The 15 Best Movies About Assassins and Hitmen, Ranked

Assassins and hitmen can be insanely cool despite their ethics and body counts. Here are some of our favorites in cinema.

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In the real world, contract killing is far from the most ethical profession. But in movies? It's a common plot device that acts as the driving force for many action flicks and adrenaline-pumping thrillers.

Assassins and hitmen are given special assignments to eliminate specific targets, no questions asked. They may come off as cold or even psychotic, but they're still fundamentally people with desires, histories, and relationships.

And even if we'd never be friends with an assassin or hitman in real life, they often end up being characters whom we can root for. Here are our picks for the best movies featuring assassins and hitmen.

15. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

An assassin coming to his high school reunion is like blending oil with water—but in this black comedy, they somehow blend together well.

Grosse Pointe Blank features John Cusack as assassin Martin Blank, who visits his hometown of Grosse Pointe to finish a mission. Luckily, his high school reunion takes place there, so he has the perfect cover.

Beneath his sly charm and dry humor, Cusack brings a kind of wit that draws us in even as we watch this assassin jump from killing scenes to reunion antics. The resulting dark humor is an oddly welcome source of relief.

14. Hanna (2011)

In Hanna, Saoirse Ronan plays a young assassin who's raised by her father (Eric Bana) in the wilderness under tough and stealthy circumstances.

When father and daughter become targets of a CIA operation headed up by Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), Hanna swiftly readies what she's been conditioned and trained to do.

Hanna deviates from the usual assassin-thriller formula by using a fairy tale-like template: the father prepares his child against evil and the child vanquishes said evil. Here, director Joe Wright pulls no punches in the grit and the violence. Cold and sleek, Hanna truly kills.

13. Sicario (2015)

The CIA has always been a favorite subject for assassin movies that attempt to uncover the flaws in the system. Sicario highlights this in full Roger Deakins lens. The thriller follows FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) as she joins a task force in taking down a powerful Mexican drug cartel.

Slow tension, heavy action, and sharp cinematography define this Denis Villeneuve thriller. But the crowning highlight is its character study of the assassin Gillick (Benicio del Toro), who goes through a compelling arc that messes with the mind.

12. The Killers (1964)

If you're looking for a satire of thrillers that's based on a story by Ernest Hemingway, The Killers is for you.

This crime noir film follows two professional killers—Charlie (Lee Marvin) and Lee (Clu Gulager)—who, after a botched assignment, try to deduce the identity of the mastermind that recruited them.

There's actually an older version of The Killers that was released in 1946, but this one brings the best of Lee Marvin and his gritty persona that works so well here. The bits of dry wit and hitman satire never detract from Marvin's committed performance and action.

11. The Bourne Identity (2002)

The Bourne franchise took us on a long journey that involved tracking down the exploits of the amnesiac operative Jason Bourne. While The Bourne Ultimatum gave us the most intense action of the series, The Bourne Identity had the most compelling characterization for Bourne.

In this first movie, Bourne—who wakes up and doesn't remember who he is—discovers his link to a past CIA operation, which causes panic in the organization as Bourne hunts them down.

Matt Damon makes a great first impression as the assassin on the run. Match that with slow-burn action, a cold atmosphere, and reliable support from Franka Potente, and you have a solid start to a sharp spy franchise.

10. Collateral (2004)

In Collateral, Tom Cruise had a rare opportunity to play the antagonist—and in a Michael Mann thriller, no less. It follows cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx) who's coerced by his hitman passenger Vincent (Cruise) to take him to several locations, where he inevitably takes down his targets.

Beneath the Los Angeles streetlights and frigid tone, we get a slow and tense thriller as we watch Cruise push the limits of his character in a most nerve-wracking way. Via Mann's direction and Rubell's editing, Collateral became an unforgettable thriller with no escape.

9. Looper (2012)

Directed by famed genre-bender Rian Johnson, Looper blends two high-concept genres into one mind-blowing action-thriller flick. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, a present-day contract killer who's tasked with eliminating victims who are sent back in time from the future.

But one day, his older self (Bruce Willis) appears before him, causing him to stall and struggle with the moral dilemma.

