Here’s a list of action star Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 10 best films.
One of the biggest action stars of the 80’s and 90’s, Jean-Claude Van Damme is known for his lightning quick roundhouse kicks and the intense looks he gives his opponents before knocking them senseless. As a teen, the “Muscles from Brussels” started training in Shotokan karate, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and balet. In 1979, he won the middleweight championship of the European Professional Karate Association. He went on to win the Mr. Belgium bodybuilding title before moving to the United States and becoming the action icon he’s known as today. Let’s take a look at Jean-Claude Van Damme’s top ten films.
Double Team is one of those so-bad-it’s-good type of films, and that’s why it belongs among Van Damme’s best. JCVD plays special counter-terrorism agent Jack Quinn, who has to stop the brutal terrorist Stravos (Mickey Rourke) with the help of special weapons dealer Yaz (Dennis Rodman). You would never think the chemistry would work between Van Damme and the 6’7, five-time NBA champion Rodman, but somehow it does with back-and-forth banter like “Offense gets the glory”, and “but defense wins the game”. We suggest this one if you’re in the mood for giant basketball shaped parachutes and hand-to-hand fights with Mickey Rourke in the Roman Colosseum, surrounded by tigers and landmines.
A hockey lover’s dream, Sudden Death is basically a Die Hard clone in a sports arena during game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Peter Hyams (End of the Days, Timecop) directed this fun action thriller and JCVD plays firefighter Darren McCord, who is just trying to make up for lost time by brining his kids to an extremely packed hockey playoff game. Little did he know, the arena had been booytrapped with explosives by the devious Joshua Foss (Powers Boothe) in attempts to kill the Vice President, who is in attendance. Van Damme has a great fight with a mascot penguin, Powers Boothe does a surprisingly excellent job as the villain, and we’re treated with a super cool helicopter explosion.
Peter Hyams’ Timecop is the highest grossing film of Van Damme’s career. This fun sci-fi action movie from the 90s was based on an original story from Dark Horse Comics, and placed Van Damme in the role of Max Walker, a timetraveling cop who must bounce between 1995 and 2004 in order to stop the corruption of a crooked politician. Timecop boasts cool futuristic sets, great martial arts choreography, and a surprisingly effective time-travel story. Timecop is just a solid film and many of Van Damme’s fans regard it as one of his best.
After doing Bloodsport, it was hard to get JCVD out of the habit of doing tournament-style fighting films. Lionheart offered a bit of a change up by introducing more of a heart-felt story. Van Damme portrays Lyon Gaultier, who must fight in an underground street fighting circuit in order to make money to pay for the medical costs of his brother’s serious injury (yay American healthcare system!). The fighting in Lionheart is top notch, and if you’ve ever wanted to see JCVD kick ass in the tightest jeans possible, this is the film for you.
Originally slated as a possible prequel or sequel to Bloodsport, The Quest was Jean-Claude Vane Damme’s directorial debut. Van Damme portrays Christopher Dubois, a poor pickpocket who searches for a “Lost City” in Tibet, in order to win their Kumite-style tournament and claim the prize of a solid gold dragon. The fighting in The Quest is solid, but a lot of its greatness comes from the amount of effort that went into the set design. This is definitely a fun one if you’re all-in on tournament-style beat-em-ups.
What’s better than one Jean-Claude Van Damme? How about two!? In Double Impact, Van Damme plays identical twins Chad and Alex Wagner as they must work together to stop a criminal organization in 1966 Hong Kong. Sheldon Lettich (Bloodsport, Lionheart) did such a great job using Van Damme in two identical but different character roles, that other directors wanted Van Damme to continue his work playing multiple characters throughout his career. He did similar things in Timecop (1994), Maximum Risk (1996), and Replicant (2001).
In this action-packed movie from Silent Night director John Woo,based on The Most Dangerous Game, Van Damme portrays Chance Boudreaux, a Marine Corps vet hired to find a woman’s missing father in Louisiana. The action is absolutely absurd in all of the best John Woo-style explosion ways. The audience is treated to great performances, including an evil human-hunting Lance Henriksen and a bow-and-arrow shooting Wilford Brimley on horseback. As an extra treat, Van Damme sports a mullet for the ages. This film kicked off a chain of huge John Woo films in the late 90’s and 2000’s, including Broken Arrow, Face/Off and Mission Impossible 2.
Universal Soldier is an early work of Roland Emmerich. In it, Jean-Claude Van Damme portrays Luc Deveraux, a solider killed in the Vietnam war, but brought back to life as part of the “Universal Soldier” project. The only problem is that Luc’s arch-enemy, Sgt. Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) was brought back as well. Upon returning to life, Scott wants to murder Deveraux and become the ultimate leader of the newly risen Universal Soldiers. This film brought lots of explosions and a great showdown between JCVD and Dolph. The budget and effects were huge as this was the immediate predecessor to Emmerich’s Stargate, Independence Day, and Godzilla. Though seen as a critical failure, the film grossed 95 million dollars and spawned four sequels. It’s a blast.
Kickboxer is arguably one of the best films of Van Damme’s career. He plays Kurt Sloane, younger brother and cornerman to kickboxing champion Eric Sloane (played by real-life world kickboxing champion Dennis Alexio). When Kurt is left paralyzed by the villainous Tong-Po playing dirty in a Bangkok tournament, Kurt must train in the art of Muay Thai and exact revenge for his brother’s injury. This film is a martial arts movie buff’s dream. Van Damme choreographed all the training and fight scenes himself, and they are smooth and calculated. The training montage belongs in the top montages of the 80’s. This one is a classic, not only because of the fighting, but the dance moves as well (which Van Damme recently recreated).
The greatest film of Jean-Claude Vane Damme’s career also happens to be one of his first. In Bloodsport, Van Damme plays Frank Dux, a U.S. Army Captain trained in martial arts, who is invited to take part in the illegal Hong Kong fighting tournament known as the Kumite. Dux must fight through fearsome opponents while not being caught by CID agents looking to shut it down. The characters are memorable, with great apperances from Donald Gibb (Revenge of the Nerds) and Forest Whitaker. The fight scenes are incredible and the Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) is one of best villains of the 80’s. Bloodsport also boasts an absolute rockin’ synth soundtrack composed by Paul Hertzog. Not only does this film belong at the top of Van Damme’s filmography, but near the top of great 80’s action films as well.