Jean-Claude Van Damme is an action legend, loved by millions of fans around the globe. He has made such an impact on the action movie scene. Many of us grew up watching Bloodsport, Kickboxer and Universal Soldier.
Besides the two above, all the best Jean-Claude Van Damme movies were made in the 90s (16 in total only in this decade, which is crazy). Just to name some of the best: Universal Soldier, Hard Target, Timecop, Maximum Risk and Legionnaire. Truly a decade of glory for Van Damme.
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With the movie In Hell in 2003 he made it clear that he was not done with making good movies. Interestingly, his highest rated movie is from 2008 and it’s called JCVD. Yes, that is short from Jean-Claude Van Damme, and no, it’s not a documentary. His performance of a villain in Expendables 2 is top notch, he portrayed such a good bad guy.
Here is the list of best Jean-Claude Van Damme movies (ordered by release date):
1. Bloodsport (1988)
Genre: Action, Martial Arts
Director: Newt Arnold
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (28), Donald Gibb, Leah Ayres
In this cult film Van Damme plays a martial artist Frank Dux who is serving in the military. From the last word of his dying sensei he learns of an underground martial arts tournament the “kumite” where only the world’s best fighters are invited. Frank decides to go despite being told by his superiors that he can’t. Now he must evade capture by military police and fight on the tournament at the same time.
After JCVD from 2008, Bloodsport is the highest rated Jean-Claude Van Damme movie on IMDb.
2. Kickboxer (1989)
Genre: Action, Martial Arts
Director: Mark DiSalle, David Worth
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (29), Dennis Alexio, Dennis Chan
Another famous martial arts movie by Van Damme. This time he plays a younger brother to the U.S. kickboxing champion. When Thailand champion Tong Po paralyzes his brother in a ring, he vows to learn Muay Thai and avenge his brother.
3. Lionheart (1990)
Director: Sheldon Lettich
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (30), Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard
Lyon (Van Damme) is a member of the French Foreign Legion serving in Africa when he gets word of his brother’s death. Since his superiors won’t let him go to the USA to help his brother’s family he decides to desert. In LA he begins to participate in underground street fights to make money. While he is moving up through the ranks in illegal street fights, the men from the Legion are on his trail.
4. Death Warrant (1990)
Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery
Director: Deran Sarafian
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (30), Robert Guillaume, Cynthia Gibb
Detective Louis Burke is sent on an undercover assignment in a prison to investigate a series of murders inside. He will discover that people are being killed for their organs. When a serial killer Sandman, who Burke has encountered before, ends up in the same prison, inmates will find out that he is a cop. Now Burke needs to deal with not only Sandman who seeks revenge, but all inmates and corrupt guards.
5. Double Impact (1991)
Genre: Action, Crime
Director: Sheldon Lettich
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (31), Geoffrey Lewis, Alonna Shaw
Jean-Claude van Damme stars in a dual role, as Chad and his twin brother Alex. The two brothers are separated after their parents’ death; Chad is a nice guy raised in Paris and Alex has become a crook in Hong Kong. When Chad and Frank, who raised him, go to Hong Kong, they will run into Alex. Frank will then explain to them they are brothers and the man who killed their parents is in Hong Kong, but the brothers don’t get along from the start.
6. Universal Soldier (1992)
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (32), Dolph Lundgren, Ally Walker
Another Jean-Claude Van Damme’s cult film. He is a U.S. Army soldier killed in Vietnam and reanimated decades later in a secret military project called “Universal Soldier”. These soldiers are now genetically augmented with superior strength. The problem starts when the soldiers stop listening to orders.
7. Nowhere to Run (1993)
Genre: Action, Drama, Romance
Director: Robert Harmon
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (33), Rosanna Arquette, Kieran Culkin
Sam is an escaped convict who temporarily set up a camp on farmland owned by widow Clydie. Sam finds out that Clydie has been blackmailed by property developer Franklin who wants to by her land. When thugs are sent to intimidate Clydie, Sam chases them away. He decides to stick around for some time because he knows they will come back, but the police are on his tail.
8. Hard Target (1993)
Director: John Woo
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (33), Lance Henriksen, Yancy Butler
This John Woo’s American debut stars Van Damme as Chance, an out-of-work veteran who saves a young woman from a gang of thugs. Chance learns that she is searching for her missing father and that she needs help finding him. Since he is out of money, Chance decides to help her. They soon find out that the girl’s father has been killed in a deadly game of human hunting organized for wealthy businessmen.