The young-person-meets-older-self trope is a peculiar one for a time-travel thriller, but Johnson adds several layers to the story that turn the genre on its head. The action sequences are sharp, the characters are enthralling, and the final twist changes it all.

8. In Bruges (2008)

From renowned writer Martin McDonagh came In Bruges, a black comedy of errors about two contract killers—Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson)—who go into hiding in the eponymous Belgian town and grow increasingly at odds with their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes).

As expected from McDonagh, who can find humor and absurdity in the most tragic of situations, the script here is excellent and the exchanges between Ray and Ken about morality and murder are razor-sharp. With such brilliance, In Bruges is simply outstanding.

7. The Professional (1994)

The Professional (internationally called Léon: The Professional) follows a hitman named Léon (Jean Reno) who lets the twelve-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) stay with him after her family is killed by corrupt DEA agent Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman).

The two form a bond and Mathilda learns the tricks of Léon's trade. While several scenes focus on Léon's assignments and his pursuits against the relentless Stansfield, the heart of the movie is his relationship with Mathilda

6. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino is a connoisseur of contract-killer characters in movies, from Reservoir Dogs to Django Unchained, but he first struck gold with Pulp Fiction, in which nearly every character could be a hidden-in-plain-sight hitman roaming the sunny streets of Los Angeles.

The focus of the film is on Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), two assassins assigned to recover a mysterious suitcase. While Vega is chill and nonchalant, Winnfield is extremely passionate as to the liberty of his position. Both end up being iconic hitmen characters.

5. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Mr. & Mrs. Smith may not have the sharpest script, the sleekest action, or the best legacy. So, why are we including it and ranking it so highly? Because it set a standard for spy movies carried by two charismatic leads.

John and Jane Smith are an estranged married couple who are bored of their upper-class lifestyle. More than that, unbeknownst to each other, they both lead secret double lives as assassins for competing agencies.

One day, the truth comes to light—when they're both tasked with killing each other. Cue sporadic action and thrills, complete with exquisite chemistry between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

4. La Femme Nikita (1990)

La Femme Nikita follows the eponymous teen criminal (Anne Parillaud) who was sent to prison for murdering policemen but was contracted by the government as a professional assassin. When a special mission goes wrong, Nikita goes on the run to find out the true perpetrator.

Though this action flick lacks confidence as a cold-hearted thriller, it finds its groove in the titular assassin. Nikita, despite all her flaws, is a cool and relentless assassin who paved the way for more female-centric assassin movies, remakes, and TV spin-offs.

3. John Wick (2014)

Before his Hollywood renaissance, Keanu Reeves had his share of thrillers in which he played conflicted operatives and cold assassins. Then John Wick came along in 2014 and skyrocketed him back to stardom.

Nobody really expected it to take off like it did, but John Wick nailed everything you'd expect from an assassin thriller: an active protagonist, a well-rounded cast, awesome action set pieces, and an intriguing universe of underground assassins operating within a secret society.

2. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Another Quentin Tarantino flick here, showing that he'll never quite be done with assassin-centered stories. Of them all, both Kill Bill films stand out as his best, with Volume 1 having an edge due to its much larger involvement of various assassin figures.

What makes the Kill Bill saga so compelling is the bloody journey of the Black Mamba (Uma Thurman) as she overcomes numerous hurdles with nothing but her fierce determination and her katana, all for her personal mission of vengeance against her former team of assassins.

Like her codename, she strikes her foes hard with a relentless, remorseless venom that leaves them in her wake—and in Volume 1, we get to witness the Black Mamba's most unforgettable kills and moments.

1. No Country for Old Men (2007)

To this day, No Country for Old Men by the Coen brothers remains the greatest movies about assassins and hitmen. Why? Because it doesn't sugarcoat, glorify, or exalt the profession.

On the contrary, No Country for Old Men takes that very aspect of genre escapism and makes it the cruelest element of its story.

Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel, No Country for Old Men follows a Vietnam War veteran (Josh Brolin) who's tracked down by hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), which prompts a local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) to investigate the case.

With brilliant direction by the Coens, this thriller leaves no room for comfort—and that's mainly due to Bardem's performance, who elevates this fictional hitman into a living, breathing nightmare. The film is a neo-Western in which no one wins but Chigurh's malice and cynicism.