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12 Of The Best Payback Moments in Film
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12 Of The Best Payback Moments in Film

There are plenty of movies about revenge — Sweeney Todd, Revenge of the Nerds, Mad Max, Death Wish, Kill Bill, every third or fourth movie in an action franchise, and most recently, Universal Pictures’ Wanted, which comes out on DVD this Tuesday, December 2. Then there are other films that contain specific moments of satisfaction-guaranteeing payback in them.

In the action-packed Wanted, James McAvoy stars as Wes, a meek office worker whose frequent anxiety attacks make it difficult for him stand up to his abusive boss, his backstabbing best friend, and cheating girlfriend. But Wes’s life is completely changed one day when he meets the sexy assassin Fox (Angelina Jolie), who takes him under her wing and into the Fraternity, an Order of assassins. The payback begins when Wes whacks a computer keyboard to his best friend’s face, sending the letters F.U.C.K.Y.O.U. flying into the air; it ends when Wes discovers the ultimate betrayal against him and enacts a vengeful plan that, let’s just say, involves explosives and lots of guns on those who wronged him.

To coincide with the release of Wanted and its badass moments of comeuppance, the Geeks of Doom gang got together to pool their favorite payback moments in film.

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Pulp Fiction

Pulp FictionWhen a street corner shoot-out between past-his-prime pugilist Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) and crime boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) spills into a seedy hock-shop, they find themselves unwittingly ensnared in a most horrific situation of man-on-man rape to be followed by the portent of their inevitable deaths at the hands of Maynard, Zed, and the ‘Gimp.’ But while Zed is having his way with Wallace and Maynard is distracted by his own drool, Coolidge loosens his binds and escapes up the basement steps and makes his way toward freedom — not only from his impending rape and death, but also from his probable death at the hands of Wallace and his henchmen. But Butch stops in the doorway coming to the hard realization that no one, not even Marsellus Wallace, deserves the fate he has in store for him.

In one of the best scenes of revenge every put to screen, Coolidge turns back and weighs through the possibility of a few unwieldy weapons found on shelves of the pawn shop (a hammer, a baseball bat, a chainsaw…) finally settling on a Samurai sword. Cautiously, he heads back down the stairs to save Wallace’s life. Catching them completely by surprise, Butch quickly dispatching Maynard with a slash across the chest and proceeds to goad Zed into picking up a nearby gun. During this, Wallace recovers from the momentary horror of ass-rape and without hesitation blasts Zed in the stomach with a shotgun at close range.

If this was the end of the scene it would still be one of the best moments of revenge, but when Butch then asks Wallace, “What now?” it’s Marsellus’s response that creates a truly fulfilling scene of complete and undeniable revenge.

“Let me tell you ‘What Now?’, I’m gonna call a couple of hard pipe-hitting niggers to go to work on the holmes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. YOU HEAR ME TALKING HILLBILLY BOY! I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. Imma get medieval on your ass.”

“I meant ‘What now?’ between me and you.”

“Oh, that ‘what now?’ I’ll tell you what now between me and you. There is no me and you. Not no more.”

“So we cool?”

“Yeah, we cool. Two things: Don’t tell nobody about this. This shit is between me and you and mister soon-to-be-living-the-rest-of-his-short-ass-life-in-agonizing-pain rapist here. It ain’t nobody else’s business. Two: You leave town tonight. Right now. And when you gone, you stay gone, or you be gone. You lost all your L.A. privileges. Deal?”

“Deal.”

“Get your ass outta here.”

All through this conversation we hear Zed writing and moaning in unbearable pain from his shotgun wound to the stomach. And when Butch later tells Fabian that their new ‘Chopper’ once belonged to Zed and she asks ‘Who’s Zed?’ Butch’s response of “Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead’ couldn’t conjure up more appropriately horrific imagery.

—Dave3

Man On Fire

Man of FireMy favorite revenge scene is actually my favorite revenge movie — Man on Fire, starring Denzel Washington, a supremely fine actor who makes a film ten times better than it was without him. Washington plays Creasy, a former washed up assassin who takes up a job as a driver for the daughter of a wealthy man in Mexico. Creasy develops a friendship with the daughter and in typical revenge movie fashion, the girl is kidnapped and Creasy is left for dead. He hears news of her death days later in the hospital and with serious bullet wounds, he embarks on the biggest revenge spree on those who done this heinous deed. The scene to watch when Creasy kidnaps one of the men he believes had a hand in the girl’s death. Tying up the man to the hood of his car, Creasy interrogates the him while threatening him with an explosive up his most intimate of areas. “I got all the time in the world,” replies Creasy with sarcasm. “I do but you don’t.” Just before Creasy detonates the explosive, he thanks the man for all the information he has given him and basically flat out tells the guy he is going to kill him. Creasy promises though that he will not be alone in the afterlife but all those responsible for the girl’s death will join him. I definitely do not do this revenge scene justice. Go out and rent this movie. It is a movie filled with a ton of revenge scenes.

—Jack Bauerstein83

Amélie

AmelieIt’s tough for me to pick a favorite moment of revenge, because there are so many great flicks that excel at crafting them (Death Wish, The Godfather, Oldboy, and Kill Bill come immediately to mind). But if forced to choose, I’d have to go for a more disturbingly unexpected moment from the film Amélie. This French romantic comedy takes a darker turn when Amélie (Audrey Tautou) witnesses a local fruit stand merchant tormenting his disabled employee. She decides to take revenge on the lout but, true to her mischievous nature, she does so using her wits instead of violence. Throughout the week she devises a number of small tortures… like setting his alarm clock back, swapping his shoes with a progressively smaller sizes, replacing his toothpaste with foot cream, and other clever tricks. Eventually all the little things add up and the man thinks he’s going crazy. My favorite moment of the revenge is when the abusive man calls his mother on speed-dial in a state of total panic, but Amélie has reprogrammed it to dial the psych ward. It’s kind of disturbing to realize that a character as sweet and cute as Amélie is capable of not only driving a man insane, but cutting off his avenue of getting help when he’s at his weakest.

—Bad Monkey

The Princess Bride

Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in 'The Princess Bride'The Princess Bride is often included on people’s lists of favorite comedies, fantasies, and romance movies, but many forget that it is also home to one of the all time classic revenge stories. Spanish pirate Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) longs to find the mysterious six-fingered man who scarred his face and murdered his father. He has spent his entire life training to be a master swordsman, endlessly rehearsing the words he will speak to the murderer when he finds him…

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Inigo’s moment arrives when he encounters the sadistic Count Rugen (Christopher Guest), the six-fingered man. Overcoming a debilitating wound, and driven by his need for vengeance, Inigo presses his attack on Rugen, as though his sword is guided by the ghost of his father himself. Over and over, he says the words…

“Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

At last, Rugen is cornered, sporting the same wounds he once inflicted on Inigo.

“Offer me money,” Inigo says.

“Yes.”

“Power too, promise me that.”

“All that I have and more. Please!”

“Offer me anything I ask for…”

“Anything you want,” and, seeing an opening, Rugen attacks. Inigo deflects the attack and plunges his sword into Rugen’s belly.

“I want my father back, you son of a bitch.”

—NeverWanderer

The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank RedemptionThe Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies, and may not be the first that comes to mind when the subject of revenge films comes up, but it was the first one that came to my mind. Red (Morgan Freeman) is spelling out exactly how Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) has just escaped from prison, forced to do so when the Warden (Bob Gunton) killed the means by which Andy might be released. As we see what Andy had to go through, we see the big reveal when the Warden opens his safe to find a present from Andy: the Bible he was given on his first day with a pick-shaped hole, and a note reading “Salvation really did lie within.” This is just another nail in the Warden’s coffin, which ends with him killing himself. I never get sick of seeing the plan come together.

—Henchman21

Gangs of New York

Gangs of New YorkBill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis) murdered young Vallen’s father when he was just an Irish tot. Now a man, Vallen (Leonardo DiCaprio) leads his gang of poor against Bill’s nativists, amassing in New York City during the Civil War Draft riots. Right before the brass knuckled throwdown, the Navy starts cannonballing the shit out of the city to put the riot down. In the choas, Vallen managed to sink his shiv deep in Bill’s belly. After sputtering some bullshit about dying like an American, Vallen pulls the knife out of Bill’s side as blood sprays across his face like a fountain. He screams his guts out as the juice runs down his face, his father’s corpse coming to a stillness in his coffin. It was some of the most cold blooded shit I have ever seen. “You killed my father, prepare to die” might be a little tired, but this was awesome. And we got a history lesson out of it too!

