Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Greatest Action Movie Is A Martial Arts Classic And Now It’s A Streaming Hit

Jean-Claude Van Damme's Bloodsport is currently topping streaming charts on HBO Max.

By Zack Zagranis | Published

jean-claude van damme

The name Jean-Claude Van Damme used to be synonymous with brutal action movies, thanks to one particular movie. The hyper-violent Bloodsport kicked off Van Damme’s action movie career and made the Dutch martial artist a household name. According to FlixPatrol, the kung-fu classic based on a true story is currently #8 on HBO Max.

Bloodsport follows a United States Army Captain, Frank Dux, as he competes in an underground martial arts tournament in Hong Kong. The tournament known as Kumite is full contact, with some matches ending with one opponent crippled or even dead. Jean-Claude Van Damme as Dux breaks a fighter’s leg at one point. The injury is so bad that the snapped bone can be seen sticking out of the fighter’s leg.

If Bloodsport sounds like Mortal Kombat, there’s a good reason for that. Bloodsport was such an inspiration for the classic fighting game that the game’s creators tried to get Jean-Claude Van Damme to star in it. Johnny Cage wasn’t originally supposed to be a parody of action stars like Van Damme but Van Damme himself.

Jean-Claude Van Damme passed on Mortal Kombat but ironically became part of a different video game franchise. The actor instead wound up starring in the infamous flop Street Fighter based on the videogame of the same name. If that wasn’t weird enough, Van Damme’s digitized likeness was used in the Street Fighter: The Movie arcade game.

Street Fighter aside, Jean-Claude Van Damme has had a long, storied career that peaked in the ’90s. Movies like Universal Soldier, Sudden Death, and Timecop catapulted “The Muscles from Brussels” into superstardom. Unfortunately, Van Damme’s popularity began to wane as the decade came to a close.

Jean-Claude Van Damme spent much of the ’00s acting in low-budget, straight-to-video movies with names like Wake of Death. Oddly, he never appeared in any of the straight-to-video Bloodsport sequels. In recent years the actor has faired much better with voice-over work in the Minions: The Rise of Gru and the Kung Fu Panda franchise.

Van Damme is almost as famous for the projects he turned down as the ones he didn’t. Along with Mortal Kombat, Jean-Claude was also supposed to be a part of the 1987 movie Predator at one point. Van Damme was originally cast as the titular alien before the production team decided to go in a different direction.

Some of the test footage of Jean-Claude Van Damme as the Predator can be found floating around on the internet.

In 2008 Van Damme played a fictionalized version of himself in JCVD. In the movie, Jean-Claude Van Damme gets caught in the middle of a post office heist in his hometown of Brussels, Belgium. The actor followed JCVD up with a sequel to Universal Soldier called Universal Soldier: Regeneration.

Jean-Claude Van Damme

Despite having a filmography that spans almost 40 years and over 80 acting credits, Jean-Claude Van Damme is still best remembered for his role in Bloodsport. Something about the underground Kumite competition really speaks to fans of action movies. The setting, coupled with Van Damme’s brutal moves –that leg, though — make Bloodsport the undisputed champion of ’80s-era martial arts films.