Selected Tournament Films

A big thank you to the Gavster and Columbo for helping me on a couple of items for this list 😀

Every now and again, a man or group of men have to prove themselves worthy but not kicking ass just once… but several times.. they enter a tournament to prove their worth. The aspect has influenced cinema and sports for several years, here’s my list of obvious and slightly sketchy tournament based movies.


01.Bloodsport (1988)

Van Damme’s earliest talking action film, has him running from the police (Forest Whitaker et al) and partaking in a secret tournament where the players often fight to the death, possibly the cheesy start of a new western genre of tournament style movies. It reintroduces martial arts into popular cinema and helped boost many new careers. JCVD is typically terrible in his acting but the fight scenes are impressive. JCVD has to fight up the ranks to challenge the reigning Kumite champion Bolo Young. 7/10


02.Kickboxer (1989)

JCVD is back again only a year later, from Bloodsport (1988) with a slightly different tournament film with a bit more blood and high levels of violence , JCVD has to learn Mauy Thai in order to avenge his brother. Sentimental and cheesy but great fun, a prime example for a display of splits and early mixed martial arts. 7/10

Enter the Dragon

03.Enter the Dragon (1973)

Cult classic Bruce Lee  revenge goodness! Lee is after some payback and agrees to spy on a kingpin who organised a tournament of fighters, Lee goes through several rounds before getting a chance to tackle the highest ranked fighters including Bolo Young. Tons of classic fighting scenes throughout, possibly the most classic and memorable tournament film of all time!!? 9/10


04.The Tournament (2009)

So hard not to mention this, the title gives it away. A secret tournament is organised every 7 years with the world’s greatest “hitpersons”, they are tasked to kill each other to the last person standing for a cash prize,  an alcoholic priest is accidentally pulled into the game, and Ving Rhames is on the war path for revenge, small cameo from my favourite Boyka character all round fun action flick. 8/10

running man

05.Running Man (1987)

Loosely based on the 1982 novel of the same name by Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, Running man tells a paranoid story in a similar vein as a classic from  Philip K Dick, Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is framed and placed in prison for a massacre he avoided. Later on he’s picked up for a TV Show called Running Man where real live death and carnage is an everyday occurrence in a twisted big brother  greed ridden future. The show involves him facing various trained and armed “Stalkers” including outrageous performances from Jesse Ventura, Jim Brown, Erland Van Lidth De Jeude and others, the film also has in a few musicians such as  Mick Fleetwood and Dweezil Zappa. Many memorable moments in a now slightly camp 80’s action flick. A guilty pleasure but I do adore the explosions and mindless violence of the 80’s. Underneath it all there is a very poignant story of how society is slipping into a chasm of filth and hate.7/10


The Condemned (2007)

A slightly unusual battle Royale with Steve Austin, a director buys a bunch of criminals from various prisons worldwide, then literally chucks them onto a remote island set up with cameras and films them killing each other while streaming live death on an Internet channel . One of the better wrestling movie spin offs, it has a range of fighters, lifters, actors including  Vinnie Jones and Nathan jones,  sadly as it’s WWE it spends a large part of the film preaching that violence is wrong.  But it’s actually quite a good movie, lots of ass kicking, explosions and SpiderBait playing Black Betty in the OST. 7/10

awol lionheart

07.AWOL (1993)

JCVD King of the tournament films!! Returns with a early 90’s chic underground fighting circuit that he drops into via escaping the French foreign legion. Again he has a typical black side kick and again he combats a lot of different fighting styles while being chased by the law. It’s basically the same as lot of previous movies and some of the family sentimental crap is choke worthy but I still love this film AKA Lionheart. 6/10

fearless jet li

08.Fearless (2006)

Modern classic starring Jet Li as a brash child bully who becomes a humble loser and in turns transforms kung fu into the Olympic sport we know today. Jet li fights various street championships in the beginning of the movie to become the town’s champion, then after some more brutal beatdowns and stupid vengeance kills, he is on the road to redemption. Upon returning home a better man he has to enter into a tournament with westerners (including Nathan Jones) and one japanese fighter (Shidô Nakamura who looks like Justin Timberlake) to show kung fu’s full potential 8/10


09.Undisputed III (2010)

This movie sees the return of our beloved Boyka (Scott Adkins) returns for long awaited showdown to be the next most complete fighter in the world,  but his new catchphrase is “shut the fuck up” teaming up with Turbo (Mykel Jenkins) as the gym bunny odd couple in convict Battle Royale, Gaga (Mark Ivanir) also returns with some other familiar faces in this brutally well choreographed third part. Also check out the Admit One Film Addict Article The Boyka Connection 10/10

