Revenge is a dish best served with a side order of badass. Coralie Fargeat’s hard-hitting thriller Revenge dropped in theaters back in May, and for those of you who missed the hype, it was one of the buzziest films at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, offering a fresh, bloody, and raw take on the rape-revenge narrative.
The film received rave reviews upon its release, with Variety describing the movie as “a tense, bloody, riveting cat-and-mouse game that embraces the slick tracking shots and can-you-top-this nastiness that’s come to define the French horror brand.” In the wake of its release, we’re taking a look at some of the best female revenge films from the past several decades. Load ‘em up, girls – it’s hunting time!
Hard Candy (2005)
Never underestimate the power of a teenage girl. This crime thriller plays out what most people wish upon the lurkers who groom young girls on the internet, after a fourteen-year-old female vigilante traps and tortures a man whom she suspects of being a sexual predator. It’s brutal, savage, and completely satisfying to watch.
Paul Verhoeven’s brazenly brutal thriller sees a stunning performance from Isabelle Huppert (Souvenir) as a successful businesswoman who turns the table on her attacker and gets caught up in a game of cat & mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her. This film is more than just a tale of revenge, tackling the protagonist’s psychological trauma with tact and complexity.
Ms. 45 (1981)
Back in 1981 Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) unleashed his shocking crime thriller into the cinematic realm, about a timid and mute seamstress who goes insane after being attacked and raped twice in one day. Filled with rage and vengeance, she takes to the streets of New York and takes down men with the titular .45 caliber pistol. While some might argue it borders on the exploitative, Ms. 45 is more enjoyable than it has any right to be and beneath the provocative scenes, the film contains a surprising level of intention and purpose.
If there’s one thing we know, it’s that South Korea knows how to do a vengeance film. In Jang Cheol-soo’s directorial debut, the protagonist Kim (Seo Young-hee) is tortured and molested by her husband and his brother and berated by her aunt and the village elders. The build up is intense, making the breaking point all that more satisfying as Kim takes bloody revenge on everyone who wronged her.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
You can’t make a female vengeance list without giving Kill Bill a mention. Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction) is 100% badass in Quentin Tarantino’s empowering tribute to Japanese genre films, and since there are too many best-bits to mention, instead we thought we’d crack on the 5,6,7,8s and have a boogie!
Natalia Leite’s SXSW hit gives an unrelenting tale of rape denial, seeing Francesca Eastwood (True Crime) as an art student who is sexually assaulted at a party. After receiving no support from her college to find justice and cope with her psychological trauma, she decides to take matters into her own hands and thus, an unlikely vigilante is born.
As high-school misfits, we all probably fantasized about taking revenge on the douchey a-holes at school. Luckily we had Carrie, so we could enjoy such fantasies without winding up in jail. Based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel of the same name, Brian De Palma’s supernatural horror centers on a girl who starts out as a shy, sheltered teen and winds up a murderous prom freak who uses her telekinetic powers to unleash pain and suffering amongst the a-holes who bullied her.
The Skin I Live In (2011)
Pedro Almodóvar’s psychological thriller about a plastic surgeon and his guinea pig “patient” is both shocking and entertaining, weaving together a complex and unpredictable story that breaks the conventions of the rape-revenge narrative, showing how obsession with seeking vengeance can either drive a person to insanity or act as a justification tool for the actions a person takes (or both).
Baise Moi (2000)
In what might be one of the most controversial films of the 21st century, directors Virginie Despentes & Coralie Trinh Thi were completely unapologetic about their portrayal of rape, sex, and violence in their New French Extremity crime thriller. Featuring porn performers in leading roles acting out real-life sex scenes, the story follows two women who embark on a relentless crime spree after being gang raped. This one’s not for the faint-hearted.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)
As the third installment in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee) carries out an intricate and meticulously planned mission to take revenge on the paedophile murderer who stole years of her life, not just on behalf of herself, but on behalf of the parents whose lives he ruined. With jet-black humor and artistic finesse, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a true cinematic masterpiece.
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
The reigning queen of female vengeance films, Meir Zarchi’s original I Spit on Your Grave (the less said about the 2010 remake, the better) centers on an aspiring writer who is brutally gang-raped before systematically hunting down her attackers to seek revenge. For most people vengeance is a dish best served cold – in the case of Jennifer (Camille Keaton), it’s served brutal, bloody, and totally unrelenting.