The ’80s Gritty Crime Thriller Marvel Wants You To Never See Again

By TeeJay Small | Published

These days, Marvel films have become as ubiquitous as entertainment media itself, prompting a wave of discourse from everyone including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Bob Iger. Despite Marvel’s Disney-owned tendrils seeping into nearly every element of modern film and television, there are still Marvel products the corporate giant doesn’t want you to see. That’s where The Punisher comes in.

1989s The Punisher

One such film, 1989’s The Punisher, is completely unavailable to stream, buy, rent, or digitally download by any legal means.

Due to financial trouble in the mid to late 20th century, Marvel Comics was forced to sell off the film rights to a number of their iconic characters and stories to several competing bidders.

Characters Once Barred From The MCU

This is why previous Spider-Man and X-Men entries were barred from interacting with the MCU, resulting in a jilted and fractured series of reb00ts, sequels, and workarounds sure to leave children of the future scratching their heads when they dig into the early days of comic book movies.

One such production studio, the now-defunct New World Pictures, received the rights to a film adaptation of the iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher.

Dolph Lundgren Was The Punisher


In 1989, these rights were put to use, in the form of a Dolph Lundgren-led critically panned action thriller. Though The Punisher failed to wow critics, and never properly received a wide theatrical release in the United States, it serves as something of a blueprint for modern renditions of the character.

For starters, the film is R-rated, and contains a great deal of action scenes showcasing the hyper-violent vigilante slayings of the eponymous protagonist, much to the chagrin of viewers with a weak stomach.

Studios Afraid Of Comic Book Violence


Throughout much of the early 2000’s, studios seemed to be afraid to bring comic book violence to the big screen in a genuine and unflinching manner, for fear that the loss of the young child and family demographic would cause their films to tank.

Luckily, this hasn’t been the case for modern outings of The Punisher, as Jon Bernthal‘s take on the beloved cop-killer featured some of the most gruesome and foul-mouthed scenes in modern Marvel history.

The New Punisher


Of course, now that the Disney-owned Marvel studios have begun systemically collecting stray IP from competing film and television studios like infinity stones, so to has the studio started snapping the early outings of their characters from the annals of history, turning them to a heap of ash.

Marvel currently has plans to bring The Punisher into the MCU in an official capacity, as the 2017 Netflix series technically took place outside the purview of the larger franchise. This likely explains why the 1989 Dolph Lundgren iteration is nowhere to be found online or in stores.

Have To Purchase 1989s The Punisher


For those seeking to soak up every bit of comic book film history, you may be forced to purchase a copy of 1989’s The Punisher on Ebay, or hope to get lucky searching the VHS and Laserdisc bins at your local thrift store.

The film currently has no announced plans to appear on any streaming service or digital store, and almost surely has not been sold in big-box stores such as Walmart or Target in decades.