Top 10 Essential Revenge Movies (Video Edition)
The highly acclaimed PRISONERS opens today and tells the story of a father's attempted revenge on the man he believes abducted his daughter. We can all relate to the feelings of desperation and hopelessness anyone would feel in a situation like this, but we allow ourselves to feel the emotional roller-coaster on the big screen as entertainment. There is a long history of revenge themed movies and here are the ten best in our opinion. If your favorite didn't make the cut, mention it in the Talk Backs below.
It started as a fake trailer for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's GRINDHOUSE and became a full length feature starring the great Rutger Hauer. It is completely over the top, ridiculous, and insanely violent, but it does showcase one homeless man's rampage against those destroying the city he loves. Come for the vengeance, stay for the decapitations.
While it is not one of my favorites, I do respect the fan-base that has built up around this movie. Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery play Irish brothers who kill some mobsters in self defense and decide to clean up Boston from the criminal underworld. A nice performance by Willem Dafoe adds to the vigilante storyline that truly is closer to being a PUNISHER movie than the two authorized Marvel flicks.
This Wachowski produced adaptation of the comic book showed the world the iconic Guy Fawkes mask that has become a symbol for protests around the world. Hugo Weaving plays V, the masked title character who shepherds Natalie Portman through ways to overthrow the totalitarian government. The two work together to give back to the poor and helpless by any means necessary. A fantasy, sure, but also a striking portrait of what could be.
Mason Storm witnessed something he shouldn't have. The mob took his wife and put him in a coma. Now he is OUT FOR JUSTICE. No, that isn't right. Now he is MARKED FOR DEATH. Nope, wrong again. I got it. He is HARD TO KILL. This Steven Seagal classic takes the revenge tale down the "you kill my wife, I kill every single one of you" route complete with the weakest martial arts moves of any movie, and I have seen THE CRIPPLED MASTERS.
The reverse of the revenge tale, this great movie has our main character the one who is being punished and must find out why. Sure, the protagonist must get his own revenge, but it is all about the villain's rationale for seeking revenge in the first place that makes the twist ending for this movie so potent. Get ready for Spike Lee's English remake by checking out the original. It is chock full of double vengeance!
A superhero vengeance movie! Brandon Lee's death soured this franchise for a long time, but the idea of returning from the dead to avenge yourself and your wife is a powerful storytelling trick. Lee does a great job of playing Eric Draven and makes The Crow both an iconic visual character and an enduring moment in movie history. I hope the reboot does this movie justice moreso than any of the craptastic sequels.
Liam Neeson has a particular set of skills and he sure as hell knows how to use them. TAKEN follows the standard revenge outline but managed to surprise everyone by making DARKMAN himself show off creative ways to dispatch thugs. They could make dozens of these movies and while they may not be the best written movies, they would be fun to watch just to see Liam Neeson cracking skulls and taking names.
Even though they are making it a TV series, Tony Scott's movie will always be Denzel Washington's most badass role. Forget TRAINING DAY, when you watch MAN ON FIRE you know that Denzel's Creasy is not someone you f*ck with. He has forged a bond with Pita, the girl he protects and does anything to get her back, no matter the cost to himself or others. I defy you to watch MAN ON FIRE and not be on the edge of your seat as you root for the bad guys to get blown to smithereens.
The title says it all. One of Mel Gibson's best movies, PAYBACK details a shitty criminal doing everything he can to f*ck over the organized criminals who f*cked him over. Brian Helgeland's movie is hilarious and dark but also the perfect homage to pulpy detective stories. Combine that with knowing every character in this movie is a prick and you can enjoy everyone getting screwed over in every which way.
Charles Bronson is the father of revenge cinema. If it wasn't for DEATH WISH, we wouldn't have this list at all. While the series devolved into a gun-spewing action series, the first film was a combination of vigilante justice and good old fashioned revenge. When you think of Bronson, you think of DEATH WISH. And when you think of DEATH WISH, you think of vengeance.
A lot of Quentin Tarantino's movies are about revenge, but none as much as KILL BILL. Uma Thurman plays a role reserved for men in a way that we know she could tango with Bronson, Neeson, or any other guy on this list and probably come out on top. Whether it is a swordfight with Lucy Liu, a kitchen knifefight with Vivica Fox, or the Exploding Palm Technique versus David Carradine, The Bride gets her vengeance and it is a damn masterpiece.