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There can be no good without the bad. Either I’ve heard this wise sounding line or I’m just making it up. In that case, it happens to sound pretty good.

The same goes in the movies. The villain makes the lead star look so much better. So it pays to do a nice job on casting.

In appreciation of the joy that the baddest action movie villains have given us, karate vs. cheeseburger brings to you the top 10 bad guys in martial arts movies and popular culture:

10. Ivan the Russian. What’s Jean Claude Van Damme’s first movie? It was No Retreat, No Surrender. And he wasn’t the good guy there. He was Ivan the Russian and he was as bad as any villain could be. Arrogance and a dozen kicks in mid air within 2 seconds personified in the silver screen. It was an awful movie too with the worst actors at that time. But it has to be top 10. Van Damme as the bad guy is priceless. Plus he was the only guy he knew how to act in that movie.

Cover of "No Retreat, No Surrender [Regio...

Cover of No Retreat, No Surrender [Region 2]

9. Johnny Lawrence. If you were around during the days when all martial arts were called Karate, you should know Johnny of Cobra Kai. He’s unforgettable. He was the guy responsible for transforming Daniel Larusso from a wimpy kid to Karate champion. Thanks to his bullying and his sleeveless kimono which my sensei would never approve of. But seriously, he’s the last guy you want to cut off in the cafeteria line in high school. He just might take the heed of his Cobra Kai buddy and put you in a body bag.

8. The Terminator (first movie). Arnold Schwarznegger was scary as hell in that movie. A big hulking cyborg from the apocalyptic future. Imagine him hunting you down, asking, “Are you [fill in your name]?”.

7. General Zod. The nemesis of Superman must be as strong and as super as the world’s favorite hero. Imagine him having all the possible powers available from the superpower convenience store and dressed in black spandex with slick back hair and goatee. When he battles, he doesn’t care if the whole world is destroyed in the process. If you don’t know him, the new Superman movie will be showing soon. Go see that movie.

6. Chong Li. When I think of him, I hear the never ending chanting of “kumite! kumite! kumite!” in the background. Never mind that the setting of the movie was in Bangkok and not in Japan. They probably had their reasons for the chant. But seriously, this guy is like a bad incredible hulk with even badder intentions. He is out to hurt Frank Dux and play dirty. Watch out for the blinding powder.

5. Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon. Mr. Norris is a hero. If you have seen him defeat a hundred commandos in his past movies, you know that he is unstoppable. The Michael Jordan of guerilla warfare. And he did that again in the Expendables 2. Now if you can picture him kick the asses of a whole army while on bad guy mode, the good guys should be heading back to their grandmothers. In Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon, he was the bad guy. And anybody with the guts to square of with Bruce Lee in the ruins of an ancient coliseum without hope of anybody stopping the fight is baaaaad.

4. Tong Po. Jean Calude Van Damme is probably the most talented bad guy talent scout out there. From his movies, there are three villains on this list. That includes Tong Po from Kickboxer. If looks could kill, this guy would have been a mass murderer. He is out for blood and just make sure you don’t bleed like Mae Li.

3. Twister from Ip Man. This movie is probably one of the greatest martial arts movie ever to come out in the last few years. It connects very well and gives you a feeling of inspiration and triumph at the end. Twister, the british boxer helped a lot. The actor did a very good job of making sure the viewers hate him. Specially if you love Samo Hung, you will hate the Twister. He is mean, arrogant and ruthless. And if you are winning by kicking, he will change the rules in the middle of the game.

2. Lizardo from Ang Panday (The Blacksmith). Since I am from the Philippines, I can’t help but include my all time favorite villain on this list. Lizardo played by the late Max Alvarado is probably one of the most memorable bad guys in the movies of The King, Fernando Poe, Jr.  Aside from having mystical powers, his flair for drama is unmatched in local Philippine cinematic history. To top it all, his sinister laugh is unmatchable by any movie in the world.

1. Kareem Abdul Jabaar from Game of Death. Finally on the top spot is a basketball legend and hero. Kareem Abdul Jabaar is the most unlikely bad guy that you can probably think of in action movies. But he has done it. I am sure many will contest his spot on this list but to me he has to be number 1. A guy that is probably as tall as our acacia tree, his kick will reach you even if you go to the next city. That’s why he is the baddest. You got nowhere to hide.

Who is your favorite action movie bad guy?

 

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6 thoughts on “Top 10 Bad Guys in Martial Arts Movies and Popular Culture

  1. If you have ever seen the Movies “Undisputed II and III” you have to admit that Yuri Boyka (Scott Adkins) was one of the most impressive and well acted villains around !!
    Thanks for this post, I’m now on a crusade to rewatch all the movies you’ve mentioned.

  2. Johnny Lawrence is the most memorable for me. Daniel Larusso was my ultimate crush in high school. Memories….
    But I take my hat off Max Alvarado. He was very effective . Panday wouldn’t be Panday without Lizardo.
    I enjoyed this post. Thanks!

  3. Johnny Lawrence is right up there for me to, closely followed by the 3 Storms from Big Trouble in Little China, Jimmy from Roadhouse, Karl from Die Hard and Michael Wincott as Guy of Gisburne in Robin Hood.

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