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7 Movies like Hanna: Exhilarating Action

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Andy_McKendry_itcher_contributorDirector Joe Wright delivers this thriller about a young girl (Saorise Ronan) trained by her father to be an assassin. If you like action films that span continents, feature exhilarating action sequences, and challenge narrative norms then here are some movies like Hanna. ~ Andy McKendry

Beautiful Vistas and Dirty Fights

Hanna is a cool, confident genre piece from Wright and its narrative is well acted with carefully choreographed fight sequences. It pits a child like assassin against well-trained government troops but our 16-year-old heroine is not to be messed with.

Here are some other movies like Hanna that show that strength isn’t always in numbers and that sometimes the underdog isn’t quite as down and out as they may initially seem.


Movies Similar to ‘Hanna’…

‘The Bourne Identity’ (Doug Liman, 2002)

Sometimes cited as a liberal action film, The Bourne Identity (find some great similar films here) is a film that updates the cold war narrative of its Robert Ludlum penned source material. Starring a troubled Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, this film is an action epic that doesn’t pull any punches.

Bourne is suffering from amnesia and he has little knowledge of who he is. He is very well versed in violence however and his story is one of self discovery mixed in with the pressing need for self-preservation.

Bourne’s lack of memory ensures that he has a similar level of childish naiveté to Hanna, but Bourne’s backstory is far more violent and cruel than his younger equivalent.

‘Leon: The Professional’ (Luc Besson, 1994)

In narrative theory there are notable archetypes that aid writers when they start to plot a story. One such device is that of the mentor/student and it can be seen in Hanna and in Besson’s Leon. Featuring a break out performance from a young Natalie Portman, the film focuses on the darker side of human existence.

Portman plays Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl with an abusive father, corrupt police officers, and drug problems that plague her life. Things change however when hitman Leon (Jean Reno) takes her under his wing. The ensuing story is carefully controlled and the interaction between Leon and Mathilda ensures that the film humanises its central pairing which in turn dramatizes the conflict.

Mathilda is a far less capable heroine than Hanna but both learn how to adapt and fight for themselves in circumstances that seem stacked against them.

‘Byzantium’ (Neil Jordan, 2013)

A British thriller starring Hanna’s Saoirse Ronan, the narrative follows two female vampires hunted by some of their own who hide out in a sleepy seaside town. Temporarily safe the couple attempt to forge a quiet existence free from fear of attack.

Atmospherically Byzantium is a great movie and the first two acts are brilliant and exciting but it’s let down by a tired and formulaic finale. However it’s stylish, violent, and its narrative explores the legacy of the past and its effect in the present moment.

Hanna and Byzantium share a similar suggestion that you can’t run from where you’ve come from and both feature heroines that turn and face the things chasing them making for frenetic action packed cinema.

‘Winter’s Bone’ (Debra Granik, 2010)

Jennifer Lawrence has become a household name for her filmic work and it would be easy to put her on this list for her role in The Hunger Games movies. But there is a smaller role (no less notable) that she deserves to be celebrated for in Granik’s Winter’s Bone.

It’s a tale of backwaters American life and Lawrence stars as Ree Dolly, a teenager forced to look after her family in trying circumstances. A bleak and haunting film the conflict is found in more metaphorical places than it is in Hanna but Dolly’s journey in Winter’s Bone is no less of a fight and the consequences are just as damaging.

The things that we teach our kids make up the legacy that we leave behind and in Winter’s Bone Ree Dolly is left alone in a broken world of her father’s making and it’s much the same for our heroine in Wright’s Hanna too.


If You like ‘Hanna’, You Will like…

Hanna is a film in a similar vein to Tarantino’s Kill Bill but I’ve already listed films that explore femininity within the action genre in another articleanother article. The films mentioned above delve into the role that teachers, fathers, or simply those in authority have in shaping the young. In The Bourne Identity it’s a more metaphorical take as Jason Bourne is childlike in his understanding of both himself and the world that he wakes up in.

Hanna’s world is cruel, unforgiving, and not of her making – she was born into it. But that’s true of reality too and we all just have to muddle along and make do with the world that we’re given.

Here are some films similar to Hanna that put the individual in a fight that they have no part in. The following films riff on the action/revenge genre but they take a different approach in telling their stories.

‘Blue Ruin’ (Jeremy Saulnier, 2014)

Our hero in Blue Ruin is forced to take revenge on the person that killed his parents. It’s a story about what we’re born into and what’s expected of us.

Brilliantly shot, the cinematography is crisp, and the action is bloody, brutal and unflinching.

Violence begets violence in Saulnier’s pulpy genre piece and its violent narrative is reflective of Hanna’s.

‘Mud’ (Jeff Nichols, 2013)

Shot in midst of Matthew McConaughey’s renaissance, Mud is a tale of children who find a man hiding in the woods. It’s a touching account of the consequences of actions and the naiveté of youth. This is a film that differs plot wise from Hanna but it explores a similar tale of youth versus experience.

Sometimes children see the world more clearly than adults and in Mud we catch glimpses of a world seen through their eyes.

‘Salt’ (Philip Noyce, 2010)

Starring Angelina Jolie, Salt (check out some great similar movies here) is the story of a CIA officer accused of being a defector.

The narrative quickly becomes a fugitive on the run with its focus being on Jolie’s Salt and her ability to fend off attackers.

A genre piece in much the same way as Hanna, Salt is a more traditional film but just as enticing – instead of the cult audience of Hanna, Salt belongs in the company of blockbuster films.


My Thoughts

The above films explore the legacy of the mentor archetype and they are all worth watching. Personally if you liked Hanna I think you’d enjoy Leon: The Professional. They contain stories that are virtually identical and they are exciting movies in their own right that borrow and reuse tropes from the action genre.

Let me know what you think with a comment below.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do and what I′ve always done. As a child I wrote on walls with a crayon. Now I write for websites. I write for my blog where I post reviews of films, TV, and occasionally write short stories and I also run a writer and illustration collective. Whatever I do involves words, and plenty of them. I’m an avid cinephile, a screenwriter, and I love telling stories. I have an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University, UK, and I work on a freelance basis and drink far too much coffee.
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