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Film / The Professional

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"No women, no kids. That's the rules."

The Professional — known as Léon in France and many other countries — is a 1994 film directed by Luc Besson which stars Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and Natalie Portman in her first major role and Danny Aiello. It was inspired by Jean Reno's One-Scene Wonder character in Nikita, who became so popular that Besson decided to essentially make a whole movie about him, though the two films are otherwise unrelated.

Leone "Léon" Montana (Reno) is a quiet, skilled assassin whose next-door neighbors were just gunned down by crooked DEA agent Norman Stansfield (Oldman) and his crew; the only survivor of the massacre is 12-year-old Mathilda Lando (Portman), who begs Léon to save her from the corrupt cops who murdered her family. Léon reluctantly takes Mathilda under his wing and, at her insistence, teaches her in the ways of his trade. Mathilda is intent on avenging her family by going after Stansfield— and Léon is intent on keeping Mathilda safe at all costs.


This film is not to be confused with The Professionals (a British TV series), The Professionals (an American Western film), Le Professionnel (a 1981 French film), or Golgo 13: The Professional.

The Professional provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Mathilda's parents fall under this trope, which is likely why she doesn't care when she finds out they're dead. She's bruised and her father is seen slapping without her provocation; her stepmother is very apathetic at best to her daughter, Mathilda and her four-year-old son.
  • Actor Allusion: Leon referring to himself as a "cleaner" is a reference to his role in Luc Besson's previous film Nikita, where Jean Reno played a crime scene cleaner/hitman.
  • Action Dad: Léon becomes a surrogate father to the orphaned Mathilda and protects her on her quest for vengeance, taking on the entire NYPD in the process.
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  • Affably Evil: Tony comes across as a nice guy and even throws children's birthday parties in his lair — but he also orders several dozen people murdered over the short period of time in which the film takes place. Given the sort of lowlifes that would require Léon's cleaning services in the first place, it's likely a case of Grey-and-Gray Morality.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: This trope is zig-zagged: Léon shoots and hacks out the hotel's ventilator fan so Mathilda can slide down to ground level, but there's not enough room for him.
  • All of Them:
    Stansfield: Bring me everyone.
    Benny: What do you mean "everyone"?
    Stansfield: EVE-RY-ONE!!!
  • All There in the Script: According to Besson's first script-draft, Léon's full name is Leone Montana.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: It's strongly implied Léon is on the autism spectrum. He has odd, fractured speech patterns, phenomenal skill in one specific area (killing people), astounding social ineptitude (to the point he's barely able to hold a conversation with anyone) as well as some child-like traits (he doesn't curse, for instance).
  • Anyone Can Die: Sadistically so. Mathilda's family gets slaughtered, her little brother included. Léon and Stansfield even get killed by the same grenade.
  • Artistic License – Geography: At the end of the film, Mathilda is at the Spenser School, which (according to the headmistress's telephone conversation) is supposed to be in Wildwood, New Jersey. In the final moments before the credits, the school is shown to overlook the Hudson River and Manhattan — but Wildwood is an oceanfront community near the tip of Cape May, over 150 miles away from New York City. (These scenes were filmed at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.)
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety:
    • Stansfield is pretty careless about where he points his gun, especially for a cop. Given that one of his police colleagues calls attention to this when he inadvertently points the gun at him, it's clearly meant to show that he just doesn't care. Plus he's constantly shown to swallow huge amounts of drugs.
    • Mathilda's father stores his slug gun loaded and poorly concealed in the kitchen, though he at least has the sense to put the safety on. He is an idiot, however, so his recklessness makes sense.
  • Asshole Victim: Mathilda's abusive parents and jerk of an older sister. She's not especially sorry for losing them.
  • Ax-Crazy: Stansfield is a dangerously unstable individual. He treats murdering an entire family like a fun game, shoots at an old woman for not going back into her apartment, seems to take immense pleasure in the thought of murdering a twelve-year-old girl, and unnerves his lackeys by waving guns around them without any care for their safety. The drugs he uses have clearly taken a toll on his sanity.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Léon, an unstoppable hitman of a main character takes 12-year-old Mathilda under his wing. She begs him to avenge the murder of her family or teach her so that she can do it herself.
  • Badass Creed: "No women, no kids." Also used as a plot significant Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: The cops seen are violent, corrupt psychos, or jackbooted thugs. Mostly Stansfield and his gang (Malky shows some conscience but is still crooked cop) and they are pretty competent if completely crooked. Other cops are simply following their orders (i.e. they do what you would expect from a cop told to chase dangerous murderer).
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Stansfield and his crew work for the DEA, but also murder the entire family (save one) of a man holding drugs for them and don't seem unfamiliar with hiring out professional killers from the Mob.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Fille Fatale Mathilda wears often an Age-Inappropriate Dress — cropped T-shirts or shirts.
  • Batman Cold Open: The opening scene shows Léon killing a gang of drug dealers in a matter of minutes. The entire scene only exists to show how proficient Léon is, and has nothing to do with the rest of the film.
  • Bested by the Inexperienced: Formidable badass Leon is killed when Stansfield cowardly shoots him in the back.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Léon is already mortally wounded but succeeds in pulling a Taking You with Me on Stansfield.
