If you’ve ever found yourself watching some stuffy costume drama or family-friendly adventure movie and thought to yourself, gee, this film sure could use a few more disembowelments, then B-D’s list of “Ten Most Memorably Gory Moments in Non-Horror Movies” is just the ticket for you. It was a shockingly easy lineup to compile, what with the plethora of gruesome war movies and martial arts extravaganzas (not to mention one notorious religious epic) to choose from, and as such narrowing it down to a mere ten picks was no easy task. And while there’s admittedly much more where the following batch of (surprisingly quite mainstream) blood-and-viscera-laced entries came from (perhaps a Part 2 is in order?), this list is a good starting point for any hardcore horror fan looking to expand their gore-loving horizons into other genres.
While scenes of gory mayhem are most often associated with films in the horror genre, the truth is that some of the most gruesome bits in movie history are featured in films that can’t rightly be classified as such. War epics, martial arts movies, adventure flicks, slapstick comedies, and even religious parables have all been known to linger on the morbid details of on-screen deaths, and given this fact Mr. Disgusting thought it would be fun to compile a list of ten of the most memorable gore scenes not associated with the horror genre. While I was more than happy to take on the challenge, I should note that the gags I ended up selecting aren’t necessarily the goriest of all possible choices; if that were the case the list probably would’ve been quite a bit different. What I’ve attempted to highlight here, rather, are those grisly scenes that, regardless of the actual volume of blood shown onscreen, truly stick in the mind long after you’ve left the theater.
Note: I’ve listed the scenes in alphabetical order because the artistic intent behind each of them varies wildly – some seek to elicit laughter, others disgust, others adrenaline, etc. As such, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to rank them on a relative scale.
Film: 127 Hours (2010)
Moment: Aron cuts off his arm
What makes this particular amputation so difficult to watch is that, unlike the sort of dismemberment featured in a typical horror film, the arm doesn’t come off in a sudden explosion of gushing blood but rather several minutes (longer for the character himself) of unimaginable, bone-snapping agony – often filmed in gory close-up by director Danny Boyle. Given that Ralston is performing the amputation on himself, not to mention that we’ve just spent nearly two hours trapped down in that canyon with him, there’s also an aura of queasy over-identification with the character’s plight: What if it were my arm pinned beneath that rock? Would I be capable of severing my own tendon with a pair of tiny grooming scissors?
Film: A History of Violence (2005)
Moment: Thug has his nose caved in
Known earlier in his career for extreme works of “body horror” such as Videodrome, The Fly, and Naked Lunch, in 2005 David Cronenberg came out with the rather more subdued A History of Violence, which won over critics and the Academy (it was nominated for two Oscars) with its story of unassuming family man Tom Stall, whose life is thrown into turmoil after he foils a robbery at his small-town diner. Restrained in comparison to most of Cronenberg’s previous works, the director still couldn’t help but sprinkle the film with a few cringe-worthy gore shots, including this one in which Tom literally caves a mobster’s nose in with his bare hands. Needless to say, the aftermath isn’t pretty.
Film: Hot Fuzz (2007)
Moment: Tim’s head is crushed by the stone pinnacle of a church
While Hot Fuzz does contain some horror elements, mostly it functions as a deft parody of action movie clichés from the ’80s and early ’90s. Nevertheless, the gore is more extreme than anything featured in the majority of those films, and perhaps the bloodiest moment is when Tim Messenger’s head is gruesomely crushed from above by a Gothic church’s severed stone pinnacle. The impressive gag is pulled off with director Edgar Wright’s typically adroit mix of splatter and outright comedy; you can’t help but laugh even while you’re wincing.
Film: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2004)
Moment: The Bride takes on O-Ren and the Crazy 88
In perhaps the most prolonged spate of extreme (albeit cartoonish) violence ever in a mainstream non-horror film, Uma Thurman’s The Bride confronts mortal enemy O-Ren Ishi (Lucy Liu) and her army of sword-wielding assassins at the House of Blue Leaves night club, spilling bucket-loads of blood in the process. What follows is a deliriously extended and stylized melee in which practically no one escapes either death or the loss of at least one appendage (or, in O-Ren’s case, a scalp). By the end of the ordeal, the floor of the restaurant is a virtual ocean of crimson – and the audience leaves the theater having witnessed one of the greatest full-throttle action sequences ever filmed.
