Nothing beats a good revenge film. Do you know why most people like movies about revenge? That’s because we all have some kind of grudge in the back of our mind, whether it be a betrayal or broken heart, we all have, for at least once in our life, thought of seeking revenge from someone. Sometimes all we want in a movie is to see someone beating the hell out of someone we don’t like, as the saying goes “revenge is best served cold”. So without further ado, here is a list of the 35 best revenge movies of all time:
35. Payback (1999)
Not many people talk about Payback these days which is a disgrace, truly, given that actor Mel Gibson’s (as Porter) action flick is seen at the top of his acting career, whose acting seems to be more appealing, badass, and of course out for some serious revenge.
The movie was the directorial debut for Brian Helgeland and was based on the novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake. The plot revolves around Porter, who sets out seeking revenge on those who had betrayed him after a heist had gone wrong. Payback is the very definition of a vengeance flick of the underestimated kind.
34. Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
Certainly, one of the best revenge films from British shores, directed by Shane Meadows it is an immeasurably depressing and hard-to-ignore kitchen-sink drama-like story of an ex-soldier’s mission to seek vengeance on those who had wronged his disabled brother.
The performance of lead actor Paddy Considine (Richard) is what makes the movie what it is. He brilliantly portrays a man who is completely possessed by his desire to give what is owed to those who had victimized his family.
33. Commando (1985)
It is by far one of the greatest, most thoroughly amusing examples of bloodthirsty 80’s action, revenge-filled stories directed by Mark L. Lester and starring the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Matrix. This movie was the 7th highest-grossing R-rated film of 1985 worldwide. It’s considered a cult classic when it comes to the best revenge movies and one of the best Arnold Schwarzenegger movies of all time.
When John Matrix’s, a retired elite Black Ops Commando, daughter is kidnapped by a group of South American criminals to blackmail him into starting a revolution to allow an exiled dictator to regain power, he launches a one-man war against them.
32. Death Wish (1974)
It’s one of the most successful and well-known revenge movies in the film industry which sparked four sequels. Based on the novel Death Wish by Brian Garfield, it is an American vigilante action film directed by Michael Winner starring Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, who previously being a liberal turns into a vigilante after his wife gets murdered and his daughter gets raped during a home invasion.
When this movie was released it was attacked by many film critics as it supported vigilantism, but the film was a commercial success and has been considered a cult film and generated a strong following amongst vigilante film fans, who honor it as the first film to present the idea of “pedestrian” vigilante.
31. Dogville (2003)
Dogville is a Danish innovative drama film by Lars Von Trier, starring Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany. It is a story that uses an extremely insignificant, stage-like set to tell the tale of Grace Mulligan (Nicole Kidman), a woman hiding from gangsters, who happens to arrive in the small town of Dogville, Colorado, and is provided shelter in return for her physical labor.
This movie competed for the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003 but eventually lost to Gus Van Sant’s ‘Elephant’. In the sight & sound polls in 2012, six critics and three directors named Dogville one of the best movies ever made.
30. Gangs of New York (2002)
This is an American dramatized historical film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring the legendary Leonardo di Caprio as Amsterdam Vallon. It was nominated for many awards, including Academy Award for Best Picture.
It revolves around Amsterdam Vallon, who to seek revenge for his father’s death against Bill ‘The Butcher’, returns to New York. Daniel Day-Lewis’ relentless and vicious acting as Bill, might be one of the best movie villains of all time.
29. Gladiator (2000)
Ridley Scott’s inspiring sword and heroic movie, Gladiator is a vengeance flick of the highest order starring Russel Crowe as Maximus. It is somewhat of a B-movie disguised as an ancient epic and the lines between fiction and fact get blurred amongst the dreadful violence where Maximus’s rage shows no bounds.
The sum of the movie guarantees that Maximus’ quest for vengeance from the people who murdered his family will end in bloody satisfaction.
28. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
This is an adventurous dramatic movie directed by Kevin Reynolds and is taken from the book of the same name by Alexandre Dumas, starring Jim Caviezel as Edmond who was deceived and thrown into prison on wrong accusations by the dreadful traitor Fernand (played by Guy Pearce).
This movie has no bad-ass one-liners, no gun battles, no kidnapped daughters or murdered partners, rather it’s the story of a man deceived by everyone he loved and he rebuilds his entire life’s purpose on one thing, Vengeance.
