5 Incredible Revenge Movies (Not Enough People Have Seen)

I wrote a list about revenge scenes in movies recently, and the more I think about it, the more unhappy with the list I get. I feel like I need to make it up with this list, and I think I did. Well, I hope I did. You see, revenge is a Favorite theme of mine. I like the idea of an underdog, laying broken and almost defeated, pulling himself from the dust. I like thinking that this can happen in real life.

That the person who has been wronged can muster the will and strength needed to rise up and take down the person responsible for all their malaise. I know real life is not so kind to such theories, but on film, you will not find a more badass theme than revenge. Here are five revenge movies that not enough people even know are revenge movies.

I Saw The Devil

I recently sung my praises for this film a few weeks ago over at my site, and I will do it again here, with the belief that more of you need to see this movie. Not only does it star the guy who played Stormshadow in the terrible live action Gi-Joe movie taking on the guy who played Oldboy in, well, the best revenge movie ever made which I have already talked about way too many times, Oldboy. But it is brutal, amazing, and one of the best revenge movies I have ever seen in my entire life.

I want to remix the hallway scene from Oldboy with some MC Hammer, just to be ironic.

I am going to try to avoid spoilers in this article, because I know how under the radar some of the movies on this list are, and I wouldn’t dare ruin any plot points for anyone. But without saying too much, I Saw The Devil is about a detective whose wife is brutally murdered by a serial killer (played with manic fervor by Choi-Min-sik) and this sends the detective on a journey that will take him places far darker than he would have ever dared go before. Seriously f*cked up places. Within HIMSELF.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkwEFKdTckk

The two performances by the leads in this film are the very reasons I adore cinema in the first place. They make madness into art.

Though be prepared, like most amazing Korean revenge flicks, this one will not hide the brutality from your eyes. And it will FORCE you to see somethings you prayed you never would. And damn, if the last two minutes in this film don’t leave you breathless, then stop reading now and go find your soul.

Descent

Much like I said in the article on Monday, do NOT confuse Descent with Rosario Dawson, with The Descent, the Neil Marshall horror masterpiece. While they are both good films, one is a film about scary, underground monsters. And one is about the type of real monster, who lives above the ground.

Trust me, for what he did, he has it coming and it’s well deserved.

Descent is about a young woman who gets victimized one night by some scumbag. As a result of that assault, she goes a little crazy and decides, much like the above movie, that revenge is the only way to go. She is convinced it is the only thing that will bring her peace.

And I don’t normally do “rape/revenge” movies on these lists because I think the subject is brutal and hard to stomach (as it should be) but Descent is not treated like an exploitation movie, like I Spit On Your Grave is. Descent shows us an honesty. The permeating sadness to this scenario and how everyone involved ultimately loses.

Her downfall is not just fueled by hate. It is fueled by sadness, and a desire to take back what he took from her. The sad thing is, when we become the monsters we hate. have’t we already lost?

I can understand why few people have seen it, but it’s raw and powerful and should be seen and discussed.

I know movies like this and I Saw The Devil show revenge, but they also show another side. The side any sane person would fear. The moment when the revenge gets too big, when you’ve gone too far to turn back, and the implications that may have on both your psyche, and the rest of your life.

Hard Candy

Yup, I went there. This classic Ellen Page flick about the teen girl who completely turns the tables on her would-be-suitor/molestor. Perhaps you never thought of this as a revenge movie, but look deeper. What does the Page character suspect the “pedophile” did? Raped and killed another girl, yes?  SO what is she seeking, then?

Revenge. Revenge would be what she was seeking. As well as ensuring it never happens to another girl.

This film is relentless, but it is also honest and should be shared and viewed by all. Why? Because this type of subject matter needs to be discussed, even if it scares us. And how often can you recall an entire movie being basically exchanges between a teen and an adult, and you were as enthralled as you were watching this. It almost plays out like a two person show.

Yes, it is dark and hard to take, but it is honest, and that makes it awesome. Plus, Ellen Page gives a performance in this film that had me questioning how she could possibly been so young, and yet invoke so much genuine emotion in her performance.

So here we see Kitty Pryde from X-Men playing ‘To Catch A Predator’ with Night Owl from Watchmen. I can’t be the only nerd who noticed that.

People call it a horror movie, people call it a thriller. But make no mistakes about it, this is a revenge movie. And an amazing one at that.

Straw Dogs

At what point can even the most meek man snap? How far can you push someone before they reach that? And just how far are they willing to go once they reach it? Those are just a few questions that get invoked in the viewer while watching this Sam Peickinpah’s classic. I use the term ‘classic’ liberally here, because it is a classic to me. But it seems to traumatize most.

