This week, Hollywood resurrects one of the deadliest on-screen heroes of all time: Conan the Barbarian. In both the 1982 original (starring the one-and-only Arnold Schwarzenegger) and this week’s flashy remake, Conan embarks on a quest to pummel slobbering, axe-wielding solider after slobbering, axe-wielding solider and avenge his father’s death and the slaughtering of his village. Simple enough.
But why is it always the men who get to have all the fun duking it out with deadly foes and seeking bloody vengeance? No offense to Arnie or new-Conan Jason Momoa, but just because you’re a dude covered in muscles and straggly long hair, doesn’t mean you’re the only person who can unleash furry upon those who have wronged you. The ladies deserve their time in the spotlight too.
Female-driven action movies may never be the norm in Hollywood (let alone female-driven revenge tales), but thankfully a few have trickled through the system and stand out as prime examples of women taking matters into their own hands:
The Bride in Kill Bill
Perhaps the most unrelenting of all vengeance-seeking fems is Beatrix Kiddo a.k.a. The Bride, member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and victim of boss man Bill’s violent attack. Bill puts a bullet in Kiddo’s head after she abandons the assassin group, but she miraculously survives the attack and goes on a killing spree against her double-crossing teammates. One-by-one, The Bride picks each killer off until she reaches her final goal: Bill. The encounter is more painful than a ninja sword to the eye, with the Bride delivering a one-two punch of emotion to Bill…before actually slapping him with the life-ending Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.
Erica Bain in The Brave One
Jodie Foster spun her own version of the classic Charles Bronson thriller Death With in this gritty 2007 film, that focuses on a widow who takes to the streets to avenge her husband’s death.
Instead of doing what most people in her situation would do (grieve), Foster’s Erica Bain buys an illegal hand gun and goes on the hunt for the thugs who murdered her hubby. In the process, she knocks off a handful of auxiliary goons—which doesn’t quite fly with the police. Thankfully, Erica’s situation is relatable enough that the one detective who uncovers her vigilante actions (Terrence Howard) helps her finish off the baddies and lets her walk away.
Take that, law.
Ruth Patchett in She-Devil
To be fair, Hell hath no fury like a woman or a man scorned, but the movies tend to focus on the lady’s point of view. In the case of the movie She-Devil, Roseanne Barr’s Ruth isn’t simply pissed because her marriage fell apart, but because her idiot husband went at her with an emotional dagger.
After falling love with the beautiful novelist Mary (Meryl Streep), Ruth’s husband Bob declares her a terrible mother and ends there already-bumpy marriage. Not content with letting the self-centered, slimy scumbag off the hook, Ruth goes the extra step and plots to destroy his entire life. Home, family, career and freedom—the four aspects of Bob’s life Ruth obliterates, first by burning down Mary’s mansion then spinning a web of deceit that lands Bob in jail.
So yes, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but mostly because they’re more clever.
Carrie White in Carrie
Torturing the weird girl in high school is never a good idea—they always come back to get you. But it’s an especially unsound demonstration of social rank when said weird girl has psychic powers.
Carrie takes a lot of crap from the world, balancing routine pranks from her classmates and feeling God’s wrath every night when she returns home to her religiously militant mother. But when she finds herself doused in pig’s blood at prom, Carrie finally lets all the rage out, in an array of vicious psychic attacks. She burns the prom-goers, stabs her Mom in the face with knives then puts a cap on her own chaos by collapsing her house.
Sometimes sweet revenge isn’t about elaborate plots and more about just causing a ruckus.