The ISCFC vs. Martial Arts franchises

The name value of a sequel seems higher in martial arts movies than it does in other genres, so luckily for us we get a lot more film series. Now, continuity isn’t important at all, so just about all of these movies could qualify for “unquel” status, but it’s best to ignore all that and just enjoy the punching, kicking and “acting”.

American Ninja


Michael Dudikoff and David Bradley shoulder the starring work in this series, along with the late great Steve James as their perennial sidekick (because black people most definitely did not star in Cannon movies). Ninja-ism went from the most secret art in the world at the beginning to “literally everyone you meet will be a ninja” by the end.

American Ninja (1985)
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)
American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989)
American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1991)
American Ninja 5 (1993)



Don “The Dragon” Wilson stars in the first 8 movies of this series. Given that his characters are all different and there’s noting to really tie them together, you could have picked any 8 movies from his career, renamed them (as they indeed did with films 7 and 8) and the result would be the same. Part 9 followed nearly a decade later with a diffrerent, better, star.

Bloodfist (1989)
Bloodfist 2 (1990)
Bloodfist 3: Forced To Fight (1992)
Bloodfist 4: Die Trying (1992)
Bloodfist 5: Human Target (1994)
Bloodfist 6: Ground Zero (1995)
Bloodfist 7: Manhunt (1996)
Bloodfist 8: Hard Way Out (1996)
Bloodfist 2050 (2005)



Dreamed up off the top of his head by Frank Dux, a man whose autobiography is apparently a tissue of lies, the “kumite” (secret underground martial arts tournament) is the driving force behind most of these movies. Jean-Claude Van Damme abandoned this series after the first movie and the rest of them starred Daniel Bernhardt, a surprisingly competent choice.

Bloodsport (1988)
Bloodsport 2 (1996)
Bloodsport 3 (1996)
Bloodsport 4 (1999)


The Circuit


Olivier Gruner, who deserved better than being paired with director / producer Jalal Merhi for three movies, is Dirk Longstreet, former underground fight league champion turned teacher, who just keeps getting involved with fight-to-the-death style operations wherever he goes.

The Circuit (2002)
The Circuit 2: The Final Punch (2002)
The Circuit 3: Street Monk (2006)
(also released under the title “The Circuit 3: Final Flight”, obviously no-one told Merhi what the word”final” meant).




Another franchise abandoned by Jean-Claude Van Damme (yes, there’s a third as well), these films are usually about evil people wanting to set up their own to-the-death martial arts tournaments, often featuring Thai super-badass Tong Po. The last one is probably the best, but part 1 is decent too.

Kickboxer (1989)
Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)
Kickboxer 3: The Art Of War (1993)
Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)
Kickboxer 5: Redemption (1995)

No Retreat, No Surrender


It took them several movies before they figured out that these were bad titles, given people retreated and surrendered all the damn time in them. No real reason for these to be a series – they have nothing in common with each other at all, and Loren Avedon (star of 2, 3 and 4) plays different characters in each. There’s also a weird bit of numbering at the end of the series. 2 is the best of the bunch, but 4 is fun too. This is the third of the franchises that JCVD ditched after the first installment.

No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)
No Retreat, No Surrender 2 (1987)
No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers (1990)
No Retreat, No Surrender 4 (aka King Of The Kickboxers) (1991)
No Retreat, No Surrender 5 (aka American Shaolin) (1991)
King Of The Kickboxers 2 (aka Fighting Spirit) (1992)


Tiger Claws


Jalal Merhi paid for his own film so he could star in it (there’s a 1:1 correlation between “films he produces” and “films he stars in”). He’s a charisma-vacuum of a cop who has to learn the super-secret Tiger Claws technique. Cynthia Rothrock is along pretty much as a spectactor and Loren Avedon pops up as the villain in the last one. These films are garbage.

Tiger Claws (1991)
Tiger Claws 2 (1997)
Tiger Claws 3 (2000)