When Hollywood loosened moral guidelines in the 1960s there came an immediate uptick in violent cinema, with “Bonnie & Clyde” being the most famous example. Yet Arthur Penn’s bloody crime classic looks practically PG-rated when compared to the legion of violent movies that would follow. (These are the movies with the highest body count.)
Why the steady evolution of graphic content over decades, to the point that omnipresent gunfire and bloody corpses have become entirely mainstream? We’ll leave that for the philosophers and psychologists to figure out. What we do know is that violence sells.
Putting aside any deeper analysis, there is something to be said about the depiction of violence as a mode of art unto itself. From elaborate special effects to thrilling choreography to vivid cinematography, some of history’s best films have been unabashedly graphic. There are also a number of directors who use violent content as both a shock to the audience’s system and as a gateway to nuanced themes. Names like David Cronenberg and Lars von Trier come to mind.
Given this cinematic landscape of ubiquitous ultra-violence, it’s virtually impossible to put together a comprehensive list of the most violent movies of all time – but 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of some of cinema’s most violent offerings, based on a mix of Internet-based research, including an IMDb user list of the most violent movies, and editorial discretion.
The resulting list touches down on a number of relevant genres and filmmakers while trying not to repeat itself. It also includes some of history’s most truly graphic and intolerable movies, such as 1975’s “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” and 2010’s “A Serbian Film.” Watch those if you dare, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. (For a genre that tends to include a lot of violence, see this roster of the best revenge movies of all time.)
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
> IMDb avg. rating: 5.8 / 10 (61,665 votes)
> Tomatometer: 70% (40 votes)
> RT audience score: 63% (10,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Often pitched as an indictment of fascism, this once-banned Italian film feels moreover like an exercise in pure sadism. It takes place during WWII and centers around the brutal torture of teens at the hands of corrupt libertines. Many call it the most graphic movie ever made.
Cannibal Holocaust (1979)
> IMDb avg. rating: 5.8 / 10 (57,128 votes)
> Tomatometer: 65% (17 votes)
> RT audience score: 61% (25,782 votes)
> Directed by: Ruggero Deodato
Considered one of cinema’s first found-footage films, this exploitation classic follows a documentary crew deep into the Amazonian forest. The cannibal carnage that ensues was so lifelike that director Ruggero Deodato ended up being charged with murder (and then cleared of the charges).
The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story (1993)
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.8 / 10 (4,251 votes)
> Tomatometer: N/A
> RT audience score: 73% (1,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Danny Lee and Herman Yau
This gruesome horror dramedy out of Hong Kong culled loose inspiration from a real-life murder case. It puts two policemen on the trail of a homicidal restaurant cook, whose famous pork buns consist of minced human remains.
The Girl Next Door (2007)
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.5 / 10 (27,098 votes)
> Tomatometer: 67% (15 votes)
> RT audience score: 61% (7,092 votes)
> Directed by: Gregory Wilson
This brutal horror drama is based on a true crime book about the real-life murder of a teenage girl. It takes place in the 1950s and undercuts the idyllic veneer of small town American life with scenes of graphic torture.
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.7 / 10 (41,952 votes)
> Tomatometer: 83% (12 votes)
> RT audience score: 75% (5,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury
This relentlessly violent horror film makes up part of a broader movement known as New French Extremity. A pregnant trauma victim is tormented by a maniacal stranger who’s dead set on retrieving the unborn baby for herself. There will be blood.
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.0 / 10 (97,114 votes)
> Tomatometer: 64% (39 votes)
> RT audience score: 69% (12,464 votes)
> Directed by: Pascal Laugier
One of the most shocking titles to emerge from the New French Extremity movement is every bit as graphic as its reputation suggests. Follow two abuse victims as they enact a vicious revenge scheme, which unfolds through a series of surprise revelations and ultra-violent events. Consider yourself warned.