  • Big Bad: Norman Stansfield murdered Mathilda's family at the start of the film and seeking revenge on him is what drove her to join Leon.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Léon dies, but Mathilda gets her revenge — and "Léon's" roots can grow, now. She seems to have found a person willing to protect her.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The protagonists are a hitman and a young girl interested in killing people, while the antagonist is a psychotic, drug-addled corrupt cop.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Mathilda has one of these on Léon—in the uncut version, she even asks him to be her first lover, but he refuses.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Stansfield borrows Luc Besson's out-of-universe manner of saying "bingo". He also imitates opera singing when he chants "I love Mozart".
  • Broken Bird: Mathilda is an orphan with an abusive childhood whose family was wiped out. She's not in a very good place mentally.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Stansfield is rather eccentric, to say the least: he discusses classical music during hits, is careless about where he points his gun, and frequently switches from absolute calm to screaming rage and back.
  • Camping a Crapper: Mathilda tries to ambush Stansfield in the restroom, but Stansfield is hiding behind the door instead of sitting in one of the booths.
  • Cassandra Truth: This trope is inverted. The headmistress of the orphanage doesn't believe Mathilda's story about her parents being killed in a car crash, but does believe the story about living with a hitman and being chased by corrupt DEA agents.
  • Ceiling Cling: Used to great effect by Léon.
  • Celibate Hero: Léon hasn't had a girlfriend since his first love was murdered in the old country.
  • Chalk Outline: Once Mathilda returns to her old apartment, there's one in the ground. She's disturbed and avoids stepping inside it.
  • Charlie Chaplin Shout-Out: One of the celebrities Mathilda dresses up as is Charlie Chaplin.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The "Ring Trick" sets up the very end of the film. The American theatrical cut doesn't feature the set-up, but it's not necessary.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Léon's seen doing crunches/sit-ups in early scenes of the film, and he tries to teach Mathilda how to do them while training her. These exercises allow him to hang from the ceiling unseen and ambush Stansfeld's men during the climatic showdown.
  • Children Are Innocent:
    • Mathilda curses a lot, smokes and has a disturbingly sexual mind for someone as young as she is, but despite all this outward appearance, she is just a innocent kid, specially when compared to Leéon and Stansfield.
    • This is used to differentiate the two killers. Léon refuses to kill children (or women), while Stansfield has no problem gunning down a four-year-old.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: In the beginning of the film, Mathilda is a bratty little girl who fights with her family and watches cartoons all day. Then she decides to dedicate her life to murder and revenge. By the end of the film, she's matured and vowed to "grow roots." The European cut of the film makes more of an issue of her budding sexuality than the American cut, though it also has Mathilda participating in Leon's assassinations, making her ultimate maturity more questionable.
  • Companion Cube: Léon's only friend has been a small houseplant, which he carefully waters with a squirt bottle and sets outside his windowsill each day. He says he likes the plant because it has "no roots," like him.
  • Compartment Shot: We get such a shot to watch Mathilda fill up the fridge with milk.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted. Matilda's little brother breaks cover from his hiding place upon the distraction of his dad killing one of Stansfield's men. Startled, Willi Blood starts spraying through the wall with a Kimmel AP-9 and manages to hit him, while also endangering all of Stansfield's other men. Later, when the police try to storm Leon's and Matilda's hideout, the bullets go through the wall, which makes the situation rather sticky for those inside.
  • Conducting the Carnage: As Stanfield is picking off Mathilda's family members with his shotgun, he likens the moments to listening and playing Beethoven's classical pieces and waves his hands accordingly.
  • Consummate Professional: Leon is proficient with everything from his bare hands to explosives, doesn't drink alcohol, doesn't leave witnesses or evidence, lives off the grid, doesn't form emotional attachments and, aside from occasional trips to the cinema and tending to his plant, seems to have no life at all outside of professional killing.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: The paintball rounds Léon uses in the "Sniper Rifle Erector Set" to train Matilda. These rounds are used for close-quarters training and lack the velocity to hit a target at the distance the politician was implied to be from them. In addition, assembling/breaking down a scoped rifle on-location does not happen. Any time a firearm is modified (changing a bolt/barrel, attaching a suppressor, etc.), its accuracy is greatly affected. This is why once a rifle is "sighted in," it stays in that configuration - otherwise, the weapon's sighting must be zeroed out again.
  • Cool Guns:
    • A Ruger SP101 3" variant is seen, first in Leon's gun case and later fired out the window by Matilda. Also notable in that Matilda, being a small girl, must use two fingers to pull the heavy double-action trigger.
    • NYPD ESU teams are shown using Heckler and Koch H K33s in the climactic raid.
  • Cool Shades: Leon almost always wears his signature tea shades. They're the very first thing you see of his character. Mathilda snags them (and his knit cap) when she goes to commit an assassination of her own, apparently in hopes of channeling some of his badassitude.
  • Corruption of a Minor: Leon befriends Mathilda, who demands that he teach her how to kill. In the American theatrical release, he gives her some lessons, but she never participates in an actual murder. In the overseas version, she helps kill at least a dozen people, making her instant rehabilitation at the end a little dubious.
  • Crapsack World: New York City in the 1990s is not a happy place. This was before Guiliani's efforts to drive down the high crime rate.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Mathilda tells Leon that she fell off a bike, more than once. She seems to figure nevertheless that he knows the truth of her abusive father.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Mathilda doesn't give a damn about the rest of her family — but the bastards who killed her little brother must die.
  • Deadly Bath: Mathilda's stepmother met her end in a bathtub via Stansfield's shotgun.
