Video games are such a beloved medium of entertainment all over the world that people do not seem to be able to help themselves and always want more of it. Fighting games, in particular, need these mediums as they help to expand the universe and add more flesh to the story. Since fighting game stories are sometimes harder to tell in-game, other media forms such as movies, series and comics are an awesome way to pull people deeper into the world of the games.
Street Fighter being one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, is no exception, and fans of the story want to know more about their favorite characters like Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li. So for this article, we’ll be exploring the world of Street Fighter media and looking at what it has added to the game. Fighting game media is always divisive, and we have the good, the bad, and the ugly, but they all come together to form an imperfect but familiar tapestry for the games we love.
Street Fighter Movies
Okay, let’s start with the Street Fighter movies. Look, let’s face it, video game movies are notoriously a slug to get through, and a lot of the movies we’ll be looking at are like that, but Street Fighter being such a beloved series allows fans to look past some of the flaws. The first movie we got was Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, which was released in August 1994. This followed the success of Street Fighter II, a game that many consider to be Capcom’s seminal work in the fighting genre. The movie was written by Kenichi Imai, directed by Gisaburō Sugii, and animated by Group TAC. It got an English dub which was produced by Manga Entertainment, who are famous for their production of the TV series, Street Fighter II V. The story itself featured all the characters in Super Street Fighter II at the time, and it follows Ryu as he aims to become stronger.
Meanwhile, Bison is on the prowl looking for strong street fighters who he can recruit to take over the world as any good villain would, and he has his eyes fixed on Ryu. To make this work, he makes use of some machines known as Monitor Cyborgs. These machines are capable of estimating the power level of any fighter they set their beady little eyes on. When Bison discovers that Ken is similar to Ryu in fighting style due to their shared past, he proceeds to capture the Hotel heir and brainwashes him. On the other side of things, Chun li and Guile, both of Interpol and the American military, band together to find Bison, whose organization, Shadaloo, has terrorized most of the world with their nefarious activities. They also go around warning people of Bison’s plans to capture fighters and turn them into fighting machines. Ryu finally finds Bison (actually more like Bison finds Ryu) and unleashes a brainwashed Ken at him. Ryu eventually gets Ken back to his senses, and the two of them battle Bison and win. They all disperse, with Ken going back to his fiancee, Eliza, and Ryu getting back on the road to travel the world. In a last twist, we find that Bison did not die in the fight against Ken and Ryu and is instead back to capture our lonely wanderer. The movie ends with Ryu tossing aside his bag and preparing to encounter the mad tyrant.
Street Fighter II: The Animation is remembered fondly for some incredible action scenes, many of which were rotoscoped with real martial artists to create several epic moments. As a story, it is far from perfect as it dragged on for way too long and suffers from an incoherent story with many of the characters put there just to satisfy fans even when they weren’t important to the storyline. But it also holds the distinction of perhaps being the best Street Fighter animated movie ever made. It also had the infamous shower scene with Chun li. There were two versions released, with one being toned down in terms of blood, nudity, and language. There was another uncensored version released that featured the shower scene, but that aside, the fight that took place against Vega was incredible and, for the most part, as good as it got. Street Fighter II: The Animation had a huge impact on the community as it gave fans of the game a deeper understanding of the motivations behind their favorite characters’ actions. It would also be influential in the making of the Street Fighter Alpha series. For instance, the location of the fight between Ryu and Sagat at the beginning of the movie was featured as a stage in one of the Alpha games. Also, Bison’s physique in the movie, which was much beefier than his Street Fighter II appearance, was present in the Alpha games. The movie was also the first bit of media to establish the long-lasting friendship between Guile and Chun li, which has endured over the years. All in all, Street Fighter II: The Animation was a good start for the Street Fighter story, as told in other media.
What followed was the Street Fighter movie, and boy, that was a doozie. Okay, so this movie was also released in 1994, well into the height of Street Fighter II’s popularity. It had Steven E. de Souza act as the writer and director. This was wild, seeing as it would be de Souza’s first credit as a director, but you could perhaps live with it as Souza was no novice and had written Commando and Die Hard, but things start to look a little weird when you discover that the producer, Edward Pressman said that de Souza could only be the movie’s director if he could write the script in one day as he had a meeting with Capcom execs the next day……… So, the Street Fighter movie is the result of less than 24 hours' worth of writing. De Souza, the champ that he was, got it done, and Capcom execs were happy with it, so the movie was greenlit. Now, is the rushed writing enough to make a bad movie? No, not even a little bit. But, I can’t help considering the script of the Super Mario Bros movie, which was also rushed. Anyhoo, the next problem was casting. See, de Souza really wanted Van Damme to play Guile, and Van Damme was HUGE at this time, which meant he was also really expensive, so he cost about $8 million to get on board which was almost a quarter of the movie’s $35 million budget. They also cast the late icon, Raul Julia, to play the role. It was said that Julia only took the role because his kids were huge fans of the game. There was also Ming Na Wen playing Chun li and Kylie Minogue as Cammy, which is as much a miscasting as if you had Brad Pitt play Sagat. There was also the fact that Julia’s health was failing, and he was underweight, meaning that they had t switch around the filming schedule, doing the difficult fight choreography and stunts first before the more benign dialogue scenes. So, the stunt coordinator and martial artist director had little to no time to work with the actors. This made for some shocking fight scenes.
