," and lets the cat go. Han used this situation to see if Roper had a line he would not cross; he shows Roper that the pull chain was just for a secret elevator, not the guillotine.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How Han dies.
  • Inertial Impalement: Mr. Han meets his end when Lee kicks him right into a spear sticking out of a wall, a spear that Han tried to kill Lee with in the adjoining chamber earlier on in the fight.
  • Intimidation Demonstration: O'hara breaks a board with his fist in an intimidating fashion. Lee is not impressed.
    "Boards don't hit back."
  • It's Personal: Lee's rivalry with O'Hara stems from the death of his sister.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Roper is a conman but he has limits.
  • Kung-Shui: Evident in the climax where chairs, staffs, and anything made of wood is shattered to splinters.
  • Last-Name Basis: Every main character goes by his last name.
  • Man Bites Man: Roper bites down while in an arm bar, forcing his opponent to let go.
  • Martial Arts Uniform: Almost every martial artist on Han's island wears a Gi, and they did so for pretty much the whole movie. Except Lee, who insists on wearing his Chinese-style clothes instead.
  • Meaningful Echo: Early in the film, Lee's master tells him, "The enemy has only images and illusions, behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image and you will break the enemy." When fighting Han in the hall of mirrors, Lee reinterprets this advice and begins to break the mirrors so he can draw Han out.
  • Meaningful Name: Roper is a con man who ropes people into his bets.
  • Men of Sherwood: The imprisoned Black Robes in the Final Battle; Han slashes one of them.
  • Mission Briefing: Braithwaite gives Lee one before sending him to Han's island.
  • Mooks: The White Robes in the Final Battle.
  • Multi-Mook Melee: Bruce Lee vs. fifty mooks. Guess who wins.
  • Neck Snap: Quite a few people are killed this way, including one character (Jackie Chan in his cameo appearance) getting his neck snapped by Lee during a battle.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Fistfight:
    • Lee's uncle slashes O'Hara's face with a knife but is disarmed with a few punches and kicks.
    • Later, O'Hara comes after Lee with two broken bottles and is similarly disarmed.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Han kills Williams by beating him to death with his cast iron hand.
  • Not Just a Tournament: The hero participates in the tournament, but was actually sent there to uncover evidence about the tournament organizer's criminal activities.
  • Oh, Crap!: Roper has three of them: one comical-yet-serious one when Han reveals his opium ring, one when he sees Williams' corpse (he slow motion mouths the words "Oh shit"), and a debatable third one when Han orders Roper to fight Lee. On one hand, Roper has seen what Lee is capable of and doesn't want to end up like that; on the other, he shows he has limits to his con artist lifestyle.
  • Opium Den: Williams meets his end in one of these at the hands of Mr. Han.
  • Pacifist Dojo: The Shaolin Temple. Han was a student, but perverted the arts for evil.
  • Police Brutality: Inverted in Williams' back-story when he kicks the crap out of racist police officers and then drives off in their car.
  • Power Fist: Mr Han conceals one, while wearing gloves and uses it for offence and defense.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "You have offended my family, and you have offended the Shaolin Temple."
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: How the teacher describes Han, who took the Shaolin teachings and used them for crime.
  • Rated M for Manly: Bruce Lee in a fighting tournament as a secret agent? Yes, that earns the rating.
  • Red Right Hand:
    • Han's various prosthetic hands are an almost literal example.
    • O'Hara's facial scar also qualifies.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Han, trying to recruit Roper into joining his organization, carries a fluffy white cat. To test Roper's resolve, Han sets the cat down in the business area of a guillotine and offers to let Roper pull the chain. Roper declines.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Williams, one of the three heroes, is killed mid-movie.
  • Salt and Pepper: Roper and Williams. Both are pretty even-tempered.
  • Scenery Porn: One of Bruce Lee's stated goals was to show the beauty of Chinese culture in this movie, and good lord does it show, especially in the gorgeous dinner scene.
