Our Ten’s List: Deadliest Assassins.
We scour dozens of assassin flicks in order to determine which movie hitman has the highest body count.
American Assassin may not be killing it at the box office this weekend, but we happen to know several hired professionals who can get the job done. We went back decades and looked at more than forty movies featuring hitmen, assassins and hired guns to see which killer had the goods when it came to collecting souls. From ex CIA spooks to wandering drifters with a price tag on their trigger fingers, we left no stone unturned. Hell, I made a spreadsheet! If you want to know who to call when you absolutely positively need somebody to disappear, look no further.
In order to make accurate comparisons we had to refine our methods. The first rule is that the kills have to come from an actual assassin. Certain movies feature assassins, but have most of the bloodshed come from other characters. That doesn’t fly. In order for the death to count, it has to come from somebody who is employed in the trade, whether or not it is the hero or the bad guys. There is only one exception to this rule: mistaken identity. If you’re confused for a hitman and then go on to make a kill, or if you assume the identity of a hired gun and go on a killing spree, guess what? You’re an assassin, even if you’re apparently doing this work pro bono.
Second, we take a cumulative approach. Several death merchants have been featured in multiple films. For this purpose we include both sequels and remakes. It’s the same name cashing the paycheck when somebody winds up dead, so the total counts either way.
Lastly, we’re counting on-screen kills. It doesn’t matter if you have a reputation for dozens of kills to your name, if you only kill two people all movie long, you’re not going to make it very high up the list. Lots of movie murderers have big resumes, but you get a weak sauce tally when they’re actually in the limelight. You have to perform under pressure, man. There is a little wiggle room, since not every person shot obviously gives up the ghost on screen, but we figure if you throw a grenade at twelve dudes we never see again, that’s twelve kills.
For this list, we depended heavily on the community of online movie kill-counters. Yup, that’s a thing…and a pretty popular thing no less! We took data from three sources, compared them, and used our own viewings or readings of the script in order to verify any discrepancies (or if the film had not been counted.) You should check these folks out, they’ve made counting bodies fun and easy!
…And now on to the carnage count down!
Top Ten Deadliest Movie Assassins.
10. Crank/ Crank 2: High Voltage.
Killer: Chev Chelios (Jason Statham).
Kill Count: 56.
In the Crank series, Jason Statham plays Chev Chelios, a hitman who has been given a heart-stopping poison. The only way he can keep his ticker running long enough to get revenge is to become an adrenaline junky. We see him drive recklessly, fuck like a sailor on shore leave, pop epi pens like candy, and chug red bull by the case in order to keep his pulse racing. Along the way he also manages to kill a ton of people.
In Crank, Chelios manages to put 29 souls out of their misery. The big finale has Statham kill a dozen dudes on a helipad in order to board the helicopter of the man who poisoned him. From there he fights his way up to 3500 feet, only to pull his nemesis out of the whirly bird and perform a synchronized swan dive down to the pavement. I’m not sure if his 29 kills include himself, but probably not, since he gets up from that fall in the sequel and punches 37 more tickets. Chaz Chelios has the morning wood of revenge boners.
9. The Killer.
Killer: Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat).
Kill Count: 69.
Chow Yun-Fat has one of the most impressive tally sheets in cinema when it comes to murder. He has an eye-popping 69 kills all to himself in the John Woo crime thriller, The Killer. In this flick, he plays a disillusioned assassin who is drawn back into the life of crime by the promise of “one last job.” Yeah…about that. If watching assassins movies teaches you anything, it is that your “one last job” is going to a) involve more killing than all of your previous jobs, and b) wind up being fatal. So it will technically be your last job…just not in the way you would hope.
As far as one man in one film relentlessly pulling the trigger, Chow Yun-Fat scores extremely high. Most of the entries on this list involve hitmen who have a larger “body” of work, so to speak. While Yun-Fat has higher kill counts in his career, shockingly enough those come from when he’s playing the good guy! In Hard Boiled, he manages to rack up 77 kills to his credit, playing the disgraced inspector Tequila Yuen. If only he was being paid more than a cop’s wages for those kills, he could have moved higher up on the list.
8. Bangkok Dangerous.
Killer: Kong/Joe (Pawalit Mongkolpisit/Nicolas Cage).
Kill Count: 71.
