Top 5 Movie Guide: Hitmen and Assassins

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, in the spirit of the just-released "Killing Them Softly", we take a look at some of our favorite films featuring Hitmen and Assassins. The film is directed by Andrew Dominik, who previously worked with Pitt on his last film, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". When three dumb guys who think they're smart rob a Mob protected card game, they cause the local criminal economy to collapse. Brad Pitt plays an enforcer, Jackie Cogan, hired to track them down and restore order. The film also features Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, and Sam Shepard.

We realize that Brad Pitt's character, Jackie Cogan, would probably labeled a Hitman officially in the film, and you would think that would simply be the main focus this week, but in our research, we found it quite difficult to draw a hard line anywhere between Hitmen and Assassins. It seems that everyone has a different idea about what the difference is between the two terms, if anything. So while you wouldn't think to call Pitt's character an assassin in "Killing Them Softly", plenty of other films toe the line between the two titles and thus deserved inclusion on this list. So we just left it wide open for the writers below, and as usual, anyone who felt like narrowing things down from there mentioned how and why in their description. For the most part, just expect 25 selections in which a character was hired by someone to kill someone else. That's the simplest way to label it.

Hit the jump to see which films made our lists!

Alex Schopp -
In all of the research I've done, I'm still not convinced I know the sure difference between a hitman and an assassin. I preferred to focus more on films that used "hitman" in their official synopsis, but ultimately, it all seems about the same to me.

     1. Léon: The Professional (1994)

I'm not sure there's a film that exists that should instead be atop this list. You gotta love the hitman who gets a heart.
     2. Looper (2012)
I know, I know, it's too soon. But I really love this movie, and I know it will be on this list for years to come (plus this isn't an overly-strong category to me anyway). The cinematography stands out to me the most, but I can't think of a single aspect of this film that I dislike.
     3. In Bruges (2008)
Not a lot of hitting happening in this film, but such a great character piece. The dialogue is so sharp, and all of the actors in the film are perfect. It's only flaw is that it's so dry that you're not trying to watch it all the time. But it definitely deserves to be seen at least once.
     4. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
I love this cast, and Cusack's dry wit is top-notch in this one.
     5. The Whole Nine Yards (2000)
This is one of those movies that's always easy to turn on and watch. You're not getting any kind of epic action or character developments, but if you're looking for an easy-to-watch comedy film in this genre, this is always a good bet.

Ben Foutch -
There are quite a few movies within this genre that could have easily attained a position on this list, but alas, there can only be five.

     1. Léon: The Professional (1994)

     2. No Country for Old Men (2007)

     3. The Terminator (1984)

     4. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

     5. La Femme Nikita (1990)

Derek Clem -
For the most part I tried to steer more towards Hitman and less Assassin. I figure their differences are pretty grey though, so a little overlap in my list doesn't bother me so much.

     1. Léon: The Professional (1994)

You cant go wrong with a hitman babysitter.
     2. Collateral (2004)
Cruise really impressed me with this movie. I love seeing him go against type. Plus that grey hair was cool to see on him.
     3. Road To Perdition (2002)
A hitman gone good becomes the target of another hitman.
     4. The Whole Nine Yards (2000)
This might actually have the highest watchability on the list but for some reason I couldn't quite justify it being any higher on my list.
     5. Wanted (2008)
I really dig the mythology behind this movie.

Nathan Hinds -
The only restriction I put on my list was that the person the film was about couldn't be contracted by a government agency; hence no "Bourne Ultimatum".

     1. In Bruges (2008)

     2. Road to Perdition (2002)

     3. Looper (2012)

     4. Assassins (1995)

     5. The Whole Nine Yards (2000)

Andy Schopp -

     1. Léon: The Professional (1994)

Such a great character piece and insight into the mind of a hitman.
     2. Grosse Point Blank (1997)
Hitman movies don't get much better than this...unless you're The Professional.
     3. Assassins (1995)
Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas face off...yea, I'll watch that. Plus it's a rip-roarin' good time to boot!
     4. Road to Perdition (2002)
It was always amazing to me to see Tom Hanks play this character. It's the most bad, even though he isn't a "bad guy" in the film, I've ever seen him play.
     5. The Jackal (1997)
You could always count on this movie playing on USA while you were home sick.

So there we have it; another week with plenty of solid titles features above. What stands out the most is the near-miss by "Léon: The Professional" on a possible enshrinement. It was easily the biggest winner this week, appearing on four of the five lists, in the top spot on each. The Professional is an iconic classic of the genre, and a great watch on a variety of different levels. It seems safe to presume that some of the younger audiences may have previously passed this one up, so assuming everyone who reads these posts takes our recommendations as deathly serious as we expect, now would be a great time to catch up on the classic flick.

Outside of that film though, three other films managed three selections apiece: "Road to Perdition", "Grosse Point Blank", and "The Whole Nine Yards". Each a quality selection in its own way, and definitely some of the more note-worthy films about contract killers. "In Bruges" (which grabbed the remaining #1 pick), "Looper", and "Assassins" rounded-out the titles which received multiple selections, each appearing on two lists above.

As always, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that this category has to offer, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!