Ten killer revenge movies
This week's Edge of Darkness unleashes Mel Gibson on a fierce quest for dead-daughter justice. Where else should a furious film fanatic visit?
Mon Jan 25 2010
Everyone remembers Sissy Spacek gone loco at the prom. But Brian De Palma’s hilarious horror movie actually has several layers of teen-girl revenge, a swirling hate storm brewed by bratty troublemaker P.J. Soles.
Memorable vengeance moment: Carrie, fed up with her Holy Rolling momma, pins her to the kitchen wall with telekinetically flung knives.—JR
DEAD MAN’S SHOES (2004)
It’s payback time, Northern England--style, courtesy of Shane Meadows’s gritty, grimy throwback to ’70s thrillers. Paddy Considine’s gas-mask-wearing angel of death may be the missing link between horror slashers and Travis Bickle.
Memorable vengeance moment: Having drugged several thugs who terrorized his younger brother, Considine’s ex-soldier palm-punches a hooligan’s nose right into his brain. Ouch.—DF
DEATH WISH (1974)
Screen vigilantism hit a box-office home run with this violent tale of an ordinary New Yorker (Charles Bronson at his most craggy-iconic) pushed to the brink after his daughter is sexually assaulted and wife murdered.
Memorable vengeance moment: When two central-casting urban muggers prey on Bronson in an empty subway car, our pistol-packing antihero blows them away. You can assume Bernie Goetz was in the audience taking notes.—DF
FOXY BROWN (1974)
The blaxploitation film par excellence stars Pam Grier as a retribution-seeking honey (dig those shifting hairstyles) out to take down a vicious bunch of gangsters.
Memorable vengeance moment: How do the words cock in a pickle jar grab you? Cross your legs, boys!—KU
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978)
This infamous grindhouse classic (a.k.a. Day of the Woman) begins with a brutal gang rape and ends with its empowered victim (Camille Keaton) dispatching her attackers in the most creatively painful ways possible.
Memorable vengeance moment: One of the rapists is lured into a bathtub—only to have his offending member cut off. The death-by-speedboat scene ranks a close second.—DF
KILL BILL: VOL. 1 (2003) and KILL BILL: VOL. 2 (2004)
Quentin Tarantino’s two-part genre mash-up follows a globe-trotting assassin (Uma Thurman) on, as she puts it, “a roaring rampage of revenge.” The targets: the four associates and an ex-lover (David Carradine) who left her for dead.
Memorable vengeance moment: Thurman stares down Daryl Hannah in a decrepit RV. Somebody loses an eye.—KU
In Steven Spielberg’s antirevenge picture, a Mossad agent (Eric Bana) is tasked with eliminating the conspirators behind the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. In doing so, he comes to recognize the soul-crushing futility of retaliation.
Memorable vengeance moment: The killing of a Mata Hari--like spy on a houseboat is all kinds of queasy—between the phallic tube guns and profusely squirting blood.—KU
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968)
Grudge-bearers never had a better friend than Italy’s Sergio Leone, who made an entire career out of their sagas. Leone’s magnum opus concerns a mysterious creep (Charles Bronson) stalking an icy-eyed killer (Henry Fonda) over a childhood crime.
Memorable vengeance moment: A harmonica is swapped at the moment of reckoning—and all those blurry flashbacks suddenly make sense.—JR
STRAW DOGS (1971)
A supremely unpleasant movie, Sam Peckinpah’s thriller has mild-mannered mathematician Dustin Hoffman eliminating multiple home invaders after his wife is raped. (Problematically, she kind of takes their side.)
Memorable vengeance moment: Stepping through a broken window, one cackling local has his shotgun deflected downward by Hoffman’s metal pipe; the blast obliterates his foot.—JR
THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960)
You probably don’t look to Ingmar “The Iceberg” Bergman for glorious vigilante violence, yet his Oscar-winning medieval tale was disturbing enough to inspire Wes Craven to remake it as The Last House on the Left.
Memorable vengeance moment: After discovering that he’s been harboring his daughter’s killers, Max von Sydow (who else?) whips his body with branches, takes a scouring bath and then calmly says, “Bring me the butcher’s knife.”—JR