Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Film Studies

First Advisor

Leah Aldridge

Second Advisor

Nam Lee

Third Advisor

Veronique Olivier


The rape-revenge cinema genre has continued to evolve since its initial emergence in the 1970s. Many of the most popular films belonging to the genre produced in the 1970s, like Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978) or Wes Craven’s directorial debut The Last House on the Left (1972), have been criticized heavily by film critics and scholars for their exploitative tropes. However, I argue that regardless of the production value of the films, the rape-revenge genre is inherently feminist because sexual violence is and always has been an inherent issue to the feminist movement and because the genre primarily comprises two major plot trajectories: the sexually abused survivor (usually female) and retribution violence. A lasting trope throughout the decades as the genre continues to evolve is that the films seek to criticize or critique the patriarchal order. Additionally, the genre is intrinsically connected to feminism. As feminism evolved over the decades, and the main priorities of the movement changed during each respective wave, the rape-revenge genre developed to reflect those changing attitudes. Today, contemporary rape-revenge films made in the past decade are written and directed by women in more significant numbers than ever before. The observed modifications to the genre in the last ten years can be directly related to sentiments specific to fourth-wave feminism. Social media has played a significant role in bringing heightened awareness to issues of concern to the feminist movement and the formation of various movements through online activism. In this thesis, I analyze two contemporary rape-revenge films directed by women: The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, 2018) and Revenge (Coralie Fargeat, 2017), to showcase how the rape-revenge genre interacts with changing feminist sentiments and how female storytellers are filtering in more progressive female subjectivity into the genre which has, in part, led to the genre re- entering mainstream cinema. Rape-revenge films are incredibly important as they force audiences to view and grapple with a very real and somewhat taboo societal issue.

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