  • Shout-Out: One scene shows Lee dealing with an arrogant fellow contestant who wants a fight. Lee says the ship is too cramped for a duel, so they should take one of the lifeboats to a nearby island and settle things there. As soon as the other guy gets in, Lee kicks the lifeboat down and lets the poor schmuck get dragged behind the boat. This is a direct reference to Tsukahara Bokuden, who is believed to have done the same thing once.
  • Soft Glass: During the filming, Bruce Lee got quite badly lacerated during a take of his fight with O'Hara, as the glass bottles Robert Wall smashed to make his ersatz daggers were quite real.
  • Soul Brotha: Williams is a skilled and afroed martial artist that is "too busy looking good" to have time for losing. This dude is so cool the music even changes to become funkier when he makes his first appearance after the credits scene.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Lee brings this very point up to Braithewaite, only for a hasty explanation that Han would never allow a gun to ever be brought to his home. Lee visibly rolls his eyes at this. This is because even though Bruce Lee was a martial arts master without equal at the time, he had absolutely no illusions on the firearms vs. martial arts debate and, playing a (sort of) secret agent in this movie, very much wanted to use one. But the producers nixed this idea, much to Bruce's annoyance.
  • Storming the Castle: The climax plays with this trope slightly by having the force that attacks the villain's base be prisoners freed from within.
  • Swiss Army Appendage: Han replaces his missing hand with various weapons throughout the movie.
  • Talking to the Dead: Lee visits the graves of his mother and sister, asking them to forgive him for his plan to avenge Su Lin.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: The hostess of the island brings an assortment of girls around for each of the fighters to choose a companion for the night. Williams chooses four, and then apologizes to the rest for snubbing them because he's a little tired.
  • The Brute: Bolo.
  • To Win Without Fighting: Lee described this as his style word-for-word.
  • Tranquil Fury: Lee is chock full of this trope. When facing O'Hara, he doesn't break out the Funny Bruce Lee Noises until after O'Hara attacks with anger on the brain, and even then, he keeps his cool...until he kills him. Even when facing Han, Lee states his intentions in an eerily calm tone before proceeding with the fight:
    Lee: You have offended my family, and you have offended The Shaolin Temple.
  • Truth in Television:
    • In Real Life, Bruce Lee was once put into an armbar during a sparring session, and his opponent asked what he'd do in this situation. Bruce responded, "Why, I'd bite your leg, of course." In the film, Roper does this in his fight with Bolo.
    • People who visit Hong Kong in the decades after the film will notice how much the city has changed since then.
  • Unknown Rival: Oddly enough, Han notices and confronts Williams and Roper before he ever meets the protagonist of the movie. This is in spite of the fact that Lee was sent there for the specific purpose of bringing the villain down while the two minor characters were at the tournament for unrelated reasons.
  • Warrior Monk: Lee, courtesy of his Shaolin training.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lee brings this up right away, but he's visibly disappointed by the answer (guns aren't allowed on Han's island). Off-screen, Bruce Lee was excited about playing a sort-of secret agent in this movie because he very much wanted to use a gun in at least one scene. Thanks to the film's producers nixing this idea, the annoyance Lee portrays on-camera is real.
  • The Worf Effect: Williams takes down two cops, the bully from the boat, and a gang of mooks in order to show he is a badass...then he goes up against Han.
    • Also, we're shown multiple times how scary O'Hara is...then he goes up against Lee, who barely breaks a sweat while wiping the floor with him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Mei Ling is last seen freeing the captives.
  • Wolverine Claws: Han replaces his prosthetic hand with these in the final fight against Lee.
  • Wrestler in All of Us:
    • Bolo's style, while Eastern in origin, still consists of a lot of grappling—and even a backbreaker.
    • In the opening fight scene, Lee defeats his opponent via a crucifix submission.
  • Yellow Peril: The film averts this; as a large number of characters (including the hero) are Asian, a villainous Asian is nothing special.
  • You Have Failed Me: When Han's security guards fail at their duties, he forces them to fight Bolo to "prove their worth". It's nothing more than a public execution.


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