Faster comes out Nov. 24, and while the film will probably be overshadowed by a wizard from Hogwarts, who doesn’t love a good revenge flick every now and then? Co-worker conflicts, cheating lovers, and traffic cut-offs can all be set right with a little “eye for an eye” justice. We’ve understood it since the Old Testament, and now COED is here to turn you on to the 12 best revenge movies to quench our insatiable thirst for blood.
Russell Crowe loses his wife and family to Commodus, an aptly named Roman emperor, who lusts after his own sister and pretty much succeeds in becoming one of the snottiest little bastards ever perpetrated on the film-going public. Crowe’s gladiator has insurmountable odds against him if he hopes to avenge the deaths of his family—after all, he is fighting one of the most imposing governments of all time—but you’d be surprised how powerful of an emotion hate can be.
Mel Gibson is Porter, a comically near-sighted villain, who is out to kill the other villains, who betrayed him, shot him, and left him for dead. His goal: retrieve $70,000 he has coming to him in cold hard cash. The sum of money is so low that not even the bad guys can believe it. And neither will you when you see what he’s willing to give up just to get what’s coming to him. Let’s put it this way: you’ll be wearing steel-toed boots for a very long time after watching the final 15-or-so minutes.
10. The Crow
Don’t think this is a pity add because star Brandon Lee died on set. This is a great film, and while his death adds a somewhat somber overtone to the movie-watching experience, he plays the lead with the right amount of reverence and mystery. And the bad guys in this movie make you want to brush your teeth and take a shower immediately after their scenes are finished, thus highlighting a central need for any great revenge flick: bad guys of dehumanized and epically evil proportions.
9. Inglourious Basterds
Brad Pitt’s crew of Nazi-killers may not be in the film as much as you expect, but they make their presences known in grand fashion with a sadistic thirst for blood that trumps anything the other side can do to them. And following the rule of revenge flicks, the bad guys here are so good that one of them even won an Oscar! His final comeuppance may not be exactly what you would expect from a movie like this, but it’s nothing short of brilliant.
Disturbing this film is so damn satisfying when you consider that it really happened, but let’s face facts. The bastards who killed the 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games had it coming. There are probably a lot of sissies out there—even in this country—who would argue to the contrary, but you don’t target and kill unarmed people to get your political point across. Collateral damage happens, and it’s a tragic truth of warfare. But the minute you set out to inflict violence on Innocents, who have no way of defending themselves, just to make a political statement, no matter what that statement is, you need to go. These pricks go, all right.
7. Kill Bill
Uma Thurman looks good in her black-and-yellow bodysuit toting her sword around and lopping off limbs. Quentin Tarantino has once again returned to the blood-gushing well, and hosed us down with plenty of it. The Bride was gunned down on her wedding day while carrying Bill’s child. Now he and his minions are about to find out that Hell hath no fury like a scorned woman with a sharp blade.
6. I Spit on Your Grave
If you thought The Bride from Kill Bill was good at revenge, wait till you see what the little lady from I Spit on Your Grave has to offer. The movie is often mistakenly categorized as horror. Grave tells the story of a young woman who is raped, and raped, and raped, by a bunch of rednecks. Seriously, you’ve got to be emotionally ready for this movie or else you’ll end up blindly trashing it like Roger Ebert without seeing the point. The movie forces you to identify with the rape victim with a graphic and ongoing scene that is still hard to top in terms of how unsettling it is. By the end of it, you not only feel as thoroughly abused as the victim, but you are wholeheartedly on board with her campaign of violence that closes out the film.
5. The Count of Monte Cristo
Guy Pearce and James Caviezel revisit the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas in an exciting adaptation that gets a lot of mileage out of delaying that final moment of vengeance. Pearce steals his best friend’s girl and has him imprisoned for a number of years before Caviezel is able to finally break out and carefully plan his retribution. It is this planning that hides many of the movie’s thrills. Instead of killing anyone and everyone close to the vile nobleman, the Count of Monte Cristo, as he bills himself, carefully turns the screws until he has taken everything from the man who once took everything from him. Who knew revenge could be so fun?
Liam Neeson starred in this Sam Raimi thriller about a brilliant scientist, who is experimenting with synthetic skin to help burn patients and the like. When he falls in the crosshairs of a ruthless gangster, he ends up needing that synthetic skin to piece together his plan of vengeance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last longer than an hour or so, returning him to the hideously scarred madman he’s become. It’s a little bit Phantom of the Opera and a little bit Batman from there—in other words, one hell of a movie!
3. Rolling Thunder
William Devane is a Vietnam POW returning home to a hero’s welcome. He receives a bunch of silver dollars from his native San Antonio in exchange for his bravery. But some white trash hoods have a different idea about how he should spend them. The punks kill his soon-to-be ex-wife and son, and run his hand through a garbage disposal. Trading in his humanity for a nifty hook and some guns, Devane gets his buddy, played by Tommy Lee Jones, and the two track the clowns to the U.S.-Mexico border where the real nastiness begins.
2. Mad Max
People forget, after the brilliant Road Warrior and the horrible Beyond Thunderdome, that the original Mad Max was just a good old-fashioned down-and-dirty payback movie starring a pre-crazy Mel Gibson as the titular character, out for justice when his wife and child are killed by a gang of motorcycle thugs. Three movies so far, with two more in development—how do you think this one turns out?
1. Death Wish
Nobody who is serious about putting together a revenge movie list could seriously leave off the original Death Wish. What is so good about this movie is that it combines all the satisfaction that comes with blowing away street punks with the emptiness that usually accompanies such actions. When something is taken from you, it is only natural to want payback. By keeping Paul Kersey (Bronson) away from the thugs that actually did the deed, the movie sends the message that it doesn’t matter how many baddies you kill, you will never be able to replace what’s been lost. If anything, you lose your humanity in the process, and it can lead you to make tons of bad sequels, which is sort of what happened here. Nevertheless, we don’t blame Kersey for pulling the trigger, and we were willing to accompany him down those dark alleys for four more movies.
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