7.0/10
30,398
206 user 94 critic

Death Wish (1974)

A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark.

Director:

Michael Winner

Writers:

Brian Garfield (novel), Wendell Mayes (screenplay)
Reviews
Popularity
2,205 ( 1,174)

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video

ON DISC
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Death Wish II (1982)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Architect Paul Kersey once again becomes a vigilante when he tries to find the five street punks who murdered his daughter and housekeeper, this time on the dark streets of Los Angeles.

Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Vincent Gardenia
Death Wish 3 (1985)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Architect/vigilante Paul Kersey arrives back in New York City and is forcibly recruited by a crooked police chief to fight street crime caused by a large gang terrorizing the neighborhoods.

Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Charles Bronson, Deborah Raffin, Ed Lauter
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

Architect/vigilante Paul Kersey takes on the members of a vicious Los Angeles drug cartel to stop the flow of drugs after his girlfriend's daughter dies from an overdose.

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.8/10 X  

Paul Kersey is back at working vigilante justice when his fiancée, Olivia, has her business threatened by mobsters.

Director: Allan A. Goldstein
Stars: Charles Bronson, Lesley-Anne Down, Michael Parks
Death Wish (2018)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Dr. Paul Kersey is an experienced trauma surgeon, a man who has spent his life saving lives. After an attack on his family, Paul embarks on his own mission for justice.

Director: Eli Roth
Stars: Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue
The Mechanic (1972)
Action | Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

An aging hitman befriends a young man who wants to be a professional killer. Eventually it becomes clear that someone has betrayed them.

Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn
Short | News
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Kevin Spacey apologizes to Anthony Rapp for sexually assaulting him at age 14. The media praises Spacey for coming out as gay.

Stars: Stefan Molyneux
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.8/10 X  

Ex-private dancer Beth aspires to be a Las Vegas cocktail waitress, when she falls in with Dink, a sports gambler. Sparks fly as she proves to be something of a gambling prodigy--much to the ire of Dink's wife, Tulip.

Director: Stephen Frears
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A LAPD detective is on the trail of a very handsome young man who had been seducing and slashing many young women to death.

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Charles Bronson, Lisa Eilbacher, Andrew Stevens
Hana wa Saku (TV Short 2013)
Animation | Short | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

A short film made in remembrance of the 2 year anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami as part of the ongoing relief effort.

Director: Sunao Katabuchi
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Charles Bronson ... Paul Kersey
Hope Lange ... Joanna Kersey
Vincent Gardenia ... Frank Ochoa
Steven Keats Steven Keats ... Jack Toby
William Redfield ... Sam Kreutzer
Stuart Margolin ... Aimes Jainchill
Stephen Elliott Stephen Elliott ... Police Commissioner
Kathleen Tolan Kathleen Tolan ... Carol Toby
Jack Wallace ... Hank
Fred J. Scollay Fred J. Scollay ... District Attorney (as Fred Scollay)
Chris Gampel Chris Gampel ... Ives
Robert Kya-Hill ... Joe Charles
Edward Grover ... Lt. Briggs (as Ed Grover)
Jeff Goldblum ... Freak #1
Christopher Logan Christopher Logan ... Freak #2
Edit

Storyline

Open-minded architect Paul Kersey returns to New York City from vacationing with his wife, feeling on top of the world. At the office, his cynical coworker gives him the welcome-back with a warning on the rising crime rate. But Paul, a bleeding-heart liberal, thinks of crime as being caused by poverty. However his coworker's ranting proves to be more than true when Paul's wife is killed and his daughter is raped in his own apartment. The police have no reliable leads and his overly sensitive son-in-law only exacerbates Paul's feeling of hopelessness. He is now facing the reality that the police can't be everywhere at once. Out of sympathy his boss gives him an assignment in sunny Arizona where Paul gets a taste of the Old West ideals. He returns to New York with a compromised view on muggers... Written by Don Hoffman

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

AN EXPLOSIVE STORY OF URBAN VIOLENCE AND REVENGE See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Italian | German | French

Release Date:

24 July 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sidewalk Vigilante See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$22,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The killing in the subway station was supposed to remain off-screen in the script, but Michael Winner himself decided to turn this into an actual, brutal scene. See more »

Goofs

After Kersey shoots the two muggers in the subway station and is stabbed in the left shoulder there is no blood on his coat or hole in it. When we see him sit in the subway car to make his getaway with his left shoulder visible from behind the wound should be evident. See more »

Quotes

Paul Kersey: Do you believe in Jesus? You're gonna meet Him.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Actresses Olympia Dukakis ('Cop at the Precinct') and Marcia Jean Kurtz as Marcia Jean-Kurtz ('Woman at Airport') get credited in opening credits only. There's no mention of them in the closing credits. See more »

Connections

Referenced in ALF: Stop in the Name of Love (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

Paint Her Mouth
Written and Performed by Herbie Hancock
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
An interesting take on personal justice
7 December 1999 | by filmbuff-36See all my reviews

Perhaps "Death Wish" is unquestionably the best vigilante film ever made. It's not the action-packed thrill-fest that movies like "Kill Bill" or "The Punisher" seek to be, instead it's a haunting, sometimes intoxicating look at our society's views on justice.

