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20 Best Hitman Movies, Ranked According to IMDb

May 25, 202417 Mins Read

Hitmen make for truly fascinating protagonists in film. They are exciting by nature, as ruthless figures who kill people with expert precision, they usually serve as deadly villains in the films they appear in rather than as violent heroes. However, be they action blockbusters, contemplative dramas, or even black comedies, many movies cast contract killers as the main attraction to delve into the human condition and explore the moral conundrums surrounding life and death while offering a sensational spectacle to boot.

These hitman movies focus on contract killers for criminal associations rather than political assassins or government operatives, reveling in the shady underbelly of the world where violent and ruthless characters wait around every corner. Ranging from Quentin Tarantino classics to masterpieces of international cinema, these films are among the very best hitman movies ever made, and they have high IMDb scores to support them.

20 ‘The Killer’ (2023)

IMDb Score: 6.7/10

Michael Fassbender as The Killer sitting on the floor looking ahead in The Killer
Image via Netflix

A Netflix original, The Killer marks the 12th feature film by acclaimed director David Fincher, not to mention his fifth collaboration with Netflix, and sees the meticulous filmmaker in fine form. With elements of action, crime-thriller, and drama, it follows an assassin who, after a job goes wrong, embarks on an international manhunt to track down and kill his employers.

The Killer showcases Fincher’s perfectionism, blending genres as the Killer’s (Michael Fassbender) internal monologue of strict rules comes increasingly at odds with his actions. The confidence in the filmmaking is a treat to watch, with the movie’s briskness never glossing over the kills while never slowing down for them either, while Fassbender’s performance is characteristically sublime. The Killer is sure to become a cherished gem within Fincher’s filmography, already garnering a small but potent fanbase.

19 ‘The Iceman’ (2012)

IMDb Score: 6.8/10

Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski and Ray Liotta as Roy DeMeo have a conversation outside in The Iceman
Image via Millenium Entertainment

The Iceman is a crime drama that can lay claim to being a biographical picture given its loose basis on American hitman Richard Kuklinski (portrayed by Michael Shannon), a killer for hire who was convicted of four murders in 1988, though he claimed to have killed upwards of 100 people. The film focuses on Kuklinski as he carries out the killings while keeping his violent life hidden from his family.

While the film was somewhat hampered by a few plot issues and some weak moments, Michael Shannon’s suitably chilling performance as the infamous Iceman commands the screen with such presence that it is impossible not to be entranced by him. With a brilliant supporting cast around him, the performances alone make The Iceman an essential film for all lovers of hitman flicks and crime cinema.

The Iceman

Release Date
September 1, 2012

Ariel Vromen


18 ‘The Equalizer’ (2014)

IMDb Score: 7.2/10

A retired hitman in a black shirt stands in a decadent room.
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

An action thriller that packs a punch and successfully launched a film trilogy, 2014’s The Equalizer re-adapted the ‘80s television series of the same name with aptly crowd-pleasing results. It stars Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, a former U.S. Marine who has left his violent past behind him, but when he sees a teenage girl being abused by the Russian mobsters she works for, he steps in to expel justice and ensures the girl remains safe.

While it flaunted some style and plenty of action violence, it was largely Washington’s typically brilliant and weighty lead performance that saw the film thrive. Coupled with director Antoine Faqua’s eagerness to use small details to ground the vigilante hero as a violent saint amid a corrupt and cruel world, The Equalizer proved to be an easily likable and triumphant action film with plenty of entertainment value to boot.

17 ‘Bullet Train’ (2022)

IMDb Score: 7.3/10

brad pitt bullet train social featured
Image via Sony

A fun-loving and vibrant action romp set aboard a high-speed train in Japan, Bullet Train stands as another stylistic, crowd-pleasing triumph for director David Leitch. It sees Brad Pitt star as Ladybug, an unlucky and contemplative assassin who is tasked with retrieving a briefcase from the train. However, he crosses paths with several other hired guns, each with their own objectives that span from revenge to protecting the son of a crime lord.

While critics were mixed on the film, general audiences seemed to embrace it with far more warmth, as is evidenced by its strong IMDb score and its impressive box office intake of $239.2 million. At its best, Bullet Train is a relentless action spectacle that piles on the laughs to offer exhilarating and pure entertainment.

16 ‘This Gun For Hire’ (1942)

IMDb Score: 7.4/10

Something of a forgotten gem of noir cinema from Hollywood’s Golden Age, This Gun For Hire is the film that launched Alan Ladd to superstardom and also excels as a gripping hitman thriller that has aged gracefully over the decades. Part of the reason for this has been its complex story and its moral ambiguity, ensuring that cheering for a roguish antihero isn’t really an option.

