A performer from the beginning, Jean-Claude Van Damme, the actor, began taking ballet lessons and dabbled in professional bodybuilding in his early days, along with engaging in various martial arts. He had a successful career in martial arts before quitting athletics in 1982 and relocating to the US shortly after. His impressive acting career officially began with this.
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The actor gradually moved through the ranks and emerged as one of the most important action stars, despite taking some time to establish himself in Hollywood. The Belgian superstar is currently 60 years old and still going strong, with a steadily expanding fan base. Despite being predominantly action-focused, his films cover various topics, genres, and styles.
12 Best Jean-Claude Van Damme Movies of All Time
Director: Sheldon Lettich
Writers: Stefani Warren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sheldon Lettich
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard
Genres: Action, Crime, Drama, Sport
The earliest cliché in the books for martial arts movies dates back to Bruce Lee and involves covert battles and competitions. Thankfully, Lionheart makes effective use of it. To assist his struggling brother’s widow Hélène and his small daughter Nicole, Lyon Gaultier resigns from his position in the French Foreign Legion. His brother was slain in an underground war.
In Lionheart, an R-rated movie for mature audiences, Lyon engages in brutal martial arts battles that give him the moniker “Lionheart,” as well as developing ties with Hélène, Nicole, and his fight manager, Joshua. The kind of film that Lionheart is also appreciated, an instant replay of every big shot. Lionheart is a Van Damme cult favorite that has endured thanks to its physical prowess and sincere heart, much like Lyon himself.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch, Dean Devlin
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Ally Walker
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi
In Roland Emmerich’s Universal Soldier, which launched a sci-fi action series with a highly distinct release structure, Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren come back from their respective deaths in Vietnam. Andrew Scott and Luc Devereaux revived due to the U.S. government’s top-secret “UniSol” program, eventually reclaiming their sense of self and picking up where they left off in their long-running conflict.
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The sci-fi action film Universal Soldier doesn’t precisely live up to its promise of pitting two action heroes against one another, but it does deliver on that promise. The amount of use that would have for the Universal Soldier series was something few people could have ever foreseen.
Director: Peter Hyams
Writers: Mark Verheiden, Mike Richardson
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mia Sara, Ron Silver
Genres: Action, Crime, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Van Damme is sent on a time-traveling adventure in the 1994 film Timecop, which features plenty of adventure and back to Future-style temporal paradoxes. Aaron McComb, a contender for the presidency of the United States in 2004, is being pursued by Time Enforcement Commission officer Max Walker for stealing money to support his campaign.
Timecop is filled with Van Damme’s kicks and splits. McComb, played by Silver, is the most obnoxious villain ever. Walker’s attempts to thwart McComb’s scheme and avert his wife Melissa’s murder in 1994 create a big bag of time-travel worms that Timecop doesn’t even bother to examine. That said, with all the incredible time-travel-based features of Timecop, this is unimportant.
The Expendables 2
Director: Simon West
Writers: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone, Ken Kaufman
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Liam Hemsworth, Randy Couture
Genres: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Van Damme accepted Sylvester Stallone’s open offer to join the cast for The Expendables 2 as the evil Jean Vilain after sitting out The Expendables in 2010. Following Vilain’s murder of their young new recruit Billy the Kid, the titular mercenaries in The Expendables 2 set out on a mission of vengeance to stop him from selling uncovered plutonium in the black market. Van Damme plays Villain with amazing cockiness and dark charm. He suggested that the two of them elaborate on their earlier, smaller fight in the brutal final clash.
The Expendables 2 is undoubtedly the most entertaining film of the original trilogy. It had the advantage of reuniting Van Damme with the big screen and pitting Scott Adkins, then on the rise, against Jason Statham, who played his right-hand man.
Director: Sheldon Lettich
Writers: Les Weldon, Jean-Claude Van Damme
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sofia Milos, Charlton Heston
Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy
In the action-comedy, The Order, Van Damme plays relic smuggler Rudy Cafmeyer who sets out on a quest to the Holy Land in pursuit of his father, who has been abducted. On his quest, Rudy discovers a conspiracy by the fanatics of a typically nonviolent religious sect to start a Middle Eastern conflict by fusing the core beliefs of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
In a highly Indiana Jones-inspired adventure plot, The Order catches everything that helps make Van Damme a compelling screen presence, freely exhibiting his martial arts prowess in its many battle scenes with lots of humor along the way. Peter Malota, who frequently challenges Van Damme on-screen, is also present for the two to trade spectacular kicks. The Order demonstrated that Jean-Claude Van Damme was off to a tremendous start, as he might have been rediscovering himself in the early 2000s.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration
Director: John Hyams
Writers: Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch, Dean Devlin
Stars: Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Andrei Arlovski
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
The 2010 reboot sequel, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, brought the Universal Soldier franchise back to life. The former UniSol Luc Deveraux is enlisted to stop a terrorist gang from blowing up the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Dolph Lundgren’s reappearing as Andrew Scott, from his days in less well-known work like Blackjack, nearly takes the spotlight with his blend of sardonic humor and repressed wrath.
