25 Best Revenge Movies of All Time

May 17, 2019 by Steven M. Peters

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Whether it’s a jilted lover looking to get even with a former mate or a Mafia don trying to wipe out his brother’s killers, movies with revenge themes are proven winners. Like moths drawn to a flame, we can’t resist films in which the hero or protagonist exacts retribution.

Some film franchises are built around the revenge theme, such as John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves. He will reprise his role as super-assassin John Wick in the third entry to the movie franchise, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” which opens on May 17.  

To help create the list of the best revenge movies, 24/7 Tempo reviewed 343 movies found on the user-created lists of revenge films found on Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

Many of the films based on revenge on this list are violent and can be bloody, such as the searing ‘70s classic “Taxi Driver” and the Quentin Tarantino-directed movies “Django Unchained” and “Inglourious Basterds.”  Movies based on true events, such as “Spartacus,” place revenge in a historical context, with Kirk Douglas playing the titular role of the slave who lead a rebellion against his Roman oppressors. Movies with a revenge theme still can weave in romance, such as “The Princess Bride,” regarded as among the most popular romance movies of all time.

Other movies on this list, such as “Unforgiven,” are so well-regarded, they rank among the best movies of all time. 

How appealing are revenge movies? Nineteen of the 25 movies on the list have a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 90% or better, and they represent a range of genres, from film noir, to foreign films, to Westerns.

Click here to see the 25 best revenge movies of all time

To determine the best revenge movies, 24/7 Tempo began with 343 movies found on the user-created lists of revenge films found on Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Next, we narrowed down the list by choosing films that were the most popular with both amateur and professional viewers, considering the Rotten Tomatoes average critic and audience ratings and the IMDb average user ratings. We picked films with at least 10,000 user ratings between IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes and 10 approved “Tomatometer” critic reviews. We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and weighted by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating.

Once we had that list, we employed editorial discretion (and knowledge of specific films), deleting movies that didn’t have plots sufficiently driven by revenge and adding some that we deemed essential.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

25. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
> Genre: Western
> Directed by: Clint Eastwood
> Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Chief Dan George
> Average critic rating: 7.95/10

In this Civil War-era Western, Clint Eastwood recreates his taciturn loner character as Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer who seeks revenge by joining the pro-Confederate Missouri Bushwhackers after his wife and son are murdered by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas.

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

24. Hamlet (1996)
> Genre: Drama
> Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
> Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, Kate Winslet
> Average critic rating: 8.14/10

Shakespeare’s quintessential work about revenge has been brought to the big screen several times. The 1996 version, starred and was directed by Kenneth Branagh, was nominated for four Academy Awards.

Source: Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

23. A Bittersweet Life (2005)
> Genre: Action, Drama
> Directed by: Jee-woon Kim
> Starring: Byung-Hun Lee, Min-a Shin, Yeong-cheol Kim, Jung-min Hwang
> Average critic rating: 8.06/10

A Korean film that pays homage to directors Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese tells the story of a rising gangster in the Korean underworld tasked with watching the mistress of a crime boss with orders to kill her if she cheats on him. He discovers that she is unfaithful, but rather than kill her, he lets her go, and the crime chief goes after him and tortures him. The young gangster escapes and seeks his revenge.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

22. Boyz n the Hood (1991)
> Genre: Crime, Drama
> Directed by: John Singleton
> Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Hudhail Al-Amir, Lloyd Avery II
> Average critic rating: 8.41/10

Director John Singleton’s culturally significant film compelled audiences to confront gun violence in minority neighborhoods. The movie is about the cycle of violence unleashed in a minority community after a high school athlete bound for USC on a football scholarship is gunned down and the toll that vengeance takes on African American youth. A cast of heavy hitters, including Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, and Angela Bassett, turned this film into a hit.

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

21. The Revenant (2015)
> Genre: Action, Adventure, Biography
> Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
> Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson
> Average critic rating: 7.86/10

The spectacularly photographed film directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu earned Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar. DiCaprio plays frontiersman Hugh Glass, a fur trader on an expedition in the American wilderness in the 1820s who is mauled by a bear and seeks revenge on those who left him for dead.