  • Deadly Delivery: Mathilda pretends to be delivering takeaway to get her arsenal of weapons past the metal detector into DEA headquarters. Stansfield isn't fooled however, and speculates (ostensibly talking about the takeaway meal) which organised crime group might have sent this child assassin after him. "Chinese? Thai, maybe? Let me guess...Italian food." Mathilda informs him It's Personal.
  • Death of a Child: Mathilda's little brother's murder (onscreen, but not clearly shown) is the reason Mathilda hires Leon on to kill the men responsible.
  • Defiant to the End: As Léon lays dying:
    Léon: Stansfield?
    Stansfield: At your service.
    Léon: (handing him something) This is from... Mathilda.
    Stansfield: (sees that it's a pin for a grenade) Shit.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: Mathilda, bent on revenge, walks into DEA headquarters as a 12-year-old food delivery person with a bag of guns. She gets past security, at least.
  • Determinator: Léon is absolutely implacable when he gets his mind on something. Even in the end, he gets shot several times and nearly blown up, but manages to escape SWAT by sheer determination. If it weren't for Stansfield, he would have come out unscathed.
  • Dirty Cop: They don't make 'em much dirtier than Stansfield. He's involved in drug running (and apparently likes to sample the product) and will kill just about anyone who gets in his way.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Stansfield when he's killing Matilda's family while cheerfully humming along to the classical music in his headphones.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: A uniformed cop misses Mathilda entering a crime scene because he's flirting with a woman from the building.
  • Double Speak: Léon refers to himself as a "cleaner". Mathilda sees right through his words and asks him to teach her to "clean" also.
  • The Dragon: Malky. Somewhat uncharacteristic to what this position normally entails, Malky is often forced to take charge and babysit his boss when Stansfield is too far gone on drugs or engrossed in murder. Or both.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Léon wears the uniform of an ESU officer killed during the raid on his apartment in order to escape through the cordon of police.
  • Drink-Based Characterization: Leon drinks nothing but milk, and is often shown going to the local store to buy more. It's part of his portrayal as a curiously innocent and childlike assassin. Part of Mathilda's training involves drinking lots of milk, which she does not care for.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Léon's death scene counts — especially since he takes Stansfield with him.
  • Empty Elevator: "Somebody's coming up. Somebody's serious." (Léon's not in it, but as in Die Hard he has placed a corpse of one of the bad guys in there instead).
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The first scenes show Leon as a badass hitman with almost supernatural skills due to years of training. He spends the rest of his day as mundanely as possible—going to the store, watering his plants and cleaning his guns.
    • Norman Stansfield gets two establishing moments: he's introduced standing in the background, listening to classical music on his headphones and completely disconnected from the rest of the world. Then, when Malky informs him of a problem (a drug holder apparently cut some of the dope he was supposed to be keeping safe), he removes the headphones, and sniffs the holder for a few seconds, before declaring him innocent. Stansfield's next scene shows him leading a gang of thugs towards the holder's apartment: he takes a moment to down a pill and muse on how much he likes "these calm little moments before the storm," before charging into the apartment with a shotgun, killing the holder's wife, the holder's teenage daughter, then finally cornering the holder himself... so he can chat about classical music while the rest of his gang search the apartment for drugs.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Malky shouts angrily at Willi Blood for killing Mathilda's brother and endangering him and the rest of Stansfield's gang.
    • Tony's outraged at the idea of hiring a twelve-year-old girl to act as a killer.
  • Expy: Léon is Victor from Nikita. Same actor, and they even share an euphemism for their job, "cleaner". Luc Besson has said that they're basically cousins. (In Victor's case it's not a euphemism: his job is cleaning up after killers, not killing like Léon.)
  • Fade to White: When Leon is shot in the back just as he was about to achieve the freedom he was seeking.
  • Family Extermination: The film begins with a family being wiped out by contract killers (the father was in bed with corrupt cops involved with the drug trade and tried to rip them off): the only survivor is the little girl Mathilda, who finds herself being guarded by contract killer Leon, who develops a fatherly feeling for her and teaches her how to use firearms.
  • Famous Last Words:
    Léon: This is from Mathilda.
    Stansfield: Shit...
  • Faux Affably Evil: Stansfield can act charming at times, such as when talking with Mathilda or her father, but through it all it's clear he's a psychopathic maniac who's a second away from violently murdering anyone who makes him mad. At one point, after murdering Mathilda's stepmother and half-sister, he talks casually with Mathilda's horrified father, gushing about his music tastes.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Léon is this—at least, according to Mathilda:
    Mathilda: What's your name?
    Léon: Léon.
    Mathilda: Cute name.
    (spit take)
  • Foil:
    • Stansfield to Leon, who's his opposite in nearly every way. Leon's a Consummate Professional while Stansfield is Ax-Crazy and has a Hair-Trigger Temper. Leon tries to act cold and aloof while being a much better person than he lets on, Stansfield can appear charming but is really a raging maniac. Leon is Straight Edge Evil who doesn't use drink, smoke or using foul-language, while Stansfield is a drug addict who swears all the time. Both men exhibit almost childlike qualities, but while Leon treats a potted plant like his best friend and takes childlike joy in musical movies, Stansfield's idea of fun and games is hunting down and murdering a family for fun.
    • Mathilda contrasts León in that she's a very adult-like child while León is a very child-like adult, and while Mathilda has the thirst for violence despite never having killed anyone, León is a lot more deadset against violence (despite being a hitman, meaning violence is his dayjob).
