Not for the faint-hearted, this sub-genre of exploitation films was hugely popular in the 70’s and 80’s. Also called as rape & revenge films (though rape doesn’t always figure), they lack cinematic value but there are plenty of people who dig this kind of cinema. With the resurrection of the I Spit on Your Grave franchise a few years back, these movies have gained a cult following in recent times. Usually having similar plot lines and an innovative morally satisfying end (I leave the viewers to decide that) this a list of the top rape and revenge films ever. The list includes films about rape victims. You can find several of these female revenge movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. Baise Moi (2000)
Though the film doesn’t exactly follow the usual three act plotline of a rape & revenge drama, it still very much is one. The film can be termed as thinly veiled pornography due to its in-your-face explicitness. The story revolves around Nadine and Manu (a rape victim), two marginalized women and their sex filled rampage against the society. So violent was the film in parts that it was pulled down from the French theaters just three days after its release. As the women start their rage filled road trip, they choose to have sex when they please and kill when they need and eventually leave a trail of murder and mayhem behind them and soon the authorities are on a man hunt to capture the fugitives.
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9. Ms. 45 (1981)
A very well-known exploitation rape and revenge thriller, Albert Ferrara’s Ms. 45 follows Thana (Zoe Lund), a mute working woman who is raped twice on the same day. Understandably a strange transformation occurs inside her head and she uses the .45 caliber pistol she retrieves from the second assailant after killing him to take out her vengeance on random men. Thana tries to react to the trauma of the two sexual assaults by getting bolder with every passing killing. Partnering radical feminism is good production value and even though despised right after its release it has had a profound impact on the grindhouse genre as a whole and has gained quite a cult following since.
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8. Teeth (2007)
Premising on the mythical concept of vagina dentata, it traces the journey of a high school girl Dawn O’Keefe (Jess Weixler) who discovers that she has teeth in her vagina and how it squeamishly becomes an object of vengeance against the men who try to rape her. The movie infuses horror elements with a black comedic touch to it as genital mutilations ensue starting with her friend, a gynecologist , a classmate and finally her own step brother. Essentially the film does argue about consent when her vaginal teeth don’t castrate her classmate when she consents to the act for the first time. As the film progresses, one realizes that Dawn starts using her power to seek revenge on the men who have wronged her. Bloody and squeamish though the film is, it is not the usual B grade female revenge drama but is not for people who are easily fazed by gore.
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7. The Last House on the Left (1972)
Wes Craven’s first directorial venture though heavily borrowed from The Virgin Spring is considered as one of the most influential films of the exploitation genre. Mari and Phyllis are two best friends who en route a rock concert chance upon a gang of sadistic criminals who rape them, force them to perform sexual acts and eventually kill them. Mari’s parents incidentally host the criminals in their house and discover their true identities and kill them one by one using innovative ways. Though the films sounds clichéd, Wes Craven’s genius is at work under the hood and the movie sparks unending dramatic tension throughout. Such a milestone is this film considered that it gave birth to a remake in 2009. But I still recommend watching the original.
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6. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
This is probably the best known rape-revenge films of all time, so much so that it spawned an entire series of films starting with a reboot in 2010. With no cinematic value whatsoever, the film pans out very simplistically; a good-looking girl goes out into the woods, two men harass her; they are joined by two more guys later; they strip her and rape her; they find her in the woods and rape her again and when she crawls back home they rape her again. Moronically, instead of going to the authorities, two weeks later the girl avenges the brutality set upon her by seducing each of the men and trapping them in different ways (The traps get more innovative in the reboot and its sequels). The film is so violent and graphic in its portrayal of rape that it was banned in the UK and Germany and panned by critics all over because it misses the point completely. Yet, it has completely changed the genre forever and exactly why it deserves to be seen at least once.
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5. Irreversible (2002)
Told very effectively in a reverse chronological order, Gasper Noe’s highly controversial but appreciated film is not exactly the typical rape & revenge exploitation flick. A beautiful woman, Alex (Monica Belluci), an expecting mother is anally raped in a dark subway by a pimp. As her boyfriend and his best friend set out to take revenge, they hire two criminals to nail the perpetrator. The film gives the viewers a look through the dark alleys of France and structurally makes a point against rape and violence on a principle level. Though explicit in its depiction of nudity and violence, it definitely is not pornography, as popular opinion might suggest and remains to date one of the best films of the genre.
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4. The Virgin Spring (1960)
Directed by the legendary Ingmar Bergman, the film is a rape and revenge drama that entails the story of a father’s vicious response to the rape and murder of his daughter. Set in medieval Sweden, Karin & Ingeri set out to take candles to the church. After a set of events, Ingeri watches Karin being raped by two herdsmen. A theme that was reused in Wes Craven’s Last House on The Left (later in the list), as the herdsmen seek shelter in Karin’s own house, the parents discover their daughter’s death and exact revenge on them. Not taking anything away from the entire film, it is the last act of the film that touches the viewers and probably got the movie an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language film.
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3. Straw Dogs (1971)
Though not a typical rape and revenge drama, at least not in a way the other movies in the list are known for, Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs is considered as a landmark film when it comes to the depiction of violence. David and Amy Sumner decide to come and live in remote Cornwall where incidentally Charlie Venner (Amy’s ex boyfriend) and his bunch of thugs also reside. The xenophobic boyfriend detests the American husband and he and one of his cronies end up raping Amy. After a series of events, which might not be as convincing (the only downside of the film), the thugs in a drunken state are hell-bent on entering the Sumner’s house and killing them and a local village guy. David, having never taken a stand for anything in his life (including his wife) decides to defend the house and essentially takes revenge on the thugs in the most violent ways possible. The selective violence in the movie is what sets itself apart and makes it a very morally satisfying watch.
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2. Thriller: They Call Her One Eye (1973)
Right when exploitation films were in its nascent stages, this Swedish exploitation flick was one of its kind and an obvious inspiration to a character (Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver) in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and many other femme fatale revenge dramas. Following the usual three act plotline, the movie tells us the story of Madeleine, who is sexually assaulted and muted at early age. Forced into heroin and prostitution when she accepts a ride from a stranger, the movie is replete with violence, depravity and graphic scenes almost to the point of it being pornography. As she earns money through prostitution she gains the necessary knowledge and skills to exact revenge on her perpetrators and the choices of process she uses to get that are morally satisfying and are what sells out this film.
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1. Kill Bill (Vol 1&2) (2003)
Quentin Tarantino’s fourth directorial project after his not-so-appreciated (though critics differ) Jackie Brown is a stylish female revenge flick that goes on to show that even showcasing violence on-screen can be an art in itself. The story follows Beatrix Kiddo or The Bride (Uma Thurman) who has been betrayed and shot by Bill and his gang members right before her wedding and how she exacts revenge. As much as it is a normal revenge story, it is more about Tarantino’s treatment of the material as he pays homage to probably every martial art movie out there. As she sets on her path of vengeance, she leaves hundreds of bodies in her wake and kills each of her wrong doers. It almost feels like The Bride is in a video game where she defeats a boss at the end of each level only to face a more powerful one at the end; in this case – Bill.
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