Every major action star always has that one scene that people love to drag out every now to make fun of, because it reminds us that even the biggest badasses in the world have their bad moments. But only the truly greatest stars have many of these moments to make fun of, because it shows that they kept making bad decisions and doing stupid sh*t, and they were still able to succeed because of it. Stallone had Over the Top, Stop or My Mom Will Shoot and Rocky V, among others, and Arnold had Batman & Robin, Eraser and that whole governor thing. Even today, the Rock has given us Tooth Fairy and GI Joe: Retaliation, while Jason Statham tried his best to wear a wig in Revolver.
But nobody has done it as well (or terribly) as Jean-Claude Van Damme, who was a beloved action god of the ’80s and early ’90s, all the way up until Street Fighter: The Movie, his intense love of cocaine and sleeping with every woman he met derailed his career. Although, at least one expert of 80s and 90s action films (*points to self*) would say that while Sudden Death was a bomb at the box office, it was the bomb in terms of being unintentionally hilariously and endlessly rewatchable.
Van Damme turns 55-years old today, but the guy proved in that Volvo commercial that he’s still in better shape than 90% of the men on this planet, and he showed us in The Expendables 2 that he’s more than capable of delivering the same over-the-top, ridiculous action fight sequences that he became famous for. And since it’s Saturday and we don’t have anything better to do, I thought we could waste a little time celebrating his silliest and most absurd moments. Naturally, most people think the conversation begins and ends with Bloodsport.
Bloodsport – 1988
This movie is, by all means, a masterpiece of American cinema. Directed by Newt Arnold (yes, THE Newt Arnold), Bloodsport told the story of Frank Dux, an American soldier who disobeyed orders to compete in a martial arts tournament that featured the reigning champ, cheater and murderer Chong Li. It gave us a fight scene that has never been matched in terms of “What the f*ck is going on, is this for real?” amazingness.
That is, of course, the big battle with Chong Li, but that hardly needs any set up or description, as the Internet’s Bill of Rights mandates that every male over the age of 10 is required to have watched the entire fight scene at least five times each year. That doesn’t mean we can’t marvel at the incredible acting that Van Damme displayed in this specific scene:
And since that fight led to one of the greatest GIFs of all-time, everyone assumes that it is the end-all in any discussion about Van Damme.
Kickboxer – 1989
For starters, there’s the dance scene:
A lot of people probably think that this is the best part of that clip:
But I’m a huge fan of the stop-motion fighting style of Van Damme, as if we’re supposed to believe that fighting is “You punch, freeze, I punch, freeze, I block your punch, freeze, I counter, you flail around and fall on a cactus.” So my favorite part of that drunken bar brawl is when the guy grabs him from behind:
The biggest problem with Kickboxer is that it had the disadvantage of coming after Bloodsport. I mean, it’s great and all, and it must have been a huge achievement for Van Damme and his best friend, Michael Qissi, as they came to the U.S. together to become stars. I can only imagine that once they wrapped filming on Kickboxer, they shared a vision of a future in which they were the biggest stars in the world, kicking ass on the big screen until everyone around them was a bloody mess, one slow motion foot across the face at a time.
Kickboxer is ultimately a very special movie, if only for the final fight scene between Kurt and Tong Po, as it featured my all-time favorite Van Damme move – the “Hey bro, I am kicking your face multiple times.”
Again, nobody has ever done the “I’m hitting you and you’re too stunned to react” fight scenes like JCVD. But let’s go back to that moment that it all started, when Van Damme and Qissi first appeared together in a film.
Breakin’ – 1984
As soon as Kelly and Adam arrived at the beach to watch Ozone dance and everyone stand in a circle and clap, you couldn’t miss Van Damme in his black unitard. Of course, in 1984, nobody had any clue that this goofy bastard would go on to be a huge star, but considering there are people out there who still haven’t watched this amazing classic, you can catch up on Van Damme’s best dance moves right now.
You can almost hear Van Damme telling Qissi that he was trying to steal the scene, and he succeeded. But not until his joy for dancing turned into his first-ever “I can remove your stupid hat and the head under it from your neck with my foot” look.
Remarkable. Breakin’ is available in its entirety on YouTube. Watch it now.
