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Every Jean-Claude Van Damme Movie Ranked Worst To Best

Nicknamed "The Muscles from Brussels," longtime fan-favorite superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme is one of the biggest action heroes of the late 1980s and early '90s. Right up there with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and Bruce Willis, Van Damme set himself apart from the bigger field of film fighters by being a highly trained martial artist himself long before he was an actor.

Though originally cast because of his impressive high kicks and furious flying fists, he soon proved that he was more than just a dominating physical presence, that he was a dashing and charismatic leading man too. And with Schwarzenneger proving that a strong accent could be an asset to an action star's appeal, Van Damme's Belgian roots and unmistakable French charm made him all the more recognizable to audiences. Mix it all together, and Van Damme becomes an unstoppable force on screen, one who starred in some of the most beloved action films of his generation.

From his earliest big-screen fight movies to his latest dark, sobering psychological dramas, Van Damme has been through the wringer in his career. So tape up those knuckles and strap on a sidearm, because this is every Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, ranked from worst to best.

48. Black Eagle (1988)

In his third lead role, French import and fighting master Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in the 1988 action film "Black Eagle," in which he plays the rare role of diabolical villain. The film centers on Ken Tani (played by Shô Kosugi, best known for the "Ninja" trilogy), whose codename "Black Eagle" designates him as one of the government's top special agents. He's called in to use his martial arts training and secret agent expertise to locate and retrieve a sinister new weapon that was recently lost to the Russians after being shot down over Malta.

Aided by his two sons, Brian and Denny (played by Kosugi's real-life sons Kane and Shane), as well as the no-nonsense CIA agent Patricia Parker (Doran Clark), Tani has to get the weapon, a cutting-edge laser tracking device. But Ken's mission puts him on a collision course with Col. Vladimir Klimenko's (Vladimir Skomarovsky) vicious and mysterious KGB agent Andrei (Jean-Claude Van Damme).

With a paper-thin story and light action, this film underwhelmed critics. A trite action spy movie in an era flush with them, Van Damme is the only curiosity worth watching in this one.

47. Derailed (2002)

By 2002, Jean-Claude Van Damme had sadly been relegated to low-budget direct-to-DVD schlock, and "Derailed" might be the worst of them. Co-starring Laura Harring ("Mulholland Drive"), it stars Van Damme as Jacques Kristoff, a highly trained NATO operative on an assignment to track and retrieve a woman named Gina Konstantin (Harring), who is in possession of a top-secret MacGuffin. But when Kristoff finds her, he gives chase, and the two wind up boarding a train as she tries to make her escape. Now it's a game of cat-and-mouse aboard the speedy express, where threats and killers lurk around every corner.

Not far from simply being "Die Hard" on a train, it sounds promising on paper but doesn't deliver, and depending on your love of Van Damme, it may be a painful slog to sit through. Released just a handful of years after JCVD starred in hit action films, "Derailed" was a low-rent disaster that few people saw and no critics liked, though perhaps that's for the best. But don't feel too bad for Van Damme's journey to the straight-to-DVD shelf — a few of them turned out to be quite enjoyable.

46. Street Fighter (1994)

One of the earliest live-action adaptations of a popular video game, "Street Fighter" was pretty hyped-up. Part of that hype was for its cast, with Raul Julia ("The Addams Family"), Ming-Na Wen ("The Joy Luck Club"), and international pop star Kylie Minogue — plus, the film was released after Julia's death earlier that year. But its star is Jean-Claude Van Damme, who in 1994 was at the height of his fame, coming off a string of well-received action films like "Double Impact" and "Hard Target." He plays Colonel Guile, who fights to free the Southeast Asian nation of Shadaloo from the brutal dictatorship of General M. Bison (Julia). With the help of Sgt. Cammy White (Minogue), two American fighters Ken (Damian Chapa) and Ryu (Byron Mann), and a group of mercenaries led by vengeful news reporter Chun-Li (Wen), Guile must fight his way to Bison and take him down for good.

Unfortunately, despite all the hype and a roster of stars, "Street Fighter: The Movie" proved far less than the sum of its parts and was panned by critics. Surprisingly weak action, a nonsensical script, and hammy acting make it one of the worst movies in Van Damme's career. Over the years, the film has earned a small cult following who appreciates it for its goofiness, but for fans of the action star, we just can't give it that much credit.

45. Kill 'Em All (2017)

In 2017, Jean-Claude Van Damme teamed with former action heroine Maria Conchita Alonso ("The Running Man," "Predator 2") in the direct-to-DVD "Kill 'Em All." Longtime Van Damme collaborator Peter Malota turns from stunt choreographer to director in his debut film, an action thriller that he secured the action star to lead. Van Damme plays Phillip, one of the survivors of an assassination attempt who wakes up in a hospital under the care of the tirelessly loyal nurse Suzanne (Autumn Reeser).

But after a deadly group of Russian killers descends on the hospital and sparks a bloodbath, Suzanne becomes entangled in a bigger clash of titans. Told mostly in flashbacks during Suzanne's questioning by FBI Agent Sanders (Conchita Alonso), we learn that there is more to the mysterious Phillip, who sits at the center of the violent attack. It all sounds like a promising revenge thriller, but it turns out to be anything but.

As skilled a fight choreographer as Malota is, having worked on classics like "Double Impact" and "Universal Soldier" in the 1990s, he doesn't acquit himself so well as a director. Critics thought the film was a regression for Van Damme, whose career otherwise took a more interesting turn post-"JCVD." A mess of a script, sloppy character work, a confusing story, and sadly plenty of disappointing action make "Kill 'Em All" a big misfire.

44. Second in Command (2006)

Following a handful of decent direct-to-DVD movies, Jean-Claude Van Damme was back in 2006 with a more disappointing bargain bin entry, "Second in Command." A military movie where Van Damme stars as a highly decorated U.S. Navy SEAL named Sam Keenan, the story is set in the small European nation of Moldavia, where he is sent to serve at the U.S. Embassy. But when he arrives, Keenan discovers the country embroiled in a bitter civil war, where the newly elected President has become a target for insurgent violence. Holing up at the embassy with the leader, they come under siege from the insurgents, with only a small support staff of ill-equipped U.S. Marines.

It might sound like an intriguing action story, but it's ultimately let down by shoddy direction and lackluster performances. The action itself is haphazardly staged, making JCVD the only appeal for this mid-2000s clunker. At least he gets to gouge out a dude's eyes.