Source: Courtesy of Cinerama Releasing Corporation

20. Straw Dogs (1971)
> Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
> Directed by: Sam Peckinpah
> Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan, T.P. McKenna
> Average critic rating: 8.46/10

“Straw Dogs” is director Sam Peckinpah’s meditation on the human capacity for violence. The film centers around a mild-mannered mathematician played by Dustin Hoffman who is repelled by the chaos in America during the late 1960s and takes his wife to live in her hometown in England. But their presence antagonizes the men in the village, and the tension escalates from bullying to rape, pushing the mathematician into the violence he had rejected.

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Source: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

19. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
> Genre: Adventure, Drama, War
> Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
> Starring: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent
> Average critic rating: 7.79/10

What says revenge more than a Quentin Tarantino-helmed film that exacts retribution on Nazis. Brad Pitt plays an American lieutenant who puts together a team of Jewish soldiers who parachute behind German lines to attack, scalp, and kill Nazis. The film’s title was inspired by Italian director Enzo G. Castellari’s 1978 movie “The Inglorious Bastards.”

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

18. True Grit (2010)
> Genre: Adventure, Drama, Western
> Directed by: Ethan Coen
> Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin
> Average critic rating: 8.33/10

The 2010 film is a remake of the 1969 movie that starred an aging John Wayne. Directed by Ethan and Joe Coen, the remake features Jeff Bridges as liquored-up lawman Rooster Cogburn who is hired by a farm girl played by Hailee Steinfeld to find the man who killed her father. The film garnered 10 Oscar nominations.

Source: Courtesy of Janus Films

17. The Virgin Spring (1960)
> Genre: Drama
> Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
> Starring: Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Pettersson
> Average critic rating: 7.89/10

“The Virgin Spring,” directed by Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman, won the 1961 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Max von Sydow stars as a devout Christian who seeks revenge on the men who raped and murdered his daughter while she was on a journey to bring candles to a church.

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

16. Gone Girl (2014)
> Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
> Directed by: David Fincher
> Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry
> Average critic rating: 8.00/10

“Gone Girl” is a mystery drama starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as a couple whose marriage is succumbing to financial and infidelity pressures. Pike’s character discovers her husband’s infidelity, goes missing, and leaves clues suggesting her husband has killed her. But soon her revenge plot goes awry.

Source: Courtesy of New Line Cinema

15. Se7en (1995)
> Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
> Directed by: David Fincher
> Starring: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Andrew Kevin Walker
> Average critic rating: 7.76/10

The movie title “Se7en” is a reference to the seven deadly sins that a serial killer, played by Kevin Spacey, uses as the theme for his murderous spree. One of his victims is the wife of the detective who is pursuing him, played by Brad Pitt, and in a fit of revenge the detective shoots the killer. The taut and disturbing thriller directed by David Fincher was one of the most influential films of the 1990s.

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14. The Great Silence (1968)
> Genre: Western
> Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
> Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Frank Wolff, Vonetta McGee
> Average critic rating: 8.50/10

“The Great Silence” is one of two films on the list that scored 100% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. The 1968 movie, directed by Italian filmmaker Sergio Corbucci, is a bleak take on the Western genre. The plot involves bounty killers led by a deranged man named Loco who pursue outlaws hiding in the snowbound mountains in the West. Loco kills the husband of a woman who hires a mute gunman named Silence to avenge her husband’s death.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

13. The Princess Bride (1987)
> Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
> Directed by: Rob Reiner
> Starring: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon
> Average critic rating: 8.34/10

Directed by Rob Reiner, “The Princess Bride” is a fairy tale about a young woman (Robin Wright) reuniting with her true love (Cary Elwes). The revenge angle of the movie involves a character played by Mandy Patinkin who devotes his life to avenging the death of his father who was killed by a cruel aristocrat.

Source: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

12. Django Unchained (2012)
> Genre: Drama, Western
> Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
> Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington
> Average critic rating: 8.02/10

Quentin Tarantino brings the brutality of slavery to the screen in the 2012 film “Django Unchained.” Jamie Foxx plays Django, who is bought by bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz in an Oscar-winning role for Best Actor) to help him track the brutal Brittle brothers. Django’s goal is to find the wife (Kerry Washington) he lost to the slave trade.

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11. The Avengers (2012)
> Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
> Directed by: Joss Whedon
> Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner
> Average critic rating: 8.06/10

“The Avengers” is the 2012 entry to the biggest grossing franchise of all time. Earth’s greatest heroes — Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow — must join up to try and stop supervillain Loki and his army from enslaving humanity. The movie has made more than $693 million in domestic box office gross, the second highest gross of any movie in the franchise.

