7.0/10
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226 user 104 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
2,822 ( 1,337)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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More Like This 

Death Wish II (1982)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 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 5.5/10 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 4.9/10 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
The Mechanic (1972)
Action | Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 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
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
Mr. Majestyk (1974)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A melon farmer battles organized crime and a hit man who wants to kill him.

Director: Richard Fleischer
Stars: Charles Bronson, Linda Cristal, Al Lettieri
Murphy's Law (1986)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

An action-packed thriller starring Charles Bronson as Jack Murphy, a cop who is running to stay alive long enough to even the score with his wife's killer.

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Charles Bronson, Kathleen Wilhoite, Carrie Snodgress
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

An LAPD detective and his rookie partner are on the trail of a psychopathic young man who is murdering young women.

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Charles Bronson, Lisa Eilbacher, Andrew Stevens
Hard Times (1975)
Crime | Drama | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

The adventures of a drifter turned illegal prize-fighter during the Depression Era in New Orleans.

Director: Walter Hill
Stars: Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland
Action | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

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

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Charles Bronson, Theresa Saldana, Joseph Maher
Death Hunt (1981)
Action | Adventure | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

In 1931 Canada, Yukon trapper Johnson has a feud with a dog owner who later retaliates by publicly accusing Johnson of murder and thus triggering a police manhunt in the wilderness.

Director: Peter R. Hunt
Stars: Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Andrew Stevens
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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 ... 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
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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 »
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Details

Country:

USA | Canada

Language:

English | Italian | German | French

Release Date:

24 July 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sidewalk Vigilante See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$22,000,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$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 »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Reportedly, director Michael Winner lost over fourteen pounds during the filming of this movie. This was attributed to (at least in part) moving from the hot conditions of Hawaii to the freezing weather in New York City. See more »

Goofs

When Kersey is about to be robbed in the subway wagon, you can see a big brown shopping bag. In the next scene, when he leaves the wagon it is gone. It is the same shopping bag which is later related to on the police station. See more »

Quotes

Paul Kersey: You've got a prime figure. You really have, you know.
Joanna Kersey: That's a euphemism for fat.
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 »

Alternate Versions

The UK version classified in 2006 by the British Board of Film Classification retained the 18 certificate, but all of the BBFC's previous cuts were waived. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Betty Thomas/Stray Cats (1983) See more »

Soundtracks

Fill Your Hand
Written and Performed by Herbie Hancock
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Highly compelling
9 February 2003 | by shaun98See all my reviews

Over the course of a career that has spanned nearly fifty years, action star Charles Bronson has appeared in dozens of films. Among them, the one that he is best remembered for is "Death Wish," an urban drama that has practically defined his career. He plays Paul Kersey, a liberal, mild-mannered architect whose family falls victim to violent crime. One fateful afternoon, he is shocked to hear the dreadful news: his wife has been murdered, his daughter brutally raped. What's more, the police are unable to apprehend the perpetuators. Feeling stunned and helpless, Kersey decides to take the law into his own hands--and the subsequent publicity galvanizes New York City. It isn't long before the police are hot on his heels. The ultimate consequences promise to be drastic.

"Death Wish" was a highly controversial film when initially released. At the time, major cities were facing a deadly crime epidemic, and this film tapped into the fears and unspoken desires of many viewers, giving them a chance to live out their secret fantasies. Critics on the Left lambasted its politics on crime, and even some on the Right felt it went too far. One could find much to complain about from an ideological standpoint. One could point out that the film is manipulative and heavy-handed (the attack on Kersey's family comes right after his co-worker tells him he's a "bleeding-heart liberal"). Yet, it is undeniably compelling; one of these movies that makes you wonder, "what if this happened to me?" In light of the later, inferior sequels, it is fascinating to see how the character came to be, how he made the transition from law-abiding man to cold-blooded vigilante. It is not an easy transition to make by any means--after his first kill, he breaks down and vomits the moment he reaches home. Yet, as his kills (each is very suspensefully handled) occur with greater frequency, we get the sinking feeling that he has reached a point of no return. Indeed, he narrowly eludes capture on at least two occasions, and there is the certainty that it is only a matter of time before the law will catch up with him.

Bronson is highly effective here; while not one of the great actors, he has a very strong screen presence. The audience is on his side every step of the way, rooting for him even as he strays onto the wrong side of the law. Surely, he is entitled to justice, but at what point does his vengeance outweigh his grievances? Vincent Gardenia is effective as the police detective assigned to his case. He grudgingly admires Kersey's resolve, although he is sworn to put a stop to the killings. The manner in which this is resolved is creative, though its plausibility is less than certain. The film is also noticeable for an early appearance by Jeff Goldblum as a slimy thug. However, Steven Keats is somewhat ineffectual as Bronson's son-in-law (he just sorta got on my nerves). In the years to come, this film would be followed by an endless chain of sequels and rip-offs, many of them starring Bronson himself, reducing him to a stock character whose only attribute was blowing the bad guys away. A shame, considering he was once an internationally respected actor. "Death Wish" is nonetheless a well-crafted, tightly paced crime drama, despite some dated aspects. It still kept me interested throughout and made me more interested in viewing more of the star's other films--good or otherwise.

Rating: *** (out of ****)

Released by Paramount Pictures


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