The character of Frank Castle as portrayed by three actors in film (L–R): Dolph Lundgren in The Punisher (1989); Thomas Jane in The Punisher (2004); and Ray Stevenson in Punisher: War Zone (2008).

The fictional character Frank Castle / Punisher, a comic book vigilante antihero created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru and featured in Marvel Comics publications, has appeared as a main character in multiple theatrical, several animated straight-to-video films, and three fan films. Most notably, he has appeared in two self-titled films, the first in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren in the title role and the second in 2004 with Thomas Jane in the title role, as well as Punisher: War Zone, starring Ray Stevenson.


The first film, known simply as The Punisher and starring Dolph Lundgren, is a film that was released theatrically internationally but straight to video in North America by Live Entertainment in 1989 that is most notable for lacking the character's signature skull. Marvel hired Jonathan Hensleigh to write and direct the 2004 film, starring Thomas Jane. The film was mainly based on two Punisher comic book stories; The Punisher: Year One and Welcome Back, Frank.[1]

A direct sequel was supposed to follow based on strong DVD sales, but the lack of a good script kept the project in development for over 3 years, and by the end both Jonathan Hensleigh and Thomas Jane pulled out.[2][3][4] In June 2007, Lexi Alexander was hired to direct and Ray Stevenson was hired in July to play the Punisher in the newly titled Punisher: War Zone, which became a reboot, and not a sequel to 2004's The Punisher.[5] This is the second time the film series has been rebooted, after the 2004 production rebooted 1989's The Punisher.[6] The film was released on December 5, 2008. The films primarily focus on Frank's vigilante crusade after the death of his family.


The Punisher (1989)

Main article: The Punisher (1989 film)

The Punisher appears in a self-titled film released by Live Entertainment, portrayed Dolph Lundgren. This version is described as an unnamed "city's most wanted, and most mysterious, vigilante" and a "one-man weapon against crime" who has killed 125 people in the five years preceding the film's events. Additionally, he is a former police officer, undercover detective, and U.S. Marine whose wife Julie and daughters Annie and Felice Castle were murdered by mobsters via a car bomb meant for him. After being legally declared dead following the incident, Castle establishes a base for him in the labyrinthine sewer system and kills mobsters wherever he finds them. However, his efforts draw the attention of Gianni Franco, a leading mobster who seeks to unite the mob families, and Lady Tanaka of the Yakuza, who kidnaps the mob families' children to force them to submit to their control.

The Punisher (2004)

Main article: The Punisher (2004 film)

The Punisher appears in a self-titled film released by Lions Gate Pictures, portrayed by Thomas Jane. This version is an FBI agent and former soldier who goes on to retire after killing Bobby Saint, son of corrupt businessman Howard Saint. However, Howard retaliates by sending men to slaughter Frank's family amidst a Castle family reunion. Left for dead, burnt out, and haunted by the tragedy, Frank takes up a skull shirt given to him by his son before the latter's death and sets out to avenge his family by killing Howard and his inner circle. In an extended cut of the film, it is revealed Frank's friend Jimmy Weeks (Russell Andrews) sold him out to Howard.

Despite 2004's The Punisher being a box office disappointment, Lions Gate Entertainment was interested in a sequel based on the film's strong DVD sales. Jonathan Hensleigh and Thomas Jane were set to commence filming of the sequel, but the project remained in development hell for over 3 years due to the lack of a good script despite numerous writers being attached even after Hensleigh pulled out. Thomas Jane was so eager to do the sequel starring Jigsaw as the villain, that he'd put on an additional 12 pounds of muscle, and that "it would be darker, bloodier and more unfriendly than the first one." However, after reading the new script by Kurt Sutter, he stated, "What I won't do is spend months of my life sweating over a movie that I just don't believe in. I've always loved the Marvel guys and wish them well. Meanwhile, I'll continue to search for a film that one day might stand with all those films that the fans have asked me to watch."[7][8]

Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Main article: Punisher: War Zone

The Punisher appears in Punisher: War Zone, portrayed by Ray Stevenson. This version is a former Force Recon Marine who has operated as the Punisher for five years. After inadvertently killing an undercover FBI agent while assaulting a mob dinner, he attempts to atone for his mistake and threatens to quit vigilantism over his partner Microchip's protests. Amidst this, he must also contend with the FBI's "Punisher Task Force" and Billy "The Beaut" Russoti / Jigsaw, a survivor of the mob dinner who seeks to recruit an army to get revenge on Frank.[9]

Ray Stevenson had expressed interest in sequels, hinting at Barracuda as a possible villain.[10] At the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con, when asked if he signed on for more Punisher, he said, "If I had my wish, it's going to run and run. It's up to the fan base. If this works, we get to do it all again."[10] After War Zone was not received well by audiences, the rights for the character eventually reverted to Marvel.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Main article: Frank Castle (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

In February 2020, Adam Simon stated that he had previously pitched a The Punisher film to Marvel Studios that would be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), after the events of the Netflix television series of the same name, with Jon Bernthal reprising his role, described as "Falling Down by way of Full Metal Jacket":[11]

"You got to let this thing live in R-Rated territory and it has to have the same grit and unapologetic boldness of Logan. In my take, we find Frank Castle as we left him at the end of the series, only now completely aware of the threat that superheroes and villains pose to mankind. So, Frank Castle has to go gunning for the person who he feels is responsible for the innumerable civilian casualties. The one who started it all by organizing these weapons of mass destruction to come together. Nick Fury. The twist is that Frank is being used, he spots the double-cross early at the end of act one. From that point on, we have a 3:10 to Yuma situation. Frank and Fury on the run from everyone, heroes and villains. It's 3:10 to Yuma meets L[é]on: The Professional by way of Winter Soldier."

In September 2014, Anthony and Joe Russo indicated that the Punisher had two cameo appearances in their feature film Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), as a Penske truck driver who runs over two different Hydra agents. The Russos also expressed interest in a Marvel One-Shot being produced about the character.[12]


Iron Man: Rise of Technovore (2013)

The Punisher appears in Iron Man: Rise of Technovore,[13] voiced by Norman Reedus.

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014)

The Punisher appears in Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher, voiced by Brian Bloom.[14] He is apprehended by S.H.I.E.L.D. after interfering with one of their missions, but is offered to work with Black Widow to stop Leviathan in exchange for his release.[15]

Fan films

The Punisher: Dirty Laundry (2012)

Main article: The Punisher: Dirty Laundry

At the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International, Jane debuted an independently financed Punisher short film, directed by Phil Joanou, written by Chad St. John, produced by Adi Shankar, and co-starring Ron Perlman, titled Dirty Laundry.[16] Jane said, "I wanted to make a fan film for a character I've always loved and believed in – a love letter to Frank Castle & his fans. It was an incredible experience with everyone on the project throwing in their time just for the fun of it. It's been a blast to be a part of from start to finish — we hope the friends of Frank enjoy watching it as much as we did making it."[17]

Do Not Fall in New York City (2012)

Main article: Do Not Fall in New York City

An animated Punisher fan film titled Do Not Fall in New York City was released in 2012, with Lee Westwood voicing the eponymous character.[18]

Skull (2020)

Stuntman Eric Linden, who worked on the MCU / Netflix series The Punisher as a stunt coordinator, second unit director, and stunt double for Jon Bernthal,[19] directed and portrayed the Punisher in the short film Skull, produced in association with FXitinPost.[20]

