The likes of John Wick, Revenge and even Prevenge have offered us modern takes on the classic theme of revenge. It got us thinking about some other films that have re-imagined the revenge narrative. There are plenty of spoilers here, and we’ve tried to throw in a few you may not expect to see on the list. Let the countdown begin…

Gladiator (2000) 

Betrayal and murder is what sparks the revenge seeking Maximus after Commodus, son of the Roman Emperor, starts to dismantle his life piece-by-piece. Commodus is a boy angered by his father’s decision to make Maximus heir to his empire, and so he acts out by murdering in cold blood both his wife and son. The vulnerable Maximus is then captured by a slave trade who train him up to be a gladiator. However, the resilient Maximus realizes this is an opportunity to fight his way to the Coliseum, where he can be face-to-face with Commodus once again, and with the plan to end his life the way he ended his family’s.



Braveheart (1995) 

King Edward of England, with his many soldiers, invades Scotland at the start of the film. He gives his soldiers permission to bed any woman who is engaged to be married before the official ceremony takes place. Murron, Wallace’s wife, is brutally murdered for attacking the men who tried to rape her. Wallace seeks justice on these soldiers in the form of revenge. Wallace gathers up a Scottish army to fight the English in a lengthy battle that spans years. Eventually, he becomes romantically involved with King Edward’s daughter-in-law, Isabella of France. She seeks her own revenge over King Edward and his soldiers after they capture Wallace and publicly execute him.


Memento (2000) 

Leonard suffers from short-term memory loss after being attacked by two men, the same men that raped and murdered his wife. Before the memory of the attackers completely fades, Leonard explains to the police that there were in fact two attackers, but one got away while he killed the other. He has to find a way to unlock those lost memories, in order to track down the murderer of his late wife. However, the audience eventually discovers, that unfortunately with Leonard’s condition, he will never feel the satisfaction that retribution can bring. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent to us, that he has in fact already found and killed the second attacker.


Gran Torino (2008) 

Walt Kowalski is a retired Polish American who fought in the Korean War. He lives in a town dominated by poor Asian immigrants. A young boy named Thao attempts to steal Walt’s Ford Gran Torino at the request of a gang leader who goes by ‘Spider’.  When Thao’s mother finds out what he attempted, he is forced to do odd jobs around Walt’s house. Spider does not like this arrangement and orders his gang to attack Thao, which is the catalyst to this revenge story. Walter then pays a visit to the gang’s house, and attacks a member as a warning to end this feud. The gang responds by injuring Thao in a drive-by shooting and kidnapping and raping his sister. Walt knows, since no witness will come forward to the police, the only way out of this vicious circle of exacting revenge is to setup the gang himself. In the end, he sacrifices his own life so that Thao can live his life with a clean slate.

Carrie (1976)

After suffering years of abuse from both her mother and her peers, Carrie discovers she has the ability to put an end to it all. Deep within her has been the ability to unlock telekinetic powers. With this power she can control those around her. She continues to master her ability and puts it into use intermittently, until finally, in the climactic scene of the film she goes full force. Her vengefulness is all consuming, and destroys everything and everyone around her. This is an example of where revenge can be a slippery slope that envelops any capacity to think reasonably, as Carrie kills everyone around her, even those who never mistreated her.



The Dark Knight (2008) 

The villainous Joker wishes to reveal the person behind the Batman disguise, and announces that one person will die for every day that Batman’s identity remains concealed. Meanwhile Batman, who has been working with Harvey Dent, is placed in a difficult position after Harvey publicly states that he is Batman. The Joker captures Harvey as well as his girlfriend Rachel, but is not fooled by Harvey’s attempt at tricking him. He then waits until Batman receives the message that both Harvey and Rachel are in two different buildings full of dangerous explosives. Batman attempts to save Rachel, but instead discovers that the Joker has tricked him and led him to Harvey. Batman is able to save him after flames have left severe burns on one side of his face. However, Rachel could not be rescued in time. Harvey, with his face now deformed and an overwhelming feeling of loss, is found convinced by the Joker that he must seek personal revenge. He decides the fate of everyone who helped in the murder of his girlfriend by coin toss. Harvey ultimately lures Gordon, his family and Batman to the location where Rachel was killed to decide their fate in a coin toss. Despite the tragic turn Harvey took after Rachel’s death, Batman still wishes the public to remember him when he was a symbol of hope for the corrupt city of Gotham.