While the movies have different names for their protagonists, both versions of Bangkok Dangerous share a deaf/mute assassin who is adept at making bad guys disappear. The superior film version is 1999’s original from Thailand, but the bigger kill count comes from the Americanized version in 2009. Both film’s shared a director, but 2009’s killer played by Nicolas Cage manages to punch 38 tickets compared to 1999’s 33 kills for Pawalit Mongkolpisit. Despite being a touch more deadly, I would still recommend watching the excellent original film. To this day it stands out amongst modern Asian action flicks like The Raid as a cinematic gem.
7. Assassin’s Creed.
Killers: Aguilar (Michael Fassbender) and Maria (Ariane Labed).
Kill Count: 79.
We talked at length about this film in our How Bad Is It? article yesterday. The adaptation of Ubisoft’s assassin franchise left a lot to be desired, but it did manage to tote up an impressive tally of stiffs. In this film we have two main contributors: Aguilar (Michael Fassbender) and Maria (Ariane Labed) are two master assassins working in Spain during the religious wars between Catholics and Muslims. During their mission to safeguard a holy relic, the pair manage to kill 79 baddies. For a PG-13 film based on a video game, that’s quite a bit of carnage.
6. Kill Bill Volume 1 & 2.
Killers: The Bride (Uma Thurman) and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Mostly Uma, though.
Kill Count: 84.
Our sixth entry goes to another dangerous female assassin. In Quentin Tarantino‘s two part blood-fest, Kill Bill, Uma Thurman plays a former assassin who is left for dead by her ex-teamates. As she takes her gory revenge on the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, the death count sky rockets.
In most of the franchises involving hired killers, the death toll usually starts off manageable and balloons into ludicrous numbers as the director tries to top his previous entries. In Kill Bill, the opposite is true. In the first volume, Uma slays 77 – though you would expect the total to be higher: she did completely wipe out the Japanese Yakuza gang called The Crazy 88. I guess part of their psychosis was the inability to count. In the second film, she kills only 1 additional person, Bill. We could leave off the final movie completely and The Bride would still earn her spot based on the first flick.
5. Mexico Trilogy: El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
Killer: El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas/Carlos Gallardo).
Kill Count: 96.
The Mexico Trilogy requires a little bit of gymnastics when it comes to counting up the assassination total. Like I said in the methodology section, kills technically count if you’re either impersonating or mistaken for an assassin. This trio of revenge films has a progression where the nameless hero, El Mariachi, starts out his career of bloodshed only because he is confused by a drug lord for an actual hitman who happens to carry his guns in a guitar case identical to our musician hero. By the second film, El Mariachi is purposefully using the reputation of the hired gunslinger in order to get his revenge. In the third movie, he is forced by the CIA to become a full-on assassin. So by the end of the trilogy our hero becomes the agent of death he was mistaken for in the very beginning. Poetic, eh?
For purposes of counting up kills, the mistaken identity hardly matters. In the first film, El Mariachi, our troubadour only makes a handful of kills. In the second film, Desperado, not only does our man send 57 souls to the afterlife, he has two other assassins helping him out with rocket launchers and exploding guitar cases. The third film, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, is the bloodiest… but most of the kills come from other characters. Our hero is tired of bloodshed, and only manages to plant 39 bodies in the dirt this time out. Sometimes getting old just sucks.
4. Ninja Assassin.
Killers: Raizo (Rain/Lee Joon) and countless nameless ninja.
Kill Count: 107.
Another film we’ve discussed recently, Ninja Assassin wasn’t very good at all. Luckily for Raizo, this list isn’t about how entertaining you are, only how efficiently you can kill. This movie does manage to excel at the latter. The first film to log more than 100 kills, Ninja Assassin has a decided advantage: everyone in this damn movie is an assassin!
Since the hero, the villain, and all of the henchmen are paid killers, I actually had to do some math to figure out which kills weren’t attributed to an assassin. Most of the movie has either Raizo or some other ninja doing the dirty work, but the grand finale has Europol storm the hideout with guns blazing. Despite not being able to hit a guy in black pajamas all film long, suddenly they are putting holes in ninjas right and left. To figure out the total, I took the whole film’s kill count (137) and took out the 27 kills credited to the cops and the 3 kills given to the hero’s love interest. That gives us 107 kills, 52 of which come from our hero. That means the nameless baddies actually showed him up, with 55 kills!
3. Hitman/Hitman: Agent 47.
Killer: Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant and Rupert Friend).
Kill Count: 124.
