20 Revenge Films that are Cool on Purpose

There's something special about the revenge film.  It's perhaps my favorite genre of film because of the innate simplicity of the motive.  Someone has wronged you, now it's time to pay them back.  Here is my list of 20 revenge films that are Cool on Purpose in order from the least vengefully satisfying, to the best showing of vengeance ever filmed.

20. Irreversible

You may not be mentally prepared to watch this movie. This intense revenge film is the offspring of renowned French director Gaspar Noe. After Alex (Monica Bellucci) is brutally raped and beaten nearly to death, her boyfriend (Vincent Cassell) and ex (Albert Dupontel) hire criminals to help them seek reprisal against the rapist. The most interesting aspect of this film is the fact that the events play out in reverse-chronological order, starting with the end, and ending with the beginning. I have a feeling there are parts where you're gonna want to look away, like during the fifteen minute rape scene.

19. The Punisher

The Punisher is one of the original revenge/vigilante characters in American pop culture. After his entire family (I'm talkin' extended family and everything) are massacred by gangsters and he himself nearly killed, Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) goes on a rampage exacting vengeance on everyone involved. All though this is Care Bears compared to the comic book, there are some pretty clever interrogation techniques as well as a really awesome hand-to-hand fight scene.

18. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The third installment of Stieg Larsson's brilliant The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy has Lisbeth Salander getting back at all the people who have wronged her in the past. This isn't your typical revenge film because it almost all takes place in the courtroom, but don't let that dissuade you from seeing it because this movie is anything but boring. It still provides plenty of thriller and suspense-type action as well as a unique look into getting revenge by using the law to your advantage. It's so good that even though the series is relatively new, it's already being remade by The Social Network and Fight Club director David Fincher.

17. Desperado

The movie that launched Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek's careers up to the next level is also one of the coolest revenge stories to date. El Mariachi is sick and tired of Bucho's shit and he lets him know it by racking up an immense body count in this ultra-stylized gun flick. This movie is probably the reason why you played 'guns' as a kid with your brothers and friends and for good reason. El Mariachi's signature guitar case and John Woo styled gun wielding have been engrained into the minds of action fans ever since.

16. Man on Fire

John Creasy (Denzel Washington) was an ex-CIA operative/assassin who is now a bodyguard for a rich family's young daughter in a kidnap-crazed Mexico City. Unfortunately, the girl Creasy is hired to protect is abducted and John vows to kill every single person responsible. Rarely do we get to see a non-villain character going around so methodically and killing those in his way so dispassionately as in this film. Denzel and Dakota Fanning's acting is top notch and is complimented well by Christopher Walken in this must see Tony Scott feature.

15. Edge of Darkness

Hell hath no fury like Mel Gibson scorned. The beginning of this movie is so shockingly unexpected that it blows my mind every time I see it. Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is both enraged and confused by the slaying of his daughter in front of his home during a visit. Were they trying to kill him? He finds answers and sweet revenge after he begins to unravel a complex corporate cover-up that goes deeper than he could have imagined. This film really makes you think about what might be going on from day to day. It also makes you think about how badass angry fathers can be (foreshadowing?). If you're wondering why this movie is so good, it's probably because it was directed by Martin Campbell who also brought you Casino Royale.

14. The Chaser

This is one of those rare films that is incredibly good but almost no one has heard of it.  The Chaser is a Korean film that follows Joong-ho Eom (Yun-Seok Kim) who plays a dirty detective turned pimp that's searching desperately for his girls who have gone missing.  He soon finds out that they are being slain by a deranged young serial killer who continues to evade the law.  Joong-ho tries to bring the killer to justice, but the law and technicalities prove to be formidable foes.  This film has some brilliant, realistic fight scenes as well as some impressive ground chases that make this an all-around amazing film.

13. I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

This 2010 remake of a 1978 classic is about an author who goes out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere unarmed by herself to do some writing. Now, you can see where she might have made a few mistakes but she more than makes up for it by getting the last laugh against her attackers. Some up-to-no-good country folk decide they're going to teach this city girl a lesson and begin to continuously assault and rape her for who knows how long. Then, right as they are about to kill her, she gets away. When she finally returns, it's much to the dismay of her attackers. She enacts what are easily some of the most brutal, ingenious and torturous forms of retribution I've ever seen on film. All I can say is to wait for the shotgun.

12. Law Abiding Citizen

This movie has one of the best revenge moments in the history of film. After Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) sees one of his family's killers walk free after his attorney (Jamie Foxx) offers a plea bargain, he goes on an violent rampage in an effort to change what he believes is a corrupt system. This film is interesting in that you see Shelton cross the invisible line from where most of us still see him as a good guy, into undefined grey territory, and then into being completely wrong himself like the ones he set out to stop. This movie does a great job of putting Clyde's genius to work to get his point across, and testing the boundaries of what we as a society consider right and wrong.

11. V for Vendetta

The Wachowski Brothers have always been known to tell grandiose stories that are epic in scale. V for Vendetta is no exception. Surprisingly, this is director James McTeigue's only good movie (*cough* Ninja Assassin), and it's brilliant. Hugo Weaving stars alongside Natalie Portman as V in this look at an alternative future of a fascist and oppressive Great Britain. He's a freedom fighter that exacts attacks against his corrupt government for the wrongs they've committed against himself and his country. Makes you glad we live in America. The real magic of this movie comes from how V goes about getting the citizens on his side and taking down those in power.

