Jean-Claude Van Damme has had many epic moments over his decades-long career. He developed a natural talent for martial arts, having trained since he was 12 years old. These refined martial arts moves translate well to the big screen. During his time as a Karate competitor he gained a total of 18 victories and only suffered one defeat. After cutting his teeth as a stunt worker, his talent was noticed and put to effective use in many memorable films. These are some of the most essential moments that any true fan needs to see.
10 His Villainous Heel Turn – Expendables 2
Jean-Claude-Van-Damme in The Expendables
Jean-Claude Van Damme makes his debut with the Expendables heroes, but as a villain. Contrary to Van Damme’s normal role as the hero, he makes a terrific villain in this movie, even managing to kill one of the expendables early in the film. As the aptly named character, Jean Vilian, Van Damme was the leader of Sang terrorist group and is an accomplished martial arts fighter. He planned to use weapons-grade plutonium to inact his plan to take over the world.
Billy “The Kid”, played by Liam Hemsworth, gets captured as a held hostage in front of the other expendables. Van Damme demands they drop their weapons and hand over the case of plutonium he needs for his plan. Unfortunately, even after the expendables comply with their demands, Van Damme kicks a knife into Billy’s chest, which kills him. The expendables watch in horror and swear their revenge against him.
9 The Entire Finale – Street Fighter
Capcom / Edward R. Pressman Productions
Van Damme takes on the role of Guile from the popular Street Fighter video games. The ending scene is a showdown with M. Bison, played by Raul Julia. The fight features cheesy one-liners and the highest number of flying spin kicks that could fit in one scene. While it is difficult to capture the feeling of the Street Fighter video games on screen, this fight comes the closest to it than any point in the rest of the movie. The movie itself has a B-movie appeal, but Van Damme’s fight scenes are the real deal.
8 Fighting The Pittsburgh Penguins Mascot – Sudden Death
Sudden Death has Van Damme racing against the clock to save hostages and disable bombs before the clock runs out at a Pittsburgh hockey game. As the situation unfolds, some hostages are killed after the first and second periods. After a series of betrayals and plot twists, Van Damme must face off against the ring leaders and their henchmen.
Luckily for Van Damme, the hockey game goes in sudden death over time, which is prolonged. With time to save his daughter, Van Damme put his faith in his friend in a Pittsburgh Penguins mascot outfit. Only, it wasn’t actually a friend, but a foe. Van Damme faces off against the penguin mascot in a scene that can only be described as amazing, despite the goofy costume. Watch out! This penguin packs a punch, carrying on the long tradition of tough Penguin fighters.
7 Breaking Balls… Literally – Lionheart
van damme punch
Speaking of crotch kicks, this scene contains one of Van Damme’s most iconic crotch punches. In a one-on-one fight against Van Damme, a fighter makes the mistake of trying a poorly executed kick aimed at Van Damme. His mistake gives Van Damme the opportunity for a brutal crotch punch. The fighter collapses to the ground after only one shot, ending his entire family line in just an instant. What makes it a great moment is that it isn’t played for laughs, and everyone reacts very realistically.
Related: Jean-Claude Van Damme to Return to Theaters With Neo-Noir Action Thriller Darkness of Man
6 Taking On A Group Of Marauders – Cyborg
Van Damme Cyborg
the Cannon Group
This scene in Cyborg has everything you would want from a Van Damme action scene. You get to see rag dolls falling, crotches being kicked, sword catches, and brutal arm snaps. Van Damme initially tries to stealth approach, but is forced to contend with a large group of post-apocalyptic marauders with nothing but his bare fists. It goes without saying, but the marauders didn’t stand a chance.
Even though he had help from his female companion (Deborah Richter) she only got in the way of Van Damme’s masterful fighting. His one track mind was only focused on killing the marauders before they were able to kill him. After the fight Richter’s character asked Van Damme how killing so many people has effected him. He could only respond that it no longer had any effect on him at all.
5 Kicking A Tree To Death – Kickboxer
Van Damme Tree Kick
Kings Road Entertainment
As expected, the movie Kickboxer features many scenes where people get kicked. But what about trees? There is a scene where Jean-Claude Van Damme is training by kicking a tree. Van Damme’s character hurts himself during training but is not content to leave it at that. His teacher, after seeing Van Damme hurt himself, demanded that he leave his house. Van Damme needed to do something to prove his mettle and determination. In front of his teacher, Van Damme’s character proceeds to deliver a flurry of kicks that quickly bombards the tree with such force that it splits apart. Truly a manly and quintessential epic Van Damme moment. The dance from Kickboxer is famous, and Van Damme has been asked to recreate it since filming.
Related: Operation: Kickboxer Series Based on Jean-Claude Van Damme Movies Announced
4 Surfing On Top Of A Motorcycle – Hard Target
Van Damme Hard Target
Hard Target is chock-full of novel Van Damme moments that could have made this list. In the film, Van Damme plays a homeless man with exceptional martial arts skills. Not only that, but this homeless man is also a former force recon marine as well as a sailor. With so many developed skills, Vand Damme’s character has no choice but to impress his will on every villainous thug who crosses his path. Nothing says “rule of cool” for the main characters quite like a motorcycle. Jean-Claude Van Damme decides to take this trope up to the next level by not just riding on top of a motorcycle, but surfing on top of it with style.
In the middle of a chase scene, Van Damme rides his motorcycle towards a speeding truck that is firing tens of bullets at him. For seemingly no reason other than it would be cooler, Van Damme stands up on his motorcycle, balancing on top of it while firing his pistol. Could he have shot at them while still riding the motorcycle normally? Sure, but that’s not how this works. Of course, the scene ends in a giant explosion — as it should.
3 The Snake Slap – Hard Target
Hard Target is a gold mine for spectacular Jean-Claude Van Damme moments. Perhaps the most infamous one is when Van Damme puts a snake in its place to the tune of squealing guitars. After saving a companion from a snake with a quick grab, Van Damme proceeds to give it a good slap so that it knows who is boss.
Not content to leave it there, Van Damme compels the snake to attack his enemies by setting a trap to catch them. Of course, the snake has no choice but to oblige. When Van Damme asks you to do something, you listen, even if you are a snake. It is difficult to tell whether you are supposed to laugh during this scene, or be in admiration of Van Damme’s power. One of the best things about Van Damme’s performance is that he takes his acting seriously, and never gives a wink to the audience.
2 Facing Off Against Himself – Double Impact
After his parents were killed by a crime boss, Chad Wagner went on to live a relatively peaceful life. Until the day he met his long-lost twin brother, Alex, and the two hatched a plan to avenge their father’s death. Both of these brothers are played by Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The brothers’ personalities often clash, leading to Van Damme facing off against himself. After a night of drinking, Alex attacks Chad. Here we see Van Damme fighting his ultimate opponent — himself. This requires some interesting camera work and fight choreography to sell on screen, and it is a visual treat. Van Damme actually wanted to do a “Triple Impact” sequel, which would be the only way to get more Van Damme in your movie than Double Impactalready does.
1 The Kickboxing Match Against Bolo Yeung – Bloodsport
Jean-Claude Van Damme isn’t often the underdog in a fight. However, against martial artist star Bolo Yeung, it feels like Van Damme is a fish trying to swim upstream. Van Damme’s attacks are shrugged off, failing to bring Yeung to the ground. After Van Damme is blinded, all hope seems lost, but after summoning the memories of his training, he is able to turn the tables. There are many great fights in Bloodsport, but this fight utilizes all the aspects of Van Damme’s training to the maximum