10 Best Assassination Movies

Thursday, February 10 by Ed Mulero

The 10 best assassination movies go through the devastating power the death of an individual has on society and the people who knew the victim best. These assassinations dramatized in the movies sometimes examine the events leading up to the person's death and the aftermath of how the assassinations affect the people in the movies as they try to reconcile with the terrible act. These movies take the impact of assassinations and looks across the full spectrum of emotions and incidents to fully understand its toll.

  1. "JFK" (1991) Oliver Stone's opus revolves around the nation's worst tragedy in history and the mystery that still haunts a nation. Kevin Costner stars as a New Orleans district attorney who finds out there is more to the Kennedy assassination than the public was led to believe.  
  2. "The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford" (2007) Brad Pitt is the titular outlaw who terrorized the Midwest through many robberies. The movie follows Casey Affleck as the young Robert Ford that joins the gang and later ends up killing his so-called idol.   
  3. "In the Line of Fire" (1993) Clint Eastwood is a Secret Service agent haunted by the Kennedy assassination and tries to reconcile his life to that fateful day. Suddenly, a troubled mystery man taunts him by phone and plans to kill the current president in order to become as famous as John Wilkes Booth.
  4. "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) Frank Sinatra, who plays a prisoner of war of the Korean War, returns home as a military hero for unknown reasons. The mystery takes a turn when the former POW is brainwashed by the Communists to try and assassinate a political candidate.  
  5. "Malcolm X" (1992) Denzel Washington in an Oscar-nominated performance stars as the controversial civil rights leader from the Nation of Islam. Spike Lee's film traces his roots from a hardened criminal to rising leader in the African-American community to his eventual assassination years later.
  6. "Apocalypse Now" (1979) Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War epic features a young Captain Willard who is recruited to assassinate rogue Green Beret Colonel Kurtz. His travels lead him to witness the atrocities of the Vietnam War and eventually into the bowels of Cambodia where his target awaits. 
  7. "Valkyrie" (2008) Tom Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg who returns after being injured in an attack at his camp. The young man joins a renegade group of German officers and politicians to overthrow the Nazi regime through the assassination of Adolf Hitler.
  8. "The Day of the Jackal" (1973) Remnants of the French Foreig Legion hire a professional killer, code named "The Jackal," to assassinate the French President de Gaulle. The movie traces his every movement as he prepares to take down his mark and the French police who try desperately to arrest him.
  9. "Gandhi" (1982) The movie begins with the assassination of the famous Indian revolt leader, Mahatma Gandhi, who preached non-violence to win the freedom of India from tyrannical British rule. The story traces his life from him being thrown out of a train in South Africa for being Indian to him leading the fight for social and political change in India.
  10. "Romero" (1989) Raul Julia starred as the real-life Archbishop Oscar Romero who stood up against the horrific oppression of the government of El Salvador. Despite closing of churches by the government and assaults on priests, Romero continued his actions and speeches against violence throughout his position, which led to his eventual assassination in March 1980.

COMMENTS

  1. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Allen

    “Z” is a great assassination (and anti-gov’t) movie, based on true story. A French film made in 1969.

    TAL


  2. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Capn Mike

    Wha??

    Where’s “Parallax View”???

    #1 = Manchurian . No doubt!!


  3. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Tony

    Why is this article apparently written anonymously? Who wrote it?


  4. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Tony

    These are some of the most shallow comments I have ever read. Critics are not known for profundity but I have to wonder if the writer ever saw these movies. Most people have seen The Manchurian Candidate one of the greatest movies ever. Doesn’t it deserve moer then a few lines? Consider The Assasination of Jesse James by Robert Ford was virtually a Shakesperean play. It’s a bit overlong (I watched it in 2 parts) and it is Ford’s account; but Pitt’s performance is masterful and the atmosphere is truely tragic. James finds himself in a world where he is a marked man. It is also a serious attempt to follow actual events.


  5. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Friscoblitz

    Absolutely Allen, “Z” should have been included here and close to the top. I navigated here to see if it would be and was rather stunned it was not.


  6. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Shootist66

    I agree with your comment regarding the Manchurian Candidate as being one of the greatest suspense/assassination movies ever, but then you ignored the very same obvious and extreme gaffe the author made in his skeletal abstract of this film. Yes, Frank Sinatra had top billing in the movie, but it was Laurence Harvey who played the primary brainwashed POW who came home as a decorated hero for ‘unknown reasons’ (actually the ‘reason,’ as explained in the script, was a legend made up by his captors) with the ultimate mission of assassinating a political candidate for the presidency who would then be immediately replaced en scene by a ‘useful idiot’ fellow-travelling mole under the control of the character played by Angela Lansbury…the queen of hearts playing card being the motivating triggering device. That was the failed plan.


  7. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Shootist66

    I believe ‘V for Vendetta’ highly qualifies for this list and may even be apropos to the currently devolving authoritarian political condition in our country.


