Parkour traces its origin from the French word “parcours” which stands for “a way through” or “the path.” Parkour originated from a training program that was utilized by French Special Forces. It involves moving from one point to another by using the obstacles along the way to increase your efficiency without the utilization of any assistive tools.
It comprises of climbing, running, vaulting, swinging, rolling, jumping, rolling, and any other form of movement that is suitable for the particular situation. David Belle, a French national, is said to be the founder of Parkour. David was introduced to basics of Parkour by his father Raymond Belle who was a fireman and a Veteran of the French Special Forces.
David and a close friend of his came up with a group of Parkour practitioners and named it, Yamikazi. It is from here that the practice spread worldwide.
The advent and eventual spread of Parkour have had a significant impact in both the military and entertainment areas. Some elements of Parkour are being incorporated into the training of modern day military personnel, for example, U.S Marines.
In the entertainment scene, movie directors are hiring Parkour specialists to perform several action stunts. Moreover, some movie stars are required to undergo Parkour training so that they can portray a particular role. For example, Arrow’s main character Stephen Amell had to undergo Parkour training before commencing the role of Oliver Quinn. Several other movie stars are Parkour practitioners, for instance, Caity Lotz.
Video games developers have also incorporated Parkour or free running into their games.
With an increasing number of film producers incorporating aspects of Parkour into movies, here are a10 best Parkour movies.
1. Banlieue 13 – Ultimatum
This French film was released in 2009. It is referred to as “District 13- Ultimatum” in English. It was written by Luc Besson who was also the producer. Its director was Patrick Alessandrin. In the movie, David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli, both Parkour Legends play the roles of Leito and Captain Damien, respectively.
After successfully waging war against drug cartels, Captain Damien is consequently framed when cocaine is planted in his kitchen which leads to his arrest. While under arrest, he asks for help from Leito. Five gangs are fighting for control of District 13 after the death of ganglord Taha Bemamud left a power vacuum. Corrupt government officials from the Department of Internal State Security (DISS) spark inter-gang wars so that they can get an excuse to level down a five tower block in the district using precision bombing. Their conspiracy is witnessed by a teenager called Samir together with his friends.
Leito breaks Captain Damien from arrest, and together they use the information from Samir to convince the five warring gangs to join forces with them so that they can unmask the government’s foul play.
The movie’s great story was perfectly accentuated by the great fights and stunts. Reviewers termed some of the stunts performed by David Belle and Cyril as impressive and breathtaking.
The action sequences make the film highly enjoyable.
As a result, the film had a rating of 74% on Rotten Tomatoes.
2. Ong-bak: Muay Thai Warrior
Ong-bak is a Thailand action movie that involves plenty of martial arts. It was written by Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai and Suphachai Sittiaumponpan then directed by Prachya Pinkaew and produced by Somsak Techaratanaprasert and Prachya Pinkaew.
The main actor was Tony Jaa, a stuntman, action choreographer and an expert martial artist.
The action movie follows the life of Ting who lives in a small and quiet rural village. The village has a sacred statue called Ong-bak which is stolen by a businessman. The people of the village hence experience an intense drought period which heaps misery on them. Ting volunteers to track down the thief so as to reclaim the treasure.
Ting, a martial artist with immense athleticism heads into a corrupt city, Bangkok a man on a mission in spite of the enemy combatants to be faced along the way.
This movie was a big hit in Thailand.
Its critics tore into its purportedly shallow plot but couldn’t help but heap praise on its skillful martial arts.
3. Brick Mansions
This 2014 French- Canadian thriller film had the late Paul Walker and David Belle as co-stars. Brick Mansion’s plot is derived from “District 13- Ultimatum” in which David Belle was the main actor. It was written by Luc Besson, Bibi Naceri, and Robert Mark and directed by Camille Delamere.
Paul Walker portrays Damien Collier, an undercover Detroit cop while David Belle plays the role of an ex-convict who fights crimes in the streets. Together, the two bring down a mob boss who terrorizes the city.
Though Paul Walker lacked Parkour skills, David Belle over compensated for that with his diving through windows and bouncing off walls. However, this was a major critic point for the crime-thriller. Besides, the movie was found to be below par as compared to the District 13.
Concerning it Parkour skills, critics described the film as one with high-velocity action and fast pace. Others labeled it a high throttle action film.
4. Dhoom 3
Dhoom 3 is an Indian action film which starred Aamir Khan, Abhisheck Bachchan, and Katrina Kaif. It was directed by Vijay Krishna with Aditya Chopra being the producer.
It is called Boom 3 or Last 3 in English
Released in 2003, it was said to be the most expensive Indian film at the time owing to its $26 million budget.
The role of the principal character was played by Sahir Khan (Aamir Khan), a circus owner who has mastered magic and acrobatics. His father did commit suicide after he was unable to pay a loan from a corrupt bank, The Western Bank of Chicago. He exacts his revenge on the bank by robbing it sometimes. Consequently, two cops, Jai and Ali are sent from India to Chicago to stop him.
Critics gave a positive review of the movie with a good number terming it a mind-blowing thriller.
The swift and efficient movements of Aamir Khan in the film were attributed to the fact that he took Parkour lessons before the commencement of the movie shoot.
5. The Bourne Legacy
Released in 2012, The Bourne Ultimatum is an American action-packed film. Its producers were Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Jeffrey M. Weiner and Ben Smith. It was directed by Tony Gilroy.
