‘Revenge’ films

One of my favourite genres of all, films where women “return fire” –
most often for rape but also for other forms of violence-against-women. 

These films might, or might not, include female kick-ass Action genre – but I include only those films where the story-line revolves around females taking action against male abuse regardless of the action/violence content.

Some films are primarily kick-ass Action genre, and the revenge theme is only a minor part. In these cases, I have included them in the “Women in Action” category.

I have several favourites in no particular order, but I do have a preference for the women’s “collective” action films – when several women band together and work-as-a-team,  and some which totally stand out of the crowd for me:
“A Gun For Jennifer (1996)” and “The Ladies Club (1986)”, “Shame” (1987)  and “Chaos (2001)” 
along with “Girls Town (1996”) and “Foxfire (1996)” which are included under ‘Coming-of-Age’  category, but the collective action of girls is a major sub-theme of these 2 films.

There are far more films made about individual women seeking revenge for their own rapes, and during the 1970s in particular, these “Woman-Takes-Revenge-for-Rape”  films became a popular cult genre of the B-grade or ‘grunge-house’ flicks, (aka ‘exploitation’ films). Some are just lite-porn, others are just simplistic gender-reversals of male-revenge flicks, but a few are exceptional.

These have often been lost over time, as their initial marketing meant they became box-office flops.   Often marketed as lite-porn/horror, women wont want to see it – and men go to see it, only to be disappointed at having wasted the ticket-price, because in reality – they were not porn/grunge horror at all – but were very angry, Furiously Female anti-male flicks.  

A number of more mainstream Hollywood-style films came into vogue beginning in the 1980s which tend to focus on women taking legal, or officially sanctioned revenge against male abusers through courts of law, or are otherwise presented to the audience sympathetically as morally justified or unofficially sanctioned.  

Examples include:  “The Accused (1988), The Burning Bed (1984)“, “Extremities (1986)” and one of the most popular of the mainstream films of this type was “Thelma & Louise (1991)“.

Some were just so poorly made as films, that any strong feminist message is lost in the appalling production standards eg Lipstick (1976)

By the 1990s, many of these mainstream Hollywood factory-fodder propaganda films had morphed into including increasingly significant male-assisted sub-plots.  It seems women could no longer take action on their own, but need some form of male approval, even if only as supporting justification after-the-event.  Examples include “Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)”, “Dolores Claiborne (1995)” and “Enough (2002)”.  Some variations on this theme, include women taking revenge for violence against a male relative, husband or boyfriend eg “The Brave One” (2007).

Outside of the popular Hollywood studio films, the situation is somewhat better, both in Independent (non-corporate studio) films and from non-English speaking countries.

Some notables in my favourites list:
(a) “grungehouse” films:
Thriller – en grym film (1974 – Sweden) aka Thriller: A Cruel Picture
I Spit on Your Grave (1978) USA (aka ‘Day of the Woman’)
Ms .45 (1981) USA (aka ‘Angel of Vengeance’)

more to come…..

Death and the Maiden
Hard Candy
Bandit Queen
Ek Hasini Thi
Thriller: A Cruel Picture
Dolores Claiborne
Alexandra’s Project
Ms .45


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