Hollywood A-list celebrities are sometimes known to take on roles in films that are initially not designed to become box office darlings. Yet somehow, these films take on a life of its own and become popular, because of their interesting revenge storylines. A-lister hunk Keanu Reeves proved this theory right when his 2014 film John Wick became a huge sensation. The plot here is very simple. John Wick is a very scary professional hitman, only he already retired to get married. But his wife died of a disease and left him with a dog to grieve with. But some Russian punks took a liking to his handsome car, and broke inside his house to steal it. Worse, they killed his dog in the process.
Now, what’s a hurt and grieving ex-hitman gotta do? Hit back, of course! And this is where things get interesting for Wick and the Russian dude who hurt him: the Russian is the son of Wick’s former mob boss. But he still wants his revenge anyway. Other high-profile celebs also did some one-track-mind revenge films that were well-received by fans. Let’s take a look at these movies like John Wick.
1. Road to Perdition
How about a mobster seeking revenge against fellow mobsters who killed his wife and son? That’s the plot of the film Road to Perdition. And because the plot is very, very, very familiar, it’s listed here in our countdown of movies like John Wick. Just like Wick, the film features a professional hitman. This time, the hitman is Michael Sullivan. If John Wick worked for the Russian mob, Sullivan worked for the Irish mob. Set during the Great Depression, this dark tale stars bankable Hollywood leading man Tom Hanks as Sullivan, and legendary film actor Paul Newman is his Irish mob boss. There’s a kind of rivalry going on between the boss’ real son Connor and Sullivan, because they grew up together since Connor’s mob dad took on Sullivan as an orphaned boy.
This back-story complication between the two mob guys is what gives the major conflict in this film. Sullivan has two sons, one of which secretly hid in his car to see where his daddy works. But he unwittingly sees where, and how; he accidentally witnesses Connor and Sullivan gun down their enemy in a botched meeting. Fearing that the kid might snitch, Connor kills Sullivan’s wife and other son. Thus, this turns Sullivan towards a path on the other side of the mob fence. His life gets threatened, so he tries to hunt down Connor for revenge before he can be gunned down.
2. Kill Bill: Volume 1
While there is no clear family member who got killed in this film, the track of the wounded is still of a vengeful nature. Thus, Kill Bill: Volume 1 earns its place here in our list of movies like John Wick. Directed and written by the wacky Quentin Tarantino, the 2003 film stars Hollywood A-lister Uma Thurman as The Bride. She is a former member of a group of deadly female assassins. However, an altercation of an unexplained nature left her comatose, while she was pregnant.
Upon waking up from the coma, she is unsure whether her pregnancy was terminated or not. However, she is convinced that, since she was shot by their former assassin leader named Bill, she must have had a miscarriage. This is part of her quest for vengeance against Bill. It’s a kick – pun intended – to see Uma doing sword moves using a samurai. Like John Wick, this film has lots of fight scenes and violence galore. And it’s just the first volume!
3. Collateral Damage
Topnotch Hollywood action heroes should always have at least one revenge film in their filmography. Arnold Schwarzenegger does not disappoint in that department, because he has a film called Collateral Damage. Technically, the term “collateral damage” pertains to civilians killed as a result of an attack or tragedy of a military or political nature. This is what happened in this 2002 film, as it features the story of Gordy Brewer, a firefighter whose family members were accidentally killed in a bomb blast.
Because that bomb targeted the Colombian consul building in downtown Los Angeles, international affairs is set to be the backdrop of the story. True enough, a Colombian terrorist known as El Lobo claims responsibility for the attack. The US government, with the FBI in the lead, investigates. However, the investigation seems to crawl forever. Meanwhile, a grieving firefighter is getting tired of not hearing the truth from state officials. What’s our hero to do, then? Being in a list of movies like John Wick, of course he takes matters into his own hands! Gordy the firefighter now becomes Gordy the lone vigilante who tries to go to Colombia himself to find this El Lobo guy. Now that’s guts!
When you’re a hot Latin lover but your female lover gets killed, what do you do? Of course, you pick up a gun and seek revenge. And hide your guns inside a guitar case, because you’re also a musician. This is basically what Desperado is all about. Robert Rodriguez’ 1995 film is actually a Hollywoodized version of his earlier Mexican film called El Mariachi. Desperado serves as a sequel of sorts, with Antonio Banderas taking the lead as the new musician-slash-vigilante killer.
The story somehow picks up where El Mariachi left off. El Mariachi travels to a new town where he is looking for a guy named Bucho. This Bucho’s men is the one responsible for the death of El Mariachi’s lover. But people in town have heard of El Mariachi’s legendary fighting in a bar, where he killed his enemies before. He is hoping to replicate this deadly revenge feat in this town where Bucho rules. Will he get the killer or not? As one of the movies like John Wick, we’ll let you guess this one. Or better yet, go watch the film and discover!
5. Max Payne
Even law enforcers, when pushed to the edge by having their wife and child killed, could easily cross over the line to seek revenge. This is what the film Max Payne explores in its narrative. Based on the popular video game, this 2008 film stars Hollywood hunk Mark Wahlberg as the New York detective whose wife and child were killed in cold blood. Since he is a detective of the cold case unit, this murder gets filed under his unit, as no suspect is known to have committed it.
Things turn for the worse when his wife’s friend gets killed, and he gets framed for it. So he takes matters into his own once-lawful hands, and tries his hand at seeking revenge while getting to the bottom of these cold cases. The stylistically shot noir film explodes with so much gun fighting and action. That is why it belongs here in the list of movies like John Wick. The murdered wife angle is also a parallelism that we count.
6. The Punisher
Perhaps this list of movies like John Wick should feature The Punisher as the number one choice, but we don’t put it there. While it is similar to our featured film, the reasons for the character’s revenge path here is slightly different in tone. For one, the 2004 film features yet another man of the law who crosses to the other side of it. It’s about Frank Castle, a covert FBI operative who was able to kill an influential Mafioso’s son. But when his real identity was uncovered, Castle’s family suffered for it. The mafia not only tried to kill him, but they killed his whole family as well.
Now this is not a superhero-type of film if our protagonist just died or became wounded without a fight. Castle indeed narrowly escaped death with that ambush in their lives. But he was the only one who survived there, so of course he wants to seek revenge. And revenge he did. Just like what John Wick did, the way he orchestrated his revenge involved brains and brawn. So watch this one to see how that worked out! Oh, and in addition, while the role of Castle was not exactly played by a Hollywood A-lister, it’s the Mafioso who fits the bill, as the role was played by John Travolta.
7. Leon: The Professional
Can a 12-year-old become a young assassin to seek revenge for the death of her brother? Why yes, one could try, as exemplified in this film called Leon: The Professional. Directed by Luc Besson, this 1994 film stars French actor Jean Reno. But the American A-lister we’re considering in this film is the highly talented Academy Award-winner, Natalie Portman. This film is actually her very first one, as she appears here as a teenager.
The film is about an Italian hitman who’s living a quiet life in a New York apartment. In the same apartment building, a young girl named Mathilda also lived there with her family. But her father got into unscrupulous dealings one day, which led them to being murdered. Luckily, she escaped the carnage. To escape, she pretended to be living in Leon’s apartment, who let her in. She hid out there and befriended the loner hitman. When she learned about his job, she asked to be trained in the profession, so that she can avenge her family’s death. To humor her, the hitman reluctantly agrees.
With a kid in the lead, the film still features some violence in it, but Besson handles it well. Take a look and see whether the revenge plot gets enacted, and how Besson handles this turning point well. See if it earns its rightful place here in our list of movies like John Wick – because we’re sure it does!
8. The Crow
What if you want to avenge the death of your fiancée – and yours? Then you, my friend, would probably like The Crow. The controversial 1994 film is precisely about this kind of story. A man named Eric and his fiancée, Shelly, were beaten up one night. Shelly was raped and murdered, while Eric was beaten up and thrown from a building, outside through a window. So of course he dies… or does he?
Enter a black bird called the crow. It mysteriously perches on the tombstone of Eric, about a year after he and Shelly got buried. They were supposed to get married the day after they were beaten. And the day of their marriage is actually Halloween. Soon, mysterious workings of the universe descend upon Eric. And his once dead body rises from his grave, literally. The crow flies in and guides him, as he discovers that he has somewhat become immortal. No harm can come upon him.
So what does he do? Of course, he thinks of avenging the death of his loved one. And this is why the controversial movie belongs here in our list of movies like John Wick. In real life, this is controversial because the guy who played Eric, Brandon Lee, was killed on the set. It’s strange because Brandon’s dad, the legendary Bruce Lee, also died during his prime. Read about that more after you watch this movie!
9. The Quick and the Dead
What do you get when you put bigshots like Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, and a soon-to-be bigshot in American movies Russell Crowe in one shoot ‘em up film directed by the original Spiderman films director? Then you get The Quick and The Dead. This very interesting 1995 western film tells the story of a small town ruled by a tyrannical guy. They have a competition there for the best gunslinger. And this competition is a serious one, because you can get killed here.
Enter a mysterious and gutsy character called The Lady. She tries to join this contest, so of course the macho men rebuff her. But she proves them wrong, as she climbs her way up that chart of champions. Little did they know that this is a plot for revenge. But that’s a good surprise we won’t tell you! So go watch this very entertaining story, and you’ll discover why it’s on our list of movies like John Wick!
10. Seeking Justice
The last film on our list of movies like John Wick may be a bit different in terms of how the revenge storyline turned out. But somehow, it still plays out well because of its lead, Nicolas Cage and his nemesis here, played by Guy Pearce. Seeking Justice is a 2011 film about a simple man named Will, who works as a high school teacher. His wife, Laura, is a classical musician in an orchestra. You would think that they live a humdrum life, until they get into trouble one day.
Tragedy strikes them one night when Laura gets beaten up and brutally raped. This event lands her in the hospital with severe injuries. While taking care of his wife there, a mysterious man named Simon approaches Will. He offers to help him resolve this issue. Simon says they can “make the problem go away” without going through the tedious legal battles that this kind of case usually faces.
Will is tempted by this offer. Being just an ordinary man, he doesn’t have the means to go out there and avenge his wife, much less have the energy to pursue the legal battles. But Simon and his people apparently do this kind of thing. So he let them. Soon, his wife gets well, and their life goes back on track. But when Simon comes back to Will, asking him to “do his part” in the revenge they made for him, that’s when things go south again – really fast. Watch this intriguing film to find out more!