11 Jean-Claude Van Damme Movies That Surprisingly Still Hold Up
Before he quasi-reinvented himself as JCVD, Jean-Claude Van Damme was the king of, well, whatever it is he does in his action movies. From time travel to "Die Hard at an ice rink," Van Damme leg-split his way into a lot of movie fans' hearts. Here are a few of his titles still worthy of your care space, all these years later.
"Bloodsport" was one of Van Damme's first big hits, and it pretty much set the gold standard for everything he did in the late '80s and early '90s. It delivers just the right blend of cheesy camp and impressive martial arts battles. It's the movie all those low-budget video game adaptations wish they could be.
While "Kickboxer" doesn't venture very far off the beaten path established by "Bloodsport," it does have plenty more of the gratuitous violence, goofiness and sex appeal that make a good Van Damme movie. This one has the added benefit of throwing in a "Karate Kid"-inspired storyline, with Van Damme's hero training to avenge his brother.
'Double Impact' (1991)
As far as gimmicks go, giving viewers two Van Dammes for the price of one is *chef's kiss. This film mines the classic buddy cop dynamic for all it's worth, with Van Damme playing both the no-nonsense, by-the-book hero and the reckless rule-breaker.
'Universal Soldier' (1992)
As much as we love seeing Van Damme travel to foreign countries and kick his way through underground martial arts tournaments, "Universal Soldier" brought some much-needed variety to the table in 1992. Borrowing more than a few cues from "RoboCop," this sci-fi action movie casts Van Damme as a dead Vietnam War soldier who's brought back to life and forced to fight the mighty Dolph Lundgren. That's quite an entertaining pairing.
'Hard Target' (1993)
The best Van Damme movies occupy a special place between stupid and brilliant, and "Hard Target" is one of those. It's got some truly ridiculous elements, including Van Damme's legendary mullet and that snake-punching scene. But it's also a genuinely great action movie, with John Woo making his American debut here.
"Timecop" brought another much-needed dose of high-concept storytelling to Van Damme's world. Who better than him to protect the timeline from criminals who would abuse it? "Timecop" also has the distinction of being one of the few good comic book adaptations to drop in the '90s.
'Sudden Death' (1995)
"Sudden Death" is about as blatant a "Die Hard" clone as you'll find. Van Damme stars as a lone firefighter locked in a hockey arena with a bunch of terrorists. What it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in satisfying action scenes.
It has nothing to do with the "Blade Runner" franchise, sadly, but that doesn't mean fans should ignore this Van Damme classic. Not only does it again allow the Muscles From Brussels to play two roles, it finds a great foil for him in the form of Michael Rooker.
"JCVD" sparked a career renaissance for Van Damme, in part because it plays his advancing age to his benefit. Van Damme plays a fictionalized version of himself here -- a washed-up, desperate actor caught in the middle of a postal heist. It's a welcome reminder that Van Damme has genuine acting talent beneath those still bulging muscles.
'The Expendables 2' (2012)
Pretty much anyone who's anybody in the world of action movies has appeared in the "Expendables" series. Van Damme enjoyed a juicy role as the bad guy in the second film. It's a role that tests his acting chops as much as his physical prowess. We just wish he'd play the villain more often.
'Welcome to the Jungle' (2013)
While there's always been an element of camp to many Van Damme films, it's rare to see him star in an outright comedy. That's what makes "Welcome to the Jungle" such a fun diversion. It casts Van Damme as a ridiculously overzealous guide for a corporate retreat gone horribly wrong. Again, it's always fun seeing Van Damme explore his dark side.