The "man pushed to the edge" genre of movies

I feel like particularly during the 1970s there was a strong trend towards “man pushed to the edge” films. The plot has become really cliched by now: a peaceful man just wants to live a peaceful life in peace with his family or whatever but some evil villain pushes him to the edge and now he has NOTHING TO LOSE™. The act which pushes him over the edge is often the rape or murder of his wife or something like that.

Movies in this genre:

Death Wish
Straw Dogs
Billy Jack

I’m tempted to say Taxi Driver but I do not think it counts because the protagonist of the film is already supposed to be mentally unstable, whereas the kind of movie I’m talking about is always a “nice guy” who is forced to commit acts of violence despite it being against his nature.

What other movies are like this?

Walking Tall (and sequels)

The Outlaw Josey Wales

Falling Down.

*Mr. Majestyk. *Charles Bronson just wants to bring in his watermelon crop, but the Mob won’t let him be.

Valdez Is Coming, starring Burt Lancaster as a humble Mexican deputy who turns vigilante.

Both movies were based on stories by Elmore Leonard, btw.

Would “First Blood” count?

John Rambo wasnt your typical suburbanite, pushed to the edge, but he was minding his own business, just passing thru town, until he ran into that “kingshit cop”…
“It’s Over Johnnie”

Mad Max (the first one)

No, Falling Down is about an already troubled man who is no longer able to cope with what is really quite run-of-the-mill frustration.

Yeah, I got that too. By the end of that film I was not rooting for Michael Douglas’s character.

Yeah,* Falling Down *is about a man going insane, to oversimplify; it’s not about an honorable man pushed to the edge and forced to fight to defend what’s right, as in the other movies mentioned here.

Unless gender is a limiting factor, I offer the following:

I Spit on Your Grave
Thriller: My Name Is One Eye
Lady Snowblood
Deadly Weapons

‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!.. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ - Howard Beale, Network 1976

Not QUITE the same thing because the perspective was different, but Howard Beale’s story is set in motion by the death of his wife. But the rage against society is similar in its way and very directly voiced. Lumet’s film the previous year, *Dog Day Afternoon *I’d argue is a version of this in its way.

Regarding Falling Down:

This movie really pissed me off. The first 2/3rds of the movie depict an everday man pushed to the edge by events beyond his control. Then “Hollywood” kicks in and it turns out he was just a Psycho all along! Gee, sorry for wasting your time and admission! Happy ending, he dies, like all the other bad guys!


I’ve wiped better screenplays on Charmin.

Yes, I agree, it had the makings of a good black comedy, up until the final third of the movie. It was trying to be too many things at once, and failed.

But what if I really, really, really want to order from the breakfast menu?

It might be a stretch but Deliverance could count.

I think all of the Vengeance Trilogy (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr & Mrs Vengeance) by Park Chan Wook is a great example of a different take on this very “Hollywood” theme. Regular people (not always a lone dark brooding man-hero) who get pulled into exceedingly stressful and violent circumstances.

Man on Fire, a bad Scott Glenn film inexplicably remade as a bad Denzel Washington film.

Every Bugs Bunny cartoon directed by Chuck Jones.

Less violent, and the wife lives; but how about The Milagro Beanfield War? *Several *men are pushed into unexpected action by the “bad guys”.

Jeremiah Johnson - while the Indians that murdered his family weren’t necessarily “evil”, they had reacted in a manner far beyond what he considered just.

Dances With Wolves - not only should the bad guys not murder someone’s wife, they probably shouldn’t shoot his horse or dog either.

The Brave One with Jodie Foster