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Five Fingers of Death (1972)

Tian xia di yi quan (original title)
Two martial arts schools prepare for an important tournament.


Chang-hwa Jeong (as Chang Ho Cheng)


Yang Chiang (screenplay)




Cast overview, first billed only:
Lieh Lo ... Chao Chih-Hao
Ping Wang ... Sung Ying Ying
Hsiung Chao ... Okada
Chin-Feng Wang ... Yen Chu Hung
Mien Fang ... Sun Hsin-Pei
Feng Tien ... Meng Tung-Shun
James Nam ... Han Lung (as Nan Kung-Hsun)
Shen Chan ... Wan Hung-chieh
Bolo Yeung ... Pa Tu-er, Mongolian Fighter
Wen-Chung Ku ... Sung Wu-yang
Lung Yu Lung Yu ... Tu Wei
Yukio Someno ... Oshima Shotaro (as Ran Yeh)
Tse Lin Yang ... Sun's pupil
Chi-Chu Chin ... Chen Lang
Bong-jin Jin Bong-jin Jin ... Lu Ta-ming (as Chen Feng Chen)


Promising young student Chi-Hao is sent away to train under a new master in order that he may be able to win a martial arts tournament and thus prevent the local thugs from getting the power and prestige that would come were they to win it. Written by bob the moo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


CHEER the young warrior who also takes on the evil war-lords of martial arts! See more »


Action | Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The English dubbed version, released through Warner Brothers, was the film that launched the craze for "kung fu" movies in the United States. See more »


Yin Yin's Dad: Chi-Hao, can you afford to be selfish, when so much is at stake?
See more »

Alternate Versions

Although the UK cinema version was intact the 1986 Warner video was cut by 7 secs by the BBFC to remove a double ear clap and shots of a victims severed eyeballs. The 2009 DVD is fully uncut. See more »


Referenced in Massage Parlor Murders! (1973) See more »

User Reviews

"The martial arts movie that started it all!" some anonymous movie critic
25 December 2009 | by dee.reidSee all my reviews

Hong Kong filmmaker Chang Chang Ho's 1972 martial arts movie epic "Five Fingers of Death" is widely considered by a great many film experts and kung-fu movie fanatics to be the martial arts movie that started it all.

Being released in 1972, it was phase-two of the three-step process that would lead to the explosion of martial arts movies in the West - "Billy Jack" (1971), with its famous Hapkido showdown in the park, was released the year before, and Bruce Lee starred in "Enter the Dragon" (1973) two years later, thereby solidifying martial arts movies' place in Western cinema.

But what is all the hoopla about regarding "Five Fingers of Death"? The movie, with its terrible dubbing, explosive (if not highly improbable) action sequences and technical flaws and all, has a plot, albeit a very thin one. Chih-Hao (the late Lo Lieh) is a young and dedicated student of Chinese gong-fu who is selected to represent his school in an upcoming martial arts tournament. His teacher offers to allow him to self-train in the "Iron Fist" style of fighting, a style so deadly that it could very easily kill a man with only one blow.

Additionally, Chih-Hao's arrival at the school coincides with a violent conflict with a rival school, its students, and a trio of murderous heavy hitters from Japan. Before you know it, a major setback threatens Chih-Hao's training, and his ability to represent his beloved school in the upcoming tournament.

Let me just say that "Five Fingers of Death" is in fact the movie that started it all. As another viewer mentioned, "Five Fingers of Death" helped to set a lot of standards in martial arts movies over the next three decades - Asian, European, and North American martial arts movies. Such standards include the dedicated student, the learning of patience and endurance, conflicts between rival schools, the intense ethnic animosity between the Chinese and Japanese, and learning a system of fighting for that good old-fashioned action movie motive: revenge. "Five Fingers of Death" would also serve as a major influence on American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies (Tarantino borrows quite liberally from this project, among many others, just so you know).

The acting is pretty good, considering the fact that this is a martial arts movie from the early 1970s, the best of which is Lo Lieh. As the atypical student of the martial arts, his performance is quite groundbreaking, though upon first glance at this movie you wouldn't really know it because of how that particular character arc has been done to death so many times over the years. He's quite humble in his acting, doing anything he can to persevere over his enemies and not fight them in anger or stoop to their level of stupidity or arrogance. Also, when he suffers his major setback, it does make your heart sink a little bit because it's so brutal and you wonder if he's going to recover enough to realize his life-long ambition.

"Five Fingers of Death" is a classic in every sense. It's by no means perfect, and viewers would be crazy to expect something on the caliber of the "Godfather" of martial arts movies. What it does offer you is the ultimate example of Eastern hand-to-hand combat from the time before Eastern cinema was a major fixture in the West.


P.S.: "Enter the Dragon" Bolo Yeung also appears as the Mongolian street fighter near the beginning of the film.

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Hong Kong



Release Date:

21 March 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

5 Fingers of Death See more »

Filming Locations:

Hong Kong, China

Company Credits

Production Co:

Shaw Brothers See more »
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Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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