9. Timecop (1994)
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Director: Peter Hyams
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (34), Mia Sara, Ron Silver
Time travel has been developed and a new high-tech police department is formed to make sure the technology isn’t abused. Max Walker, one of the time cops, learns of a corrupt politician who intends to use the technology to change the past so he can become the president in the future. Timecop needs to do something to prevent this abuse. Timecop has been Van Damme’s highest-grossing film (as a lead actor) to this day.
10. The Quest (1996)
Director: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (36), Roger Moore, James Remar
The Quest is Jean-Claude Van Damme’s directorial debut. The plot revolves around a martial arts tournament in the “Lost City” of Tibet. The year is 1925. The winner’s prize is the “Golden Dragon”, a very valuable statue made completely from gold. A pickpocket Dubois (Van Damme) and a mercenary Englishman (Roger Moore) found themselves working together to win the tournament.
11. Maximum Risk (1996)
Genre: Action, Thriller
Director: Ringo Lam
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (36), Natasha Henstridge, Jean-Hugues Anglade
A French cop Alain Moreau (Van Damme) finds out that he had a twin brother and that he is now dead. He takes his brother’s place determined to expose his death. Alain learns that his brother worked for Russia mafia and now he needs to get involved with them. On top of that two corrupt FBI agents are on him too.
12. Legionnaire (1998)
Genre: Action, Drama, War
Director: Peter MacDonald
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (38), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Steven Berkoff
Alain is a boxer paid by a mobster to lose the fight. When he refuses to take the dive, and wins instead, he flies from the mob and runs into the French Foreign Legion outpost and he decides to join order to save himself. Now he needs to survive not only the Foreign Legion, but the mobsters who also joined the Legion so they can kill him.
13. In Hell (2003)
Genre: Action, Thriller, Drama
Director: Ringo Lam
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (43), Lawrence Taylor, Lloyd Battista
When the man who killed his wife is found not guilty due to the lack of evidence, Kyle takes the law into his own hands and kills him. Now he is a convict in a tough Russian prison and he needs to survive.
14. JCVD (2008)
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (48), Valérie Bodson, Hervé Sogne
It’s the highest rated Jean-Claude van Damme movie and yet, you probably haven’t seen it. Van Damme plays a fictionalized version of himself. Things are not going well for him. He is back to his hometown of Brussels where he is still considered an icon. Between battling for custody of his daughter and having money issues, times are hard for Jean-Claude van Damme. He can’t even get a decent role in a movie. When he happens to be in a bank during a robbery and a police officer notices him inside, he is mistakenly identified as the robber. While inside with other hostages, Van Damm reflects on his life.
15. The Bouncer (2018)
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Director: Julien Leclercq
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme (58), Sami Bouajila, Sveva Alviti
The Bouncer also known as Lucas is a movie about a man in his fifties who struggles to raise his daughter while working as bouncer in a nightclub. One night he is forced to restrain a man who attacked a waitress, but when the man ends up badly injured, Lucas is fired. His bouncer friend sets him up with a new job in a strip club, that is if he wins the fight in the brawl with other applicants. In the meantime his fight in the nightclub is investigated and he is blackmailed to either spy the strip club owner or face prosecution.
15 Best Jean-Claude Van Damme Movies According to IMDb
According to IMDb, these are 15 best Jean-Claude Van Damme movies in the lead role:
- JCVD (2008) – 7.1
- Bloodsport (1988) – 6.8
- Kickboxer (1989) – 6.5
- Hard Target (1993) – 6.2
- Lionheart (1990) – 6.2
- In Hell (2003) – 6.2
- 6 Bullets (2012) – 6.1
- Assassination Games (2011) – 6.1
- Universal Soldier (1992) – 6.0
- Timecop (1994) – 5.9
- The Bouncer (2018) – 5.9
- Sudden Death (1995) – 5.8
- Until Death (2007) – 5.8
- Nowhere to Run (1993) – 5.7
- Death Warrant (1990) – 5.7
12 Best Jean-Claude Van Damme Movies According to Box Office
- Timecop (1994) – $102 million
- Street Fighter (1994) – $100 million
- Universal Soldier (1992) – $80 million
- Double Impact (1991) – $80 million
- Hard Target (1993) – $74 million
- Bloodsport (1988) – $65 million
- Nowhere to Run (1993) – $64 million
- Sudden Death (1995) – $64 million
- The Quest (1996) – $57 million
- Maximum Risk (1996) – $52 million
- Kickboxer (1989) – $50 million
- Death Warrant (1990) – $47 million