Kill Bill (2003) 

The bride and member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad tells the leader, Bill, that she is pregnant with his child. He responds by shooting her, with the aim of ending her life, but instead puts her in a four-year comma. When she awakens and is told she lost the baby, she makes it her mission to end Bill’s life, along with the rest of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. This first volume sees The Bride target former member O-Ren. The Bride uses the aggression that has built up, to single handily take down O-Ren and her entire army. This is only the start of her mission to find retribution.



The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Elizabeth Salander is a brilliant part-time hacker who uncovers the truth about a business that is in the midst of a lawsuit involving a man called Blomkvist. Salander however is under state legal guardianship, due to being deemed mentally unstable. She receives a new guardian who has been repeatedly forcing himself on her. She records him in the act after he starts threatening to have her sent to a psychiatric hospital if not complacent. In addition to blackmailing him with this footage, she tattoos rapist on his chest and stomach. Needless to say, this is not the first time she has sought revenge. Henrik Vanger summons a team (Blomkvist and Elizabeth) to help him investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet forty-years ago. The trail eventually leads his team to Martin. After a long struggle Elizabeth, who we find has a personal stake in the matter, runs him off the road and left for dead. After Martin is dead, Blomkvist serves his wrongful sentence. The findings Elizabeth had uncovered at the beginning of the film are not given to Blomkvist until he is released a few months later. He broadcasts these findings, and as a direct result Wennerström commits suicide in shame. Both Elizabeth and Blomkvist get to start their lives over.


Inglorious Bastards (2009) 

In 1941 SS colonel Hans Landa forces his way into the home of French farmer Perrier LaPadite. He is found to be housing a family of Jews beneath his floorboards. Hans Landa then kills the family, save for the daughter Shosanna, who manages to escape. By the time the year 1944 arrives, a group of Jewish-American soldiers called the Bastards are brutally killing German soldiers. This group is also notorious for carving swastikas onto the foreheads of any German soldiers they spare. Around the time the Bastards surface, Shosanna resurfaces with a conniving plan. She is now owner of a cinema and conveniently meets Joseph Goebbels, a man who was responsible for the deaths of over 200. He is the star of a Nazi propaganda film and she convinces him to hold the premiere in her theatre. Expectedly his film draws in the top leaders of the Nazi party. On the night of the film a clip of Shosanna announcing the Nazis have been locked in and will burn to death plays in the middle of the film. Though the plan does not go entirely as anticipated, every last Nazi in that theatre is burned to death. The final scene shows the saved Hans Landa with a swastika carved into his forehead.



Taken (2008) 

Bryan Mills is retired CIA field Operative for the American government. His daughter Kim and Amanda have just travelled to Paris together for a fun holiday. At the airport, a seemingly nice Parisian lad offers to pay for the taxi journey to where they will be staying. Kim phones her father once they arrive to the house, however Amanda is abducted whilst this conversation takes place. Shortly thereafter, Kim is found and abducted as well. Bryan is able to deduce that his daughter’s capturer is none other than Albanian trafficker Marko Hoxha. He immediately leaves for France, as he has four days to find this man before his daughter is lost for good. With Byran’s wits he is able to track down Marko and convince him he is interesting in buying a girl. He then tortures Marko for information on his daughter’s whereabouts. Next he forces a sheikh named Raman to purchase his daughter in order to get to her and remove her from her from the trade. Several people, including the sheikh, are murdered in the process of getting her to safety.


About The Author

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Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle