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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When 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?”
“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.
Man On Fire
My 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.
It’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.
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.
“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.”
The Shawshank Redemption
The 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.
Gangs of New York
Bill 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!
Road to Perdition
When 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 Mendes‘ Road 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
A 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.
As 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.
When 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.
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.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
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.