5. Raise the Red Lantern (1991, Yimou Zhang)
This amazing film directed by Yimou Zhang – probably the best in his career – is a great study of character with a fascinating performance by Li Gong.
In 1920’s China, the 19-year-old Songlian (Li Gong) is forced to marry a man from a powerful family after her father’s death. In the castle they live in, each one of the wives has a house of their own. Every night, Chen, the master, must decide in which house he is going to sleep on and a red lantern is lit in front of the chosen one. When a wife gets more attention from the master, this means more power and privilege for her, and that makes that castle an environment with tough and dangerous competition between them.
“Raise the Red Lantern” is a great film that depicts the struggles women have to face in this patriarchal society – and its closing shot is a powerful metaphor for that somber condition the leading character is facing in her life, with no apparent escape.
This movie won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1991 and is among the most remarkable works in the career of Yimou Zhang. Without a doubt a mandatory movie for any cinephile.
4. Lady MacBeth (2016, William Oldroyd)
This feature film directorial debut by William Oldroyd is one of the best book adaptations from this decade so far. Based on the novel “Lady MacBeth of the Mtsensk District” by Nikolai Leskov, this drama with traces of revenge also has one of the best female performances of the second half of the 2010s.
In this story, a woman is sold into marriage in rural England in the 19th century, and starts an affair with a man that works on her property. This will lead to many violent events and have drastic consequences for Katherine and everyone around her.
With an amazing performance by Florence Pugh and adapting Leskov’s story with a different (and maybe even better) ending, “Lady MacBeth” is a tale of revenge, crime and punishment (to quote another Russian author) that should definitely be watched.
3. Lady Snowblood (1973, Toshiya Fujita)
Do you wanna know from where “Kill Bill” came from?
As one of the greatest inspirations for one of the most famous films of one of the most popular contemporary filmmakers, “Lady Snowblood” is a great tale of revenge from the 1970s directed by Toshiya Fujita. Following the story of Yuki (Meiko Kaji), a girl raised to search for revenge, “Lady Snowblood” has some amazing (and very exaggerated) action scenes that can be considered classic nowadays.
When Yuki’s mother is brutalized after being kidnapped by a group of criminals, she gets pregnant in prison and, even though she dies during the birth of her daughter, she makes sure that she will become an assassin to kill the people that crushed her family.
“Lady Snowblood” is a good tale from revenge that has a fine performance by Meiko Kaji in the leading role. Definitely a movie that should be watched if you liked “The Handmaiden.”
2. The Invisible Guest (2016, Oriol Paulo)
Director Oriol Paulo is probably on his way to becoming a contemporary expert in mystery-thrillers with many plot twists.
After directing the great “The Body” (2012), the Spanish filmmaker gets back to the same genre with a story that has many traces of his previous film in “The Invisible Guest”, a movie starred by Mario Casas, Ana Wagener and José Coronado.
The story follows in real time a successful businessman who, with the help of a witness preparation expert, has three hours to come up with a defense after being accused of murder. As the woman who helps him starts questioning the events that led to the death in question, the truth slowly starts to appear.
Written and directed by Paulo, though through the course of this story things can start to seem a little bit to surreal, “The Invisible Guest” is still a good tale of revenge that, despite not being as great as “The Body,” should definitely be watched.
1. Diabolique (1955, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
After releasing one of the greatest films in cinema history, “The Wages of Fear” (1953), Henri-Georges Clouzot delivers in 1955 his second masterpiece in a row: “Diabolique.”
This revenge tale that plays with thriller and horror traces follows the story of a cruel headmaster and his wife and mistress that join forces to kill him. When they commit the murder, the corpse mysteriously disappears and strange things start to happen. But would it be a curse on the two women?
In this film, everything is light and darkness in the amazing black-and-white cinematography by Armand Thirard. This tale of revenge that has drastic consequences is really among the most interesting films of Clouzot’s career for the way it plays with a variety of characteristics from different genres. A masterpiece that should without a doubt be watched by any cinephile.
Author bio: Vítor Guima is a filmmaker, writer and musician from São Paulo, Brazil. Every day he watches a movie, reads a few pages from a book, listens to an album and freaks out with the feeling of not having enough time to see everything. You can follow him on Instagram on @ovitorguima.