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Top 10 Most Badass Movie Vigilantes

VO: Matthew Wende

Written by Josh Schasny

Your favourite characters from movies who take the law into their own hands and dole out brutal and violent justice to criminals. WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Vigilantes from Movies. But which renegade character will take the top spot on our list, will it be Paul Kersey of the 'Death Wish' franchise, Travis Bickle from 'Taxi Driver', or V from 'V for Vendetta'? Watch to find out!

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Big thanks to Ruston BlackBatman Henry, akt and sarcasticwilly for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/%20Top%20Ten%20of%20Movie%20Vigilantes


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They’re tough, they’re mean…they’re out for bloody justice! Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movie vigilantes.

For this list, we’re looking at the characters in films that decide to take the law into their own hands, either after a crushing loss or through plain existential frustration. While these characters may have spawned franchises of their own, we’re looking at the characters themselves and not the films they star in. Also, to level out the playing field, we have reserved superhero vigilantes for lists of their own. A spoiler alert is also in order!

#10: Jack Reacher

“Jack Reacher” (2012)

A key point to being a vigilante is to be one step ahead of the bad guys. Jack Reacher goes above and beyond this trait by seeming to know everything the way it happened as he tries to find a psychotic killer, eventually taking on an entire crime ring. Although he only really becomes a vigilante at the end of the first Jack Reacher film, he uses his military know-how and the characters’ own psychologies against themselves. Adept and charming in his own way, with just the right amount of mercilessness, Jack Reacher is not someone to be messed with in any combat situation.

#9: Shosanna Dreyfus

“Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

Let’s hear it for the ladies! This movie vigilante gets points for most creative method of vengeance: using flammable film reels to get the literal last laugh on the entire Nazi command. In this little rewrite of history, Dreyfus manages to take out historical figures like Joseph Goebbels and even Adolf Hitler himself, sending a chilling message to the audience in her theater, taunting them with death. Although she accomplishes this will a little help from the Basterds and doesn’t even survive her lone act of vengeance, Shosanna Dreyfus has one of the highest body counts on our list.

#8: Keller Dover

“Prisoners” (2013)

Who said you have to be a killer to be a good vigilante? Such is the case for Keller Dover, who goes beyond the law to find his missing daughter. Using his handyman skills and an empty building willed to him by his father, Keller devises disturbing torture contraptions that don’t fare well for the prime suspect in the kidnapping. While we can remain empathetic towards Keller for trying to find his daughter and right some wrongs, the flipside to his personality makes him all the more disturbing and we can’t help but want to distance ourselves from his dark deeds.

#7: Bryan Mills

“Taken” franchise (2008-)

One of modern action film’s chief vigilante characters, this former CIA operative with “a particular set of skills” has transcended pop culture and turned his character into a memorable and quotable hero. Known for slamming bad guys’ heads into solid objects after already delivering a savage beating, Mills relies on previous combat experience and just about any grab-able object to dispatch his enemies in a calm and calculated manner. Leaving many bodies in his wake, Bryan Mills strikes fear into the hearts of assassins, kidnappers, corrupt law officers, and pretty much anyone who dares to mess with his family over the course of the franchise.

#6: Robert “Bob” McCall

“The Equalizer” (2014)

Looks can be very deceiving. Kind-hearted hardware store employee by day, ruthlessly violent justice figure by night, Bob McCall stands up for the little guy, even if the threat is a group of ice-cold Russian gangsters. Based off a character from the hit 1980s television series of the same name, actor Denzel Washington brought a lot more character to his role as McCall by having him afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is just icing on the cake, however, as this makes him an even more efficient killer. Using his workplace as an arena, McCall manages to use common household tools to maximum deadly potential in a final showdown with the bad guys…giving them each around 16 seconds to live.

#5: The Driver

“Drive” (2011)

Ryan Gosling took the action world by storm in Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 arthouse hit Drive. As mysterious as he is unpredictable, this nameless vigilante is willing to sacrifice everything he has to ensure a woman and her son are never bothered again by heartless gangster. Adhering to strict rules as a getaway driver and never claiming to be a professional at what he does, The Driver manages to always get the upper hand when the tables are turned against him, putting him one step ahead of the bad guys even when he is the one being chased down. Let’s just say we would never want to be trapped in an elevator with this guy.

#4: John W. Creasy

“Man on Fire” (2004)

Leave it to Denzel Washington to bring pathos to his vigilantes. Much like The Equalizer’s Bob McCall, Washington’s portrayal of ex-military hero John Creasy is loaded with character flaws that either put him on equal footing or one step beyond those who have wronged him. John Creasy works his way up the Mexican criminal food chain in order to rescue the girl he was hired to protect, racking up an impressive body count along the way. As he targets his victims, Creasy ensures that their deaths become more and more elaborate, yet is professional enough to ensure that nobody is caught in the crossfire. Did we mention he does all this while mortally wounded? Yeah, he is that good.

#3: V

“V for Vendetta” (2006)

Not quite a superhero but definitely on the same level, this mysterious character is both theatrical and sympathetic while also being sadistically violent and merciless. After an alliteration-filled introduction, V takes on a dystopian government by encouraging the people of Britain to rise up against the oppressors. Never taking credit for his own actions, V proves to be more an idea of vigilantism than an actual manifestation of it. With an interesting backstory and an anti-fascist agenda, V’s choices dispatching his enemies border on the quiet and painless to the psychologically devastating. Either way, he gets the job done in stunning fashion.

#2: Paul Kersey

“Death Wish” franchise (1974-94)

A household name in vigilante lore, Paul Kersey is an unbridled force to be reckoned with once his ability to kill is awakened. Starting off as a tragic antihero in the first Death Wish film, Kersey gradually became the face of justice in four more sequels with more ridiculous bad guys and bigger guns. Needless to say, Kersey’s story in the first film put many filmgoers’ greatest anxieties on screen when it came to dealing with inner city violence and urban fear. Kersey’s actions were also seemingly and eerily mimicked in real life when Bernie Goetz took the law into his own hands in a 1984 incident that paralleled a scene from the first Death Wish film.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few gritty honorable mentions.

Machete Cortez

“Machete” franchise (2010-)

Erica Bain

“The Brave One” (2007)

#1: Travis Bickle

“Taxi Driver” (1976)

He’s a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any moment! Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader’s oddball creation in Travis Bickle is an unsettling and oddly true to life depiction of society’s dark corners. Although seemingly harmless, this likely to be PTSD-afflicted Vietnam vet-turned taxi driver doesn’t seem to know the extent of his actions. Played in impeccable fashion by Robert De Niro, the quotable Travis Bickle wages a one-man war on the society he feels has failed him. Practising his lines toward pimps and thugs, this character reflects the average joe taking the law into his own hands, making him the perfect vigilante. However, since he crosses the line in such chaotic fashion, Travis Bickle is both a relatable yet distant character.

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