  • Follow That Car: Subverted - Mathilda sees a car containing the people who murdered her family drive off. She flags a cab:
    Mathilda: Follow the blue car.
    Cab Driver: I suppose you want me to blast the music and go through the red lights?
    Mathilda: No, I want you to drive slowly, take the hundred bucks and shut the fuck up, okay?
  • Foot Popping: This trope is spoofed. When Léon rescues Mathilda from the police station, she throws herself into his arms, and the camera cuts to a shot of their feet — Mathilda's are hanging a foot above the ground.
  • Friend or Foe: Stansfield's gang nearly shoot one another on several occasions during the massacre, and at least one ESU officer is killed this way.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Mathilda's father gets all family members to stay home and clean the apartment instead of going to school/work, probably in an effort to appear tidy and reliable to Stansfield. Instead, this gets everyone who stays killed by Stansfield and his men. Stansfield later comments that the kids "should have been at school".
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Stansfield and Malky are introduced doing this on Mathilda's dad. Malky plays the "good cop", trying to be reasonable with Mathilda's dad and implicitly saying he doesn't want to disrupt Stansfield, who is listening to his music and hates being disturbed. When Malky decides his efforts aren't getting through, he pulls Stansfield over. Stansfield plays "bad cop" by getting uncomfortably close to Mathilda's dad and sniffing all over him, then threatens him with a deadline to recover the lost drugs.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Generally inverted. Stansfield is always seen wearing a beige suit and white shirt, while Leon is often seen in a black peacoat, black pants, black beanie and black tea shades.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Played Straight when Leon "cleans" the first of the Fatman's guards. Most of the rest are disposed of in a gunfight behind window blinds. Later killings, particularly those of Mathilda's family, but not her brother, are shown in all their gory... er glory.
  • Gun Stripping: Leon shows Mathilda how to disassemble a gun.
  • Guns Akimbo: Leon initially uses two pistols when attacking the ESU officers raiding his apartment.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Stansfield loses his cool in nearly every scene he's in, often screaming at the top of his lungs to his underlings and even his superiors.
  • Hand Cannon: Stansfield carries a customized Smith & Wesson Model 629 "Classic Hunter" chambered in .44 Magnum. The 629 was a fairly common weapon that had several normal production runs; what Stansfield carries was a one-off customization of one of the rare, limited production run models. The "Classic Hunter" isn't small to begin with, and the unfluted cylinder, shortened barrel, and muzzle crown make the thing look even bigger.
  • The Handler: Effectively what Tony is with León. Tony gives him his targets, the info on said targets, his equipment, and takes care of his payment.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Mathilda's stepmom didn't hear Stansfield entering and thus never knows he's there until he executes her with his shotgun.
  • The Hero Dies: Leon is shot by Stansfield but is able to kill him with a grenade before he dies.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: After Leon is mortally wounded, he blows himself up using one of his grenades to take Stansfield with him.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Léon has an aura of childish wholesomeness to him. He lives a simple life, takes care of a pet plant, only drinks milk, and watches classic films with childish wonder. When called upon to do an act of good, he ultimately rises to it.
  • Hollywood Personality Disorders: Norman Stansfield has Antisocial Personality Disorder. Antisocial, lacks empathy and murders without a shred of remorse.
  • Hope Spot: Léon almost makes it out of a standoff between himself and EVERYONE in the NYPD, but gets killed in a tunnel a few yards from freedom by the Big Bad. Though not before taking the Big Bad with him. "This is from... Mathilda..." BOOM!
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Malky is clearly the brains of his partnership with Stansfield, which is why Stansfield goes off the rails after Malky is killed midway through the film.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Léon: Stay away from him. He looks like a weirdo.
  • IKEA Weaponry: Léon's sniper rifle. Another example of Cool, but Inefficient, on location weapon assembly is simply not possible. Even something as "simple" as attaching a suppressor to a rifle (much less assembling the entire rifle) will drastically affect the weapon's accuracy. A rifle must be "sighted in" to be accurate, and every time the rifle is taken apart and reassembled, it requires sighting in again. Usually, when a rifle is modified as suppressed, the rifle stays in that configuration for good and becomes a designated suppressed rifle.
  • In the Back: How Leon gets killed by Stansfield.
  • I Work Alone: Léon refuses to train Mathilda for this exact reason.
  • Iconic Outfit: Leon's get-up while doing his "cleaning" (black trenchcoat, round beanie, round shades) is very iconic to the character. Markedly, it's in every cover ever made for the movie.
  • Idiot Savant: Leon has no social skills and he doesn't even know how to read, but you won't find a man more apt at mowing down enemies with extreme prejudice. A lot of the movie centers on contrasting his ineptitude with normal life to his aptness at his hitman job.
  • Impairment Shot: During the climax, when Léon is shot from behind, the camera brightens at the instant of the gunshot and then sinks down to the ground as seen with his own eyes.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted with Mathilda's brother.
  • Instant Marksman: Just Squeeze Trigger!: Leon gives this advice to Mathilda, allowing her to hit her target on the first try, with a paintball rifle from a rather long distance too.
  • Insult to Rocks: Mathilda claims she was more of a mother to her little brother than her pig of a step-mother was.
    Léon: Don' talk like that about pigs. They're usually much nicer than people.
  • Inverse Ninja Law: In the final act, Léon takes on a heavily-armed SWAT unit by himself — and gets away. Léon is only stopped when Stansfield sneaks up on him from behind.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: Mathilda trains to become a killer to avenge her family.
