Revenge often plays out onscreen in action movies, but there are plenty of payback films that don't rely on action. Instead, they offer tension or suspense and, in some cases, a comedic element. Here are 15 movies that feature sweet revenge without a lot of action-packed scenes.
1. The First Wives Club (1996)
Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton star as three divorced women getting the ultimate revenge on their ex-husbands, who left them for younger women. Of course, given the movie's three hilarious stars, there's plenty of comedy in the mix, too.
The First Wives Club famously ends with the trio's triumphant song and dance number: “You Don't Own Me.”
2. Promising Young Woman (2020)
Many movie fans mentioned Promising Young Woman starring Carey Mulligan. The movie centers around a young woman who has been through a lot in her life, and finds a way to make peace with her horrific past by getting revenge on her victims she meets each weekend.
3. Mean Girls (2004)
Mean Girls is a great non-violent revenge film because it takes a humorous and relatable approach to the theme of revenge. Rather than relying on action-packed fight scenes, the film cleverly explores the different forms of revenge that can be used to take down bullies.
Cady, Janis, and Damian's tactics of psychological manipulation and social sabotage show that revenge doesn't have to be physical to be effective. The film also highlights the negative effects of bullying and how payback, while satisfying at the moment, can ultimately lead to more harm than good.
4. Oldboy (2003)
Park Chan-wook's South Korean film is about a man seeking revenge against those who imprisoned him for 15 years. Oldboy is known for its brutal violence but is also a character-driven drama that explores the psychological toll of seeking revenge. The film is famous for its unforgettable ending that will leave you pondering the cost of revenge.
5. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Yorgos Lanthimos' suspenseful drama is about a man seeking revenge against a surgeon who he believes caused his family's death. The film is known for its unsettling atmosphere and slow-building tension. The film's unique visual style and haunting soundtrack make it a must-watch for fans of psychological thrillers.
6. The Help (2011)
The Help is a drama about a group of black maids seeking revenge against their racist employers in the 1960s. The film explores themes of racism, discrimination, and social justice poignantly and powerfully. The film's incredible performances, especially by Viola Davis, make it a standout in the genre. One particularly infamous revenge scene makes this film iconic and doesn't involve any violence.
7. The Social Network (2010)
This biographical drama tells the story of the founding of Facebook and the revenge-driven legal battles that ensued between its co-founders. The film explores themes of greed, betrayal, and power in the tech industry. Revenge is the driver behind the creation of Facebook (at least it is in the film), as well as the destruction of relationships between its founders.
8. Trading Places (1983)
This classic comedy is about two wealthy businessmen, played by Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, who decide to manipulate the lives of two strangers to settle a bet. The film's revenge plot is cleverly woven into its comedic premise. Trading Places is a feel-good movie that leaves you laughing while also questioning the morality of revenge.
9. Cruel Intentions (1999)
A teen drama about a group of wealthy Manhattanites who engage in a game of sexual manipulation and revenge, this film is a modern retelling of the classic novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. It features a young cast that includes Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe. Cruel Intentions is a film that leaves you pondering the consequences of manipulation.
10. Sleepers (1996)
This crime drama follows a group of childhood friends seeking revenge against the guards who abused them while they were in a juvenile detention center. The film is a powerful exploration of trauma, justice, and the bond of friendship. Sleepers is a film that leaves you questioning whether revenge can ever truly bring closure.
11. Midsommar (2019)
This A24 horror film has a buried revenge plot that is only revealed at the end when Dani makes the choice to sacrifice her boyfriend after he was horrible to her throughout the film and not there for her when she was grieving the loss of her entire family. The film is known for its unsettling atmosphere and visual style. Midsommar is a film that leaves you pondering the line between justice and revenge.
12. The Gift (2015)
The Gift is a psychological thriller that explores the themes of revenge and psychological trauma resulting from bullying. The film's slow-burning tension and expertly crafted plot twists keep the audience engaged as they unravel the past events and the characters' motivations. Joel Edgerton's directorial debut delivers a masterful, thriller, thought-provoking and unsettling thriller.
13. John Tucker Must Die (2006)
Don't worry, John Tucker doesn't actually die in the movie, but a group of girls who he has all dated get their revenge against this player when the new girl joins they plot. Since they've all had their hearts broken by John, they plan to get their revenge and break his heart now.
14. Pig (2021)
Pig is a touching film about a man who wants nothing more than to find his best friend, a pig. The man, who is grieving, is missing his pig and he will stop at nothing to find the big and to get his revnege on whoever took his friend.
15. Jawbreaker (1999)
Jawbreaker is a campy teen movie about a group of popular girls who decide to prank a friend by kidnapping her. But when the girl accidently chokes on a jawbreaker and dies, the girls have to find a way to cover up the crime they just committed.
Jaimee Marshall is a culture writer, avid movie buff, and political junkie. She spends the bulk of her time watching and critiquing films, writing political op-eds, and dabbling in philosophy. She has a Communication Studies degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where she flirted with several different majors before deciding to pursue writing. As a result, she has a diverse educational background, having studied economics, political science, psychology, business admin, rhetoric, and debate.
At Wealth of Geeks, Jaimee places an emphasis on film and television analysis, ranking the best [and worst] in media so you can find more diamonds in the rough and waste less time on box-office duds. You can find her articles on politics and culture in Evie Magazine, Katie Couric Media, Lotus Eaters, and Her Campus. You can also find her find her episode of Popcorned Planet, where she analyzes the Johnny Depp & Amber Heard trial. She has written extensively about due process, free speech, and pop culture.