These days, it seems as though a movie featuring a prominent team of assassins comes out every week, with so many hidden killers hiding in plain sight it leaves you to wonder if there are enough regular, non-rampaging people left to do the ‘normal’ jobs.
Of course, not all movie assassins are created equally, with some providing a blueprint for the greatest performances committed to the screen and others being left to the dustbin of cinema history. Here are 5 of the greatest movie assassins of all time.
Black Widow – Marvel Cinematic Universe
This list couldn’t exist without at least one entrant from the MCU. Despite her position as a hero throughout most of her Marvel appearances, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow, was an esteemed movie assassin for years before signing on to be a part of Nick Fury’s Avengers Initiative.
Black Widow’s ability to stealthily infiltrate and silently take down her targets leaves no question as to whether she’s earned her namesake, and her ability to hold her own against a team of super-powered heroes with inhuman strength never ceases to shock and awe her peers.
Johansson portrayed this iconic character through 9 Marvel outings, beginning with 2010’s Iron Man 2 and concluding with her own eponymous prequel film in 2021.
Though the character eventually met her demise in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, she did so as a means of self-sacrifice in order to help the Avengers collect the infinity stones and defeat Thanos once and for all, thus proving that no character could best her in a battle to the death but herself.
Anton Chigurh – No Country For Old Men
Anton Chigurh is less of a movie assassin and more of a serial killer psychopath who single-handedly inspired a generation of people to stop showing kindness to hitchhikers.
The character, as expertly portrayed by Javier Bardem, appears in the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winning 2007 crime drama No Country For Old Men and amasses a body count higher than some wars.
Chigurh subscribes to his own twisted understanding of fate and destiny, reckoning that every decision the folks who have crossed his path have ever made led them to his feet. This entitles him, in his own mind, to kill them as he sees fit, so long as they don’t step outside of his bizarre fundamentals of fate, such as correctly guessing on a coin toss.
Anton Chigurh utilizes a killing tool not seen in the common blockbuster, such as an air-powered bolt gun commonly used to slaughter cattle. Because of this, the psychotic killer is not only one of the most compelling movie assassins to hit the big screen, he is also a strong candidate for a Mortal Kombat mod.
The Bride – Kill Bill
Few can do murder on the big screen quite like Quentin Tarantino. When it came time for the auteur filmmaker to pen his fourth film, he turned to Uma Thurman to bring his femme-fatale movie assassin to life, to incredible results.
Thurman portrays The Bride, whose real name is Beatrix Kiddo, in both Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2, stacking up one of the most intimidating kill counts in all of cinema.
Through her journey of bloodthirsty revenge, Kiddo systematically eliminates each of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad before locating and executing Bill, who she comes to learn is the father of her child.
Tarantino has long maintained that he’d like to return to the franchise to write and direct a third volume, in which Uma Thurman’s daughter, Stranger Things‘ Maya Hawke, portrays the now-adult daughter of Beatrix Kiddo and becomes an assassin in her own right.
Quentin Tarantino has expressed that his upcoming movie, The Movie Critic, will be his final cinematic outing, meaning we may never get the chance to see Thurman’s iconic movie assassin again.
Of course, the filmmaker also considers both volumes of Kill Bill to qualify as a single film, meaning there may be hope for a return to the franchise in the form of a technicality.
Jules Winnfield – Pulp Fiction
In a second Quentin Tarantino-created entry into this list, Samuel L. Jackson stars in 1994’s Pulp Fiction as Jules Winnfield, one of the most lauded and recognizable movie assassins in cinema history.
When he isn’t intimidating his foes by housing their lunch in front of them or waxing poetic about the social politics of French fries and foot massages, he’s busy blasting holes in human bodies big enough to stick your fist through.
The misadventures of Jules and John Travolta’s Vincent Vega throughout the film serve as the basis for both a measured meditation on Tarantino’s views on the world around him and as the moral center of the non-linear tale.
By the end of the film, Jules chooses to denounce his life of violence, surmising that his survival in this dangerous industry is the result of divine intervention from a god who demands he do more with his mortal soul. Regardless of this ethical heel-turn, Jules Winnfield will always be one of film’s greatest assassins.
John Wick – John Wick
What would a list of movie assassins be without the one and only John Wick? Though the fictional character is the latest creation to join this list, he is perhaps the most prolific and impactful example of a movie assassin ever committed to the big screen.
As portrayed by the internet’s darling, Keanu Reeves, the Baba Yaga has stabbed, shot, choked, punched, kicked, and motorcycled his way through four eponymous films, with a planned spinoff in the works at Peacock.
John Wick first appeared in 2014, immediately sparking a wave of audience fervor due to his love and loss of both his late wife and his adorable dog, allowing the character the immediate right to mow down droves of nameless, faceless baddies without the viewer at home ever feeling bad for anybody involved.
In the near-decade since the first film premiered, John Wick has altered the state of cinema, with a host of new movie assassins coming out of the woodwork to emulate the character’s style. Of course, no imitation has yet surpassed the greatness of John Wick, landing him firmly in the number one position on our list.