Regeneration marked a significant turning point for a series with more lows than highs. Thanks to its gritty plot and many of the best combat scenes in the canon. The fact that the Universal Soldier films have straight-to-video, theatrical, and made-for-TV releases makes them unusual to the extent of being unique. With Universal Soldier: Retaliation and eventually with Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, they succeeded in the last one, which was their case.
Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
Writers: Mabrouk El Mechri, Frédéric Benudis, Frédéric Taddeï
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Valérie Bodson, Hervé Sogne
Genres: Action, Comedy, Crime, Drama
If any film can be credited with bringing Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career to the heights of its glory, it is unquestionably JCVD. Van Damme portrays a fictionalized version of himself who is dealing with problems in his private life and professional downturn and being held hostage inside a bank in Belgium. With JCVD, The Muscles From Brussels played all of his cards, something he had never done before.
To date, Van Damme’s portrayal of himself is one of his most direct acting roles, a very emotional self-flagellating confessional. Van Damme’s return to the spotlight with JCVD brought him genuine admiration. While his fans warmly embraced his return as a famous action hero, it was with JCVD that he first attained the actor’s title.
Kung-Fu Panda 2
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Ethan Reiff
Stars: Jack Black(voice), Angelina Jolie(voice), Jackie Chan(voice)
Genres: Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy
Following the initial Kung Fu Panda movie’s massive success, Po, the majestic and elegant Panda graced the big screen in 2011 with a brand-new adventure. Kung Fu Panda 2 avoids the difficulties of typical sequels by expanding the scope of its plot in a way that allows for more vital action scenes and shedding some light on Po’s character development.
Along with that, it heralds the return of its stellar voice actors, including Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Croc, Dustin Hoffman portraying Master Shifu, Jack Black as Po, Seth Rogen as Mantis, Angelina Jolie as Tigress and many more. It is also a perfect Jackie Chan movie where he plays the role of Master Monkey.
Kung-Fu Panda 3
Directors: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Ethan Reiff(based on the characters created by)
Stars: Jack Black(voice), Bryan Cranston(voice), Dustin Hoffman(voice)
Genres: Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, and Bryan Cranston are just a handful of the famous actors who provided voices for the characters in the well-known Kung Fu Panda series. Jean-Claude Van Damme fits in with them as Master Croc, the voice of a saltwater crocodile.
As many fans will recall, Croc is a modest hero who frequently keeps a calm attitude yet speaks excessively aggressively, much like Po, played by Jack Black. Croc’s demeanor and Van Damme’s voice mesh nicely, but their fighting techniques do not.
Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning
Director: John Hyams
Writers: John Hyams, Doug Magnuson, Jon Greenhalgh
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins
Genres: Action, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Scott Adkins significantly improved the Universal Soldier franchise with Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, which included the return of Jean-Claude Van Damme and was released only a few months after The Expendables 2. Adkins as John, who sets out to exact revenge on Luc Devereaux for killing his family, only to eventually find that his memories aren’t what they appear. Day of Reckoning, a film directed by John Hyams with a loopy, interpretive tale structure reminiscent of David Lynch’s work, has the atmosphere of an action-horror combination.
In the fight choreography by Larnell Stovall, which features back-to-back hack-and-slash encounters with Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins continues to astound. Having its two leads and Adkins’ Undisputed franchise-reviving zeal, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning emerged to give its franchise one final wild hurrah just as straight-to-video action pictures started to outperform most of those with theatrical releases.
Director: Newt Arnold
Writers: Sheldon Lettich, Christopher Cosby, Mel Friedman
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb, Leah Ayres
Genres: Action, Biography, Drama, Sport
Bloodsport is a cult favorite that is frequently cited as one of the most impactful martial arts movies. Its plot concentrates on an underworld fight championship where Van Damme’s character, Frank Dux, battles against the cruelest martial artists in the world, like most movies based on combat sports.
The movie kept its action scenes interesting by introducing new fighting techniques in each story arc and gradually upping the stakes for the lead character. Although repetitive, this strategy has worked well in its favor and always has a bright moment.
Directors: Mark DiSalle, David Worth
Writers: Mark DiSalle, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Glenn A. Bruce
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Alexio, Dennis Chan
Genres: Action, Sport, Thriller
Kickboxer, a 1980s hit for Van Damme that came after Bloodsport, is still one of his most cherished films among his admirers. Van Damme performs the role of kickboxer Kurt Sloane, who prepares for a retaliation bout after his brother Eric suffers a crippling injury after a fight with brutal Muay Thai champion Tong Po.
Van Damme is at his peak as Kickboxer, with kicks that are as sharp as ever and a pleasant charisma that makes the somewhat naive Kurt in his Muay Thai practice seem like a character from a Tony Jaa martial arts film. One of Van Damme’s best battles is still his final confrontation with Tong Po, in which Qissi gave a silent but inescapable dread. Few Van Damme films are as timeless for martial arts fans as Kickboxer.
The list above includes The 12 Greatest Jean-Claude Van Damme Films. They are among the best in JCVD’s career and are jam-packed with excitement and action. It will be a great movie session if you decide to enjoy all of these films, but it will be well worth it.