The Punisher (1989) Has Begun Dominating Netflix

The 1989 film featuring the iconic Frank Castle has risen from the dead, on the same platform that gave the character an unbelievably successful show.

The 1989 film The Punisher seems to have taken Netflix by storm lately. Ironically, it is the same platform that gave this iconic anti-hero from Marvel the treatment it deserves, in the form of the Netflix original series based on the character.

Before Joe Bernthal’s comic book accurate Netflix portrayal and Thomas Jane’s 2004 attempt to bring the character to life on the silver screen, there was Dolph Lundgren’s The Punisher, an action film that had very little in common with the comic book origins of Frank Castle. In fact, the film did not even include the iconic skull vest that Punisher is usually seen wearing.


The Punisher from 1989 has appeared in Netflix’s Most-Watched list featuring at #21, thus moving up 32 places since the day before (per FlixPatrol). It is clear that fans have started taking more interest in the film that began the journey of Frank Castle on the silver screen and beyond. The 1989 action film is one of the first films inspired by or taken from Marvel comics, although it does not involve Marvel as a producer.

It is not widely considered to be a great film, as it pales in comparison to even the Thomas Jane version of the character in the 2004 film with the same name. The Punisher from 1989 is quintessentially an ’80s action flick, where the good guy takes on the bad guys through an endless act of violence. The Swedish actor and martial artist Dolph Lundgren did as much justice to the role he could by performing most of the stunts in the film by himself.

In the film, Frank Castle is a former undercover police detective. Five years prior to the incidents of the film, his wife Maria was killed along with their son Daniel by a mafia car bomb that was intended for Frank, who is also presumed dead by the mafia. Frank now wages war against organized crime as the city’s most wanted, and most mysterious, vigilante known only as “The Punisher.” Punisher’s lair in the film is a dramatic one too: the sewer system of New York, where this gun-wielding modern-day Minotaur lives. Apparently, he has assassinated 125 mobsters during these five years, leaving behind his calling card- special throwing knives engraved with a skull.

Frank Castle has a sidekick in the 1989 version as well, a stage-performer-turned derelict called Shake. This man is Frank’s sole ally in his war against organized crime and he usually speaks in rhyme. The Punisher may prove to be a rather fun watch for fans of ’80s action films, and it might be interesting to see how far the character has come over the years.

In the meantime, Jon Bernthal has teased that he’s up for returning to the version of Frank Castle he played in The Punisher on Netflix. His concern is that the Disney-owned Marvel Studios might want to tone down the character upon his introduction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bernthal said that he’s only interested in doing the Punisher again if he can “do it right.”

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Samyarup Chowdhury
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