Late Film Producer Raymond Chow Left Behind A ‘Golden Harvest’ Of Martial Arts Movies

Photo: Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection (Getty Images)

Raymond Chow, the godfather of Hong Kong cinema, died on Nov. 2, 2018, at the age of 91, leaving a legacy that will live on forever. Chow was a journalist who got his start in the movie business with the legendary Shaw Brothers, who popularized the kung-fu genre. Unhappy with the Shaw Brothers cheap, assembly-line way of making movies, Chow left to start his own production company, Golden Harvest in 1970. 

Movie Dojo: The History of Martial Arts Films

The prolific film producer would go onto make over 600 films and is credited for bringing Hong Kong films to an international audience, but he will best be known as the man who made global stars out of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Here’s a rundown of the best movies in Chow’s Golden Harvest’s kick-ass filmography.

Enter the Dragon

Enter the Dragon made Bruce Lee an international film star. Although Lee would tragically die shortly before the martial arts blockbuster was released, his legend would grow into one of the most iconic action stars of all-time.

Drunken Master

Raymond Chow found his second martial arts star in a former stuntman (who ironically worked on Enter the Dragon). Drunken Master is a martial arts action-comedy classic that set the template for Jackie Chan, who was more Buster Keaton than Bruce Lee, incorporating physical comedy into his martial arts wizardry.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Who better to guide the animated kids’ TV show into a live-action movie than the man who made martial arts mainstream? Raymond Chow produced the original TMNT movie and sequel based on the four crime-fighting, karate-kicking, pizza eating turtles after Hollywood thumbed its nose at the idea.

Ninja Nonsense: 10 Things About The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles That Never Made Sense

Once Upon A Time in China

Although Jet Li was already a well-established star in Asia, the former martial arts champion’s defining role is his intense portrayal of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung, which started the period martial arts craze of the 1990s.

Cannonball Run

Golden Harvest films produced this fun and silly comedy classic about America’s illegal Grand Prix race starring a “who’s who” of the time: Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Roger Moore (as himself) with a special cameo by then unknown Jackie Chan.

Police Story

The first in a six-part film series was written, directed by, and starred Jackie Chan, who plays a policeman caught between a drug ring and a corrupt police force.

The Big Boss

Bruce Lee was struggling after playing Kato in the canceled American TV show The Green Hornet. Frustrated with Hollywood, Lee traveled to Hong Kong, making a movie deal with Chow who gave him the creative control he was looking for in his first starring role, which would make him the biggest star in Asia.

Game of Death

Bruce Lee’s “final film” is Chow’s lowest point in an otherwise remarkable career. Lee had shot some fight scenes prior to going off to shoot Enter the Dragon and planned to return it. After Lee’s death, Golden Harvest took the footage (which includes an iconic showdown against Lakers Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and made a bad movie with a convoluted plot where the “master of martial arts becomes a master of disguise.” Ugh. Well, it did give us the iconic yellow and black jumpsuit that Quentin Tarantino would dig up for Kill Bill.

Iron Monkey

Speaking of Tarantino, the martial arts fanatic convinced Miramax to release Iron Monkey in the U.S., introducing yet another martial arts star Donnie Yen to U.S. audiences.

The Blade

Director Tsui Hark’s reinvention of the Shaw Brothers classic One-Armed Swordsman is a visual kick to the face with kinetic, gravity-defying combat that audiences had never seen. A must-see for any martial arts movie fan.