    Mathilda: Is life always this hard, or is it just when you're a kid?
    Leon: Always like this.
  • Joisey: The film fails Jersey geography spectacularly in its final moments: Mathilda is at the Spenser School, which is (according to an overheard conversation) supposed to be in Wildwood, New Jersey. However, the final moments of the film show that it overlooks the Hudson River and Manhattan. Wildwood is in fact an oceanfront community near the tip of Cape May, over 150 miles away from New York City. (The scene was actually filmed at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.)
  • Jumped at the Call: Mathilda shows particular zeal for avenging her innocent brother.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The NYPD is not happy about the slaying of an entire family with no explanation (other than the DEA saying they were doing their job).
  • Kick the Dog: Willi Blood shoots 12 year-old Mathilda's much younger brother. Later, Stansfield threatens to kill an entire room full of children to get Tony's cooperation; if his demand hadn't been met, he definitely would have followed through.
  • Killer Cop: Norman Stansfield is a psychotic DEA agent who uses the law to threaten, extort, and kill whoever he wants. In his second scene, Stansfield goes on a drug rush and along with his men, murders Matilda's family, including their baby brother, only caring about how he'll explain their deaths to his superiors. When Matilda confronts him later on, Stansfield plans to kill her—implying that he'll enjoy doing it—before he's stopped by the news of Malky's death. He later leads a raid on Leon's apartment to try to kill both him and Matilda and shoots Leon in the back as the latter tries to escape.
  • Knife Nut: Leon explicitly postulates that the better you are, the closer you can get to your victim: sniper rifles are for beginners, and only a real pro uses a knife.
  • Knight Templar: Stansfield becomes this in his quest to hunt Léon down.
  • Kubrick Stare: Stansfield is fond of these. He gives a particularly menacing one just before leaving Mathilda's apartment at the start of the movie.
  • Large Ham: This is one of Gary Oldman's hammiest performances (which is saying a lot).
  • Laser Sight: Visible laser sights hunt for Léon and Mathilda in their apartment; they become visible due to the smoke and dust which has accumulated in the room.
  • Laughably Evil: While Stansfield a ruthless and psychotic corrupt cop who is not above murdering children, it's hard to not laugh at some (if not all) of his deranged outbursts.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: As a contrast to León's meticulous stealthiness, Stansfield just charges in guns blazing during the massacre at Mathilda's house, much to the displeasure of Only Sane Man Malky.
  • Leitmotif: The soundtrack has a tune called "A Ballad for Mathilda", which is quite gentle and sweet, signifying Mathilda's innocence, but with some darker beats towards the end to hint the darkness in her soul.
  • Light Equals Hope: Mathilda's terror after her parents and brother are brutally murdered is contrasted with her relieved expression as Leon opens his door to help her, and light floods across her face.
  • Light Is Good: A terrified Mathilda is knocking on Léon's door, watched by a suspicious member of Stansfield's gang. Nothing happens, though we know Léon is on the other side of the door, debating whether to involve himself in the matter. As Stansfield's goon becomes more suspicious, light shines on Mathilda's face from the opening door and we see her look of relief.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Stansfield is never seen wearing anything besides his trademark beige suit and white shirt. While Leon wears a greater variety of clothes, he also has a signature ensemble.
  • Little Miss Badass: Mathilda single-handedly infiltrates a busy federal bureau with a bag full of weapons. She ends up failing, though, when she hesitates to kill Stansfield and gets captured.
  • Meaningful Name: Leon is called "the Italian Lion" in the underworld, referring to his name. Lions are considered strong, majestic creatures, indicating Leon's essentially good, protective nature in spite of his capacity for violence.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: An early version of the screenplay provides a very clear example of this trope. Stansfield coldbloodedly massacres Mathilda's family, including her father, mother, teenage sister, and infant brother. The sympathetic Leon and his protégé adhere to a "no women, no children" creed; gunning down random men in a park for target practice is just fine. This got toned down in the production to having Mathilda shoot just one man in the park with a paint pellet, and asking to "use real bullets next time", but the fact that the original idea was even considered is telling. Additionally, countless male mooks are massacred, together with a SWAT team (who were only doing their jobs, albeit for a corrupt boss), and Leon's contracted targets who were never depicted doing anything unsympathetic.
  • Metal Detector Checkpoint:
    • When Mathilda needs to get past the metal detector at the DEA building, she hides a weapon in the take out food bags she is delivering.
    • When Leon goes to rescue Mathilda from the DEA building he passes through the metal detector. The arsenal he's carrying sets it off, but he punches out the guard before the guard can do anything about it.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: During the raid on Mathilda's home, Mathilda's father manages to shoot Norman Stansfield in the shoulder. Stansfield is pretty subdued about this until he has the time to notice the damage done to his suit, whereupon he follows the injured suspect through the apartment, shooting him in the back. He does this until he's out of ammunition... and then starts to reload so he can continue shooting the guy's corpse.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Leon is kicked out of his hotel after Mathilda tells the clerk that the two of them are lovers.
  • Mook Horror Show: The opening hit scene. Leon knocks off the Fatman's guards one by one — pointblank headshot, garrote from the ceiling panel, pulled over the stairwell by a necktie, numerous unseen shootings — without anyone (mooks or viewer) ever laying eyes on him. "Those bastards blocked both the exits," mutters the Fatman, when seeing one of his mooks hanging by the neck on CCTV. Finally, the Fatman ends up with a knife to his throat, produced by a disembodied arm out of shadow, and Leon gives him a phone over which he's instructed to leave town immediately.
