As a widespread martial art, Muay Thai has gained remarkable international exposure through cinema. Several Thai and foreign movies have not only presented the ancestral historical context of this martial art but also its sporting aspects. Cinema has therefore had a very positive effect on the development of Thai boxing in the Western World and in the rest of the world. Thanks to movies such as Bloodsport, Kickboxer, and Ong-Bak, this discipline has earned massive interest among young people.
Bloodsport: adventure and combat sports
Bloodsport is one of the few American films that have managed to deliver a new vision on martial arts. Released in 1988, it tells the story of an American soldier who goes to Hong Kong to participate in an informal mixed martial arts tournament. As this tournament brings together the best and most powerful fighters on the planet, he must prepare well and master all the subtleties of martial arts beforehand.
Thanks to his mastery of martial arts, the American soldier succeeds in confirming himself as an unbeatable champion. The role is played by emblematic actor Jean Claude Van Damme who remains undoubtedly one of the best action movies actors of all time. In this film, he has indeed once again demonstrated his great capabilities as a fighter and as an artist. Naturally, Jean Claude Van Damme’s fans have praised this movie which also highlights Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan feel. Even though the film contains many violent scenes, the script is well-crafted as well as the choreography of the scenes.
Kickboxer: Everything is played in one fight!
Kickboxer is another famous movie featuring Jean Claude Van Damme. The Belgian actor plays the role of Kurt Sloane, a US Kick-Boxing fighter who faces a local Muay Thai champion in Thailand.
His fellow countryman, Winston Taylor, advises him to learn Muay Thai from a former Thai master in order to beat the local champion, Tong Po. The film, which was released in 1989 (a year after Bloodsport) featured real fighters as extras.
It undoubtedly remains one of the movies that have had a very positive impact on the promotion of Muay Thai in the Western world. It features well-choreographed fight scenes that highlight the original character of this ancestral martial art as well as the richness of Thai culture.
Ong-Bak: a film to the glory of Thai boxing
Ong Bak is one of the most famous action movies in the history of Thai cinema. Released in 2003, this feature movie narrates the story of a young fighter, Ting, played by Thai actor Tony Jaa. The main character Ting lived in a small, peaceful village in Thailand called Nong Pradu. Following the robbery of a Buddha statue in the village, Ting is willing to go find it in Bangkok.
All in all, the style of the film is heavily influenced by action movies that feature Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. However, it sets itself apart because of its emphasis on Thai specificity, in particular by the portrayal of the wealth of combat techniques and action that exist in Muay Thai. Ong Bak was directed by well-known Thai film director Prachya Pinkaew.
For the record, this director has never studied cinema in a specialized school. Actually, his background has nothing to do with cinema since he actually is an architect. Prachya Pinkaew learned to direct movies by himself and eventually managed to establish himself as one of the best film directors in Thai cinema. All the scenes from Ong-Bak were made without special effects, which gives the movie a very original feel.