27 Best Revenge Movies of All Time - VRGyani News and Media

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Sunday, August 22, 2021

27 Best Revenge Movies of All Time

Sure, we all try to be the best person we can be, thinking of others when we make big decisions and trying to forgive and move on. But sometimes, doesn’t revenge just sound a little too sweet to resist? Luckily, movies can be the perfect outlet for those feelings, and there are plenty of amazing films centered around the protagonist’s quest for revenge.

Revenge as a theme in movies has been around since the start of filmmaking, and considering how popular the subgenre still is today, I’d say that it’s quite the timeless story. We all know how unfair the world can be, so sometimes people just need to take justice into their own hands. But just to be clear, I am not advocating that anyone should do anything that the characters of these films do in their own life, because that would be, well, crazy. Keep it in the world of make believe, okay?

While you’d be surprised at how revenge stories stretch across all genres, most movies about people getting vengeance get violent, and they are not for those with a weak stomach. When looking for the best revenge movies ever made, I found a lot of blood, death, and quite a bit of Tarantino, all culminating in this list. Check out the best revenge movies out there to watch during your next movie night.

But seriously, don’t try this at home.

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Taken

Despite how many other revenge stories are out there, Taken is still the first thing I think of when I think of revenge movies. The movie is simple, with Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills, a retired CIA agent, going after the human traffickers who kidnap his daughter while she is on vacation in France. Taken earned cult classic just from one iconic phone call, when Bryan gets on the phone with the kidnappers and says, “If you are 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.” Everyone watching Taken doesn’t care what Bryan has to do or who he has to kill, they desperately want him to find and save his daughter almost as much as he does, and maybe kill the men responsible while he’s at it. While there were definitely similar action revenge films before (and after) 2008’s Taken, and are sure to be more in the future, the movie reignited the specific genre with a focus on older protagonists.

The Equalizer

With The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington, which came out a handful of years after Taken, Washington’s Bob McCall takes on a much more vigilante role in the film, as he gets revenge on the Russian mafia for a young sex worker named Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz). With a basic, straightforward premise, there’s nothing to overthink here. The 2014 film embraces the rising trend of older, weathered protagonists with antihero style morals, and it’s one of the few films in the action genre with a Black main character. With a well-structured plot, tight action sequences, and a star-studded cast that includes Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, and David Harbour, The Equalizer truly delivers on what it promises audiences — Washington dealing out his own brand of violent justice.

John Wick

Come on, when you started reading this article, John Wick was one of the first movies you thought of, wasn’t it? With a grizzled Keanu Reeves killing people with efficiency and style, there’s really nothing more you could ask for in a movie. This will get into spoiler territory for people who haven’t seen the first film, but someone killing the dog you got with your wife who just died is enough to make anyone homicidal, making John Wick an extremely relatable character for the audience. Sure, Reeves has led action franchises in the past, but none were given the ultimate freedom of an R-rating to be as brutal and intense as John Wick is. With three films and counting, the John Wick series has some of the best action sequences in movie history, and the cast, which has featured Ian McShane, Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston, and Laurence Fishburne in a The Matrix reunion, is amazing. But no matter how many films they make, the first will always be the one that started it all, and we are thankful for its existence.

Kill Bill

While Quentin Tarantino has made plenty of movies about revenge and violence, Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Kill Bill: Volume 2 together remain one of his most iconic creations. Uma Thurman stars in the action martial arts film as the Bride, whose real name is revealed to be Beatrix Kiddo, a woman who spends the whole film (which had to be cut in two because of the four hour or so runtime) tracking down the team of fellow assassins called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad who tried to kill her and her child. Like John Wick, the premise of Kill Bill is simple, and with revenge movies, it’s generally the simpler the better, to spend more time focusing on the action. As the title says, Beatrix is also after the leader of the team, a man named Bill (David Carradine), who is the father of her child. As with all other Tarantino flicks, Kill Bill has an intense style with bright characters and unique action sequences. Beatrix is one of the great female action protagonists and, with her sword and yellow outfit, she’s an unforgettable antihero for the ages.

