I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the 70s produced the best kung fu movies of all time. After all, Bruce Lee movies were debuting during this time.
The year was 1972 and we sure got a lot of Kung Fu. Five Fingers of Death, produced by the Shaw Brothers and starring Lo Leih, is about a young student training to win a martial arts tournament so that he can keep hooligans from winning and the locals safe. To many this film stands out as a staple in the sub genre of martial arts films. It was one of the few to really gain popularity here in the west and certainly caught the eye of many screenwriters and producers such as Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino has expressed his love for this film along with it being an inspiration for a few of his own films like Kill Bill.
A little film called The Way Of The Dragon (Original title: Meng Long Guo Jiang) also came out in this year. Bruce Lee wrote, produced, and starred in this film alongside Chuck Norris. Not only a classic Kung Fu movie but a classic Bruce Lee movie. It won a Golden Horse Award for best film editing and won the love of many. To Kung Fu enthusiasts this film is most remembered for its ending fight scene between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in the colosseum. Soon after Bruce Lee starred in another film Fist of Fury also known as The Chinese Connection. This was Lee’s second major role in 1972 with The Way Of The Dragon being the first. The theme of this movie is vengeance. Lee is seeking vengeance for the death of his beloved teacher. Of all the Bruce Lee movies this one is in the top 3 of his most successful movies.
The Shaw Brothers produced another hit with the 1978 film The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. This Shaw Brothers film once again starred Lo Leih with the addition of Chia-Hui Liu. This classic is also about a student learning Kung Fu to save his people but this time from the tyrant government. 1978 also saw Jackie Chan come on the scene with the film Drunken Master. His character had to learn Drunken Fist Kung Fu in order to put a stop to an assassin. You can definitely say this put Chan on the map.
Bruce Lee was set to star in Circle of Iron a movie he co-wrote in 1978. Unfortunately he passed away before the film was produced leaving David Carradine, a Kung Fu TV star to play his role. Heroes of the East (a.k.a Zhong Hua Zhang Fu) was another classic that debuted in 1978. It seems like the Shaw Brothers had the formula to make a good Kung Fu movie. By the 80s it seemed to be that the popularity of Kung Fu was dying, at least in the west. However, Jet Li began starring in some films like The Shaolin Temple 1 & The Shaolin Temple 2 Kids from Shaolin. All-in-all it’s safe to say that the 70s was the year of the Kung Fu movies!