—Totally Bitchin’

Road to Perdition

Road to PerditionWhen it comes to revenge, there’s many scenes in cinematic history that can be thrown out there. But when it comes to me, one immediately enters my brain. That scene is from Sam MendesRoad to Perdition.

In the scene, the late, great Paul Newman is escorted to his car by his group of men. It’s night time and it’s absolutely pouring rain out. When they reach the car and see that the door is locked and the driver is dead, a realization embraces Newman and this is when gunfire stars cutting through the rain and taking all of his men out. After they’re gone, Tom Hanks‘ character slowly walks out from the shadow to Paul Newman’s character — the man who basically raised him and who also killed his wife and child — with all the pain and sadness right there on his face. Newman, in a very calm, subtle manner, says, “I’m glad it was you” before Hanks has his revenge and walks back off into the shadows.

—The Movie God

Office Space

Office SpaceA comedy about working in a dull office building may sound like an unlikely setting for one of the greatest movie revenge scenes. When the workers in Mike Judge’s Office Space defraud the company of huge amounts of money for losing their jobs, revenge is done. But the real act of retribution comes from mumbling Milton Waddams (Stephen Root). Milton works hard, putting in long hours, all for no money. All he asks is that people leave him alone. What does he get in return? His desk moved to the basement and, horrifically, people keep touching his red stapler. And so breaks the camels back, and Milton burns the office down.

Whilst I do not condone burning buildings down, everyone can identify with wanting to destroy somewhere that invokes bad memories. An office building, a school, a restaurant that gave you food poisoning — anywhere that wronged you. Milton acted upon those feelings and, gloriously, he got away scott free. Sometimes revenge is a dish best served in flames.

—Obi-Dan

Lady Vengeance

Sympathy for Lady VengeanceAs Park Chan-wook’s third revenge film, Lady Vengeance is the first to star a female protagonist, with Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young Ae) taking the title role. After her false confession to a child’s murder sends her to the slammer, Lee spends her jail time plotting revenge against the real killer, Mr. Baek. But when Lee finds out that Baek has even more victims, she does away with her methodical murder plans and creates a free-for-all revenge party at an abandoned school.

Invited are the loved ones of those killed, who then they enter a plastic-covered room to enact their own sense of vengeance against Baek. Lasting about seven minutes, the scene is big on blood but skimpy on the actual details — not that you need them. The pained faces of the participants and muted screams of Baek are enough to give anyone the full pic. And if that’s not enough, the private acts meet in a crescendo of vigilante justice as a woman stabs Baek with her murdered grandchild’s scissors. Revenge at its most poetic.

—ScarletScribe

Godfather II

The Godfather, Part IIWhen you begin to put business over your own family it is safe to say that you have officially become contaminated with greed. Remorse or sorrow doesn’t flow through your anatomy anymore. That is until you actually carry out a task that is beyond grave; it is literally Satan taking over the mind. The contaminated soul is Michael Corleone. He has catapulted the Corleone family into being one of the most dominant families in the mafia. When his older brother Fredo tries to go behind his back and make a move that would only benefit himself is, strike one. Michael finding this out and telling him he never wants to see Fredo again is, strike two. Having Fredo’s brains blown out after he took Michael’s son fishing is, strike three. These three strikes are responsible for creating unmerciful revenge.Godfather II is the most vicious revenge saga out there.

—Three-D

Zoolander

Will Ferrel as Mugato in 'Zoolander'Revenge is best served while holding a small, white dog and taking frickin’ crazy pills. Also, the song “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood must be blaring in the background as you beam subliminal messages of chaos and disorder into an unsuspecting male model — as demonstrated by Will Ferrell‘s character Mugatu in Zoolander. The purpose of this exercise is to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia so that you can get cheaper labor for your new fashion line of men’s wear AND discredit the one-face-pose, talentless ass-clown Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller). Although the revenge plot ultimately fails, Mugatu’s efforts are still among the greatest ever chronicled in comedic film form.