The Handmaiden

If you want to see an epic tale of revenge wrapped up in a queer love story, that’s The Handmaiden. The 2016 South Korean film stars Kim Tae-ri as Nam Sook-hee, a young woman hired to care for the rich and beautiful Japanese heiress Izumi Hideko, played by Kim Min-hee. Her new job is part of a plot to help a greedy man named Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) marry Hideko for her money and then send her off to an asylum. But unbeknownst to Count Fujiwara and Hideko’s horrible uncle Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong), Sook-hee and Hideko grow quite close during their time together, and soon enough they’re turning the tables on the men. A few years before later South Korean hit films like Burning and Parasite were released, the Park Chan-wook-directed film The Handmaiden was the movie that no one could stop talking about, and with good reason. While the central romantic storyline is a big draw, the movie is also fantastic because of the tightly woven, clever story of four people playing a game of constant manipulation, with Sook-hee and Hideko enacting a plot for revenge on the two men trying to control their lives without them even knowing.

Promising Young Woman

One of the most recent movies on the list, the Emerald Fennell-directed Academy Award-winning film Promising Young Woman stars Carey Mulligan as a medical school dropout named Cassie Thomas who seeks revenge on everyone complicit in the rape of her best friend Nina Fisher by Al Monroe (Chris Lowell), along with the subsequent coverup, which led to Nina’s death by suicide. While at first Cassie spends her extracurricular time pretending to be intoxicated at bars to get men to take her home, before confronting them when they try to take advantage of her, she goes on a full-on revenge mission when she finds out that Al is getting married. Promising Young Woman is thought-provoking, thrilling, and consistently surprising, and it has a fantastic understanding of rape culture and how people who stand by and don’t do anything or allow it to happen are just as guilty. For the film, Fennell and the casting department put effort into picking actors who seemed like the classic “good guy,” to further emphasize that anyone can be a sexual predator. While the movie can be purely watched as an entertaining thriller with bouts of comedy, there’s a lot more going on under the surface that makes Promising Young Woman one of the best revenge movies in years.

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The Count of Monte Cristo

Based on the 1844 classic novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas, 2002’s The Count of Monte Cristo is the ultimate revenge story. Set in 1815, the movie stars Jim Caviezel as Edmond Dantès, the second mate on a shipping vessel. He is best friends with a man named Fernand Mondego, played to perfection by Guy Pierce, and happily in love with his fiancée, Mercédès, played by Dagmara Domińczyk. Everything is going well as Dantès and Mondego are traveling together on a merchant vessel, until Dantès starts getting promotions and attention from influential figures, which leads Mondego to team up with a manipulative man named J.F. Villefort (James Frain) and have Dantès sent to an island prison in Château d'If. An added bonus for Mondego? He convinces Mercédès that Dantès has been executed, and she is forced to lean on him for comfort and security. But Dantès’s nowhere near done, and he enacts the ultimate revenge plan that takes over 13 years to prepare for, with Dantès arriving back home under the visage of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” a charming man with riches and generosity. Instead of guns and suits, The Count of Monte Cristo is a true swashbuckler movie, with sword fighting, treasure, accents and fancy dress, pirates, and even Napoleon. What more could you want?

Lady Snowblood

Released in 1973 and based on the manga of the same name by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura, Lady Snowblood is said to be a major inspiration for Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Directed by Toshiya Fojita, the Japanese film stars Meiko Kaji as Yuki, a woman born for the sole purpose of getting revenge for her mother against the three men who brutally raped her and killed her husband and son. Yuki trains to be an assassin until she is around 18 and heads out on her ultimate mission, as she one-by-one tracks down and violently kills the men who ruined her mother’s life. The similarities between Lady Snowblood and Kill Bill, both physically and thematically, are extremely obvious, with some shots in the latter movie almost exact replicas of the 1973 film. In particular, the scene between Beatrix and Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii in the snow is very reminiscent of a comparably bloody scene in Lady Snowblood. While the movie’s revenge mission is an action-packed, tense aspect of the story, one of the best parts of Lady Snowblood is how it portrays the emotional aspect of Yuki’s tragic situation, doomed from her birth to live a life of horror. With distinct style and beauty not normally found in such a violent film, Lady Snowblood explores a variety of themes through Yuki’s doomed tale, everything from the politics of feudal Japan to how like many other women of the time (and now), Yuki is forced into a certain role from birth, leaving her feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Oldboy