43. Swelter (2014)

A gritty crime drama starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a member of a group of gangsters, "Swelter" opens 10 years in the past, when he joins his crew in a daring heist of a Las Vegas casino. They nearly pull it off but are caught and put in prison — all but one, the bag man, Pike (Lennie James), who is shot in the head and presumed dead. A decade later, the gang breaks out of jail to go looking for Pike, who is not dead after all. They eventually find him in a small town, nursed by a suspicious physician (Alfred Molina) who helped him get away. Pike, when they find him, not only doesn't remember where the money is — he doesn't remember he was a bank robber at all, and he's now the town sheriff, albeit with a bad case of amnesia.

For some critics, like Nestor Bentancor at DesdeHollywood, "Swelter" isn't a great gangster film, but Van Damme gets high marks for an impressive and understated performance: "Van Damme also shines in a more subtle and vulnerable role. He brings all of his gravitas to a character that is a flawed human, not a fighting machine."

42. Universal Soldier: The Return (1999)

"Universal Soldier" is Jean-Claude Van Damme's most confusing franchise, so stick with us. After the original sci-fi action film in 1992, there were a pair of direct-to-TV numbered sequels, neither of which starred Van Damme (but did feature aging stars of their own in Gary Busey and Burt Reynolds). But in 1999, Van Damme reprised his roles in a proper follow-up, "Universal Soldier: The Return," which is generally considered to be the first true sequel. In addition to the action heavyweight, the film also featured up-and-coming star Michael Jai White (who had a minor role in the original as an unnamed soldier) and "Terminator 2" and "24" star Xander Berkeley.

In this long-awaited direct sequel, we return to the adventures of Luc Deveraux (Van Damme), who is now a fully human soldier thanks to a number of procedures and treatments. In an attempt to end the Universal Soldier program, Luc works to train and equip a new unit of human fighters, and his efforts are successful enough to get the master computer program S.E.T.H., which ran the UniSol division, to be shut down. But before it goes offline, it downloads into a human body (White) and declares war on Deveraux and his men. Intent on destroying humanity, it resurrects an army of Universal Soldiers to take them on.

Though the film brings back the original stars and is worth it for their chemistry alone, it wasn't so well-received (with an atrocious 5% on Rotten Tomatoes), leading to a refresh of the franchise a decade later.

41. The Hard Corps (2006)

For the 2006 direct-to-DVD action thriller "The Hard Corps," Jean-Claude Van Damme teamed with his "Lionheart" and "Double Impact" director, Sheldon Lettich. Back together, the results aren't quite as effective, but the movie does feature another star in Vivica A. Fox, of "Independence Day" and "Kill Bill" fame. Van Damme is Phillip Sauvage, a hardened U.S. serviceman still recovering from his tour of duty in the Middle East. Mullins, a former comrade in the army, brings Sauvage in on a job as elite security for Wayne Barclay (Razaaq Adoti), a powerful businessman and former heavyweight boxing champion. Barclay fears a reprisal from the music industry powerhouse Terrell Singletery (Viv Leacock), whom he helped get put away in prison, and who has recently been released.

As Sauvage is tasked with training members of Barclay's entourage for increased security, the former champ becomes concerned about him. According to those in the know, Sauvage may be an unstable killer, and responsible for an atrocity in Iraq that left a number of innocent people dead. But if Wayne wants to stay alive, he's going to have to trust his mysterious new bodyguard, who may be the only thing that can stop Singletery from exacting his revenge. While it was reviewed quite well, compared to most of his other DTV work from the time, it's certainly far from a classic.

40. Black Water (2018)

Reuniting once again with his former "Universal Soldier" co-star and friendly action hero rival Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme led the 2018 submarine action thriller "Black Water." The film gives Van Damme a new setting to play in, as he takes the role of Scott Wheeler, a government agent who's been framed by parties unknown and is being held prisoner by the CIA aboard a black ops submarine alongside German special forces agent Marco (Lundgren). Believed to have betrayed the agency, Wheeler must escape to clear his name.

To do it though, he'll have to team up with Marco and face down a horde of vicious mercenaries intent on retrieving the files with the names of the CIA's undercover assets. Though the film isn't great and the story is nothing terribly innovative, the submarine setting is at least something fresh, while the chemistry between the two veteran action heroes is palpable. Critics hated it, but given the circumstances, both action stars give fine performances, and if you've come looking for a top-notch Van Damme-Lundgren team-up, you'll definitely get just that in "Black Water."

39. The Shepherd (2008)

For "The Shepherd," star Jean-Claude Van Damme enlisted the services of his real-life daughter, Bianca Brigitte Van Damme (credited in the film as Bianca Van Varenberg). Though Bianca would go on to have roles in more of her father's films, this one serves her screen debut, in a minor role. The Muscles from Brussels plays Cajun cop Jack Robideaux, who has recently made the move to New Mexico to join the Border Patrol Service.

Robideaux is there for personal reasons, looking for revenge on Benjamin Meyers (Stephen Lord), a ruthless drug cartel kingpin operating on the border. Using drug mules outfitted with C4 vests, he's been killing border patrol agents and smuggling enormous quantities of heroin into the states. But when Jack and his partner head across the border into Mexico to stop him, they find themselves caught by the authorities and facing down their enemy in his own territory, including a fearsome henchman played by DTV action legend Scott Adkins (who performed stunts for the post-Ryan Reynolds, mutated version of Deadpool in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine").

The film tries to build an emotional revenge story with a couple of twists, but critics complained it doesn't work as anything more than a cliched revenge plot with a few decent action sequences.

38. Until Death (2007)

"Until Death" is a 2007 action thriller that puts Jean-Claude Van Damme into an unconventional role. In the film he plays Detective Anthony Stowe, a troubled narcotics officer who himself has become deathly addicted to heroin and struggles to maintain a grip on his own life, becoming a careless and nihilistic loose cannon. His former partner, Gabriel Callahan (Stephen Rea), has betrayed them all and turned to a life of crime, becoming the city's newest drug lord.

But in a brutal confrontation with Callahan's men, Stowe is left comatose and badly wounded. A year later, finally recovered, Stowe vows to get his life back on track, which means repairing his relationship with his estranged wife Valerie (Selena Giles) and getting even with Gabriel. It's a rare role in a throwaway thriller, a performance critics enjoyed that allows JCVD to flex his acting muscles as well as all the other ones.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

37. Dragon Eyes (2012)

Championship mixed martial artist Cung Le and "RoboCop" star Peter Weller join forces with action superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme for the 2012 crime thriller "Dragon Eyes." It centers on a pair of warring gangs locked in an endless struggle for control of a city called St. Jude Square, while the police force, run by the iron-fisted Mr. V (Weller), holds all of the real power, leaving the people of the city lost and helpless, with little hope.