It follows a sadistic gunman who, upon learning he has been paid in marked bills, vows to take revenge on his double-crossing employer. However, the situation grows complicated when the shooter falls in with one of his employer’s new entertainers, who just so happens to be the girlfriend of the detective looking into the case. Ahead of its time, Ladd’s performance as the hitman was unique in its era, giving the film a distinct edge that not only made the actor a star, but gave the picture an enduring timelessness as well.

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15 ‘The American Friend’ (1977)

IMDb Score: 7.4/10

Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz) holds a pistol over his shoulder in 'The American Friend' (1977)
Image via Filmverlag der Autoren

Based on Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith, Wim Wenders‘ 1977 psychological thriller The American Friend is a suitably gripping film about an imperfect hit that bears dire consequences. It follows American expatriate Tom (Dennis Hopper), who makes a living selling forged artworks, as he participates in a murder scheme for some extra cash. In need of a gunman who won’t talk, Tom decides to use Jonathan (Bruno Ganz), a desperate family man dying of cancer, but his ineptitude as a hitman spells trouble for all involved.

In addition to its exploration of moral corruption, The American Friend also capitalizes on an alluring visual display and two intriguingly juxtaposed performances between the eccentricity of Hopper and the stoicism of Ganz. Surprisingly grounded given its story, the film can be a challenge to grasp on first viewing, but its somber humanity makes it worth experiencing.

The American Friend

Release Date
September 28, 1977

Wim Wenders

Dennis Hopper , Bruno Ganz , Lisa Kreuzer , Gérard Blain , Nicholas Ray , Samuel Fuller , Peter Lilienthal , Daniel Schmid

128 Minutes

Watch on Criterion

14 ‘Looper’ (2012)

IMDb Score: 7.4/10

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as young Joe aiming a gun in Looper.
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

Hitman narratives entwine beautifully with a vast range of different genres, something Rian Johnson proved with excellent results with his sci-fi thriller Looper. Set in 2074, it follows a hitman who is paid by gangsters 30 years in the future to execute targets sent back in time, thus eradicating their deaths from the future world entirely. However, the situation grows volatile in the time loop movie when Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is confronted with his own future self who escapes the hit.

It served as a major breakthrough in the context of Johnson’s career, with the writer-director being celebrated in equal parts for his strong, atmospheric direction and his intelligent, original, and thought-provoking story. Bolstered by excellent supporting performances from Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis, Looper remains one of the sharpest sci-fi films of the century with an intense and gripping hitman story to boot.


Release Date
September 26, 2012

Rian Johnson


13 ‘John Wick’ (2014)

IMDb Score: 7.4/10

Keanu Reeves as John Wick aiming a rifle in John Wick (2014)
Image via Summit Entertainment 

As the spearhead of a massive resurgence in violent and fun action cinema in America, John Wick is a scintillating revenge movie that became an instant pop-culture phenomenon. It stars Keanu Reeves as the titular hero, a legendary hitman grieving his wife’s death in retirement when the son of a Russian gangster steals his car and kills his dog, setting John Wick on a brutal quest for revenge.

As an all-out action spectacle, John Wick is less preoccupied with using hitmen as a thematic catalyst to explore human morality. Instead, it’s all about delivering exhilarating action thrills, with director Chad Stahelski’s experience as a stuntman coming to the fore in the incredibly choreographed combat sequences. John Wick has spawned an extensive series and a television spin-off, while Reeves’ now iconic hitman has become almost mythic in the eyes of action lovers everywhere.

John Wick

Release Date
October 24, 2014

101 minutes

12 ‘A Bittersweet Life’ (2005)

IMDb Score: 7.5/10

From South Korea, A Bittersweet Life is a heart-pounding and stylistically violent crime thriller that excels as both a neo-noir hitman flick and an out-and-out action delight. It follows Lee Byung-hun‘s Kim Sun-woo, a revered hitman in a criminal empire, whose refusal to murder his boss’s cheating mistress ignites a volatile gang war that sees many crooks end up dead as Kim is ruthlessly pursued by his former mob.

The film dances with the tropes of the genre with grace and punch, reveling in the ultra-violent mayhem it explores while still making Kim Sun-woo a compelling character bolstered by Byung-hun’s strong and nuanced performance. With chaos, carnage, choreographed kills, and character drama, A Bittersweet Life contains something for everyone, making it a popular hitman movie and one of the best South Korean films this century.

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11 ‘Collateral’ (2004)

IMDb Score: 7.5/10

Vincent looking angry through a window in Collateral.
Image via Paramount Pictures

As the strongest film of renowned filmmaker Michael Mann’s career since the turn of the century, Collateral flies by as an adrenaline-pumping crime thriller with a brilliant, confined narrative. It follows a cab driver in Los Angeles who realizes that the fare he’s been taking to multiple locations is actually a contract killer carrying out a number of hits for a drug lord. As he learns the truth, Max (Jamie Foxx) struggles to find a way to interrupt the murder spree while keeping himself alive.