Another film from Park Chan-wook, 2003’s Oldboy is a classic crime thriller and a must-see for all film fans. Technically, the entire unofficial “Vengeance Trilogy” by Park, which consists of 2002’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and the 2005 film Lady Vengeance, should probably be on this list, but Oldboy is arguably the best of the bunch. The movie stars Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su, a man who spends 15 years imprisoned in a cell that looks like a hotel room, with no idea who is behind the kidnapping. Right before he is about to escape, Dae-su is strangely released, so he sets out to find the person responsible. On the way, he meets a young woman named Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung) who he quickly develops a deep connection with. In Oldboy, revenge comes from both sides and it’s extremely complicated and messed up, that’s for sure. But while other films with similar storylines would use it solely for shock value, Oldboy maintains a no-holds-barred attitude in order to deeply explore the psychology of its characters going through such a violent, conflicting experience. In particular, the movie has stark similarities to one well-known Greek tragedy, but to name it would give away a lot of the story. Like many other films on this list that focus on a more violent style of revenge, Oldboy can be tough to watch, but if you like well-designed action scenes, layered characters, and a unique sort of madness, this movie is definitely worth watching.

Mean Girls

This may seem surprising, but teen movies often have the theme of revenge, and Mean Girls is the best of the best within this category. Written by Tina Fey, the comedy film stars Lindsay Lohan as Cady Heron, a 16-year-old girl venturing into the strange and wild world of public school after a childhood of homeschool and traveling. She’s learns about the “Plastics,” a group of beautiful and mean teenage girls led by queen bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams), and Cady decides to team up with two outcasts, Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian Leigh (Daniel Franzese), to enact a complicated plan to get back at Regina and the others for their intense bullying. Like a spy for her friends, Cady works her way into Regina’s inner circle in order to use her position to her, Janis, and Damian’s advantage. Unfortunately, Cady starts to get wrapped up in the world of the Plastics and being popular, until she becomes one of the people she originally hated. With a strangely intense understanding of the teen high school experience, Fey gets into the heads of teenage girls to show how everything seems so important in this period of their life, and the worst betrayals come from words, not weapons. Mean Girls constantly battles with Clueless for the title of the most influential teen movie, but in my opinion, Mean Girls takes the top spot.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

One of the many creations of Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd and the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is like a darker, bloodier, and more musical version of The Count of Monte Cristo, with 100% more people baked into pies. Evident with the film and other popular musicals like The Little Shop of Horrors and Rocky Horror Picture Show, it can be surprising how well horror and musical theatre go together if you do it right. In Sweeney Todd, which is based on the Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim, the title character (Depp) returns from exile to Fleet Street in London, England to get revenge on the man who stole his wife and daughter, Judge Turpin, played by the late Alan Rickman. Unluckily for the rest of London, Todd goes on a murder spree, killing anyone who comes into his barbershop until he finally kills Turpin, with Mrs. Lovett (Bonham Carter) helping him build an elaborate scheme to dispose of the bodies and make them into meat pies at her store. Despite how dark the story is, the music and black humor makes Sweeney Todd so fun that you even overlook the fact that Todd is a total serial killer, an Edward Scissorhands gone mad, if you will, and just go along for the ride.