And to make things more intense, they cast the brilliant Dustin Hoffman as the nerd on the edge.

I realize now just how serious and intense some of these movies on this list are, and I don’t think that was my intent when I started, but that is the thing about revenge. It just kind of sits inside of you, waiting, and strikes when you least expect it.

I know there was a remake last year, but do I even need to tell you which one you need to watch?

It’s a remarkably raw film, but once the pacing switches up in the latter half of the movie, it never stops. And you definitely get a glimpse of just how far they pushed this guy, and how he will not tolerate it. Hell, he even says this. Not for the faint of heart, but very much for the revenge hungry.

The Brave One

This  recent Jodie Foster gem came and went to little recognition, but when I finally got around to watching it I was pleasantly surprised at just how far it was willing to go. It is not the pg-13 style movie you would expect from such a big name and big movie company, but once you sit in on it for a few minutes, you realize, this is pretty hardcore.

This movie is basically the closest we have ever come to having a Punisher movie. Dye her hair black and I see Frank Castle.

The story is similar to anyone who knows these kinds of stories. Some bad stuff happens to her. The law won’t help her. So she gets a gun and goes all Charles Bronson on every scumbag she sees.

At times, it can be a little over the top (after she gets the gun, suddenly every bad thing that can happen to everyone happens to her, but now she has a gun, conveniently) but it is really a typically stellar performance from Jodie Foster, showing you what happens when somebody loses everything and just doesn’t give a f*ck anymore.

The first rule in the “how not to get shot” book is “don’t follow your dog if he runs into questionable areas at night”. Duh.

Some revenge movies (Like Colombiana) just don’t sell me on some 120 pound woman destroying whole countries to exact revenge. But Jodie Foster sold me in this tale about one woman pushed too far, and that’s what makes it work.

Honorable Mentions:

Munich: An amazing movie, but not on list because a good deal of  you have probably alreadty seen it, seeing it is Spielberg and all.

I do not need to mention The Vengeance Trilogy films here because they will be spoken off in depth on here very soon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUqnU9YF5eE

The best “revenge” movies ever, hands down.

Faster with the Rock should have sucked, but didn’t. It still has no place on the list if I expect to keep any cred. Wait, pretty sure I don’t have any.

The Kill Bill movies are amazing, but have been talked about to death. These are the movies lesser writers talk about when talking revenge flicks. I only say lesser writers because it is an easy out. After the last list I won’t even attempt to bring up Inglorious Basterds. I know better now.

Unforgiven was pretty much perfect, but saving it for a Western list I am doing soon.

Taken was awesome, but everyone has seen it. Still though, even having seen it so many times, how is it we never get sick of this?

If I have never called you and left this on your answering machine, you can safely assume I don’t love you that much.



  • hadley

    you missed out ‘dead mans shoes’ one of the best revenge movies ever, try and check it out

  • David

    Great list, if you havn’t already you should check out ‘The Man From Nowhere’ it has quickly become one of my all time favorites, I’ve been calling it a better, more brutal Taken

  • Brannagyn

    Was about to say that if Taken was being mentioned so should “The Man from nowhere” but someone beat me to the punch 🙂

  • Straenge

    May not be as gritty as some but having watched it recently, I would say Lucky Number Sleven should get an honorable mention as well.

  • I started The Man From Nowhere, but have yet to finish it (some crazy stuff came up) but what I saw so far I loved and I could feel that it was building up to something mind blowing.
    GREAT CALL, with Lucky Number Slevin. I LOVED that movie and am mad at myself for letting that one slip my mind.

  • Jaryd

    Good one I watched recently was ‘Bedevilled’ a South Korean revenge flick. Loved it.

  • Anonymouse

    Finish The Man From Nowhere, then check out A Bittersweet Life. It’s made by the same director of I Saw the Devil (my all-time favourite movie) and it’s almost as powerful.

  • trashcanman

    Nice work on this. Chan wook Park is a goddamn genius. Looking forward to that article.

  • Steve

    Started real strong with the first couple, Hard Candy was a good film but I think you were trying a little too hard on that one (you get a little excitable about films you enjoyed/were affected by; it’s forgivable), then you slowly regained steam… Decent list, but the fact that all of these were on my “revenge movie” list on my Netflix queue after I watched Lady Vengeance makes your “lesser writers” comment smack of grating pretentiousness when you didn’t exactly take any chances with this list yourself.

  • Chelsea

    Have you seen Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon? I was totally enthralled with that movie and it is 100% all revenge.

