18. Stryker’s War AKA Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except (1985)
This film is notable because it has some of the Michigan film group that filmed Evil Dead, including Sam and Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegel, and Josh Becker. Jack Stryker (Robert Rickman) returns home from Vietnam and a cult leader played by Sam Raimi, who thinks he’s Jesus Christ, is killing people and performing blood sacrifices. When his girlfriend is tortured and his grandfather killed, Stryker recruits his form Vietnam buddies to take out the cult leader.
This a cult film because of a combination things; some are fans of the film, and then there are some that are fans of the Evil Dead franchise that seek out anything else they were involved in. There is a lot of action for a low budget film. There are also some very memorable lines including “This sucker’s confirmed! Paybacks a motherfucker!” and also when the cult leader says “I am Jesus Christ” and Stryker replies “No you’re not…you’re dead” .
19. Death on a Rainy Sunday AKA Mort un dimanche de pluie (1986)
This is a French thriller about a man that becomes a paraplegic after a construction accident and seeks revenge. Years later, he and his family are able to integrate themselves into the architect’s household. They end up working for them in the household with the sole purpose of getting revenge for the accident.
There is violence and a minimal amount of gore, but it is mild compared to the rest of the films on the list. The ending is probably the most shocking part of the movie.
20. A Better Tomorrow II (1987)
This is the second in a trilogy of films, the first two being collaboration between Tsui Hark and John Woo. In this sequel to a Better Tomorrow, Ken Gor (twin brother of the main character of the first film) returns to Hong Kong to help a trio of friends avenge the death of their friend’s daughter at the hands of the Triads. In the end, they have an insane battle with the Triads dressed in black suits very similar to the ones worn in Reservoir Dogs.
Besides being a movie that heavily influenced Quentin Tarantino, it also further helped propel John Woo and Chow Yun Fat into becoming superstars of Hong Kong cinema and Hollywood. This is a story of revenge, but another strong theme is friendship or a brotherhood among friends and “the unlimited possibilities that loyal friendship could facilitate” . This is a common theme that runs across all of Asian cinema, often involving Triad, Yakuza, or some type of similar gangsters.
The acting is very strong with highly respected Hong Kong actors Ti Lung, Chow Yun Fat, Leslie Cheung, and Dean Shek. The main reason to see this film is because it was the beginning of John Woo’s high octane, action packed, gun fight movies. The last fifteen minutes of the movie is an intense explosion of bullets, blood, grenades, and swords. If you like action and have not seen this, or John Woo’s The Killer and also Hard Boiled, then go and track them down.
21. Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
This is an excellent UK psychological thriller co-created by Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine. A war veteran returns home and seeks revenge against some drug dealers who had been abusing his brother.
Though shot on a low budget and finished in three weeks, it doesn’t feel that way at all. There are beautiful country shots mixed with blood and violence . This is a film that is “darkly comic” and straddles numerous multiple “genres (revenge melodrama; Brit-western: rural horror film: surreal black comedy) .
The music is beautiful and haunting, this shifting of the mood of the music “reflect broader themes of guilt, chemical-induced disorientation and pathological violence” . Considine’s performance is one for the ages in the revenge genre, or any other genre.
22. The Horseman (2008)
Christian (Peter Marshall) is dealing with the death of his daughter when he receives a video of her in a snuff film. The death toll rises as Christian seeks answers for who is responsible and to take his revenge.
In the vain of Get Carter, this film follows a somewhat similar plotline involving illegal sexual acts. It is also a very gritty, grim, violent, and blood soaked story. The color is purposely darkened to add to the tone. The ending is black and is an essential conclusion to this story.
23. Vengeance AKA Fuk Sau (2009)
A Hong Kong film that features a French actor named Johnny Hallyday. The film involves a French chef named Francis Costello (Hallyday), who heads to Macau to seek revenge on Triads that murdered his daughter’s family. She survives and is able to provide some information. Costello then seeks the help of three hitmen to kill the Triad members involved in their deaths.
The cast is excellent, featuring many great Hong Kong actors that can be seen in a ton of good movies. Hallyday was kind of the wild card in the mix, being a singer in France that also acted. The director is Johnnie To who is just a veteran of Hong Kong cinema, having directed almost 65 movies now. Most of them are great, often focusing on the crime and thriller genres.
This is a cult film because not everyone watches foreign films, so most haven’t seen or heard about this film or the director.
24. I Saw the Devil (2010)
“Revenge is for movies” . This an amazing and complex revenge thriller that has way more that can be said about it than just a couple of paragraphs. A secret agent named Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee) has his wife brutally murdered by a psychopathic serial killer (Min-sik Choi). Kim then goes on a series of catch and releases in order to punish her killer and get his revenge.
This is not a grindhouse cult film, this is a large production created and acted by experienced professional filmmakers who have put out some really great work in the past. It could be considered a cult film because it’s foreign, and a lot of people don’t watch foreign films. The directing is meticulous; it feels like the director (Kim Jee-woon) carefully framed every shot in the film. There are so many expertly framed and memorable scenes. Some of his other well known movies are The Foul King, A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, and The Good, the Bad, and the Weird.
The two main characters are incredible in their portrayals of these characters. Min-sik Choi plays what is probably the most evil character on this list of films. He is most notable as the main character in Oldboy, but has also appeared in other large Korean films such as Tae Guk Gi, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Crying Fist and The Admiral. Byung-hun Lee’s portrayal of a man taking his revenge to an obsessive level won multiple awards at various film festivals . He also had memorable performances in Bittersweet Life, and The Good, the Bad, and the Weird.
Out of all of the revenge films on this list, this is probably the most vengeful. The character Kim Soo-hyeon tells his wife’s killer that “I will kill you when you are in the most pain. When you’re in the most pain, shivering out of fear, then I will kill you. That’s a real revenge. A real complete revenge.” . If you have not watched any Korean films than you should check some out. They have really taken over as the leader of Asian cinema in the past ten to twelve years.
25. Blue Ruin (2013)
“Revenge Comes Home” . Macon Blair plays Dwight Evans, a beach vagrant who has spent years waiting for the release of his parent’s killer from prison. He is not a professional killer, so his plans for vengeance may not go how he wants them to.
Without giving anything away, this is simply an excellent thriller with an amazing performance from Macon Blair. Hailed by many critics, the reason this film could be considered cult is because it hasn’t been seen by the masses.
The story of how this film was made is pretty incredible as well. Writer and Director Jeremy Saulnier wrote the screenplay back in 2007 and wanted his best friend “video librarian and part-time actor…to play the lead” .
They needed a budget of $1 million to be able to shoot the story, so they used a combination of Saulnier’s wife’s retirement, money from his parents, and a Kickstarter fund . It was a very grass roots project where all involved were “wearing too many hats with too few dollars” .
All the works cited can be found here.
Author Bio: Raul J. Vantassle is a jazz musician whose key strokes move about the page creating an explosion of formlessness to form, or just total bullshit. His heroes include John Waters, Robert Crumb, Charles Bukowski, and the Cobra Commander. His Knowledge of film goes across the board but he specializes in Asian and cult cinema. He may be the filthiest person alive. You can visit his blog here.