Exploding onto the scene in the late 80s with his massive muscles and intense kicks, Jean-Claude Van Damme has been an action movie mainstay ever since. Even though a lot of his movies aren't exactly critical darlings, the Muscles From Brussels has remained a favorite amongst audiences thanks to his distinctive accent and awesome martial arts abilities. Here are 10 movies of his that you absolutely need to watch if you're a fan of action movies.
The movie that made him a martial-arts superstar, this insane sort-of-biopic about full-contact fighter Frank Dux is all the 80s cheese you could possibly want and more. Van Damme stars as Dux, and a legend is born. Fun fact; this movie was an inspiration for both Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
It's a cheesy sci-fi romp with awful effects, but Van Damme absolutely shines as protagonist Gibson Rickenbacker (yes, really) and makes the movie fun as hell.
Released the same year as Cyborg, Kickboxer finds Van Damme training to beat the man who defeats his martial artist brother, Tong Po. It's full of intense martial-arts montages, and is by far one of the man's best movies.
It's basically the martial arts equivalent of Rocky, with Van Damme playing the underdog who has to rise to the top with his pure skill. It's cheesy as hell, but a LOT of fun to watch.
The movies just get crazier from here...
Double Impact (1991)
What's better than Jean-Claude Van Damme? TWO Jean-Claude Van Dammes of course! In this absolutely insane bit of 90s action, Van Damme plays twins that have it out for each other. The results are some of the craziest fight scenes you're likely to see in a movie. Highly recommended.
Universal Soldier (1992)
One of his best-known roles, Van Damme teams up with fellow action mainstay Dolph Lundgren for this sci-fi action masterpiece where two Vietnam veterans are killed in action, only to be brought back as robotic super-soldiers. Yeah, it's basically the plot of Robocop, but Robocop couldn't do a split-kick.
Hard Target (1993)
Legendary Hong Kong director John Woo's Hollywood debut borrows more than a few things from his excellent Hard Boiled, and replaces Chow Yun-Fat with the Muscles From Brussels himself. It's action-packed, intense, and just flat-out great. Plus, gotta dig JCVD's mullet.
Jean-Claude Van Damme is a cop from the future who travels, and Mia Sara is his wife who he needs to save by distorting time and space themselves. Yeah it doesn't make any damn sense, but who cares? It's awesome!
Sudden Death (1995)
It's basically what you'd get if Van Damme starred in Die Hard, and while it's not quite the classic that we got out of that movie, it's awesome watching Van Damme play an "everyman" who has to go up against terrorists. It's also surprisingly brutal for a 90s action movie.
In a pretty drastic change up from his other roles, Van Damme plays a version of himself and draws on his real life experiences, while he navigates depression and a lapsing career. His other movies are fun, but this is really the one that'll make you go "Jean-Claude Van Damme is the MAN." Highly recommended.