27. Mad Max (1979)
Mad Max illustrates a dreadful form of Australia in which biker gangs are intent on destroying and burning the hell out of what is left of humanity. Mel Gibson plays Max, a man who finds himself drawn into the path of revenge when his wife, best friend, and daughter are murdered. The pursuit of vengeance devours every inch of his being.
Gibson’s performance as Max is by turns, overwhelming, unhinged, and dramatic. The film itself, directed by George Miller, holds up to this day. As much as vengeance and its associated madness are concerned, Mad Max is hard to beat.
26. Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011)
If you’re looking for a quiet and understanding film that goes into revenge, disgrace, and honor, then this is the movie for you. Directed by Takashi Miike, it is a 3D remake of the film Hara-kiri (1962).
It tells the story of a poor Samurai, who asks for an honorable death by ritual suicide from his lord but gets threatened in return which leads to some extraordinary fearsome sword fights. This was the first movie to be shown in 3D at the Cannes Film Festival (2011).
25. Munich (2005)
Steven Spielberg’s Munich shows the real-life story of the Israeli government’s secret vengeance against the Palestine Liberation Organization after the dreadful Munich annihilation at the 1972 Olympics.
It is undoubtedly one of the best revenge movies out there that are based on true events. As a real-life revenge story, there is arguably no greater story, and as one would expect, Spielberg delivers the story with all the skill, craftsmanship, and passion that this movie deserves.
As a revenge film, Spielberg makes sure to keep it like that throughout the movie. This movie puts forward an inarguable event for the expression:
“Truth is often stranger than fiction”.
24. Léon: The Professional (1994)
Directed and written by Luc Besson and starring Jean Reno (Leon) and Natalie Portman (Mathilda), Leon the Professional would perhaps be best considered as a comic book adaptation. It is as entertaining as it is absurd.
This action flick puts itself as a classic because Leon and Mathilda are people we care about. It has a lot more to offer than just revenge. It is an experience that echoes emotionally. The movie was commercially a great success, earning over $45 million on a $16 million budget.
23. The Crow (1994)
Directed by Alex Proyas, The Crow, is the story of a man who gets brutally murdered along with his family, but he returns to life to avenge his fiancé’s murder. It is a wonderfully dark movie and also as gothic as it could get. There is also a sensation of sadness around the movie as Lead actor Brandon Lee accidentally died on the film set.
The Crow had a distinctive cinematic vision and visual style thanks to the director, and the film took some risks that are hardly seen in cinema.
22. The Limey (1999)
The Limey is an American crime film by Steven Soderbergh starring Terence Stamp as Wilson who sets out on the path to take revenge on whoever murdered his daughter, and this man will not take a ‘no’ for an answer.
This kind of movie is one in which flashback occurs not only in the scenes but also in conversations. The Limey has great acting, tough action sequences, and a great noir tone. The film was in release for seventeen weeks and was shown in almost 105 cinemas.
21. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
This is an American-German war film by Quentin Tarantino starring Brad Pitt (Lt. Aldo Raine) and Mélanie Laurent (Shosanna). This is the story of a Jewish U.S. soldier’s group based in France (which is occupied by Nazis in World War 2) who are out on a mission to kill the Nazi leaders. These soldiers are helped by a young and beautiful Jewish immigrant Shosanna, who is out for vengeance on the Nazis after seeing her family getting brutally slaughtered by Colonel Hans.
Although based on fiction this is an unforgettable and ruthless movie with one of the best revenge stories of all time and the ending is picture-perfect, nothing like you’ve ever seen before.
20. Gran Torino (2008)
Gran Torino is an American drama film by Clint Eastwood, who also starred in the film as Walt Kowalski and happens to be a Korean war veteran. He lives in a neighborhood that is deserted by the Americans and taken over by some young gang members. All he wants is to be left alone but comes close to the Hmong family living next door.
Gran Torino was commercially and critically a success, earning nearly $270 million worldwide with a limited theatrical release by Warner Bros on Dec 12, 2008, and then worldwide on Jan 9, 2009.
19. Braveheart (1995)
Braveheart is an epic old-fashioned historical war film directed and starred by Mel Gibson. He played the role of William Wallace, who following the death of his family as a child, and the murder of his wife, leads a riot against the English dictators.
