The film was a commercial success, making approximately three times its production costs, but was panned by critics and by fans of the games. However, Raúl Juliá's performance as General M. Bison was widely praised and garnered him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Saturn Awards. Julia, who at the time was suffering from stomach cancer (as evidenced by his pale and gaunt facial complexion throughout the movie), took the role at the request of his two children. This was Julia's final posthumous theatrical performance, and he died two months before the film's release. The film is dedicated to his memory. Two video game tie-ins based on the film were released which used digitized footage of the actors performing fight moves, similar to the presentations in the Mortal Kombat series of games.
In the Southeast Asian nation of Shadaloo City, civil war has erupted between the forces of crazed military dictator and drug kingpin General M. Bison and the Allied Nations, a multinational military force, led by their regional commander, Colonel William F. Guile. Bison has captured several A.N. relief workers, and via a live two-way radio broadcast, demands Guile secure a US$20 billion ransom in three days. Guile refuses and vows to track Bison down, but his assistant, Sergeant Cammy is only partially able to pinpoint Bison's location to the river-delta region outside the city. One of the hostages is Guile's friend, Carlos "Charlie" Blanka, who Bison orders taken to his lab for his captive witch doctor, Dhalsim, to turn into the first of his supersoldiers. Though Charlie is severely disfigured by the procedure, Dhalsim secretly alters his cerebral programming to maintain Charlie's humanity.
Meanwhile, American con artists Ryu Hoshi and Ken Masters attempt to swindle arms dealer Viktor Sagat by providing him with fake weaponry. Sagat sees through the ruse and has Ryu fight his cage champion, Vega, but Guile bursts in and arrests everyone present for violating a curfew. In the prison grounds, Guile witnesses Ryu and Ken fighting Sagat's men, and recruits them to help him find Bison in exchange for their freedom, since Sagat is Bison's arms supplier. They are entrusted with a homing device and win Sagat's trust by staging a prison escape and faking Guile's death. However, reporter Chun-Li and her crew, former sumo wrestler E. Honda and boxer Balrog, all of whom desire vengeance on Bison and Sagat, stumble across the plan, and, over Guile's objections, attempt to assassinate Bison and Sagat at a party. To maintain Bison's trust, Ryu and Ken stop the assassination and reveal Chun Li, Honda, and Balrog to Bison.
Returning to his base, Bison inducts Ryu, Ken and Vega into his organization and orders Honda and Balrog imprisoned and Chun-Li taken to his quarters. Ryu and Ken break Balrog and Honda out of confinement and rush to confront Bison, who is fighting Chun-Li, but Bison escapes and releases sleeping gas, sedating them all. Guile plans his assault on Bison's base. He is impeded by the Deputy Secretary of the A.N., who informs Guile that the decision has been made to pay Bison the ransom, but Guile proceeds with the mission on his own. At the base, Dhalsim is found by a security guard, and a fight ensues in which Charlie is released and he kills the guard to protect Dhalsim. Guile arrives and sneaks into the lab, where Charlie begins strangling him. Charlie stops when he recognizes Guile. Horrified at what his friend has become, Guile prepares to kill Charlie to end his suffering, but Dhalsim stops him. Bison prepares to kill the hostages by unleashing Charlie on them, but Guile emerges and a gunfight ensues with until the remaining A.N. forces arrive. After ordering Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Honda and Balrog to rescue the hostages, Guile engages Bison in a one-on-one duel. As Guile and Bison fight, Ryu and Ken are confronted by Sagat and Vega, and defeat them. Bison's computer expert, Dee Jay steals Bison's trunk of money and escapes, joined by Sagat. Bison's bodyguard, Zangief, engages Honda in a vicious fight until learning from Dee Jay that Bison was the true enemy, and joins sides with Ryu and Ken.
Guile gains the upper hand against Bison and kicks him into a bank of hard drives, delivering him a fatal electric shock, but a revival system restores Bison and he reveals that his suit is powered by electromagnetism which enables him to fly and fire electricity from his knuckles. Bison takes control of the fight and eventually moves to deal the death blow, but Guile counters with a well-timed roundhouse kick that sends Bison crashing into his gigantic monitor wall, but also causes the base's energy field to overload. The hostages are rescued, but Guile stays behind to convince Dhalsim and Charlie to return with him, though they refuse, Charlie unwilling to return to society in his condition and Dhalsim wishes to atone for his part in mutating Charlie in the first place. Guile escapes as the base explodes and reunites with his comrades, while Sagat and Dee Jay realize the trunk was full of useless "Bison Dollars" that Bison intended to use once he had taken over the world.
Because Capcom was co-financier of the film, every aspect of the production required their approval. Among other points, they mandated a December 1994 release date, which required the cast and crew to maintain an aggressive filming schedule. DeSouza says he wrote the initial draft of the script overnight, being made aware that Capcom executives were in Los Angeles on short notice and because he himself was a fan of the game.
Capcom had long envisioned Jean-Claude Van Damme as Guile and asked him to be cast. After Van Damme was cast as Guile and Raúl Juliá as Bison, most of the casting budget had been spent. Van Damme's fee alone took nearly 8 million dollars of the film's 35 million dollar budget. This meant that the majority of other parts had to go to little-known or unknown actors. Kylie Minogue was cast as Cammy as a result of the Australian Actors' Guild wanting Steven E. de Souza to hire an Australian actor. By the time he received the request the only part not cast was that of Cammy. De Souza first learned of Minogue from her cover photo on a "World's 30 Most Beautiful People" edition of Who magazine. Japanese actor Kenya Sawada appeared in the film as a part of a promotional contract with Capcom.
