Contract killing in popular culture
Fictional cases of contract killing or "hitmen"–murderers who are hired to kill an individual or group–are depicted in a range of popular fiction genres in the 20th and 21st century, including films, comic books and video games.
- In the anime Darker than Black, the main character often performs contract killings for various organizations.
- In the anime and manga Dragon Ball, a mercenary named Tao Pai Pai is hired by the Red Ribbon Army to kill Goku.
- In the anime and novel Fate/Zero, the main character is a contract hitman, and skilled mercenary.
- In the anime Gungrave, the main character is a hitman for the Mafia.
- The anime Reborn! contains several hitmen, including Reborn, "Lambo" and others. Tsuna Sawada (the main character), along with his school friends, are trained by a hitman to succeed the previous Vongola Family.
- In the anime Golgo 13, the main character, Duke Togo or "Golgo 13" is a reputed marksman and an unnatural quick draw. Golgo 13 prefers taking his targets with a heavily modified M-16.
- In the manga X-kai, Kaito Yagami is a hitman by night and runs a flower shop during the day.
- In the anime "Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom", the story is about a trained assassin, Zwei and his mentor Ein. They wish to escape from Inferno.
- In the anime and manga Monster, one of the main antagonists, Roberto, is a professional hitman and the loyalist of Johan Liebert.
Comics and cartoons
- In Adventure Time, the Ice King hires an assassin thinking that a hitman only "hits" people and doesn't kill them. Throughout the episode, the Ice King prevents the hitman from killing Finn and Jake (who think that the Ice King was the one trying to kill them.)
- Hitman (Tommy Monaghan) is a fictional character, a super powered hitman in the DC Comics Universe. The character was created by Garth Ennis and John McCrea and first appeared in The Demon Annual No. 2 and then received his own series by Ennis and McCrea lasting 60 issues.
- In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Sheldon J. Plankton hires a hitman named Dennis to kill SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star to stop them from retrieving the crown of King Neptune.
- In the South Park episode "Follow That Egg!", Mrs. Garrison hires a hitman to "kill" an egg because she fears it will lead the governor to legalize same-sex marriage in the state after being rejected by his ex-lover following a sex-change operation.
- In Shrek 2, King Harold hires a professional assassin named Puss in Boots (Shrek) to kill Shrek (character) so Prince Charming can marry Princess Fiona.
Crime and action genres
- Lee Marvin plays a hitman in the 1964 film The Killers.
- Various hitman characters were depicted in 1970s films, in part due to the trend of making Mafia-themed movies like The Godfather.
- Charles Bronson plays a hitman in the 1972 film The Mechanic
- The actor Edward Fox plays the role of a killer who methodically plans a "hit" on Charles de Gaulle, President of France, in the 1973 film The Day of the Jackal.
- The character played by Max Von Sydow is a hired hitman in the 1974 film Three Days of the Condor
- Henry Silva plays a hitman in the 1981 film Sharky's Machine.
- The James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, depicts the fictional character Francisco Scaramanga, a high-priced hitman. Scaramanaga, who is said to be the best in the world in his trade, uses bullets made of gold in a fictitious, 4.2 mm cartridge.
- The finale of Scarface depicts a group of hitmen hired to kill the protagonist, the Cuban gang leader Tony Montana.
- The 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors depicts the moral dilemma of an ophthalmologist who hires a hitman to kill his mistress.
- In the early 1990s, Jean Reno portrayed a charismatic hitman in Léon: The Professional.
- In the 1995 film Desperado Antonio Banderas plays a gunslinger who also works as a hitman.
- Tom Hanks plays a mob hitman in 1930s Chicago and Jude Law plays a rival killer in the 2002 film Road to Perdition
- The film Killer Elite starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro depicts group of hitmen, with Statham and De Niro portraying the main killers.
- Timothy Olyphant's 2007 movie, Hitman, is based on the eponymous video game.
- In the film Collateral, Tom Cruise plays an amoral hitman who takes a cabbie (Jamie Foxx) hostage for five stops to assassinate five witnesses in an organized crime trial, to prevent them from testifying.