Revenge

Like the title suggests, Revenge features a protagonist whose goal is very simple — get revenge. But the situation surrounding the revenge is a bit more complicated, with a story that takes on the common movie storyline of the ‘70s and beyond in which a woman gets raped and goes on to hunt down and kill the man or men responsible. Looking at this whole list, there are actually a few movies that revolve around a similar plotline, but in thoroughly examining the included films, you’ll also notice how each movie takes that trope and twists it, bringing something new to the conversation. On top of that, most of these particular films on the list are directed by a woman, including this one. Written and directed by Coralie Fargeat, the 2017 French thriller follows a young woman named Jen, played by Matilda Lutz, who goes on vacation with her married lover to the desert. But they are soon interrupted by two of his friends, one of whom rapes Jen. When she won’t agree to be paid off, Jen’s lover pushes her off a cliff and leaves her for dead. Here’s a hint — she’s not. What follows is an unbelievable, high-tension movie that basically covers the male gaze in blood in its destruction of the old-fashioned movie stereotype.

Django Unchained

Another Quentin Tarantino flick on this list (because revenge is clearly the filmmaker’s forte), 2012’s revisionist Western Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as the title character who is given his freedom from slavery and must return to free his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from a slaver named Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) with the help of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Like with every film the auteur makes, Django Unchained has Tarantino’s distinct, vivid, in-your-face style that attacks the topic of American slavery from a decidedly new angle. It’s a worthy addition to Tarantino’s resume, and Foxx is a standout as the vengeful Django, who succeeds in his mission to save Broomhilda, while also freeing other slaves and killing quite a few slavers along the way. The movie also examines the complicated relationship that Django has with other slaves after he is freed and on his journey back to Broomhilda, along with the psychological conditioning that slaves who earned a “privileged” position near their slaver have, a sort of Stockholm Syndrome, most prominently shown through Candie’s slave Stephen, played by Samuel L. Jackson.

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I Saw the Devil

I Saw the Devil also stars Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik, but this time around he plays a straightforward, villainous serial killer named Jang Kyung-chul. Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, as it’s an important part of the movie’s set up in the first act. Choi stars opposite Lee Byung-hun as Kim Soo-hyun, a National Intelligence Service agent (basically Korea’s CIA) who starts down a dark path for revenge after his fiancée is murdered by, you guessed it, Kyung-chul. While Soo-hyun quickly finds out that Kyung-chul is responsible and as an NIS agent has the ability to arrest him, he decides instead to turn the tables on the killer, dipping into the never-ending well of Kyung-chul’s depravity and giving him a taste of his own medicine. The two men then play a twisted game of cat and mouse, as Soo-hyun’s drive for vengeance leaves him on the precipice of becoming as evil as the man he’s after. Like the previously mentioned film Oldboy, I Saw the Devil is also a very dark, very violent movie, but it’s also a compelling depiction of Soo-hyun’s desperate rage and grief in an appropriately visceral experience.

The First Wives Club

Another comedy on the list, The First Wives Club is a movie in which three mistreated women team up to bring revenge upon the ex-husbands who so deeply deserve it. The movie stars Diane Keaton as Annie, Goldie Hawn as Elise, and Bette Midler as Brenda, three childhood best friends brought back together by a mutual friend’s death. Reuniting, the three women discover that they are all feeling lost for the same reason, dealing with ex-husbands who left them for younger women. They agree to team up as “The First Wives Club” and get payback, or as they call it, “justice,” using the husbands’ mistakes to their advantage. The First Wives Club is an intelligent comedy that features an amazing combination of lead actresses with Keaton, Hawn, and Midler at the center, while even more stars play supporting roles, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Dan Hedaya, and Maggie Smith, to name a few. After release, the movie became an instant classic with a cult following, and The First Wives Club still stands as one of the best comedies of the ‘90s.

The Nightingale

The Nightingale is the second film to be written and directed by Jennifer Kent, the mind behind The Babadook. Set in 1825, The Nightingale tells the story of an Irish woman named Clare Carroll, played by Aisling Franciosi, living in what is now Tasmania as an indentured servant for a cruel British man named Hawkins (Sam Claflin). Clare’s relatively happy life with a husband and baby is ripped from her grasp one horrible night. Fair warning, the moment that leads Clare to want revenge is not easy to watch, that’s for sure, but you’ll know the scene when you get to it. In fact, a lot of the film is hard to watch, but Kent provides a realistic portrayal of the true horrors that British forces subjected Tasmania to, and the Aboriginals in particular, while the territory was a colony. A true survivor, Clare meets and hires Billy, played by Aboriginal Australian actor Baykali Ganambarr, a skilled Aboriginal tracker who guides Clare through the wild Tasmanian bush to find and kill the men who took everything she loves away from her. Brutal, honest, and extremely emotional, The Nightingale is an astounding followup to The Babadook, and an equally emotional thriller with a historical twist.

