Revenge Films are an intense bunch, usually they end up with somebody brutally killing another and usually it’s because they really had it coming. In these movies, someone is wronged in such a horrible way, that the wronged parties revenge has to be equally horrible, or maybe even more so. Since its “Action/Revenge Month” here at The Film Connoisseur (you guys been enjoying it?) I thought it would be cool to whip up a list of a couple of my favorite revenge films.
Though to be honest, I don’t feel this list is complete because I know it is missing a film that should to be in there. I’m talking about Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971), a film considered by many as one of the best revenge films ever. The only reason why it’s not on this list is because I hate to talk about films I haven’t seen myself, but do me a favor and just make believe it’s in there okay? Good. By the way Straw Dogs has just gotten the remake treatment starring James Mardsen and Kate Bosworth; I’m really curious to see how both of these films compare. But rest easy my friends; I will be reviewing Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs before revenge month is over, so look forward to that!
In the meantime, I offer you my choice of Top Revenge films, enjoy!
(2005) Sin City
Director: Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller
Synopsis: A trio of stories that all revolve around the scumbag characters that inhabit
. Not all the stories revolve around the theme of revenge, but the one titled ‘The Hard Goodbye’ starring Mickey Rourke as Marv, a hitman who’s fallen in love with Goldie, the most beautiful bombshell/prostitute in Basin City , is a good one. Unfortunately, someone killed Goldie while Marv was sleeping, and now it’s his job to find out who did this to him, and why. You can bet when he finds out, they are all going to pay for Goldie’s death. This story has one of the nastiest paybacks on any revenge movie. Ever! Also, Rourke steals the show as Marv, the killer with a heart of gold. As an added bonus you get Rutger Hauer playing an evil priest and Elijah Wood playing a 100% pure evil cannibal. This story get’s really dark and twisted, the final shebang is well worth the wait. Sin City
Vengeful Quote: “Well, I’m gonna find that son of a bitch that killed you, and I’m gonna give him the hard goodbye. Walk down the right back alley in
, and you can find anything.” Sin City
Title: Lady Snowblood (1973)
Director: Toshiya Fujita
Synopsis: Criminals murder and wipe out Yuki’s family, only her and her mother survive, and Yuki survived because she was unborn, in her mothers belly. Her mother, burning with desire to make these criminals pay for their sins decides to raise her unborn daughter –Yuki- as the instrument with which to exact her revenge with. Unfortunately, Yuki’s mother dies when giving birth to her. But before she dies, she makes sure that her baby will be raised as an assassin, so that she can avenge everything that was done to her family. This is a great revenge film, with some beautifully shot images. One thing you will notice upon watching this film is how much it influenced Tarantino’s own Kill Bill (2003) especially with the characters of The Bride and of O-ren Ishii.
Title: I Saw the Devil (2010)
Director: Jee-Woon Kim
Synopsis: This film comes to us from the director of the original A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) and The Good, The Bad and The Weird (2008). It tells the tale of a cop whose pregnant girlfriend gets caught and murdered by a vicious individual who likes to kill people and then eat them with his cannibal pals. The villain in this film is truly evil, hence the title of the film. He gives the appearance of being a normal person, yet he is anything but. What I enjoyed about this film was how the villain is presented with an equally intelligent and resourceful hero. This isn’t the kind of film in which the bad guy outsmarts the good guys all the time, nope, this is a film in which the good guy is always one step ahead of the killer. It plays with the idea of having to become a monster in order to catch the monster. A real bonus for this film is that the villain is played by Korean actor Min-Sik Choi who some of you will remember as Oh Dae-Su, the main character in Oldboy (2003)
Title: Taken (2008)
Director: Pierre Morel
Synopsis: This revenge film comes to us from the French director behind the awesome action flick, District B-13 (2004) and the recent John Travolta action film, From Paris with Love (2010). But Taken tells the tale of ex-military man Bryan Mills. Bryan’s daughter Kim is set to go on a trip to Paris with her best friend, and in spite of his father being against the idea, he let’s her go because he doesn’t want to be the bad father who doesn’t let his teenage daughter spread her wings and fly away to see the world. So off she goes to
, unfortunately, as soon as she gets there she and her friend are kidnapped! Thankfully before the thugs take her away, Kim gets a chance to call up her dad! Unbeknownst to the villains is the fact that Paris is a well trained killing machine with the abilities and know how to make these bastards pay. So after Kim is kidnapped the film turns into an exhilarating chase to catch the thugs who kidnapped her. Again, this revenge film presents us with an extremely reliable hero, one that will surely catch the bad guys and make them pay. This movie caught me by surprise. I was expecting a regular run of the mill thriller, and what I got was an extremely exhilarating story, with a completely satisfying ending! Highly recommend it! The interesting about this film is that it’s a relatively new film, yet it has shot straight to many film buffs “best revenge films” lists. Give this one a chance; I doubt you’ll be disappointed. Liam Neeson rules on this one! Bryan
Vengeful Quote: “I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you”
(1991) Cape Fear
Director: Martin Scorsese
Synopsis: Max Cady is an ex-con who’s just gotten out of jail; he served a 14 year old sentence for rape. But now he is out and he is looking to exact revenge upon Sam Bowden, the lawyer who was supposed to defend him in court, but didn’t. You see, Mr. Bowden decided that Max was too evil too help and that he should go to jail. Well, he did. But now he is out, and he is looking to make Sam pay for the fourteen years that he lost. This movie is one of my favorite Scorsese films because it’s so over the top, it’s so colorful and alive. Deniro steals the show with this one, he is one big, loud, bible quoting, cigar chomping, tattoo sporting, terrifying villain; but also, a very memorable one. One of the Deniro’s most over the top performances.
