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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Five Best: Revenge Films

The big news yesterday was that the U.S. Military finally found and killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. For those who were directly affected by the attacks on September 11, 2001, it was a long time coming and offered at least a little justice. So, this week in their honor, let's take a look at the five best films about revenge. The topic pops up in plenty of films so I tried to focus on the ones where revenge is the major driver of the plot, as opposed to a side story. These are the cream of the crop in chronological order.

Scene from "The Virgin Spring" courtesy of

The Virgin Spring (1960)

In 14th century Sweden, a wealthy landowner's beautiful, virgin daughter is brutally raped and murdered by local goat herders. When a strange twist of fate brings these murders to the landowner's home looking for shelter, the vengeance is more than sweet. Sound familiar? Wes Craven's "The Last House on the Left" (and its even worse remake) follows the same storyline, but will never be as bold as Ingmar Bergman's meditation on revenge in the old country.

Dustin Hoffman in "Straw Dogs" courtesy of

Straw Dogs (1971)

American mathematician David (Dustin Hoffman) goes to England with his wife, trying to write and possibly fix his ailing marriage. He is promptly met with ridicule and a host of English thugs who make their lives miserable. But even the calmest of men have their breaking points. Sam Peckinpah's controversial film is a shock to the system and sat in the "censored" shelf in England for years before its release.

Charles Bronson in "Death Wish" courtesy of

Death Wish (1974)

How can you talk about revenge in the movies without mentioning this B movie classic? Charles Bronson stars as a New York City architect who becomes a vigilante after his wife is murdered. He makes it his goal to take out every would be mugger in an effort to achieve some sort of justice for his terrible tragedy. A slew of sequels followed, but none will match the sheer agressiveness and campy thrill of the first.

Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill" courtesy of

Kill Bill (2003)

A two-part film, really, but Quentin Tarantino's vision gives us Uma Thurman as "The Bride" as she goes looking for the ex who she believes killed her fiance and baby. She plows through her former colleagues and assassins as she proves to be the most lethal female we may have ever seen on film. Helped with brilliant supporting performances (specifically from David Carradine), Tarantino and Thurman create a revenge fantasy too fun to turn off.

Min-sik Choi in "Oldboy" courtesy of

Oldboy (2003)

The second (and best)of Chan-wook Park's "Vengeance Trilogy," this brilliant and disturbing film is an insane ride from start to finish. Oh Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years for no apparent reason until he one-day is simply released and given money, clothes, and a cell phone. From this point on, Dae-su searches for the men who captured him, hoping for answers and, eventually, revenge, while he teeters on the edge of pure insanity.

So, there you have it. And just like every countdown like this, it's a dish best served cold.

Others Deserving of Your Time

Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
Get Carter (1971)
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Mad Max (1979)
Inglorious Basterds (2009)

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