This week, Dolph Lundgren is back in theaters with The Expendables 4, and that makes this the perfect opportunity to look back at three Dolph Lundgren movies that you should watch in September. Lundgren has been acting in leading roles since 1985, but he had a long stretch of direct-to-video films that kept him off the big screen from 1995 to 2010 when he returned to prominence with the first installment of The Expendables.
Lundgren has the distinction of being the first actor to portray Marvel’s Punisher in a solo film and He-Man in Masters of the Universe. But you won’t find either of those movies on this list because they’re awful. Instead, we decided to focus on the films that showed what Lundgren could really do as the ultimate villain, a broken father, and a heroic action star at the height of his powers. These are the three Dolph Lundgren movies that you should watch.
Rocky IV is the film that established Dolph Lundgren as a star. He played Ivan Drago, a fearsome boxer from the Soviet Union who arrives in the United States in the waning years of the Cold War. As an opening gambit, Drago brutally beats Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) to death during an exhibition boxing match and he doesn’t show even a shred of remorse.
Naturally, this angers Apollo’s best friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), who gives up his world championship in order to have an unsanctioned bout with Drago in Moscow in front of the Soviet leadership and ordinary Russians. It’s such an immense challenge that Rocky has to go through two training montages until he’s ready for his ultimate battle. There are a lot of over-the-top moments in Rocky IV, but Ivan Drago was by far the most physically imposing foe that Rocky ever faced in the ring. After this movie, Lundgren found a lot of work playing villains.
Watch Rocky IV on Netflix until September 30.
After 30 years, Rocky IV got a direct sequel in Creed II. This time, Lundgren actually got a chance to play Ivan Drago as a human being who had suffered greatly from the disgrace he suffered when he lost to Rocky three decades earlier. That’s why Ivan saw his son, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), as his chance for redemption by unleashing him on Rocky’s protégée, Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan).
As you might expect, the first match between Viktor and Donnie does not go well for the son of Apollo Creed. But while Rocky and Donnie reconcile and train for the rematch, there are some really interesting scenes with the Dragos as Ivan openly enjoys his return to the upper echelons of Russian high society while Viktor is visibly angry that his father would embrace the people who abandoned them, including his ex-wife. This was some of the strongest work of Lundgren’s career, and it went a long way towards making Ivan Drago into a three-dimensional character.
Lundgren seems to have been featured as a villain far more often than he got to play a hero. Fortunately, Lundgren got to be one of the leading heroes in one of his best starring vehicles, Showdown in Little Tokyo, a low-budget action flick that he co-headlined with the late Brandon Lee. In this film, Sergeant Chris Kenner (Lundgren) and Detective Johnny Murata (Lee) are initially at odds when they partner up in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district. But they quickly find common ground when they go up against a Yakuza crime lord, Funekei Yoshida (as played by Mortal Kombat‘s Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).
A pre-Wayne’s World Tia Carrere co-stars as Minako Okeya, a young singer who needs to be saved by Kenner and Murata on more than one occasion. This is strictly B-movie territory, but it’s really good for a B-movie and light years ahead of Lundgran’s direct-to-video years. This is the best example of what Lundgren could have done in more heroic roles, and it also gives us an appreciation for what Lee could have accomplished as well.
- 3 great Christmas action movies you should watch right now
- 3 movies leaving Prime Video in November you have to watch
- 3 action movies on Hulu you need to watch in November
- 3 underrated sci-fi movies on Amazon Freevee you should watch in November
- 3 underrated action movies on Amazon Freevee you should watch in November