Jackie Chan was once a member of a trio of actors called the Three Dragons, who served as the Three Stooges of the kung fu genre. The Three Dragons (also known as the Three Brothers) made a handful of movies together in Hong Kong in the 1980s.
In the 1970s, martial arts actor Jackie Chan was groomed to be the next Bruce Lee, but after appearing in kung fu comedies like Drunken Master, this approach to his career was dropped. In the years that followed, Chan developed a reputation as a kung fu superstar who performs his own stunts. Chan also puts his own stamp on his movies by incorporating a great deal of comedy into his action sequences.
For a period in his career, Chan was part of a group known today as the Three Dragons. The trio was composed of Yuen Biao, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung (pictured left from right in the image below). The actors, who all learned kung fu and acting together at the Peking Opera School, frequently worked with each other in their films, with Yuen and Hung forming a kung fu comedy duo in some of their movies. This duo was expanded to a trio with Jackie Chan in 1983’s Project A, which saw the three actors play heroes who have to team up against pirates.
The teamwork, chemistry, and hilarity that resulted from their co-starring roles in Project A led to two more movies centered on Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao. In 1984’s Wheels on Meals, Chan and Yuen play best friends who run a fast-food van and get entangled with a thief played by Sammo Hung. Once again, the three end up having to work together to save the day. A similar formula was used in 1988’s Dragons Forever, which involved Chan’s lawyer character getting help on a case from his two closest friends (who don’t know each other).
As for why they made such a popular combination, a lot of that can be attributed to how different they were in terms of both comedy and martial arts. Though Jackie Chan is without a doubt the most famous of the three, it never seemed like one greatly overshadowed the other. All three were highly-talented martial artists easily capable of doing their own stunts. Plus, each brought something unique to the table. Yuen Biao was the most acrobatic of the bunch, Chan of course had his signature style, and Hung was a kung fu expert whose lightning-fast moves and agility were made even more impressive by the fact that he was overweight. Their personality differences made them even more fun to watch. All of these things, combined with the vast amount of slapstick comedy featured in their movies, drew comparisons between the three actors and the legendary Three Stooges.
For 2008’s Rob-B-Hood, Jackie Chan tried to orchestrate a Three Dragons reunion, but with Hung unable to make it work due to scheduling conflicts, only Chan and Yuen appeared in the film. To this day, Dragons Forever remains the final Three Dragons film. But though there were only three movies where all three actors were the main characters, the Three Dragons and the movies they created are still deeply loved by fans of the kung fu genre.