A creation of Gerry Conway illustrated by artists John Romita Sr. and Joss Andru, Frank Castle, pseudonymized the Punisher, is an anti-hero appearing first in The Amazing Spiderman comics. Originally depicted as an assassin and an enemy of Spiderman, he later became allies with his initial adversary and occasionally teamed up with Captain America and Night Crawler.
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Francis, an Italian-American criminal, is wanted for murder, kidnapping, extortion, torture, and many other wrongful deeds. He is driven by revenge after a mob kills his wife and two children after witnessing a murder. His mercilessness and ability to pull off impossible tasks simply as an ex-marine sniper gave him his American comic books debut in 1974. Apart from his publications, the character also enjoyed his debut on screen.
How Many Punisher Movies Are There?
From 1989 to 2008, there were three Punisher movies produced for big-screen entertainment. There had been an unofficial failed attempt for a sequel to the first reboot in 2004. The character had his debut on the silver screen back in 1989. Having a few important elements like character development not work out well, Marvel decided to give the character a second chance almost after a decade. The second movie which was a reboot was released in 2004. The third and last attempt at the superhero movie was in 2008’s Punisher: Warzone.
No. All three Punisher movies for mainstream audiences are stand-alone having a different actor play the protagonist. The 1989 action-superhero film starred Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher. In the attempted reboot of the movie, Thomas Jane was chosen to play the protagonist’s role. Finally, in 2008, Ray Stevenson takes up the role in Punisher: War Zone.
Punisher Movies In Order
The Punisher (1989)
Director: Mark Goldblatt
Writer: Boaz Yakin
Stars: Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbé
Genres: Action, Crime, Thriller
Five years after losing his wife and two daughters in a Mafia car bomb, a former undercover police detective and U.S. Marine Frank Castle has become the city’s most wanted and most discrete vigilante- The Punisher. Living among the maze-like sewer system under the city of New York, Franks Castle’s kill count stands at over 125 mobsters after losing his family.
The heavy losses faced by the Mafia due to The Punisher’s vengeance weakened the syndicate. The most potent Asian crime syndicate, Yakuza led by Lady Tanaka, has decided to take over the Mafia families and their fortune. The Yakuza kidnap the children of the Mafia families and hold them for future negotiation. Shake, The Punisher’s only trusted ally pleads with him to save the children.
Frank reluctantly agrees and attacks one of the Yakuza’s businesses, warning them that he will bring heavy losses on them if they do not release the children. Later, Frank and Shake are captured by the Asian mob so that they can torture them into submission, but Frank manages to escape.
Finding no other way of negotiation, he decides to rescue the children directly. He successfully rescues the children and escapes with them on a bus, only to be later stopped by a police roadblock. He is arrested and locked up in custody. Later, he is broken out by the men of the force-retired head of the Mafia family, Gianni Franco.
Franco admits that the car bomb five years ago was a miscalculation and pleads with Frank to save his son, Tommy Franco, who had been taken away by the Yakuzas to their headquarters. Franco and the Punisher invade the Yakuza headquarters, fighting and killing every member of the Yakuza, including Lady Tanaka and her daughter.
Franco betrays the Punisher after being reunited with his kid, but the Punisher defends himself and kills Franco. Franco’s son Tommy later threatens the Punisher for killing his father but cannot exact vengeance. Castle advises Leonard’s son to “remain a nice lad, and grow up to be a good man,” rather than repeating his father’s mistakes. He also threatens to return if the youngster commits any crimes, then vanishes. When the cops come, there is no sign of the Punisher.
The Punisher (2004)
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh
Writers: Jonathan Hensleigh, Michael France
Stars: Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Samantha Mathis
Genres: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Bobby Saint, son of Mafia boss Howard Saint, is killed in a police raid with an arms dealer Otto Kreig during a smuggling operation. Later, it is revealed that Kreig, who was also killed during the attack, was just all a setup and had faked his death. Instead, he was an undercover FBI agent named Frank Castle and was on his last mission before retirement.
Filled with grief and anger, Howard orders his men to take out all the information they can acquire about Castle. They bribe the corrupt feds and other authorities to get Castle’s records. Howard decides to kill Castle at a family reunion but his wife insists to kill Castle’s family also.
Bobby’s twin brother John and Howard’s best friend Quentin Glass kill Castle’s family at the reunion. Frank fights off a bunch of mobsters only to be shot down by John. They leave Frank to his death but he is saved and nursed back to health by a local fisher.
Learning that the police and FBI were too afraid to bring his family’s murderers to justice, Frank relocates himself to an abandoned hideout apartment occupied by three outcasts. Frank buys information from Mickey Duka, one of the Saints’ henchmen, about the mafia’s ins and outs. During his investigation of the mafia, Frank discovers that Glass is closeted.
Frank decides to move and openly attacks Saint’s business with his Cuban partners, putting the partnership at risk. When Saint discovers Castle is still alive, he sends assassins to assassinate him. Harry Heck, the first, ambushes Castle on a bridge but is murdered when Castle discharges a ballistic knife into his throat.
The second assassin, a Russian monster, nearly kills Castle in his room, but Castle also kills him. As Saint’s men come, the tenants cure Castle’s wounds and hide him in his hidden elevator. Glass tortures a tenant by plucking each of his piercings with pliers after he and another tenant refuse to reveal Castle’s location.