—TechGonzo

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan Khaaaaaaan!Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan saw the cinematic return of the crew of the USS Enterprise, lead by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), but it also revived the character of Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán), a genetically engineered dictator from the 20th century who we first meet in an episode from the 1960’s Star Trek television show. When we last saw Khan, he and his followers had been exiled by Kirk on Ceti Alpha V after Khan tried to take over the Enterprise. In Wrath of Khan, we find out that soon after Khan was marooned on the planet, the neighboring Ceti Alpha VI exploded, turning Khan’s new home world into a barren wasteland. For 15 years, Khan plotted his revenge on Kirk, who he blamed for the death of his wife and followers, some of whom died after the catastrophe. As his luck would have it, fate once again brought him face to face with Kirk, this time in a battle in space, where Khan ponders, “Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? It is very cold in space.” After damaging the Enterprise, Khan later on strands Kirk and some crew members on what he believes to be a dead planet. In an attempt to get Khan to beam down and face him in person, Kirk taunts him by saying, “You were going to kill me, you’re going to have to come down here,” but Khan as a different kind of payback in order. “I’ve done far worse than kill you,” Khan tells Kirk. “I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you, as you left me … as you left her … marooned for eternity in the center of a dead planet. Buried alive!” In the most memorable moment of the film, Kirk shouts in anger and desperation, “Khan!!! Khan!!!” as Khan’s ship takes off leaving him behind. While Khan ultimately takes his vengeful obsession so far that it backfires on him, this one moment where he thinks he’s left Kirk for dead not only gave Khan an orgasmic satisfaction, but also struck fear in the hearts of viewers who thought their beloved Kirk had truly fallen victim to a long-plotted revenge scheme.

—Empress Eve

Wanted

  • Before anyone starts in on it.. YES! I wanted to write about a scene from Kill Bill too but there’s like 6hrs of straight revenging going on up in there. I just couldn’t choose one scene to define it all, and I knew I couldn’t go wrong writing about the ‘Gimp’ scene from Pulp Fiction. That shit is genius.

  • foreviper

    wow, the count of monte cristo doesn’t make the list!?! i know it’s a based on a book, but honestly could you imagine any sweeter revenge than what dantes gets???

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  • RaV

    I am going with Unforgiven. I love it when Clint Eastwood is looking down his double barrel shotgun and blows Gene Hackman’s head clean off.

  • Jerry

    My problem is I could not narrow it down to one film.
    Awesome list!!
    So happy to see Wrath Of Khan and Lady Vengeance on here!!

  • The Rub

    I’m with Jerry – far too many to choose from.

    Most excellent article!

  • What about the original “Get Carter?”

    I do have one issue with this list. One of the most awesome revenge movies ever made is mysteriously absent from this list.

    I am, of course, talking about the Korean film “Oldboy.” I won’t spoil it, but it’s one of the most gruesome revenge films ever.

  • cOwMoO

    Just a quick note; In the Pulp Fiction scene Zed actually gets shot in the balls, makes the scene a whole lot more satisfying IMO.

    cOwMoO

  • hesthefastest

    Rob Roy would have been a good pick.

  • Eddie

    What? You didn’t think 9 to 5 made the cut?! I think blackmailing your boss and locking him up in his own house is pretty good revenge.

    But, your choice of Amelie was inspired, even if you did overlook a better chick flick for it.

  • Ted

    Mel Gibson. “Payback.” That movie DEFINES Payback. It EPITOMIZES Payback.

    “Hey man, got a light?”

    “No, I don’t smoke.”

    “That what good are you?” Blows his head off.

  • Your list has THREE of my very favs (Godfather, Shawshank, Office space)! Loved this list! :-)
    -J

  • Buster C

    Most of these are good. In the final fight scene of Gangs of New York I believe that Bill the Butcher is actually wounded by shrapnel from a cannonball blast. Vallen finishes the job, but the damage was already done. The Godfather 2 is indeed one of the greatest vengaence flicks of all time. However the description of events is simply not up to the task of doing it justice. Fredo didn’t simply make a selfish deal. He made a deal with a rival that nearly lead to Michael’s death. Michael had already warned him not to take sides with the family. Michael’s orders were horribly cold blooded, nonetheless, but there was some justification. What about Vito’s revenge scene? That was pretty solid as well.

  • “The Count of Monte Cristo” deserves to be on that list

  • Krahzee1

    I took the ending of “Gangs of New York” completely differently. Vallen finally gets his chance at revenge and redemption, but before he gets his opportunity to either kill the man who killed his father or die in the effort, the cannon fire injures him mortally. He is forced to stab him not for revenge, but for respect, to put him out of his misery. He spent his whole life for this moment and it was taken from him. I don’t feel that there was any real revenge at the end of that movie.

