Jean-Claude Van Damme has enjoyed a career as one of the most successful action stars of his generation, having starred in dozens of films that served as not only domestic, but international hits as well. From when he burst onto the scene in the late 80’s, JCVD offered a softer European sensibility not found with the Stallones, Willises, or Vin Diesels of the world. Most recently, JCVD has starred in 6 Bullets, available on DVD 9/11, which follows a mercenary with an expertise in finding missing children. Caveat emptor to those who dare cross the Muscles from Brussels.
While Van Damme’s work is numerous, we’ve put together a list of 7 of his most memorable roles for you to bask in. So bask away. BASK, OK?
I don’t want to alarm you here, but many of JCVD’s roles included herein are of a martial artistic bend. Setting the tone will be the be-flattopped Street Fighter character of Guile, by far the most handsome of the U.S.’s representatives in the arcade sensation.
It’s not the first time Van Damme has been asked to play American. And while his accent isn’t perfect, his linguistic shortcomings are completely overshadowed by his ability to completely kick ass.
And (SPOILER ALERT) he takes care of business, knocking down the oh-so-evil M. Bison.
Unlike Guile, Frank Dux was a real dude, and while Bloodsport took a few creative liberties with the Dux story, it set the benchmark for late-80’s/early-90’s martial arts films, serving as the springboard to the apex of JCVD’s career.
Van Damme carried this story nicely and the quality of the film (no, really) and the performances by both Jean-Claude and Forrest Whitaker allow this film to transcend the painfully eighties production and catapult this work into “legendary” status.
After over a decade of mild scandals and straight-to-DVD films, Jean Claude Van Damme found his way back into mainstream cinemas and wide(ish) release going the meta route and playing a fairly fictionalized version of himself, an actor on the downward slope of his career (true), caught in the heist of a post office (false).
The film offers up a six-minute monologue where JCVD breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience about his real life. It’s as weird as it sounds, but weird was enough to get Van Damme back in the popular lexicon, so JCVD gets a spot on this list.
That’s right. One entry on this list is actually two roles. I’ll give you a second to wipe your blown mind off your computer screen. He was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for “Most Desirable Male,” but didn’t take it home, sadly. This film is a standout in JCVD’s filmography because it was written and produced by him as well.
The film follows long-lost twins as they team up together to avenge their parents’ murders.
Ok. This was a John Woo-directed film, featured Van Damme at the apex of his career, and is by all accounts, a beyond-solid action film.
But that’s not why it’s in the canon of JCVD’s most memorable roles. Rather…
It’s the mullet. Oh, that mullet. It’s hard to see beyond that. It’s like asking someone to read a pocket bible while shining a hunting spotlight in their eyes. It’s like asking someone if they hear that squeak outside while blaring Skrillex in their ears. I could go further into this point, but I would rather just let the pic speak for itself. If you’re not on board, I…I don’t know how I can help you.
If you thought an America cyborg soldier wouldn’t be programmed with a Belgian accent, you would be wrong, my friend. DEAD WRONG. Universal Soldier pitted Van Damme against Dolph Lundgren in one of blockbuster director Roland Emmerich’s first big-name films.
The film had a budget that surpassed Van Damme’s earlier (and later) work, and was considered a modest hit in America. However, abroad it fared much better, helping cement the Belgian actor’s status as a global action star.
The name says it all. Kickboxer, like Bloodsport, served as a vehicle to showcase Jean-Claude’s natural gymnastic and martial arts abilities, making it a natural early hit for the actor. The film is best known for containing scenes in which the fighters dip their hands in resin, then in broken glass, a move so badass it makes me want to throw my laptop against the wall in excitement.