violent films

Film: 12 Most Violent Scenes

Warning: This article features plot spoilers and descriptions of violent scenes. 

With Guillermo Del Toro’s latest release, Crimson Peak featuring some of the most effective uses of violence in recent times, we decided to celebrate some of the best moments of visceral acts of violence in film.

Crimson Peak (2015 – Director: Guillermo Del Toro)

Despite Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) shaving his face with a straight razor, his killer decides upon the far more brutal approach of smashing his face repeatedly into a sink, breaking it and Carter’s cranium in the process.

Kill List (2011 – Director: Ben Wheatley)

The second name on the Kill List for the ill-fated hit-men, Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley) – ‘The Librarian.’ Jay, revolted by the undisclosed content of the videos the man keeps, savagely beats him to death with a hammer.

No Country for Old Men (2007 – Director: Joel and Ethan Coen)

After being arrested by a patrol cop, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) liberates himself by strangling his captor with the handcuffs he is in. More than anything, the intensity emanates from the bulging eyes of Chigurh as the audience observe the desperate struggle from an aerial view.

Taxi Driver (1979 – Director: Martin Scorsese)

Throughout this film, the viewer is on edge, mostly because of Robert De Niro’s harrowing performance as violent Travis and Scoresese’s clever techniques of foreshadowing. This tension climaxes at the end of the film when Travis massacres the pimps in charge of vulnerable Iris. The use of sound is key in this scene with the gun shots magnified through the empty hallways. This paired with the closeness of range between Travis and the people he kills is disturbing and hard to watch. The end of the massacre is particularly haunting, with De Niro covered in blood, miming a gun to his head.

Legend (2015 – Director: Brian Helgeland)

Based on the real-life event, the murder of Jack McVitie by Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) is the most ferocious act of violence portrayed in the film. The audience sees Hardy, at his most animalistic when playing Reggie, as he stabs McVitie repeatedly in rapid succession.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003 – Director: Quentin Tarantino)

In terms of violent moments, Tarantino’s films are definitely not lacking. However, the violence often featured is heavily stylised with comic book exaggerated gore. For a moment the audience feels every second of The Bride’s revenge on Buck – a male nurse who repeatedly raped her when she was comatose. Uma Thurman does an incredible job of portraying a near-debilitated struggle and the audience is able to feel every slam of the door onto Buck’s head.

Drive (2011 – Director: Nicolas Winding Refn)

Arguably the film’s most memorable scene, Ryan Gosling’s anonymous driver beats a hit-man to death in an elevator. The viewer is put into the passive role of Irene (Carey Mulligan), standing by astonished by the excessive use of force.

Down Terrace (2009 – Director: Ben Wheatley)

Another entry for Ben Wheatley! Karl (Robin Hill) turns the tables on his would-be-mugger, who, in signature Wheatley’s dark-humoured fashion, has to stop beating Karl to use his inhaler. The following messy struggle sees Karl stab the mugger, bringing the viewer uncomfortably close as the life leaves the mugger’s body.

The Raid (2011 – Director: Gareth Evans)

The non-stop action of The Raid features an array of violence, and it is easy for the viewer to become desensitised after a while. However, the fight between Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and the brothers, Rama (Iko Uwais) and Andi (Donny Alamsyah) is about as intense as it can get. It is the film’s flagship display of its consistency, excellent hand-to-hand fight scenes with every punch and kick making considerable impact. The concluding cut through Mad Dog’s throat with a broken light bulb is a slow, staggered movement that perfectly caps the fight.

The Dark Knight (2008 – Director: Christopher Nolan)

In one of the most iconic scenes of Nolan’s trilogy, Batman (Christian Bale) interrogates the Joker (Heath Ledger). The suddenness of the violence and continued extreme physicality of the scene displays the hero pushed to his limits as the Joker cackles and taunts.

“You have nothing. Nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength.” – the Joker.

Black Swan (2010 – Director: Darren Aronofsky)

A film full of unsettling images and acts of violence, the most affecting of which being the scene late in the film where Nina (Natalie Portman) begins to transform. Just having horrifically broken her mother’s hand after slamming her bedroom door onto it, Nina’s skin texture begins to change and her legs invert to the shape of a birds. Similar to many entries on this list, it’s the non-diegetic sound here that really unnerves the audience.

Fight Club (1999 – Director: David Fincher)

No list would be complete without the violent attack on Angel Face (Jared Leto) by Jack (Edward Norton) from David Fincher’s Fight Club. With the camera up, close and personal, the viewer is able to feel and wince as each punch crushes Angel Face’s face to the point of unrecognisably.

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