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05th Apr 2018

Public justice: We rank the Top 10 vigilante movies of all-time

Will Lavin

Not all heroes wear capes.

This week sees the release of Death Wish, the Eli Roth-directed remake of the 1974 cult classic. Starring Bruce Willis, the latest instalment of the vigilante franchise sees the hero (or is he?) Paul Kersey in the role of a doctor as opposed to the architect Charles Bronson played in the original.

Telling the story in the modern age, social media and digital radio play a big part in Death Wish. After Kersey’s wife is murdered and his daughter hospitalised following a home invasion, he embarks on a one man revenge mission and the public are quick to get involved voicing their opinion on what’s right and what’s wrong.

Like the original, it begs the question: is it okay to take the law into your own hands when the police aren’t doing anything about it?

So while people deliberate on whether or not it is in fact okay we thought we’d rank our Top 10 vigilante movies.

What do you think?

10. Death Wish (1974)

What sort of list would this be without the original Death Wish being featured? Null and void, that’s what sort. Okay, so perhaps Charles Bronson’s acting chops weren’t really up to standard in this 1974 cult classic that saw architect Paul Kersey go out on a revenge killing spree after his wife was murdered, but it’s worth seeing the movie just to hear a young Jeff Goldblum say: “Goddamn rich c*nt! I kill rich c*nts!” Visually pretty horrific in parts, especially the sexual assault scene at the beginning, this is without question the best of the Death Wish series.

9. John Wick (2014)

Arguably Keanu Reeves’ best movie since The Matrix, John Wick is a brutal revenge tale where a former underground hitman goes vigilante after some thugs beat him, kill his dog and steal his car. But it’s not just any dog, it’s the dog his deceased wife had delivered to him following her death. Once Wick recovers all hell breaks loose. The thugs have no idea that they’ve woken a sleeping giant but it’s made clear soon enough when bad guys start running and bodies start dropping.

8. Kick-Ass (2010)

Until Kick-Ass you didn’t ever really think about geeky teens dressing up as superheroes and going out to fight crime. After it you realised this was a definite possibility and that probably one in ten of those in cosplay at Comic Con wear their costume through the night whilst fighting crime. It might be a comedy but Kick-Ass is also an action masterpiece that really does have something for everyone. Oh yeah, and Nicolas Cage is in it in his most animated role since Castor Troy in Face Off.

7. The Crow (1994)

Avenging his and his wife’s death, a brutally murdered man comes back from the dead and goes on a supernatural killing spree to wipe out the perpetrators. The Crow is part art film, part action, part horror. It’s like A Clockwork Orange meets Blade Runner, just not as complex. And while the movie has plenty of dark moments it’s actually what took place behind-the-scenes with actor Brandon Lee that proved the darkest. The son of the martial arts legend Bruce Lee was fatally shot on set when a real bullet was loaded into a prop gun.

6. Four Brothers (2005)

Probably the most underrated movie on this list, Four Brothers is the John Singleton-directed revenge movie with heart. Featuring an all-star cast made up of Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese, Andre 3000, Terrence Howard, Sofia Vergara and Taraji P. Henson, four adopted brothers reunite at their foster mother’s funeral after she was murdered in an apparent corner store robbery. Deciding to do a bit of digging into her murder themselves the brothers end up unraveling a city-wide conspiracy and they take down a few bad guys in the process.

5. Taxi Driver (1976)

The visual mastery of Taxi Driver is still gripping, even 42 years on. Robert De Niro’s performance as livewire Travis Bickle is acting at its finest and something all actors continue to marvel at, some even go as far as to say it’s De Niro’s best performance, even better than his role as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. The story of a mentally unstable veteran who works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York, he craves violent action and when he stumbles upon a 12-year-old prostitute he feels the urge to liberate her by being her protector.

4. Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

If we’re talking clever vigilante movies then Lucky Number Slevin is probably the smartest of them all. Every time you watch it, even though you know what’s going to happen, you’re as surprised as you were the time before because it’s that good. Starring Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, and Ben Kingsley, it’s one of those vigilante revenge movies that you don’t realise is actually a vigilante revenge movie until after your head’s been scrambled a few times thanks to the complex narrative and witty dialogue.

3. Old Boy (2003)

When Old Boy first came out all everyone talked about was how violent and gruesome it was. The thing is it’s actually way more than just that. It’s a psychological thriller with guts. It goes places that other movies wouldn’t dare, and the twist involving the sushi chef that lead character Dae-su Oh falls in love with is definitely one of the movie world’s biggest “Oh shit!” moments. A truly amazing moment in cinematic history, it’s a shame the same thing can’t be said for the 2013 remake starring Josh Brolin.

2. Kill Bill: Vol.1 (2003)

Probably Quentin Tarantino’s finest moment, Kill Bill: Vol.1 is a stunning masterpiece in more ways than one. Not only is it ferocious, incredibly well written, and colourful, in a kung-fu Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory sort of way, the acting is top notch. Uma Thurman gives a career defining performance as The Bride, a woman who awakens from a four year coma to find the baby she was carrying has gone. Wreaking vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her, Kill Bill: Vol.1 is a bloody affair with a beautiful score put together by Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

There’s no way this wasn’t going to be number one on this list, let’s be honest. When we talk about the ultimate vigilante we talk about Batman, and what’s the best Batman movie? Yup, that’s right, The Dark Knight. And while Christian Bale is the best actor to ever slip on the bat suit, in The Dark Knight it was all about Heath Ledger’s role as the Joker. A superior representation of the ultimate super villain, it transformed The Dark Knight into much more than just another comic book movie.

SPECIAL MENTION: Blankman (1994)

The costume alone is reason enough for this Damon Wayans ‘classic’ to get a special mention. HAHA!

Death Wish starring Bruce Willis is released in cinemas April 6th.