  • More Dakka: After Léon wipes out their entry team, the ESU team brings up a tripod-mounted, belt-fed machine gun — then shoves a rifle grenade into the muzzle and blasts it through the door into Léon's apartment.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: Leon has very simple rules about his clients: "No women, no kids, that's the rules."
  • Noble Demon:
    • Leon is a professional assassin but he never takes jobs that involve killing women or children. He also takes in Mathilda when her family's being murdered by corrupt cops and treats her with more love and kindness than her real father ever did.
    • Tony appears to share León's "no women, no kids" creed (and may in fact have originated it), and is in general a pretty decent guy, criminal business aside.
  • Noodle Incident: Léon's overseas affair somehow figures into his current role. This is explained in the International Cut as his girlfriend's death. Due to Léon's family being less respectable than hers, her father killed her when she ignored his request to end the affair. Léon killed the father in revenge, then fled to America to join his father, who was already working for Tony.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Saving Mathilda is what eventually gets Leon killed... but he was never happier.
  • No Peripheral Vision: Léon hides above the doorway as the ESU team enters his apartment. Fairly justified, in that he was just inside the room, right above the door. The incoming SWAT team are all wearing respirators, which really seriously cut down all peripheral vision.
  • No Social Skills: León has absolutely zero social skills. He isn't even able to talk basic small-talk with a hotel concierge.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Leon is an Italian immigrant. Reno himself is a Frenchman of Spanish descent and speaks with his normal, rather thick French accent.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: As a general rule of thumb in the movie: If you don't see León, he's probably right behind you.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • "This is from Mathilda." The Big Bad's response is promptly a calm "Shit..."
    • This also happens a few minutes earlier, during Léon's battle with the ESU team:
    "Do you see him?"
    "Yes. He's right here. He's got a gun to my head."
    • At the beginning of the movie, you can almost feel the Fat Man's heart stopping for a second when Lèon materializes from the shadows and puts a knife on his throat.
  • One-Man Army: Leon wreaks havoc on a whole gang just to deliver a message to their chief, or on a whole SWAT team to protect Mathilda.
  • Only a Flesh Wound:
    • Léon gets shot in the shoulder by an assault rifle while hanging upside down. After dropping one of his guns and grimacing, he shoots the ESU officer and manages to pull himself back up above the door.
    • Also happens to Stansfield early on in the film when he gets clipped in the shoulder. He seems more upset about the damage to his suit.
  • Only Sane Man: Malky is this to Stansfield and his gang of corrupt DEA cops who seem mostly incompetent or dumb. This is the most prevalent during the raid on Mathilda's family where Malky seems the only one to keep a cool head after the fact (trying to calm Stansfield, and angrily yelling at Benny for almost shooting at him and then at Willi for killing Mathilda's brother).
  • Our Presidents Are Different: A not-so-subtle caricature of a jogging Clinton serves as Mathilda's sniper training.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: At the end, the camera zooms up from Mathilda onto the skyline of New York.
  • Papa Wolf: Léon becomes a Parental Substitute to Mathilda, taking her in after the death of her family, mentoring her in assassination and protecting her from Stansfield. He starts assassinating the men who killed her family, and in the final showdown with Stansfield's cops, he goes One-Man Army to ensure she survives. He even spends his last seconds of life ensuring that the man who killed her family and went after her, dies alongside him.
  • Parental Substitute: As Tony takes care of León in every way and serves as an older voice of guidance, his relationship with him has echoes of this. The international cut reveals he's been taking care of León since he was 19.
  • Pet the Dog: The first true indicator that Léon is a good guy is when he performs a little puppet show with a pig-faced oven mitt to cheer up Matilda.
  • Pineapple Surprise: Leon defeats Stansfield using the suicide version of this. After being mortally wounded, Leon hands Stansfield the pin that has been pulled from a grenade. Stansfield is puzzled for a second, then opens Leon's jacket to see about a dozen grenades strapped to him. Stansfield has just enough time for an Oh, Crap! before being blown to bits.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: In an imitation game, Léon fails to recognize Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, and Charlie Chaplin, while Mathilda confuses John Wayne with Clint Eastwood.
  • Precocious Crush: 12-year-old Mathilda has a crush on Léon, an adult. The international version makes it much less precocious, with Mathilda actually propositioning Léon for sex.
  • Profane Last Words: Stansfield's last word is "Shit."
  • Professional Killer: Léon possesses the skills and reputation of an unholy killing machine, but he barely spends any money, lives a monastic, anonymous existence, and has an almost childlike personality.
  • Prove I Am Not Bluffing: Matilda takes a gun and fires several wild shots out the window at the passerby below to show Leon that she has enough disregard to human life to become an assassin.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Léon is a merciless assassin while on the clock. On his own time, he's almost childishly innocent.
  • Rare Guns: The Spectre M4 is one of the guns in Leon's possession. The extended cut shows him cocking the gun, but not using it.