But one man, a drifter named Ryan Hong (Le), comes to St. Jude with an eye on uniting the two gangs in an effort to thwart Mr. V while putting aside their violent rivalry and bringing peace to the city. With the help of his mentor, Tiano (Van Damme), he just might succeed. But Mr. V is not about to go quietly and surrender the city that he holds in his iron grip.

Though "Dragon Eyes" isn't exactly a good movie, it's reasonably effective at telling a simple neo-Western story, with Le and Van Damme as classic urban vigilantes on a quest for justice. Look past its flaws and you'll get some of the fast-flying fist-first action you're looking for.

36. The Order (2001)

One of many religious-themed thrillers released just after the new millennium, the 2001 film "The Order" is not to be confused with the 2003 Heath Ledger vehicle of the same name, which has an oddly similar plot. This one, which co-stars screen legend Charlton Heston, of "Planet of the Apes" fame, puts Jean-Claude Van Damme in dual roles. In the first, he plays Charles Le Vaillant, an 11th-century religious zealot who forms a revolutionary sect made up of leading members of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

In the present day, Van Damme stars as Rudy Cafmeyer, an unscrupulous relic hunter, thief and smuggler out to find answers and maybe some treasure after prominent archaeologist Walt Finley (Heston) is killed. Rudy must go up against the devout followers of Vailliant's ancient order, who will do everything in their power to stop him.

An action-packed mix of "Indiana Jones" and "The Mummy" with a little bit of "Kickboxer" for good measure, "The Order" is a relatively satisfying martial arts adventure that got a decent reception from critics. Admittedly, its ambition to be a crafty suspense-riddled thriller sometimes exceeds its limited grasp.

35. Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

Perhaps surprisingly, "Kickboxer" is Jean-Claude Van Damme's longest-running franchise. But the action star didn't appear in all of them, departing after the first acclaimed installment and only returning for its sixth entry, the 2016 "Kickboxer: Vengeance." Serving as a complete reboot to the series, it brought back the series' original star in the trainer role while adding the likes of Gina Carano, Dave Bautista, and Georges St-Pierre ("Falcon and the Winter Soldier"). With a story mirroring the now-classic original, "Vengeance" kicked off a new series of "Kickboxer" films.

In this one, we meet a young and hungry fighter named Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi), who holds an unshakable bond with his brother and fellow martial artist Eric (Darren Shahlavi). But when the brutal and vicious Tong Po (Bautista) kills Eric in a match in Thailand, Kurt is determined to train harder than ever before in an unrelenting quest to avenge his fallen brother. With the help of Master Durand (Van Damme), who had trained Eric, he just may have the heart and skills he needs to pull off his fight for vengeance.

Van Damme's return got some mild praise for the film. Though it can't muster up the same quality of fight and heart as the 1989 original, "Kickboxer: Vengeance" boasts plenty of star power, bone-crushing fights, and enough thrills to warrant several follow-ups.

34. Knock Off (1998)

A movie with a title tailor-made for a bad review, the 1998 action comedy "Knock Off" isn't quite bad enough to need it. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a fashion designer named Marcus Ray and comedian Rob Schneider as his partner, Tommy Hendricks. The film tells the story of Ray's bootleg clothing operation selling knock-off designer clothes in China, and how he gets embroiled with a group of Russian gangsters who hijack a shipment of his goods.

When Ray discovers that his partner is actually an undercover CIA agent, Ray realizes he may be in way over his head. Thankfully though, the bootlegger is played by Van Damme, which means he can very easily turn action hero and fight alongside the real government agents to get back at the foreign mobsters and save the life of their unwitting hostage.

Despite an overly complex plot that's just not necessary for this kind of mindless spectacle, "Knock Off" delivers on the Van Damme-ness. It's directed by prolific Hong Kong filmmaker and second-unit directed by frequent Jackie Chan collaborator Sammo Hung, so it's full of plenty of good fights and silly over-the-top action that Van Damme's fans went out to theaters to see, even if critics didn't buy it.

33. Double Team (1997)

Arguably one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's last high-profile action pictures, "Double Team" paired the action hero with then-NBA star Dennis Rodman and future MCU villain Mickey Rourke. As with "Knock Off," Tsui Hark directs, and Sammo Hung choreographs. Van Damme plays Jack Quinn, an elite CIA agent whose nemesis, Russian terrorist Stavros (Rourke), escapes on his latest kill mission. Because he botched the assignment, Quinn is sentenced to imprisonment in "The Colony," a secure island where criminal government operatives are sent into exile. But when he gets word that Stavros has kidnapped his pregnant wife, Quinn has to escape the Colony and hunt him down with help from eccentric arms supplier Yaz (Rodman).

A decent action thriller, it's Rodman and Van Damme who make the film fun, a rollercoaster of zany late-'90s filmmaking at its most crazed and quirky. It's got tigers, landmines, and a final fight set in the Colosseum as an homage to "The Way of the Dragon." Unsurprisingly, critics detested it.

32. Welcome to the Jungle (2013)

"Welcome to the Jungle," starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Adam Brody, Kristen Schaal, and Dennis Haysbert, is a rare comedy in the career of the action star. In it he plays Storm Rothschild, a corporate team-building coach and ex-U.S. Marine who acts as a tour guide, accompanying a group of ordinary office workers through an island adventure as a workplace exercise in cooperation.

But when things go wrong and Storm gets put out of action, the unprepared suburbanites and city-dwellers must fight for their lives in the dangerous wilderness. In this madcap jungle caper, the comedy delights in mixing the mundanity of "The Office" with the pulpy adventure of "Indiana Jones" and a dash of "Lord of the Flies." And though his part in the movie isn't the biggest, "Welcome to the Jungle" gives Van Damme the chance to deliver a tour-de-farce performance as we discover that there's more to Storm than meets the eye. Unfortunately, it went mostly unseen, which is a shame, as it deserves a look, especially if you want to see Van Damme in an unconventional role.

31. Inferno (1999)

"Desert Heat" — sometimes marketed as "Inferno" — stars Jean-Claude Van Damme in a dark character drama, where he plays beleaguered former soldier Eddie Lomax on a journey of self-discovery through the open desert. Riding his Indian motorcycle, which he claims is a gift for his friend Johnny Sixtoes (Danny Trejo), he carries nothing but a .45 pistol, a bottle of tequila, and the heavy burden of guilt.

But when his motorcycle breaks down and he's confronted on the side of the road by the Hogan brothers, the world-weary Lomax finds himself lost and at their mercy. They make off with the bike, shoot him, and leave him for dead, and he is eventually found by Sixtoes. Together, they set out to get back the motorcycle and cleanse their consciences of the darkness that has haunted them for years. With the help of a kind waitress (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick) and wise old local (Pat Morita), they go up against a pair of rival gangs and face down a trio of bloodthirsty brothers in their mission to recover their prized wheels. Despite a strong cast, reviewers didn't quite enjoy the ride.

30. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012)

The final film in the "Universal Soldier" series and the fourth to feature Jean-Claude Van Damme again reunites him with original star Dolph Lundgren. The film follows from the events of "Universal Soldier: Regeneration," which had erased the events of "Universal Soldier: The Return," which itself had effectively retconned out the two made-for-TV sequels from the mid-'90s (hey, we did warn you the franchise was a little confusing). 

In this installment, we meet John (Scott Adkins), who awakens from a coma to learn that his family has been murdered by cyborg soldier Luc Deveraux (Van Damme). Though his memories are fragmented, he sets out on a personal vendetta to kill the original Universal Soldier. But he soon becomes the target of Deveraux's old nemesis, Andrew Scott (Lundgren), who now leads a new army of deadly reanimated warriors.

The film got decent reviews — better than its predecessor, at least. Though the plot is a bit overly complicated, the action and suspense are all there, and seeing Van Damme and Lundgren on-screen as their original characters from the 1990 classic is always a treat.

29. Pound of Flesh (2015)

We've all heard the urban legend of a man waking up in an ice bath to discover that organ traffickers have stolen a kidney. Well, that myth becomes reality in "Pound of Flesh," with Jean-Claude Van Damme as the unfortunate soul whose had his organ stolen. What makes matters worse is that he'd been awaiting word from a local hospital about donating his kidney to his dying niece. But being Van Damme, you can't expect his character, Deacon Lyle, to simply accept his situation and go quietly.

Out for revenge — and his kidney — Lyle becomes a one-man wrecking crew out to save his niece with his old lifesaving organ. With time running out and his own condition deteriorating, it's a race against the clock to retrieve what's his, kill the black market dealers responsible, and save his niece from certain death.

Good performances; a clever if sleazy, cheap, and gory premise (in the best possible way); and some fun action make "Pound of Flesh" a rare direct-to-VOD schlocker that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, even if it will never be a JCVD classic.

28. Enemies Closer (2013)

Jean-Claude Van Damme re-teamed with director Peter Hyams in 2013 for "Enemies Closer." It was their third collaboration following their success together on '90s hits "Timecop" and "Sudden Death." But those aren't the director's only successes, as he worked with Sean Connery for "Outland," Gene Hackman for "Narrow Margin," and Arnold Schwarzenegger for "End of Days." Here, he works again with Van Damme and puts the aging star in the role of the villainous Xander, a drug runner who is able to get his crew across the Canadian border disguised as mounties.

A true madman, Xander has a diabolical plan to seize a ship full of heroin that's sunk to the bottom of a lake after a plane went down, and he won't let anything get in his way. To stop him, a park ranger and former Navy SEAL (Tom Everett Scott) will have to team up with a vengeful ex-con (Orlando Jones) who wants him dead.

Though a fairly standard action movie with few surprises, the real draw is Van Damme, who chews scenery like he's a great white shark. If there's one underrated movie on this list that works solely because of him, this is it.

27. Wake of Death (2004)

"Wake of Death" stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as Ben Archer, a mafia goon who relocates to Los Angeles in an attempt to put his violent career behind him. With hopes of settling down in a new quiet life with his son (Pierre Marais) and wife Cynthia (Lisa King), a social worker who helps Chinese immigrants. But when Cynthia discovers a young immigrant girl named Kim (Valerie Tian) whom she believes may be in serious danger, she brings the child home to keep her safe. As it turns out, Kim is the daughter of a powerful Triad kingpin, Sun Quan (Simon Yam), and is a witness to a brutal murder.

Quan sends his men to America to kill Cynthia and bring back his daughter. When Archer arrives to find his wife dead and the child missing, he vows revenge and sets out to rescue Kim and exact a deadly toll for Cynthia's murder. Up against the might and muscle of ruthless Triad assassins, Van Damme has quite the arsenal of weapons at his disposal. For once, he gets a simple premise — no clones of himself, no tigers, no landmines, no Canadian heroin planes — and is allowed to let loose.

26. We Die Young (2019)

The coming-of-age crime drama "We Die Young" tells the story of kids growing up in violent lives in inner-city D.C. Lucas (Elijah Rodriguez), a teenager drawn into MS-13, a gang engaged in violence, crime, and prostitution, has tried to get out, but his efforts are futile. His only hope is to make sure that his 10-year-old younger brother (Nicholas Sean Johnny) escapes the life that he has been forced into.

In an unusual role, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Daniel, an ex-military man whose drug addiction has destroyed his life, and he's the most fascinating part of the film, thanks largely to the actor's intriguing performance as the skittish former soldier. Though the film is heavily flawed and critics were so-so on it, the draw once again — like "Enemies Closer" — is Van Damme. His part is a relatively minor one, but he helps the film try to make a statement on the depths of loneliness and despair felt by those trapped in a life of drugs and crime.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

25. Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)

Ten years after "Universal Soldier: The Return" failed to spark a renewed franchise, Jean-Claude Van Damme returned, this time bringing with him his original co-star Dolph Lundgren, in his first time back in the franchise since 1992. With the original duo back in action, the film completely erased all previous sequels, ala "Terminator: Dark Fate," and begins with Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) undergoing rehabilitation so that he can once again become a productive member of society. 

But just when he thinks he's ready to be a normal man again, Deveraux is reactivated and brought back into service as a Universal Soldier when a terrorist takes control of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. But the terrorists have a secret weapon: a new, more advanced generation of Universal Soldier, one more powerful than anything Deveraux has ever faced. Complicating matters is the discovery of a clone of his old nemesis, Andrew Scott (Lundgren), who cannot be controlled.

Though a bit cheaper-looking than previous installments (which themselves were already fairly low-budget), it's the best sequel in the franchise since the original. It offers up an engaging story and good action to go along with the endless appeal of Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren doing what they do best: creating sci-fi action mayhem.

24. Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)

Following the successful reboot of the "Kickboxer" series, Jean-Claude Van Damme returned to the role of Durand, the Muay Thai master, in the seventh film, "Kickboxer: Retaliation." The 2018 film continues the adventures of Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi) while adding Christopher Lambert ("Highlander"), Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson of "Game of Thrones" fame, and Mike Tyson to the cast. In this follow-up, Kurt is kidnapped and taken back to Thailand by the corrupt tournament ringleader Thomas Moore (Lambert), who needs a new and legitimate champion to take over for Tong Po, defeated in the previous film.

