It’s been a big year for revenge movies. This weekend Jodie Foster’s awesome, ultra-realistic vengeance flick The Brave One
debuted at number one. Before that Kevin Bacon sputtered in a similar, but inferior movie called Death Sentence
. This summer big movies like Spider-Man 3
and The Bourne Identity
were big on revenge too. The business of getting even has never been better for Hollywood, whether it’s men in tights getting some payback, or suburban soccer moms out to bring balance to the universe by blowing away the bad guys. Forget torture-porn, bring on the vengeance-porn! Here’s my take on the best revenge movies ever made.
TOP 5 REVENGE FLICKS
5. Oldboy (2003)
Korean director Chan-Wook Park lives and breathes vengeance, and in fact Oldboy is part of a trilogy of movies by Park called the “vengeance trilogy”, but it’s head and shoulders the best of the bunch. As a movie, I’m not even sure I like it. It’s almost too angry, too amoral, too twisted to get a handle on. But there’s no denying that Oldboy is revenge boiled down to its purest, most vicious, most sickening form. It’s the story of Oh Dae-su, a man imprisoned 15-years for reasons beyond his reckoning. When he escapes, he’s hell bent on revenge and begins a rampage of pain to hunt down his persecutors. Where his search takes him is both shocking and rotten, a sickening twist of ultimate, disturbed vengeance. There’s nothing sweet about this revenge, but it’s served cold. Stone cold.
4. Office Space (1999)
Work sucks and so Office Space allows a trio of office workers to live out the revenge fantasies shared by just about everyone and anyone who’s ever had a boss. Pushed too far at his dead end job, Peter Gibbons wakes up one day and decides not to go to work. It’s not that he’s lazy, it’s that he just doesn’t care. As Peter says it, “It's a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime; so where's the motivation?” There is none, and soon his determination not to show up for work anymore turns into a full scale assault on the corporate world. Whether Peter is cleaning fish at his desk or talking his friends into embezzling millions from his company, Office Space is the ultimate revenge flick for the little guy who just can’t take it anymore.
3. Ben-Hur (1959)
Ben-Hur has become the classic standard against which epics are measured, but at its heart the film is one big, sprawling, revenge flick. Charlton Heston plays Judah, a rich Jewish prince in the first century, betrayed by his friend and sentenced to slavery on a galley for crimes he didn’t commit. Judah swears to come back and take revenge… and he does. Since it’s Heston, the revenge is full of angry monologues and fighting. The movie’s big chariot race gets a lot of praise for being such a massive undertaking for the time, but it’s more than just a cool battle sequence, it’s all part of Judah’s desperate struggle to get a little payback. Like Gladiator? Take a minute and say thanks to Ben-Hur.
2. Kill Bill (2003 & 2004)
Quentin Tarantino’s whole bloody affair is one massive, brutal, ass-kicking revenge epic in which Uma Thurman plays a wronged bride who decides to track down and murder everyone who had a part in doing her wrong. Like Oldboy, it’s an entire film devoted to the vicious pursuit of balancing the scales by bringing payback to the bastards who did you in. For The Bride, sometimes that means hacking off dozens of arms with a samurai sword and sometimes it means listening to David Carradine explain why he loves Superman. The movie’s a masterpiece of vindictive violence, revenge, and ruthless kung-fu style repayment. They had it comin.
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
The Passion of the Christ
Star Trek II is more than a Trek movie, it’s a masterful film and the only one on this list in which the person out for revenge isn’t the hero. Instead, it’s the dastardly Khan who’s out avenge himself on Captain Kirk by depriving him of his life. But even that isn’t enough for Khan Noonien Sing. He blames Kirk for the death of his wife and for marooning his crew on a hell of a planet. Khan will settle for nothing less than ultimate suffering rained down upon the brave Enterprise crew. Sure, you’re rooting for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy to outwit him and survive, but even at his worst you can’t help but sympathize with Khan and his mad quest to hurt those who hurt him by taking away his chance at a happy life. Even his own death couldn’t quench Khan’s bitter revenge. His last words say it all: “From hell's heart, I stab at thee. For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” Revenge is never as cold as when it’s served up in space.
- Satan gets revenge on God by tricking the Romans into beating the crap out of his son for 90 minutes. Come on, think about it. Getting revenge on God is pretty sweet.
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
- “Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go on an overnight drunk, and in 10 days I'm going to set out to find the shark that ate my friend and destroy it. Anyone who wants to tag along is more than welcome.”
The Brave One
- Jodie Foster rivals Uma Thurman as one of film’s best female vengeance seekers. Batman beware, Foster’s horning in on your action.
The Bourne Ultimatum
- Matt Damon kicks amazing amounts of ass in paying back the bastards who stole his life.
The Princess Bride
- Revenge fuels Inigo Montoya’s quest to bring ultimate suffering to the six fingered man. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of money in revenge.