The main character of the story is Aaron Cross and his role is portrayed by Jeremy Renner. Aaron Cross is a member of a secret government organization that enhances the physical and mental abilities of its agents by giving them particular pills. He is one of those agents. After some time, details of the clandestine activity are no longer a secret, and as a result, major people involved try to tie loose ends by eliminating everyone involved in the project. Aaron Cross runs for his life. He is then hunted down by his former employer.
The film has plenty of Parkour stunts which were performed by an expert on Parkour, Levi Meeuwenberg. They were as impressive as they were noteworthy. The film was lauded for its fast pace action.
6. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Released in 2010, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is an American fantasy movie. It was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and its director was Mike Newell.
The main characters were Prince Dastan, a role portrayed by Jake Gyllenhall, Nizam (Ben Kingsley), Princess Tamina (Gemma Arteton) and Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina).
Prince Dastan was adopted from the streets of Persia to royalty. He lives with his brothers Tus and Garsiv. He later became an excellent warrior and a prince. Prince Dastan would later lead an attack on the Holy City of Alaamut under Princess Tamina which supplies weaponry to Persian enemies. He quickly neutralizes this threat and in the process, recovers a mystical dagger. Princess Tamina is in need of the dagger. Later on, the king’s mysterious murder would be falsely pinned on Prince Dastan. This accusation forces him to run. He elopes with the Princess Tamina. The two combine forces to safeguard the world from deadly consequences of the mystical dagger were it to fall into wrong hands.
Despite this film getting plenty of negative reviews, there was a silver lining in its Parkour-based stunts. These aerobatics gave the film necessary action as well keeping the viewers from turning off their television sets.
It is not surprising that these high-octane stunts in the film were choreographed by David Belle, a legend in his right when it comes to Parkour.
7. Breaking and Entering
Produced by Timothy Bricknell, Anthony Minghella, and Sydney Pollack, and written and also produced by Anthony Minghella, Breaking and Entering is a romantic crime drama released in 2006.
Its main characters are Francis (Jude Law), a young English architect and his girlfriend Liv (Robin Wright Penn) who has an autistic daughter Bea. Bea’s unique condition puts a real strain on their relationship. Francis has a run-in with a young thief called Miro who jolts him to re-examine his current life. Miro, which is played by Rafi Gavron is usually hired by particular individuals to break into architectural firms. This movie is a breakdown of characters and the various complexities surrounding their individual lives.
In this film, Rafi Gavron impressively employs parkour techniques to break into the high-tech offices of an architect, Francis. This involved plenty of impossible stunts. This was a major talking point of this movie. Consequently, he was nominated for the Most Promising Newcomer award at the British Independent Film Awards.
Released in 2015, Tracers is an American film directed by Daniel Benmayor and produced by D Scott Lumpkin, Sebastian Mikołajczak, Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey.
The story revolves around Taylor Lautner who portrays Cam, a young bike messenger in New York City. He works his back off to repay a $ 15,000 loan he borrowed from a gang to help treat his mother who has since died. He then encounters an attractive young girl by the name Nikki. He then gets entangled in romance, crime and strangely enough, parkour.
The film got a mixed bag of reviews, but its parkour rich plot could not be ignored by any viewer. The aerobatics were exhilarating and eye-catching. Raters termed it as fun to watch owing to having several of young actors and actresses with parkour skills.
This 2011-released film is one with a plot revolving around Parkour.
Freerunner was directed by Lawrence Silverstein, produced by Warren Ostergard and Lawrence Silverstein and written by Matthew Chadwick, Raimund Huber and Jeremy Sklar.
Freerunner involves eight parkour practitioners who are abducted by a criminal called Frank. Frank puts remotely controlled explosive necklaces around their necks and forces them to take part in a gambling death race. One of the free runners, Ryan luckily manages to deactivate his necklace. With this development, Frank kidnaps Ryan girlfriend, Chelsea. Now Ryan is in a race against time to save Chelsea from the deadly hallows of Frank.
The film involves plenty of Parkour fights and stunts which largely make up for its average plot.
Besides, the freerunning in the movie is boosted by an experienced parkour practitioner, Ryan Doyle.
10. Live Free or Die Hard
Also known as Die Hard 4, Live Free or Die Hard is a film that features legendary actor Bruce Willis who plays John McClane. The American action film was released in 2007. It was produced by Michael Fottrell and directed by Len Wiseman.
McClane is an NYPD detective who resides in Brooklyn. He is on a mission to stop cyber terrorists who have gained access to the United States government and business computer networks and are determined to bring down the country’s economy and infrastructure. The film has plenty of riveting physical fights which have out-of-this-world moves.
One memorable scene in this top rated movie is when John McClane fights the villain, Rand. The role of Rand is played by the skilled parkour practitioner, Cyrill Raffaelli. You should watch and even re-watch that scene.
Parkour has added value to these movies. Some had a weak storyline, but the action in them courtesy of Parkour proved to be their guardian angel and cavalry as well. Others had a good plot and the Parkour-inspired stunts in them made them world-beaters. Others are remembered because of their high-velocity action sequences all thanks to Parkour experts who did the stunts themselves or even served as stunt choreographers. To some like Rafi Gavron, in Breaking and Entering these fine movements set the stage for their future success in acting.
The role Parkour is playing in modern-day entertainment cannot be overlooked at any cost. A serious movie producer ought to incorporate these maneuvers into production.