Cast and crew

Principal cast

List indicator(s)
Character The Punisher The Punisher Punisher: War Zone Marvel Cinematic Universe Animation Fan films
Captain America:
The Winter Soldier
Avengers: Endgame Iron Man: Rise of Technovore Avengers Confidential:
Black Widow & Punisher
The Punisher:
Dirty Laundry
Do Not Fall in New York City Skull
1989 2004 2008 2014 2019 2013 2014 2012 2020
Francis "Frank" Castle
The Punisher
Dolph Lundgren Thomas Jane Ray Stevenson Easter egg cameo appearances Tesshô GendaV Thomas Jane Lee WestwoodV Eric Linden
Norman ReedusV Brian BloomV
Maria Castle Photograph Samantha Mathis Photograph
Danny / William "Will" Castle Robert Simper Marcus Johns
Natasha Romanova
Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson Miyuki Sawashiro
Clare Grant Jennifer Carpenter
Nick Fury Samuel L. Jackson Hideaki Tezuka
John Eric Bentley
Maria Hill Cobie Smulders Junko Minagawa
Kari Wahlgren
Tony Stark
Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr. Keiji Fujiwara
Matthew Mercer
Clint Barton
Jeremy Renner Shūhei Sakaguchi
Troy Baker Matthew Mercer
James "Rhodey" Rhodes
War Machine
Don Cheadle Hiroki Yasumoto
James C. Mathis III
Silent cameo
Bruce Banner
The Hulk
Mark Ruffalo Yuichi Karasuma
Fred Tatasciore
Thor Odinson Chris Hemsworth Silent cameo
Carol Danvers
Captain Marvel
Brie Larson
Pepper Potts Gwyneth Paltrow Hiroe Oka
Kate Higgins

Additional crew

The Punisher The Punisher Punisher: War Zone The Punisher:
Dirty Laundry
Iron Man:
Rise of Technovore
Avengers Confidential:
Black Widow & Punisher
1989 2004 2008 2012 2013 2014
Director(s) Mark Goldblatt Jonathan Hensleigh Lexi Alexander Phil Joanou Hiroshi Hamasaki Kenichi Shimizu
Producer(s) Robert Mark Kamen Avi Arad
Gale Anne Hurd
Gale Anne Hurd Adi Shankar Taro Morishima
Writer(s) Boaz Yakin Jonathan Hensleigh
Michael France
Nick Santora
Art Marcum and Matt Holloway
Chad St. John Kengo Kaji Mitsutaka Hirota
Marjorie Liu
Composer Dennis Dreith Carlo Siliotto Michael Wandmacher Hans Zimmer
James Newton Howard
Tetsuya Takahashi
Cinematographer Ian Baker Conrad W. Hall Steve Gainer Masanobu Takayanagi
Editor Stephanie Flack
Tim Wellburn
Steven Kemper
Jeff Gullo
William Yeh
Dean Zimmerman
Paul Norling Bob Murawski TBA
Production company Carolco Pictures
New World Pictures
Lionsgate Films 1984 Private Defense Contractors
RAW Studios
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment Valhalla Motion Pictures
MHF Zweite Academy Film
SGF Entertainment Inc.
Distributor Live Entertainment
New World International
Lions Gate Films YouTube Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan
Summit Entertainment
Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International
Marvel Studios
Sony Pictures Releasing
San Diego Comic-Con International
Running time 89 minutes 123 minutes 103 minutes 10 minutes 88 minutes 83 minutes
Release date October 5, 1989 (West Germany)
April 25, 1991 (United States)
April 16, 2004 December 5, 2008 July 15, 2012 April 24, 2013 (Japan) March 25, 2014 (North America)
September 3, 2014 (Japan)


Box office performance

Film Release date Box office gross Reference
United States Other territories United States Other territories Worldwide
The Punisher (1989) April 25, 1991 October 5, 1989 Not disclosed in gross Not disclosed in gross [21]
The Punisher (2004) April 16, 2004 May 5, 2004 $33,810,189 $20,889,916 $54,700,105 [22]
Punisher: War Zone (2008) December 5, 2008 December 3, 2008 $8,050,977 $2,110,516 $10,161,493 [23]

Critical response

Each film is linked to the "Critical response" section of its article.

