“When you’ve been betrayed by a friend, you hit back” says James Woods character in Sergio Leone’s masterpiece “Once Upon a Time in America”. There can be so many reasons behind why we love to watch revenge movies. IT can be because we find it fascinating to watch a person’s rage, how it brings them on the edge or we like to get provoked by its morally questionable sides or we like to see justice getting done, even if it’s done by somewhat unethical way. In the end, maybe we just have a sympathy for the devil.
Whatever it is, revenge films had been part of cinema for so long and gave us so many interesting, thought-provoking, impressive films. Some of them were depressing, some of them were shocking, some of them were just fun. Hopefully this list has little bit of everything.
10. Contre-enquête (2007)
Most of our list is English-language features, but we rather start off with this overlooked French thriller starring Jean Dujardin. If you’re familiar with his more comedic or lightweight roles, he might really surprise you here. He plays a police officer whose life is thrown off balance when his nine-year-old daughter is raped and murdered. Sounds grim already but the movies goes to very unexpected places. Our lead character is depressed and you can sense that he wants to get the revenge, the justice done. Thee alleged perpetrator is quickly caught, but he claims his innocence and offers to help in the search for the real perpetrator. To the horror of his wife and colleagues, the policeman accepts the offer. Since then movie is just one hell of a ride.
In a sense, it probably fits into the genre of “rape-and-revenge” but it’s not a “Death Sentence” kind of film where the lead character just loses his mind and goes on a violent ramp. It’s directorial debut for Franck Mancuso who previously worked for the police and also wrote another terrific French crime thriller “36 quai des Orfèvres” which could very well be here but the revenge is only a part of it, not really the driving force of the plot. However, if you read this, check that film as well.
9. Rolling Thunder (1977)
This one is coming for the ones who just want to watch a shockingly violent revenge film, a type of film that was more common in 70s exploitation cinema. It might surprise you that it’s written by Paul Schrader but he wrote the original script and it got re-written since then, which he hated it. Famously saying he wrote anti-fascist movie and they took it and made it a fascist film. However, “Rolling Thunder” is still kind of good? The film is about Major Charles Rane returns home to San Antonio after being a prisoner of war for several years in Vietnam. He receives awards and prizes. Gang of thieves see it as an opportunity and they attack his house. You can predict the rest.
Tarantino is a big fan of the movie, even naming his production company after it. In his last book, “Cinema Speculation”, he gives a very interesting analysis and history of it. Referring to Schrader’s famous line, he says:So Schrader’s savage critique of fascist Revengeamatic flicks was turned by its makers into a savage fascist Revengeamatic. Yet . . . the greatest savage, fascist, Revengeamatic flick ever made.” No matter what you think of such flms, “Rolling Thunder” is worth to check out.
8. King of the Ants (2003)
Kind of a “feel-bad” movie but if you’re open to more outragously original stuff, this one will please you more than the rest of the list. If we’re talking about genre film director who mostly made horror films, you often hear the same names often: John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Joe Dante and to a lesser degree, Tobe Hooper. One of the names often overlooked is Stuart Gordon. Makes sense because he never had a major box office hit. His most popular film is “Re-Animator” and even that one is not known by everyone in general public. Yet, he always delivered original, interesting films which are usually fun to watch.
“King of the Ants” is one of the early films made by The Asylum, a production company now more famous for its “mockbusters”. Don’t let it or the low-budget aspect of the film fool you. It’s a film that is hard to explain the plot of and since it’s a mix of so many genres. it’s constantly intriguing film with an unpredictable storyline, with an imagination that many films lacks these days. Even when the plot takes the route of traditional revenge story, it still surprises. Chris McKenna is doing a good job as the lead, George Wendt is frightening and Kari Wuhrer is hot. What’s not to like?
7. Revenge (1990)
Now when you look at his filmography which includes great films like “Man on Fire” and “True Romance”, it’s obvious that Tony Scott has never shied from “R” rating but before this, his action films were only “Top Gun” and “Beverly Hills Cop II” and even on the same year, he also released “Days of Thunder”. All these films have more commercial appeal and more “safe” in nature. However, “Revenge” felt his most violent to that date and not just violence, but somewhat more erotic. Something he hasn’t explored since then. Usually, his sex scenes are similar, it’s just in the dark room, windows open and two shadows are kissing each other.
Here, the relationship between Kevin Costner and Madeleine Stowe (where is she, these days?) feels steamy and passionate which makes the tragedy that occurs later on more striking because all these scenes made you to believe in Costner’s passion for the woman he loves.
It’d be a traditional revenge flick under wrong hands but thanks to Scott, it feels stylish, with charismatic leads, cool climax and great locations. It’s Tony Scott as his most Sam Peckinpah/Walter Hill mood and it’s glorious to watch. Unfortunately, the movie flopped at the box office and we don’t get to hear about it much since then. Ironically, Stowe got more attention for a show with the same title years later.
6. Theatre of Blood (1973)
Vincent Price might be bset known for a specific kind of performances but he also had a great range. If you watch him in “Witchfinder General” and “The Whales of August”, it’s totally different kind of characters. Even in a minor role like “Leave Her to Heaven” where he has two different scenes, he acts both of them totally differently. “Theatre of Blood” is something more in his vein, it feels like many of the campy villains he plays. This time with a twist thought, it’s very Shakespearen kind! He plays a Shakespearen actor who feels unfairly judged by his critics and takes murderous revenge on them.
It’s very cleverly made satire, with lots of funny sequences and creativity. Just a wonderful mix of horror and black comedy, it certainly is one of the more original revenge films you’ll ever see and it has something to offer for the fans of the genre but also the fans of Shakespeeare. How many films can do that anyway? Price always wanted to have a Shakespeare part but his career took a different path. No wonder, he loved this role of his most the most. If you have ever gotten a bad review, the movie will be extremely satisfying for you.