Spike Lee’s new thriller Oldboy is about a man seeking both vengeance and answers as he hunts for the person who imprisoned him for twenty years without explanation. The original Oldboy, directed by Park Chan-wook, might be one of the best revenge movies ever made, but it’s not alone in its brutality. We’re taking a look at some other scenes of vengeance from movies that deliver a true sucker-punch of violence.
There will be SPOILERS ahead, so if you see the name of a movie that you haven’t watched yet then we advise quickly moving on. Some of these revenge scenes are also pretty gruesome, so readers of a delicate constitution should click away now. For everyone else, here are 10 of the most brutal revenge scenes ever committed to film.
Banned in multiple countries for its gruesome combination of sex, violence and sexual violence, I Spit on Your Grave is nonetheless the best remembered among rape revenge movies. Critics are still divided over whether it’s aggressively feminist or profoundly misogynistic, but either way, it’s a grueling film to watch.
Camille Keaton plays an author who goes on an isolated writing retreat, only to be attacked, raped and left for dead by four local men. This turns out to be the last mistake the men get to make, as she returns to wreak revenge upon them, including cutting off the gang leader’s genitals and letting him bleed to death from the wound.
What’s that knocking sound you can hear, like the sound of wood on brick? For a Nazi kneeling at the feet of Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and the Inglourious Basterds, that sound can mean only one thing: the approach of the Bear Jew (Eli Roth), who also goes by the name of Donny.
Revenge is at the absolute core of Inglourious Basterds and while it can certainly be argued that the most brutal enactment of it comes in the final act of the movie, nothing quite sets the tone like Donny facing down an unrepentant Nazi and executing him with a baseball bat.
A slasher movie told largely from the perspective of the one doing the slashing, Dead Man’s Shoes is all the more disturbing for being grounded in Shane Meadows’ trademark realism and set in a small town in Derbyshire. Paddy Considine plays a soldier who returns home to wreak a campaign of intimidation and murder on the gang of drug dealers who abused and tormented his brother.
There’s plenty of disturbing imagery to be found, as Considine’s character picks off his inept victims one by one – but perhaps the cruelest punishment comes when he spikes their tea with massive amounts of drugs and, when only one man remains, forces him to open and look inside a suitcase into which the twisted, broken-limbed body of his friend has been neatly folded.
There are plenty of great revenge movies out there, but very few like Kim Jee-woon’s I Saw the Devil: a thriller that goes through revenge and out the other side. Homicide detective Kim Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) is hell-bent on punishing the serial killer (Choi Min-sik) who murdered his pregnant fiancée, but finds the cat-and-mouse game he had planned spiralling out of his control.
The ending of the film probably packs the biggest emotional punch of the various acts of violence shown. Soo-hyun finally figures out a way to get under the skin of his enemy by tricking the killer’s son into decapitating him in a Saw-like trap – and yet, Soo-hyun walks away from it weeping from the knowledge that all the violence has brought him no satisfaction.
Kids, if you’re being bullied you should tell a teacher, or try to talk to the bully about your feelings, or just try to ignore them until they eventually give up out of boredom. Violence is never the answer.
That said, this scene of a young man taking down a bully from A History of Violence might be one of the most satisfying beatings ever committed to film. From the opening nutshot to the final, bloody blow, Jack Stall (Ashton Holmes) had a lot of audience members cheering him on when he cut loose in this brief but memorable bully beat-’em-up. Jack was truly his father’s son.
Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen) is not a likeable character. Appointed as guardian to protagonist Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), he uses his position of power to restrict access to her finances and force her to grant him sexual favors, eventually attacking and violently raping her.
It’s hard not to feel a small amount of satisfaction when Lisbeth exacts a very thorough revenge: first sodomizing him with a sex toy and then tattooing “I am a sadistic pig and rapist” on his chest as a warning to other potential victims, before finally using footage of his assault to blackmail him and ensure she never has trouble accessing her own money again.
This 2009 thriller starring Gerard Butler features one of the most gruesome torture-based revenge scenes on film. Butler plays Clyde Shelton, the victim of a home invasion during which his wife and daughter were murdered. The killer (Christian Stolte) makes a plea bargain and is released after only a few years.
Dissatisfied with the justice system’s handling of the crime, Shelton kidnaps the murderer, shoots him up with puffer fish poison so that he is paralyzed but can still feel pain, then straps him to a table and dismembers him with a mirror suspended overhead so that the “patient” can see everything. For good measure, he cuts off the man’s eyelids so that he can’t close his eyes, and eventually ends it by decapitating him. How unpleasant.
Did we mention that there are peaceful ways of dealing with bullies? Well, if the kids who have been tormenting you for your entire school career decide to ruin the happiest moment of your life by murdering your prom date and covering you in pigs’ blood on a stage in front of hundreds of fellow students, that’s probably cause enough to get a bit snippy.
Carrie is more tragic than it is satisfying, but the climax of this story really does convey a sense of almighty pent-up rage, anger, resentment, frustration and downright fury. If you mix together a cocktail of teenage angst, throw in some telekinetic powers, shake it up hard and then shoot the top off, this is what it looks like. In its own way, it’s kind of beautiful.
Toecutter and his motorcycle gang should probably have thought twice before killing Max Rockatanksy’s (Mel Gibson) cop partner in a fiery blaze and then running down his wife and infant son in the road. Max doesn’t take kindly to the gang’s actions and quickly dons his his leathers and proceeds to hunt down the gang in a customized black car.
After killing off several gang members, Max handcuffs Johnny (Tim Burns) by the ankle to a burning truck and throws him a hacksaw, giving him the option to either saw through his own ankle or get blown to pieces. Though we never find out what happens, it probably didn’t end well.
Who knows whether an eye-for-an-eye philosophy could really leave the whole world blind, but it certainly works well enough on Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) in the concluding chapter of Quentin Tarantino’s two-part revenge saga, Kill Bill.
It might seem strange to pick one of Bill’s accomplices rather than the man himself – but while Bill bows out peacefully there’s no happy ending for Elle. The Bride (Uma Thurman) plucks out her remaining eye with her bare fingers – in the middle of a sword fight, no less – before squashing the eye underfoot (under toe, really) and leaving Elle thrashing around a trailer with a deadly black mamba snake waiting to pounce.
If there’s one lesson to take away from these movies it’s this: be nice to people, because the next person you upset could be a sadistic murderer who will hound you to the ends of the earth in search of retribution. You should be nice to people anyway, though.
Those are our picks for some of the most shocking and brutal acts of revenge in movies, but there are plenty of good candidates out there who didn’t quite make this list. Tell us in the comments which movie vendettas got your skin crawling.
Oldboy is now in theaters.