The Warriors

10.Warriors  (1979)

not strictly a tournament movie but one lovely based on an old Greek legend. The Warriors are framed by a rival gang for killing Mr Can-You-Dig-It,  and have to leg it back to their hub in Coney Island.The “stages” are battles with other gangs and they get harder as various members of the Warriors are eliminated or arrested. A comic book style gauntlet is set and the gang have to fight for their lives all the way home. It’s a cult classic for many reasons, great characters, some of the most quoted scenes in film history, If you’ve not taunted anyone with “warriors come out to play” or shouted CAN YOU DIG IT then you’ve just not lived.  10/10


11.Arena (1989)

80’s sci fi at it’s possible best! A strange cheesy flick of a young man who is forced into fighting in the Arena there are creatures from all over the galaxy are involved in a massive contest of their fighting abilities. The young buck Steve Armstrong (Paul Satterfield) has to not only fight his way up to the beast that is the existing champion Horn (Michael Deak) but he also has battle against the corrupt system behind the games run by a ruthless man called Rogor (Marc Alaimo), It’s not going to win many people over by today’s standards but if you like retro sci fi you could do a lot worse, a lot of the cast have since appeared in various Sci fi TV shows, this really kick started a lot of careers and sci fi ideas in more modern shows. 8/10

battle royale

12.Battle Royale (2000)

In the future bunch of Japanese school kids are tricked into going to a remote island to kill each other in the craziest battle royale out there. As part of a new school regime the teens are pitted against each other and with careful monitoring and the use of explosive necklaces similar to Wedlock (1991). The situations are bizarre and the film is tainted with Japanese surrealism. Beat Takeshi plays a sadistic teacher monitoring the kids and??  is a desperate schoolboy trying to save himself and his girlfriend from the terrors of the island.10/10

afro samurai

13.Afro Samurai  (2007-2009)

technically a series but I have it as two movies, steampunk nouveau magna at it’s unique best.  I was floored by the first episode/chapter, it was like watching Akira (1988) all over again, literally a breath of fresh air, something totally new and unique, wow, just wow. The basic premise is that there is a number 1 (who has the number 1 headband) the biggest badass on the planet, and everyone has to compete in showdowns until they get the right to wear the number 2 headband and therefore have the right to challenge the number 1, while the mechanism is quite simple the films get deep taking on elements from a lot of the older samurai stories as well as modern fighting plots. Incorporating beautiful freaky character design and starring Ron Perlman and Samuel L Jackson,  the dialogue is just as crisp as the animation. The battles are regularly placed throughout and not TOOOOO over the the top, but this is the world of manga mixed with ghetto attitude, similar to an edgy Ghost Dog (1999) so expect the unexpected. 10/10

mortal kombat

14.Mortal Kombat  (1995)

this was a brave film to attempt and it failed so miserably but is worthy of a mention here. Mortal Kombat was the shit hot game to have and master, then someone had the not so brainy idea to try and translate the fast paced gory game into a film. le sigh.. A plot had to be devised from a game that didn’t’ really have one and characters we all know and love were given wishy washy back stories, turning the much loved game into Power Rangers on acid. But the inter-dimensional martial arts tournament known as Mortal Kombat is now a cheesy action movie that you can successfully drink through then get nostalgic and play your friends at the game instead. 3/10


15.Real Steel (2011)

Loosely based on a short story by Richard Matheson and originally produced as a short in the Twilight Zone series, Real Steel takes the story to the effects high life and re invents the story for the average american family to fall in love with. Robots now replace people in huge fighting bouts and Hugh Jackman has to get a little bot that couldn’t to the finals to win some cash for something. It’s cute and if you’re into effects then you’ll be wowed but not for long CGI glamour doesn’t last forever, sadly there is more sentiment than fighting and personally I’d prefer for the story to go full mecha or steampunk as an improvement and forget the family epic, make it a gorey action movie.. 5/10


16.Robot Jox (1989)

Late 80’s post apocalyptic sci fi from director Stuart Gordon, where turf wars are decided by the battles between giant robots (that look like plastic transformers)  and stony macho men with bad attitudes! Taking the bravado and menace from any robot inspired Manga this film shows the ongoing battles between the western-influenced Market and the Russian-themed Confederation, a similar set up to Mutant Chronicles (2008)  and battles that influenced, Real Steel  (2011) and Pacific Rim (2013) land and resources are fought for by using the giant robots in battle, the winner takes all, some argue that it’s a leftover used in Crash and Burn (1990) 7/10

best of the best

17.Best of the best (1989)

The over active Eric Roberts and Chris Penn are unusually cast in this ever so important Tai Kwan Do  tournament movie. The guys are collected by a surly James Earl Jones and trained to a Korean team to be crowned the best of the best. The unlikely bunch include a peace loving Buddhist (John Dye) and a slightly fitter Penn. As much as this is in the list, most of the movie is orientated around the human spirit triumphing over all. but there are some decent fight scenes near the end. 5/10

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