You spoke and we listened – it seems there are so many badass movie revenge kills that a list of seven in our previous video just didn’t cover it. It’s not surprising there are so many great examples as nothing quite satisfies the need for vengeance in cinema like a dramatic murder of a deserving perpetrator. So here, by popular demand, are more awesome movie revenge kills we overlooked the first time. And be warned, spoilers ahead!
The Godfather (1972) – Baptism of Blood
Ah a baby’s baptism! The perfect day for a family gathering, a bit of organ music and a spate of brutal killings. The Godfather is a mafia feature littered with lawless murders, as the Five Families have descended into all out warfare after a string of disputes and betrayals. But it is Michael, son of Don Vito Corleone, who decides the only way to end the battle is by removing all the key players. With multiple attempts on his father’s life, a murdered brother, a broken jaw from a corrupt cop, a sister in an abusive relationship and other betrayals to his name Michael has many scores to settle and decides to carry out his vengeance in style.
The setting of the church, the warm glow of the light and groaning organ music intercut with contrasting scenes of Corleone assassins packing up their weapons, create an eerie feeling of discomfort. As the tensions that have been building for the film are about to come to a head, the calm demeanor of Michael – knowing his bloody orders are being carried out – hints at the magnitude of his determination to avenge his family. One by one all the other unsuspecting New York dons are viciously shot in a variety of uncomforting situations – including what must be the world’s most unsatisfying massage. We could talk forever about the significance of the baby’s baptism bringing new life versus Michael’s rebirth but for now let’s just appreciate how epic this revenge killing is.
John Wick (2014) – Slick Wick
Whilst The Godfather gives us plenty of reasons as to why one may want to exact a revenge kill, the first chapter of John Wick gives us perhaps one of the most enraging and upsetting – puppy murder. And whilst most of us would feel vengeful if someone killed our puppy, John’s puppy is not only an adorable beagle called Daisy but also serves as a symbolic memory for his dead wife. Appropriately incensed by the loss of Daisy and the theft of his car, the taste for blood reawakens in ex-hitman John and he leaves a trail of bodies and carnage in his wake as he searches for the gang leader – Iosef Tarasov.
In a hard-hitting sequence of noise, a heavy soundtrack and high-octane action Wick crashes through Iosef’s safe house in a cacophony of deafening, chaotic carnage. We don’t even see Iosef’s face as John strides towards him, sliding into focus like a handsome angel of death – this murder is all about John and his revenge. Iosef tries to say ‘it was only a dog’ but John doesn’t let him finish this absurd statement. Wick slides back out of focus as he walks away and we all learn an important lesson – if you meet a lethal assassin do not steal his car and, most importantly, you never kill his dog.
Unforgiven (1992) – Saloon Shootout
Much like John Wick, farm-owner William Munny has left his days of murder very much behind him. But the lure of a one-thousand dollar reward for the murder of two cowboys who defaced a prostitute proves enough to coax Munny out of retirement. Recruiting the help of another retiree and long-term friend Logan – they set out to kill the two perpetrators. The mission becomes personal, however, when local Sheriff Little Bill Daggett beats up Munny, tortures Logan to death and displays his body in a coffin outside the local saloon.
Munny’s returns to the saloon set on revenge, making a grand entrance at the door surrounded by pouring rain and a clap of thunder (pathetic fallacy at its most obvious and its best). The oppressive silence of the scene aside from the sporadic dialogue and sound of rain builds a thick layer of tension that is smashed by the ensuing shoot out. As the smoke clears, Munny and Bill have a final conversation as Bill bleeds out on the floor. Munny’s statement that ‘deserves has nothing to do with it’ highlights how Munny perhaps knows he himself would deserve the same fate for all the people he has killed in the past – illustrating the complex nature of revenge and how we determine who deserves to die for it. One thing is for sure though, Little Bill never stood chance.
Sleepers (1996) – Lead for Dinner
As far as instigating incidents for revenge go, few stories are more harrowing than the plot of the 1996 feature Sleepers, the tale of four boys who are physically and sexually abused at a correction facility. Even after one of their friends is killed through this violence, the boys decide to never raise the issue publically thinking no one would believe them. That is until 13 years later when two of the boys, John and Tommy, come across Nokes, one of the perpetrators, in a pub.
The comparative calm and peace surrounding this revenge kill compared to many others makes it a stark and effective scene. When the boys do finally start to shoot Nokes in front of witnesses having dinner, it is clear that unlike many revenge kills where the murder marks closure – this is very much the start of a journey for the protagonists. As they continue to fill Nokes with an unnecessary number of bullets, it is obvious this is not just a revenge kill but a way for them to exorcise their pain and fight back in a way they couldn’t when they were younger. These guys aren’t trying to get away with murder – they are exacting inevitable revenge. They even pay their bill too – thoughtful.
I Spit on Your Grave (2010) – A Shear Circumcision
An iconic rape-and-revenge movie, I Spit on Your Grave doesn’t just have multiple great revenge kills – the whole film centres around and is driven by them. When writer Jennifer moves to a remote cottage to inspire her writing, she unwittingly becomes a victim in a plot made by local men to brutally rape her. The gratuitous violence of the lengthy rape scene, however, soon pales in comparison to the rest of the film.
Jennifer proceeds to revenge kill every one of the perpetrators of her horrific ordeal and it is hard to pick a stand-out incident when causes of death include strangulation, drowning and even an inventive use of a bear trap. However, for pure metaphorical significance, the killing of Johnny is perhaps the most fitting. As if suspending him from a doorway and pulling is teeth out with pliers wasn’t enough to set your skin crawling, it is the castration of Johnny with hedge cutters that you’d struggle not to feel whatever your gender. The beauty of this revenge kill is the way Jennifer takes something of sexual significance to Johnny and destroys it as retribution for the violent sexual act he committed against her. Perhaps putting the leftovers in his mouth is a bit too far? We’ll let you decide.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) – Sharp Retribution
Another entry from the legendary Clint Eastwood on our list, but he clearly knows how to execute a classic revenge kill. And as far as reasons for revenge go, nothing is more classic than the merciless murder of your family. After farmer Josey Wales’ family is killed by Union soldier’s in the Civil War he joins a group of guerilla soldiers in an attempt to fight against the forces that took his loved ones away. The Union soldiers, led by Captain Terrill, persuade the guerillas to surrender and kill them all except two men including Josey who refused to back down. With a bounty on his head Josey has more of a reason than ever to implement vengeance.
After being attacked by Terrill and his men, Josey pursues Terrill and, after cornering him, begins to dry fire his pistols at Terrill whilst advancing towards him. In his deadpan face we can see Josey is a man who is living purely for his revenge, the blank clicks of his gun as he continues to click through his pistols almost seem to represent that killing just Terrill once isn’t enough. It isn’t until Terrill draws his own sword that Josey grabs it and turns it on Terrill himself. Whether Josey satiates his need for revenge through this death is up for discussion, but one thing is for sure – it satisfies our desire for a great revenge kill!
Taken (2008) – A Shocking Exit
When ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills hears his daughter being abducted down the phone in Paris he has one, now infamous, message for her captors [“I will find you and I will kill you”]. What is clear from the outset of this film is there is a badass revenge kill on the cards – however unlike many iconic revenge kills, Bryan has no idea who the perpetrator is. In a thrilling hunt which leads Bryan to the dark world of an Albanian prostitution ring.
Identifying the man on the phone as Marko Hoxha and verifying his identity when he hears his voice, Bryan subjects Marko to torture through electrocution and gathers information on how to find his missing daughter. But even when Bryan has what he needs he leaves Marko with the electricity turned on, begging for his life and walks away. What is so satisfying about this revenge kill is how Bryan’s forewarning that he will find Marko and he will kill him plays out true to his word even when it seemed so impossible. And it’s nice to see Marko get his comeuppance too.
Sicario (2015) – Family Massacre
Last but by no means least on this list is the recent action thriller Sicario and a heart-breaking and iconic revenge massacre. Unlike films like Taken, John Wick and I Spit On Your Grave – the revenge killing in Sicario isn’t built up to as a climax of the film. In fact, most would hardly see it coming and certainly not anticipate the outcome.
Only in the latter part of the film do we learn that secondary character Alejandro lost his wife and daughter to the order of drug lord Alarcon. In a film that is constantly questioning how one can legitimately pursue justice – it is a surprise to see Alejandro burst into as domestic a scene as a family dinner and kill Alarcon’s wife and children. The fear around that tense dinner table is palpable and not until you see the bodies on the floor do you believe Alejandro has actually killed the wife and sons of Alarcon. He then gives Alarcon those few seconds to feel how he did before adding him to the body count. It raises the questions that many of the films on our list raise: is there a legitimate way to seek revenge? Will this eye-for-an-eye approach cause more pain or does seeking vengeance act as a fair form of justice? Either way, we hope cinema continues to explore these questions with more badass revenge.
There we have it – more awesome movie revenge kills to get your teeth stuck into. Were there still some hits you think deserve a place on our lists? No need for revenge, just comment in the section below!