And how about the story? Well, it was as generic as they come. Set in the fictional South East Asian nation of Shadaloo, It followed Guile, who was the local head of something called the Allied Nations, most likely a stand-in for the United Nations. Guile was out to defeat the megalomaniac, General M. Bison, who had captured several A.N. humanitarian workers and asked for a ransom of $20 billion to release them. Guile recruited Ken and Ryu, two conmen, to infiltrate Bison’s base and find out where he was located. They did this by ingratiating themselves with one of Bison’s main henchmen, Viktor Sagat, don’t laugh; that’s really his name. However, Chun li, a news reporter, and two of her friends, E. Honda and Balrog… yes, Balrog is a good guy here, get wind of Ryu and Ken’s mission to find Bison and go ahead to go after Bison themselves since they have an axe to grind against him. They fail, and Ken and Ryu are forced to try and save them. Guile and co can find Bison thanks to tracking devices on Ken and Ryu, and they set out to begin the final showdown. Some suits try to dissuade Guile, saying that the ransom will be paid, Guile gives perhaps the most unmotivational motivational speech ever, and suddenly everyone and their mother is willing to die for him. A battle ensues, and Guile is eventually able to defeat Bison. In the end, all the protagonists stand and perform their win animation in the game as the screen fades to black.
So, that was Street Fighter, and it was released on the 23rd of December 1994. Unfortunately, Raul Julia, whom many, of which I count myself among, believe single-handedly carried the movie, died in October 1994 before the movie’s release, and the film was dedicated to him.
People tore into the movie, and if you look up Street Fighter online, you’ll see it has an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. People were dissatisfied with the acting, casting, and lack of elements from the game. I mean, Ryu did…err…something like a hadoken. I mean, the screen flashed for like 1/10 of a second, and he did the hand movement, but that was it. Ken did a Shoryuken, which was no better than a D2 from Mortal Kombat. The only move that more or less looked like it did in the game was Guile’s flash kick which Van Damme executed to perfection.
The movie also tried to incorporate everyone from the game except Fei Long, who the producers decided was too generic, and so there is speculation that Captain Sawada, just ignore the irony, who was played by Ken Sawada, was the replacement for Fei Long. Despite all the criticism, Street Fighter was a commercial success, raking in almost $100 million worldwide and netting Capcom a tidy profit.
It is also remembered for some iconic lines from Julia, whose turn as Bison is perhaps the greatest portrayal of a video game villain ever.
The Street Fighter movie spawned a game called Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game which featured Mortal Kombat-like graphics and animation. There was also a proposed sequel, but that was ultimately scrapped.
In terms of official Street Fighter live-action movies, this was as good as it got because, oh boy, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li? But let us not get ahead of ourselves.
Next was another animated movie, Street Fighter Alpha: The Animation, which was released in 2000, two years after the release of Street Fighter Alpha 3. The story here followed the non-canon Alpha series, which was Street Fighter’s attempt to follow different story beats and explore new characters. Therefore, this movie didn’t really add to anything we knew of the Street Fighter lore. Furthermore, it was missing a chunk of key characters from the Street Fighter Alpha roster, like M. Bison, Blanka, Charlie, Cammy, Gen, Sagat, R. Mika, Balrog, Cody, E. Honda, Juli, Juni, and Karin. The story was not tied in any way to the Street Fighter: The Animation movie and so is a standalone. It follows Ryu, who has a chance encounter with a little boy called Shun, who claims to be his long-lost brother.
However, Shun is showing some really iffy traits, like beating enemies to pulp and trying to get people killed. Ryu isn’t doing too well himself as he struggles to put the Satsui no Hado under control. Shun is eventually kidnapped by Shadaloo agents and is taken to the base of this movie’s villain, Dr. Sadler. Ryu, along with Ken and a slew of other characters, go to retrieve Shun and fight Sadler, but not before Ryu confronts Akuma and asks if he is Shun’s father. Akuma denies it, and Ryu heads off to fight.
