As anyone who's seen the Justin Kurzel-directed video game adaptation known as Assassin’s Creed is definitely aware, not all assassin films are created equal. While movies featuring some of the very best professional killers in all of film fiction are typically worth a laugh at the worst, the latest in a string of failed video game adaptations proves that even one of the coolest character types can't avoid appearing in the occasional dud.
But you know, the problem sometimes goes deeper than that. As fascinating as your average assassin is from a story perspective, there are the rare occasions when these cinematic cutthroats just aren’t able to live up to the reputation associated with onscreen assassins.
Put simply, some assassins just aren’t that great. Oh, they try to put their best foot forward– and some even manage to disguise their incompetence with charm – but the results don’t lie and, at the end of the day, these killers just aren’t up to par.
These are the Top 15 Movie Assassins Who Are Incredibly Bad At Their Jobs.
15 Carson Wells - No Country For Old Men
Carson Wells (aka, whoever it is that Woody Harrelson plays in No Country For Old Men) is supposedly a pretty competent hired killer. He certainly carries himself like one when discussing the matter of hunting the very dangerous Anton Chigurh. However Wells presents himself, though, his skills are a matter of some debate. If you need someone to have an intense one-on-one conversation with someone he’s certainly up to the task, but as it relates to matters of manhunting, we’re left to assume that Wells' defining career moments occur outside of the constraints of the movie’s narrative.
Shortly after accepting his assignment, Wells is trapped by Chigurh in a fairly obvious manner and executed without much of a fuss. While Wells hints that Chigurh may be a step above him on the assassin ladder, the way in which he is so easily dispatched suggests that Wells would have perhaps been better off selling cowboy hats.
14 Connor Rooney - Road to Perdition
Fairly early on in Road to Perdition, we come to understand that gangster Connor Rooney is not quite the man his mob boss father expects him to be. Conner obviously feels that hitman Michael Sullivan has assumed the role of surrogate son and that his father might not love him at all. If his father’s love is based on ability to properly kill a target, then we completely understand why that is the case.
After Sullivan’s son witnesses an impromptu hit by Rooney and Sullivan, Rooney decides that there is no way he can trust either to stay quiet and that the best course of action is to kill them both. It’s sound enough logic in the mob world, but his technique leaves a lot to be desired. Not only does he kill the wrong kid (and Sullivan’s wife for good measure) but his plan to eliminate one of the city’s most dangerous hitmen involves sending him to a nervous bookie who doesn’t even know he’s supposed to be killing him until the last minute.
13 Joe - Mulholland Drive
Everyone, meet Joe. We don’t know much about Joe but, from what we can gather, Joe makes his living as a hired gun in the world of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. This simple enough fact is made almost unbelievable by the one scene in the film in which we see Joe at work. That moment calls into question how, exactly, Joe ever survived his first week in his chosen profession.
Joe manages to kill his target easily enough, but the matter of cleaning up the crime scene soon triggers a series of events typically reserved for Looney Tunes cartoons. Not only does Joe accidentally shoot someone in the next room, but he’s not even able to dispose of this bystander without causing enough of a racket to alert the building janitor. What happens to him, you ask? He too is killed, but Joe's method of eliminating the man soon leads to a vacuum cleaner starting a fire that triggers the building alarm. Dude, just go back to school.
12 Ray - In Bruges
Ray seems like a really nice guy. Well, strictly speaking, that’s not true, but he doesn’t necessarily seem like the type of guy that would wander into the professional killer business. Maybe that’s why the writer of In Bruges goes out of his way to inform us that Ray is actually a rookie hitman. Of course, such information doesn’t need to be directly conveyed, given that the way in which Ray conducts his business announces this loudly enough to remove any doubt.
In Bruges begins with Ray botching a hit and accidentally murdering a young boy, which we later learn is a pretty big taboo even in the world of hitmen. Ray’s every action beyond that point only seems to confirm that he might still be looking for his calling in life. He not only sucks at acting inconspicuous, but he gets his partner killed and shows no real ability to defend himself beyond running away.
11 Vincent – Collateral
Whoa, whoa, whoa…Vincent? Vincent from Collateral? Tom Cruise? How could anyone ever say that guy is a bad assassin when he spends the vast majority of that movie killing people with relative ease? While it’s true that Vincent knows how to intimidate people with the best of them and seems to be pretty handy with a gun, the truth of the matter is that he really isn’t great at being the type of assassin that doesn’t want to get caught.