Charles Bronson is Paul Kersey, a New York architect whose wife is killed by a group of muggers ransacking their apartment, an attack that also leaves his daughter catatonic. The killers are never caught, and Kersey is left shattered.

He takes a job working for a land developer in New Mexico to get his mind off his troubles, and while there his long dormant fascination with guns is renewed when his client Ames Jainchill (Stuart Margolin) shows off his personal collection and lets him crack some shots off. He also witnesses a live reenactment of an Old West shootout, where frontier justice was administered at the end of the gun.

Kersey soon arrives back in New York, livened up a bit from his visit and ready to resume his life. But the streets are still filled with thugs, and Kersey knows that Manhattan is not the best place to be at night. He discovers that Jainchill has given him a .32 revolver as a present, and subsequently uses it to kill a man trying to mug him. Kersey soon realizes the cathartic release of enacting vigilante revenge as the media reports his killings and other private citizens take action, all while police officer Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) leads a task force to capture the vigilante and stop future violence.

"Death Wish" was a product of its day -- a Nixon-era knee jerk reaction to rampant crime that turned out to be quite a hit. But to dismiss it simply as that would be to deny the film its true power. It asks the question of whether or not vigilantism can be used as a social good, and just how can a citizen properly defend himself from criminal attacks. More importantly, to the movie's credit it does introduce the downside of vigilantism, with Ochoa worrying that people will be whipped into such a frenzy that they'll start attacking anyone who looks suspicious.

The movie does play it safe when it comes to Kersey's "victims" however. Every one of them is clearly a mugger, threatening his life or just wanting his money. But the movie does enter into ambiguous territory by looking at the actual actions Kersey takes. At first he just stumbles into traps set up by muggers or happens on a crime taking place; later on the other hand it's clear that he's actually inviting attacks by making himself a target. And the self-defense aspect of his actions becomes equally cloudy when he kills muggers that are already fleeing. He wants to punish them for their crimes, which itself can be morally troubling.

But to understand "Death Wish" you had to understand the times. Murder rates were very high in New York City, and many muggers had little problem killing their victims. The criminals in the film are not overly sympathetic either, most of them clearly hippies or other social undesirables, probably hooked on drugs from their "free love" days and now stuck in the bitter reality of narcotic dependency now that the good times are over. It's hard to feel sorry for someone willing to kill you just for a couple hours worth of pleasure. I'm sure the movie's audiences in New York, and probably across the country, enjoyed living out their revenge fantasies vicariously through Kersey.

It should be said that Bronson, normally criticized as a wooden actor, gives a remarkably strong performance. This may be due to his friendship with director Michael Winner, who also helmed several of his other films. But it's probably due to the fact that the movie was not written as an action hero vehicle, and because of this the story demanded a character more grounded in reality. Kersey is not a superhero -- he's just one man trying to make a difference in the world.

Also, he's not all there, either. The movie makes it clear that Kersey is a little deranged as well, and one wonders just how far he might go to do what he thinks is right. The sequels were more interested in making him out to be an infallible crusader against evil, abandoning any pretext of social commentary and just offering body counts, but here at least the movie shows that someone willing to go on a shooting spree isn't quite right in the head, regardless of the guilt of his victims.

Supporting roles are excellent as well. A very young Jeff Goldblum nails his performance as one of the muggers who invades Kersey's apartment, immediately scary and repellent. Gardenia is a nice foil for Bronson, making Ochoa an intelligent officer not unsympathetic to Kersey's crusade, especially when he sees how the crime rate plummets following the killings. Christopher Guest, who would go on to star in hit mockumentaries like "This is Spinal Tap," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind" has a small but memorable role as a police officer towards the end of the movie. In fact, everyone does a good job.

Ultimately, your enjoyment of "Death Wish" will probably rely both on your politics and views toward crime. It's a movie where the critic is judged based on his review, which is just as well I suppose. It's at once fascinating, and still very timely.

Nine out of ten stars. Bronson's best solo movie and certainly a very thought-provoking piece, which is lost on both people who only want to watch it for the mugger killings and those who just dismiss it a fascist trash.


126 of 154 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 206 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending TV Series With Prime Video

Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed