With much of the world on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, here are five combat sports movies worth checking out.
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Forest Whitaker
For many professional fighters, "Bloodsport" was a major influence in their decision to start training in martial arts.
Van Damme plays Frank Dux, a U.S. Army Captain who gained years of martial arts experience as a member of the Tanaka clan. Although this movie is based on a true story, some have questioned the validity of Dux's records in the martial arts world. In "Bloodsport," the American is invited to the Kumite, an illegal, no-holds-barred martial arts tournament in Hong Kong. However, his Army superiors don't approve and won’t let him compete due to the dangers involved. Dux evades them and is chased throughout the movie by officers Helmer and Rawlins (Whittaker). He also embarks on a grueling tournament and competes against the best fighters in the world from a variety of disciplines.
While the acting was never going to win any Academy Awards, the action sequences were far ahead of their time. This was the eighth movie of Van Damme’s career, and it was arguably the one that propelled him to stardom.
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers
Most reading this have likely watched "Rocky," a rags-to-riches story about small-club boxer Rocky Balboa.
Balboa, an uneducated American, works by day as a loan shark’s debt collector while boxing in his spare time. He's then given a unique opportunity to fight world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who is willing to face a local contender after his original opponent drops out. The story outlines the grueling training Balboa endures in the tough Philadelphia winter as he looks to shock the world.
Like "Bloodsport," the acting is a little weak but the storyline and action sequences make up for it. "Rocky" ended up becoming one of the highest-grossing boxing movies of all time and spawned seven sequels: "Rocky II" (1979), "Rocky III" (1982), "Rocky IV" (1985), "Rocky V" (1990), "Rocky Balboa" (2006), "Creed" (2015), and "Creed II" (2018).
Stars: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte
U.S. Marine Tommy Riordan (Hardy) returns home to visit his estranged father, Paddy Conlon (Nolte), a recovering alcoholic and former wrestling coach. Riordan's father agrees to train him for a $5-million MMA tournament.
Meanwhile, Riordan's estranged older brother, Brendan Conlon (Edgerton), is unable to make ends meet for his family, so the former MMA fighter decides to return to the cage. Conlon's underdog rise in the tournament puts him on a collision course with Riordan, and the brothers must finally confront each other in a high-stakes match.
For his role as Paddy Conlon, Nolte was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Stars: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita
This legendary martial arts movie follows Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), a teenager who moves from New Jersey to California with his mother, Lucille. It's not long before he's the target of a group of bullies who train karate at the Cobra Kai dojo.
Handyman and karate master Mr. Miyagi (Morita) starts training LaRusso, who enters a karate tournament to take on his bullies on equal terms.
For his role as Mr. Miyagi, Morita was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.
Stars: Matt Lindland
This insightful MMA documentary by David Vahey follows the career of former UFC middleweight Matt Lindland.
Despite a promising fighting career, Lindland was released from the promotion in 2004 for wearing the wrong clothing before a fight. The film looks at the controversy around that decision. Was the UFC really upset by his actions? Or did the promotion not want Lindland as its 185-pound champion?
Lindland’s lack of marketability is highlighted in the film, which makes the argument that the UFC wanted to protect its star athletes instead.
Several journalists are featured in the film along with Lindland himself.