Vincent’s entire plan of getting a taxi driver to chauffer him between hits, for instance, is the kind of thing that someone might do if they have a secret desire to be caught or killed. As is tossing a victim out of a window and having him land on the cab that is driving him around town. In fact, the only people that Vincent seems indisputably better than are the thugs that steal his briefcase. That’s not a high bar.
10 Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd – Diamonds are Forever
In the book Diamonds are Forever, Mr. Wint and Mr.Kidd are fairly competent villains. In fact, at one point they manage to almost stomp James Bond to death. The Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd of the film adaptation are completely different characters. They no longer seem satisfied with simply killing people and calling it a day. Instead, they resort to incredibly contrived methods to get the job done. While some of these methods actually do work (anyone who can kill someone with a carefully placed scorpion deserves a little respect), the ways in which they try to kill James Bond are downright confounding.
On two separate occasions, Wint and Kidd have a chance to kill James Bond and elect to do so by trapping him in a small space. The first time involves a casket about to enter a crematorium furnace, and the second sees them put him into a pipe and try to bury him. Not to judge Bond villains for overly elaborate kill attempts, but jeez guys, can’t you at least mix it up?
9 Elektra - Daredevil (2003)
The comic book version of Elektra is an incredibly competent assassin. She’s one of the very best in the Marvel universe, actually. Her skills at weapons and espionage are surpassed only by her charm and intelligence. Naturally, then, the infamous 2003 version of Daredevil completely ruins the character as part of its effort to completely ruin everything about the Daredevil universe.
Elektra, as she is portrayed in this film, is little more than a love interest who writer and director Mark Steven Johnson attempts to add depth to by showing her as a capable hand-to-hand fighter. The sentiment is there, but the fatally flawed execution of his concept leads to Elektra looking like an incompetent child. Not only does she spend most of the film wrongly accusing Daredevil of murdering her father, but shortly after she realizes her mistake, she is promptly killed by Bullseye. That might have been tolerable had Bullseye himself not been such a joke, of course.
8 Pasquale Acosta – Smokin’ Aces
Don’t feel too bad if you don’t remember the 2007 “not-quite-blockbuster” Smokin’ Aces. Its plot involving a magician and hustler trying to complete a plea deal, and the various assassins who have been contracted to bring him down was little more than an excuse to get a few high-profile actors together and for director Joe Carnahan to pretend he is Guy Ritchie. While every assassin in the movie possesses some kind of quirk, few are as a memorable as Pasquale Acosta, whose quirk is that he’s awful at his job.
Acosta is presented as an almost mythical figure, which is really quite interesting when you consider that he doesn’t display much in the way of competence throughout the film. He’s shot fairly early on when his awful disguise fails to fool an FBI agent, then returns from this incident only to be shot again by the same FBI agent. It’s suggested that he’s still alive at the end of the film, which is impressive, but not impressive enough to justify this guy continuing his line of work.
7 Jango Fett - Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
The great Boba Fett of the original Star Wars trilogy is not an assassin by trade. He’s a bounty hunter. In fact, most of the character’s most memorable moments involve him serving in that capacity, but it’s implied that Fett will serve as an assassin if called upon. If that is the case, then it’s likely he learned everything he knows about contract kills from his father, Jango, who was an awful assassin.
Along with serving as the genetic base for a group of super soldiers, who we learn later in the series cannot shoot to save their lives, Jango plays the role of assassin more than bounty hunter throughout Attack of the Clones. Moving past the fact that he sent an even more incompetent assassin to kill Senator Amidala at the film’s start, Jango’s own attempts to kill his intended targets throughout the film are all easily identified by how spectacularly they fail. Granted, he’s trying to kill Jedi, but that’s all the more reason not to just stand still and shoot at a lightsaber, now isn’t it?
6 Miguel Bain - Assassins
Assassins is one of those movies that you watch because you stumble upon it in the basic cable programming rotation and realize that you really don’t have anything better to do with the next hour and a half of your life. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. After all, who doesn’t love a plot involving two assassins at the top of their game dueling it out? Actually, "top of their game" might be a bit of a stretch in the case of Antonio Banderas’ character, Miguel Bain.
