Within the action movie genre exists certain tropes that play out ad nauseam. Heroes and villains engage in battle and the hero typically reigns supreme; however, such victories seldom come without hardship. Enter: the fight movie, where villains utilize the dark side of the arts in their chosen discipline to wreak havoc over their prey.
Let’s take a closer look at 7 of the most indomitable fight movie villains in cinematic history.
7) Chong Li (Bloodsport)
Renowned fight flick villain, Bolo Yeung, helped define an entire generation of martial arts movies. His intimidating look and muscle-bound physique made him the perfect foil for Jean Claude Van Damme, who starred opposite to him as Frank Dux in the legendary 1988 fight flick, Bloodsport. Yeung played the role of Chong Li, whose lack of empathy lead to the crippling of Dux’s comrade, Ray Jackson, during their bout in the Kumite— a brutal underground fight tournament.
6) Tong Po (Kickboxer)
It seems Jean Claude Van Damme has a problem with villains crippling his family members or acquaintances— on the big screen anyhow. This time out, Muay Thai monster, Tong Po, cripples Van Damme’s on-stage brother during a lopsided bout in Thailand. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also rapes his girlfriend. Thankfully, karma is a cruel mistress in the fight flick universe and vengeance is always waiting right around the corner.
5) Ivan Drago (Rocky IV)
Of all Rocky Balboa’s foes, the Russian laboratory-made monster, Ivan Drago, is perhaps the most terrifying. A solider of the Soviet Army and boxer, Drago was born and bred to embody the superiority of the Soviet Union and break everyone who crosses his path in the ring. A towering specimen with incredible strength, Drago poses big problems in the ring for Balboa’s friend and associate in pugilism, Apollo Creed. In one of the most chilling scenes in fight movie history, Drago utters the now infamous words, “If he dies. He dies”, after fatally injuring Creed.
4) Sho’nuff (The Last Dragon)
“The Shogun of Harlem”— otherwise known as Sho’nuff— is a bad, bad man. On top of an obsession with being called “The Master”, his hobbies also include leading a gang of lackeys and terrorizing the streets New York.
3) John Kreese (The Karate Kid)
War hero and karate sensei, John Kreese, plans to get the job done… by any means necessary. With the mantra in his dojo being “Mercy is for the weak”, you can be sure he ranks high on this list. His iconic character in 80’s smash hit, The Karate Kid, embodies the very essence of the ‘dark side’ of the arts.
2) Shang Tsung/Lo Pan (Mortal Kombat/Big Trouble in Little China)
Shang Tsung is a popular villain in the film and videogame world. His character was also based on yet another infamous villain, Lo Pan, who terrorized the silver screen in 1986 fight flick, Big Trouble in Little China. Shape-shifters and evil sorcerers, Tsung and Pan’s favorite pastimes include killing folk and feasting on souls.
1) Han (Enter The Dragon)
On top of being the chief antagonist from legendary 1973 Bruce Lee action film, Enter The Dragon, Han is a merciless drug lord who runs his business from an island wrought with corruption. After losing a hand due to unknown circumstances, he utilizes a variety of different weapons in place of the missing appendage— most notoriously a claw that he uses to slice Lee in their famous battle of mirrors. Even more disturbing, he keeps the remains of his severed hand on display in his museum of torment and weaponry.