Posted August 30, 2012 by Myke Friscia in Movies

REVENGE! The 10 best “Revenge” films.



In 1972, the Book “Death Wish”  by Brain Garfield was published.  It was about a New York CPA,  Paul Benjamin, who returns from vacation with his wife and daughter, whom are promptly attacked by muggers.  The wife was killed and the daughter brutally raped but survived.  Paul becomes a one man vigilante gang who goes after the muggers and gives them what they deserve.

For the time, Death Wish was an appropriate book.  The 70’s saw a spike in violent crime, muggings, and gangs across America.  It hit the heart of America, thus inspiring a film to be made based on it.  The screenplay was written by Wendell Mayes (The Poseidon Adventure) and directed by veteran director Michael Winner.  The screenplay varies slightly from the novel but follows the same story.  The lead character of Paul was originally set to be played by Jack Lemon and directed by Sidney Lumet.  But when the producer was replaced, so were they.  Charles Bronson was eventually cast and it would turn out to be the most memorable performance and movie of his amazing career.

The studios and critics panned it, claiming it glorified violence and advocated vigilantism.  But the fans loved it.  It was a commercial success and they wanted more.  Author Brian Garfield then wrote a sequel published 3 years later called “Death Sentence”.  10 years later, Death Wish 2 was released but had nothing to do with the book.  By 1994, Death Wish 5 had come out, 22 years after the original, and Charles Bronson was an ass kicking 72 year old man.

Death Wish is most consistently picked as the greatest of all revenge movies by fans and critics alike.  It influenced at least another 2 decades of revenge movie after revenge movie.   Besides being the mother of all revenge movies, Death Wish marked the feature film debut of a one Mr. Denzel Washington, who played a mugger.  Denzel would go on to star in his own revenge movie which many picked as one of the all time greatest, “Man on Fire”.

In 2006, Sylvester Stallone announced he was going to remake the original.  A year later, he bowed out.  But guess what fans, a remake is in the works and set for a 2013 release!  Joe Carnahan (the Grey) is set to direct and is said to be after Liam Neeson and Russell Crowe to play the lead, both who already have starred in two of the greatest revenge films of all time.   The film may also be set in L.A. instead of NY.

The revenge theme is one of the most heavily used in action films.   Let’s face it, who hasn’t been wronged by somebody and fantasized about some kind of revenge?  I mean, “It’d be a pretty cold bastard who didn’t want revenge for the death of someone he loved.”

If you are plotting some type of revenge, just remember the rules -

  1. Before setting out on revenge, you must first dig two graves.
  2. Revenge isn’t about justice, it’s about revenge.
  3. Revenge is always sweeter.

I researched dozens of fan and critic lists, and the same movies kept being listed as the top picks.  Other than Death Wish, here’s the fan and critics’ list of the 10 best revenge movies off all time.  Consistently in the top 3 was the number one pick.

  1. Kill Bill
  2. Payback
  3. Cape Fear
  4. Gladiator
  5. Rolling Thunder
  6. The Unforgiven
  7.  Braveheart
  8.  Inglourious Basterds
  9.  Taken
  10.   Carrie

In 1977′s Rolling Thunder, William Devane plays a Vietnam vet who returns home and is promptly robbed of his sliver and his hand.  He replaces that hand with a hook and uses it to get revenge on those across-the-border low lifes.  One of my personal all time favorites.  Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

Other consistent picks for the top revenge films of all time:

  • Old boy - (2003) this is a South Korean film I am unfamiliar with, but  consistently appeared on nearly every list I found.
  • Star Trek II, Wrath of Kahn
  • The Crow
  • The Professional
  • Hard Candy
  • Man on Fire
  • The Princess Bride
  • Memento
  • 9 to 5
  • I Spit on your grave
  • Last House on the left
  • V for Vendetta
  • The Brave One
  • True Grit
  • Sleepers
  • Four Brothers
  • Death Proof
  • Law Abiding Citizen
  • Revenge of the Nerds

Personal favorites

  • Quantum of Solace
  • Edge of Darkness
  • Otis – (2008).  If you haven’t seen this one, check it out.  One of my favorite dark comedies.  A young girl is kidnapped by a sadistic serial killer and tortured.  She manages to escape and get back to her parents.  The parents then tell their daughter not to tell the police, they’ll handle it.  And handle it they did.   In brutal fashion.  Just a great revenge flick.  Stars Kevin Pollack, Daniel Stern, and Illeana Douglas.

In Otis, their daughter is subject to torture, then escapes, then mom and dad go back to give the guy a taste of his own medicine.  Only they got the wrong guy!

From Death Wish 2:

Paul Kersey:  Do you believe in Jesus?

Stomper : Yes I do.

Paul Kersey : Well, you’re gonna meet him.


What’s your favorite revenge film not on the list?

Which ones deserve to be?

Can you name the movies I borrowed the “Revenge” phrases from?

Leave your comment if you think you know.   No “Googling” it!

Myke Friscia

Myke Friscia

Screenplay Analyst, Writer, Director of Development for Gallagher Literary Management, Little Monster. "Words are my Passion".