Now that we’re in our top three, we come to our second killer to have a remake to factor in. Like Assassin’s Creed, Hitman is a film based on a franchise of video games where you are an assassin who must make as many stylish kills as you can. Also like Assassin’s Creed, this movie was hated by critics and shunned by audiences. The first film, starring Timothy Olyphant, crashed so hard that they rebooted the series less than a decade later. Besides killing targets, Agent 47 is unfortunately adept at killing his own chance at a sequel. The 2015 remake fared no better than the 2007 original.
Comparing the two killers, who comes out on top? This contest has a clear winner: the remake, starring Rupert Friend as the cue-ball domed killer, blows the competition away. Hitman: Agent 47 has 71 deaths at the hands of our follicle challenged anti-hero, while Hitman only had 53 kills. Either way, an impressive tally.
2. John Wick Franchise.
Killer: John Wick (Keanu Reeves).
Kill Count: 200.
Now we get into some fun! In this franchise, our hero is a retired assassin who is forced back into the game because some dumb mafia brat kills his dog. You have to admire the simplicity of the story, because all of the complexities come from how astoundingly efficient Wick is at killing scores of heavily armed targets. With guns, knives, his fists and even his car, John leaves a streak of misanthropy in is his wake that claims 77 lives by the end of the first film. The ASPCA should hire John Wick as a spokesman: make sure to get your dog his shots, or you’ll get yours.
In the second outing, John is once again back in the business of murder for hire, this time being coerced into the hit because of a personal favor. In the spectacular sequel, John Wick outdoes himself and sends 123 baddies to hell. Those kills should almost count double, too, since everyone he kills is also an assassin. Seriously, even guys sleeping on park benches wind up being secret assassins in this universe. It seems that the supply side of this economic model is over-saturated. I still have to wonder, if John can put up triple digits when he’s being coerced, what the hell were his totals when he was enjoying his job!?
1. Lone Wolf and Cub Franchise.
Killer: Okami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama).
Kill Count: 478!
Our best killer is also our most obscure. Based on a popular Japanese manga from the 1970’s, which was adapted into six feature length films. The gore-infused story centers around Okami Itto, the former head executioner to the shogun. Political intrigue causes him to lose his job in spectacular fashion, with a rival clan orchestrating the murder of everyone in Itto’s household except his newborn son. Itto goes on the road as an assassin for hire, toting around his infant son in a baby carriage literally made out of concealed weapons. This begins a sordid and bloody affair as Itto makes a living off of carnage while trying to get revenge on the people who fucked him over.
When I criticized Ninja Assassin for lacking the practical effects of classic blood-soaked martial arts flicks, I was mostly thinking of Lone Wolf and Cub. The amount of red food coloring used by the production company for these films must have been 90% of the budget. When it comes to hacking and slashing, Itto has no equal. In each of the first five films, Okami Itto averages 70-80 kills per outing. That is some of the highest production of any killer on the list. The gory cherry on top comes in the final film, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell – in this film, our protagonist kills 169 people, 150 of them in one climactic end battle. He may be a bad dad who sets the worst example in history of “bring your kid to work day”, but he’s also the deadliest movie assassin by a wide margin.
Honorable Mention: The Terminator.
Kill Count: Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger): 22, T-800 model: thousands?
This is one of those films that you assume would make the cut. The iconic T-800, played by Arnie in his prime, is seen wading through nightclubs and police precincts like a boss, dealing in lead and one-liners. It winds up being a shock that he only notches 22 kills in the first movie before becoming a non-lethal good guy in the sequels. His replacements don’t do much better: The liquid T-1000 only manages 7 confirmed kills and the lady-bot TX only manages 6 kills. Overall, the Terminator line seems less deadly than Chow Yun-Fat on an off day.
The real tally comes from the future, where Arnold-faced musclebound murder machines roam around killing literally uncountable amounts of targets. There’s also the matter of pay – while the T-800 job is killing, it doesn’t seem that Skynet has a very lucrative pay structure, seeing as he promptly switches sides after the first movie!
Dishonorable Mention: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Kill Count: Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell): 46…completely fictitious kills.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is the film adaptation of Chuck Barris’ autobiography. The shlubby daytime TV star (best known for hosting The Gong Show) details how he was a game show host by day and a CIA contract killer by night. He claims to have rung the gong for 33 souls, and the movie adaptation directed by George Clooney credits him with 46 on-screen kills. Clooney can be forgiven for embellishing, seeing as the whole story was a load of BS.
Barris was turned down by the CIA and made up the story to burnish his reputation once he was out of show biz, admitting it was bunk during interviews. The film itself is morbidly fun despite the fact that it went through stars and directors during a lengthy development period like Barris allegedly went through baddies.