The cast's physical training was handled by Hollywood trainer and world karate champion Benny Urquidez. Charlie Picerni was hired as the stunt coordinator; he took the job with the condition that he would need ample time to train the cast. De Souza agreed, however plans were switched once it was learned the Raúl Juliá was suffering from cancer. Initially plans were to shoot Juliá's less intensive scenes first while the rest of the cast would train with Picerni, however upon seeing Juliá, de Souza realized that they could not show him in his current weakened state and was forced to switch the filming around. This led to an environment where the cast would be trained only right before their scenes—sometimes only hours ahead.
De Souza stated that he did not want to make a generic martial arts movie and described the film as cross between Star Wars, James Bond and a war film. In addition, he indicated that he also did not want to shoehorn in elements from the games, citing the previous year's poorly received Super Mario Bros. film as an example. De Souza said that he avoided the supernatural elements and powers from the games but would hint at their use for a sequel.
Street Fighter was filmed mostly in Queensland, Australia along the famous Gold Coast during the second and third quarters of 1994 with most of the interiors and exteriors filmed on soundstages in Brisbane. Some exterior scenes were filmed in Bangkok, Thailand which were used as the backdrop for the fictitious Shadaloo City. The Bangkok scenes were filmed first, in the second quarter of 1994, with filming in Australia beginning after three weeks in Bangkok. DeSouza envisioned the attack on Bison's hide-out to include helicopters but was unable to do so due to the political instability in the neighbouring Myanmar, which is why the AN troops attack via boats instead.
The MPAA gave the first submitted cut of the film an R classification which was unacceptably high for Capcom, who had stated from the start that it should be a PG-13 film. After various cuts were made a G rating—according to de Souza—was given which was bumped up to PG-13 with the addition of an expletive in post production.
In a post-credits scene, Bison's computer is reactivated from solar power and the revival system restores Bison again. His fist smashes through the rubble and a computer screen is shown selecting "World Domination: Replay". This scene was omitted from the theatrical release "out of deference to Raul Julia".
A soundtrack was released on December 6, 1994 by Priority Records featuring mostly rap music. The soundtrack found mild success, peaking at #135 on the Billboard 200 and #34 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Upon its release on home video in the United Kingdom, the soundtrack was given away free with every purchase of the VHS tape at branches of Tesco for a limited period. Although this was the only way for anybody in the UK to purchase the CD, "Straight to My Feet" by Hammer was still released as a single, which charted #57 in the UK.
Graeme Revell composed the film's score, an hour of which was released by Varèse Sarabande. Revell ignored previously existing music from the franchise. The music differs from Revell's more popular style, most notably with the absence of pervasive electronic elements, and is entirely orchestral. The campy style of the film is reflected in the score's parody cues. The music during the scene where Ryu faces Vega in the cage fight quotes Georges Bizet's Habanera from the opera Carmen, and a theme heard throughout the score, particularly in the track "Colonel Guile Addresses the Troops", is reminiscent of Bruce Broughton's main theme for Tombstone.
Street Fighter had opened in New York and Los Angeles on December 23, 1994.
The film earned $3,124,775 on its opening day. It grossed $9,508,030 on its opening weekend, ranking at #3 behind Dumb and Dumber and The Santa Clause at the box office. On its second weekend it grossed $7,178,360 and dropped down to #7. The film grossed $33,423,521 at the domestic box office and $66,000,000 at the international box office, making a total of $99,423,521 worldwide.
Leonard Maltin gave the film his lowest rating, writing that "even Jean-Claude Van Damme fans couldn't rationalize this bomb." Richard Harrington of The Washington Post said the film was "notable only for being the last film made by Raúl Juliá, an actor far too skilled for the demands of the evil warlord, Gen. M. Bison, but far too professional to give anything less than his best." Critic Stephen Holden of The New York Times referred to the film as "a dreary, overstuffed hodgepodge of poorly edited martial arts sequences and often unintelligible dialogue". Variety stated that the film "suffers from the same problems that impaired “Super Mario Bros.”: It’s noisy, overblown and effects-laden and lacks sustained action or engaging characters." Variety commented on Julia's, referring to it as "his weakest performances, accentuating each and every syllable as if he were reciting a Shakespearean role of grand emotional range. It’s too bad, for this is the accomplished actor’s last film, and it is dedicated to him."
Sight & Sound described Kylie Minogue as Cammy "hilarious miscasting as a military wench with Heidi plaits. There merest glimpse of her holding a bazooka and looking mean is enough to induce giggles in the most dour of viewers."
In 2009, Time listed the film on their list of top ten worst video games movies. GameTrailers ranked the film as the eighth worst video game film of all time. The film also received two nominations at the Saturn Awards: Best Science Fiction Film and Best Supporting Actor (a posthumous nomination for Raúl Juliá).
A one shot comic book adaptation of the film, titled Street Fighter: The Battle for Shadaloo, was published by DC Comics in 1995. The comic was drawn by Nick J. Napolitano and written by Mike McAvennie. A Japanese one-shot manga adaptation by Takayuki Sakai was also published in the June 1995 issue of CoroCoro Comics Special.
Two video games based on the film were produced. The first was a coin-operated arcade game titled Street Fighter: The Movie, produced by American developer Incredible Technologies and distributed by Capcom. The second was a home video game developed by Capcom also titled Street Fighter: The Movie, released for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Despite sharing the same title, neither game is a port of the other, although they both used the same digitized footage of the film's cast posing as the characters in each game. Capcom also announced that an "enhanced port" was being created for the Sega 32X by their newly formed USA research and development department. This version was never released.
Many plot elements of the film, such as Blanka's identity and Dhalsim's role as a scientist, were reused in the American-produced 1995 Street Fighter animated series, a follow-up to this film which combined story aspects of the film with those in the games.