Vengeful Quote: “I find you guilty counselor! Guilty of betraying your fellow man! Guilt of betraying your country and abrogating your oath! Guilty of judging me and selling me out! With the power vested in me by the kingdom of god, I sentence you to the
Ninth Circle of Hell! Now you will learn about loss! Loss of humanity! Loss of Freedom! Now you and I will truly be the same...”
Title: Sweeney Todd (2007)
Director: Tim Burton
Synopsis: Benjamin Barker, also known as Mr. Sweeny Todd was wronged many years ago by the lustful Judge Turpin, a man with power who took a liking for Mr. Barker’s wife. The judge makes Barker’s life a living hell, and takes over his wife! Barker disappears for 15 years but then returns to exact his revenge upon the evil judge. This one is every bit as gothic, bloody, and dark as you’d expect a Tim Burton film to be like. It is also a musical, a fact that makes many people walk away from watching this bloody film. It’s their loss, the songs are pretty catchy, the art direction is top notch and the film gets gory as heck. Johnny Depp is awesome as The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; it’s surprising to see Depp sing so well, something he’d never done in a film before. Highly recommend it to fans of
’s gothic style of filmmaking and if you love musicals (as I do) than trust me, this one is a keeper. Burton
Vengeful Quote: “No, not Barker. That man is dead. Its Todd now, Sweeney Todd, and he will have his revenge!”
Title: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982)
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Synopsis: Star Trek II is considered by many Trekkies as the best Star Trek movie ever, or at least it was considered the best Star Trek ever until J.J. Abrahams Star Trek (2009) came along and changed all that. J.J. Abrahms film is in my humble opinion the best Trek film to date. But holding a strong second place amongst Trek films is Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, a film purely infused with revenge. The films tagline is: “At the end of the universe lies the beginning of vengeance”. The films revenge theme comes to us via the character of Kahn Noonien Singh (Kahn for short) wonderfully played by Ricardo Montalban. Kahn has an old grudge to settle with Captain Kirk, and he aims to make him pay by stealing the Genesis Device, an artifact that can start life on dead planets, but can also be used to destroy them. You see, Kahn holds Kirk responsible for the death of his wife, and he plans to avenge her. This truly is one of the best Trek films, and a lot has to do with the fact that one of its main characters comes to a bitter end, and also because of Montalban’s awesome performance as the Shakespeare quoting Kahn.
Vengeful Quote: “Surely I have made my meaning plain. I mean to avenge myself upon you Admiral. I deprived your ship of power, and when I swing around, I mean to deprive you of your life”
Title: Unforgiven (1992)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Synopsis: What do you do when you are Clint Eastwood, an American Icon that’s participated in so many memorable western films, amongst them the most legendary one of all The Good The Bad and The Ugly (1966)? I tell you what you do; you make another legendary western that epitomizes all that knowledge you acquired by making all those awesome westerns in the past! That film is Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. For all intents and purposes, Unforgiven is a film that exists in the same universe as all those other films that star Clint Eastwood as Blondie a.k.a. “The Man With No Name”. On this one he is a retired gunslinger called William Munny. William is trying his best to leave his dark past behind by living the life of a farmer, unfortunately farming is not really his thing. So when a group of whores puts a bounty on a bastard who cut up and maimed one of their own, he decides to take matters into his own hands by making the villains who did it pay. Cool thing is that William Munny is a character that used to be this crazed gunslinger that’d kill anyone out of pure madness and drunkenness, but now he’s all sobered up, trying to be a regular fellow, lead the good life. Honestly, amongst all the westerns I have seen, this one is in second place only to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This film is so well made, so beautiful to look at, so well acted. Plus, it’s just awesome seeing Clint Eastwood playing a gunslinger one last time, the film is worth it just for that.
