Villains have encapsulated some of the most iconic characters in cinema history and have made their presence known in every genre. As time has progressed and cinema has evolved, so too has the villain and the qualities that they possess. The trend has now become that to make a great villain, they need to be very complex and layered and somehow relatable to the audience. To put it simply, a villain is, in a movie, the Yang to a hero/heroine’s Yin, a perfect balance.
The legendary Dolph Lundgren once said that every action movie is only as good as its villain, and that statement couldn’t hold more merit. In my opinion, action movies have by far given us the greatest villains. The most satisfying cinema experience (at least to me) is being exhilarated and dazzled by furious action sequences to then be paid off by seeing these villains get their comeuppance via a good old-fashioned beat down.
What makes action villains so brilliant, as opposed to those from a reality-grounded drama, is that the sky’s the limit. An action film is afforded the luxury of being able to be ludicrous and absurd, and so too can the villain be eccentric, over the top, and larger than life. There’s no doubt that the golden age of action cinema (the 80s and 90s) produced some of the most memorable villains, as well as some of our most beloved heros who have taken them down.
One of the undisputed champions of the 80s and 90s action era needs no introduction, because he’s freaking Jean-Claude Van Damme! Say what you will about him, the man has to be given props for making game-changing action films, and I will be copping some backlash from naysayers for this, but he has matured wonderfully as a serious actor as the years have passed (just watch 2007’s Until Death and the recent 6 Bullets and you’ll see what I mean).
So, in the spirit of both JVCD and some of his most infamous adversaries, I’ve counted down my personal top 10 favourite villains that Jean-Claude Van Damme has had to battle against throughout his illustrious career.