15 Revenge Movies That Dish Out Vengeance Without Violence

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Vote up the most delicious revenge plots that do it the non-violent way.

Revenge movies have been a staple of cinematic storytelling since the art form's inception. Often, revenge stories focus on violent forms of retribution. And while blood-spattered retaliation can certainly be compelling, some of the best revenge stories prove that while vengeance is a dish best served cold, sometimes that dish can be just a chilling without violence.

In that spirit, here is a collection of revenge movies that dish out their vengeance in far less aggressive fashion.

Photo: 9 to 5 / 20th Century Fox

  • John Landis’s Trading Places is widely revered as a comedy classic, but it also functions as an excellent example (albeit a comic one) of the revenge subgenre. When businessman Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Akroyd) and low-level wheeler-dealer Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) discover they are subjects of a bet on behalf of Louis’s bosses - a bet that sees Billy Ray take over Louis’s job after he’s framed for a crime - the pair set out to get revenge on the pair of nefarious execs.

    Using some overheard insider trading knowledge and a switcheroo involving a gorilla and a gorilla suit, the pair manage to scam their former bosses out of a large sum of money (and turn a massive profit themselves) over frozen orange juice concentrate futures. The scheme bankrupts their former bosses, and leaves them incredibly wealthy in the process.

    36 votes

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  • 2
    47 VOTES

    With a stellar trio of leads in Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda -  who play friends and coworkers Doralee Rhodes, Violet Newstead, and Judy Bernly, respectively - and an eminently hateable villain in Consolidated Companies Vice President Franklin Hart Jr. (Dabney Coleman), 9 to 5 is a second-wave feminist comedy classic - and a great revenge film on its own. Subject to rampant misogyny at the hands of Hart and the men in their lives, the women fantasize together about ways to seek revenge on their bigoted boss. Violet takes action, poisoning his coffee, but Hart accidentally knocks himself out before drinking it. What follows is a series of mishaps that finally finds the girls blackmailing Hart (and restraining him to his home).

    While Hart is prevented from entering the office, the trio implement a multitude of new policies and programs that are instantly successful, leading to an influx in morale and productivity. Hart manages to escape - both physically and from the women’s blackmail plans - and returns to the office just as the Consolidated Companies Chairman of the Board arrives. Stunned by the increased productivity, he demands Hart join him for a special project in Brazil, which ends ignominiously with Hart’s kidnapping by a tribe of natives. Violet overtakes his empty position at the company, Doralee goes on to success as a country singer, and Judy leaves the company for good, giving all three their happy endings, and achieving the ultimate revenge: success.

    47 votes

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  • Steven Soderbergh’s jazzy rat-pack remake Ocean’s 11 features an A-list cast emanating pure star power from start to finish. George Clooney takes on the role of Danny Ocean. One of the world’s premier con-men and criminals, Danny gets the proverbial band back together after being released from prison, with the intention of robbing three of Las Vegas’ biggest casinos as an act of heartbroken retribution. The owner of all three casino’s is Terry Benedict. Terry happens to be engaged to Danny’s ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts).

    Danny’s crew of criminal masterminds each specialize in a key element necessary to pull off the massive heist. The plan off (nearly) without a hitch, culminating in a switcheroo wherein the team poses as a SWAT team reclaiming Benedict’s massive stores of cash. Danny’s plan purposefully sees him (apparently) locked in a storeroom on Benedict’s orders, and therefore cleared of all association to the resulting heist. The kicker? After completing the robbery right under Benedict’s nose, Danny tricks the casino owner into admitting he’d rather retain possession of the lost cash than Tess - as she watches him say this on a closed-circuit TV, prompting her to leave him immediately. Now that’s proper vengeance.

    33 votes

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  • 4
    40 VOTES

    The story of two charismatic con-men named Henry and Johnny (played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford), who set out to grift the mob boss responsible for the murder of their friend, The Sting is a cinema classic, and a great revenge film to boot. After crime head Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) kills Harry and Johnny’s pal over a matter of $11,000, the pair decide to seek retribution by hitting Lonegan where it hurts: his wallet. They enact an elaborate scheme involving false identities, a pretend betting betting parlor, and an extensive fake FBI investigation.

    The con leads Lonnegan to place a $500,00 bet in the pair’s simulated parlor, only for the FBI to arrive on the scene. Apparently betrayed by Harry, Johnny shoots him in the back, only to be shot and killed by a federal agent. Lonnegan is ushered away from the scene under the pretext that the agents are unaware of his criminality, only for Harry and Johnny to pop back up, completely unharmed, to the applause of their large cadre of con-men. The entire series of events having been successfully faked, the team split the $500,000. Henry, though, forgoes his share and walks into the proverbial sunset with Johnny, satisfied in the knowledge that they’ve successfully pulled off their revenge. 

    40 votes

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  • Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
    Photo: Netflix

    The second adventure featuring intrepid detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion is ostensibly a murder mystery like its predecessor Knives Out. The difference, though, is that Glass Onion is also a secret revenge film. The story centers on tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who invites a group of “friends” to his private island for a murder mystery party. One of the attendees appears to be Bron’s one-time partner Andi (Janelle Monae), whom he shafted immediately following their company’s explosion on to the tech scene.

    Shortly after showing the party his prized possession - the actual Mona Lisa - one of the guests dies under mysterious circumstances, kickstarting a series of layered whodunnits. The revenge element comes into play when it is revealed that Andi - who was seemingly shot by a shadowy assailant - is not who she appears to be, but her twin sister Helen. It becomes clear that Bron is responsible for the murder of the real Andi, and that Helen has come to the island to seek retribution. With Blanc’s help, Helen is able to out Bron as a fraud and a con man in front of his friends, and manages to burn down his entire compound - including the destruction of the Mona Lisa.

    30 votes

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  • Now You See Me twists the Ocean’s 11 heist formula by making the central group of grifters the most socially acceptable kind of con artists: magicians. The film follows two agents, Alma and Dylan, tracking the group of aforementioned illusionists, who use their internationally popular performances as cover to enact large-scale robberies. They subsequently share the spoils of these robberies with the attending audience, Robin Hood-style. Turning on their conniving insurance-magnate benefactor, Arthur Tressler, the gang of magicians manage to wire $140 million worth of his money to members in the audience whose claims he denied following the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

    Enraged, Tressler seeks the employ of one Thaddeus Bradley - a renowned magician debunker, most famous for debunking a magician named Shriker’s trick and ruining his career. Upon attempting a comeback, unable to use his old methods, Shriker died by locking himself in a safe. Tressler and Thaddeus appear to work side by side with the FBI agents, but the Four Horsemen (as the team of magicians are collectively known) continually outwit them. Finally, Thaddeus and the agents appear to catch the Horsemen red-handed, and prevent their robbery of a bank vault… only to find the bank vault filled entirely with balloon animals, and all of the stolen money is planted in Thaddeus's car. Agent Dylan visits Thaddeus in prison, revealing himself to be Shriker’s son, and the fifth member of the Horsemen - having concocted all of the previous elaborate schemes to seek retribution on Thaddeus's effective destruction of his father’s career, and ultimately, life.

    21 votes

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