  • Joseph

    Seconding hadley – Dead Man’s Shoes. See it before you make any more revenge movie lists, it was missing from the last one as well.

  • @ Steve, yeah I was taking a piss with that line, sorry if it came across as anything else. Rest assured knowing I have never checked anyone’s qeueu’s on Netflix, but we apparently have similar tastes, so that means you must be sexy, too! Again, taking a piss.
    @Chelsea, LOVED seeing Bacon kick some ass, but I take that movie as an unofficial remake of Death Wish (which is ultimately what a few of these films do end up seeming like, actually).
    You guys have me pumped up for Dead Man’s Shoes, because Unreality readers have generally steered me in the direction of some truly amazing films. I have a feeling that movie will be no exception….

  • Diablo

    Isn’t “The Professional” basically a revenge film? Is that one too popular?

  • Henrikus

    Korean revenge films are the best, really. I have watched most of them. Oldboy, I Saw The Devil, The Man from Nowhere. You should check out “The Chaser” as well.

  • drunkenjunk

    Get Carter and Payback are two of my favorites. Stallone and Mel Gibson are awesome in both.

  • Steve

    @Remy: No, it’s cool! I was busting balls. I enjoy your columns.

    That said, Descent was a terrible film… saying a lot when half the cast of Death Proof was in it.

  • JamesinJapan

    Wasn’t The Punisher (starring Thomas Jane) the closest thing we’ve ever had to a Punisher movie?

  • jeff

    No mention of Man on Fire?

  • Phukov

    I suggest “Harry Brown”. Watch Michael Caine doing the sort of clean-up we wish we all had the courage to do. It’s even a “foreign film” so oscar-batiers and pinky-lifting snobs don’t have to automatically ignore it.

  • Mason

    I couldn’t agree more with Hadley re: ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’… The whole reason I clicked on this article was to see if it made the list.

    Since it didn’t make the list, I can only assume the the writer of the article hasn’t seen the movie.

  • david

    “Wasn’t The Punisher (starring Thomas Jane) the closest thing we’ve ever had to a Punisher movie?”

    Regarding the whole Punisher-thing -> Punischer: Warzone WAS ecaxtly what you would call an uber-violent comic-worthy Punisher. In compar. the Jane-one is softy-mcsoft.

    That said … I thought I SAW THE DEVIl had some SERIOUS pacing-issues.

  • ^David hit it on the head with the Punisher. Although Thomas Jane did release DIRTY LAUNDRY this past month as a Punisher fan film and it was amazing, but I hate all three Punisher movies in comparison to how gritty the character was in the books. I stand behind my Jodie Foster sentiment completely. If one of you have a cool computer graphics tool, change her hair to jet black and put a skull on her shirt and we will re-release it as a trailer. I can confidently say that shit would go viral in about a day…

  • ks

    I spit on your grave

  • Cartle

    I actually disagree with I Saw the Devil. I thought the idea at its core was great, but it was farrrrr too long for what it was trying to do. It became such a drag in the last hour that I wanted to turn it off.

  • @Cartle, but that last moment, on the street, that shot that lingers, was so emotional it made it all worth it to me.

  • Bubba

    Check out Dead Man’s Shoes. Fantastic revenge movie.

  • JACKIE SIEGFRIED

    “I WILL FIND YOU & I WILL KILL YOU”

    CLASSIC!

  • mexican giant

    Not to go off topic here but there is a stephen king story where a woman seeking revenge watchs “the brave one” to pump herself up.

  • whosear

    Great choices for revenge movie. “The Island” with Michael Caine (1980, not to be confused with the newer version). It is an average movie (you could substitute modern-day Somali or Thai pirates in a remake). The movie follows slow, but you get a sense of helplessness and powerlessness. Then Caine is able to escape the pirate tribe whose leader has tortured and converted his son. As Caine swims towards an anchored Coast Guard cutter, the pirates row past him, board the cutter and kill the crew who are lunching. Caine makes it to the cutter and is hiding on the upper structure while the pirates are sorting through their booty on the helicopter landing pad….and he discovers…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNM7PmOkBxE

    Best turn the tables revenge movie I’ve seen.

  • egal

    What about the movie Revenge with Kevin Costner. quote of the movie Anthony Quinn “djou want to fuck?…..djoull be fucked feefty times a day….before djou die”

  • Benny Newton

    Excellent depth on your list, and I like your reasoning on your choices as well. I Saw The Devil is one of the best films I have seen, period. The relationship those two guys have by the end of the movie is crazily intimate, while also being psychologically and physically brutal. Best back and forth game of cat and mouse I can recall. Min-sik Choi.