Theoretically, repeated exposure to gruesome on-screen violence is a dangerously dehumanizing experience that causes us to become desensitized to the suffering of others.
Maybe so... but it's super fun!
If you're like us, when you come to a good scene of epic violence, you rewind it again and again, and play it back frame by frame. Sure, it's a guilty pleasure, but what pleasure isn't at least a little bit guilty?
With that in mind, we've compiled a list of the eight best horribly violent movie scenes that are perfect for repeated viewing. Enjoy!
David Cronenberg's Scanners unquestionably sets the standard for cranial combustion.
In the signature scene, rogue scanner Revok (Michael Ironsides) agrees to undergo a seemingly routine demonstration of "scanning" during a press conference, only to go ballistic on the ConSec scanner's brain. The result: pure bloody brilliance.
The exploding head quickly became a feature on the cultural landscape, getting referenced on SaturdayNight Live, SCTV, Wayne's World and more recently Family Guy. It still makes regular appearances on The Daily Show. And for true geeks, nothing can beat when TV's Frank had his head explode on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
We can't even talk about Scanners without going online and watching that scene over again. Neither should you.
The poster for Anaconda warned us that "When you can't breathe, you can't scream." Maybe not. But you can still laugh in delight when Jon Voight gets eaten. The 100-foot anaconda may swallow him up, but it's Voight who chews up the scene.
And then, not only does Voight die beautifully the first time, including a terrific "stomach's eye" view of him getting consumed whole, but later he makes an unbelievably fantastic reappearance! The ever-hungry constrictor corners J-Lo, then regurgitates Jon Voight. But is he dead? No way! He slips out of the creature's stomach covered in juices and then winks!
We're not sure why the snake puked up Jon Voight. Maybe anacondas are allergic to ham. But we're not! What a great scene!
6. SNAKES ON A PLANE
Speaking of snakes, where's the worst place to be surrounded by venomous reptiles?
On a mother-f'in plane, that's where! Turns out, no place is safe from snakes on a plane! Especially the bathroom.
Everyone remembers the scene where the couple goes into the skycrapper to join the mile-high club, only to wind up in the 6-feet under club. But the best bathroom break comes from the snake to "snake" action in the other lavatory, when the guy goes in to take a leak, and somehow fails to notice that he's peeing on the head of a deadly viper.
The best part is before he gets bit, the man has a tender moment with his soon-to-stricken-member and asks it... "How's my big boy?"
And who can forget the poor man's dying words, said moments after ineffectually grappling with the 10-foot of fangs and venom firmly attached to his junk... "fucking snake get off my fucking dick." A truer sentiment has never been spoken. Bravo!
Look, if watching and re-watching a guy getting his penis bit makes us gay, then we don't want to be straight.
5. TOTAL RECALL
Mars may seem like a great place for a vacation, but as Arnold discovers much to his discomfort, it's a little thin on atmosphere. And our eyes got as big as Arnold's the first time we saw his head almost explode at the end.
Not only is Total Recall a fantastic movie throughout, but there is something perversely pleasing about watching the future governor of California's eyes bug out like Rodney Dangerfield while he screams and gurgles in his crazy Austrian accent. It's awesome!
It also proves that a horrifyingly violent scene doesn't have to end in death to be good. After all, Arnold comes out completely uninjured, which doesn't make any sense. At the very least, wouldn't his sinuses be ruined?
By the way, don't spend too much time thinking about why the Martians shut down their atmosphere machine in the first place, or why the Mars mining corporation wouldn't want to make Mars habitable or how such a machine could possibly work so quickly. Also, if there is no atmosphere, why are we able to hear Arnold scream? Those are the kind of questions that could ruin a great film.
Instead, just watch Arnold suffer, and enjoy!
4. RESERVOIR DOGS
Who knew that nothing makes a villain more terrifying than watching him dance around to ‘70s rock?
Tarantino knew, that's who!
Stealers Wheel has never sounded so good as when it plays on K-Billy's Sounds of the ‘70s while Michael Madsen's evil Mr. Blonde cuts off that policeman's ear. Turns out that "Stuck n the Middle With You" is the perfect accompaniment for gratuitous, sadistic torture.
And then, when Mr. Blonde talks into the severed ear, it's too good! Tarantino should turn that bit into a Verizon ad. "Can you hear me now?"
What makes the scene even more haunting is that Mr. Blonde walks from the hellish torture chair and out into the perfectly pleasant normal world where he's parked his car. He gets the gas tank out, and then calmly walks back in so he can burn his victim alive. What a jerk!
In Robocop, Broddicker's henchman, Emil Antonowsky, tries to run over everyone's favorite cyborg policeman with his van. It seems like a good plan. Just one problem: he drives into a vat of toxic waste instead.
The crash doesn't kill him, of course. But it doesn't make his life easy. Emil staggers out of the noxious wreckage, his flesh peeling off his body, moaning "help me."
Help soon arrives, in the form of Boddicker's car. But "help" doesn't happen to see him in the street until it's way too late to slow down. The car slams into him at high speed, and Emil's melting body disintegrates all over the windshield in a massive display of viscera.
The MPAA wanted director Paul Verhoeven to cut the scene from the film, but in focus groups, the "melting man" was the highest-rated part of the movie, so he fought like crazy to keep it in. Of course, the gruesome scene was also the lowest-rated scene in focus groups as well, as test audiences either loved it or hated it.
Guess which way we feel.
2. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
We're like Indy:when it comes to Nazis, we hate those guys. But we love to watch their faces melt off!
In particular, we love seeing the giggly Gestapo guy scream like a little girl, right before the flesh comes running off his face. But watching the Frenchman say "it's beautiful" right before he turns into molten waxy goo is great too.
Also, if more Rabbis exploded from the wrath of an angry Old Testament God, I'm guessing a lot more people would pay attention during Temple. Even at reform synagogues.
Overall, the opening of the ark is a great mass death scene! And it's surprisingly gruesome considering how many 12-year-olds were in the intended audience.
Still, if that's what it takes to scare kids away from Nazism, then we're all for it! Thank you, Steven Spielberg!
Titanic causes quite the polarizing effect on movie goers. Whether you're Roger Ebert, who found the sad saga "flawlessly crafted" and "spellbinding" or with Barbara Shulglass of the “San Francisco Examiner” who scoffed at "the unbelievably badly-written script," there's one thing everyone can agree on... once the ship finally starts sinking, the movie kicks ass!
And nothing beats when the dude falls 300-feet off the back of the ship and hits one of the giant brass propellers, before spinning wildly off into the ocean! Spectacular!
That moment alone is well worth watching again and again and again. In fact, that guy's death is so good that it'll even be worth paying money to see in the theater one more time in 2011, which is when Cameron is scheduled to finish converting Titanic into 3-D.
Honorable Mentions: Kill Bill 2 (Uma plucks out the other eye), Alien (the Alien pops out), Scarface (Chainsaw), Casino (baseball bat), The Untouchables (another baseball bat), Sin City (Frodo gets his guts eaten by wolves)
A few parting thoughts... obviously, this is by no means a complete list of great, gruesome scenes that we can't get enough of. There's bound to be controversy. For example, lovers of American History X will rightly argue that the "curbing" scene is one of the most disturbing sequences in motion picture history. And they'd be right. But it's so horrifying that who wants to see it again? Not us!
Still, we know that we've left off some great gore porn. So add your favorites in the comments.
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