Van Damme returns as Durand, but now he's been blinded as punishment for helping Kurt. Nevertheless, he Mr. Miyagi's him to success and even gets in a couple fights playing the blind master himself. The film got pretty high praise, making it the highest-rated JCVD film on Rotten Tomatoes — particularly shocking for the seventh film in a long-running DTV series — maybe for Van Damme's interesting turn as a blind fighter, or maybe for the 30-minute finale brawl between Moussi and Björnsson.

23. 6 Bullets (2012)

Jean-Claude Van Damme's answer to "Taken," the 2012 action thriller "6 Bullets" may be one of the darkest stories in his catalog. He plays Samson Gaul, a mercenary and former soldier who retired after a mission gone wrong resulted in a number of innocent deaths. Now as a mercenary he's found a new mission: finding missing persons and retrieving kidnap victims from deadly abductors.

When mixed martial arts champion Andrew Flayden (Joe Flanigan) is desperate to find his missing daughter, feared kidnapped by vile human traffickers, he calls on Gaul. As their last hope of seeing the young girl alive, the grizzled ex-soldier and Flayden team up in a mission to bust a ring of child kidnappers. A movie that buries itself in the darkness — and stays there, much to the dismay of fans of Van Damme who may be more used to brighter, more bombastic fare — "6 Bullets" is a grim, violent look at the darker side of the criminal underworld.

22. The Last Mercenary (2021)

A French action-comedy, the 2021 Netflix original "The Last Mercenary" is in some ways a tongue-in-cheek wink at the legend of Jean-Claude Van Damme himself, while not being about the actor at all, unlike his fictionalized biographical drama "JCVD." In this one, he's a near-mythical mercenary, a soldier of fortune whose reputation precedes him as a one-man killing machine. Several scenes allude to, in comic fashion, the actor's own iconic status, including one moment where he nods approvingly at a movie poster for "Bloodsport."

But his character, Richard "The Mist" Brumere, is called out of retirement when he gets word that a son he has never met is in trouble. Years earlier, he'd fathered the child (Samir Decazza) with his friend's (Patrick Timsit) wife and left their lives in peace, and set up young Archibald with an assumed name. But now, the young man has become the victim of mistaken identity, confused for Simyon (Nassim Lyes), a diabolical criminal kingpin and arms dealer, and it's up to Mist to get him out and catch the real Simyon before things go terribly wrong.

Some quick wit and clever moments — not to mention his customary brand of Van Damme action — turn what could have been a run-of-the-mill direct-to-streaming snoozefest into a fun, fast adventure about family in which Van Damme gets to beat up a bunch of guys while wearing a wig.

21. Cyborg (1989)

Jean-Claude Van Damme's earliest and goofiest in the science fiction genre is the 1989 action thriller "Cyborg." Funny enough, this is one movie with its own interesting origin story of its own, as much of it was repurposed from the leftovers from a "He-Man" sequel and an aborted "Spider-Man" feature film planned at Cannon Films after they lost the rights to those characters (per Den of Geek). Slapping together a script designed to use costumes, sets, and props already laying around, writers dreamed up something wholly original, with character names clearly dreamed up after a visit to a music store.

Van Damme stars as Gibson Rickenbacker, a mercenary "slinger" who helps a young woman named Pearl Prophet (Dayle Haddon) across the post-apocalyptic wasteland after her bodyguard, Marshall Strat (Alex Daniels), is seriously wounded. Together they must retrieve valuable computer data banks that contain a cure for a deadly plague vital to restoring mankind, all while being hunted by an old enemy named Fender Tremolo (Vincent Klyn).

A cult classic for its high camp factor, it's decidedly not a great film, but as a B-movie, it's great fun nonetheless.

20. No Retreat, No Surrender (1985)

"No Retreat, No Surrender" is one of the handful of films in his career where Jean-Claude Van Damme plays the villain, and it's among the earliest films in his filmography, too. His first major role puts him in the part of Ivan "The Russian" Krachinsky, the Soviet fighter who goes up against the American teen martial artist Jason Stillwell (Kurt McKinney), the hero of the story. In classic '80s fashion, the film begins with a criminal syndicate looking to take over every dojo in the nation and attempting to recruit young Stillwell, a young man who is obsessed with Bruce Lee. But when Stillwell's father (Timothy D. Baker), who owns the establishment, refuses to sell, the mafia's thug Krachinsky leaves him brutally beaten and bloodied.

After moving to a new city though, the young Stillwell struggles to fit in, bullied by a group of teens and beaten in fight with a local karate champion. But after praying for the help of his idol, Jason is visited by the spirit of Bruce Lee (Tai-Chung Kim) and soon becomes an elite martial artist himself. Now, at a kickboxing tournament run by the syndicate, Jason comes face to face with the beast-like Soviet fighter Ivan Krachinsky once again, with the chance to exact revenge.

19. In Hell (2003)

The 2003 direct-to-DVD thriller "In Hell" is the third collaboration between actor Jean-Claude Van Damme and Hong Kong action director Ringo Lam. Van Damme plays Kyle LeBlanc, an American in Russia on a work visa whose wife is brutally assaulted and murdered by a dangerous thug (Michail Elenov). But when the man bribes the judges and the system fails his desire for justice, LeBlanc takes the fight into his own hands, killing the man who murdered his wife. Now, for the crime of taking a dangerous madman off the streets, LeBlanc is sentenced to life in a Russian prison.

In classic Van Damme fashion, LeBlanc is forced to fight for survival in a series of deadly bouts behind prison walls. Controlled by a sadistic warden, General Hruschov (Lloyd Battista), who puts wagers on different fighters, the prison becomes a battleground in the fight for LeBlanc's soul, as he trains to become the best of the best. Not particularly well-reviewed, the premise does at least conjure up memories of the best of Van Damme's corpus. Though it's a brutal, grim, and often hard-to-watch film (per The Action Elite), the stunt coordinator and second unit director are none other than David Leitch, who would help mastermind the "John Wick" franchise years later and direct "Atomic Blonde," "Deadpool 2," and "Bullet Train."

18. Assassination Games (2011)

A breakneck action thriller, the 2012 film "Assassination Game" paired Jean-Claude Van Damme again with Scott Adkins. Here, they play a pair of rival hitmen on a mission to take down a vile criminal kingpin and must team up if they're going to get the job done.

