The 10 Best Assassin Movies of All Time
In light of the release of the new Hitman reboot coming out this weekend, I thought I would take a look at some of my favorite hitman/assassin type of movies. So here are my top 10. Please note, that these are only the ones that I have seen. I am sure that there are some better ones out there that I have yet to see.
10. The Replacement Killers (1998)
This is the directorial debut of none other than Mr. Training Day himself, Antoine Fuqua. This cat and mouse shoot-em up stars Chow-Yun Fat as John Lee, our assassin with the heart of gold who refuses to carry out his mission to kill a police detective’s son before his eyes. For his disobedience, Lee’s employer hires Danny Trejo and some other killers to finish the job and kill Lee and his family, and Lee is forced to go on the run with expert forger Meg Coburn, played by Mira Sorvino. This is definitely a dated movie, as most 90’s actioners tend to be, but it’s still a very fun film, with lots of stylized gun play, Danny Trejo being a badass, and Mira Sorvino being sexy.
9. The Boondock Saints (2000)
I discovered this little film back when I worked at Blockbuster around the age of 19, and I am glad I decided to use my free rental on such fun movie! Set in Boston, this story centers on two Irish brothers who decide to take it upon themselves to start assassinating Russian mobsters “so that which is good may flourish.” With a tone and style seemingly inspired by Quentin Tarantino, Troy Duffy brings us a darkly-comedic and action-packed film. Sean Patrick Flannery, who hasn’t done much as of late (at least that I’m aware of), is joined by Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead fame as the brothers Connor and Murphy, respectively. Also appearing are Willem Dafoe as FBI Agent Smecker, Billy Conolly as the hitman Il Duce, and David Della Rocco as Rocco the funny man. Also, this film is responsible for me affecting a horrible Irish accent when I’m drunk!
8. Crank (2006)
Crank is one of those insanely weird movies that would have no hope of working if it were played straight, but it’s this off-the-wall bizarreness that makes this movie so much fun. Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, Crank tells the story of hitman Chev Chelios, who’s been poisoned with only hours left to live. The only thing that can keep him alive is adrenaline, and the best way to do that is to do crazier and crazier stunts as he sets out for revenge against the men who tried to kill him. Absurdly funny and darkly brutal, this is a must watch for any Statham fan.
7. Smokin’ Aces (2006)
2006 must have been the year of insane actioners, as Smokin’ Aces takes what Crank delivered and turned it up to 11! Directed by Joe Carnahan, this movie has quite a few actors before they really hit it big (Chris Pine, Taraji P. Henson, Joel Edgerton), and debuts both Common and Alicia Keys as actors. There’s also a slew of big name actors like Ray Liotta, Matthew Fox, Andy Garcia, Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Ben Affleck, and Jason Bateman! The gist of the story goes like this: There’s a hit out on Buddy “Aces” Israel, played by Jeremy Piven, worth $1 million, and now every hitman wants to claim the bounty. In the midst of that, we have Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta and Andy Garcia as the feds who are trying to protect Piven and get him into custody. There’s a lot of blood, bullets and body parts that go flying, bringing crazy to the next level!
6. In Bruges (2008)
In Bruges was a film that surprised me. What I got out of this film wasn’t what I expected, but it was still a great movie nonetheless! Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson play a couple of Irish hitmen who go into hiding after a particularly tough job. They hole up in Bruges (roll credits), which is a small Belgian city, to await further instructions from their mob boss, Ralph Feinnes. While the film isn’t heavy on the action (though it does have some), it’s more of a black comedy in the vein of Grosse Point Blank. Ralph Feinnes steals the show, though, as the mentally unhinged mob boss.
5. Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004)
Quentin Tarantino has always been one of my favorite writer/directors, and a movie like Kill Bill perfectly illustrates why. He touches on several genres of film while never breaking stride, and never losing the audience. Everything works together in an oddly perfect way. I’ve also included both volumes together because they really are just two parts of one long movie. For those that haven’t seen this – for whatever reason – the story is this: Assassin Beatrix “Black Mamba” Kiddo is shot and left for dead at her own wedding (along with the whole wedding party). After years of being comatose, she awakes to plan her revenge against the people responsible. For a premise so simple, the film is anything but.
4. Road to Perdition (2002)
Adapted from Max Allan Collins’ graphic novel of the same name, Road to Perdition is the story of a mob enforcer who goes on the run with his son after the boy witnesses his father commit a murder. Tom Hanks heads this one as the father Michael Sullivan, Sr. Paul Newman – in his final live action role – Jude Law and a pre-James Bond era Daniel Craig round out the cast of this incredible movie. Directed by Sam Mendes, who had just garnered a ton of attention for American Beauty, the film is set in 1931, during the Great Depression. The set design, cinematography and pacing come together to make this a beautiful piece of cinema.
3. The Bourne Identity (2002)
Growing up, I was a huge fan of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne novls. I loved em. I didn’t care that they were thick as a brick, I thought they were awesome. So after the let down of the 1988 Richard Chamberlin adaptation, I was stoked to see what this Bourne would be like. Though it’s loosely based on the original novel, the main story arc is there – with exception to Carlos the Jackal. But, focusing the narrative on an amnesiac assassin being hunted by the people he works for works better on screen than the rest of what is in the book. While Paul Greengrass made the franchise what it is today, Doug Liman got the ball rolling nicely, and I couldn’t be happier with this adaptation. Here’s hoping that the news I heard about Greengrass coming back to the franchise with Damon in tow aren’t just rumors.
2. Leon: The Professional (1994)
This is a classic. Jean Reno stars as the titular Leon in this suspenseful film directed by Luc Besson. Here, Leon takes in a girl who narrowly escapes the brutal murder of her family, and eventually begins teaching her the ways of being an assassin. As a counterpoint to Reno’s stoic character, there is Gary Oldman as the manic DEA agent Norman Stansfield. Beautifully shot, and well written, this is one of the best out there.
1. John Wick (2014)
Despite a pretty uninteresting title choice, this film is balls to the wall incredible. Directed by Chad Stahelski, the film centers on retired assassin John Wick grieving the loss of his wife. When some thugs break into his house, steal his car and kill his dog, he’s now a man out for revenge in the most brutal way imaginable. This is the type of assassin movie I have been waiting for. Fast, brutal, and sleek. Keanu kicks some serious ass here, racking up a hefty 75 kills in stylized, yet efficient fashion. Some of the fight and gunplay choreography had me geeking out on the way they used of aikido and ju juitsu. If you haven’t seen this little gem yet, do so! With news that a sequel is in the works, I am counting the days until I get word of a release date.
So that’s it, folks! Thanks for sticking with me. Do you agree with my list? Do have your own that you feel should be up there? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter at @mattgeekshow or @thatgeekshow Also, be sure to check back this weekend when I put my review up of Hitman: Agent 47.!
by Mathew Gruman @mattgeekshow