The best revenge movies come in many forms, but the best ones always manage to tap into something primal in our own sense of humanity. We want to protect the people we care about, and we want to lash out at the people who would harm them. While our more civilized inclinations usually hold us back, the movies don't have that problem. Through revenge movies, we can live out those primal urges without ever throwing a punch, and that's rewarding.
With The Northman, writer/director Robert Eggers managed to tap into those primal forces through the story of one man's quest to take back things he'd lost years ago, and in this case, the primal force at work was almost pure manliness. Whether he's burying an ax in someone's head or literally howling at the moon, the title character in The Northman is pure unbridled dude id unleashed, and it has us thinking about other testosterone-drenched revenge films that left viewers craving a massive steak dinner and something to punch.
So, in celebration of The Northman's primal quest, let's take a look at some other manly missions of revenge.
- 17 VOTES
The Man: Rocky Balboa can make any fight personal, but years into his career as a legendary boxing champion, he's about to face a fight that will push him to his absolute limits, physically and emotionally.
The Mission: When hotshot Soviet boxing prospect Ivan Drago storms through America and ends up killing Rocky's best friend, Apollo Creed, Rocky decides to abandon his own heavyweight championship and challenge Drago to a grudge match. The catch? He has to fight this battle on Soviet soil, in the middle of a harsh Russian winter.
Toxicity Score: 8.5 out of 10. Sometimes it feels like this whole movie is just power ballad-laden montages of dudes hitting stuff, and it's hard to get much manlier than a guy trying to punch out not just one man, but an entire communist regime in the name of revenge.
- 27 VOTES
The Man: John Wick was the world's greatest assassin, until he gave that all up to live out his days with his wife. Before she passed, she arranged to have a puppy sent to keep her husband company. That puppy is the last thing John Wick has to tether him to his wife. That puppy matters more than anything.
The Mission: When a group of Russian gangster punks ambush John in an effort to steal his car, they kill his puppy in the process. They think they've managed to get away with it. They are very, very wrong. John's about to dig his guns out of storage and launch a one-man war on an entire mob family, all because they couldn't leave his furry friend alone.
Toxicity Score: 7.5 out of 10. This is one of those revenge movies that's more slick and neon-drenched cool than it is savage, shirtless intensity. But if you don't find yourself gritting your teeth and pumping your fist when John sledgehammers his way through his basement floor to get his guns back, you might not have a pulse.
- 37 VOTES
The Man: Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, is a beloved and brilliant Roman general so good at leading men that the emperor wants him to succeed him as ruler of Rome. When the emperor's son finds out about this, things go south pretty fast.
The Mission: When the emperor's son Commodus takes the throne, he commands Maximus to bow down. Maximus refuses and loses his rank, his wife, and his son in the process. Left for dead with his whole life torn away, Maximus rises up to become a gladiator in the Roman Coliseum, where he'll have a chance to bring down Commodus once and for all.
Toxicity Score: 6 out of 10. Maximus is an honorable man more interested in the right thing than the most vengeful thing, but this is also a movie about a guy wrasslin' tigers and drawing up battle plans while a crowd roars in his favor, so you're bound to get at least a little amped up.
- 47 VOTES
The Man: Robert E. Howard's legendary Cimmerian warrior takes to the big screen for the first time, in the body of the Austrian Oak, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold wasn't in his action movie heyday just yet, but he still looks unimpeachably great swinging a sword.
The Mission: Like other heroes on this list, Conan spends most of his life waiting for his big moment of revenge. It all began when he was a boy, when he watched the dark sorcerer Thulsa Doom murder his parents. In the years since, he's built himself into a powerful swordsman through the gladiator pits, and now it's time to seek out Doom, raise his father's broken sword, and take the vengeance he craves at last.
Toxicity Score: 10 out of 10. Whether he's drunkenly punching out a camel or finally claiming his glorious moment of revenge with his father's blade in his hand, Conan in Schwarzenegger form will make you want to roast meat over an open fire on a spear, then gnaw at it like a true barbarian.
- 510 VOTES
The Man: William Wallace is an educated, erudite Scotsman who returns to his homeland to build a life years after his father passed and his uncle took him in. Even living under the yoke of English rule, William seems to be set up to do OK, until the woman he loves his taken by the local lord.
The Mission: William was already unhappy with the English for what they did to his father years ago, but when his new wife is executed for refusing to give into the local magistrate's will, his grief launches an impromptu show of resistance and rage. What starts as a small fight soon erupts into open rebellion, as William's quest to save other Scottish families from his fate gathers support from the whole kingdom.
Toxicity Score: 7 out of 10. Wallace and his friends aren't all gruff brutality all the time, but they do paint their faces and roar quite a bit. Plus, that whole scene where they taunt the whole English army by mooning them will remind you of your wildest college days. Just remember: It's also very manly to cry when Wallace uses his final breath to shout "Freedom!"
- 610 VOTES
The Man: Amleth, a Scandinavian prince who fled his home as a boy and has since grown into a tireless berserker warrior, is the title character in The Northman. Thanks to Alexander Skarsgard's mountainous muscles, when he sets out for revenge, you know it's going to hurt. A lot.
The Mission: Amleth watched his uncle murder his father and steal both the throne and his mother in the process, and he's spent decades dreaming about the day when he can take revenge for all three. When he learns his Uncle Fjolnir's location in Iceland, Amleth decides the time is right to fulfill a lifelong promise to save his mother, avenge his father, and murder his uncle once and for all. What follows is a bloody, magical, all-out war so full of testosterone you just might walk out of the theater with a beard you didn't have when you walked in.
Toxicity Score: 11 out of 10. As a boy, Amleth earns his place alongside his father by farting during a ritual. As a man, he rips throats open with his teeth and catches spears mid-air. That's one manly Viking.