Films about revenge
March 30, 2006 5:00 AM   Subscribe

MovieFilter: Help me find films about revenge.

I'm doing research for a film idea/script and I need all the viewing material I can get my hands on.

This thread discusses films where the protagonist lets the antagonist live (or doesn't directly kill them). I'm looking for films where revenge is sought and achieved. If the film deals with the consequences of revenge, even better (for example 'Heaven').

I know there has been a huge amount of these revenge films recently, so please avoid the most obvious Hollywood blockbusters and delve into your communal world cinema/indie/classic movie knowledge. Additionally, I'd like for the films to be explicitly about revenge and not simply have a theme of revenge (say 'Dead Man's Shoes' vs. Average Hollywood Action Movie where the 'buddy' dies and the rest of the film is about revenge).

I won't limit the suggestions with a list of films I already know of as I would be bound to leave things out. Thanks in advance, and I apologise for the lengthy question.
posted by slimepuppy to Media & Arts (66 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The first one that comes to mind for me is Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, with its quotes of Moby Dick and nods to Jacobean revenge tragedies.
posted by Prospero at 5:04 AM on March 30, 2006

You could start with Revenge - Kevin Costner gets revenge on Anthony Quinn who leaves him for dead after Costner shags his missus.

Then there's Payback, Mel Gibson getting back at the fellow crooks who betrayed him and took his share of the profits. A remake of Lee Marvin starring Point Blank.

Get Carter sees Michael Caine look for Revenge for his Brother's murder with some positive results but ultimately not the best outcome.

You could get a lot simply by doing a search for 'Revenge' under plots on the imdb.
posted by biffa at 5:07 AM on March 30, 2006

Old Boy

This deals with revenge in a lot of different ways, and its certainly off the blockbuster radar. Not for the faint of heart however.
posted by HoldFast at 5:08 AM on March 30, 2006

Missing In Action is basically a revenge movie. Chuck Norris seems to do a lot of them.

Point Blank with Lee Marvin is a classic of the revenge genre
posted by cell divide at 5:08 AM on March 30, 2006

Dead Man's Shoes
Straw Dogs
posted by oh pollo! at 5:11 AM on March 30, 2006

The Italian Job. Or, The Italian Job.
posted by blackkar at 5:13 AM on March 30, 2006

Strangers on a Train - one of my favorite Hitchcock films.
posted by aladfar at 5:14 AM on March 30, 2006

Best answer: I am writing a revenge movie at the moment for Miramax and the locus classicus that everyone talks about as a model of the genre is Scorsese's Cape Fear (a remake of the to-me-markedly-superior 1962 version).

The key elements of the genre are

1. a sympathetic protagonist who must defend not just himself but some innocent(s) against the wrath of

2. a cunning and implacable villain who wishes to extract revenge for some real or imagined wrong committed by the protagonist

Some common elements that make for good movies:

-- keeping the nature of the wrong a secret until the third act

-- making the wrong a real one, so the revenge is in some twisted way justified. EG Fatal Attraction.

-- a series of meetings between the protagonist and villain

-- the villain being sexually attractive and targeting the (male) protagonist's womenfolk, who desire him

-- forcing the protagonist to admit some terrible secret to his family

As in all movies, the stakes should be clear from the first act (what does the villain want? what will he do if he doesn't get it? In CAPE FEAR Max Cady wants to "teach you something about loss" and it becomes clear he will kill/rape the daughter in order to do this.

One question which always needs to be asked and answered in these kinds of movies is "why doesn't the villain just kill the protagonist at the beginning?".
posted by unSane at 5:16 AM on March 30, 2006

A lot of the movies quoted above have an element of revenge but are not revenge movies. Italian Job, Old Boy & Strangers On a Train aren't even close.
posted by unSane at 5:18 AM on March 30, 2006

GET CARTER is also not a revenge movie because for most of the movie Carter doesn't know who killed his sister. He is investigating rather than attempting to take revenge.
posted by unSane at 5:20 AM on March 30, 2006

Response by poster: unSane, thanks for the tips! Much appreciated.

