It’s morally wrong to kill someone but there are those whose evil subconscious triggers the need for human blood in their hands even without a motive. Meanwhile, there are also those whose desire to kill comes from pent-up anger or the need to exact revenge from a tragic or post-traumatic past. There is no shortage of reasons why people kill each other, and this has been a constant premise in the cinematic world. But assassins, on the other hand, are just in it for the money. Killing becomes their profession. As such, they are trained and skilled at lethal execution and they do it discreetly, or should we say, stealthily. Assassin movies are always great entertainment. They also give the audience a glimpse into the lives of these contract killers.
There is something devious about watching someone kill another in cold blood on the silver screen. It gives a feeling of danger, thrill, incredulous wonder, suspense, horror, and more. When it comes to the big screen, there are a lot of these hitman films. Keanu Reeves, for one, plays the role of the contract killer very well in John Wick. Here, he trades his acrobatic stunts in The Matrix for the more lethal revolver in John Wick.
Meanwhile, Denzel Washington is very discreet as an assassin in Equalizer. Then you have Quintin Tarantino’s films including cult classic Pulp Fiction and the action-packed Kill Bill. There are tame assassin movies where the killers do the job quietly with silencers, poisons, and more non-graphic means. Then there are also those that are pure unadulterated carnage where you see great action, blood, and gore.
Below we have listed down 20 of the best assassin movies to have hit cinemas. We guarantee you these films will make cold blood boil and induce some clenched fists, expletive-ridden outbursts, and adrenaline surges. So, scour the list and see which one triggers you the most.
- The Replacement Killers (1998)
- The Boondock Saints (1999)
- The Bourne Identity (2002)
- The Pelican Brief (1993)
- The Big Hit (1998)
- Looper (2012)
- Hitman (2007)
- Pulp Fiction (1994)
- Kill Bill (2003)
- Equilibrium (2002)
- John Wick (2014)
- The Professional (1994)
- The Equalizer (2014)
- Red (2010)
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
- The Irishman (2019)
- Munich (2005)
The Replacement Killers (1998)
Chow Yun-Fat marks his name in Hollywood cinema in his American film debut, where he plays John Lee, an assassin sent on a mission by Chinatown mob boss Terence Wei (Kenneth Tsang) to murder the seven-year-old son of policeman Stan Zedkov (Michael Rooker). But when his conscience dictates him against killing an innocent life, his boss sends the “replacement killers” instead to take him out.
Fearing that the mob boss will go after his family, he teams up with expert forger Meg Coburn (Mia Sorvino) to help him get out of the country. But he must act fast or else he meets his demise in the hands of the killers on his trail.
This shoot-em-up assassin movie has all the thrills and action to keep your adrenaline high. Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino make an entertaining pair.
Directors: Antoine Fuqua—Screenplay: Ken Sanzel— Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rooker, Kenneth Tsang, Til Schweiger, Danny Trejo, Leo Lee, Carlos Leon, Nicki Micheaux— Run Time: 1h 27m
The Boondock Saints (1999)
This indie film centers on two Boston Irish Catholic brothers Connor and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus). They suddenly find themselves being lauded for a crime they served jail time for. They accidentally killed mafia thugs, surrendered, imprisoned, and then released as heroes. From there they picked up from where they left off. They start killing members of the mafia one by one because they see it as God’s calling.
Meanwhile, FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) is on their trail trying to find their motive. But the closer he comes to catching them, he ultimately realizes that they are doing the community good with their own brand of zealous vigilante justice.
Directors: Troy Duffy—Screenplay: Troy Duffy— Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Billy Connolly, Bob Marley, Brian Mahoney, Layton Morrison— Run Time: 1h 48m
The Bourne Identity (2002)
This action-packed film follows a man (Matt Damon) on a journey of self-discovery. He is trying to regain lost memories after he is found near death on the ocean by an Italian fishing boat.
He suffers from total amnesia but somehow possesses a range of extraordinary talents including fighting, self-defense, and linguistic skills. The man also discovers he owns several fake passports. From there, he sets out on a mission to find out who he really is.
However, someone is not happy that he is alive and is bent on seeing him dead for good. His quest to retrace his past leads him into a deadly game of cat and mouse, as he tries to outrun the assassins sent on his trail.
This is a fast-paced assassin movie that is never short of action, mystery, and suspense. It has grit, intrigue, thrill, and an unpredictable storyline. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. Matt Damon’s character also becomes a likable protagonist whom you can sympathize with. The film gives justice to Robert Ludlum’s book of the same name.
Directors: Doug Liman—Screenplay: Tony Gilroy, W. Blake Herron— Cast: Matt Damon, Franke Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Gabriel Mann, Walton Goggins, Julia Stiles, Josh Hamilton, Tim Dutton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — Run Time: 1h 59m
The Pelican Brief (1993)
Law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) is on a run for her life after she uncovers deadly secrets involving senior government figures. She stumbles on a conspiracy theory while working on a legal brief about the assassination of two Supreme Court justices.
She realizes just how accurate her theory is about their deaths when her lover/mentor gets murdered after they turned in her discovery to someone from the FBI. Soon people in her circle start getting killed.
