“Death Wish” Turns 40: 10 More Vigilante Films You Have To See [VIDEO]

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It was a hot summer day when Death Wish opened in movie theaters–and we’re celebrating the movie’s 40th anniversary with a look at more heroes who dealt out some hot lead. Of course, a lot of film fans are too young to remember the impact that Death Wish had when it was released on July 1st, 1974. The film took place in New York City, and director Michael Winner made a really squalid movie out of his tale of an architect who gets pushed too far.

Charles Bronson starred as nice guy Paul Kersey, who kind of snaps after scary thugs (including a young Jeff Goldblum) kill his wife and leave his daughter in a catatonic state. He grabs a gun and decides to start killing enough criminals to make New York City lovable again. Death Wish turned Charles Bronson into a star, and provoked lots of debate about the morality of a movie that was about citizens taking justice into their own hands. (You can catch the original trailer here.)

As we’ve learned over the past four decades, movie audiences kind of like citizens taking justice into their own hands. Death Wish launched a revenge fantasy industry. There are plenty of great vigilante films out there, but here’s one Top Ten that covers major-label releases, cult hits, and some lost gems. Check them all out and catch some vigilante fever…

Coffy (1973)

We should start with one that came before Death Wish. This is the movie that made Pam Grier a blaxploitation heroine–but she’s not a tough female detective here. She’s playing a nurse who’s had enough of the drug-dealing pimps who got her sister killed. Pam would go on to a lot more amazing movies, but this one is still hard to top…

Vigilante (1983)

Robert Forster would later enjoy a career comeback with Pam Grier in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown–but he first did some time on the grindhouse circuit, with this exploitation classic starring him as the leader of a neighborhood watch that’s out for blood…

Sudden Impact (1983)

Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan went up against vigilante cops in 1973′s Magnum Force–which helped to make the case that Dirty Harry wasn’t some kind of psycho. Then we got Sudden Impact ten years later, where Dirty Harry meets up with Sandra Locke as his dream date, since she’s busy killing off the scum who attacked her years earlier…

Exterminator 2 (1984)

The late Robert Ginty had a surprise hit with 1980′s The Exterminator, where he played a blue-collar guy who turned out to be great at killing lowlifes–but this sequel really gets the flamethrower action going…

The Expert (1995)

He didn’t get the credit, but The Expert is really written and directed by William Lustig, who also gave us 1983′s Vigilante. This one is about an ex-Special Forces guy who learns that the man who killed his sister got a commuted death sentence–so, naturally, Our Hero breaks into prison to carry out the sentence himself…

One Tough Bastard (1996)

Somebody wimped out and released this movie as One Man’s Justice, but this schlock plays out like it deserves to go by its original title.  Former football hero Brian Bosworth stars as the vengeful husband and father (and drill sargeant) who won’t let the Witness Protection Program keep him from getting revenge…

The Brave One (2007)

Jodie Foster’s boyfriend is killed by some creeps who also stole her dog–and she goes back to her talk-radio gig and decides that she’s ready to perforate some creeps. Also, she wants her dog back…

Defendor (2009)

Woody Harrelson is amazing as a mentally-deficient man who’s able to rig together some impressive crime-fighting tools. We don’t know why this weird take on superhero mythology didn’t get more attention, but it deserved better (just like the next entry)….

Super (2010)

James Gunn is about to become a big deal with Guardians of the Galaxy, but the director’s first proper superhero movie was this tale of a short-order cook (played by Rainn Wilson) who takes on the crime lord who ran off with his druggie wife. Our hero’s only superpower is a bolt wrench that he uses to crack open skulls, but that’s good enough. Bonus points: Ellen Page in a tight cosplay outfit…

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

This movie started out as the winner in a contest to create fake trailers for the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriquez Grindhouse double feature. The prize wasn’t getting the movie made into a feature, but it turned out good enough to have been part of Grindhouse 2. Yeah, that sequel never happened, but you can fake it with this one and Larry Bishop’s biker epic Hell Ride

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