Even 50 years after his passing, action star Bruce Lee continues to be one of the most recognisable and influential martial artists of all time, with an impressive career spanning Hong Kong to the United States that established the 20th-century pop culture icon as one of the few who successfully bridged the gap between East and West.
Many remained inspired by Lee, as filmmakers, animators and video game designers alike have incorporated bits and pieces of the legendary martial artist into their own characters. And after years of being a source of inspiration, Lee has finally received an anime of his own, created by his own daughter Shannon.
Titled House of Lee, the series is directed by Emily Yang, a digital and visual effects artist known for Star Trek Beyond, Wonder Woman and Spies in Disguise. As seen by the trailer, House of Lee is set to premiere sometime in 2024 or 2025 and will focus entirely on the legend himself.
Until then, fans can check out other anime and video game characters that were inspired by Lee, starting with….
1. Blue Gilly (One Piece)
Blue Gilly is a member of the Longleg Tribe and an accomplished martial artist from the One Piece manga and anime franchise. He joined as a gladiator at the Corrida Colosseum to compete for the Mera Mera no Mi. In battle, Blue Gilly loves using fast and accurate kicks, much like the legendary Lee himself, so it’s not wrong to think of Blue Gilly as a superpowered Bruce Lee. Plus, Blue Gilly’s birthday, 27 November, is the birthday of the martial artist and actor too.
Coincidence? I think not.
2. Chie Satonaka (Persona 4)
Imagine an energetic girl with a love for kung-fu movies, and she even has a poster of Bruce Lee in her bedroom! She is motivated to become a stronger fighter, often training her kung-fu moves and challenging herself physically. Persona 4’s Chie Satonaka has her own fanbase, but there’s no mistaking where inspiration for her character came from. Satonaka’s fighting form mimics Lee’s – especially his Boxing Shuffle move and when she does her Galactic Punt, it is reminiscent of Lee’s side kick as well. Plus, the Persona 4: Dancing All Night video game from 2015 sees her wearing Lee’s iconic yellow suit too. That ought to put the nail in the coffin that Satonaka is top Lee fan and is inspired by him too.
3. Dragon Chan (Super Punch-Out)
Dragon Chan is a recurring opponent in the Punch-Out video game series who first appeared in the arcade version of Super Punch-Out, and later in the SNES game of the same title. The character comes from Hong Kong and is physically modelled after Bruce Lee (no seriously, look at him!). His signature kick is a flying kick and mimics the same facial expression as Lee. While the character is physically a tribute to Lee, his name is a reference to another famous cinematic martial artist, Jackie Chan.
4. Fei Long (Street Fighter)
It’s only a matter of time until a Street Fighter character shows up on the list. Debuting in the 1993 Street Fighter II game, Fei Long is an action film star based in Hong Kong who enters fighting tournaments in order to test his skills as a martial artist, though that’s as far as the similarities go. Unlike Lee, Fei Long never went to the United States, doesn’t have a family and doesn’t use nunchucks. Still, Fei Long remains Capcom’s tribute to the legend and remains one of the earliest Bruce Lee-inspired characters in fighting games after Kim Dragon from World Heroes and Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat, but predating Hon-Fu from Fatal Fury and Marshall Law from the Tekken series.
5. Hitmonlee (Pokemon)
Hitmonlee is a fighting-type Pokemon introduced in Generation 1. A humanoid Pokemon with an ovoid body, Hitmonlee is brown but has cream-coloured arms and legs, and is an exclusively male species with no female counterpart. Hitmonlee’s legs freely contract and stretch and has an excellent sense of balance so it can kick from any position. Mainly kicking in battle, this Pokemon has been nicknamed the ‘Kick Master’. Aside from his ability to kick, Hitmonlee’s biggest reference to the legendary Bruce Lee is purely in his name – a combination of hit, monster and Lee. In other languages such as French and German, the Pokemon is known as Kicklee, a combination of Kick and Bruce Lee.
6. Hon-Fu (Fatal Fury)
Hon-Fu from 1995’s video game, Fatal Fury 3, is a detective who is always chasing criminals. His fighting style is a Northern style of Kung Fu that consists of acrobatic manoeuvres incorporated with the Nunchaku. His character is inspired by both Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan but aside from being an acrobatic fighter and a master of the nunchucks, Hon-Fu has his own personality that involves being a serious cop and a clumsy and goofy person with good humour.
