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25 of the Most Satisfying Revenge Movies of All Time: Pretty Woman, Maid in Manhattan, and More

Photo Credt: © 20th Century Fox/Courtesy of The Everett Collection

Horror, romance, and thrillers all get their due in the cultural canon—but the best revenge movies of all time are a genre unto themselves. Revenge movies capture a deep cut of emotions: the painfully human desire for payback, and the extreme, crazy, and sometimes obsessive lengths a character will go to to get it.

Forget about forgiveness and healing: Hell hath no fury like a woman (or man) scorned—or something along those lines. The best revenge movies ever may be wholly dominated by a quest to take others down, or just contain a strong vengeful vibe. Whether you’re just trying to buy a nice dress on Rodeo Drive (Pretty Woman) or looking to finally beat the Toros at Nationals (Bring It On), it’s all about prevailing over those who underestimated you. It isn’t always healthy or sane, but watching revenge is sweet. Read on for the 23 best revenge movies of all time.

Heathers (1989)

Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

“Dear diary, my teen angst bullshit now has a body count.”—Winona Ryder as Veronica Sawyer

If you spent your high school days longing for the mean, popular, perfectly attired girls to get everything that was coming to them, it might be difficult for you not to take a little vicarious joy in this movie, in which Winona Ryder stars as a smart, savvy teen on the outskirts of the “Heathers” clique (yes, they’re all named Heather) who comes together with a mysterious rebel (Christian Slater) to wreak revenge on her onetime friends.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon

The Handmaiden (2016)

Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

“At that moment, a drop of insanity could cause one to go completely mad. If I could drive Sasaki mad as well, then life would’ve been more fun.”—Kim Min-hee as Lady Hideko

This South Korean psychological thriller, which was inspired by the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith, revolves around a Japanese heiress who schemes with her Korean handmaiden in order to defraud her manipulative and abusive uncle. It’s one of the finest movies of the last decade, and the message—young women working together to access wealth and freedom—is subtly radical.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

“You might be surprised to hear that gentlemen are sometimes the worst.”—Carey Mulligan as Cassie

This candy-colored, gleefully gory revenge romp isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a fan of intricate payback plans and many, many, many “nice guys” getting what’s coming to them, you’re sure to enjoy Carey Mulligan as Cassie, a med school dropout who makes a habit of going out and pretending to get drunk so some man or other will take her home. When she’s at their apartment, she suddenly snaps back to sobriety, and from the gleam in her eyes, you know it’s not going to end well for them.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon

Sleeping With the Enemy (1991)

Photo Credt: © 20th Century Fox/Courtesy of The Everett Collection

“Does it give you that much pleasure to humiliate me?” — Patrick Bergin as Martin

During the the post-Pretty Woman Julia Roberts boom of the early 90s, the budding movie star delivered a dark performance in this campy psychothriller (with an emphasis on psycho). Roberts plays Laura, a woman who fakes her own death to escape her unhinged, abusive husband, Martin (Patrick Bergin). No spoilers, but as Laura reinvents herself as Sara and attempts to lead a free, new life in Iowa, Martin catches on and—you know where this is going—seeks his revenge.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon

9 to 5 (1980)

Photo: ©20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Well, I say we hire a couple’a wranglers to go upstairs and beat the shit out of him.”—Dolly Parton as Doralee Rhodes

The title of both an iconic Dolly ditty and this classic revenge movie, 9 to 5 follows Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda as a trio of fiery secretaries who topple the workplace tyranny of their sexist, bigoted boss (Dabney Coleman). A jolt of delicious girlbossery before “girlboss” was a buzzword (and then a cliché).

How to watch: Stream on Amazon

John Tucker Must Die (2006)

Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

“Normally, I’m opposed to the slaughter of animals, but in John Tucker’s case, I’ll make an exception.”—Sophia Bush as Beth

Okay, this rom-com probably isn’t going to crack the AFI Top 100, but in terms of revenge canon, you can’t ignore John Tucker Must Die. In this film, three jilted exes band together with the new girl in town to make their former beau—the eponymous John Tucker—pay for cheating on them. Mid-aughts girl power to the extreme!

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

The First Wives Club (1996)

Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

“There are only three ages for women in Hollywood. Babe, district attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.”—Goldie Hawn as Elise

If you’ve never seen Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Bette Midler lip-sync along to “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore, you have a real treat in store. In this classic film, the three women join up to take revenge on their respective feckless ex-husbands, discovering in the process that they’re much stronger together than they ever were apart.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

The Princess Bride (1987)

Photo: The Everett Collection

“My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.”—Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya

Embedded within the epic fairytale (as told to a young Fred Savage) is one of the most-loved revenge plots in film: a young, mustachioed Patinkin on a quest to avenge his father’s murder at the hands of a six-fingered Count. More than three decades later, Patinkin’s famous line, and his character, live on.

How to watch: Stream on Hulu

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Photo: Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Terry, you of all people should know, in your hotel, there’s always someone watching.”—Julia Roberts as Tess Ocean

The Rat Pack remake is, yes, a delicious excuse to watch George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon coexist on-screen, but the first in the Steven Soderbergh franchise is also driven by Danny Ocean’s (Clooney’s) boiling revenge against casino king Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who stole Clooney’s girl (played by revenge movie queen Roberts).

How to watch: Stream on HBO Max

Taken (2008)

Photo: ©20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection

“I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”—Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills

One of the quintessential revenge thrillers of our time, the first of the Taken trilogy finds divorced ex-CIA operative Mills (Neeson) jetting to France and hunting down his daughter’s abductor in that intense, authoritative way that only Liam Neeson can.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon

The Lady Eve (1941)

Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve. Photo: Everett Collection

“I need him like the ax needs the turkey.”—Barbara Stanwyck as Jean

After slyly winning over the heart of a dashing millionaire (Henry Fonda), Stanwyck’s Jean isn’t going to let him get away that easy when he suddenly dumps her. Donning a new disguise and make-believe British title, she has him right where she wants him—totally and blissfully in love with her all over again.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Sabrina (1954)

Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. Photo: Everett Collection

“I have learned how to live…how to be in the world and of the world and not just to stand aside and watch. And I will never, never again run away from life. Or from love, either.”—Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina

Heartbroken, Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn) books a trip to Paris when her unrequited love for David Larrabee (William Holden) ends with a proposal to another woman. Armed with a new outlook on life (and a très chic pixie cut), she returns from the City of Light to re-woo Larrabee—only to fall in love with his eldest brother, Linus, played by Humphrey Bogart. Talk about an upgrade.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Carrie (1976)

Sissy Spacek in Carrie. Photo: Everett Collection

“Everyone isn’t bad, mama! Everything isn’t a sin!”—Sissy Spacek as Carrie

Let this be a lesson to bullies everywhere: Do not mess with Sissy Spacek. Raised by a hyper-religious mother, Carrie (Spacek) soon recognizes a power within herself. Shy and unsuspecting, she endures her classmates’ taunts until the year’s prime event—prom night. She takes home the crown and title of ultimate prom queen, pig blood and all.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Pretty Woman (1990)

Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Photo: © Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy of Everett Collection

“You get paid off commission, right? Big mistake. Big! Huge!”—Julia Roberts as Vivian

Vivian (Roberts), a sex worker with a heart of gold, makes an attempt to dress the part of ritzy socialite with a shopping spree at the famed Rodeo Drive. In her thigh-high boots and borrowed men’s blazer, she’s humiliated by two snobby saleswomen. Undeterred, she returns with an armful of glossy shopping bags, ready to serve haughtiness back to their stunned faces.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale. Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Film Corp / Everett Collection

“Hell, I’m not worried—you, on the other hand, should be.”—Angela Bassett as Bernadine “Bernie” Harris

In this story about the power of female friendships, we follow four women and the twists and turns that come with life, love, and men. Bernie (Bassett) finds out her husband is leaving her for another woman after she gave up her dream catering business to raise a family. Enraged, she sets his BMW and designer clothes aflame. The now highly GIFed scene of Bernie lighting her cigarette and tossing the match into the flames goes out to all those who have been wronged in a similar way.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

The Craft (1996)

Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, and Fairuza Balk in The Craft. Photo: Everett Collection

“Oh, relax, it’s only magic. Now who’s pathetic?”—Robin Tunney as Sarah

New girl Sarah, played by Robin Tunney, finds herself befriending a band of misfits whose after-school activities encompass potion making and spells. Greed takes hold of their newfound coven’s leader, Nancy (Fairuza Balk), and soon chaos ensues. Sarah takes matters into her own hands, binding Nancy from doing any more harm and restoring balance to the realm.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Bring It On (2000)

Gabrielle Union and Natina Reed in Bring It On. Photo: Courtesy of Universal / Everett Collection

”Every time we get some, here y’all come trying to steal it, putting some blonde hair on it and calling it something different. We’ve had the best squad around for years, but no one’s been able to see what we can do. But you better believe all that’s gonna change this year. I’m captain, and I guarantee you we’ll make it to Nationals.”—Gabrielle Union as Isis

Clover cheer captain Isis (Union) gets pom-pom revenge on rival school captain Torrance (Kirsten Dunst) when it’s revealed the Toros squad has been stealing their routines. Justice is finally served in the form of toe touches and back-handsprings during a rousing dance-off at the Nationals Cheerleading Championship.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Maid in Manhattan (2002)

Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan. Photo: Courtesy of Columbia / Everett Collection