Fearing for her life but bent on exposing the truth, she turns to investigative reporter Gray Grantham for help. He has intel on the killings and tells her the brief can seriously harm the president. But before they can publicize their findings, they must outrun the assassins sent to kill them.
This assassin movie packs adrenaline, intrigue, and mystery. It is an engaging conspiracy theory thriller based on John Grisham’s book of the same name. Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington (Gray Grantham) do a great job of pulling viewers into the heart of the film until the credits roll.
Directors: Alan J. Pakula—Screenplay: Alan J. Pakula — Cast: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, James Sikking, William Artherton, Stanley Tucci, Robert Culp, John Lithgow, Cynthia Nixon— Run Time: 2h 21m
The Big Hit (1998)
If you’re just in it for the fun and the one-liners, then this film checks both. It is essentially a dark comedy assassin movie sprinkled with romance. A young Mark Wahlberg plays assassin Melvin Smiley. He and his friends are contract killers although he is the talented one among the group. He may be a killer but you can’t help but admire his sweet and kind nature.
They unexpectedly find themselves in big trouble because of one of their hostages, a college student named Keiko Nishi (China Chow). It turns out that she is the goddaughter of their boss. Melvin also unexpectedly finds himself attracted to their hostage, making things worse.
Don’t expect too much in terms of storyline and character development. But there’s more than enough action to keep you entertained. Mark Wahlberg and Lou Diamond Phillips as Cisco both steal the show.
Directors: Kirk Wong—Screenplay: Ben Ramsey — Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate, China Chow, Avery Brooks, Bokeem Woodbine, Antonio Sabato Jr.— Run Time: 1h 31m
Possibly one of the outstanding and memorable assassin movies told in a science fiction setting. It is the year 2074, and the mob goes above and beyond time, literally, to ensure that when they want someone killed, they are dead for sure.
They send the targets 30 years into the past where a hired gun, called a looper, awaits to execute them. In the center of all this is hitman Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is very skilled at his job. He has not failed once not until he comes face-to-face with his future self.
The mob apparently wants to “close the loop” by sending his future self to the past for assassination. But future Joe knows that this day would eventually come so he came prepared. Both men end up struggling to fulfil their own agendas while trying to avoid capture.
Directors: Rian Johnson—Screenplay: Rian Johnson — Cast: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels— Run Time: 1h 53m
It can be daunting to do a film based off on a video game, but the Hitman is a commendable take on the stealth game franchise. Fans will find enough moments of good action, gore, and gunfighting. The blood, bullets, and women are there too as in the game.
The story follows a professional assassin known as Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant). He is hired to work for a group only known as “The Organization” but finds himself trapped in a dangerous political conspiracy. He sets out on a mission to find out who sets him up but his attraction to a traumatized woman jeopardizes his survival.
If you’re a fan of the game then this assassin movie is for you. Don’t expect too much in terms of a great storyline and realistic expectations. You have to put your brain on neutral and simply enjoy the action sequences.
Directors: Xavier Gens—Screenplay: Skip Woods — Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen, Henry Ian Cusick, James Faulkner— Run Time: 1h 40m
Pulp Fiction (1994)
John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson play contract killers in this memorable and award-winning assassin movie by renowned director Quentin Tarantino. They are sent on a mission to retrieve a suitcase stolen from mob boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and to take his wife Mia (Uma Thurman) out for a few days while he is out of town.
Then there’s Ringo (Tim Roth) and Yolanda (Amanda Plummer) who rob a diner and Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) who gets paid by Marsellus to throw a boxing match. He expects him to lose in his fifth fight but he wins instead.
This is one entertaining movie that deserved the title of one of Tarantino’s iconic greats. Expect mayhem, gore, and lots of fun when the lives of these different personalities intertwine.
Directors: Quentin Tarantino—Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary — Cast: Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer — Run Time: 2h 34m
Kill Bill (2003)
What do you get when you have assassins fighting other groups of assassins? Bloody violence. Quentin Tarantino creates another masterpiece with this iconic classic that spawned into a franchise. In the center of the story is Uma Thurman’s ‘The Bride’ or Black Mamba, a former contract killer who wakes up from a four-year coma to seek vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her.
The Bride was a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad led by her lover Bill (David Caradine). She left her life as a killer, fled to Texas, where she planned to start a new life with a new man. But a jealous Bill had other plans. He had the man killed. She wakes up from a coma to discover her baby too is gone. From there begins the Kill Bill saga which ended with the protagonist finding justice in the second film, Kill Bill Vol. 2.
Directors: Quentin Tarantino—Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino— Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, David Caradine, Michael Madsen, Vivica A. Fox, Julie Dreyfus, Chiaki Kuriyama, Michael Bowen, Shin’ichi Chiba, Jun Kunimura— Run Time: 1h 51m
Set in the futuristic world where humans are forbidden from showing or feeling any kind of emotion. The government controls the human population and under its strict regime dictates that books, art, and music as contraband.
Those who resist the rules find themselves at the mercy of hired killers employed by the government. One of them is John Preston (Christian Bale), who is very good at his job until he misses a dose of the mind-altering drug Prozium which hinders emotions. Suddenly, he finds himself the unlikely hero in the story as he is the only one capable of overthrowing the government.