Critical and public response of Punisher in film
Film Critical Public
Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
The Punisher (1989) 25% (16 reviews)[24] 63 (4 reviews)[25]
The Punisher (2004) 29% (172 reviews)[26] 33 (36 reviews)[27] B+[28]
Punisher: War Zone 29% (111 reviews)[29] 30 (24 reviews)[30] B−[28]


  1. ^ "Writer/Director Jonathan Hensleigh on The Punisher". Superhero Hype!. September 28, 2003. Archived from the original on January 12, 2009. Retrieved January 4, 2009.
  2. ^ Jessica Barnes (June 15, 2007). "John Dahl Says 'Punisher 2' Script Not That Good". Cinematical. Retrieved January 5, 2009.
  3. ^ Frosty (June 11, 2007). "John Dahl is NOT directing PUNISHER 2". Collider. Archived from the original on September 15, 2008. Retrieved January 5, 2009.
  4. ^ Quint (May 15, 2007). "AICN Exclusive: Thomas Jane dropping out of Punisher 2?!? – Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved January 5, 2009.
  5. ^ "Punisher Will Enter War Zone 3 Months Later". Superhero Hype!. April 3, 2008. Archived from the original on January 8, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2008.
  6. ^ Fleming, Michael (August 1, 2007). "'Punisher' gets Lionsgate overhaul". Variety. Archived from the original on September 26, 2008. Retrieved December 14, 2008.
  7. ^ "Thomas Jane Pull out of Punisher 2". May 15, 2007. Archived from the original on August 2, 2009. Retrieved August 7, 2008.
  8. ^ "AICN Exclusive: Thomas Jane dropping out of PUNISHER 2?!?". May 15, 2007.
  9. ^ The Punisher: War Zone Synopsis – Superhero Hype!
  10. ^ a b IGN Punisher: War Zone Trailer, Videos and Movies Archived September 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "The Raid Remake Writer Pitched a Punisher Movie to Marvel Studios".
  12. ^ Burcham, Cori (February 17, 2020). "Captain America: Winter Soldier's Punisher Cameo Explained – Was It Really Him?". Screen Rant. Retrieved February 17, 2020.
  13. ^ "ANIME NEWS: Madhouse and Marvel join hands again to produce new 'Iron Man' anime feature". Asahi Shimbun. December 25, 2012. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  14. ^ "'Avengers Confidential' Offers Black Widow Some Time in the Spotlight". The Hollywood Reporter. January 21, 2014. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  15. ^ McMillan, Graeme (January 21, 2014). "'Avengers Confidential' Offers Black Widow Some Time in the Spotlight". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  16. ^ "Comic-Con: Thomas Jane Unveiled a New PUNISHER Short Film with Special Guest Ron Perlman!". Collider. July 14, 2012. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  17. ^ "Watch DIRTY LAUNDRY, the PUNISHER Short Film Thomas Jane Brought to Comic-Con; Plus 10 Images and a New PUNISHER Logo". Collider. July 16, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  18. ^ Cavalli, Ernest (September 11, 2012). "This animated fan film is the best Punisher movie to date". Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  19. ^ "STUNTS".
  20. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Skull: Punisher Reawakened". YouTube.
  21. ^ "The Punisher". Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  22. ^ "The Punisher (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  23. ^ "Punisher: War Zone (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  24. ^ "The Punisher". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 10, 2022. Edit this at Wikidata
  25. ^ "The Punisher". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved May 10, 2022.
  26. ^ "The Punisher". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 10, 2022. Edit this at Wikidata
  27. ^ "The Punisher". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved May 10, 2022.
  28. ^ a b "Cinemascore :: Movie Title Search". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  29. ^ "Punisher: War Zone". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 10, 2022. Edit this at Wikidata
  30. ^ "Punisher: War Zone". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved May 10, 2022.