With the long-awaited sequel to the cult-favorite vigilante film The Boondock Saints in theaters, we thought we’d celebrate with a list of the Top 10 Best Vigilante Films in history. Don’t get on their bad side!
The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan set the fake rubber nipples and flashy spandex aside to make a Batman film that far outshines the lighter-hearted fare the Caped Crusader was previously featured in onscreen. Featuring a central struggle over the concept that "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain," Christian Bale’s take on Batman is a much darker, much more troubled and philosophically burdened approach. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is every bit as captivating and powerful as you’ve heard, and he pushes the very limits of a man who refuses to kill for justice.
Martin Scorsese’s dark masterpiece stars Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle, an ex-Marine insomniac who – you guessed it – drives taxis late at night. Sickened by the thug scum he encounters daily, Travis is finally pushed over the edge in his quest to save a young prostitute – Jodie Foster’s Iris – from a life on New York’s streets. It’s hard to believe that this is the same guy who played Ben Stiller’s dad in Meet The Fockers – DeNiro’s performance is absolutely, brilliantly terrifying and won him a Best Actor Oscar – one of four the film received.
V for Vendetta
The Wachowskis’ dark, politically-soaked thriller centers on a corruption-assassin named "V" who wears the mask of Guy Fawkes, the man who many years ago famously attempted to blow up the House of Parliament on the fifth of November. Spouting elegant prose and killing with brutal grace, V fine-tunes the image of a vigilante hero who stands up to society’s most powerful and the corrupt elite. The sociopolitical parallels are jarring, given the Orwellian spin on our modern-day security and surveillance technologies, and the film’s depiction of ruthless revenge against deadly corruption is one an ever-increasing number can relate to in today’s socioeconomic imbalance and corporate imperialism.
Hard To Kill
Steven Seagal may not be much of a leading man these days, but in the late ’80s and early ’90s he put the art of Aikido on the map by rising to become one of the most famous martial-arts action stars in film history. Seven years after Mason Storm (Seagal) is shot into a coma in the same ambush gun-battle that kills his wife, the detective reawakens and begins the long process of recovery – and preparation for what comes next, which amounts to creating a sky-high stack of bodies and broken limbs. Taking his insatiable thirst for revenge up the ranks of the mafia and the political jungle, Mason brings final justice to the men that killed his family – solving a decades-old corruption case in the process.
Man On Fire
The moral to this story: Don’t piss off Denzel Washington. After a little girl (Dakota Fanning) he’s been hired to protect is kidnapped, Creasy – and ex-CIA operative struggling with his own personal demons – sets out on a mission to destroy everyone involved. Using cleverly brutal torture and interrogation tactics, Creasy gets the job done, no matter what the cost. It’s a sad ending but a fulfilling one, and after watching Man On Fire it’s hard not to be just a little afraid of Mr. Washington.
This 1999 cult favorite stars Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus as fraternal-twin Irish Americans who kill two members of the Russian mafia in self-defense and quickly adapt to a new life of vigilantism. Pursued by the awesomely eccentric Special Agent Paul Smecker (played brilliantly by Willem Dafoe), the brothers execute their way through Boston’s criminal underground, finding that they’ve got a particular knack for righteous killing – and for a reason: their father is the infamous Il Duce, a legendary assassin-for-hire.
Charles Bronson is the epitome of die-hard movie vigilantes. After his wife is killed by muggers, Bronson’s character sets out to clean up the dirtier nooks of Manhattan’s mean streets. Through a span of five Death Wish films, Bronson matches brutal wits with his enemies and lays waste to the criminal underground.
After the system fails to lock up a serial killer, Clint Eastwood’s legendary rogue-cop Dirty Harry character takes the law into his own hands, spawning the catchphrase, "Do you feel lucky?" and leaving an assortment of bad-guy bodies in his wake who apparently weren’t as lucky as they felt. With great vengeance and fuuuuurious anger, Eastwood’s character embodied the symbol of the American Badass who would let nothing get in his way on his quest for justice.
The Brave One
Jodie Foster’s Erica Bain is attacked in the park by three who kill her fiance, leaving her traumatized and unable to return to normal life. Refusing to be a victim she buys a gun and takes to the streets to track down her assailants and bring them to justice. It’s one of Foster’s strongest roles, and a refreshing twist to see a woman take matters into her own hands and deal with the psychological struggle of turning the tables on the underbelly of society.
Law Abiding Citizen
Played by Gerard Butler, Clyde Shelton is a family man who exacts his own form of revenge in spades after his family is murdered and the system expected to punish the killers fails miserably, due in part to the case-win ambitions of a deal-making assistant district attorney (Jamie Foxx). Viewing the entire judicial system as diseased and corrupt, Clyde – a government tactical-assassin – sets out to annihilate everyone at all associated with the trial of his family’s killers.