They send one of their men to intercept Castle, but Castle kills him after they leave. Mickey helps Frank by disguising him as an anonymous blackmailer and lures Glass into a certain particularly planting Livia’s car in there and finally putting her earrings in Glass’s bed. Howard finds the earring and stabs Glass. He then accuses Livia of having an affair with Glass while she argues that the deceased was gay.
He kills her by getting her run over by an oncoming train. At Howard’s club, Frank arrives and kills all his men along with John. A wounded Howard manages to escape, but Castle chases him and shoots him in a duel. Frank explains all the plans he had executed to bring Howard down.
He ties the mob boss to a rigged car full of explosives and sends it into the club’s parking lot, causing a huge explosion in the shape of a skull. Seeking his revenge, Frank tries to end his life in his apartment but stops after envisioning his wife. He leaves a bag of cash for the tenants as a sign of gratitude and sets out on a mission to fight against crimes as the vigilante, The Punisher.
Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Director: Lexi Alexander
Writers: Nick Santora, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Stars: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz
Genres: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
After losing his family to mob violence, former Marine of the Force Recon turned vigilante Frank Castle has spent the last five years hunting down mafia gangs under the alias The Punisher. This time he targets a local gang boss, Don Gaitano Cesare. Castle kills Cesare and the guests at a party. The gang’s capo Billy Russotti manages to escape the recycle plant hideout.
Two police detectives, Martin Soap and Saffioti, who were keeping an eye on the mob, inform Castle about Billy’s whereabouts. Castle breaches the hideout, and after a brief firefight, Castle throws Billy into a glass-crushing machine. Billy survives, but his face is completely disfigured.
Castle, who takes cover behind Nicky Donatelli’s body, realizes that Donatelli is an undercover FBI agent. Nicky’s partner Agent Paul Budiansky joins the Punisher Task Force to apprehend and bring Castle to justice. In the meantime, Billy frees his mental and savage brother Loony Bin Jim.
Feeling guilty, Castle tries to console Nicky’s wife and daughter. Castle decides to give up on the vigilante job, but Microchip tells him that Billy might go after Donatelli’s wife for revenge and to reconsider his decision. Billy now calls himself Jigsaw with his brother, and two henchmen hold Donatelli’s family hostage.
Castle tracks one of Billy’s men and extracts information about Billy before killing him. He gets arrested by Soap and Budiansky in the process. Castle tells them about Billy’s intentions, so Budiansky sends a police car to check on the Donatelli residence. Failing to hear any response from the car, Budiansky himself goes to check out the house, where he gets captured by Billy’s two henchmen.
With Soap’s assistance, Punisher kills the henchmen and rescues the wife and daughter. On the other hand, Budiansky manages to arrest Billy and his brother. Jigsaw and his brother negotiated their release with the FBI by turning over Cristu Bulat, who was smuggling in a biological weapon destined for Arab terrorists in Queens, New York.
The brothers are awarded amnesty, and the US$12 million Bulat paid to utilize Jigsaw’s port and a Micro file. They kidnap Micro and murder his mother in the process. After critically injuring Micro’s accomplice Carlos, whom Castle had entrusted to defend them, they kidnap the Donatelli’s once more. Castle arrives at the hideout later and euthanizes Carlos.
Jigsaw establishes himself in the Bradstreet Hotel, assembling a small army of gangsters seeking vengeance on the Punisher. Castle enlists the assistance of Budiansky, who notifies Cristu’s father, Tiberiu Bulat, of Jigsaw’s whereabouts. Tiberius enforcers ignite a shootout in the hotel lobby, distracting Castle. Castle breaks in through a second-floor window, sparking a gunfight with Jigsaw’s hired guns.
Following that, Castle tackles Loony Bin Jim in an individual battle; Jim retreats, realizing he will most likely not survive the brawl. Castle pursues and confronts him, as well as Jigsaw, who is holding Micro and Grace at gunpoint. Jigsaw offers Castle a choice: if Frank shoots Micro, Jigsaw will release the others.
Micro courageously sacrifices his life to save the girl, but Castle shoots Loony Bin Jim instead. As a result, Jigsaw eliminates Micro. Enraged by the death of his colleague, Castle fights Jigsaw, eventually impaling him with a metal rod and tossing him into a fire. As Castle and Soap walk away together, Soap tries to persuade Castle to relinquish his vigilante reputation after having “killed every criminal in town.” When a deadly mugger holds up Soap, he swiftly becomes another victim of the Punisher.
The Punisher’s popularity was at its peak in the 70s and 80s. There have been many attempts to bring him to the screen and a bigger audience view. While we have recently got Netflix’s The Punisher series, Marvel’s plan of including new heroes and villains alike in the MCU is highly favorable for Punisher fans to get a proper Punisher movie after almost 15 years.
A figure as enduringly popular as The Punisher will ultimately receive another shot at big-screen glory under the Marvel Studios banner, and given their track record, it will almost certainly succeed. But, until The Punisher returns, his cinematic legacy will be these three movies only that have had no big screen times like other notable Marvel characters.