  • daniel day lewis

    the last of the mohicans

  • Fletcher

    The final scene in Se7en when Brad Pitt’s character exacts his revenge on Kevin Spacey’s character deserves a spot on the list.

  • Well, only 12 of us participated and we all picked out favorites, hence the reason why some obvious choices aren’t up there. I thought of 9 to 5 right away, but the whole movie is really less about revenge than about getting justice and equality. Plus, which scene would be chosen? They keep him locked up in the house for half the movie. Meanwhile, the KILL BILL movies all all revenge scenes, so it was hard to pick just one, but we did include it in the intro, so at least there’s an honorable mention.

  • rick

    Since you didn’t include Tombstone’s version of Wyatt Earp’s vendetta ride I can’t take this seriously. The best -fiction- revenge scene ever committed to permanent media isn’t on the list either: The Hard Goodbye story in the movie Sin City

  • Nick

    8mm… Nicholas Cage’s character finds the men responsible for killing this woman’s daughter for a smut flick, calls her on the phone in tears asking the girls mother if he should kill the man responsible for her daughter’s death… Messed up movie, but fantastic scene.

  • Interesting article.

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  • David

    Old boy?

    no old boy, that is by far on my list of ultimate revenge stories.

  • John

    Superman 2: Clark Kent vs. Guy in the Diner

  • Micael

    Leon: “This is from Mathilda.”

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  • Siah

    @ Micael – nice! I didnt even think of The Professional – good one

    Gotta agree with Pulp Fiction
    but i think Maximus / Commodus should be on that list – Gladiator. perhaps Italian Job as well?

  • mhemm

    what about jaws the revenge?

    i ‘fin’ you missed that one out lol

  • UNFORGIVEN!
    Sherif: “You just shot an unarmed man”
    Clint Eastwood: “Well anyone who decorates his bar with my friend should arm himself”
    Classic

  • Derrick E.

    There is a little typo in your transcription of Pulp Fiction. The line that Marsellus says to Butch should go “Oh, that ‘what now?’ I’ll tell you what now between me and you. There is *no* me and you. Not no more.”

  • b_sinning

    Snatch should have been on the list. The end of the movie where Mickey, Brad Pitt, gets revenge on Brick Top for killing his mom and he doesn’t see it coming is classic.

  • heres2that

    Lucky # Slevin should definitely be on this list!

  • @Derrick E

    Good catch. Thanks :) Not bad for doing it all from memory though, right?

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  • the last of the mohicans.

  • Flu-Bird

    THE ENFORCER after losing his woman partner to some domestic terrorists dirty harry calahan wipe them out including blowing their leader BOBBY MAXWELL to seagull chow with that LAWS rocket

  • craig

    Did we forget about Braveheart?

  • Hinky

    Hello? Mad Max? Chains his wife’s killer to a bomb then tosses him a hacksaw? Hello?

  • bob

    None of these are even close to the the absolute all time king of revenge:

    This sleeper hit, Taken. Watch it. No mercy for the merciless.

  • some guy

    Taken, was garbage with a bunch of washed up actors. and what’s with his daughter running in almost every single scene she’s in? strange as hell!

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  • My problem is I could not narrow it down to one film.
    Awesome list!!

  • jmflynny

    I couldn’t agree more with Man on Fire. It’s an outstanding movie and D.W.’s ability to make you forget that it’s, well, Denzel is proof of just how good he is.

    I also agree with the commenter who suggested Unforgiven. What a beautiful film.

    My own suggestion; An Eye for and Eye. Didn’t even see it coming, but wanted it sooo bad.

  • Jay

    Great list.
    It’s nice…at least for me…to see another part of the Vengeance trilogy on a list other than Old Boy.

  • Derrick E.

    No problem Dave, good list. I watch Pulp Fiction at least twice a month!

  • Stevel

    Praying Mantis? Bang…bang…bang… Awesome 80’s Brit mini-series on revenge you will never forget.

  • RonB

    Not in any real order, but some that come to mind…

    Unforgiven

    Hostel

    Payback

    Man on Fire

    V for Vendetta
    Four Brothers

    Gladiator

    The Crow

    Oldboy

    The Limey

  • Gotta say Rob Roy is at the top of my list. When he finally kills his nemesis in the duel I just about jumped out of my seat pumping my fist shouting with gritted teeth, “Yeah! Take that you *expletive*!”

  • THE PLUTONIAN

    8 years on, still a fantastic list!!!!

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