Vengeful Quote: “That’s right, I’ve killed woman and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned”
Title: Mad Max (1979)
Director: George Miller
Synopsis: Mad Max takes place in a future in which chaos, cars and gasoline are God. Society is on the verge of completely loosing it, anarchy seems to rule supreme. This film is not yet “post apocalyptic” because the nuclear apocalypse doesn’t happen until the second film in the series, a.k.a. The Road Warrior (1981), but society is definitely on the fringes of normality. And so is Max Rockatansky, who is not entirely ‘mad’ just yet, but he’s certainly getting there. You see Max is a cop dealing with the scum of the earth, but his buttons are pushed when a group of good for nothing hoodlums kills both his wife and his baby. That’s when Max goes NUTS and becomes the titular ‘MAD MAX’! Revenge is what fuels him all the way to the end of the film. This movie stars a very young Mel Gibson and has some cool car chases across the Australian Outback. The car chases will make you want to get into one of these cars and burn some rubber!
Vengeful Quote: “The chain on those handcuffs is high tense steel. It’d take you ten minutes to hack through with this. Now, if you’re lucky, you could hack through your ankle in five minutes. Go!”
Title: Fist of Fury (1972)
Director: Wei Lo
Synopsis: There are is a scene in Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury where you will feel the hatred and vengeance coming out of Bruce Lee’s every pore as he moves around in slow motion leaving ghost images of himself behind because he is moving so fast. First of Fury is in my humble opinion Bruce Lee’s best film ever, even surpassing in awesomeness the more recognized Enter The Dragon (1973). On this one Lee comes back to his home town to discover that his Kung Fu Master has been murdered by a rival school. What’s a faithful student to do if not avenge his masters death? And that’s exactly what Lee sets out to do. He goes around smacking people around to get to the one responsible. One scene has Lee punching a guy in the gut screaming Why? Why? Why? Why did you kill my master? With every ‘Why?’ he punches the guy in the gut again and again. Lee had this ability to project and intensity in his performances, but this is by far his most intense one. Highly recommend it. Fellow china man Jet Li remade this film and titled it Fist of Legend (1994), another fine film I highly recommend.
Vengeful Quote: “Why’d you kill my master? Why?! Why?! Why?!”
Title: Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Synopsis: There is perhaps no other living director in the world who understands revenge films as well as Tarantino does. I mean the guy literally feeds off of every revenge movie ever made during the 70’s and then goes and makes his own version of these films. He siphons everything he learns from Sonny Chiba and Gordon Liu and then projects all of that knowledge onto his own films. In Inglorious Basterds Tarantino presents us with a Jewish family who gets slaughtered by a Nazi commander. The Nazi literally comes into their household with a couple of soldiers and shoots the whole family down. Fortunately, the little girl in the family -named Shosanna- manages to escape the slaughter and makes her own way in life. But Shosanna hasn’t forgotten what was done to her family and so she makes it her mission in life to avenge their death. Shosanna patiently awaits the perfect moment in which to execute her glorious revenge. The ending to this movie is so awesome; Shosanna’s vengeance is so well orchestrated that you just might find your self clapping when watching it. This movie has so many good things going for it: a legendary director, an impressive cast and a revenge tale that will have you cheering by the final reel. What’s not to like?
Vengeful Quote: “My name is Shosanna Dreyfus, and THIS is the face of Jewish vengeance!”