In the movie's final act, Dr. Sadler’s powerful mechanical soldier, Rosanov, fights against Ken, Birdie, Chun li, and Ryu. It is discovered that Rosanov is actually housing Shun who worked for Dr. Sadler all along. Ryu resorts to the power of the Satsui no Hado to defeat Rosanov and sever its ties with Shun. He now has to defeat Dr. Sadler, who has become even more powerful, and even with the power of the Satsui no Hado, Ryu is unable to defeat him. Thanks to a visit from the mysterious mystic, Rose, Ryu can find himself again and engage Dr. Sadler as his normal self, which turns out to be enough to win. Unfortunately, Shun dies but not before telling Ryu the truth about his identity. So, as it turns out, he was NOT Ryu’s brother and only took on the job for Dr. Sadler to help his father.
While everyone else gets on with their lives, Ryu goes to fight Akuma armed with a vow never to use the Satsui no Hado again. The movie ends, once again, with Ryu gearing up for a fight. The movie wasn’t particularly well received, and it was followed by another Alpha movie called Street Fighter Alpha: Generations which was within the same Alpha world of Street Fighter but wasn’t affiliated with the former Alpha movie in terms of plot. The movie was essentially a 50-minute action romp pitting Ryu against Akuma, who was called Gouki in both the English and Japanese versions of the movie. Ryu was out for revenge because Akuma, yes, I’m sticking with Akuma, killed both his master, Gouken, and his master’s master? Err….yeah, the dude that trained both Akuma and Gouken. This was Goutetsu…I think I see why he was called Gouki here. Well, it did have its moments, and the animation was pretty decent. It was released in 2005, right smack in the middle of the Street Fighter game drought. It might not have been a memorable movie, but it did help maintain interest in Capcom’s franchise while fans waited with bated breath for a new Street Fighter game.
It would eventually come as, on that fateful day in 2007, it was announced that Street Fighter IV was in development. The game was released in 2008, and it not only revitalized the fighting game genre but it also supercharged the FGC. By 2009, there was another animated movie, Street Fighter IV: Ties that Bind which, like the other stories before it, looked to give some flesh to the Street Fighter lore. It was a decent movie, but we won’t be going into it in this video because, guys, it is time. Remember how I said that while the Street Fighter movie from the 90s wasn’t good, it was still considered the best official Street Fighter movie? Well, it is now time to talk about the other Street Fighter movie. It is time to talk about the trainwreck that was Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
So, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li was supposed to be Capcom’s attempt at a more grounded telling of their tale. The idea was to tell a story from a character’s perspective, making it a character study of sorts. It was set before the events of the mainline Street Fighter series and was supposed to be a compelling drama. Capcom worked together with Hyde Park Entertainment to produce the film and hired Andrzej Bartkowiak to direct the movie. Bartkowiak’s film credits include Doom, Romeo must die, and Cradle 2 the Grave.
They also hired a total rookie in Justin Marks, who was writing his first major film script to work on the movie. There was a budget of $50 million for the movie, and there was an interesting cast. So, we had Kristen Kreuk, who is best known for her work in Smallville, play the role of Chun Li. Kreuk actually left Smallville, a show that, despite its critics, has a very steady fan base for this movie. This was supposed to be her big break, needless to say, that did not go according to plan. They also got Neal McDonough, a man I do not think has ever played a non-villainous role, to step into the shoes of Bison, who the late Raul Julia so splendidly played.
Now, I think Neal McDonough is a great villain normally, but the choice to make him play the role of a Thai general seemed a bit odd. He does not remotely look like a Bison. They also got Black Eyed Peas member, Taboo to play Vega, and that was another weird casting choice that makes little sense. There was Chris Klein, who is best known for his role in American Pie cast to play Nash. Finally, they initially got Rick Yune to play the role of Gen, but he left the project and was replaced by Robin Shou. Yes, guys, Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat Annihilation was Chun Li’s master, Gen. It was even revealed that they wanted to get Van Damme back as Guile, but he turned them down.
So, they had all the ingredients, it was now time to make a movie, and make a movie they did, only it was not a very good movie. The plot was paper thin. Chun li trained to be a concert pianist as a kid and learned martial arts from her father, but he was taken away from her by Bison and his goons. She grows up, is given a scroll which sets her off on a mission to find her father.