I am somewhat hesitant to discuss my idea as, y'know, paranoia keeps me sane. Suffice to say, my idea revolves around the idea of what happens after revenge. How life does not return to normal and the hero doesn't simply smile and ride off to the sunset, his mission accomplished. There are consequences to our actions.

"And he piled upon the whale's white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it. "
posted by slimepuppy at 5:27 AM on March 30, 2006

Best answer: Not a movie, but the ultimate revenge plot is without a doubt 'The Count of Monte Cristo' (unfortunately, only bad movies have sprung from this classic).

The hero is a sympathetic, naive youngster, who loses twenty years of his life, and after his escape turns in to an ice cold, stonehearted bastard who exacts his revenge on the ones who locked him up without a second thought for the pain he inflicts on a woman he once loved and her son who he likes.

What makes the story so strong is the inevitability of the revenge - both for the victims and for the Count himself, who becomes tragic in the end: you see that what he has lost is, above all, his humanity. He has no redeeming qualities, because he has no feelings left. I personally like that in a tragedy, although Hollywood - to its discredit - does not.
posted by NekulturnY at 5:28 AM on March 30, 2006

@slimepuppy: good luck. Just make sure there is something big at stake for your protagonist. Like his soul. And center the drama on that.
posted by unSane at 5:32 AM on March 30, 2006

The Sting (1973) - A con artist gets revenge for his murdered friend without the use of violence.
posted by malp at 5:34 AM on March 30, 2006

Best answer: One of the best examples of a film which deals with the aftermath of violence, although it isn't a revenge drama, is Unforgiven.

You should also go back to the great grand-daddy of them all, Thomas Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy.
posted by unSane at 5:44 AM on March 30, 2006

Unsane I'd be gratedul if you could explain why oldboy isn't a revenge film.
posted by oh pollo! at 6:06 AM on March 30, 2006

The Punisher, Mad Max.
posted by Hanover Phist at 6:07 AM on March 30, 2006

The Crow.
posted by elisabeth r at 6:08 AM on March 30, 2006

Batman Returns (at least with Catwoman, to a certain extent)
posted by itchie at 6:12 AM on March 30, 2006

Takeshi Kitano has made a few gangster movies where revenge is the fulcrum of the plot. Boiling Point and Brother spring to mind.
posted by macdara at 6:14 AM on March 30, 2006

oldboy is a quintessential revenge movie, imho, and it's also the exception to my rule: it's a GREAT movie, based on Dumas' 'Count of Monte Cristo'.
posted by NekulturnY at 6:23 AM on March 30, 2006

Best answer: Ooh--speaking of Japanese directors, Kinji Fukasaku's The Yakuza Papers fits the bill, though the storyline is so complicated that a flowchart is supplied with the DVD set that describes who has a grudge against who, etc. One murder begets another, which begets another, so that by the third movie the plot is so labyrinthine that it's nearly impossible to keep track. Which is the point, I guess.
posted by Prospero at 6:25 AM on March 30, 2006

Swimming With Sharks. Brilliant movie.
posted by Atom12 at 6:26 AM on March 30, 2006

(more oldboy derail, sorry)
and it has all the elements you mention, unSane. Reason for the revenge in the third act, the soul of the person who exacts revenge at stake, a few encounters between the protagonists,...

did I mention it's great? And that it rips your gut out? It even succeeds in bringing a few fine (and sick) twists to Dumas' already great plot, which is a serious bonus.
posted by NekulturnY at 6:26 AM on March 30, 2006

posted by youcancallmeal at 6:30 AM on March 30, 2006

Best answer: I am somewhat hesitant to discuss my idea as, y'know, paranoia keeps me sane. Suffice to say, my idea revolves around the idea of what happens after revenge. How life does not return to normal and the hero doesn't simply smile and ride off to the sunset, his mission accomplished. There are consequences to our actions.

You need to see Scarlet Street. Now. Maybe also Cowards Bend the Knee.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:31 AM on March 30, 2006

Recent film version of Middleton's Revenger's Tragedy (unSane linked the original play above).
posted by staggernation at 6:32 AM on March 30, 2006

Big Heat is wicked for that.