It mixed a hard-edged, gritty intensity with an enthralling, pacy story to be a richly immersive action thriller, one bolstered by a truly brilliant against-type performance from Tom Cruise who portrayed the cold and efficient killer, Vincent. While Cruise’s performance surprisingly didn’t earn recognition, Collateral did net Academy Award nominations for its film editing and for Jamie Foxx’s supporting performance.


Release Date
August 4, 2004

Michael Mann


10 ‘Fallen Angels’ (1995)

IMDb Score: 7.6/10

Often heralded as being one of the finest films to have come from Hong Kong, Fallen Angels sees the mesmerizing Wong Kar-Wai at his stylistic best. A striking and visually astounding meditation on loneliness, it focuses on a hitman trying to break free from his life of crime while being the target of his partner’s affections. The story also intersects with the journey of a mute ex-convict on the run.

There is an overbearing sense of tragedy to the Fallen Angels as the thematic focus on social alienation in the modern world clashes with a cynical comedic punch and its obvious crime allure through a series of hypnotic vignettes. A stylistic delight, Fallen Angels was well received by both fans and critics upon release and has only won over more fans in the years since.

Watch on Max

9 ‘Road to Perdition’ (2002)

IMDb Score: 7.7/10

Tom Hanks scowls as he holds up a tommy gun in the pouring rain.
Image via DreamWorks Pictures

A gripping period crime drama that was actually based on DC Comics’ graphic novel series of the same name, Road to Perdition was a thematically hefty thriller with an excellent sense of style to boot. While slower than most other hitman movies, Road to Perdition uses its refined tempo to emphasize its central thematic focus on the relationships between fathers and sons while also exploring the consequences of violence.

Set during the Great Depression, it follows a mob hitman who must go on the run with his son after the child witnesses a gangland killing, thus attracting the wrath of the mob in the form of the boss’ petulant son, Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig). With a dazzling visual display, an impressive directorial outing from Sam Mendes in just his second film, and two aptly sublime performances from Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, Road to Perdition became an arresting film that explored hitmen a little differently from many other movies.

Road to Perdition

Release Date
July 12, 2002

117 minutes

8 John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

IMDb Score: 7.7/10

Keanu Reeves in John Wick Chapter 4
Image via Lionsgate

While the first two sequels to John Wick upheld the original’s action heft and sense of style, John Wick: Chapter 4 saw the franchise soar to even greater heights. Despite running for almost three hours, the action spectacle rarely has a dull moment and none of its combat sequences overstay their welcome, with director Chad Stahelski crafting a visual display of entrancing balletic brutality.

It follows John Wick as he figures out a way to bring down the High Table and earn his freedom, only to be confronted by formidable foes from all around the world hoping to claim the bounty on his head. As it stands, John Wick: Chapter 4 could well be the last installment in the saga, marking a glorious outro to one of the best action movie series ever and Keanu Reeves’ instantly iconic hitman.

7 ‘The Killer’ (1989)

IMDb Score: 7.7/10

One of the greatest and most underrated action films of all time, 1989’s The Killer became an instant international success even though it struggled to perform in its native Hong Kong initially. It follows Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat), an elite hitman who decides to take one final mission after retirement to secure treatment for a nightclub singer he accidentally blinded with his muzzle flash in a gangland shootout.

A gorgeous presentation of style, The Killer finds a balletic beauty within its shoot-em-up spectacle and its sensational commitment to blood and gore. However, it also manages to hold on to a gripping philosophical intrigue as it deals with its complicated characters. Today, The Killer stands as a quintessential classic for lovers of international cinema and has been an inspiration for many renowned directors, including filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.

6 ‘In Bruges’ (2008)

IMDb Score: 7.9/10

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as Ray and Ken talking while sitting on a bench in In Bruges.
Image via Focus Features

Hitman movies so often enthrall us with their life-and-death stakes and their focus on the morality of violent characters, ideas that are usually viewed through a dramatic lens. Martin McDonagh instead decided to explore the complexity of hired killers as a morbid black comedy with In Bruges following two hitmen – Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) – as they are sent to Bruges, Belgium after a job goes horribly wrong.

As McDonagh’s first feature film, it was an impressive display from the playwright, which emphasized his absurdist yet razor-sharp comedic talents and his knack for ultra-violence and confronting characters. In Bruges is a powerful exploration of innocence, morality, and the meaning of life, elevated by two delightfully wicked turns from Farrell and Gleeson. While it was originally heralded as a cult classic, its acclaim has steadily grown as McDonagh has become a more prominent filmmaker to be a modern black comedy classic defined by its tormented characters and skewered morality.

In Bruges

Release Date
February 8, 2008

Elizabeth Berrington , Rudy Blomme , Olivier Bonjour , Mark Donovan , Ann Elsley , Colin Farrell


5 ‘Le Samouraï’ (1967)

IMDb Score: 8/10

Alain Delon as Jef Costello walking down the street in Le Samourai
Image via S.N. Prodis.

Heralded as being one of the coolest movies ever made, Le Samouraï has proven to be a timeless film of significant influence. It follows a hitman who learns of a witness to his killing of a nightclub owner but is arrested before he can react. Having been released when the witness doesn’t come forward, he finds himself being tailed by the police while he investigates who gave him the botched job and tried to have him killed.

The film is sparse but impactful, with director Jean-Pierre Melville giving it a striking neo-noir aesthetic enhanced by his meticulous use of light and color. It also contains very little dialogue and instead relies on the physical performances and facial expressions of its leading stars, Alain Delon and Nathalie Delon. With its intense atmosphere a factor as well, Le Samouraï is a classic of international cinema and a masterpiece of the crime genre.

Le Samouraï

Release Date
October 25, 1967

Jean-Pierre Melville

1h 35m

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4 ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 1’ (2003)

IMDb Score: 8.2/10

Uma Thurman as The Bride wielding a katana in Kill Bill vol. I
Image via Miramax

Offering emphatic proof that women excel in the world of contract killing just as well as men, Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a stunning display of ultra-violent action where Uma Thurman makes the Bride an iconic heroine on a quest for revenge. After waking up from a coma four years after her ex-boss and murderous colleagues attacked her on her wedding day, the Bride seeks to pick off “The Deadly Vipers” one by one and has no qualms about killing people who get in her way.

A masterful action film from Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill is rife with style, spectacle, and blood splatter and eager to honor many revenge thrillers that came before. One of the all-time great martial arts movies, Kill Bill ends with a climactic sequence that is, quite simply, the stuff of cinematic legend. The film has not lost any of its energetic, alluring fervor since its release – on the contrary, it gets better with each new year.

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Release Date
October 10, 2003

111 minutes

3 ‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007)

IMDb Score: 8.2/10

Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurgh aiming a silenced shotgun in No Country for Old Men
Image via Miramax Films

While there could be some enticing debate about whether No Country for Old Men is the greatest hitman movie ever made, few would deny that it contains the best and most terrifying hitman ever put to screen. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is a pure psychopath employed by Cartel members to retrieve a satchel full of money, setting him against Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a hunter who happened across the aftermath of a shootout and stole the cash.

A gripping crime thriller that is arguably the Coen Brothers’ best film to date, No Country for Old Men is rife with intriguing twists and heart-pounding sequences. The film won four Oscars – including Best Picture – from seven nominations. It is one of the highest-rated movies of its genre on IMDb, sitting entrenched within the website’s top 250 movies of all time.

2 ‘Leon: The Professional’ (1994)

IMDb Score: 8.5/10

Leon and Mathilda holding a gun in Leon: The Professional.
Image via Gaumont Buena Vista International

A pulsating and strangely affecting action thriller that has become one of the most defining films of the 1990s, Leon: The Professional remains Luc Besson’s greatest film thus far. It follows Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl whose family is murdered by a corrupt and volatile DEA agent. She finds shelter with her neighbor, a professional hitman by the name of Leon (Jean Reno).

With Mathilda’s growing desire for revenge and her education under Leon as the running-through line, the film leans into interesting ideas on human relationships, which were realized by powerful performances from Reno and a debuting Portman. With Gary Oldman playing the eccentric villain, The Professional succeeds as a rewarding arthouse action film and a disturbing yet heartfelt hitman thriller.

Leon: The Professional

Release Date
November 18, 1994

Luc Besson

110 minutes

1 ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)

IMDb Score: 8.9/10

John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson as Vincent and Jules aiming guns in Pulp Fiction
Image via Miramax Films

Pulp Fiction is an exciting, suave, and relentlessly fun crime flick that has become a defining success in the career of Quentin Tarantino. It follows a number of criminals through their interwoven tales in L.A.’s criminal underbelly. However, its de-facto central characters are Vincent Vega (John Travolta), an experienced hitman who must entertain the boss’s wife for a night, and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), Vincent’s partner in crime who recently returned from Europe and experiences a spiritual epiphany after a near-death experience.

Rich with a trendy neo-noir allure, excessive violence, and tons of black comic hilarity, Pulp Fiction was a pivotal film in the context of modern cinema and has lost none of its impact in the decades since. It is widely regarded as being the defining film of 1990s cinema, with many viewing it to be among the greatest pictures of all time, a notion evidenced by its incredible IMDb rating, which makes it the 8th highest-rated movie on the website overall.

NEXT: The Best Female Assassins From Movies, Ranked

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