Van Damme stars as French assassin Vincent Brazil, an aging killer who's done his fair share of contract work and is looking for his next big score. Adkins plays Roland Flint, a retired assassin who left the game after a job went bad and his wife was left in a coma. But now, when the man who wronged Flint gets a price put on his head, both men want the job. But Flint doesn't care about the money, all he wants is revenge. Up against an army of goons and a squad of dirty government agents, the two are forced to work together to take down their target. Though reluctant at first, they soon begin to have a begrudging respect for each other.

As a direct-to-DVD actioner, it's nothing special, but as IGN said in their review, "If you need a quick dose of action, 'Assassination Games' should do the trick."

17. Replicant (2001)

Throughout his long career, Jean-Claude Van Damme was known for many things: his big leg kicks, his Belgian accent, and of course his love of playing dual roles. After "Double Impact" and "Maximum Risk" saw him playing sets of twins, he reteamed with the latter film's director, Ringo Lam, on "Replicant," a sci-fi action adventure in which he plays two versions of the same character. Also starring James Gunn's favorite character actor, Michael Rooker ("Guardians of the Galaxy"), "Replicant" seems inspired by the stories of Philip K. Dick and deals with the possibilities of using cloning technology in the fight against violent crime.

The film begins with Detective Jake Riley (Rooker), who for years has hunted a violent serial killer named Garrotte (Van Damme) but is now on the verge of retirement. Determined to catch him before he leaves, Riley works with a government program that has created a genetic clone of Garrotte, who may hold the key to catching the real one. Riley, who fears the clone may kill him too, must train him to find the devious killer, all while trying to ensure that he doesn't turn out as violent and psychopathic as the original Garrotte.

A crisp, thought-provoking action thriller, "Replicant" is something new and different for Van Damme, and Rooker proves a fantastic partner for the Belgian action hero.

16. Legionnaire (1998)

By the end of the '90s, the era of over-the-top action movies was waning, and Jean-Claude Van Damme took a detour from the silliness and spectacle of "Maximum Risk" and "Double Team" to try his hand at a serious war drama. The result was "Legionnaire," which put Van Damme in the role of Alain Lefevre, a 1920s boxer too proud to take a bribe and finds himself on the wrong end of some dangerous gangsters. Fleeing the country, he enlists in the French Foreign Legion and heads to Morocco, where the fighting force is tasked with fending off attacks from rebels.

There, he befriends fellow foreign fighters played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Nicholas Farrell, and Daniel Caltagirone, the latter of whom is hoping to impress a young paramour back home. As the violent battles tear their unit apart, Lefevre dreams of going home and reuniting with Anna, the woman he loves and who he'd planned to run away with.

Though it's certainly not the typical Van Damme fare, "Legionnaire" is a surprisingly effective romantic war drama that's gorgeously shot (only sort of surprisingly, the same cinematographer shot "Full Metal Jacket"). Its story will evoke shades of "Laurence of Arabia" and "The English Patient," and though it's not up to the caliber of those classics, it works, and the action hero does well in a less bombastic role.

15. The Quest (1996)

Once again Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in a period piece, set in the 1920s. This time he's playing Chris Dubois, smuggler and thief from New York City who winds up halfway around the world and competing in an international fighting tournament, vying for a coveted prize: a dragon statue made of solid gold. Starting out as a pickpocket in the streets of New York, he evades police and stows away on a foreign-bound ship operated by gunrunners and pirates. Eventually, he's sold into slavery, where he is trained in Muy Thai and forced to fight in orchestrated matches.

Now an elite fighter, the suspicious Englishman Lord Edgar Dobbs (Roger Moore) buys his freedom so that he can travel to Tibet to take part in the Ghang-gheng tournament, representing the United States. There he must battle past the best fighters the world has to offer, where he defeats skilled combatants from Russia, Spain, Germany, and beyond, before facing off against the most feared opponent, Khan of Mongolia (Abdel Qissi), for the top prize.

"The Quest" is also directed by Van Damme himself, though before "The Quest," he often acted as a writer and producer on his own projects. It makes sense, then, that "The Quest" is firmly in his globe-trotting fighting tournament comfort zone, but the film adds a new element (and Sir Roger Moore!) and makes its premise unique.

14. Maximum Risk (1996)

Fresh off his success on "Sudden Death," Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in "Maximum Risk" opposite Natasha Henstridge, the blonde bombshell who herself had just shot to stardom the year before in "Species." Helmed by Hong Kong filmmaker Ringo Lam ("City on Fire") in his first Hollywood production, the film had the strength of two American stars and the brilliance of a highly respected imported action director. And it all paid off, in one of Van Damme's most memorable, if not best, action films of the mid-1990s.

He again plays dual roles, first as French police officer Alain Moreau, who is called to the scene of a car crash because the victim is his double: a man named Mikhail Suverov, his own long-lost twin. Investigating his mystery duplicate, Alain is led to New York City where he discovers that his twin was involved with the Russian mafia, and becomes involved with his brother's former lover Alex (Henstridge). Uncovering a broader conspiracy, it's up to Alain to expose the villains and get revenge for the death of his twin, who was the victim of a gangland hit.

A sexy, thrill-a-minute adventure, "Maximum Risk" packs a punch with plenty of gun fights, fistfights, car chases, and explosive high-octane action.

13. Death Warrant (1990)

Long before he'd pen the scripts for such memorable films as "The Dark Knight" and "Dark City," screenwriter David S. Goyer wrote "Death Warrant," his first feature film. The prison action film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as Detective Louis Burke, a Canadian Royal Mounted Police officer on the hunt for the man who killed his partner: Christian Naylor (Patrick Kilpatrick), a psychotic serial killer who's been dubbed "The Sandman." Tracking him down, Burke puts an end to his reign of terror in a deadly confrontation. Or so he thinks.

More than a year later, Burke goes undercover in a state prison to get to the bottom of a series of grizzly inmate murders that is causing problems for the state's governor who is running for re-election. Now living on the inside and face to face with the violence of life in prison, including daily brawls and battles for survival. But just as he gets close to discovering the killer a new prisoner arrives, and Burke is stunned to find that it's none other than Naylor, who somehow survived their showdown and is out for revenge of his own.

A classic brawler with the heart of a thriller, "Death Warrant" is Van Damme action in all its glory, with one bare-knuckled fight after another behind stone-cold prison bars.

12. Nowhere to Run (1993)

By 1993, Jean-Claude Van Damme was a bonafide action star. After "Double Impact" and "Universal Soldier," he starred in "Nowhere to Run," playing a dangerous anti-hero named Sam Gillen. A hard-luck small-time criminal, he's on a prison transfer bus when it crashes, allowing him to escape. Now freed, Sam isn't about to go back to serving time behind bars but has no interest in a life of crime either. Quietly evading police, he lives on the fringes of a small community before being discovered by a beautiful young woman named Clydie (Roseanna Arquette) and her young son (Kieran Culkin).