7. Jann Lee (Dead or Alive)
Jann Lee was introduced in the 1996 Dead or Alive arcade game as a bouncer and Jeet Kune Do martial artist. His goal in life is to be the greatest fighter of all time and he eventually became the official winner of the 5th and 6th Dead or Alive Tournaments. Like many other Jeet Kune Do characters, Jann is based on the late Bruce Lee, but the story of his inspiration goes beyond just fighting styles.This character was left an orphan and lived in poverty, where he learned Jeet Kune Do to defend himself on the streets by watching Bruce Lee films. Just like Chie Satonaka, he too had a yellow and black jumpsuit in the games. Jann’s ferocity, dedication and love of Bruce Lee makes him the perfect tribute to the martial artist.
8. Kenshiro (Fist of the North Star)
The protagonist of the anime Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro is a stoic and powerful badass who can destroy his enemies without breaking a sweat. From the way he looks to his fighting style, it is pretty obvious that Kenshiro was inspired by the iconic Bruce Lee – he even has a high-pitched battle cry! Creator and artist Tetsuo Hara was a fan of Lee as well as Japanese action star Yusaku Matsuda. He combined the appearance and character traits of Lee and Matsuda when he came up with the character design of Kenshiro.
9. Kim Dragon (World Heroes)
Who even remembers World Heroes anyway? This 1992 fighting arcade game is perhaps the first to feature a Bruce Lee-inspired character – and they did it pretty well with Kim Dragon. Just like Lee, Kim is a famous martial artist and a movie star. His goal is to be a great fighter so he enters a tournament to prove his point. His powers include fast punching and flying kicks fueled by chi energy that takes the shape of a dragon head. At the end of World Heroes 2, Kim became a singer, a nice homage to Lee’s family whose father was a famous opera singer, and his brother who released an album dedicated to the martial artist after his death.
10. Liu Kang (Mortal Kombat)
You know this was coming, didn’t you? Liu Kang is the second fighting game character to be based on Bruce Lee. From 1992’s Mortal Kombat, Liu Kang has a similar appearance and combat prowess as Lee. Liu Kang dresses the same, is a master of nunchucks and makes the same yelps as Lee when he fights. The only real difference between Liu Kang and Bruce Lee is that this video game character has shoulder-length hair.
11. Marshall Law (Tekken)
Marshall Law is a talented martial artist proficient in Jeet Kune Do and has been a crowd favourite ever since he was introduced in the original Tekken 1994 game. His fighting style is heavily inspired by Bruce Lee and includes flying kicks, as well as one-inch punches. Some of these throws are also seen in Lee’s films. In some promotional artworks, Marshall wears a jumpsuit that looks close to Lee’s Game of Death jumpsuit too.
12. Maxi (Soul Calibur)
Yeah, we know, you’re probably thinking “Why is this Elvis Presley-looking dude on a Bruce Lee list?”. Looks can be deceiving! While Maxi from the 1998 Soul Calibur arcade game looks like he can sing It’s Now or Never, he sure as hell fights like Bruce Lee. This includes his use of nunchucks, his incredible speed and his high-pitched attacking yells.
13. Might Guy (Naruto)
Anyone who has seen Might Guy in the Naruto series will know for a fact that he is a caricature of Bruce Lee. From his hairdo to his fighting style, all the creators needed to do was put him in a yellow outfit instead of his go-to military green and he would most definitely look like a copy of the martial artist. Might, for those who don’t know, is Rock Lee’s mentor and a character who started out with barely any ninjutsu skills. Despite everyone viewing him as a loser, Might was actually a master of taijutsu.
14. Oolong (Yie Ar Kung-Fu)
Launched in 1984, Yie Ar Kung-Fu is one of the earliest inspirations for fighting video games. It was fantastical and introduced the use of a health bar instead of a point system. This is also one of the first few games to have a character based on Bruce Lee. The main character Oolong sported Lee’s signature haircut and white tanktop and blue pants combo. While he isn’t the most accurate or detailed representation of the famed martial artist on this list, he is still a worthy tribute.
15. Rock Lee (Naruto)
Not to be confused with Might Guy, Rock Lee is another Bruce Lee-inspired character from Naruto. Just like Might, Rock’s hairstyle and fighting technique makes him an obvious nod to the legend. Plus, he has the same birthday as Lee too! Rock was an orphan born with little to no talent in ninjutsu or genjutsu but eventually became a powerful hand-to-hand warrior.