John Wick Week

The 10 Best John Wick Knockoff Movies, Ranked

It takes more than neon nightclubs and gun-fu to emulate the legendary franchise.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brad Pitt in Bullet Train
Sony Pictures
John Wick Week

No one could have known John Wick would sire a cinematic universe when it debuted in 2014. At worst, it would be another bottom-of-the-barrel Taken-esque revenge thriller; at best, a vehicle for Keanu Reeves’ long-awaited comeback. Thankfully, we got the latter. The Wick films propelled Reeves, stuntmen-turned-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, and their respective production companies to the forefront of action filmmaking.

While Stahelski and Reeves continue to expand the Wick world, Leitch and a handful of other alums have gone on to create their own neon-drenched, ultraviolent odysseys. Some have been the perfect placeholders while we wait for actual John Wick sequels and spin-offs, others... not so much. But that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from trying to manufacture John Wick’s lightning in a bottle.

With The Continental premiering on Peacock this week, now’s the time to look back at some of the best (and worst) riffs on the world of John Wick.

10. Die in a Gunfight

All’s fair in love and war, but Die in a Gunfight failed to juggle them.


With Die in a Gunfight, director Collin Schiffli dares to ask: “What if Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers were the children of two warring crime lords?” It’s a decent concept, one Schiffli works hard to supplement with edgy, stylized effects and lots of blood. But that’s just about everything Die in a Gunfight has to offer, even with Diego Boneta and Alexandra Daddario at the helm. These crazy kids just don’t have much chemistry, which makes their fight for happily ever after an unfortunate exercise in futility.

9. Terminal

Terminal was an unforgivable waste of Margot Robbie.

RLJE Films

When it comes to Wick-inspired films, the worst thing you can be is boring. A derivative film, however, comes in a very close second. Unfortunately, that’s just one of the flaws that doomed Terminal. The 2018 film is working with a lot of disparate influences, John Wick among them. There are nods to Tarantino’s body of work, the trippy sensibilities of Alice in Wonderland, and even a pinch of Suicide Squad in the mix.

Margot Robbie, then fresh off her first turn as Harley Quinn, holds everything together. She does an admiral job as a cunning, chameleonic femme fatale, and if the film were dedicated to her many wardrobe changes, it could have at least been entertaining. Unfortunately, Terminal is about so much more than Robbie’s central performance, and very little of it makes for a compelling film.

8. Hotel Artemis

Hotel Artemis was another ambitious but forgettable attempt to recreate the magic of John Wick.

Global Road Entertainment

If there was ever a film that learned the absolute wrong lessons from John Wick, it’d be Hotel Artemis. The film leaned hard on its similarities, and if it weren’t for its dystopian, near-future setup, it’d be easy to take it for a spin-off. The eponymous establishment is basically a hospital for criminals, and it runs on a code eerily similar to Wick’s Continental.

The action unfolds across one very bad night in Los Angeles, after a seedy corporation cuts off the city’s water supply and incites a deadly riot. As the patrons holed up at the Artemis fight to survive, Hotel Artemis devolves into a tangled mess. While its cast is capable, there’s startlingly little action to drive the plot forward. It’s a film more in love with its world than the people populating it, a choice that doomed it to obscurity.

7. Kate

Mary Elizabeth Winstead starred in one of many Wick knock-offs in 2021.


Is it really a John Wick knock-off if no one asks the title hero who they are? It’s become a staple of this weirdly specific industry, and everyone has tried their hand at it. Kate is no different — our heroine’s name is the title of the film, after all — and that’s not the only thing that connects this Netflix thriller to the Wick franchise.

Neon lights, an army of yakuza, and a willing sidekick all contribute to Kate’s Wick-inspired premise. But our killer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is also on borrowed time. Her last mission sees her fatally poisoned, and with only one day left to live, she’s dedicating her final moments to revenge. On that front, at least, Kate adds a twist to the genre. Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to set it apart from 2021’s host of Wick clones.

6. Gunpowder Milkshake

Lena Headey and Karen Gillan star as a mother-daughter assassin team in Gunpowder Milkshake.


The John Wick franchise boasts some of the best action around, but it’s not exactly passing the Bechdel test. Gunpowder Milkshake sought to remedy that with an all-female cast, which sets it apart from a sea of angry male leads. Karen Gillan stars as a homegrown assassin who goes rogue after years as a loyal operative. Tasked with the protection of a plucky eight-year-old girl, she turns to the very person she swore she’d never seek out: her estranged mother (Lena Headey) and the retired mercenaries (Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett) who helped raise her.

Revenge flicks are nothing without a little angst, and Gunpowder Milkshake understands that well. It’s a film absolutely rife with mommy issues, but it makes plenty of room for neon-drenched duels and eerily specific worldbuilding too. While not all of it gels, it’s working hard to be original. And at the very least, it’s worth it to watch these ladies kick ass and hash out their feelings.

