Revenge is a simple formula for driving the action in many movies. A bunch of bad characters terrorize the main protagonist and do something to harm or kill their loved ones. This incurs the wrath of the protagonist and all hell breaks loose as they track the villains down one by one and deal them a dose of justice. Everyone loves a vigilante, which why revenge movies are so popular. These seven movies stand out as the cream of the crop among cinematic revenge fantasies:
“Death Wish” (1974):
No other movie embodies the theme of revenge more perfectly than "Death Wish" does. Charles Bronson cemented his tough guy reputation with this tale where he plays the ultimate vigilante. Playing Paul Kersey, he decides to gun down a bunch of street thugs after a few of them brutally kill his family. Kersey's quest for justice continued through several lesser sequels, but the original "Death Wish" reigns supreme as the ultimate revenge fantasy for all of those who have been wronged.
“Mad Max” (1979):
Long before he descended into crazy drunken rant territory, Mel Gibson gave a star-making turn in this Australian-made apocalyptic drama. He plays a man in dystopian future who seeks revenge on motorcycle-riding thugs who murder his wife and child. It set the tone for other tortured revenge-filled characters Gibson played onscreen later.
“Kill Bill” (Vol 1. 2003 & Vol 2, 2004):
Quentin Tarantino racks up the body count as he chronicles the revenge journey of a woman, played by Uma Thurman, who is left for dead on her wedding day after her entire wedding party is massacred. She dawns a black-and-yellow bodysuit and hunts down the culprit and his minions, lopping off body parts left and right with her sword. Tarantino infuses the revenge drama with 70s style kung fu, which gives an unique twist to the whole situation.
The bad guys can't say Liam Neeson didn't warn them. He plays an ex-CIA agent who travels through Europe, tracking his kidnapped daughter. Neeson promises if they let her go, at the time of the kidnapping, he would let them live. They didn't do it and he tortured and killed every last one of them. Lesson learned. Don't mess with the families of resourceful and brutal spies.
Mel Gibson takes another turn in dealing out revenge-fueled justice to an assortment of lowlife criminals. The twist here is that he is a bad guy himself. He is a thief who is double-crossed and left for dead after a heist. Gibson proceeds to hunt down everyone behind it, demanding his cut of $70,000. He is determined to get his money and brutally kills all guilty parties until he has it. Judging by his real-life behavior, audiences can believe Gibson is crazy enough to do it.
“Straw Dogs” (1971):
Sam Peckinpah set new standards for unnerving violence in many of his movies. “Straw Dogs” leads the pack in that regard with a tale of a pacifist professor who unleashes a brutal side when hooligans violently attack and rape his wife. His vengeance is nasty as he executes all of the responsible parties. The climax is so disturbing that “Straw Dogs” was censored in the United Kingdom for nearly two decades.
Schoolyard bullies are a problem for too many people these days. Perhaps that is why it is strangely satisfying to see Carrie White unleash her inner rage and telekinetic powers on a gym full of her tormenters at the prom. When Carrie gets a bucket of pigs' blood dumped on her, she electrocutes and burns nearly everyone in the school as her ultimate act of revenge. Give Stephen King credit for taking out bullies in style.