Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Leo has unsurprisingly taken the audience by storm. Although the third installment of the Lokesh Cinematic Universe is not as compact and tightly knit as its two predecessors, Kaithi (2019) and Vikram (2022), Thalapathy Vijay’s charismatic turn as the titular hero, the hyper-stylized action, and Anirudh Ravichander’s fiery soundtrack collectively make this one quite an experience as well. You are presumably here having already watched it, and now you want more stuff like Leo. In case you haven’t managed to watch the two other Lokesh films of this shared universe, you should see them before everything else, along with the 2021 action-thriller Master, another fantastic actioner helmed by Kanagaraj that doesn’t have anything to do with the universe. Master does bring you your Thalapathy fix, along with a brilliant Vijay Sethupathi in the fold. If you have already seen all that, then here we are with a list of films that might fill your Leo void. The idea here is to recommend films that can match many different aspects of Leo, be it the story, style, or action.
A History of Violence (2005)
Considering Leo has taken much of its inspiration from the 2005 David Cronenberg action-thriller, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest genre films of the modern day, A History of Violence is the most obvious entry on this list. In this film, diner-owner family man Tom (Viggo Mortensen, in one of his career-best turns) expertly kills two random goons to save his daughter and one of his employees, which effectively makes him a hero and draws a lot of attention. As you would expect, his hitman past comes back to haunt his rather stable present, and how the man deals with it is basically what the film is all about.
There are striking similarities between the core stories of A History of Violence and Leo, but the films are quite different, treatment-wise. While Leo plays it to the gallery, the Cronenberg film is much more cerebral and serious in tone. One other major difference is the romantic relationships portrayed in these two films. In Leo, Vijay makes it a point to protect his wife (played by Trisha) from everything evil; in A History of Violence, Tom invites Eddie into the darkness, and the two share a very intense, borderline toxic bond. However, if you’ve enjoyed Leo, there’s no reason you wouldn’t take a liking to one of Cronenberg’s most accessible films.
John Wick (2014)
If “a man trying to escape his violent past and trying to live a rather peaceful life but ending up facing ghosts from the past he left behind” is your thing, then giving a watch to John Wick should be a very good idea. The 2014 film helmed by Chad Stahelski was the kickstart of one of the biggest modern-day action franchises that is still going strong. Every single John Wick movie could find a spot on this list, but we are suggesting the very first one, as this is where it all started.
In this film, Keanu Reeves portrays a retired hitman who gets into revenge mode as his old colleagues kill his puppy dog. The storyline is definitely simpler than Leo, but Reeves sells the part so well that you just can’t help but get yourself invested in it. John Wick is a glorious example of how a rather one-line idea can yield a fantastic action epic if it is made with conviction. It is also touted as Reeves’ comeback as an action hero.
In Theri, a non-violent bakery owner is forced to face demons from his past when his daughter gets kidnapped. Not only is this another film that is based on the template of a simple man being haunted by his violent past, Theri also stars Thalapathy Vijay as the man who is expectedly fantastic in the role. With Atlee Kumar at the helm of it, Theri is very commercial in approach and has all the usual masala in it. This was the first collaboration between Atlee and Thalapathy after the super-successful Raja Rani (2013), which was the director’s debut. Interestingly, the film is loosely inspired by the 1990 Mani Ratnam film Chatriyan. Along with Thalapathy Vijay, Theri also stars popular actors like Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Amy Jackson.
Pokiri (2006) and Pokkiri (2007)
I could also suggest the 2010 Salman Khan blockbuster Wanted, but suggesting the original Telugu film it was based on, i.e., Puri Jagannath’s Pokiri (2006), certainly makes more sense. Superstar Mahesh Babu plays a no-nonsense goon caught up in a gang war who eventually takes matters into his own hands and ends up beating up a lot of bad people. Like Leo, Pokiri also has a lot of frantic action sequences, which is most definitely the high point of the film.
Before Wanted, the Telugu film was remade in time by Prabhu Deva (who also directed Wanted), in which the lead was played by Thalapathy Vijay, which is why I chose to place this one on the list along with the original. My suggestion would be to watch the original version, but if you can’t get enough of Thalapathy, then you can always give Pokiri a go, and I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Alright, this is admittedly an odd choice. Not that I promised I would adhere to the action genre, but putting Paheli on this list is indeed a stretch. But hear me out here. Paheli chronicles the journey of a Rajasthani woman whose newlywed husband goes on a business trip, and in his absence, a ghost takes his place and charms the woman. It ultimately comes down to a matter of making a choice between the ghost and the husband. If you think about it, in Leo, Vijay’s character also goes through this conflict of succumbing to the “bad” past or doing anything to protect the “good” present, and we all know what choice he made. The reason for putting Paheli here, both thematically and internally, is that it resides in the same place as Leo.