5. Bullet Train

David Leitch is in creative overdrive in Bullet Train, for better and worse.

Sony Pictures

Director David Leitch had long proven his mettle when Bullet Train came whizzing into theaters. As the longtime stuntman for Brad Pitt, Leitch’s established eye for action had already given us Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and Hobbs & Shaw. But as his budgets increased and his casts grew even more star-studded, he seemed increasingly concerned with style, not substance. That culminated with Bullet Train, the personification of diminishing returns.

Pitt stars as a bumbling, unlucky assassin caught on a high-speed train with a bunch of other, much more qualified assassins. His struggle is brilliantly shot, with the saturated lights and bone-crunching brawls that Leitch has perfected. But it’s also an absolute mess of a story, one that imbues great characters with the most juvenile parts of the Deadpool films. It’s a great-looking film, but its endless array of one-liners and contrived portrait of Japan make it uglier than it needed to be.

4. Violent Night

Violent Night puts Ol’ Saint Nick on the warpath.

Universal Pictures

While the John Wick franchise has since turned its gaze to a sprawling world of crime lords and killers, it’s a saga that took a page from a very simple premise. It all starts when a gang of naive mobsters dare to cross the wrong man, and the best Wick clones succeed when they follow that simple setup. At the end of the day, these films are about naughty guys trying their damnedest to be nice, which makes Violent Night a solid twist on the premise.

It doesn’t get any nicer than Santa, though the holiday thriller imbues its version of Saint Nick (David Harbour) with a tragic, incredibly violent past. It’s a twist that comes late in the film, but might be one of of its most brilliant risks. The choice to mix Home Alone with Die Hard isn’t a bad idea either, and it gives Violent Night a gleeful holiday edge against the competition.

3. Sisu

Sisu is a perfect marriage of John Wick and Inglourious Basterds.

Antti Rastivo/Lionsgate

As the film industry embraces the violence that Stahelski and Leitch perfected with John Wick, comparisons to other hyperviolent filmmakers are all but inevitable. Many Wick clones also owe a lot to Quentin Tarantino, and Finland’s runaway revenge thriller, Sisu, is more indebted than most.

It’s impossible not to think of Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino’s Nazi-hunting epic, upon hearing Sisu’s premise. It follows a retired commando-turned-miner (Jorma Tommila) who, after losing his cache of gold to a platoon of greedy Nazi soldiers, goes on a warpath to get it all back. He is, of course, much more capable than anyone could have anticipated, and that’s exactly what aligns this taut thriller with the John Wick films. It’s the definition of “bare bones,” but it will always be gratifying to watch a competent killer return to his old ways, and hurt a whole lot of Nazis along the way.

2. Nobody

Nobody reminds us not to mess with the nice guys.

Universal Pictures

Nobody came toward the tail-end of the relentless John Wick renaissance of 2021. The year was absolutely packed with copycats (including Kate and Gunpowder Milkshake), but with Nobody, Hollywood inadvertently saved its best for last. While it’s a pretty shameless rip-off, it’s still an effective one, and that has a lot to do with its sense of self-awareness. The team behind the film must know we’ve seen a million of these movies before. With so many John Wick alums on board (including screenwriter Derek Kolstad, who penned the first three Wick films), they probably counted on it. What sets Nobody apart is how it remixes its familiar beats via zippy montages that truncate tedious exposition and provide some of the film’s most evocative imagery.

It may be a student of Wick, but it gets one thing right: starting simple is the best way to build out an action franchise. Nobody focuses on the man before it gets to the mythology, and Bob Odenkirk is a surprisingly perfect lead to pin this burgeoning film series on. You believe he can take down Russian gangsters if he feels like it.

1. Atomic Blonde

Charlize Theron is in rare form in Atomic Blonde.

Focus Features

It doesn’t get much better than Atomic Blonde, as David Leitch’s solo debut is a master class. Sure, it can drag on, and it can definitely get messy, but that’s exactly what makes his team-up with Charlize Theron work. The actor is icy cool, a “walking weapon,” as Inverse put it in 2017. It’s hard to believe anything could ever shake her impenetrable façade, but the film’s revolving door of adversaries have a lot of fun trying.

Part of the appeal of Atomic Blonde is watching Theron give her all. Like Keanu before her, she performs the majority of her stunts herself. Not only does that bring a bruising realism to the film, but it also allows her to explore the feral side of MI6 operative Lorraine Broughton. Her mission is not so much about revenge as it is sexy double agents, neon nightclubs, and spycraft, but it likely wouldn’t exist without Leitch’s contribution to John Wick. And for that, we should all be grateful.

The Continental premieres on Peacock on September 22.

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