Bain has the assassin basics down (foldable sniper rifles, disguises, silenced pistols), but he’s about as far from calm and collective as a professional killer can get. We’re willing to accept the idea that a hired killer might not be the most emotionally stable person in the world, but watching Bain throw a childish tantrum after failing a hit really does call into question his supposed ranking as one of the world’s greatest hitmen.
5 Every Villainous Ninja From Surf Ninjas
When you hear the word “ninja,” you begin to form certain expectations. You think of stealth and skills. You picture the world’s most highly trained killers leaping silently through the air and descending upon their targets like the wind. Long story short, you picture the kind of assassin that is capable of killing anyone on the planet with relative ease. Unless they are the evil ninjas from Surf Ninjas, of course.
Actually, consider this a general entry for all ninja villains in the relatively short-lived fad known as the children’s ninja film revolution of the early ‘90s. While we would never condone violence against children, the idea that trained ninjas can’t take out a few kids is just insulting. That’s especially true in the case of the 1993 classic Surf Ninjas, where the kids in question possess absolutely no meaningful training whatsoever. At least the 3 Ninjas kids had that crazy grandpa showing them the ropes.
4 Joe - Looper
We’re going to safely assume that the vast majority of people reading this article right now are not, in fact, trained assassins. To those of you who are, please bear with us a moment as we pose the question, “What is keeping you from becoming a hired killer?” Along with the moral quandaries and a barrier of entry more frustrating than those 30-page online applications they make you fill out to apply for a shelf stocker job at Office Depot, one of the most popular answers to that question would likely have something to do with the actually difficult of the job.
But that’s why Joe from Looper is on this list. Joe’s job isn’t difficult. His targets are delivered to him bound and gagged so that he can shoot them with a shotgun at close range, yet Joe manages to screw even this arrangement up by letting a trapped target escape. Some will argue that the fact that the target in question is a future version of Joe himself explains the hesitations, but Joe took this job, knowing that such a thing was going to happen. That means he’s just really bad at said job.
3 Il Duce – The Boondock Saints
Here’s another case of a fictional assassin whose reputation undeservingly precedes them. Not long into The Boondock Saints, we are informed of the existence of a man known simply as Il Duce. As far we can tell, based on the hushed tones that very scary men use to speak of Il Duce, he is the kind of assassin that even those in the business wish was dead. He’s a last resort. The king of killers.
So why is it, exactly, that the great Il Duce’s grand plan involves staring his targets down face-to-face in broad daylight? A killer so confident in their ability that they have no qualms about enduring three-on-one odds is one thing, but at a certain point, confidence just becomes stupidity. Il Duce does redeem himself later by taking a properly stealthy approach, but one guy with six guns vs. three armed guys? Surely the boogeyman of assassins can do better than that.
2 Vernita Green – Kill Bill Volume 1
The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad is a group of, mostly, female assassins who are the deadliest killers on Earth. In defense of that particular reputation, the events of Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2 do verify that most of this group’s members are indeed top class killers. That "most" qualifier is sadly necessary as it relates to Vernita Green, aka Copperhead.
Vernita Green isn’t actually the first member of the Squad that the Bride takes revenge on, but she is the first seen on screen. This curious chronology becomes all the more confounding when you consider that Green doesn’t appear to be much of an assassin. She puts up a decent fight when the Bride forces her to do so, but why is it that one of the world’s supposedly great killers doesn’t even bother to use the peephole on her own front door? Furthermore, how did she miss a headshot from less than five feet away?
1 Vincent Vega – Pulp Fiction
All due respect to Mr. Tarantino, but it’s just not possible to talk about the worst movie assassins without looking at the great director’s classic film. Pulp Fiction is a movie about the misadventures of some really bad people. Nearly every character in the film endures some kind of outlandish hardship, but few bring their own misfortunes upon themselves quite the way that Mr. Vincent Vega does. While Vega is able to shoot a helpless victim at point blank range with the best of them, that single career accomplishment pales in comparison to his many errors.
After infamously shooting Marvin in the head in broad daylight (surely such a man would have learned trigger discipline by this point), Vega manages to get himself killed by forgetting to bring his machine gun with him to the bathroom while staking out a target’s home. Good assassins do not get caught with their pants quite literally down.
Which other movie assassins are more miss than hit? Let us know in the comments!