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Top 10 Assassin Films

With Killer Elite hitting theaters this Friday, I thought that ‘Assassin Films’ would make a great Top 10 list subject. We’ve seen a lot of great films with that theme, and some that best remain forgotten.

I present to you my Top 10 list, and keep in mind this is limited to what I have seen and my personal tastes. This is not the be all and end all of Assassin Films, but these are the ones that float my boat. Agree/Disagree? Let’s find out …

10.) Crying Freeman (1995)

Perhaps the most obscure film on my list, and I am sure the fact that I have named the live-action version and not the anime will anger some readers. However this humble writer has not had the privilege to see the anime as yet, and when I finally got to see this film earlier in the year I was impressed. Not only was it superb with Christophe Gans’ unique visual style, I found the central performance from Mark Dacascos to be fantastic and a truly memorable one.

9.) Collateral (2004)

Michael Mann rarely disappoints, and 2004′s Collateral was a film that could have gone either way. With Tom Cruise in the lead as the antagonist Vincent, a less than typical assassin/hitman it seemed like a strange casting decision. But those doubts were laid to rest when the film premiered and it proved that Mann still had ‘it’ and Tom Cruise disappeared into the role. This is one of the rare films where you don’t even think about it being Tom Cruise, you see the character. A fantastic film with great performances, and one that certainly made the ‘bad guy’ almost likeable.

8.) Assassins (1995)

You know what? I absolutely love this film! It’s Richard Donner, with Sylvestor Stallone, Antonio Banderas and Julianne Moore in this action/drama/thriller. For me this is one of those films that I can throw on at anytime, I don’t need to be in particular mood for it. Stallone and Banderas are two very different actors, yet some how they are perfectly cast as dual assassins. They play off each other with perfection, and Banderas really showed that he’s a force to be reckoned with. Julianne Moore was more (eh no pun) than just eye candy, and elevated her role. A blast of a film, and definitely one of my personal favourites from the mid-90′s.

7.) No Country For Old Men (2007)

This film is not your a-typical ‘assassin’ film, however the inclusion of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem’s Oscar winning role) makes it a force to be reckoned with. He is perhaps the most unique of hitmen, cold, heartless, no backstory, he remains an enigma throughout the film. His methods and weapon of choice are unconventional, which makes it such compelling viewing. The film itself is fantastic, with Chigurh the character and Bardem’s performance being the stand out and an element that made the film so memorable.

6.) Grosse Point Blank (1997)

Perhaps the most off-beat on this list, Grosse Point Blank made quite the splash in the late 90′s. John Cusack plays the assassin, who is sent on a job to a small town, which happens to coincide with his High School Reunion, oh did I mention he also needs therapy? The film has a bit of everything, it is the characters that make this work so well. John Cusack turns in a career best performance as Martin Blank, and his co-stars (particularly Minnie Driver) play off him so well. This is a film that has great re-watch value, and it is just such an awesome ride.

5.) The Day Of The Jackal (1973)

I don’t think any ‘assassin’ type list would be complete without this film. It is a true classic in every sense of the word, and one of the finest political assassination films ever made. Edward Fox is truly amazing as The Jackal, disappearing into every disguise he dons for the film. It was expertly directed by Fred Zinnemann, with an absolutely amazing cinematography by Jean Tournier. The film has a timeless feel, and it remains one that you can pop in every so often and be reminded of how fantastic that era of film making was.

4.) The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

From one political assassin film to another, The Manchurian Candidate in my eyes is a flawless film. It is one of my personal favourites and one that seemed far too ahead of its time. The film deals with some deep political issues from that time, and uses brainwashing as a means to create an assassin. The film has intrigue, and it will keep you guessing the entire way through. Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury are all top notch in their roles, with Lansbury gaining an Oscar nomination. The film has aged so well, and while the Demme remake was solid, nothing beats the original.

3.) La Femme Nikita (1990)/The Assassin (1993)

I have placed both the original and remake together because quite simply they are both fantastic films. La Femme Nikita from Luc Besson showcased a female assassin, which seemed to be rarely seen. Anne Parillaud was truly outstanding in the role, and I’d say the better of the two. But Bridget Fonda really came into her own with the role. The film probably shouldn’t have worked, but for some reason it does. Both are worth watching, and definitely deliver on the goods.

2.) The Killer (1989)

Oh John Woo how I adore you, from the time I first discovered your talents in the early 90′s, I knew I would always be a fan. This is one of those films that I had heard about for the longest time, but had so much trouble tracking it down. I finally came across it in this video store, which stocked a lot of hard to find stuff. I fell in love with the film, the story now might seem a bit typical with the ‘one final job’ and ‘double cross’ aspects, but back then it wasn’t. Chow Yun-Fat delivers a great and memorable performance as Ah Jong, and Woo’s visual style is just beautiful. Give me this film any day of the week!

1.) Leon: The Professional (1994)

Luc Besson’s Leon: The Professional really is the best assassin film, it has everything. The man knows his stuff, and it is no wonder why he is in the Top 10 list twice. Leon (Jean Reno) is a loner, who by chance befriends a young girl Mathilda (Natalie Portman) whose family are all killed by the crazed cop Stansfield (Gary Oldman). He teaches her about what he does, the way he handles his business as ‘a cleaner’ and the code he lives by. The film gave the hitman a face and a character, one that made him the protagonist, when he probably shouldn’t be. The film is smart, the script and direction from Besson is probably the best he has ever delivered. Reno owns the film, as does Oldman, the pair are outstanding actors but these are two of the roles they always get remembered for and it isn’t difficult to see why. Natalie Portman emerged as a new talent, and her star has been shining brightly ever since. If you haven’t ever tackled this one, you are missing out on one of cinema’s best.

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Marcella Papandrea

Film nerd extraordinaire from the land down under.

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3 Comments

  1. Leon is definitely a classic. As is Grosse Point Blank.
    2 of my favorite films.

  2. Great list!

    I would have included SHOGUN ASSASSIN.

    Marcey Papandrea Reply:

    I haven’t seen Shogun Assassin in a long long time, not memory fresh I am afraid.