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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.


Michael Winner


Brian Garfield (novel), Wendell Mayes (screenplay)
4,097 ( 130)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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More Like This 

Death Wish II (1982)
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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.

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A professional killer comes out of retirement to investigate and avenge the brutal murder of an old friend.

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John Deakin is being transported, as a prisoner, on a train with supplies and medicine to Fort Humboldt, Nevada.

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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 ... District Attorney (as Fred Scollay)
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


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


Judge. Jury. Executioner. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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USA | Canada


English | Italian | German | French

Release Date:

24 July 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sidewalk Vigilante See more »


Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


When it came time to air the movie on network television, Washington D.C. delayed the start time from 9 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Chicago and San Francisco opted not to air it. But every other major CBS affiliate around the country aired an edited version of the film during on primetime on November 10, 1976, despite Brian Garfield's protests. "I think it is a dangerous film," he said. "And the proof is that several people have already committed vigilante crimes inspired by the film, and said so." Garfield said this despite potentially losing $50,000 if Death Wish didn't run. See more »


Throughout the movie, the same People Magazine cover with Ochoa on it appears frequently. People publishes weekly, and since the film takes place over the course of several weeks (presumably), it is unlikely that the same issue would continue showing up so frequently, especially at the newsstand shown in the film. See more »


Paul Kersey: [Kersey confronts the mugger who has wounded him in the leg] Hey!
[the mugger faces Kersey and knows Kersey has the drop on him]
Paul Kersey: Fill your hand.
Mugger: [Puzzled, evidently not familiar with the old-West metaphor] Huh?
Paul Kersey: Draw.
[Kersey passes out and the mugger flees]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs is Uncredited Mugger. This has been mistakenly reported/claimed as Denizel Washington, time and time again. It is not Denizel Washington, it is "Welcome Back Kotter" star Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. See more »

Alternate Versions

Following the introduction of the Video Recordings Act in 1984, Death Wish was withdrawn from proposed video release in 1987. When it was finally released in the UK in 2000 (and shown on television two years later), the film had been quietly trimmed by the BBFC to remove 29 seconds from the rape scene including shots of clear nudity and Carol's bottom being sprayed with paint. The film was finally passed completely uncut by the BBFC in June 2006 and all previous edits were waived. See more »


References Lawman (1971) See more »


Revenge Suite (Striking Back - Riverside Park - The Alley - Last Stop - 8th Avenue Station)
Written and Performed by Herbie Hancock
Arranged and Conducted by Herbie Hancock & Jerry Peters
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Started a trend for violent vigilante actioners. Slick, enjoyable, well made film, far better than its increasingly dismal sequels.
24 November 2004 | by barnabyrudgeSee all my reviews

The original Death Wish movie is still the only one worth watching. A slick, well-made and enjoyably amoral vigilante drama, it was a huge box office hit in its day. It starts with a chilling rape sequence - still provocative thirty years on - and develops from there into an exciting and perversely funny story of how a man whose life is affected by these disturbing events gets his revenge.

New York businessman Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is devastated when his wife (Hope Lange) and daughter (Kathleen Tolan) are sexually assaulted in their own home. His wife dies from her injuries and his daughter is so deeply traumatized that she is left in a permanent vegetative state. Kersey tries to get some normality back into his life through work, but deep down inside he's burning for revenge. He knows he will never get the actual gang who harmed his family, but he also realises that crime in general is spreading through the city like a plague. So, armed with a gun and a sense of vigilante justice, he starts patrolling the streets by night, killing muggers, hoodlums and rapists. But for how long can he hand out his own brand of justice without being caught? And at what point does his course of action stop being justifiable? When does he become just as bad as the crooks he is trying to rub out?

The film is based on a Brian Garfield novel, but in the book vigilantism was illustrated as an extension of crime - just another problem as opposed to a solution. Here Michael Winner, a director always happy to create a few ripples, presents the vigilante as an out-and-out hero. The film basically gives a great big nod of approval to Kersey's actions. The sense of humour really helps the film (I still laugh at the scene where some construction-workers kick the hell out of a crook, and one workman nonchalantly states to the TV reporters: "Erm, we roughed him up a bit before the cops arrived!") Death Wish was a pretty influential film for its era, and in spite of its dated air and its morally dubious stance, it is still a great flick. Just make sure you steer clear of its four utterly terrible sequels.

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