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The PAM-10: The “Other” Revenge Films

“The Bride,” Paul Kersey, Jack Cater: These are all household names in the realm of blood-crazed, revenge-driven vigilantes. But what about the other, less universally hailed tales of retribution? Do they not deserve some recognition every now and then? Because lets face it, I would be just as terrified to go up against anyone on this list than against those on the most notable and sinister countdown of punishers (pun intended). Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s return to action also marks the next film in the popular Hollywood tradition of ultimate satisfaction, and in that films honour, Player Affinity will count down the “other” best revenge films of all time.


10. Friday the 13th

“Jason was my son, and today is his birthday.” Well bake a cake, and bust out the streamers, because nobody knows how to honour their child’s birth like Pamela Voorhees. Years after her son Jason drowned as a result of neglecting (and promiscuous) camp counsellors, the vengeful mother exacts her payback on the unsuspecting new generation of teens at Camp Crystal Lake. Boasting all the hallmarks of traditional revenge flick, this slasher forerunner often slips behind the scenes due to its view from the victim’s perspective. Was dear Ms. Voorhees in the right for wanting blood? In a way yes, though she may have gone to the delirious extreme; which, fittingly, is what many vigilantes do in their quest for personal fulfillment and out-of-court judgement.


9. Licence to Kill

Before Quantum of Solace saw the iconic James Bond careen off the rails in a quest to do right by his deceased lady love, Vesper Lynd, 1989’s Licence to Kill explored a similar mantra for the suave agent as Timothy Dalton’s 007 sought revenge for his murdered bride and mutilated friend Felix at the hands of a dastardly supervillain. Off the MI:6 radar, Bond becomes one of the few men alive you want on your tail and either by gun, shredder, or out-of-control fuel tanker, those responsible meet their demise. Licence to Kill is one of the most overlooked and action-packed of the entire franchise and the climatic chase is nothing short of sensational. Though still a “Bond” film, this is one of few in the series that explores the darker side of the famed spy.

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8. Moby Dick

Who said vengeance had to be man against another man? Revenge that’s best served cold? Sounds like a sea-food recipe to me. Take whatever television, direct-to-video or miniseries adaptation you wish, but Captain Ahab’s battle against the great white whale that took his leg is a timeless tale of obsession and vindictiveness. The 1956 Gregory Peck version is certainly the most notable big-screen treatment of the Herman Melville classic and though taking a man vs. nature look at bloody repayment, the same themes are present in Moby Dick as they are in a film like Gladiator. A spear-gun or a shot-gun, true revenge is an act that transcends species.

 
7. Falling Down

We’ve already determined that the act of an eye for an eye doesn’t have to pertain to a man (or men), so how about society in its entirety. Beginning in an insufferable traffic jam on a sweltering day, Michael Douglas’ William Foster finally breaks and during his journey (on foot) across town to his daughter’s birthday, he delivers comeuppance to various infuriating facets of our day-to-day life; some thug kids, an overpriced convenience store and a incompetent fast food establishment. Unlike so many revenge movies, Joel Schumacher’s 1993 dark satire is infinitely relatable (in a disturbing way) and plays out our darkest desires akin to one of those days where everything seems to be pushing you back two steps for every one you take forward.


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6. Léon (The Professional)

Titled Léon, starring the character Léon (Jean Reno) and having the deadly hitman Léon slug his way though any number of nameless thugs does not stop Luc Besson’s action/thriller from, in actuality, being about young Matilda’s (Natalie Portman) quest to avenge her slain family. The strong assassin merely helps her carry out that retribution which culminates with traditional, tragic revenge film tropes. Gary Oldman stars in one of his greatest villainous roles as the sadistic dirty cop Stansfield who is the object of Matilda’s determined gaze. Few movies of this ilk explore such a complex character dynamic as this, not to mention a film that finds the character lusting for blood not personally carrying out the unspeakable acts. A fascinating film and one that is rarely included on compilations of revenge films, Léon has nevertheless snaked its way into popular culture, cult status.

 

5. The Prestige

A duelling, warring tale for control, culminating in the ultimate sacrifice is the most rewarding of revenge-driven plots and is precisely what Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to Batman Begins explored: two magicians, Robert (High Jackman) and Alfred (Christian Bale) fighting over lost loves, recognition and ultimate dominance. This was not Nolan’s first foray into the sub-genre, as his debut effort Memento should easily make any conventional list of brutal cinematic reciprocation. The Prestige explores themes of obsession only hinted at in most standard films in this brand; the theme of “how far are you willing to go” is echoed over again in the closing scene and concludes a film that mounts revenge in a twistingly lavish way that makes it entrancing and disturbing in unison.

 
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4. Sin City

Curiously, absent from most revenge-film lists, Robert Rodriguez’s stylized multi-thread graphic novel adaptation features nothing but tales of retribution and avengement. The psychopathic Marv wants a bishop’s blood for taking his “Goldie,” Dwight, the ex-con with a new face, helps Basin City’s tough woman of ill repute take on the mob and the retiring cop Hartigan finds all that matters is finishing off the people who want his dear Nancy dead (or worse). Right down to the bookend acts with Josh Hartnett’s “The Man” delivering to the hooker Becky her deserved reward for betrayal, Sin City epitomizes the ugliness of mankind in gleeful fashion.

 

3. The Princess Bride

“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” That famous quote more of less sums up the underlying revenge portion of Rob Reiner’s classic comedic romantic epic (though the dashing Westley seems to have similar qualms with the dastardly Prince Humperdinck). At this point, if you have no idea what I’m talking about you might as well skip ahead, just realize you do so with a waving index finger and condescending “tisk” for now having seen The Princess Bride. Clearly the more fantastical elements have overshadowed the films inherently revenge-driven subplots but you know what, that’s what makes this film such as timeless treasure.
 
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2. Runaway Jury

What makes Runaway Jury such a unique entry in the revenge genre, not to mention one of the best adaptations of John Grisham’s material, (not to spoil anything) but we are unaware this even is a revenge film until the fantastic twist conclusion. Unlike most every other crazed-maniac on this list, John Cusack’s Nicholas Easter has no plans to shed crimson retribution but takes a more high-brow (and ultimately more effective) path. In many ways this courthouse thriller is more disturbing than the most brutal of conventional revenge fantasies, as the subtle way in which Easter enacts his payback is a disconcerting look at both the good and bad of “justice”.

 

1. Office Space

What better, more bureaucratic way to exact revenge on a soul-sucking corporation than to slowly siphon money from their accounting department with a meticulously planted virus? Well…I suppose you could just burn the place to the ground. Ya, that might work. Epitomizing a cult classic, Mike Judge’s skewering of corporate America is the revenge fantasy we all secretly desire to carry out. Anyone every enclosed by a demeaning, demoralizing cubicle knows the characters’ pain and lust for reparation. Perhaps more relevant than ever looking at the state of many economies, Office Space is an often eerie look at the possibility for the “everyman” payback. So because of its blue-collar roots and its unique similarities to the traditional genre from which this list gets its start (while simultaneously being vastly divergent) this office satire is the best “other” revenge movie of all time.

 
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