There are some very good reasons why the phrase, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" has endured. For one, it's just a cool expression. But a much better reason is that women have been in the revenge business for a long time and we're very good at it.
In polite society, women have always been discouraged from letting their baser natures rule, and if someone offended your sensibilities, you didn't challenge them to a duel, you just plotted and schemed in the background. But revenge isn't just about mind games -- it's a primal emotion we all experience, and on the big screen it has endured as a theme for that very reason. Besides, it's just so damn satisfying to see the bad guy (or gal) get what they deserve, and usually the bloodier the vengeance, the better.
This week the remake of Meir Zarchi's controversial horror flick 'I Spit on Your Grave' is hitting theaters and it reminds us that in the world of big screen revenge, vengeful women are born from one of two major themes; defending hearth and home or avenging a sexual assault (occasionally, it's both). It's not clear if this is because audiences need an obvious justification for a woman to turn to the dark side (and for most women, there is no more horrifying threat than rape and there isn't a woman alive who doesn't gets a cheap thrill watching a dirt-bag rapist suffer), but revenge is a tricky business in the movies; the originating offense must be so great that we are comfortable with our protagonist and their plans for murder and mayhem -- otherwise what makes our hero different from any other bully?
Like with most things in life, everything comes down to motivation, and that's why today's Cinematical Seven is all about vengeance of the female variety. So while their reasons may vary, once you make your way through the vengeful ladies on this list, you'll think twice before you ever again call women the 'gentler sex.'
'The Brave One' - Revenge as Reinvention
What makes Neil Jordan's revenge flick something more than your average avenging angel movie is that in this story our hero, played by Jodie Foster, goes beyond punishing the guilty parties responsible for her assault and continues to police the streets looking for trouble. What is even more memorable is that not only is our protagonist made whole by her misguided acts of violence, *spoiler alert* she gets to walk away from her crimes scot-free.
'I Spit on Your Grave' 1978/2010 - Rape Revenge
This is a film that has divided audiences since its original release in 1978, and things are no different when it comes to Steven Monroe's update. Feminist critics still argue over the film's real message, and there is no denying that the film is brutal and unpleasant -- which it should be, because the most unpleasant on-screen rapes are the ones that minimize or, God forbid, fetishize the act. But maybe that is what makes this film important, because here we are 22 years and one remake later, and critics still can't decide whether the movie is a war cry of empowerment or just another exploitation flick with delusions of grandeur.
'Kill Bill' - Avenging Your Own Death
Quentin Tarantino's creation comes from a long line of cinematic heroes who were left for dead and looking for a little vengeance, and as the Bride systematically works her way through the list of former workmates who betrayed her, it's the closest we have come to seeing a little more equality in our vengeance. Beatrix (aka The Bride) was a vengeance machine, and it was refreshing to see a woman in that kind of role. But unfortunately that idea faded away by the end of the first film, and by the time we had reached Part 2, the story went the way of most female revenge flicks, and we were right back to a a child in peril to round out the reasoning for Ms Kiddo's murder spree.
'Baise-moi' - Revenge Against the World (Warning: this trailer is NSFW)
This film was the calling card of the New French Extreme cinema as it centered on the tale of two women who make Thelma and Louise look like girl scouts. The film's controversial title was only the beginning of the scandal for the film, which included graphic violence and real on screen sex with an anti-male message that could have made Valerie Solanas blush.
'The Ladies Club' - Revenge Against the Male Gender
This little seen film (and there's probably a very good reason for that) centers on a policewoman who, after an assault, bands together with her friends to exact revenge on the male gender, and cross your legs fellas, because these women exact a very specific revenge and I think you can take a wild guess as to what physical token the ladies decide to take.
'She Devil' - Revenge Against Another Woman
Before you start to think that women in the movies only look for retribution against the opposite sex, keep in mind that the threat of 'girl on girl crime' is a real one, and one of the better silver screen examples is this 1989 black comedy starring Roseanne Barr as an abandoned housewife looking for payback from her ex and his new romance-novelist wife (played by Meryl Streep).
'Lady Vengeance' - Revenge Best Served Cold
What sets a revenge movie apart from most action/thrillers is the element of a scheme, or a larger plan in motion. Park Chan-wook's film, the third installment of his Vengeance Trilogy, centers on a woman who falsely confesses to murder to save her own child and cooks up an elaborate scheme for payback, and after scoring early parole begins a plot to punish the real criminal by calling in a few favors.
Who's your favorite vengeful women of the silver screen? Leave your comments below.