Carrie

The first Stephen King novel to ever be adapted on-screen, Carrie stars Sissy Spacek as the title character, a teenage girl whose life at school and home gets increasingly worse, all while she’s growing into intense telekinetic powers. The 1976 movie has its ups and downs, but after what Carrie goes through at the hands of the mean kids at school, you definitely relate to her desire to get revenge on the bullies, even if she goes a little too far. Carrie is like her origin story, and audiences are left wondering what would happen after that fateful prom, and if Carrie may ever return to kill the rest of her classmates. While the horror genre is filled with vengeful villains, Carrie brings a huge sense of relatability to her situation, in that she’s really just a 16-year-old girl who wants to be loved and doesn’t know enough about the world or her special abilities.

Unforgiven

As this is about the best revenge films ever made, a Western was bound to make the list, and it’s Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. Released in 1992, the film follows Eastwood’s character William Munny, a retired outlaw who agrees to take on one last job for a young man known as “the Kid,” who wants help tracking down the men responsible for injuring a sex worker in town and getting the $1000 reward. Raising two kids on his own, Munny could use the cash, so he asks for help from an old friend named Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), and together Munny, Ned, and the Kid must face off against the corrupt, selfish sheriff, “Little Bill” (Gene Hackman). Directed and starring Eastwood, Unforgiven is a study on the limited morals of classic Westerns, featuring a cast of characters with varying beliefs on when it’s okay to kill someone, or it it’s ever okay at all, while living in the dangerous, kill-or-be-killed world of the Wild West.

Cape Fear

A remake of the 1962 film of the same name, which was in turn based on a book, Cape Fear is a lesser-known film by Martin Scorsese. It really shouldn’t be so underrated, as it features the one and only Robert De Niro in one of his most chilling roles, playing a convicted rapist named Max Cady who is let out of prison and goes on a rampage to get revenge on the man who put him in jail. His target is Sam Bowden, played by Nick Nolte, who was Cady’s lawyer on the rape case. Well, Cady’s pissed because Bowden held back some evidence that might’ve lessened Cady’s jail time, but considering what the man does when he’s let out, I’d say that Sam definitely did the right thing. Still, Cady comes after Sam and his family, and over time he almost turns the tables on Sam, using his own laws against him to try to get him disbarred. Now, note that I said almost, because Cady’s psychopathy just can’t be stopped, and the rapist goes completely crazy while on his revenge mission, providing Sam the perfect opportunity to give Cady the sentence that he thought he deserved 14 years ago. Seriously, after watching Cape Fear, can someone convince De Niro to play a straightforward evil villain again?

Blue Ruin

The second film made by Jeremy Saulnier, the man behind thrillers like Green Room and Hold the Dark, Blue Ruin is a brutal, gritty revenge story about a man named Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) who has already hit rock bottom after his parents’ death two decades earlier. Unfortunately, his life somehow gets worse when his parents’ killer is let out of prison. With literally nothing else to live for, Dwight tracks down the killer, a man named Wade Cleland (Sandy Barnett), and kills him, just as he plans to. But this action brings the whole Cleland family against him, intending to take the law into their own hands. With everything he’s been through, Dwight won’t back down, resulting in an intense, complicated story of Dwight’s battle against the messed up family. I know I’ve said this before with other movies on this list, but Blue Ruin is very grim and tense, and if you’ve seen any of Saulnier’s other movies (I’m specifically imagining a gross scene with an arm in Green Room), then you know what to expect with this violent, action-packed revenge story. Blair is an astounding, underrated actor who takes complete control of this story, which when accompanied by stunning visual work from Saulnier, who also serves as cinematographer, presents a gripping, very human experience.



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