According to Psychology Today, revenge is sweet. Evidently, seeking revenge is your brain's attempt to return itself to a more uplifting state. In other words, we're just trying to get back to our base set of emotions prior to being hurt. Of course, sometimes you are an assassin who tried to get out of the game but was nearly murdered by your ex for doing so, an ex who happens to be your boss and the father of your child. Sometimes you have to Kill Bill.
Female revenge in art is a tale as old as time. Whether it's Tamora in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus or the stunning depiction of Judith Beheading Holofernes in one of Caravaggio's finest paintings, it's been visited in several mediums. In movies, we are often meeting women exacting revenge upon those who have hurt them in unimaginable (and at times triggering for the viewer) ways. Still, it can be deeply satisfying to watch. Let's take a look at some of the best female revenge films.
'The Blood Spattered Bride' (1972)
Speaking of Kill Bill (and it's hard not to when discussing revenge), you might recognize the title of this movie. We see these words splashed across a title card in Kill Bill Volume 1. Quentin Tarantino was absolutely paying homage to The Blood Spattered Bride. Believe it or not, this movie is really all about sexual repression and possession, in every sense of the word.
When we first meet our bride, Susan (Maribel Martin), it is her wedding day. She and her husband are on their way to their honeymoon. It is at their hotel where Susan first lays eyes upon Carmilla (Alexandra Bastedo), a beautiful stranger. After checking into their room, Susan is assaulted by a stranger, though her husband insists it was a dream. Still, they leave the hotel for their home. Their physical relationship is one-sided and violent, with her husband always initiating sex.
One day while walking along the beach by their home, the husband stumbles across Carmilla in a bizarre fever-dream fashion. He brings her back to the house, which is where we discover it was Carmilla that Susan wanted the entire time. The two women consummate this attraction, which leads to Carmilla convincing Susan to go on a killing spree, murdering all the men who have hurt her. Sound familiar? Et tu, Kill Bill?
The Blood Spattered Bride is streaming free on Tubi.
'The Living Dead Girl' (1982)
Fans of Rob Zombie may remember his song by the same name, but it actually has nothing to do with this movie. The Living Dead Girl or La Morte Vivante is a french zombie film. The main character, Catherine (Françoise Blanchard), dies quite young but is reanimated when her body accidentally comes in contact with some mysterious chemical waste. It's always chemical waste (hello Return of the Living Dead).
The moment the chemical waste hits her coffin, Catherine wakes and immediately begins going on a killing spree. It's unclear whether or not this revenge is because she's angry about her untimely death or perhaps she's just annoyed because she was awakened. No one likes to get up before they have to. The driving force behind her return could also be her best friend Helene (Marina Pierro), with whom she made a death pact. Whoever dies first, the other would follow.
This movie mostly takes place at a stunning mansion in France. Because the character of Catherine is mute, we are gifted by a thrilling amount of bodily emotion by actress Françoise Blanchard. It also has that fast and loose feel that horror movies made outside of the U.S. often have. Plus it has everything you would want in a zombie movie. As a warning, it's very graphic and was even banned in Germany at one point.
The Living Dead Girl is streaming free on Tubi.
'Death Becomes Her' (1992)
Okay, we had to lighten the revenge load a bit. It was starting to get pretty heavy. Death Becomes Her is one of the finest horror comedies ever made and was an instant cult classic. The movie focuses on many types of revenge — a rivalry between friends, jealousy, broken hearts, and retaliation for emotional abuse. Plus, how can you not love a movie that stars both Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep?
Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) is a somewhat frumpy woman who is engaged to famed plastic surgeon Dr. Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis). Her best friend is glamorous actress Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep), whose star is on its way down. When we meet all three of them, Helen is introducing Ernest to Madeline after seeing her in a musical. This is a test Helen administers to all of her boyfriends — can they manage to reject Madeline's advances? Unfortunately, Ernest could not.
He marries Madeline, which literally drives Helen insane. For the next several years, the only thing Helen can focus on is revenge. Meanwhile, Madeline has reduced Ernest to a drunken mess. He is no longer a plastic surgeon and is now a reconstructive mortician. Madeline is obsessed with looking young, and Helen has mysteriously recovered and has become a fitness author. We soon realize both Helen and Madeline have discovered a fountain of youth, so to speak.
The one caveat to drinking this magical youth elixir is that you have to take care of your body. Sadly, Helen and Madeline do not. What follows is an incredible amount of physical comedy as Helen and Madeline both struggle to look alive when they are clearly dead. Everything about this movie is perfect, even the message that is overcoming feelings of vengeance and rage to rekindle a friendship. But, you know, in death.
Death Becomes Her is free to stream with an Amazon Prime subscription.
Vampz takes a page out of the Book of Blacula. Set in Los Angeles, it's about a trio of vampires (Sierra Tawan, Chantel Lashon, and Tawanna Browne) who open up a sexy massage parlor to satisfy their hunger. When a woman cheating on her deeply abusive husband shows up on their doorstep after being invited by their human companion Renfield (a nod to Dracula), they try to turn her into a vampire.
This is definitely a low-budget movie, shot on video, with shades of gore similar to From Dusk Till Dawn. The revenge comes in the form of women just wanting to get back at awful men, a classic trope. In all likelihood, you won't recognize anyone in the cast, but that's half the fun. Sometimes a well-known actor can really take you out of a film. You don't get to see a lot of Black lesbians in the vampire world, and it's a welcome change to a genre mostly dominated by white men.
Vampz is streaming free on Tubi.
'The Stylist' (2020)
This movie premiered at Fantastic Fest 2020 and was extremely well-received. It focuses on Claire (Najarra Townsend), a hairstylist who is obsessed with one client in particular — Olivia (Brea Grant). Her obsession drives her to do unspeakable things, including drugging and scalping her victims.
How does revenge play into this movie? It's kind of subtle, but what is dealt with here is the idea of absolute loneliness. Claire feels out of place in this world, and instead of trying to find out how she can find her way in, she takes it out on those who seem to belong. All day long, Claire hears about the wonderful lives of her clients, and she can't help but feel intense envy and jealousy. It's a little slow but ultimately interesting and somewhat sad.
The Stylist is available to rent on Amazon Prime.