This is a movie about revenge against England’s unjust rule and its old-fashioned combat is entertaining at its finest. Nominated for ten Academy Awards and winning five, Braveheart can be termed one of the best revenge movies this world has seen.
18. The Virgin Spring (1960)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman, The Virgin Spring is a disturbing story of revenge, savagery, and faith in old-fashioned Sweden. Starring Max Von Sydow, this film is both cruel and beautiful in its description of a world hovering between Christianity and paganism and the story of a father who needs to avenge the murder of his child.
This movie won the Best Foreign Language Movie at the Academy Awards in 1961 and was also an inspiration for Wes Craven’s horror film The Last House on the Left (1972).
17. Oldboy (2003)
The movie is directed by Park Chan-Wook and stars Choi Min-Sik (Oh Dae-Su). Oldboy is a story of a man who is imprisoned for 15 years without any reason. After he is set free, he begins his revenge on his imprisoners.
Filled with brutality the film is a very stylish thriller and has one of the best fight scenes in cinema history, which surprisingly was shot in a single take. Oldboy won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival 2004 and was highly praised by the president of the jury, Quentin Tarantino.
16. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Directed by Stieg Larsson and starring Daniel Craig (Mikael) and Rooney Mara (Lisbeth), this movie is a story about a girl who takes revenge on her rapist, unimaginably tormenting him and helps Mikael find a wealthy man’s niece from 40 years ago. This was viciously filmed, extraordinarily scored, and was a twisted, dark piece of storytelling that features more than its fair share of murders, rapes, and overall disappointing moments.
With a production budget of $90 million, this movie earned $236.2 million just in the theatrical run alone and can arguably be called one of the best revenge movies ever, despite its tough subject matter. People with weak stomachs should seriously avoid this film.
15. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
Quentin Tarantino’s uber-cool four-hour-long rampage revenge movie stars Uma Thurman as ‘The Bride’, an ex-assassin who is shot on her wedding day and left to die. After getting out of a coma 4 years later, she sets out to kill all those who wronged her.
Quentin renders the most obsessive, twisted, inventive, and downright crazy revenge fantasy movie ever made. It is a wild mix of samurai, kung fu, and Western movies that almost begs to be watched again.
14. The Great Silence (1968)
The Great Silence is Sergio Corbucci’s unquestionable masterpiece and one of the best Western movies ever made. He takes his idea to a new level against an unusual background of snow, as a silent gunfighter tries to settle the score with some lowly bounty hunters determined to destroy the system.
It is a revenge-driven movie and the lesson here is quite different from other typical movies of the Western genre that, life, eventually, isn’t fair.
13. The Host (2006)
The Korean film is filled with drama, monsters, thrills, and of course, a lot of revenge and follows a story of a man trying to rescue his daughter from a monster.
The Host may send some chills up your spine as it is a deterrent environmental film featuring the command of nature and the cost of human lives. It won many awards including the Best Film award at the Blue Dragon Film and the Asian Film Awards.
12. Mystic River (2003)
Winning an Oscar for both Best Actor (Sean Penn) and Best Supporting Actor (Tim Robbins), the first movie to win both awards since Ben-Hur, and nominated for many Academy Awards, Mystic River is Clint Eastwood’s Western Masterpiece that follows the story of three childhood friends that reunite when one of their’s daughter die.
Eastwood poured all he knew about filmmaking into this fierce dramatic movie and the intimacy and astonishing action put in this by Eastwood will take a piece out of you.
11. In the Bedroom (2001)
Directed by Todd Field (directorial debut) and starring Tom Wilkinson (with an Oscar-worthy performance), In the Bedroom is an intimate story about a family that is torn apart by a tragedy due to which a father has to go to desperate lengths to seek revenge.
This is an emotional and sharp movie with a mind-blowing performance by everyone and the slow-burning climax of the movie will haunt the viewer forever.
10. Django Unchained (2012)
Quentin Tarantino’s best and bloodiest movie to date, starring Leonardo Di Caprio (with an Oscar-worthy performance, yet again), Django Unchained is a story about a freed slave (Django), who is on a mission to free his wife from a ruthless Mississippi farm owner.