She meets Gen, learns how to fight, and also gets information about who and where Bison is. After some initial back and forth and shenanigans, she is captured by Bison and reunited with her father. The reunion doesn’t last long as Bison kills her father in front of her and proceeds to carry out whatever nefarious plan he had in mind. With Gen's help, she fights back and takes Bison’s daughter, Rose, to safety. She is eventually able to get the upper hand on Bison and kills him. Once everything is over, she returns to Hong Kong and is shown a flier of a tournament and some guy named Ryu who is going to be competing in it. She declines the offer to check out the tournament claiming that she is now home.
Oh, I totally forgot about Charlie Nash and Maya, two Interpol agents who are also after Bison because… err… bad guy. Look, it was a messy plot with vague character motivations, and it tried to take itself too seriously. It seemed they were going for a more grounded Street Fighter movie with no mystical or supernatural elements, but it was just plain boring.
It bombed at the box office, only recouping $12.8 million out of the $50 million outlay, and it sits with a 3% rotten tomatoes score. Critics have bashed it left and right, with one of the most prominent being its lack of faithfulness to the source material. This was particularly problematic as it seems that if they had gone with something closer to the source material, it could have been somewhat better. For instance, Chun li as an Interpol agent rather than a concert pianist, would have made way more sense considering the things she was able to do, like beating a group of men and being able to handle violence with no problem. Bison, as a power-hungry Thai dictator, would have made more sense than the story we got here, which was that he was the son of Irish missionaries who then grew this evil streak that made him the man he is today. That was as vague as they come. And how about Charlie as an Interpol agent as opposed to a military operative? It didn’t go well, and Chris Klein’s acting DID NOT HELP! We got gems like this (0:06) and this (0:40-0:50). We can go on and on about how Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, but we’ll be here all day. The first Street Fighter movie was bad, but it was at least campy and looked like the creators and actors cared; Legend of Chun Li was soulless, and I think that was ultimately the problem. It didn’t feel like anyone making it really cared about Street Fighter. Raul Julia’s turn as Bison was memorable, and I think that had a lot to do with the fact that he ultimately did it for his kids, who were big fans of Street Fighter. I wonder if anyone on the set of Legend of Chun Li felt that way. The movie did so badly that Capcom immediately scrapped plans for a sequel and considered blocking every other attempt to make a live-action movie from their property. However, a former Business developer at Capcom said in an interview that the company is still open to making another movie. He also said that the movie was a colossal failure partly because of the direction it took to. He also mentioned how there were conflicting ideas as to how the movie should be made. The Legend of Chun Li was the last big-budget Street Fighter movie made, but with the relative success of the latest Mortal Kombat movie and impressive technological advancement, there is some hope that we can get a Street Fighter movie that is more faithful to the source material with great effects to bring our favorite characters to life.
Normally, that would be the end of our discussion on the movies attached to Street Fighter, but it would be remiss of me not to mention the efforts of fans, many of whom have made some really great pieces of art surrounding this fighting game. We can get into all of them, but I’d like to highlight two that I thought were pretty good.
Balrog: Behind the Glory, and Matador. Both movies are short films that were screened at Evo. Balrog: Behind the Glory was shown to audiences at Evo 2011, with Matador showing up three years later in 2014. Both films were produced by ChubbyBoyFilms and focused on Bison’s henchmen: Boxer and Claw.
Behind the Glory was an intimate look into the life of Boxer, who was called Bison in this movie as originally intended in Japan. The movie, or rather, mockumentary, followed Boxer’s life which was narrated by those who knew him best. The movie producers also had the genius idea of explaining how Boxer got to be called Balrog instead of Bison. Apparently, Claw and Dictator were gambling men, and Boxer, who won a poker game against them, stated that his condition was that they swapped names around. So, he was Balrog, Claw became Vega and Dictator became Bison. But, the most significant talking point has to be the acting of Floyd Foster Jr., who played Boxer’s father. He took the role so seriously that it elevated the entire film. Watching him talk fondly about who we all know as the loud-talking, brash and abrasive boxer lent a humanity and further personality to Boxer. It made us remember that, after all, he was someone’s son. Someone who loved him very much. Going by the reception, the film received at Evo and the comments under the video, people loved it as it painted a portrait of some of our favorite characters in a way that no live-action movie so far has been able to. It also proved that you could tell a Street Fighter story without the bombastic elements successfully.
The second movie was Matador. This film follows Claw and the traumatic childhood that led him to become the sadistic killer that he is now. This was also well-received by audiences and fans. Unfortunately, it seems ChubbyBoyFilms isn’t around anymore, which is a shame considering how well-made the fan-made films are.
So that's it with the Street Fighter movies, how did they do with the series?