Revenge is a bitter pill that’s hard to swallow, but its thrilling subject matter fueled countless movies, some of which have even grown into popular franchises. The best revenge stories are incredibly personal tales where these excessive acts of vengeance feel justified in their own way and the audience is forced to reckon with confusing feelings.
Redemption and character development are tricky territories in revenge movies, which don’t play by the rules of standard cinema. There have been some exceptional revenge movies that have come out over the past few decades that are still incredibly cathartic cinematic experiences.
10/10 Reverberations Of Violence Echo Through Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy
Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance / Oldboy / Lady Vengeance
Park Chan-Wook is one of South Korea’s most accomplished filmmakers, helming diverse genre masterpieces like Thirst, The Handmaiden, and Decision to Leave. Park is perhaps best known for his vicious and contemplative revenge thriller, Oldboy. However, this movie is in fact the second entry in the director’s thematic vengeance trilogy that’s made up of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance.
Each film deconstructs a different walk of life and disenfranchised member of society who gets pushed past their limit. Oldboy tends to receive the most attention, but Lady Vengeance may be the strongest of the trio with the most to say on the unhealthy cycle of retributive violence.
9/10 Quentin Tarantino’s Ode To Revenge Cinema Is A Passionate Masterpiece
Kill Bill, Volumes 1 & 2
Quentin Tarantino is a director who unabashedly loves movies and his films can’t help but exude references to classic cinema and the filmmaker’s influences. Revenge is a theme that’s coursed through many of Tarantino’s movies, but it’s the main course in his two-part Kill Bill action extravaganza.
Uma Thurman’s enigmatic, “The Bride,” tirelessly takes out the legendary assassins – and former colleagues – that are responsible for her partner’s execution. The Bride travels all across the country and develops special martial arts skills that rack up a body count in the hundreds, all in the name of vengeance.
8/10 A Cosmic Horror Revenge Story Where Nicolas Cage Delivers Bloody Benediction
Mandy boils down to a relatively simple revenge story, but any movie that stars Nicolas Cage and is directed by Panos Cosmatos is guaranteed to be anything but normal. Cage plays a humble lumberjack, whose simple existence with the love of his life, Mandy, is forever destroyed when she’s kidnapped by a Satanic cult and put on a macabre pedestal.
Cage’s Red essentially goes to hell and back in his blood-soaked mission of vengeance to rescue Mandy. He makes sure to properly punish the souls who are responsible for their misery.
7/10 A Husband & Wife Prove Their Power Through Elaborate Lies
David Fincher has proven himself to be a master of serial killer thrillers. Gone Girl is a very modern take on revenge and murder. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star as Nick and Amy Dunne and Nick becomes the primary suspect once Amy disappears. What transpires is infinitely more complicated.
A twisted game plays out while this neglected wife attempts to reclaim her authority, albeit through incredibly selfish and destructive means. Gone Girl keeps its audience guessing over who they should trust – if anyone – in this toxic relationship drama. Nick is forced into a scenario by the end of the film that should be happy but is in fact nightmarish.
6/10 A Battlefield Of Raw Emotions Tear Apart The Affluent
A 1990s update of Dangerous Liaisons, Cruel Intentions stars Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, and Sarah Michelle Gellar. These three entitled teens find themselves embroiled in a game of sexual tug of war with each other.
Romantic wagers and bold labels push together Sebastien and Annette, but only so he can get closer to his step-sister, Kathryn. It’s a revenge story where love is on the line rather than lives or a fortune, but Cruel Intentions still delivers with its devastating twists and brutal changes of heart.
5/10 Opposites Attract To Eerie Effect In This Archetypal Murder Mystery
Strangers On A Train
Based on the best-selling mystery novel by Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train is top-tier Alfred Hitchcock where two put-upon individuals decide to turn to each other to handle their current conundrums since they’re seemingly strangers in each other’s lives. What begins as a supposedly simple joint-murder plan begins to spiral out of control and pits these two reluctant accomplices into bitter adversaries.
Audiences are kept guessing over who they can trust until the film’s end credits roll. It’s also not the typical revenge story since both of the film’s protagonists are inherently wicked when the movie begins.
4/10 An Ace Assassin Takes On The Organization That Made Him
The John Wick films have become a crucial pillar to Keanu Reeves’ career. John Wick: Chapter 4 is imminent, and it’s likely that even more of this universe is on the way, all of which somehow manages to continually raise the stakes and deliver greater action spectacles.
Reeves’ John Wick is a retired assassin who finds himself back in the game after his wife and their dog are cruelly executed. Each John Wick film pits the titular assassin and his staggering “gun-fu” skills against the High Table’s strongest assassins, but all of this bloodshed stems from a basic need for revenge.
3/10 World War II Inspires An Elaborate Scheme Of Vengeance To Right The Casualties Of War
Revenge is rampant throughout Quentin Tarantino’s filmography and Inglourious Basterds begins the director’s foray with revisionist history that plays out more like pulpy B-cinema than the pages of a history textbook. Inglourious Basterds is some of Tarantino’s strongest work, and it marks the start of the director’s collaborations with the incomparable Christoph Waltz.
A larger tale of retribution between Jewish soldiers and Nazis is at the center of Tarantino’s film. However, the driving force of the film is Shosanna Dreyfus’ desire to avenge her family’s death by the hands of Hans Landa and his Nazi compatriots.
2/10 A Modern Revenge Scheme Is Social Sabotage Done Right
Do Revenge is a delightfully playful teen update to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train for the millennial crowd. Drea (Camila Mendes) and Eleanor (Maua Hawke) find solace in each other’s misery and communal desire to eviscerate the parties responsible.
The two begin an elaborate revenge scheme where they take out the other’s tormentor, only for complicated feelings and surprise revelations to arise.Do Revenge is a surprisingly satisfying movie that punches above its weight and gets a lot of mileage out of the chemistry between its two leads.
1/10 Two Eclectic Investigators Unravel A Morbid Murder Mystery
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson’s entire Millennium trilogy should be mandatory reading for any crime, mystery, and noir fans. Competent Swedish feature film adaptations for each of Larsson’s books exist, but David Fincher’s 2011 take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remains an underrated hit in the director’s filmography.
Not only does investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist work towards redemption and revenge, but Lisbeth Salander is introduced under incredibly raw circumstances. She spends even longer getting revenge for these unjust acts. Fincher doesn’t shy away from the inherent darkness of Larsson’s world and how one vengeful act can trigger others.
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