A story about a man who’d go to any lengths for his wife, even if he has to kill a lot of people. Winning many Academy Awards, the film earned $425 million against its $100 million budget.
9. The Princess Bride (1987)
Directed by Rob Reiner, The Princess Bride, is a story about a farmworker, accompanied by his companions, who has to rescue his one true love Princess Buttercup from the horrible Prince Humperdinck.
This movie tells us a classic story involving giants, swordplay, a beautiful princess, an evil prince, and of course some revenge. Though the movie was not a huge success upon its release, it is currently ranked 4th on IMDB’s most popular 80s movies list.
8. Revanche (2008)
Directed by Götz Spielmann, Revanche is a stunning, Oscar-nominated film with fascinating thrills and a tragic drama of nearly Greek proportions. The story follows an unfortunate love story between a Ukrainian prostitute and a Viennese ex-con who gets tangled in a bank robbery.
Spielmann creates an existential, tense, and portrays a surprising act of redemption and revenge and a journey into human nature’s darkest forest, in which beauty and violence co-exist.
7. Memento (2000)
Directed by Christopher Nolan, with the most uncommon kind of revenge story, Memento is a noir psychological thriller movie about a guy who would do anything to find his wife’s killer and even amnesia won’t stop him from doing so. Its back story is revealed smoothly and more organically than most linear movies do.
The movie was consequently ranked as one of the best movies by many critics and media outlets in its decade and has received numerous awards. It is also considered to be one of the best suspense movies ever made.
6. Mother (2009)
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho, Mother is a Korean drama movie following the story of a mother who is desperately trying to prove the innocence of her son after he gets held responsible for a murder. It is a hypnotic and sensitive thriller that reminds us of some of the best works by Alfred Hitchcock.
The movie’s unpredictability helps keep the viewer engaged and the unusual complexity and depth of the characters give the movie its scorching power. You’ll never see a mother quite like this one.
5. True Grit (2010)
Based on the novel by Charles Portis, this remake by the Coen Brothers is an all-around great movie following the story of a U.S. Officer (Bridges) who helps a tenacious teenager (Steinfeld) take revenge on her father’s murderer.
The film itself is funny, violent, and tense as well as beautifully written, directed, and shot. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, this movie earned more than $250 million with an initial budget of only $38 million.
4. A Bittersweet Life (2005)
Directed by Kim Jee-Woon, A Bittersweet Life is a movie about a boy who doesn’t follow his boss’s orders and has the whole gang turned against him. This vengeance movie will make you nervously bite your nails and make you sit at the edge of your seat.
The movie has enormously stylish and confident stuff, coupled with such a high level of violence – there are probably more deaths in this film than in all of Tarantino’s movies combined.
3. Unforgiven (1992)
Termed one of the best Western movies ever, Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven is a story about an ex-gunslinger seeking revenge against those who tortured his friends and wronged the prostitutes. Unforgiven favors that backlighting that tends to add a sense of despair and threat to even the most conservative moments.
Winning four Academy Awards, Unforgiven was the third Western movie to win an Oscar, and Eastwood was nominated for Best Actor for his performance.
2. The Man From Nowhere (2010)
Lee Jeon-Beom’s The Man From Nowhere is a story of a vengeful man, seeking revenge from people who kidnapped his wife and daughter, who goes out on a murderous rampage.
This was Korea’s highest-earning film in 2010, earning over $43 million. The movie still succeeds in winning the hearts of many people as a kinetic action thriller and if you like your action passionate and dark, this should be on the top of your list of best revenge movies to watch.
1. The Godfather (1972)
It is considered one of the best revenge movies ever and the 2nd best movie ever released following just a little short of Shawshank Redemption in IMDB’s top 250. The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Al Pacino and Marlon Brando is a story of a Corleone Mafia Family led by Vito (Marlon).
The performances, characters, scope, narration, score, setting, everything comes to the screen with perfection. The movie was, for a time, the highest-grossing movie ever made, earning over $260 million with an initial budget of $7 million. The movie won three Academy Awards for the year it was released.
We can’t resist mentioning these revenge classics as well:
- Red Road (2006)
- I Spit On Your Grave (1978)
- Four Brothers (2005)
Hope you like our list of the best revenge movies ever. Feel free to share your views in the comments below!