Struggling to forgive an absent Valentines card? Still seething at your friend who ‘wasn’t hungry’, then treated your cinema popcorn like a sharing bucket? We all hold grudges – although very few of them lead us to murder. But with a remake of one of the ultimate revenge movies, Death Wish, coming to our screens, we decided to reminisce on some of the most iconic and badass revenge-kills in cinematic history.
7. Sweet Sound of Revenge – Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
You’ll be sitting through almost three hours of this infamous Western to see this climactic revenge kill. The motivation of the cryptically named ‘Harmonica’ is a mystery throughout the film – although it is clear he has his sights set on killing the odious Frank. Which seeing as Frank has murdered a man, killed his three children and sexually assaulted his wife before trying to buy her out of her farm seems like a fair idea.
But it’s the final duel between Frank and Harmonica which reveals Harmonica’s true motivation. In a dramatic flashback, we learn Frank forced a young Harmonica to hold his older brother on his shoulders whilst hanging from a noose before pushing the harmonica in his mouth. Eventually, the older boy is forced to kick his younger brother away and accept his death. In this tense duel, Harmonica finally gets to shoot and kill Frank after all these years and exact his revenge – shoving the harmonica in Frank’s mouth as a satisfying finish to Frank’s tyranny. Definitely worth the wait!
6. Driven to Death – The Crow (1994)
Like Frank, The Crow’s revenge tale also stems from a murdered man and his sexually assaulted partner (who eventually also dies after 30 hours of agonising pain). In this film, however, there is no need for a musical instrument-wielding hero to exact vengeance on their behalf, as murdered ‘Eric’ comes back to life with the help of an ominous crow to brutally kill all those involved in his murder. You can’t fault the originality…
What follows are a number of violent killings at the hands of Undead-Eric – although none are more aesthetically spectacular than that of T-Bird, the leader of the street gang who killed Eric and his fiancé. Amongst T-Bird’s cries of disbelief that there is ‘no coming back’ from death builds an epic operatic soundtrack, that dramatically marks the significance of Eric taking his vengeance. Eric sends T-Bird flying off the edge of the pier in a spectacular firework of flames… and even draws a slightly unnecessary but impressively neat flammable crow to top it all off. Proving that being dead doesn’t necessarily kill your creativity – bravo.
5. Slice & Dice – Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
Ever wanted to install a mirror on the ceiling? You may change your interior design plans after watching this scene from Law Abiding Citizen. Amongst the revenge kills on this list, the gruesome scene where Clyde Shelton tortures and murders the man who killed his wife and daughter is the one guaranteed to make your toes curl. Clyde’s almost accommodating and friendly tone whilst he preps Darby for his harrowing ordeal is unbelievably creepy and, combined with the analytical way he introduces all the tools of torture, serve to build an incredibly tense atmosphere.
Because this clearly wasn’t morbid enough, Clyde pops out the handy addition of a mirror to ensure Darby can watch himself being dismembered – whilst a video camera filming it all takes the scene up a notch to mind-blowingly messed up. Just excuse us a sec while we have a lie down… on second thoughts, maybe not.
4. Ring of Fire – Man On Fire (2004)
You know that feeling when you’re hired to protect a man’s cute kid and then down the line when you’ve become like a surrogate father to her she gets kidnapped on her way back from a piano lesson? Us too. And what is the natural reaction to this? That’s right – a suppository bomb.
Perhaps one of the more light-hearted deaths on this list, there is something almost comical about this original and unique revenge-kill that see’s Denzel Washington as John Creasy, inform one of the girl’s kidnappers that he has a bomb residing in his most private area. What’s more, this is being conducted in broad daylight with the victim strapped unceremoniously to the hood of a car in his boxer shorts. The countdown of the bomb’s clock contrasted with Creasy’s cool composure illustrates a rewarding shift in power over the men who wronged him. Plus there is an epic ‘cool guys don’t look at explosions’ moment – check it out.
3. Bloodbath – Road To Perdition (2002)
Arguably the most stylish revenge-kill in cinematic history, this sequence from Road to Perdition in which Michael Sullivan avenges the death of his wife and son is truly unique. Tom Hanks as Sullivan is seeking revenge on Connor, the murderer of his wife and son and a character who is also his pseudo-brother… who ALSO indirectly forced Sullivan to kill his surrogate father who is also Connor’s real father…keeping up?
But if the family dynamics are too complex, the scene alone is brilliant to watch. The dramatic soundtrack as Sullivan strides effortlessly through the hotel builds the tone of a man walking towards his destiny. The unusual cinematography following him down the corridor from different angles gives us the feeling we are travelling with him. And then, when he finally reaches Connor in the bathroom the dramatic pause before emotionlessly shooting him in the bath tub. (Note to self: never wash again). Whilst many movies would have chosen to brazenly brandish the killing in all its bloody glory – this revenge-kill is stunningly effective in its simplicity. Moreover, the added touch of the mirrored door creaking back to reveal the body panders to our sick need to see a bit of blood. (Another note to self: remove all the mirrors in the house).
2. Maximus Entertains – Gladiator (2000)
Commodus is one of cinema’s greatest douchebags (or use your fav similar word/phrase). Having learnt his father intended to make General Maximus emperor instead of him, he murders his own father, announces himself as emperor and sends a group of men to kill Maximus and his family. As in a running theme in this list, Maximus’ wife and son are killed leaving him to seek violent justice.
With his new status as a slave proving a large obstacle, Maximus has much to overcome before he can face Commodus and get his own back. Thankfully, by working his way up through the Gladiator ranks, Maximus finally gets his battle. Although Commodus, like the sneaky snake he is, stabs Maximus before the duel to lower his chances. Thankfully, Maximus is a man driven solely by revenge and manages to overcome Commodus and kill him. A revenge we realise he is willing to die for. The final moments of Maximus are poetic and incredibly sad – don’t pretend you didn’t cry when he walks through that wheat-filled afterlife.
1. Bill Killed – Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
And finally, while it may seem revenge-kills in cinema are dominated by men avenging their dead family members, we have this iconic scene from Kill Bill where ‘The Bride’ or Beatrix Kiddo finally faces her ex-lover Bill. Bill isn’t everyone’s idea of the ideal boyfriend. Having trained Beatrix as an assassin, Bill proceeded to unknowingly impregnate her and then pursue her when Beatrix left the squad to try and find a better life for her child. He arrives at her wedding and kills everyone before turning the gun on Beatrix, who tells him it is his baby and he then shoots her in the head.
Beatrix miraculously does not die – although spends 4 years in a coma being sexually assaulted and prostituted – and emerges quite rightly a little bit pissed off. What follows is a bloody and gory trail of bodies as Beatrix stalks down Bill to find her child survived the ordeal and Bill has kept her. The eerie tension created by both Beatrix and Bill maintaining their composure for the sake of their daughter will never fail to keep audiences on the edge of their seat, in anticipation of everything kicking off. After putting the child ‘B.B’ to bed, a brief fight begins where Beatrix reveals that her and Bill’s kung fu teacher, Pai Mei taught her the ‘Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique’ – a move Bill believed Pai Mei taught no one.
Realising that the correct execution of this move means his heart will now explode in his chest (OK, no points for realism) Bill makes amends somewhat with Beatrix and boldly takes his five steps before crumbling to the floor. There is something beautifully peaceful about this iconic revenge-kill which has stemmed from such a violent and grisly past and that is why it tops our list.
Did we miss one of your favourites off this list? If so, our apologies and please don’t exact your revenge, just let us know in the comments below.