  • Re-Cut: The film exists in two different versions. The Professional is the American cut; Leon is the international cut (sometimes called version integrale.) The American version is edited down mainly to remove any moral quandaries about Matilda's actions - in the longer international version her crush on Leon is not so innocent, and more training scenes show her assisting with actual hits.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Willi Blood shows poor trigger discipline with his Kimel AP-9. Startled by the combination of the shotgun blasts from Mathilda's dad killing one of Stansfield's men, and Mathilda's brother breaking cover from under the mattress that Neal is about to rip open, he raises his gun with one hand and lets loose a barrage of bullets that rip through the entire apartment, killing Mathilda's brother and sending Stansfield and all of the other men diving for cover. Malky chews him out for this afterwards.
    Willi Blood: [Glasses Pull] ...Wow...
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Mathilda spends a good portion of the movie training under Léon's tutelage to become an assassin. Later, after Léon dies, she asks Tony to let her work as a hitwoman for him, but he vehemently refuses to allow a 12-year-old girl to kill people for him and sends her back to school.
    • The film sets up Mathilda, having finished her training, tracking down Stansfield after a chance encounter. Utilizing her new found training, she loads up her guns, slips into the building, and is promptly caught by Stansfield. Because she's 12 and naive, while he is a grown man and has been doing the same thing for years.
  • Recognition Failure: Mathilda dresses herself up as various celebrities, but Léon fails to recognize any of them, even Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe. He does however recognize Gene Kelly thanks to seeing Singing In the Rain before.
  • Rescue Romance: After Léon rescues her from the DEA office, Mathilda changes into a pink dress and starts talking to Léon about the importance of losing your virginity with a man you love. Léon turns down her advances, and they compromise on sharing the bed.
  • Rescue Sex: Becomes Troubling Unchildhood Behavior in the International Cut. Leon rescues 12 year-old Mathilda from the middle of DEA headquarters after she fails to kill the Dirty Cops who murdered her family. Mathilda then decides she is in love and offers to lose her virginity with him, so Leon has to gently refuse her. They compromise on agreeing to share the bed.
  • Retirony: As Leon ensures Mathilda escapes from the cops trying to kill them, he promises her that he'll meet up with her and they'll move somewhere together and put down roots. Minutes later, just when it looks like he'll escape, he's killed by Stansfield shooting him in the back. He at least uses his last moments to ensure Stansfield goes down with him.
  • The Reveal: Stansfield and his men appear to be just another drug gang; when they hear police sirens approaching after the massacre, Malky calmly says they've got to go, but Stansfield tells Willi to stay behind.
    Willi: What do you want me to tell them?
    Stansfield: Tell them... we were doing our jobs.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Subverted. Matilda has trained with the hitman Leon. By chance, she learns of where the people she wants her revenge on work. She arms herself, sneaks in successfully, hunts down Stansfield in the bathroom, and is promptly caught and very nearly shot dead by the same.
  • Russian Roulette: In the International Cut, Mathilda does this to show Léon she's ready to become a killer and does this with a half-loaded revolver. Léon informs her that the chamber is loaded (he can hear the difference), then knocks her hand away at the last second, which is just as well because the revolver really goes off.
  • Selective Slaughter: Leon has a strict "no women, no kids" rule when carrying out his jobs. This is part of the reason he helps Mathilda seek revenge against the drug dealers; they slaughtered her whole family, including her little brother.
  • Self-Surgery: Leon returns to his apartment and is seen patching himself up in the shower, showing that he had been injured carrying out one of his hits.
  • Senseless Violins: Léon is shown carrying an instrument case when moving house, though he never removes a weapon from it.
  • Serendipitous Survival: Matilda is out getting groceries while her family is being killed by corrupt cops. She comes back, acts nonchalant, and hooks up with Leon for safety, and then revenge.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Mathilda has her first crush on Léon. In the European version, she outright propositions him for sex.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Mathilda usually dresses in Bare Your Midriff outfits, but she changes into a beautiful pink dress after Leon rescues her from the middle of the DEA headquarters. Then she starts talking about the importance of losing your virginity with someone you love, giving Leon a serious Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Shout-Out: Léon signs into a hotel registry under the name "MacGuffin".
    • Mathilda seems to like The Transformers, as she is seen watching the show on TV in various scenes. The film occasionally has closeups of characters such as Optimus Prime and Megatron.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: There's a first-person POV example after Leon is shot in the back by Stansfield.
  • The Sociopath: Norman Stansfield is a low-functioning kind of sociopath despite somehow being a DEA agent. He has a Hair-Trigger Temper, can appear superfluously charming but can't maintain it, and shows no empathy for human life whatsoever.
  • Sole Survivor: Benny serves as this among Stansfield's unit.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: While discussing the beauty of Beethoven, Stansfield has a "creative" way of discussing the composer's shortcomings.
    So powerful... But after his openings, to be honest, he does tend to get a little fucking boring.
  • Spare a Messenger: While Mathilda tries to go after Stansfield, Leon carries out a hit on a Chinese gang trying to move drugs on Tony's turf. When he reaches the table where the boss is seated, he finds Malky at the table and remembers him from the "raid" on Mathilda's family. Malky tries to protest "Easy man, I'm a cop!" but Leon executes him, saying "No women, no kids". It's implied that he spared the man seated next to Malky since someone had to tell Willi Blood exactly what Leon said, and Willi relays this when informing Stansfield of Malky's death.
  • Spit Take: Of milk. Virtually a Running Gag.
  • Spiteful Spit: Mathilda spits at a SWAT officer when he removes his hand from her mouth.
  • Spy Speak: Leon calls himself a "Cleaner", instead of "Assassin" or "Hitman". So someone might ask him to "clean" someone, rather than "kill" them. That's actually a Shout-Out to Nikita, where Jean Reno played the "cleaner" i.e. a character who specialized in destroying the evidence and disposing of bodies after the hit.
