Cinema’s greatest assassins are cool, aloof, cunning, ruthless, stealthy, vengeful, and sometimes confused about their true identity. Some are lone wolves for hire, others are in the employ of criminal organizations or governments that would rather not know they exist.
To determine the best assassin movies, 24/7 Tempo developed an index of movies using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of January 2023, weighting all ratings equally. (Documentaries were not considered.) Directorial and cast credits are from IMDb.
Twelve of the 50 movies on our list are James Bond films. Though 007 has a license to kill, he’s doing so in the service of Her Majesty, and not as an independent assassin. Many of the actual assassins in the Bond films are as famous as the gadgets he uses to thwart them, among them Oddjob (“Goldfinger”), Rosa Klebb (“From Russia With Love”), Jaws (“The Spy Who Loved Me”), and May Day (“A View to a Kill”). (See which Bond movies number among the 30 best spy films of all time.)
Director Quentin Tarantino has three films on the list with two “Kill Bill” movies (with Uma Thurman as The Bride) and “Pulp Fiction,” featuring buddy killers Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson).
Keanu Reeves starred as hitman John Wick in three stylishly violent films listed here, directed or co-directed by Chad Stahelski, and there are three action-packed thrillers in the Bourne franchise on the list, starring Matt Damon as a CIA assassin suffering from dissociative amnesia.
Not all the assassin movies are white-knuckle thrill rides. “The Matador,” starring Pierce Brosnan, and “In Bruges,” with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, are black comedies. “Grosse Pointe Blank” starred rom-com king John Cusack as a hitman romancing his high school prom date. (Real-life assassination is hardly a laughing matter, of course. These are some famous assassinations in American history.)
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