What are the best assassin films and why do we love them?

Difference between an agent, a hitman and an assassin

Hitman – a hired killer, especially a professional killer from the underworld

Assassin – a murderer, especially one who kills a politically prominent person for fanatical or monetary reasons

Agent (spy) – a person that acts or has the power to act; a person employed to collect the military secrets of one country and relay them to another, especially a person living in a foreign country while so working for his or her own nation

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Is it wrong to like these killer films? 

Each year, Hollywood offers a new range of assassin films. Audiences are allowed to go on a mission around the world with the latest hired gun. The challenge or moral dilemma for Christians is to consider whether to attend these films that seem to be celebrating the killing of other human beings. Admittedly, some do merely glorify the process of eradicating humanity, but many of these films appear to have a deeper purpose or meaning.

This article is not meant to encourage the viewing of these movies, but more to engage people to think deeper about their entertainment choices. Assassins are not a new incarnation of the cinematic age, they have been part of the human experience since the beginning of recorded history. The Bible even documents people who would wear the label of an assassin. Ehud (Judges 3), Jael (Judges 4), and Joab (2 Samuel) are a few individuals who took life from others, but the work they did seem to represent a righteous end. These stories are not necessarily meant to be honoured, but they show that the Bible does not shy away from the dark realities of the human condition.

What does this have to do with watching a film about a hired killer? The challenge is not to encourage people to watch this genre but to consider that the story might be trying to convey a deeper significance within history. Especially to find why the assassin is sent to kill their ‘mark,’ could this assignment there be serving a deeper purpose such as justice or redemption? They could be following the direction of a higher power such as a country, a person or even a god.  The key message behind most of these films is rooted in need to save themselves or someone else, which does not take much to get to the need of a saviour.

The moral discussion comes down to determining if watching the film condones the actions on the screen or whether the actions by the lead characters may cause someone to do the same. Each person needs to determine this for themselves, but instead of dismissing this genre, doesn’t it deserve some more thought?

Films and themes to consider*

  • Mr & Mrs Smith – Honesty within a marriage
  • Bourne seriesJustice, redemption and identity 
  • CollateralRedemption
  • Apocalypse NowJustice
  • Grose Pointe Plank What would you do if you went to your class reunion and you found out a classmate was an assassin? 
  • No Country for Old Men Human Condition / Morality
  • The Road to Perdition Justice and family
  • Leon: The ProfessionalRelationships
  • The Terminator Salvation
  • James Bond50 years of the most famous assassin – Serving a greater purpose

*All of these films are for mature audiences. Please check the rating of the film before going to the cinema. 

This list is not an exhaustive list, but it gets you thinking about the deeper meaning behind this style of film. Also, this is not an article to justify assassin movies, but the hope would be that these movies would not be discredited without some thought.

Two questions:

  1. What is your favourite assassin film?
  2. What is your opinion on the article? Why not take a shot

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.