Revenge can come in all shapes, sizes and forms, but there is no form I love more than that of the vengeance seeking woman. Whether it be through sheer wit, extreme violence or a mixture of the two, there’s something so thrilling about watching a woman stick it to the man in a variety of ways. Especially when the proverbial man deserves such comeuppance.
For your consideration, I have compiled a list of five of the very best examples of vengeance seeking female characters.
Sex and Fury (Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô)
A majority of vengeful characters start off as victims, but that would not be the case with Ochô Inoshika in 1973's Sex and Fury. Played by a very young Reiko Ike, Ochô is a low life criminal who has honed the ability to slice up mofos with her sword, making her more than capable of exacting her vengeance without any inclination of fear.
Sex and Fury is sleaze at it's best (the film also stars sleaze Queen Christina Lindberg!), but with as much sex and violence as the film has, it is beautifully made on all levels. In what is the movie's highlight, Ochô is attacked while bathing, which results in a fight scene for the ages. Quickly moving the fight outside, Ochô proceeds to take out each of her attackers one by one, in the snow, while being completely naked. During this scene, there is this wonderful shot where all that is seen is Ochô's legs as she dances around in the snowy exterior, with blood splatter and limbs hitting the snowy ground all around and her legs.
The scene is easily one of my all-time favorite fight scenes, and the music used to score it is just fantastic. Sex and Fury is exploitation done perfectly, as it takes an artistic approach to a film that is, for all intents and purposes, all about sex and violence.
Ms. 45 aka Angel of Vengeance
1981's Ms. 45 is a rape revenge film starring Zoë Tamerlis Lund as Thana, a girl who is raped not once but twice in the same day. After she is able to fend off her second attacker by beating him to death with an iron, she takes her attackers weapon, a 45. caliber pistol, and keeps it for herself.
After these horrific events, Thana becomes fearful that any male she encounters is a violent rapist. Due to this fear, Thana goes on a killing spree, with the target's being men who, in her mind, would mean to do her harm. Thana takes this fear and uses it as a jumping off point to swap places and become the aggressor; the one with the upper hand. She uses her looks and sexuality to seduce (mostly) scummy men with the intent of setting them up so she can shoot them with her new 45. caliber pistol.
Director Abel Ferrara does what he does best, as he gets down and dirty in this New York set revenge film. Ms. 45 is a perfect example of how great the New York city aesthetic was for cinema during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and Ferrera encapsulates all the grit and grime of New York during this time period. The city works as a perfect backdrop for a woman who has become traumatized by fear, as any corner or dark alleyway could possibly contain her next attacker. Or in Thana’s case, her next victim.
1973's Coffy is hands down one of my favorite Blaxploitation films. Written and directed by one of the greatest exploitation directors of all time, Jack Hill, Coffy is just one of many examples of the genre legend's fine work. The film stars the great Pam Grier in the titular role of Coffy, who promises to take out local drug pushers after her eleven-year-old sister is hospitalized after shooting up some bad heroin.
Coffy uses her sexuality to take her revenge – even pretending to be drugged up and looking for some action – as she lures unsuspecting scum to their deserving demise. There's plenty of sex mixed in with some great action via Coffy’s shotgun, but Coffy as a film is still played straight, opting to concentrate as much on the exploitation elements as it does the characters and story. This is a true testament to the respect Hill had for the movie he was making.
The character of Coffy is sexy, deadly, and smart, all the elements that make for a great revenge film character. Coffy is the film that put Grier on the exploitation map, and even though she's a little rough around the edge performance wise, she remains highly entertaining, especially in how well she delivers Hill’s fantastic dialogue.
(Sympathy for) Lady Vengeance (Chinjeolhan geumjassi)
In the third part of Chan-wook Park's near perfect Vengeance Trilogy, 2005's Lady Vengeance is a revenge tale by way of art house cinema. With each passing film in the Vengeance Trilogy, the visual prowess becomes more and more intense, and Lady Vengeance is the culmination of these efforts. Where the film stands out most, however, is with the character of Geum-ja Lee, as played flawlessly by Young-ae Lee.
Geum-ja spent 13 years of her life behind bars for a murder that she did not commit. Her tale of revenge is against the real murderer, a man who has, for far too long, gotten away with atrocities that would put fear into even the most jaded of hearts. Geum-ja is calculated, precise and very patient in how she goes about taking her revenge. She makes the right moves in prison by displaying maternal like qualities as she cares for her fellow inmates, even going as far as to donate an organ to someone who, in turn, will be forever indebted to Geum-ja. By the time she is released from prison, there are a number of paroled inmates who are more than willing to help Geum-ja, and she takes full advantage of their help to see that her vengeance is fulfilled.
Lady Vengeance is much like Geum-ja: calculated, precise and very patient. It slowly but strikingly burns, leading to an amazing final act and conclusion for the lead character.
Lady Snowblood (Shurayukihime)
In Toshiya Fujita's 1973 film Lady Snowblood, the beautiful Meiko Kaji portrays Yuki Kashima (aka Lady Snowblood), a character who is nothing more than an instrument created to avenge the injustices that her parents suffered.
Her father was murdered, her mother imprisoned and continuously raped, and it was this abuse that her mother went through that brought about Lady Snowblood. Yuki was purposely born for one reason and one reason only, and that is to seek vengeance for a family that she would never come to know and love. Nothing else. Revenge is her sole purpose in life and the reason for her existence. She's like a Terminator, but with far more style and grace.
Lady Snowblood is a brilliantly crafted film, filled with vibrant colors, beautiful cinematography and a fantastic score. It’s also extremely bloody and violent, and in a way that shows an immense amount of creativity.
Thanks for digging into my list, and I very much encourage you to share your thoughts on my picks as well as share some of your favorite vengeance seeking female characters!