Film: The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Moment: Basically all of it
Call it what you will – a gratuitous bloodbath, an anti-Semitic diatribe, the work of a brilliant artist, a potent validation of faith – but one thing is indisputable: The Passion of the Christ is a savage and merciless piece of filmmaking. Starting with a brutal flogging session in a public courtyard in which hunks of flesh are literally ripped from Jesus’ torso (at one point actually exposing his rib cage), the torture continues with the forcing of a crown of thorns atop his head, further beatings, and then finally his crucifixion, in which the audience literally witnesses Jesus’ every last shudder and gasp as nails are pounded into his hands and feet. The goriest shot probably comes right near the end, when a soldier pierces Jesus through the abdomen with a spear and blood comes shooting out as if from a drainage pipe. You could accuse Mel Gibson of a lot of things, but shying away from mass provocation certainly isn’t one of them.
Film: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Moment: The ark is opened
Can you believe this shit was rated PG? In the famous gory climax of Spielberg’s first Indiana Jones entry, Belloq and his cronies finally get their hands on the Ark of the Covenant, only to find nothing but a sea of yellow sand inside…until God gets all Biblical on their sorry asses and melts the stinking Nazi smiles off their faces like so much melted butter. Hearing the three men gathered around the Ark shriek like a bunch of hysterical women is surely a highlight, but the greatest moment of all is when Belloq’s head literally explodes as if it were tossed inside a giant microwave set on BURN, YOU NAZI FUCKERS! This is without a doubt one of the greatest finales in the history of action/adventure films – and one of the goriest scenes ever in a PG-rated movie.
Film: Rambo (2008)
Moment: Rambo lets loose with a .50 caliber machine gun
Remember when Sly Stallone tried to kick-start his career as a “serious actor” by putting on like 50 pounds to star in Cop Land? Yeah, he kinda gave up on that whole thing. After appearing in a string of direct-to-DVD stinkers in the early ’00s (remember Avenging Angelo?), Stallone smartly returned to the big screen later that decade in revivals of his two most famous franchises. In the 2008 reboot of his second-most-iconic lead character, Stallone once again donned the headband to play John Rambo, the invincible former Green Beret who in this installment sets out to kick some serious junta ass in war-torn Burma. The film is essentially an uber-violent ’80s-style action movie posing as a humanitarian statement (seriously, Stallone actually claimed that while doing press), and the most violent sequence of all is saved for the finale in which the no-nonsense soldier takes out a horde of enemy combatants with a jeep-mounted .50 caliber machine gun. This scene without a doubt features some of the most brutal gunshot deaths in movie history, with one unlucky dude’s torso instantly disintegrating as Stallone lays into him at point-blank range (we later see the lower half of his body spilling sickly into the road). Score one for democracy!
Film: Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)
Moment: The mutated warden is blended up in an industrial meat grinder
Though it’s hard to choose a single moment from Riki-Oh (a martial arts movie I discovered thanks to Hobo with a Shotgun director Jason Eisener) considering how insanely gory the majority of the film is, I’d have to give the edge to the infamous third-act meat grinding scene. Ricky’s climactic fight with the sadistic warden of the prison – who has just transformed into a hilariously fake-looking gargantuan version of himself – ends with the antagonist being tossed into a giant meat grinder and pulverized into a stew of churned flesh. This is hands-down one of the raunchiest scenes ever filmed, and the movie as a whole ranks right up there with Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive as an exercise in pure, unadulterated gory mayhem (though the gags in Dead Alive are admittedly more accomplished from a technical standpoint).
Film: Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Moment: Disemboweled soldier cries out for his mother
The epic Omaha Beach sequence in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (the second of his films to make the list – who woulda thunk?) certainly doesn’t skimp on the gore, but the queasiest moment is when we see the young soldier screaming desperately for his mother as his intestines spill in slick coils onto the sand. As opposed to less serious-minded films where you’re actually supposed to derive some sort of sick pleasure from all the bloodletting, in this case you can’t help but shudder at the fact that there were probably many men just like him on the beaches of Normandy that day, crying out for their mothers as they slipped off into oblivion.
Film: Team America: World Police (2004)
Moment: Team America brutally massacres the members of F.A.G., a conniving group of liberal Hollywood celebrities
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone crafted the hilarious Team America using actual marionettes, many of whom suffer some of the goriest on-screen puppet deaths you’re ever likely to see. The most satisfying of these happen near the end of the film, in which a group of scheming Hollywood stars (also known as F.A.G.) are brutally massacred by the eponymous team of zealous paramilitary operatives. The climactic sequence should prove satisfying for anyone tired of holier-than-thou celebrities ostentatiously trumpeting their political beliefs in the public sphere, as the evil puppet versions of famous liberal actors like Matt Damon, George Clooney, Tim Robbins and Janeane Garofalo are categorically slaughtered in an exceedingly gruesome fashion by the crime-fighting heroes. The Samuel L. Jackson head kick and Susan Sarandon death plunge are two particularly gory highlights.