Hey, let’s be honest for a second… JCVD isn’t all that bad. Sure, he’s made more than his fair share of clunkers, but on the 80s Action Movie Hero Scale, I place him right behind Sly & Arnie. I always thought Steven Seagal was overrated and Chuck Norris movies were just plain awful.
Van Damme never really had a big budget Hollywood action movie on the level of a TERMINATOR or RAMBO or ROCKY to really breakthrough with. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER is probably his most well-known mainstream movie (though TIMECOP is his highest grossing movie) but it didn’t cement his status as a major player. He kinda got a second shot to be a Hollywood force with STREET FIGHTER, but it was terrible and bombed. Darned if he didn’t keep putting out movie after movie, spin kick after spin kick and butt shot after butt shot all in the name of trying to join the Planet Hollywood club though.
Eventually, all of these failed movies led him into the land of direct-to-video: a place for has-beens and never-will-bes. So, Van Damme never really “went away”, his movies just got smaller and he’s actually acting in them these days. Check out WAKE OF DEATH and the very good IN HELL to see what Jean-Claude is capable of doing as an actor. The guy has gotten better with age, even if his movies haven’t (which are still standard direct-to-video action movies for the most part).
Let’s take a look at what I believe to be his five best movies.