10. Hard Candy

Way before Ellen Page was in Inception, and before she starred and dazzled us in Juno, there was Hard Candy. I believe this is the most overlooked revenge movie of all time. When a mature 14-year old girl meets a 32-year old photographer online, she decides to meet him in person at a coffee shop after weeks of internet chatting. They go back to his house after some uncomfortable flirting and that's when the shit hits the fan. She knows he's a pedophile and makes him pay accordingly. I assure you that she tortures him for his crimes in ways that you couldn't imagine and have to see to believe. A revenge masterpiece.

9. Lucky Number Slevin

This is the revenge film you didn't even know was a revenge film until after it was over. After Slevin (Josh Hartnett) gets mistaken for someone else, two rival crime lords offer to forgive his debts if he'll do something for them in exchange. That's when his life gets intertwined with a series of interesting characters cast by a plethora of seasoned superstars. From the gate you realize that this is one of those movies that you really have to pay attention to. And by the end, you've felt like you've gone on quite a ride through this elaborate story of vengeance.

8. Payback

What? You thought there would only be one Mel Gibson movie on this list? Please. Payback is revenge. Ex-marine Porter (Mel Gibson), doesn't take too kindly to being backstabbed by his colleagues after a heist. After Porter's girl shoots him in the back and his friend leaves with her and his share of the money, Porter goes to a "doctor" to get the bullet taken out. After he gets better, all Porter wants is his $70,000 back. Unfortunately, the old group he used to run with and 'The Outfit' that runs the city are giving him a hard time. Porter then proceeds to sort out all the misunderstandings with bullets. By the way, it's only a coincidence that Lucy Liu is in two movies on this list in a row.

7. Taken

"I don't know who you are, but if you don't let my daughter go, I will find you. I will kill you." That line sets the tone for this non-stop thriller starring Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, the enraged ex-CIA father on mission to rescue his daughter. However, rather than the usual raped and killed my family fare, Taken centers on the horrible world of human trafficking and the sex slave trade. Mills falls back into his old rhythm nicely and doesn't miss a step. All I'll say is that Mills makes good on his promise.

6. The Last House on the Left (2009)

This film is unique in that the mother gets in on the revenge action too. After two girlfriends on vacation get violently assaulted, raped and one of them killed, the parents of the survivor realize that the one's who did it are staying in their guest house. They precede to save their daughter while simultaneously taking out the gang that did this to her. There are some really tense moments in this and it does a good job of showing normal people put into a unique situation. No CIA agent fathers, no Ex-marines, just regular people.

5. Gladiator

"Are you not entertained?" Russell Crowe plays Maximus, a Roman general come slave gladiator who was supposed to become heir to the throne over the Emperor's own son. Instead, the Emperor's son kills Maximus' wife and son, and Maximus is captured and put into the gladiator games. He fights his way to the top in order to look into the eyes of the man he will seek revenge against. Countless people fall to his sword as Maximus stands up against the new Emperor in defiance in this Ridley Scott Epic. "Father of a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife and I shall have my vengeance, in this life or the next…"

4. Memento

True film fans knew about Christopher Nolan long before his work on the esteemed reinterpretation of the Batman series. Much of the reason for that is because of this breathtaking film. Leonard (Guy Pearce) has a rare form of short-term memory loss which doesn't allow him to build new memories. At the same time, he uses tattoos and notes he leaves for himself to track down the man that murdered his wife. This is an absolutely brilliant film that, like his first film Following, plays with chronology in order to reveal the story. Yes, Christopher Nolan started off great.

3. Oldboy

Oldboy almost single-handedly put Korean cinema on the map. If you haven't seen it, don't let the fact that it's foreign put you off. Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi) gets extremely drunk and jailed on his daughter's birthday. After his friend comes to bail him out, he is kidnapped and imprisoned in a single room for fifteen years. One day, randomly he wakes up freed and equipped with a mobile phone, a suit and money, but no explanation. Dae-su Oh then tries to uncover the mystery behind his imprisonment and starts to realize that his tormenter has much more in store for him as he attempts to exact his revenge. This film also has a twist ending that is comparable to the likes of M. Night Shyamalan (the good version of him). If you're still uncertain about watching it, know that Steven Spielberg is in talks about remaking this film with Will Smith as the lead role.

2. The Count of Monte Cristo

You might not think a period piece could possibly be on this list, but The Count of Monte Cristo is brilliant on all fronts. After Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel) is falsely imprisoned by his best friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce) and other conspirators, he spends his years in prison learning and plotting revenge. After his escape, Edmond falls into incredible wealth, but uses it to aid his quest for retribution. He then devises an elaborate plan to take everything from those who took everything from him. This story is an absolutely perfect representation of revenge in the best possible way.

1. Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2

When Quentin Tarantino does a revenge film, he does a revenge film. There is so much retaliation in fact, that it literally requires two full movies to tell it all. The Bride (Uma Thurman) is an ex-assassin who just wants to settle down, get married, and have a child. Unfortunately, Bill doesn't want to let that happen. He proceeds to ruthlessly massacre everyone at The Bride's wedding (including the blind piano player) and put a bullet in The Bride's head, while she's pregnant. She wakes up from a long coma and wastes no time avenging her fiance, his family and her lost baby. She does this by creating a 'Hit List' with Bill's name at the top (hence the name Kill Bill), and checking off her victims one at a time. There is absolutely no better revenge movie than Kill Bill, and I doubt there will ever be seeing as how this is simply one of the greatest films ever made.

side note: You'll notice that I have chosen not to include films like Sin City or Inglourious Basterds which have multiple story arcs that are not all necessarily centered on revenge.  I believe that the films listed above all  fully meet the requirements of what is considered a revenge film.

See ya Space Cowboys...

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