- In the 2012 film Killing Them Softly, Brad Pitt plays an assassin named Jackie Cogan who is hired to kill the robbers of a mob-controlled poker game.
- In the 1981 Science fiction film Outland (film) two hitmen are sent to kill Marshal William T O'Niel Sean Connery when he interferes with a corrupt administrator's drug dealing ring.
- George Clooney plays a hitman in the film The American (2010 film)
"Offbeat" portrayals from the mid-1990s to the 2000s:
- John Cusack plays a hitman named Martin Blank who attends his high school reunion in the comedy film Grosse Pointe Blank.
- In the 2008 political satire film War, Inc., Cusack plays Brand Hauser, a hitman posing as a trade show producer.
- Forest Whitaker portrayed a hitman influenced by Bushidō warriors in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.
- In the 2005 black comedy The Matador, Pierce Brosnan portrays an experienced hitman who suffers a mental breakdown, causing him to freeze during the last seconds of the contract killing he was hired for.
- In Panic (2000 film), Alex (William H. Macy) plays a reluctant hit man who works with father, Michael (Donald Sutherland); when Alex discusses with his psychotherapist (John Ritter) his desire to wuit the "family business", Michael orders Alex to kill his psychotherapist
More rarely, romantic comedies have used light-hearted depictions of assassins:
- Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt star as husband and wife assassins in the 2005 film Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
- Ashton Kutcher plays an assassin-for-hire in the 2010 film Killers.
Portrayals of hitmen that have earned major nominations or awards:
- In 1985, Jack Nicholson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for playing a hitman named Charley Partanna in Prizzi's Honor.
- In 1994, both John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson were nominated for Academy Awards for Best actor and Best Actor in a Supporting Role respectively for their portrayals of two hitmen in the film Pulp Fiction.
- Javier Bardem played a ruthless assassin named Anton Chigurh in search of a lost cache of money in the Coen Brothers' 2008 Academy Award-winning film, No Country for Old Men.
Tragic or solitary portrayal
In other countries the vision of the hitman is often one of a tragic individual with a solitary existence:
- In the 1967 French film, Le Samouraï, Jef Costello is an example of this.
- The film Ghost Dog takes inspiration from this "solitary" depiction.
- In the French film Léon: The Professional his existence outside of hits revolves around his houseplant and watching old films.
- In the 1989 film, The Killer, the main character, Ah Jong, attempts to perform one last hit as a means of setting right an injustice that he had previously caused.
- The fictional main character of the video game series Hitman was genetically engineered by a man called Dr. Ort-Meyer in an insane asylum in Romania. He is known only as Agent 47. 47 is highly regarded in the criminal underworld, so much so that many consider him to be a myth. The gameplay revolves around infiltrating an area, executing a target (or targets) and escaping without apprehension. Although it isn't compulsory, the Hitman games encourage the player to use stealth and cunning maneuvers to eliminate targets, as opposed to making use of pure firepower. A film adaption which deviated widely from its source material was released in 2007. The fifth game, Hitman: Absolution was released on November 20, 2012.
- In the Elder Scrolls game series, there is a group called the "Dark Brotherhood", which is a group of assassins that are like hitman. This group has appeared in all Elder Scrolls games since Daggerfall. Groups like the Morag Tong also perform contract killings in the series, and have been a playable faction in Morrowind. However, the nature of the Morag Tong is different from the Dark Brotherhood, since the Morag Tong is a legal assassination group in the province of Morrowind, and played a more justice-oriented role. Conversely, the Dark Brotherhood plays a role more similar to that of hired assassins.
- In some videogames, such as the Grand Theft Auto series, the main character is given tasks akin to acting as a hitman. This is shown in Grand Theft Auto IV with Niko Bellic, who is frequently hired as a hitman.
- In Cause of Death, several characters—most notably The Ghost (featured in Volumes 2, 8 and 13) -- are assassins (often also acting as bodyguards).
- Two fictional assassins (Shelly De Killer and Ryoken Hoinbo) are featured in the Ace Attorney series, specifically in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All and Ace Attorney Investigations 2.
- In Killer is Dead game, the main character Mondo Zappa works for Brian's Execution Firm and is hired to kill several strange targets.