I could also suggest Mani Kaul’s Duvidha (1973), which was based on the same short story Paheli. Of course, with A-listers like Rani Mukherjee and Shah Rukh Khan playing the main leads, Amol Palekar’s film is much more accessible. It is also extremely visually appealing and has fantastic music by the legendary M.M. Kreem. Last but not least, Paheli has a very interesting cameo by Amitabh Bachchan, who plays an important part in solving the conflict that is going on inside the head of Rani Mukherjee’s character.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
In Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, a young adult who has lived most of his life as a petty criminal suddenly gets to know that he happens to be the member of an elite secret service group called Kingsman. The young man, Eggsy, is eventually brought into the fold by this suave Kingsman member, Harry, played by Colin Firth. What follows is a mission to contain a threat of eco-terrorism, where Eggsy joins hands with Harry. Samuel L. Jackson plays a very colorful, megalomaniac villain, which adds value to the already cool film.
While the plot of Leo is very dense and intense, the film also has a lot of comedy in it. Kingsman: The Secret Service also has the same vibe. There is a lot of violence, but the film also manages to tickle your bones every now and then. The very talented Taron Egerton plays Eggsy, while actors like Mark Strong, Sir Michael Kane, and even the legendary Mark Hamill play important roles in it. Kingsman: The Secret Service should be on any list of modern-day action films solely on the basis of the incredibly cool church scene. The film also happens to have a sequel as well as a prequel. If Kingsman: The Secret Service works for you, then you might try the other two as well.
I intended to put at least one film of Superstar Rajinikanth on this list, and the 1995 Gangster action-drama seems like the most fitting choice here. The Superstar plays a soft-spoken, absolutely non-violent auto driver here. His parents are dead, and neither his siblings nor the audience have any idea about who their big brother is—or rather, was once upon a time—which is none other than this gangster named Baashha.
The Suresh Krissna-directed film is hailed for Rajini playing the two sides of the same person in very different styles, which shows his acting chops as well. He plays both the humble Tamil auto driver and this feared Mumbai gangster with utmost sincerity and a lot of conviction. Baashha is not only a great action drama; it also has its own legacy, as the film is widely regarded as one of Rajini’s best works. The film has been remade twice in India, once in Bangladesh, and once in Sri Lanka, which only solidifies its absolutely justified cult status.
Here is the interesting thing: Rajinikanth’s Baashha happens to be loosely inspired by the 1991 Hindi film Hum, and it was the Superstar himself who came up with the idea for director Suresh Krissna. Rajini, of course, stars in the Mukul Anand-directed film as well, which has Amitabh Bachchan playing the lead role.
In Hum, Bachchan plays Tiger, aka the right-hand man of this terrifying gangster named Bhaktawar (a sublime Danny Denzongpa). But when Bhaktawar kills Tiger’s best friend Gonsalves, he plans to revolt against Bhaktawar but abandons that plan as he has to take care of his two younger half-brothers, Kumar and Vijay, as his father and stepmother are dead. Tiger is also in love with Gonsalves’ sister Jumma, and yes, the iconic song Jumma Chumma De De is from this very film.
Eventually, Tiger changes his name to Shekhar and turns into a humble farmer in Ooty as his brothers grow up. Kumar becomes a police officer, and he is played by Rajini, while the youngest Vijay is a college student, who is played by another superstar, Govinda. Of course, Tiger can’t get away from his old self, and the film is all about the collision of the past and present and the conflicts that come with it. It is very engaging and supremely entertaining from start to finish.
Mark Antony (2023)
The latest genre-blending mind-bender from Southern India, Mark Antony, also happens to share a connection with Baashha, as the film is titled after a character from the Rajni film. Mark Antony tells the story of Mark, a mild-mannered orphaned car mechanic whose gangster father, Antony, died when Mark was a kid. Antony’s best friend, Jackie Pandiyan, who is also a gangster, is the one who has brought up Mark like his own son. Then there’s this scientist, Chiranjeevi, who has invented what you could consider a time machine, and through a chain of events, Mark gets a hold of the device. Of course, he gets to confront his father in the past through the use of the device while many secrets are revealed and a whole lot of action sequences take place.
Adhik Ravichandran’s Mark Antony looks like a true spectacle on screen. The action scenes are brilliantly choreographed, and the entire science-fiction angle only adds an extra layer to the whole thing. Vishal as Mark and his father Antony and S. J. Suryah as both Jackie and his son Madan have given terrific performances, which makes Mark Antony worth a watch. The film is a huge box office success as well, which is only natural given how well-made it is.
In his pre-romantic hero era, Shah Rukh Khan plays a young man named Vicky, who would go any distance to take revenge from this evil businessman, Madan Chopra, who has been responsible for the fall of Vicky’s once-affluent family. Vicky, whose real name is Ajay, tricks both Chopra’s daughters, Seema (Shilpa Shetty in her first film) and Priya (Kajol in her first collaboration with SRK), into falling for him and eventually murders one of them. A lead character doing such vile things in a Hindi film was a thing the audience was not familiar with back in those days, and Baazigar was a bold film in that context.
Family and choice both play an important part in Baazigar as well as Leo, which is my reason for putting this one on the list. It is also a very thrilling watch, just like the Thalapathy film. And in case you have already watched the Abbas-Mustan-directed SRK-starrer, then you might look into the 1991 Hollywood film A Kiss Before Dying, from which Baazigar was unofficially adapted.