As a stellar revenge flick storms into theaters, Dead Man Down, Movie Fanatic is looking back. We're naming our favorite revenge movies in recent memory. It's a tricky thing capturing retribution on film. Solid cinematic payback has to play out slowly over the course of the film until that fateful confrontation that has the audience cheering.
As teased in the Dead Man Down trailer, the Colin Farrell-starring film does it right. In fact, that film may even be on our list! Without further ado... here's the Movie Fanatic Top 10 Revenge Movies.
What makes a successful score-settling story so powerful is when the protagonist has a "special set of skills" that makes whoever's in his bullseye wish they'd never gotten out of bed before committing the horrible act. When Liam Neeson's daughter is kidnapped, the former CIA agent swings into action and makes everyone pay, like, everyone... We think even a few people who didn't have that much to do with the actual kidnapping, got a little hurt. Check out our Taken quotes for more Neeson bad-assery.
9. Dead Man Down
What struck us so much about the Colin Farrell-Noomi Rapace-starring revenge flick is how its strike-back comes at the audience on two fronts. Both Farrell and Rapace portray people who are forever altered by extremely violent situations. They have lived for revenge, but over the course of meeting and getting to know each other... their taste for it only grows more complicated. See what we mean when it arrives in theaters March 8.
For every high school kid that has been picked on, Stephen King made their most out-there fantasies a reality when his book Carrie landed in the 1970s. An outstanding version hit the big screen, courtesy of director Brian De Palma several years later. That prom scene with Sissy Spacek covered in blood has become synonymous with cinematic "gotcha back." It is such a powerful story that it is the rare remake that is warranted. Check out this haunting vision teased in the new Carrie trailer.
7. V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta, it's easy to see, is based on a graphic novel. It has a vast scope that is part of its vengeful charm. This is a political redemption that affects the will of an entire people. Natalie Portman showed a side of herself that had only been seen in The Professional. She is searing, as is Hugo Weaving... another who plays a huge rule in the execution of the title. For more, don't miss our V for Vendetta quotes.
6. True Grit
Hailee Steinfeld is so good (she earned an Oscar nod) in this film that the actress projects power that is decades beyond her years. Steinfeld plays a daughter in search of justice for the man who killed her father. The film from the Coen brothers showed that it doesn't matter one's age, location, era or means... when justice drives you, there is virtually nothing that can stand in your way.
See there is nothing that gets a person raging down the vengeance road like the harming of someone's family member or members. Look at Taken, Dead Man Down and True Grit that came before -- and quite a few that are still to come on our countdown. Russell Crowe is a broken man motivated by the desire to extol justice on the army he once fought with, who made the mistake of killing his wife and child.
As a slave, he returns to Rome, becomes a huge Gladiator star... and when Joaquin Phoenix finally sees the revenge coming his way it's too late to stop it. In that pivotal scene, so many thousands of people are cheering in the arena onscreen, it reflects the will of the audience in the movie theater. "I only have one more life to take," Crowe says. It is powerful to say the least. That's just one of the riveting Gladiator quotes!
4. Cape Fear
Having a bad lawyer when fighting a traffic citation is one thing. If he is representing you in a trial that could send you to jail for decades, one might build up just a little grudge. Such is the case with a menacing Robert De Niro and his laser beam focus when he gets out of prison to single-handedly ruin his former lawyer (Nick Nolte) and his entire world. Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear is payback at its most frightening. It is not only one of the Top 10 Remakes of All-Time, but one of the best revenge flicks as well.
3. The Professional
Some have called this movie Leon after the main character, but it was introduced to me as The Professional and that is how I'll always remember it -- especially because of the power in the characterization of the title character by Jean Reno. His hitman is beyond ruffling, yet when a young girl enters his life when her family is assassinated, he finds his heart. And one-by-one, he and Portman head out into the city and get retribution for her family's demise.
2. Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2
Quentin Tarantino is no stranger to the plot method of revenge. It inhabits at least some part, if not all, of his movies. Just look at Django Unchained. But, his sword of redemption is never sharper as it is in the Kill Bill movies. Uma Thurman's The Bride and her reasoning for her quest to avenge the death of her child and being left for dead herself is so methodically laid out by Tarantino, it is a gale force wind of wickedness. No one should ever want to be on that list she had that ends with the words, "Kill Bill."
Memento lands at number one for several reasons. It is the best use of storytelling in a revenge tale. Since the film moves in reverse, the challenge for filmmaker Christopher Nolan is to create that passion for the main character for the audience, all while unpacking the pieces to a puzzle that in a sense, were already put together.
Guy Pearce rivets and his memory loss only further enhances the taste for revenge that the viewer experiences while watching it play out through Pearce. These Memento quotes only tease the terrific-ness that is Nolan's film announcement of his arrival.
Honorable mentions: Death Wish, Commando, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Crow, The Unforgiven, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Munich and Straw Dogs (1971).