Also Cape Fear (ugh, the original).
posted by Napierzaza at 6:34 AM on March 30, 2006

Once Upon a Time in the West - Charles Bronson getting revenge on 'Frank', who killed his brother.
posted by matthewr at 6:40 AM on March 30, 2006

/end derail hopefully

sorry, you're right. Oldboy is a revenge movie par excellence. I had the wrong movie attached to the title in my brain.
posted by unSane at 6:40 AM on March 30, 2006

Several of the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns had revenge themes. Hang 'Em High, for instance.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:46 AM on March 30, 2006

Girl Most Likely To.., released in 1973 and staring Stockard Channing, was a really good one. She starts out ugly, get plastic surgery and turns beautiful then goes and kills those that wronged her.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:49 AM on March 30, 2006

Umm... this is the second question in as many days for which my answer is: Kill Bill.
posted by knave at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2006

Oh, Memento.
posted by knave at 6:56 AM on March 30, 2006

Who could forget the Deathwish series with Charles Bronson. This dude kicks butt and takes names.
posted by johnd101 at 7:01 AM on March 30, 2006

Well now i feel vindicated. I read unSane's orignal post and thought this is everything that Old Boy is about. This guy must not know what he is talking about. Glad to see you do.
posted by HoldFast at 7:02 AM on March 30, 2006

See Star Wars Episodes I,II,III. George Lucas's revenge on the fans.

Also Return of the Jedi was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:12 AM on March 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

Man On Fire. Denzel Washington goes batshit insane whacking anyone and everyone involved in a little girl's kidnapping, who was under his protection.
posted by TeamBilly at 7:19 AM on March 30, 2006

Steven Spielberg's Munich

Ghost Story
posted by kirkaracha at 7:22 AM on March 30, 2006

Sin City
posted by notbuddha at 7:48 AM on March 30, 2006

The Limey
posted by yerfatma at 8:45 AM on March 30, 2006

High Plains Drifter?

Also - and this may be a long shot - the conclusion of Buffy Season Six.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2006

I can't believe that no one has mentioned Ruthless People, and The Sting. Also Kill Bill 1 & 2.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2006

Best answer: For a straight drama — without giving too much away — In the Bedroom.
posted by rafter at 9:14 AM on March 30, 2006

Unfaithful, too.
posted by rafter at 9:17 AM on March 30, 2006

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a GREAT film about revenge. It has two sequels, I think. Same director as Old Boy; I think his career is all about meditations on this same theme.
posted by luriete at 9:33 AM on March 30, 2006

Best answer: For a slightly different approach to a revenge film, you could see Pepi, Luci, Bom, Pedro Almodovar's first film. Although it's a comedy, it has all the elements that unSane listed.

An uptight, moralistic cop disapproves of a young woman's hedonistic (to him) lifestyle, and he shows up in her apartment trying to find evidence to arrest her. He ends up raping her, and was surprised to find out she was a virgin. She is furious and seeks revenge because her chances of marrying into a wealthy family are ruined (this is late 70s Spain). Instead of killing the cop, she decides to ruin his standing in society (and destroying his life) by befriending his wife, and seducing her into her "hedonistic" lifestyle.
posted by luneray at 9:42 AM on March 30, 2006

Nobody's mentioned Kill Bill yet?
posted by mrbill at 10:01 AM on March 30, 2006

Only Knave.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:15 AM on March 30, 2006

I guess I'll second or third Oldboy, gor a take on revenge that doesn't go down like you'd expect.

(Warning: this is a good movie that I absolutely hated).
posted by teece at 10:48 AM on March 30, 2006

Best answer: Rushmore.
posted by cior at 10:51 AM on March 30, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions.

I marked the ones that best answered my question and weren't films I knew/had seen already. Thanks.

Please post more if you can.

Props for cior on Rushmore, hadn't thought of that film in this light before...