Monaco Forever – 1984
I’ve always been a person who loves to use hyperbole, but if I say something is the best thing ever, you can bet your ass that I mean it, even if I’ve said it 10,000 times before. So when I say that Monaco Forever featured Van Damme’s all-time greatest fighting scene, you better believe it’s true. In this film that most people have certainly never heard of, Van Damme had a quick role as, and I wish I was making this up, “Gay Karate Man.” The beauty of YouTube is that you might wonder, “Is the scene of Van Damme as Gay Karate Man available online?” and the answer is a resounding F*CK YES there is. It is amazing.
If this was a ranking, I would probably have this No. 1 or 2, because this next scene is also my favorite Van Damme movie scene of all time.
Double Impact – 1991
Van Damme still deserves a lot of praise for trying to pull this idea off, because very few actors have ever played their own twins and not looked like morons in the process. Along with writer/director Sheldon Lettich, Van Damme made a very fun movie with Double Impact, the story of twin brothers separated in their youth, but reunited because of their abilities to kick a lot of ass and get revenge. Chad is the cool California bro, while Alex is the no-nonsense hardass, and obviously, LOL, those styles tend to clash, as evidenced by Alex’s drunken fantasy about Chad nailing his babe (NSFW). That led to the brother-on-brother fight scene that was actually executed quite well for a low budget 1991 action movie.
It might have looked like a draw, but Alex loses. A man never wins by laying his hand on a woman in anger.
Hard Target – 1993
You’ve more than likely seen a GIF of Van Damme punching or biting a rattlesnake before, and you also may have wondered, “What movie was that from?” It was the 1993 film Hard Target, which starred Van Damme as Chance Boudreaux, a tracker who helps Yancy Butler (yes, the star of Witchblade) find her missing father in New Orleans. So are rattlesnakes in trees a huge problem in New Orleans?
I’m not sure, but I’ve heard the city has great food.
Timecop – 1994
What I love about this scene is that not only does Van Damme knock one guy out and then use his freeze-punch method to stop the knife guy from chopping him to pieces, and then use his amazing flexibility to escape certain deadly voltage, but after the guy with the Tazer presumably fries himself, Van Damme throws him through the door just to be sure. You really can’t be to safe when you’re fighting off the henchmen of a time traveler.
If I had to assign one fault to Van Damme, it’s that he never really took advantage of the cool one-liners that made his peers seem even more awesome than they were. If Arnold could master a few words after sending a bad guy to his bloody demise, I see no reason that Van Damme couldn’t say, “Show yourself out.” Then again, maybe he was above that gimmick.
Street Fighter – 1994
Then there was Street Fighter. What a disaster of a bad idea. I’ll always maintain that Super Mario Bros. was far worse, but there’s really no defending Street Fighter. But what do we do, Master Wayne, when a movie lets us down? We get back up and enjoy it for what it is, and in this case, Street Fighter is the movie that tried to turn Van Damme into an inspirational and motivational leader in possibly the worst movie speech scene of all-time.
Who were those soldiers going to stop? Elderly people from stealing batteries from a CVS at the mall? If the armies of good ever actually look like that, I, for one, will welcome our new caped overlord.
Instead of getting into some of Van Damme’s more obscure movies that went straight to video or nobody watched, I’m going to skip to my final pick for Van Damme’s greatest movie moment of all-time. Also, in case you’re wondering where Universal Soldier is, I didn’t include it because it’s a perfect movie. However, before we get to that moment, remember the time that Van Damme, Brett Hull, Chuck Norris and Herschel Walker joined Bill Goldberg in the ring when WCW was a thing that people watched?
Haha, they all look like they’re the best of friends and that was a totally natural thing that happened because they were all in town to watch Goldberg bleed from that hole that always opened up on his forehead.
As for the big one, hoo boy…
Double Team – 1997
If you haven’t watched Double Team, I highly recommend it before you watch this clip, because you have to get the full experience of Dennis Rodman trying to be an action star and Mickey Rourke playing a menacing villain long before his return to respectability in The Wrestler. But if you’re simply going to take my word for it, let’s get right to the incredible ending of this overly-ambitious action spy film that had Van Damme fighting to save his family’s life.
Not only are there landmines that are apparently set to trigger nuclear explosions, but there’s also a tiger that wants to eat everyone. But don’t worry, because Rodman saves the good guys with a Coke machine. A f*cking Coke machine. God bless you, Jean-Claude Van Damme, for your insane brilliance, and the fearlessness to do what no other stars have the glaring lack of common sense to do.