Title: Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003/2004)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Synopsis: So since Tarantino is such a specialist in the them of revenge, I couldn’t help but include more than one Tarantino flick in here. And let’s face it, Kill Bill has revenge written all over it, perhaps more so than any of Tarantino’s films. I mean, the film starts out with a title card that reads: “Revenge is a dish best served cold” – Old Klingon Proverb, yup, the film starts out quoting Star Trek, but you have to admit, the 'old Klingon proverb' certainly fits. So right from the beginning you know this movie is going to be about revenge. And a very well deserved revenge it is. You see this is the story of Beatrix Kiddo, a.k.a. Black Mamba. She’s part of a group of assassins that works for a man called Bill. One day, Bill gets jealous because Beatrix is marrying somebody other than him and he decides to go and kill her; and on her wedding day no less! To make things ever sweeter, she’s pregnant! Beatrix doesn’t die that day, and so when she regains consciousness it’s all about getting her revenge. And boy does she ever get it. Beatrix is a master at the sword, and so she goes to
and buys herself a sword made by Sonny Chiba himself! Then, she returns to Japan and goes offing all of those who participated in her attempted murder, one by one, until she finally reaches Bill. These movies are worth the watch for so many reasons, but one of them is that fight that takes place in Oren Ishii’s restaurant –The House of Blue Leaves- with hundreds of goons facing off against a pissed off Beatrix! Now there’s a gory sword fight if there ever was one! America
Vengeful Quote: “No, no, no, no, no. No, to get even, even-Steven…I would have to kill you, go up to Nikki’s room, kill her…then wait for your husband, the good Dr. Bell to come home and kill him. That would be even Vernita. That’d be about square.”
Title: The Crow (1994)
Director: Alex Proyas
Synopsis: The Crow is simply put one of the purest revenge films ever made. If you were to distill this film, you’d end up with the prime ingredients for revenge. What better motive to make you come back from the grave then to avenge the rape and death of your fiancé? This is the story of Eric Draven, a young man in love. Unfortunately, just days away from marrying the love of his life, a gang of good for nothing thugs invades his home and proceed to rape his girlfriend and hurl him out the window of his apartment, effectively sending Eric down to his death. But death cannot stop revenge! And so, Eric’s hatred for these guys makes him come back from the dead! A supernatural force keeps him alive until the moment when he exacts his revenge. From there on in, Draven goes one by one killing all those involved in the murders. This is a dark film from its first opening scenes to its very last ones. Only ONE scene takes place during the day time, and it’s a brief one. This is a film enshrouded in real life sadness as well, Brandon Lee, who was surely to become a star after his awesome performance as The Crow, was shot dead while making this film. A great loss, but at least he left one last memorable performance before parting from this earth.
Vengeful Quote: “He was already dead. He died a year ago, the moment he touched her. They’re all dead. They just don’t know it yet”
Title: Death Wish (1974)
Director: Michael Winner
Synopsis: So Bronson’s Death Wish is a film that always ends up on many reviewers’ top ten lists, and on many of those it’s on the #1 spot and for good reason: revenge is all it’s about. Revenge is what drives the plot, after Paul Kersey’s (Bronson) wife gets murdered and his daughter gets raped, and he sees that the NYPD can do next to nothing about it, he takes matters into his own hands and becomes New York Cities #1 vigilante. He starts whacking off the bastards who killed his wife, and then he takes it a step further: he simply lashes out against crime in general! It’s a movie that sends a big old “fuck you” to crime. You a criminal? You must pay! You messing around with the regular Joe who simply wants to get home after work, you get blown away! I recently reviewed this one so you can read a bit more on that film here if you want. But sufficient to say that this one is a must watch if you want to watch the best of the best in revenge films.
Vengeful Quote: “Nothing to do but cut and run huh? What else? What about the old American custom of self-defense? If the police can’t defend us, maybe we ought to do it ourselves”
Title: Old Boy (2003)
Chan Wook Park
Synopsis: And here ladies and gentlemen is where we arrive at my #1 revenge film of all time,
’s Oldboy. Up to this point in my film watching career (yeah it’s a career!) this is the most purely vengeful film I have ever seen. I mean, a guy gets locked in a room for 15 years and he doesn’t know either who did it to him or why! One day he is released and he can think of nothing but finding the one responsible and making that person pay! But does he have a couple of skeletons in his closet that he doesn’t remember about? Did he wrong somebody and he can’t remember what it was? This movie is all sorts of amazing and stops at nothing to shock you. Its amazing filmmaking as well, Chan Wook Park utilizes many imaginative camera angles and shots on this one, this is a director that never ceases to amaze me. Oldboy is part two of his “revenge trilogy” which also includes Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Lady Vengeance (2005). Great films on their own right (Lady Vengeance being the best of those two) but of all three, Oldboy is the most grueling of all to watch. It’s the goriest, the most violent and the one that really gets under your skin. The mind blowing finale is a showstopper, Min Sik Choi’s performance as Oh Dae Su is nothing short of brilliant, I mean, I can say nothing bad about this movie except go and watch it if you haven’t already. This is the apex of revenge films. Chan Wook Park
Vengeful Quote: “If by any chance Mido should find out the truth, you son of a bitch, I’m going to rip you limb from limb. And your remains will never be found. Why? Because I’m going to swallow every last bit”