“Don’t think about tomorrow. Don’t think about anything but tonight. Tonight the maid is a lie. And this—this is who you really are.”—Marissa Matrone as Stephanie

A modern-day Cinderella story, Lopez glows up from penthouse hotel maid to stylish aristocrat with the help of a creamy white Dolce & Gabbana number. As fate would have it, she catches the eye of a young politician (played by Ralph Fiennes). A romantic night at a charity ball (who can forget that vintage pink gown!) ends with the discovery of her true identity, but Lopez has the last laugh as Fiennes sticks by her side, proving love is more about connection than a swanky zip code.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Kill Bill: Vols. 1 & 2 (2003 and 2004)

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1. Photo: Courtesy of Miramax / Everett Collection

“We have unfinished business.”—Uma Thurman as The Bride

It takes two films, a knife fight with Vivica A. Fox, a throwdown with Chiaki Kuriyama, a duel with Lucy Liu, and a trailer-park tussle with Daryl Hannah, but Beatrix, a.k.a. The Bride (played by Thurman), finally kills Bill. The saying “it takes guts” becomes literal for the ex-assassin.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Photo: Merrick Morton / Courtesy of Columbia Pictures / Everett Collection

“Everybody has secrets. The trick is just finding out what they are.”—Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander

Black leather, piercings, and reptilian ink—Salander’s look means business and so does she. A pseudo-superhero, she partners with reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) to solve a 40-year-old murder. The most indelible scene is her revenge upon an attacker—an intense scene Mara had to prove she could pull off during auditions.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Gone Girl (2014)

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl. Photo: Merrick Morton / Courtesy 20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Everett Collection

“Cool girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind. I’m the cool girl. Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl.”—Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne

The monologue to end all monologues. Amy (Pike) discovers her blissfully unaware husband, Nick (played by Ben Affleck), has been cheating on her with one of his young students. She plots out the perfect revenge—no matter how tedious and time-consuming (how does she find the time to plant his fingerprints on BDSM?)—and ends up back with the man she loves, whether he wants it or not.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

The Beguiled (2017)

Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, Kirsten Dunst, Addison Riecke, Oona Laurence, and Nicole Kidman—with director Sofia Coppola—in The Beguiled. Photo: Ben Rothstein / Courtesy of Focus Features / Everett Collection

“You’re our most unwelcome visitor, and we do not propose to entertain you.”—Nicole Kidman as Martha Farnsworth

Don’t let the pastoral scenes fool you—this is a thriller. An injured Union soldier, John (Colin Farrell), strays away from battle and lands at an all-girls school in the South. Headmistress Miss Farnsworth (Kidman) agrees to take him in until his wounds are mended. But in a house full of lonely ladies, a lone handsome soldier can cause some drama, and what begins as innocent courting ends up having very serious consequences.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians Photo: Sanja Bucko / Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures / Everett Collection

“So I just wanted you to know that one day, when he marries another lucky girl who is enough for you, and you’re playing with your grandkids while the tan huas are blooming or the birds are chirping, that it was because of me. A poor, raised-by-a-single-mother, low-class, immigrant nobody.”—Constance Wu as Rachel Chu

Economics professor Chu (Wu) falls in love with someone she believed to be a totally normal New York guy, Nick Young (Henry Golding). It isn’t until she flies to Singapore to visit his family that she discovers he’s practically royalty—with butlers, cars, diamonds, and a disapproving mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh). Chu stands her ground when her integrity (and humble roots) is questioned, beating Eleanor in a game of mah-jongg and wits.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Us (2019)

Lupita Nyong’o in Us. Photo: Claudette Barius / Courtesy of Universal / Everett Collection

“Once upon a time there was a girl, and the girl had a shadow. The two were connected, tethered together. When the girl ate, her food was given to her warm and tasty. But when the shadow was hungry, she had to eat rabbit, raw and bloody.”—Lupita Nyong’o as Red

Nothing like Peter Pan’s shadow story, Us is about a terrifying revelation: a mirror version of yourself who suddenly appears, condemned forever to wear unflattering red jumpsuits and wanting your life. An uprising occurs, and soon mother of two Adelaide must fight for her life as her twin, Red, seeks to take over.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Hustlers (2019)

Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu in Hustlers. Photo: Barbara Nitke / Courtesy of STX Entertainment / Everett Collection

“Look, there’s nothing I can really say to make sense of what went down. But everybody’s hustling. This city, this whole country, is a strip club. You’ve got people tossing the money, and people doing the dance.”— Jennifer Lopez as Ramona

Strippers Ramona (Lopez) and Destiny (Constance Wu) turn into pole-dancing heroines when they flip the script on Wall Street bros, using their assets to woo rich guys into thousand-dollar submission. This exotic tale of friendship also boasts a Fiona Apple–set dance solo by Lopez that sizzles.

How to watch: Stream on Amazon.

Originally published in

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