But when a group of corrupt land developers tries to push Clydie and her family off their land, Sam steps in and plays hero, fighting off the dangerous goons. Now at the center of a high-stakes tug of war and with cops closing in, Sam has to stop pulling his punches — and his kicks — if he's going to stay a free man and help his newfound friends.

A breezy, heartfelt adventure, "Nowhere to Run" is just the right mix of action and drama, and it earned mixed to negative reviews. While reviewer David Sheehan was quoted on the VHS box touting it as "the best Van Damme movie yet," we can't put it quite that high on the list.

11. The Bouncer (2018)

The 2018 French-Belgian action thriller "The Bouncer" is a dark character study of a beleaguered man, Lukas (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who settles for a job as a strip club bouncer to support his young daughter (Alice Verset) after fleeing a murder charge and facing jail time. Filmed in his native French, the thriller follows Van Damme as Lukas struggles to scrape by on the verge of poverty, torn between a life of crime and his duty as an informant, barely making it from one bloody encounter to the next.

The film scored positive marks from critics, who praised Van Damme's noirish turn and ability to play a "veteran bruiser" in a dark, moody film that doesn't ask him to do a split or wink to camera (per Blu-ray.com). French director Julien Leclercq was able to get a compelling performance and picture out of a star whose late career, with a few exceptions, is mostly marked by direct-to-video duds.

10. Double Impact (1991)

In 1991 actor Jean-Claude Van Damme and director Sheldon Lettich, who'd worked together on the action classics "Bloodsport" and "Lionheart," got together for a double dose of action in "Double Impact." Van Damme stars as a twin pair of brothers, Chad and Alex, separated as infants when their wealthy parents were gunned down in a vicious attack by Triad hitmen in Hong Kong in the 1960s. Chad is taken by the family bodyguard (Geoffrey Lewis), while Alex is left at an orphanage in China by their loyal maid.

In 1991, Chad is lured to Hong Kong, where he meets Alex, who has reunited them to get revenge on the man who killed their parents (Alan Scarfe) and get their hands on their share of their inheritance. But their plan puts them in the path of dangerous gangsters, drug lords, and violent assassins, including a martial arts champion (Bolo Yeung).

One of Van Damme's most famous films, "Double Impact" sees the star pulls double duty as both brothers, with the film giving him the opportunity to punch out, take down, and kick butt twice as hard. Reviews were half as kind, however, with few critics anticipating the action classic the double Van Damme outing would become. At least Roger Ebert, in a shrugging two-star review, noted that the film's high production values and exotic setting, alongside Van Damme's good looks and ability to seem "thoroughly comfortable with his feet above his head," make it a decent action picture.

9. Timecop (1994)

Based on Mike Richardson's three-part comic book story from Dark Horse, the 1994 science fiction action adventure "Timecop" threw Jean-Claude Van Damme into the future of 2004, where time travel has become a reality. Unfortunately, criminals have gotten their hands on the technology and have begun using it to alter the past, forcing the creation of the Time Enforcement Commission, tasked with traveling back in time and catching future criminals. Van Damme stars as Max Walker and appears in two time periods, as a police officer in 1994 and a TEC agent in 2004.

In 1994, Max Walker is the target of mysterious assassins in a deadly bombing that leaves his wife (Mia Sara) dead. A decade later, Walker, now a Timecop, learns that a powerful US Senator (Ron Silver) is using time travel as part of a broad conspiracy to attain power. His investigation makes him the target of McComb's henchman and upon returning to 2004 where he finds history has been altered, and it's up to Walker alone to set things right. But he is also given the chance to save his wife, even if it means potential consequences for the future.

A mind-bending joyride, "Timecop" is a deft mix of patented Van Damme action and mind-bending story elements. It was the biggest hit of his heyday, grossing $102 million worldwide. It was also exactly as well-reviewed as every Van Damme film from 1988 to 2007, which is to say, it got bad reviews. But over the years, the film has become a sci-fi cult classic, spawning a TV spin-off and a belated direct-to-DVD sequel.

8. Universal Soldier (1992)

Perhaps one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's most iconic films, "Universal Soldier" was notable for being the first collaboration between Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (the minds behind blockbusters like "Independence Day"), who had met when Emmerich first moved to Hollywood (via Time). But this sci-fi adventure likely had little ambition to become a classic when it was released in 1992. With a fraction of the budget of Arnold Schwarzenegger's sci-fi actioner "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," released the previous year, it was hardly a big-money blockbuster, but with Van Damme and co-star Dolph Lundgren, it had a pair of action stars to fill out its compelling high-concept futurist premise.

In the Vietnam War, U.S. Army soldier Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) discovers one of his comrades, Sgt. Andrew Scott (Lundgren), has been brutalizing innocent civilians. They are both killed in a deadly confrontation, only to be resurrected decades later in a secret government project, the Universal Soldier Program, with cybernetic implants and bio-modifications to become the next in a new line of super-soldiers. The two former rivals become unstoppable and mindless killing machines, headed toward a final showdown of super-powered soldiers.

An all-time sci-fi cult classic despite its less-than-stellar reception, the film kicked off a multipart saga, including a pair of TV movies, as well as a line of comic books, video games, and more.

7. The Expendables 2 (2012)

In 2010, actor and director and former "Rambo" star Sylvester Stallone assembled a team of veteran action heroes to create "The Expendables," an over-the-top movie unlike any other. The film starred Stallone alongside the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Mickey Rourke, while later sequels added the likes of Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, and Harrison Ford. "Expendables 2" added the biggest missing piece from its predecessor, the Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Chuck Norris also joined the cast for the sequel.

In the film, The Expendables — Stallone's team of veteran mercs — go up against Van Damme, who plays the movie's main villain, the suitably named Jean Vilain, who leads his own gang of rival mercenaries called the Sangs. They're both after the same thing: a computer databank that holds the location of 5 tons of enriched plutonium left over after the Cold War by the Soviet Union.

Van Damme goes to extraordinarily scene-chewing, menacing heights with Vilain, including a bit where he kicks a bowie knife into Liam Hemsworth's chest. The film received positive reviews — rare for a Van Damme film — and became the highest-grossing non-animated film of his career. (He also has supporting voice roles in two "Kung Fu Panda" movies and "Minions: The Rise of Gru.")