  8. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Smithpae

    No “American Affair?” It was much better than JFK


  9. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    I watch my movies in aircraft

    Missing from this list was the outstanding 2005 film “The Matador” with Peirce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear


  10. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Marley Greiner

    I hoped that Suddenly has been included.. It was withdrawn after the JFK assassination and only fairly recently has it reappeared. I saw it as a kid and it had a real affect on me as a movie I’d like to see again and again. Sinatra is very good as the wood-be psycho assassin. The motive behind the assassination is never really revealed, though clearly mob related. Hmmm.


  11. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    MikeD

    Very disappointed that ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’ is not on the list. If you haven’t seen it, drop everything and get it. Sam Rockwell is a national treasure.


  12. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    MikeD

    Very disappointed that ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’ is not on the list. If you haven’t seen it, drop everything and get it. Sam Rockwell is a national treasure.


  13. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Symphony Sid

    Kind Hearts and Coronets should be included simply because Sir Alec Guinness is assassinated 8 different times!


  14. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Symphony Sid

    Kind Hearts and Coronets should be included simply because Sir Alec Guinness is assassinated 8 different times!


  15. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Anonymous

    “the nation’s worst tragedy in history ”

    What bollocks.

    The nations worst tragedy in history was the election of Lincoln: It lead to the death of 600,000 living, breathing human beings.


  16. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Anonymous

    “the nation’s worst tragedy in history ”

    What bollocks.

    The nations worst tragedy in history was the election of Lincoln: It lead to the death of 600,000 living, breathing human beings.


  17. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    gl

    I am surprised you did not include “Executive Action”, a 1973 movie with Burt Lancaster and Will Geer about the Kennedy assasination, supposedly performed by the military- industrial complexe participants to increase the war in Vietnam..


  18. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    gl

    I am surprised you did not include “Executive Action”, a 1973 movie with Burt Lancaster and Will Geer about the Kennedy assasination, supposedly performed by the military- industrial complexe participants to increase the war in Vietnam..


  19. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Sjpsjp1971

    Putting Romero after half of these doesn’t make sense. Jesse James wasn’t assinated, he was murdered by another criminal and I think the movie was almost unwatchable. Otherwise, good list.


  20. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Sjpsjp1971

    Putting Romero after half of these doesn’t make sense. Jesse James wasn’t assinated, he was murdered by another criminal and I think the movie was almost unwatchable. Otherwise, good list.


  21. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Piguy

    What about “Death of a President”? The best assassination movie ever. Too bad it wasn’t a documentary.


  22. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Alexander

    The “nation’s worst tragedy in history”? Is this a joke?

    Oliver Stone paid little attention to historic and scientific accuracy in JFK, from start to finish. It was a vast tissue of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies. To put that joke of a film atop this list is a black mark against this usually fine website.


  23. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Alexander

    The “nation’s worst tragedy in history”? Is this a joke?

    Oliver Stone paid little attention to historic and scientific accuracy in JFK, from start to finish. It was a vast tissue of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies. To put that joke of a film atop this list is a black mark against this usually fine website.


  24. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Memento Mori

    JFK didn’t have anything that Costa-Gavras’s Z didn’t have, and Z was about a conspiracy that actually happened.


  25. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Memento Mori

    JFK didn’t have anything that Costa-Gavras’s Z didn’t have, and Z was about a conspiracy that actually happened.


  26. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Hondolane

    Stone’s JFK glorified a megalomaniacal district attorney (Jim Garrison) who wasted tons of money persecuting an innocent man. The jury poured him out of court after 45 minutes


  27. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Hondolane

    Stone’s JFK glorified a megalomaniacal district attorney (Jim Garrison) who wasted tons of money persecuting an innocent man. The jury poured him out of court after 45 minutes


  28. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Beverlee

    I saw Executive Action (already referenced in a comment) twice when it played in theaters and recently purchased it via Amazon. Friends saw it and one pulled out her copy of the Warren Report to check its facts. The statistics listed at the end of the movie which have never been refuted, sum it up. I remember that day, coming home from 7th grade, and watching the coverage. This movie best portrays what I remember in terms of events. “Grassy knoll”, anyone?


  29. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Beverlee

    I saw Executive Action (already referenced in a comment) twice when it played in theaters and recently purchased it via Amazon. Friends saw it and one pulled out her copy of the Warren Report to check its facts. The statistics listed at the end of the movie which have never been refuted, sum it up. I remember that day, coming home from 7th grade, and watching the coverage. This movie best portrays what I remember in terms of events. “Grassy knoll”, anyone?


  30. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Jedimarkus

    What about Le Femme NIkita? Leon: The Professional? Hello????


  31. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Jedimarkus

    What about Le Femme NIkita? Leon: The Professional? Hello????


  32. February 10, 2011 11:58 pm

    Picksixsammy

    I always refer to “JFK” as “Dances With The Facts”. Hondolane and Alexander certainly had it right about Garrison, in particular, and the movie in general. The movie “Suddenly”appears now and again on Turner Classic Movies. A little 1949 flick called “I Shot Jesse James” decerves some mention, but for my money, “The Manchurian Candidate” and “The Day of the Jackal” top the list in this category.