10 Good Assassin Movies

Friday, January 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm

If you enjoy watching steely-eyed killers utilize a variety of weapons to dispatch targets around the globe, you’ll dig our list of 10 good assassin movies. You might also be surprised by the diversity of settings. Movie assassins don’t exist solely in political thrillers; examples can be found in genres ranging from westerns to samurai movies. But one thing is certain: the body count will be above average, making these 10 good assassin movies perfect for those who love action and/or bloodshed.

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Since this list is by no means all-inclusive, feel free to utilize our comments section to list any good assassin movies that didn’t get mentioned.

The Mechanic (1972) – Few actors have demonstrated stone-faced machismo like Charles Bronson, and this bleak tale of a Mafia hitman gives him plenty of opportunities to stare dispassionately while victims take their final breath. Bronson is Arthur Bishop, a lethal “mechanic” who always carries out his jobs with the utmost professionalism. After snuffing an old friend who had fallen out of favor with the underworld (Keenan Wynn), Bishop meets the dead man’s son, a selfish pretty-boy named Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent). Recognizing a kindred spirit and feeling guilty over killing his father, Bishop takes Steve under his wing and begins an apprenticeship in the art of assassination. But their lethal partnership is filled with a number of twists and turns, and either man will be lucky to make it out of the film alive. The 2011 remake stars Jason Statham and Ben Foster.

The American(2010) – Not all good assassin movies are jam-packed with action, and this George Clooney thriller is a perfect example. It’s more about the loneliness and paranoia accompanying the job, as a veteran assassin and arms maker hides out in a small Italian town following an attempt on his life. Growing weary of his solitary existence, he falls for a local prostitute (Violante Placido) and begins to relish the unspoiled innocence of his mountain hideout. But the past is never far behind, and soon he’s asked to craft a custom weapon…one which he believes may be used against him. Based on the book A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth.

JFK (1991) – The ultimate assassin movie, Oliver Stone’s whirlwind mixture of paranoia and conspiracy takes a look at Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman), history’s most famous trigger-man. Mixing fact with delusions, conjecture, and outright lies, this entertaining political thriller examines who had the motive and ability to order a hit on President John F. Kennedy. Kevin Costner stars as real-life New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison, a man obsessed with getting to the truth regardless of the personal toll. Along the way, he rubs elbows with gay prostitutes (Kevin Bacon), seedy lawyers (John Candy), ruthless businessmen (Tommy Lee Jones), and crazed cancer survivors (Joe Pesci). Even if you absolutely disagree with the film’s theories, JFK remains a highly effective film that deftly uses music and editing to create a relentless meditation on the corrupting nature of power. Also starring Jack Lemmon, Ed Asner, Sissy Spacek, Donald Sutherland, Walter Matthau, Michael Rooker, Laurie Metcalf, and Jay O. Sanders.

Unforgiven (1992) – The Old West had its fair share of assassins, and this award-winning film from director Clint Eastwood takes a look at a fictional example. Once a brutal killer, widower William Munny (Eastwood) has retired to the life of an unsuccessful farmer. When he hears of a group of prostitutes in Big Whiskey, Wyoming offering a generous bounty on the heads of a couple of abusive cowboys, he decides to pick up his guns once again out of sheer desperation. Accompanied by his old riding partner, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), and wanna-be assassin The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett), Munny rides out towards Big Whiskey and a date with the town’s no-nonsense sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). A brilliant look at the frequent mixture of fact and fiction regarding Old West gunfighters, Unforgiven also stars Richard Harris as a cocky British assassin named English Bob. The material for the film had been around since the 1970s, but Eastwood wanted to wait until he was older to play the role.

The Killer(1989) – Ah Jong (Chow Yun-fat) is the best assassin around, but tragedy strikes when his latest hit leaves an innocent singer (Sally Yeh) blinded. Devoted to helping her, he agrees to take one last job in order to pay for her expensive cornea transplant surgery. But there’s a double-cross in the works, and soon our noble hitman finds himself battling the underworld as well as a dedicated cop (Danny Lee). John Woo’s masterpiece of honor and regret, The Killer is filled with all his trademarks: slow-motion shootouts, stylish attire, unlikely friendships, and plenty of doves. A must-see film for fans of good assassin movies or Hong Kong cinema.

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Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon(1977) – Inspired by the long-running manga that’s sold over 200 million copies, this film stars Sonny Chiba as the legendary hitman known only as Golgo 13. When a female assassin kills his latest target before he has a chance, the suave gun-for-hire winds up setting his sights on the U.S. Ambassador. To further complicate matters, he must dodge a relentless cop (Callan Leung) every step of the way. Chiba is a perfect choice for this role as an international badass, which will come as no surprise to fans of his Street Fighter series.

Munich(2005) – Following the abduction and murder of their athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the Israeli government decides to sponsor a retaliatory strike against a list of 11 men from around the world. Mossad agent Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana) leads the hit team, and they dutifully begin crossing names of their list of radicals and terrorists. But the mission comes at a high price, as teammates slowly get picked off, and the moral strain of his mission begins to weigh heavily on Avner. Directed by Steven Spielberg and co-starring Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, and Geoffrey Rush.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) – Known for his films where people stand around and talk about nothing in particular, director Jim Jarmusch expands his horizons with this tale of a mob assassin (Forest Whitaker) who conducts his life according to the samurai code of ethics. But when his superiors decide that he’s outlived his usefulness, Ghost Dog adopts a kill-or-be-killed attitude and unsheathes his sword one last time. RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan scores the film, and the numerous quotations from the Hagakure sheds light onto the traditional Japanese ideas of bushido.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (1972) – Disgraced and forced to live the life of an assassin, former samurai Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) wanders the Japanese countryside with his young son Daigoro. In this third film of the series, Itto saves a young woman from prostitution (enduring torture in the process), takes on an army of 200 men with nothing more than a sword and pimped-out baby cart, and faces a personal challenge from a skilled ronin. Fans of samurai movies will be delighted by this action-packed tale, and those who just like to watch people kill each other will be delighted to know that Ogami Itto has racked up a higher body count than any character in cinematic history.

Telefon (1977) – Charlie Bronson and his moustache make their second appearance on our list, this time as KGB agent Grigori Borizov. His superiors in the Soviet Union planted a number of sleeper agents in the U.S. following the Cuban Missile Crisis, and now a rogue KGB officer (Donald Pleasence) is touring American and activating these unwitting assassins. Desperate to cover their mistake, the Soviets dispatch Grigori to the U.S. to eliminate their wayward member and any sleepers who might pose a threat. Assisted by his formidable facial hair and a double agent (Lee Remick), Borizov goes about his duty with the kind of stoicism we’ve come to expect from Bronson. Filled with assassin-on-assassin action, Telefon will also ensure that you’ll never think of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” the same way again.

That concludes our suggestions for 10 good assassin movies. You can find all these selections at Netflix.

See also:

  1. Good Exorcism Movies
  2. Good Spike Lee Movies
  3. Good Peter Bogdanovich Movies
  4. Good Robert Altman Movies
  5. Good Warren Beatty Movies
  6. Good Woody Allen Movies
  7. Good Darren Aronofsky Movies

This entry was posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011 at 2:42 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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