  • Stab the Salad: Played With. Leon is teaching Mathilda how to be an assassin. They set up a sniper rifle on the roof and shoot a politician jogging in the park, only for us to realize that it was a paintball gun.
  • Staged Shooting: A paintball round is used against a jogger. In the international version, it seems the same thing is happening again when Mathilda shoots a mark and leaves only a red splatter, but Léon casually kills the mark after pointing out to Mathilda what she did wrong.
  • Stealing from the Till: It's hinted that an inversion is in play; judging from Tony's cagey surprise when Leon brings up the money that Tony has been "taking care of" for him (coupled with the fact that Tony, let's face it, a bit of a shady character), it's implied that Tony has at the very least been dipping into Leon's savings under the assumption that Leon doesn't care about it and isn't keeping track.
  • Storming the Castle: Mathilda tracks Stansfield's crew to their precinct and infiltrates it with the intention of taking her revenge. She fails to accomplish this task and seems on the verge of being charged with some serious offenses, but luckily Léon shows up to take out some of the dirty cops and save her.
  • Straw Nihilist: Stansfield seems to be. While he doesn't care about other people's lives (like most sociopaths do), he also doesn't seems to care about his own. During the slaughter of Mathilda's family, he is wandering around in his men's field of fire without any hesitation or precaution. Although it could be because of the drugs, in his last scene, he hasn't taken any drugs and still doesn't seems to care when he discovers that he's about to die. No fear, no anger, no surprise on his face, just mere disappointment.
    Stansfield: Shit...
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!:
    Stansfield: Bring me everyone.
    Benny: What do you mean "everyone"?
    Stansfield: EVE-RY-ONE!!!
  • Suspiciously Idle Officers: The DEA agents are hard-pressed to explain the brutal gun fight that stirred the plot into action, but nobody ever questions why they were there in the first place, and they are never seen pursuing actual police work throughout the film.
  • Taking You with Me: "This is from Mathilda."
  • Teach Me How To Fight: Mathilda trades reading lessons for training in the assassin's arts. The two different versions of the film differ on how much training she actually receives.
  • The Teetotaler: Leon usually opts for milk instead. However, he does have one glass of champagne to celebrate his apprentice's first hit.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Stansfield sends two hundred ESU officers with an RPG — while regular cops establish a perimeter — after one man and and a twelve-year-old girl in a cramped apartment building.
    Stansfield: I said take the guy out, not the whole fucking building!
  • There Is Only One Bed: After Léon turns down Mathilda's offer to sleep with him, Mathilda insists that at the very least he share the bed with her and not sleep on the couch. Leon is justly cautious, but nothing untoward happens. In the US cut they just wake up in bed together with no explanation.
  • There Was a Door: Léon shoots and hacks out the hotel's ventilator fan so Mathilda can do an Air Vent Escape. However he's too big to follow.
  • Threw My Bike on the Roof: Just after the apartment raid, Stansfield comes across a group of kids playing catch with a basketball. He grabs it out of mid-air, comments that "Kids should be in school," then gets into his car and drives off, taking the ball with him over their protestations.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Mathilda's father at one point decided to steal drugs from corrupt DEA agents. Even when they call him out on it and give him a clear deadline to return the drugs, he ignores them and waits passively for them to return and kill everyone in his home.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Léon drinks nothing but milk, which emphasizes his wholesome and childlike personality in spite of killing people.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Mathilda's only sad about her four-year-old brother's death, not about the deaths of her abusive father, stepmother and half-sister. She expresses a desire to become a professional assassin to avenge him, fires a gun wildly out of a window to convince Leon to teach her how to kill, expresses a desire to use real bullets during a mock assassination session, and at one point freaks out the manager of an apartment she and Leon are staying at by lying that Leon's her lover instead of her father.
  • Unorthodox Reload: When Stansfield is reloading his revolver, he snaps the cylinder into place with a flick of his arm.
  • Vertical Kidnapping: Léon performs a particularly nasty Neck Snap to a mook in the movie's opening in this fashion, complete with a very Sickening "Crunch!".
  • Villainous Breakdown: As Leon proves himself harder and harder to kill, Stansfield gets more and more unhinged, to the point where he demands one of his lackeys to bring EEVVVERRYYYYONNNEEEE!!! to kill them.
  • Villainous Friendship: Leon's a Professional Killer and Tony's a mafioso, but he seems to be the only actual friend Leon has outside of work. He gives Leon almost paternal advice, looks out for his well-being, holds on to his money for him, and genuinely mourns him following his death. He even honors Leon's request to leave all his money to Mathilda.
  • Weapon of Choice: Stansfield carries a snub-nose Smith & Wesson model 629. Léon uses customized Beretta 92FSs.
  • Wicked Cultured: Stansfield has a love of classical music and hard drugs.
    You're a Mozart fan. I love him too. I looooove Mozart! He was Austrian, you know. But for this kind of work, (imitates playing the piano) he's a little bit light. So I tend to go for the heavier guys. Check out Brahms. He's good too. (proceeds to slaughter the family)
  • Women Are Delicate:
    Léon: No women, no kids. That's the rules.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Stansfield very nearly kills Mathilda - and implies that he'll enjoy doing it - before being stopped at the last minute by news of the death of one of his subordinates.

Alternative Title(s): Leon The Professional, Leon


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