(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching, why it’s worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)
The Movie: Enter the Dragon
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix
The Pitch: In his final completed role before his premature death, Bruce Lee plays a spy who visits an island where a martial arts tournament is taking place. He’s been tasked with gathering proof that the island’s owner, Han – a former member of Lee’s Shaolin temple, who disgraced the temple’s legacy by using its lessons purely for his own benefit – is running drugs and a prostitution ring.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: This is one of the best martial arts movies of all time. It’s been on my list of things to see for probably 20 years now, but since it’s leaving Netflix at the end of this month, I finally sat down to check it out – and I was not disappointed.
One of the first major action movies to use a martial arts tournament as a setting, Enter the Dragon helped lay the foundation for an entire subgenre of films that followed – not to mention the fact that it inspired Street Fighter (which in turn inspired Mortal Kombat) and had an unimaginable impact in the world of video games. Watching this movie for the first time in 2021 is like stumbling across the original, bright, crystal clear text of a beloved book after spending your entire life reading faded and dim copies of copies.
In 1973, Roger Moore played James Bond for the first time in Live and Let Die. Enter the Dragon came out that same year, and it’s fascinating to think about what the Bond franchise may have become if this were actually the entry that year with Lee playing Bond. (I know that never would have happened back then for a number of reasons, but it’s still fun to think about.) And while some Bond purists might turn their noses up at the comparison and say that this movie is just a martial arts ripoff of 007, I encourage them to watch this film’s mirror climax and then take a look at the climax of 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun – it should become very clear that this wasn’t a one-way street in terms of inspiration.
Some of the martial arts here are a bit slow, and the pacing may drag a little by today’s standards, but this movie is absolutely worth checking out – if for no other reason than for Lee’s charismatic lead performance. The last day to watch this on Netflix before it leaves is June 30, so you still have a couple of weeks to check it out before it disappears.
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