The need for revenge and retaliation is one of man’s most basic instincts. While some of us are able to contain the urge to seek justice, and punish those who have wronged us, others willingly submit to their primal desires to get even.
Here we have selected ten portrayals of revenge in various movies, books, and video games. Also, proceed with caution, as:
10. The Last House on the Left (1972)
A tone of grim tension is maintained throughout, and it clings to you long after you’ve left the Last House. Although not a cinematic masterpiece, Wes Craven’s movie is really powerful in its delivery. Two girls going to a concert meet a group of fugitives and outlaws, and are brutally raped and murdered. By sheer coincidence, the band of criminals end up staying for the night at one of the girl’s parents house. The mother and father find out about their daughter’s fate and, if there is anything that would make an average suburban family lose their minds, and cause the most pain possible, that would be it. Retaliation is ferocious, and the parents avenge the demise of their little girl.
9. Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010 – 2013)
By telling the story of the most famous gladiator who ever lived, the viewer is familiarized with the tortures, privations, and struggles that Spartacus endures. His tribe massacred, his wife kidnapped and later murdered, his freedom taken away from him, the Thracian ends up being a puppet for his Roman master, forced to fight for his life or lose it. However that puppet ends up biting his oppressor in the ass. The show depicts the journey of a man, bent on revenge, and responsible for the biggest slave rebellion in human history. The show is a good watch for anybody that doesn’t mind many sex scenes, and can stomach a great amount of gore.
8. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
This 2004 Rockstar game has sold more than 25 million copies for a reason: the storyline is fantastic. A former resident of Los Santos (Los Angeles) comes back home after his mother is killed, only to find out that things aren’t what they used to be; almost everything and everyone that he believed in has been corrupted in some way or another. It is up to him to make things right for his family, friends, and hood. Back-stabbings and gang violence are common experiences for our main anti-hero. At the end though, CJ punishes everybody that has wronged him.
7. Straw Dogs (1971)
We find this psychological thriller, starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George, to have a very important point of view to the theme of retaliation. What is a person capable of doing when backed into a corner? What course of action will a human take, when fear lets the animal inside him take the upper hand?
An American mathematician, and his British wife, go to live in her hometown, only to be mentally and physically tormented by the locals. One evening, a set of unfortunate circumstances ensures that the only way they will survive the night, would be to fortify their house and prepare to inflict the same amount of damage to their intruders, as they would receive otherwise.
Being made during the Vietnam War, this movie sends a strong message about violence and human nature.
6. A Song of Ice and Fire: Storm of Swords (2000)
Not every act of vengeance is justified. It is very hard to pin down the main theme of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, though one particular event in the book ensures its spot on the list: The Red Wedding.
A wedding pact had been made between The Freys and The Starks, stating that Robb Stark, the potential future King of the North, would have marry one of Walter Frey’s kin, thus securing an invaluable strategic position for the Northernmen. Stark broke the pact by marring another girl. Lord Frey was willing to forgive, as long as Stark’s uncle, Edmure, would marry one of Welder’s granddaughters instead, which was quickly arranged.
At the day of the wedding, Robb, his mother, and 3500 of his men arrived in Frey’s castle. What occurred next was nothing less than a massacre. All of the men being either murdered, or taken hostage. Rob himself is killed, and the head of his direwolf is sewed to his body, as a final act of humiliation. The largest act of wickedness in Martin’s series is not abiding the guest right, which states that every person who has eaten bread and salt under the roof of his host, is safe from harm. This, to say the least, wasn’t the case at the Frey household.
5. The Unforgiven (1992)
It is illegal in 32 states to make a list regarding revenge, and not include Clint Eastwood in some way or another. He produced, directed, and starred in this movie, telling us the story of a man who has left his criminal past behind for his wife, but turns to his gun-toting days one last time, in order to secure the future of his children.
The first half of the film can be slow-moving, but the second half is gripping, as the death of his friend Ned leads William Munny (Eastwood) to seek a bloody revenge. As with many Westerns, there are some attractive shots of the local scenery, but the overall tone is a dark and claustrophobic one, in keeping with the film’s theme. The Unforgiven’s most iconic exchange seems to encapsulate the Western’s final take on revenge: when a callow gunslinger, named the Schofield kid, says of two murdered cowboys, “Well, I guess they had it comin’,” Eastwood simply responds, “We all got it comin’, kid.”
4. Sleepers (1996)
The cast of Sleepers is full with familiar names: Robert DeNiro, Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Patrick, Minnie Driver, and others. After a prank gone horribly wrong, four young boys are sent to a correctional facility, where they are constantly harassed and raped by members of the staff. Years later, two of the boys get revenge, leading to their trial, in which the lead prosecutor is one of the victims. He devises a clever scheme to fulfill their revenge against the scum that abused them so terribly. It’s a heartfelt and emotional film, albeit a tad bit Hollywood.
3. Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2 (2003, 2004)
The film tells the story of The Bride (Uma Thurman), whose real name is not revealed until the second half of the film. On her wedding day, a group called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, of which she was once a member, bursts into the church and guns down everyone in attendance. Finally, after everyone else is killed, they turn on her, beating her until their leader, Bill (David Carradine) shoots her in the head just as she reveals that the child she is pregnant with is his.
Four years later, she awakens from a coma, sees that she’s no longer pregnant, and assumes that her child is dead. Thus begins her tale, not just of revenge against those who attacked her, but of discovering and embracing her true identity.
Throughout the films, Kill Bill illustrates the importance of identity, particularly familial identity and relationships, in relation to revenge and that, if one’s identity is compromised or challenged, steps must be taken in order to rectify that, often in the form of revenge.
2. Hamlet (16th – 17th century)
“To be or not to be.” That’s probably all you’d heard of Hamlet, until you had to start reading it for class. Little did you know that Shakespeare’s 500-year-old play would be full of betrayal, violence, desire, and an argument for proper mental health.
Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius, who lusts after the crown and the Queen, kills the king of Denmark. Hamlet, the prince, comes to know about this and vows revenge. Hamlet is a revenge story that is perhaps like any other – a son’s quest for avenging his father’s murder. It’s told and re-told all the time; if you are a little too young for Hamlet, you could always watch The Lion King, which is pretty much the same story, only with talking animals.
But it is the way Shakespeare tells the story that raises simple revenge to the level of a timeless masterpiece. Love, lust, and hatred, those indispensable elements of every story, are discovered anew in this eternal classic.
1. The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)
Simply put, this is the epitome of a revenge story. Alexandre Dumas’s novel recounts the tale of a young man, Edmond Dantes who, because of the jealousy of others, has everything taken away from him. Sentenced to solitary confinement in one of the most unwelcoming prisons around, Dantes loses his fiancé ,who marries one of the men who framed him, his promising career as a sea captain, his father (who dies without ever learning the fate of his son) and, most importantly, his freedom.
After 14 years of rotting and exile, fate smiles on Dantes, and he is able to escape his entrapment and earn a stature that would help him get vengeance over the ones who have wronged him. The novel also brings up an interesting point of view: how much is enough, and is revenge justified by a higher power? How much suffering of your adversaries is enough for justice to be served? Although not an easy read, we would recommend that everybody at least familiarize themselves with this epic story.