We all know about The Last House on the Left, Carrie, and The Revenant, but there’s a whole world of revenge movies out there. Some of them deserve to be held in much higher regard. Some of them have unfairly faded into obscurity in spite of their obvious quality.
That’s why this list has been created. Below, you’ll find ten lesser-known revenge movies that deserve more attention. Though they vary in quality, one thing remains consistent; they’re all worthy of your time.
1. The Virgin Spring
Diehard Ingmar Bergman fans have no doubt seen this controversial 1960 classic. Let’s take it one step further; diehard Ingmar Bergman fans have no doubt soaked in every second of this mesmerizing and complex voyage. These folks are onto something. The Virgin Spring is just as great as advertised.
In the 1960 classic, a spoiled virgin embarks on a journey with an Odin-worshipping servant named Ingeri. In theory, this trek should be simple and safe. Her goal is to deliver a set of candles to a church, but as is commonplace in movies like this, things don’t work out as planned. This all leads to a violent confrontation that sets up the emotionally charged finale.
Alongside the plot, you’ll find a number of Berman staples. The Virgin Spring is rich in symbolism and complex imagery. Though it plays out like a straightforward story, it’s actually anything but. This is one of those rare features that begs to be rewatched time and time again. Each subsequent view results in a completely different experience, but every experience is just as special as the last.
2. The Great Silence
Let’s start off with a bombshell statement and go from there. The Great Silence is one of the greatest spaghetti westerns of all time. This is Sergio Corbucci’s magnum opus. Forget about Django. Forget about The Mercenary. This genre-defying feat gives even the best Sergio Leone movies a run for their money, and it does so by ignoring conventions.
If you hop onto The Great Silence’s Wikipedia page, you’ll see several sections detailing examples of subversion. This is important because it outlines just how different The Great Silence is in comparison to other spaghetti westerns. This is a far gloomier story that presents a flawed protagonist who attempts to defend the criminals instead of the bounty hunters. Nothing is as it seems in Corbucci’s twisted tale.
Even in regard to its status as a revenge flick, The Great Silence is atypical. The failure to adhere to norms is what allows it to thrive, but it’s not the only redeeming feature. Corbucci’s masterwork features gorgeous cinematography set against the snowy landscapes of Italy. The camerawork goes well with the unpredictable story, subversion of genre conventions, and strong dialogue. Craftsmanship like this comes rarely, so try to enjoy every moment.
3. Lady Snowblood
Given its cult status, fans of Lady Snowblood may be questioning the validity of such a choice. To a lot of people, this is an all-time classic that has no place in a list of films that most people haven’t seen. Though this may have inspired Kill Bill, it never achieved the same sort of success. It has a legion of passionate fans, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s relatively unknown.
That being said, its influence can be seen outside of just Kill Bill. You’ll find it in comics, music videos, and of course, countless other movies. Lady Snowblood was a momentous achievement upon its release, and it continues to shine several decades later. From the stylized violence to the masterful usage of archetypes, there is so much filmmaking mastery begging to be recycled in other pieces of art.
Obviously, Lady Snowblood didn’t invent stylized violence or character archetypes, but the usage of these elements feels so unique given the time of release. There’s certainly a chance that some viewers may find elements of Lady Snowblood to be dated, but that’s a risk everyone should be willing to take. Toshiya Fujita’s awe-inspiring bloodbath deserves to be seen by the masses.
4. The Nightingale
Jennifer Kent had a lot to live up to following the success of The Babadook. While she may not have succeeded in terms of financial success, she still created one of 2019’s best motion pictures. Middling box office numbers aside, The Nightingale is a near-perfect revenge film that will put you through the ringer due to its excessive violence and disturbing subject matter. If that doesn’t sound like something you can handle, feel free to skim through other entries on the list instead . Just understand that the excessive stress is well worth it.
Set in a penal colony in 1825, The Nightingale centers around a young convict named Clare who loses everything after members of the British Army resort to barbaric forms of violence. Following the gut-wrenching opening, Clare escapes and teams up with an Aboriginal tracker in an effort to get revenge. From there, things remain largely the same in terms of tone.
Calling The Nightingale glum would be an understatement. This is exceedingly morose, but it’s hard to imagine the film any other way. Kent has a lot on her mind, and she rightfully chooses to avoid sugar-coating anything. The emotional reactions felt by viewers are meant to be authentic, so the brutality of everything feels justified. Toning down the violence would be counterintuitive when you understand the director’s intentions.
This unfortunately alienates a number of potential viewers, but that’s a necessary sacrifice. The Nightingale needs to be a hard watch; it needs to put viewers into the protagonist’s shoes. To some, it may feel like torture, but it’s a work of art to so many other viewers.
5. A Bittersweet Life
You’ll never mistake A Bittersweet Life for art. It’s riddled with clichés and silly dialogue. However, what it lacks in smarts, it makes up for in adrenaline-pumping action. Kim Jee-woon, who also directed the phenomenal I Saw the Devil, delivers thrillingly bone-crunching violence in spades.
Honestly, that’s all it needs to do. Regardless of overabundance of unintentional camp, this is one of the most thrilling revenge films around. Expect to be floored by the committed cast and well-choreographed fight scenes. The story may take a backseat to the violence, but the violence is absolutely glorious.