6. Sudden Death (1995)

What might be one of the last best Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, "Sudden Death" was released in 1995 at the peak of the actor's star power. Once again, the film has Peter Hyams ("Timecop," "Enemies Closer") behind the camera. Instead of playing a martial arts expert or tough, hard-nosed lawman, Van Damme takes on the role of Darren McCord, a French-Canadian firefighter serving in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After failing to save a family from a house fire, he's been relegated to a security job at the local sports stadium.

But during the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, played between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks (who had faced each other in 1992, with the Pens coming out on top), terrorists seize control of the arena. With the United States Vice President (Raymond J. Barry) in attendance, the terrorists — led by a madman and former CIA Agent (Powers Booth) — take a number of high-profile hostages and threaten to blow up the arena that they've wired with powerful explosives. It now rests on the shoulders of the downtrodden McCord to stop a madman and save the vice president.

More ridiculous than "Die Hard," the film got mixed reviews but won plenty of fans, including a rave review from the Los Angeles Times. It also has the best Van Damme fight ever, in which he battles a penguin mascot to the death and utterly destroys a kitchen.

5. Hard Target (1993)

More important to Hollywood history for being the first American film for Hong Kong director John Woo — who would go on to helm "Mission Impossible II," "Broken Arrow," and "Face/Off" — the guns-blazing action flick "Hard Target" is many fans' favorite Jean-Claude Van Damme film. In addition to the action hero Van Damme, the film also stars Yancy Butler ("Witchblade") and Arnold Vosloo ("The Mummy"), as well as genre regulars Wilford Brimley and Lance Henriksen. 

Van Damme is Chance Boudreaux, a homeless former Marine in New Orleans. After saving a young woman, Natasha Binder (Butler), from a group of muggers on the street, he is hired to be her protection on a mission to locate her missing father (Chuck Pfarrer), a Vietnam veteran who has been living on the streets. As her investigation unfolds, Natasha and Chance uncover a scheme run by a group of sinister tycoons who have been hunting the homeless for sport and who set Natasha and Chance as their next targets.

Reviews were mixed, with two thumbs down from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who couldn't agree whether Van Damme was a convincing action star or not. But the film is packed with arguably the best action in any of Van Damme's films thanks to Woo's characteristically overkill touch, and today "Hard Target" is seen as a landmark in the history of the genre — Van Damme pulls off some amazing stunts too, as when he stands on a motorcycle firing a handgun at an oncoming vehicle.

4. Lionheart (1990)

"Lionheart" followed Jean-Claude Van Damme's spate of late '80s fighting films, including "Bloodsport," and "Kickboxer." This time, instead of fighting on a world stage, the film sees the martial arts star competing in street-level tournaments in the inner city. He stars as Lyon Gaultier, whose fighting nickname is "Lionheart." To earn money to travel westward and see his brother, Gaultier enters an illegal underground street fight, joining a fledgling circuit of champions that caters to the wealthiest spectators.

Like his 1980s output, "Lionheart" was not received well by critics. But the film gives Van Damme some real drama to chew on as well as some of the best action of his early career, with Brian Orndorf of Blu-ray.com writing, "The fight scenes are the highlights of 'Lionheart,' allowing Van Damme to do what he does best, trying to make believe that his opponents have a shot at dropping Lyon to his knees."

3. Kickboxer (1989)

A year after "Bloodsport" made him a martial arts movie star, Jean-Claude Van Damme returned to the ring for "Kickboxer," another no-holds-barred tournament fighter film, and one could argue that this one is even better, with Van Damme a more refined performance, with no less of a towering presence. His unrelenting on-screen fights are kicked up a notch, and the film boasts an even more powerful personal story.

This time, Van Damme plays Kurt Sloane, fighting assistant to his brother Eric (Dennis Alexio), who is the American kickboxing world champion. But having conquered the American circuit more than once, Eric has grown bored and heads to Thailand to compete against a more brutal breed of competitors. There, Eric is set to face off against the vicious Tong Po (Michel Qissi), a massive mountain of a man who is merciless in the ring. Against Kurt's concerned objections, Eric fights the unstoppable Po and is so savagely beaten that he is left paralyzed. 

Desperate for vengeance, Kurt finds a wise Muy Thai master (Dennis Chan) who trains him in the art of kickboxing and sends him on a quest to fight and defeat Tong Po. The film's blood-soaked climactic final match is one for the ages, earning Van Damme another star in his Hollywood hit hall of fame. It also spawned a series of sequels, though Van Damme would not return until the franchise was rebooted with "Kickboxer: Vengeance" in 2016.

2. Bloodsport (1988)

The movie that made Jean-Claude Van Damme a star, "Bloodsport" followed in the footsteps of other '80s fighting films like "Rocky" and "The Karate Kid." But more than any of those films, "Bloodsport" featured a more intense, more graphic, more visceral form of fighting, as Van Damme got the chance to truly show off what a talent he was on screen. Admittedly, the film is thinly plotted and rife with cliches, but it can all be overlooked because it's all about its star and his brilliant on-screen fighting and dominating physical performance.

Inspired by a supposedly true story that wound up being completely phony (per Asian Movie Pulse), the film stars Van Damme as Frank Dux, a U.S. Army captain who competes in the Kumite, a brutal and violent Hong Kong fighting tournament. There he makes a new enemy: the Kumite champion Chong Li (Bolo Yeung), whom he'll have to defeat to win it all.

Once considered to be the king of Van Damme films, "Bloodsport" was an instant hit. (Interestingly, it's also one of the favorite films of both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, via The AV Club.) The bloody, hyperviolent film remains top dog in the actor's career of fight movies.

1. JCVD (2008)

Unlike any film that he's made before or since, the crime drama "JCVD" marked a career change for the former action star, bringing self-awareness and a meta level as the star turned to more serious fare. The year was 2008, and the star was nearly a decade removed from headlining a major Hollywood film, having starred in a series of direct-to-DVD B-movies. But Jean-Claude Van Damme still had a lot left in the tank, and with a powerful performance that earned him rave reviews, he starred as an exaggerated version of himself, the downtrodden aging Belgian action star.

In the film, Van Damme is struggling to find any work at all, let alone the kinds of action roles from his glory days, and after a bitter court battle, he loses custody of his daughter (Saskia Flanders). But just as the desperate former movie star has reached his wits' end, he gets entangled in a bank robbery gone wrong, with police believing him to be one of the thieves. While at first, it's a case of mistaken identity, Van Damme seizes on the opportunity to get money for himself, and as the media gets wind that the Hollywood hero has turned crook, the situation quickly escalates.

Giving the action star's career an existential kick, replete with a nearly 7-minute monologue to camera about his public image, career, and controversial personal life. "JCVD" serves as a reminder of the power that one's own legacy can hold.