Source: Courtesy of Circle Films

10. The Killer (1989)
> Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
> Directed by: John Woo
> Starring: Yun-Fat Chow, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh, Kong Chu
> Average critic rating: 8.72/10

Action-film director John Woo (“Broken Arrow,” “Mission: Impossible 2”) helmed this crime drama about a hit man who wants to get out of the criminal life and care for a lounge singer he accidentally blinded on a previous assignment. The assassin’s employers won’t pay him for the prior job, money he wants to use to restore the eyesight of the lounge singer.

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Source: Courtesy of Newmarket Films

9. Memento (2000)
> Genre: Mystery, Thriller
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan
> Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior
> Average critic rating: 8.27/10

Guy Pearce stars in this Christopher Nolan-directed thriller about a man tracking down the person who raped and murdered his wife. What complicates his quest is that he suffers from an untreatable form of memory loss.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

8. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
> Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
> Directed by: George Miller
> Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz
> Average critic rating: 8.59/10

The updated version of the dystopian sci-fi flick made famous by Mel Gibson in the 1970s won six Oscars and was nominated for four others. Tom Hardy is Max, who wants to find peace in the wake of the death of his wife and child. Charlize Tehron plays Furiosa, who believes her best chance to survive is to cross the desert and return to her homeland.

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7. No Country for Old Men (2007)
> Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
> Directed by: Ethan Coen
> Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson
> Average critic rating: 8.73/10

The blood flows freely in Ethan and Joel Coen’s tale of a hunter (Josh Brolin) who finds dead drug dealers and $2 million and decides to keep the money. Javier Bardem won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as the nut-job killer who goes after the money and Brolin, leaving dead bodies along the way. The Coen brothers also won Oscars for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture.

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

6. Unforgiven (1992)
> Genre: Drama, Western
> Directed by: Clint Eastwood
> Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris
> Average critic rating: 8.81/10

Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this Oscar-winning commentary about violence in America. In Wyoming in the 19th century, a prostitute is disfigured by cowboys, and her fellow brothel workers post a reward to avenge the attack. Eastwood, an aging outlaw who has become a farmer, agrees to take on this one last job.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

5. Taxi Driver (1976)
> Genre: Crime, Drama
> Directed by: Martin Scorsese
> Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks
> Average critic rating: 9.05/10

Martin Scorsese reached the top ranks of directors with this gritty look at the chaos and violence of New York City in the 1970s. Robert De Niro, the taxi driver, is repulsed by the decadence around him and resorts to violence to free teenage hooker Jodie Foster from a life of prostitution.

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
> Genre: Drama
> Directed by: Frank Darabont
> Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler
> Average critic rating: 8.21/10

“The Shawshank Redemption,” nominated for seven Academy Awards, is the story of a prisoner wrongly jailed for two murders. He exacts his revenge on the warden who won’t free him despite evidence that he did not commit the killings.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

3. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
> Genre: Western
> Directed by: Sergio Leone
> Starring: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards
> Average critic rating: 9.01/10

“Once Upon a Time in the West” is considered one of the best Westerns of all time. The film was directed by Sergio Leone, famous for his “spaghetti Westerns” of the 1960s. The plot centers on a young woman (Claudia Cardinale) who moves to the Utah frontier from New Orleans and finds her entire family slain. She hires a gunman, played by Jason Robards, to find the killers, led by a psychopathic assassin (Henry Fonda).

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

2. The Dark Knight (2008)
> Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan
> Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine
> Average critic rating: 8.85/10

The revenge angle in “The Dark Knight,” starring Christian Bale as Batman, centers around a crusading district attorney played by Aaron Eckhart. As the Joker sows chaos around Gotham City, the district attorney’s face is disfigured by an explosion triggered by the archvillain. The blast also kills the woman he loves. The DA is bent on revenge and believes everything should be decided by chance, by flipping a coin to determine whether a person lives or dies.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

1. The Godfather (1972)
> Genre: Crime, Drama
> Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
> Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton
> Average critic rating: 9.27/10

Marlon Brando won the Best Actor Oscar for playing Don Corleone in “The Godfather,” but the movie was as much Al Pacino’s as it was Brando’s. That’s because Pacino, who succeeds his father as the mob don, plots to wipe out the killers of his older brother, his first wife, and the gangsters who tried to kill his father.