12. Death Wish
One of the most controversial films ever made, Michael Winner’s Death Wish shows us the transformation of bleeding heart liberal architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) into a heardened and punitive vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter raped by hoodlums (one of whom is played by a young Jeff Goldblum).
Does the film advocate for citizens to take justice into their own hands? It leans that way, but it certainly isn’t as morally atrocious as the four sequels it produced, which amp up the death rates as Kersey finds more and more reasons to kill criminals in the streets. Whether you can stomach the film or not, it offers an indelible image of New York City in the 1970s, ravaged by urban poverty and urban blight.
11. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
What? A Star Trek film that’s also a revenge film? Sounds great! But hey, it’s this franchise that gave us the old Klingon proverb “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
As Trekkies already know, the second Star Trek feature brings back Khan Noonian Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) from the original series. In the episode “Space Seed,” the genetically engineered despot Khan and his band of Übermenschen were exiled on a remote planet by Kirk (William Shatner) and the Enterprise crew, but they didn’t realize that the planet would be left barren by the explosion of another, nearby planet. The ensuing years were harsh and torturous, but Khan and co. survived.
In The Wrath of Khan, the titular tyrant seeks vengeance against Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, and in turn, we get the best Star Trek film yet (slightly edging out the one with the whales).