7 Fun Hollywood Choices for a Jiu-Jitsu Themed Movie Night

From Rocky-style sports dramas to full-blown science fiction action-adventure epics, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has found its spotlight on the silver screen across a surprisingly wide range of genres over the years. Consider some of these options for a movie night with your BJJ teammates!

  1. Born a Champion (2021)

BJJ black belt and Boondock Saints star Sean Patrick Flanery’s self-proclaimed love letter to the gentle art takes a nostalgic romp through nineties-era Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the US. The film follows a fictional pioneer of the sport, played by Flanery, as he fights to prove the worth of his beloved art form.

Check out Screen Rant’s interview with Sean Patrick Flanery on the experiences that inspired the film

  1. The John Wick series (2014)

Yes, technically this is three (soon-to-be four!) movies, not one, but we’re going to bend the rules a little and slot the whole trilogy into this spot. While most will agree that you watch John Wick movies less for the plot, and more the aesthetics, when the aesthetics include arguably the most intricately-choreographed jiu-jitsu to be seen in a modern action blockbuster, grappling geeks are going to sit up and take notice.

As a bonus, check out this feature on Keanu Reeves training with the Machado brothers to prepare for his role.

  1. Dangal (2016)

This one’s for all you wrestle-jitsu aficionados out there. While the star feature of Aamir Khan’s 2016 biopic opus is actually wrestling, rather than BJJ, there’s a lot to love about the grappling on display in this movie. Based on the real-life exploits of the legendary Phogat girls, who first skyrocketed to fame for putting Indian wrestling on the map at the Commonwealth Games, this heartwarming Bollywood feature will inspire you to drill your takedowns like there’s no tomorrow.

  1. Pacific Rim (2013)

Although Guillermo del Toro’s loving homage to mecha and monsters is relatively light on the actual jiu-jitsu content, it’s still a lot of fun seeing classic BJJ attacks like an omoplata to wristlock sequence and a loose straight ankle lock setup come into play during those meticulously choreographed hand-to-hand combat sequences between our heroes. 

Plus, who doesn’t enjoy giant robots punching giant monsters in the face? The only thing potentially better might be giant robots rear naked choking giant monsters into submission. 

  1. Choke (1999)

If you’re more in the mood for nonfiction, this classic late 90s documentary on Rickson Gracie’s Vale Tudo title defense in Tokyo remains a must-see for martial arts nerds. Not only does it provide a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of the most famous figures in Brazilian jiu-jitsu history, it’s also a well-preserved time capsule of an early MMA era without weight classes, or indeed, strict enforcement for rules of engagement – and the results are pretty wild to witness on film.

Bonus: if you haven’t heard of Yuki Nakai, wait till you see that guy in action against men twice his size.

  1. Enola Holmes (2020)

Okay, so this charming Netflix adaptation of novelist Nancy Springer’s YA mystery series isn’t going to win any awards for historical accuracy, but the movie’s foray into Victorian ladies’ obsession with jiu-jitsu – or “suffrajitsu” – during the early 1900s reportedly has some basis in truth

Granted, the more classically Japanese jiu-jitsu of the Victorian era is unlikely to have involved, say, Enola’s neat little inversion to leglock sequence – or “corkscrew,” as she calls it – that we see on screen, but it does make for great TV.

  1. Warrior (2011)

While this tale of two brothers going to war in the cage is better known as a big screen MMA drama than something overtly jiu-jitsu specific, we’re treated to some fun submission grappling sequences in the cage, courtesy of Joel Edgerton’s Brendan.

Bonus points for starring real-life BJJ blue belt competitor Tom Hardy opposite Edgerton.

Honorable Mention: Redbelt (2008)

Love it or hate it, this mid-2000s martial arts drama is an endearingly schlocky mainstay of any conversation about jiu-jitsu movies. Featuring a surprisingly star-studded cast, including Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor as our lead, Redbelt is also known for its stunt-casting of various well-known martial arts professionals, including Randy Couture, John Machado, and Dan Inosanto. That said, it’s not particularly well-known for, say, realism, so manage your expectations accordingly.


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