Did Bruce Lee actually break his back in a fight

Fists of Fury

Year: 1971
Directed By: Wei Lo
Written By: Wei Lo


One of the most frequently searched questions that brings people to our site is about Bruce Lee breaking his back, as seen in the movie Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.  In the movie Bruce Lee is drop kicked from behind by an opponent he has beaten and his back is broken after the blow. He goes through a long recovery process in the hospital in which his wife motivates him to continue with his work.  This did not happen, Lee did fight that opponent but not under those circumstances and he was not attacked from behind.  Lee did spend time in the hospital due to a back injury he sustained doing an extreme weight lifting exercise.  He didn’t actually break his back however.  There is also a scene in that film that takes place during the filming of this film, Fists of Fury/The Big Boss. The brother of the man who “broke Lee’s back” comes after him and they have a violent and elaborate fight.  Cool idea, but it never happened.  I like Dragon, but it is nowhere close to the truth.

I have discussed Bruce Lee to an exhaustive length over the past few letters in the movie collection.  For my thoughts on Lee’s life and career see these reviews: The Chinese Connection, Enter the Dragon, and the link attached in the first paragraph takes you to our review of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.  I am a big fan of everything Lee did, and this movie is no different.  We see him in the beginning of his career in this movie. He was still developing the charisma that would make him such an electrifying celebrity, but it wasn’t there so much this first time around.  His fights are all good, but he seems raw at times, obviously still working on and perfecting his fighting style.  Overall I like this movie though, I don’t sit all the way through it often but I did for this review.  It isn’t a bad movie at all.  In a couple of Lee’s films (not Enter the Dragon, obviously) I would suggest just skipping to the fight scenes but this one I could sit through and still like.

Please check out our other reviews of Bruce Lee films but otherwise I am done talking about him until we get to Return of the Dragon in the movie collection.  By my best estimation that might be two or three years from now at least and I might have altogether different things to say about Bruce Lee then.  I idolize him, but I have written about him enough as of late.

NEXT MOVIE: Flatliners (1990)


Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

Year: 1993
Directed By: Rob Cohen
Written By: Robert Clouse & Linda Lee Caldwell (book). Edward Khmara, John Raffo, & Rob Cohen (screenplay)


Bruce Lee was one of the most enigmatic and incredible celebrities to ever live; a true icon who did not have enough time on this Earth.  What I have never understood is how a movie about him could receive such a low budget.  This movie enjoyed some box office success but it is a pretty generic film.  Something tells me this will not be the only Bruce Lee biopic though. With the lack of original ideas coming out of Hollywood it is only a matter of time before a big budget film is one day made about Bruce Lee.  The real problem is probably finding someone who can actually play the part of Lee.

This isn’t a great movie but I have always liked it and it is really good for what it is.  Jason Scott Lee is a poor substitute for the real deal but he isn’t bad.  He puts a lot of heart into the role and you can see that when you watch his performance. Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, was actually offered the part but he turned it down to take the role of The Crow. That is unfortunate as it was during the filming of that movie that Brandon was killed in a freak accident when live ammunition was in a gun instead of blanks. Lauren Holly isn’t bad in the movie either but I have never really been a fan of hers. If making this film had been a serious priority of Universal Studios then it wouldn’t have been put in the hands of Rob Cohen. He made a really campy movie about Bruce Lee. It isn’t a bad film but it isn’t great either.  Not only that but Cohen is way off track and deviates from the truth frequently.  Truth is, Bruce Lee deserves better. He was such an iconic person and a true legend.  Any attempt to make a film about his life should amount to more than what we see in this movie.

I do like this film though because I like Bruce Lee so much I will nearly watch anything about him.  This movie is to only be enjoyed though, and not taken seriously at all. It is a completely and thoroughly inaccurate portrayal of real events. For example, Lee never had his back broken in a fight.  That fight did take place but at a different location then what we see in the film and there was no rematch between the two.  There was also no vengeful brother who came after Lee during the shooting of The Big Boss. Those are just a couple of examples of the many inaccurate things seen in the movie. The soundtrack to the film nearly makes the film unbearable today too because it has been used regularly in trailers for the last 20 years. It makes the theme a bit too sappy as well.  I don’t know that this movie is really worth your time, but if you are a Bruce Lee fan then it is a must see, it’s all we got. Take it with a grain of salt though and do your own research, the real story is more than interesting enough.


Dragon, the story of Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was a total bad ass and remains an icon. I love Bruce Lee. I do not love this movie. I find it really long and boring. It’s not a movie that I would recommend unless you like inaccurate accounts of historical figures.

NEXT MOVIE: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)