And luriete, 'Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance', 'Oldboy' and 'Lady Vengeance' make up Chan-wook Park's "Revenge Trilogy", which are all linked thematically.
posted by slimepuppy at 11:19 AM on March 30, 2006

I can't imagine why no one's mentioned Hamlet yet. Is it too obvious? it was a play first, I know, but so was The Revenger's Tragedy (didn't like the recent film version of that too much, a little too cute, though I like much of Alex Cox's earlier work). Here are some film versions of Hamlet:


I also recommend reading Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, which is kind of what King Lear would have been like if it was a revenge tragedy. Though I'd skip Julie Taymor's film version of this play.
posted by jrb223 at 11:36 AM on March 30, 2006

Kickboxer & Bloodsport, all other films are irrelevant.

Well not really, but both feature revenge becoming a motive later in the film, rather than being the primary motive. In fact, both feature the protagonist becoming inspired to to eventual victory by the motivation of revenge. Actually... they're the same movie.
posted by Durhey at 12:13 PM on March 30, 2006

[spoiler] Though Tom Cruise doesn't actually get his revenge in the end, Eyes Wide Shut.

[spoiler] and again the revenge not fully realized in Once Upon a Time in America.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:39 PM on March 30, 2006

unSane's description of 'the genre' is only applicable to movies in which the villain is the one seeking revenge. It's a valid list as far as it goes, but it doesn't apply to movies in which the audience is meant to be biased in favor of the person seeking revenge from the beginning.,
posted by bingo at 12:57 PM on March 30, 2006

slimepuppy just marked as 'best answer' a shitload of answers that do not meet his criteria.
posted by bingo at 12:59 PM on March 30, 2006

Response by poster: bingo, care to expand on that?
posted by slimepuppy at 1:06 PM on March 30, 2006

Jaws the Revenge

The shark doesn't die at the end, it puts up a dummy (just pause at the moment of impact and you can tell it's been made by a shark) and escapes out of the back of the tank.
posted by Brainy at 1:25 PM on March 30, 2006

bingo, care to expand on that?

Okay. You explicitly said that you want movies that are about revenge, not just movies that have revenge in them. That eliminates Rushmore and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (both of which I like, by the way). When you're talking about a movie like In The Bedroom, it you're pushing the limits of those criteria in a way that leads to the question: How does one determine what a movie is 'about'? Is the movie 'about' what the main character is trying to acheive in the second act, or is it 'about' what the audience is hoping for in the final ten minutes of the film?

Some of the movies above are actually about revenge, in the sense that revenge is what's driving the hero or protagonist of the story: Unforgiven (although he's being paid to exact revenge at first, revenge as an idea permeates the story from the start), and Once Upon a Time in the West are among them (although, to be fair OUTITW is structurally about revenge, but thematically about civilization and progress).
posted by bingo at 1:47 PM on March 30, 2006

The Boondock Saints. Highly recommended.
posted by saladin at 3:24 PM on March 30, 2006

Response by poster: I also said that I highlighted the films I haven't seen, so you'll have to excuse my ignorance about them. I'm going on faith that the films relate to what I have asked. I only have the recommendations of the people here and the brief descriptions on imdb and such to go on. The definition of revenge is a loose concept at the best of times, and varies from person to person. So does the concept of a film being 'about' something.

I apologise if my question was either not specific enough or poorly worded. I did not intend for the meaning of the question to be lost under semiotics. And I don't think it was.

The 'shitload of answer' I highlighted interest me. And I see little to no point in highlighting the films I have already seen.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:32 PM on March 30, 2006

Response by poster: I'll bear that in mind when I'm watching them, thanks. It's not a maths question and as such I find it hard to believe there is a 'right' answer to this question.

If I were to wait until I have seen all the films recommended, I would have to wait several months before highlighting them.

Thanks for all the constructive criticism though, would've helped even more if you had suggested a film or two. (Unforgiven and OUATITW don't really count as they had already been suggested and I have seen them.)
posted by slimepuppy at 10:52 PM on March 30, 2006

Agatha Christie springs to mind: "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Ten Little Indians". They are mysteries but they have elements of revenge as well.
posted by cass at 8:24 AM on March 31, 2006

This question is a couple days old, so I dont know if you'll see this slimepuppy, but a great set of movies that deal with revenge are Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. It's basically one long movie broken into two, where the first one Jean de Florette is the setup, and the second deals with the revenge and fallout from it. And I second Kill Bill.
posted by supercrayon at 7:47 PM on April 3, 2006

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