Directors: Kurt Wimmer—Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer— Cast: Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Dominic Purcell, Sean Pertwee, William Fichtner, Maria Pia Calzone, Angus Macfadyen, Christian Kahrmann— Run Time: 1h 47m
John Wick (2014)
John Wick, a former hitman, still mourns the death of his wife. The only thing that keeps him going is the dog she gave him for company. But all hell breaks loose when the arrogant Russian mob prince Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) decides to enter his home. He then steals his prized 1969 Mustang and kills his beloved pooch.
Blinded by rage, John Wick vows to avenge his dog and retrieve his car no matter what it takes. He unearths his well-hidden identity, retrieves long-buried weapons, and stages an orchestrated attack against kingpin, Viggo Tarasov, and his family. The events that follow create a ripple effect that puts his life in danger.
This movie was a massive success in that it birthed two more films and the third is still in production. By the end of the first film, John Wick becomes a wanted man. He must learn to evade the hordes of assassins sent out to kill him.
Directors: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch—Screenplay: Derek Kolstad— Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Omer Barnea, Bridget Moynahan, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, Daniel Bernhardt, Keith Jardine, Tait Fletcher— Run Time: 1h 41m
The Professional (1994)
A 12-year-old orphan girl decides to learn how to become an assassin following the death of her family. Her stepmother, abusive drug dealer father, step-sister, and little brother are killed by her father’s boss, and she vows to avenge their deaths.
She takes refuge in the apartment of a meek yet professional hitman who teaches her how to become an assassin. Slowly, she plans her revenge on the crooked DEA agent who murdered her family. She also develops a close bond with the hitman.
Directors: Luc Besson—Screenplay: Luc Besson— Cast: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello, Peter Appel, Elizabeth Regen— Run Time: 1h 50m
The Equalizer (2014)
Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) lives a quiet and mundane life of solitude after he faked his own death. But he comes out of his self-imposed retirement as a special service commando when he saved a young girl named Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz).
He ultimately finds his desire for justice reawakened when he comes face-to-face with members of a Russian mob who manhandled her. With his set of skills, he comes out as the protector of the helpless.
Directors: Antoine Fuqua—Screenplay: Richard Wenk, Michael Sloan— Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, David Meunier— Run Time: 2h 12m
Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is bored of his life. The only excitement he gets is from when he processes his government pension and gets to talk to his caseworker Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). But he puts his life at risk and that of Sarah’s when someone out there wants him dead.
After he survives an assault from a group of hired hitmen, Frank reconnects with his old pals to uncover a massive conspiracy to save their lives. Even if this involves a near-impossible mission of breaking into the CIA headquarters. This assassin movie is fast, funny, and smart. It is a wild and fun ride from beginning to end.
Directors: Robert Schwentke—Screenplay: Jon Hoeber— Cast: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, Jefferson Brown, Heidi von Palleske, Karl Urban, Chris Owens— Run Time: 1h 51m
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
The film brought Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie together as a married couple on and off the screen. In the movie, they live as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a perfectly normal couple who live in the suburb with normal jobs. But they each hide a dark secret. They are both working as assassins and have both been hired to kill the same target Benjamin Danz (Adam Brody).
They only find out about their respective line of work when they realize that they have become each other’s targets. But the more they try to take each other down, the more they learn more about each other than they ever did in the six years of their marriage.
Directors: Doug Liman—Screenplay: Simon Kinberg— Cast: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Adam Brody, Vince Vaughn, Keith David, Kerry Washington, Chris Weitz, Michelle Monaghan, Rachel Huntley, Jennifer Morrison, Elijah Alexander— Run Time: 2h
The Irishman (2019)
Don’t get dissuaded by the length of this film. It may be three hours long, but it is riveting, as like any other astounding films from Martin Scorsese. No time is wasted in the storytelling of the life and adventures of Frank Sheeran aka The Irishman (Robert De Niro).
Frank has dabbled in several jobs. He has worked as a truck driver and a labor union high official. But his most promising and dangerous job was as a hitman serving in Italy during World War II.
He gets involved with Russel Bufalino and his crime family and becomes the top assassin. He also works for Jimmy Hoffa who is also tied to organized crime. Frank claims to have played a part in the mysterious disappearance of the former president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in July 1975.
Directors: Martin Scorsese—Screenplay: Steve Zaillian— Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Jack Huston, Jesse Plemons, Marin Ireland, Paul Herman— Run Time: 3h 29m
This thrilling and politically handed assassin movie follows hitman Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana). He carries out a series of attacks following the tragic 1972 Olympics murder. Eleven Israeli athletes and their coach are dead. The Israeli government secretly hires him to kill those responsible for their deaths.
He takes on his mission with the help of a forger, a bomb-maker, and a former soldier. But he begins to question the morality of his actions as the dead bodies pile up.
Directors: Steven Spielberg—Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Eric Roth— Cast: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Marie-Josée Croze, Ciarán Hinds, Geoffrey Rush, Meret Becker, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler— Run Time: 2h 44m