The Loved Ones (2009)
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.6 / 10 (41,703 votes)
> Tomatometer: 98% (57 votes)
> RT audience score: 73% (12,453 votes)
> Directed by: Sean Byrne
As if killing his own father in a car crash weren’t enough, a teen boy must contend with the prom reject from hell in this Aussie horror flick. “ââIt’s a terrifying masterpiece that turns high school drama into a literal dead zone,” wrote critic Eric Kohn for IndieWire.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
> IMDb avg. rating: 8.1 / 10 (533,565 votes)
> Tomatometer: 84% (282 votes)
> RT audience score: 91% (50,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Mel Gibson
Director Mel Gibson’s biopic about a real-life conscientious objector (played by Andrew Garfield) features almost ironic levels of gratuitous violence. It opens on scenes of pure WWII carnage and circles back to the battlefield in the harrowing third act.
7 Days (2010)
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.5 / 10 (8,167 votes)
> Tomatometer: N/A
> RT audience score: N/A
> Directed by: Daniel Grou
A bit too dramatic to qualify as torture porn, this French-language Canadian thriller nevertheless features plenty of shocking body horror. After his daughter is raped and murdered, a surgeon takes it upon himself to punish the perpetrator.
A Serbian Film (2010)
> IMDb avg. rating: 5.0 / 10 (65,875 votes)
> Tomatometer: 47% (32 votes)
> RT audience score: 43% (6,021 votes)
> Directed by: Srdjan Spasojevic
Only the most depraved violence-lovers should bother with this Serbian exploitation horror film from director Srdjan Spasojevic. It brings a former adults movies star out of retirement for one last job, which soon becomes the stuff of pure nightmares. New York Times critic A.O. Scott wrote that the movie “revels in its sheer inventive awfulness and dares the viewer to find a more serious layer of meaning.”
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.1 / 10 (68,908 votes)
> Tomatometer: 90% (97 votes)
> RT audience score: 74% (5,000+ votes)
> Directed by: S. Craig Zahler
Director S. Craig Zahler has counterbalanced pulpy grindhouse fare with dramatic gravitas in all three of his films to date. His sophomore effort finds Vince Vaughn playing against type as a former boxer turned prisoner, who’s given an impossible mission behind bars. With his family’s survival on the line, Vaughn’s character gets cracking – cracking bones, that is.
Natural Born Killers (1994)
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.2 / 10 (238,630 votes)
> Tomatometer: 48% (40 votes)
> RT audience score: 81% (100,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone’s violent satire of America’s ongoing obsessions takes those very same obsessions to cartoonish extremes. At the heart of the story are serial killers Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis), whose twisted crime spree garners massive media attention. A director’s cut features four additional minutes of graphic footage.
> IMDb avg. rating: 5.6 / 10 (37,684 votes)
> Tomatometer: 47% (21 votes)
> RT audience score: 52% (1,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Damien Leone
Before the recent (and similarly grotesque) sequel there came this independent slasher, in which sadistic killer Art the Clown is set loose on Halloween night. In one particularly graphic scene, Art splits an upside-down naked woman in half with a chainsaw. Need we say more?
The Platform (2019)
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.0 / 10 (231,399 votes)
> Tomatometer: 79% (95 votes)
> RT audience score: 72% (2,138 votes)
> Directed by: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Hailing from Spain, this dystopian thriller takes place in a futuristic prison that features vertically-arranged platforms for cells. It renders socio-economic themes by giving each prisoner a certain allotment of food based on the position of their respective platform in the vertical chain. Let the struggle begin.
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.0 / 10 (234,877 votes)
> Tomatometer: 37% (153 votes)
> RT audience score: 69% (Under 250,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone’s return to the “Rambo” franchise after a 20-year hiatus features shocking amounts of gory violence. It sends the titular character deep into the war-torn jungles of Burma, where he carries out a bloody rescue mission. The 2019 follow-up “Rambo: Last Blood” resorted to similar extremes.
The Sadness (2020)
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.5 / 10 (13,555 votes)
> Tomatometer: 89% (45 votes)
> RT audience score: 62% (100+ votes)
> Directed by: Rob Jabbaz
The zombie subgenre is nothing if not an exercise in ultra-violent cinema and yet this recent Taiwanese entry still manages to stand out from the herd. When a virus mutates, it turns every victim into a raving sadist with extremely graphic impulses.
Faces of Death (1978)
> IMDb avg. rating: 4.2 / 10 (7,424 votes)
> Tomatometer: 27% (11 votes)
> RT audience score: 40% (5,000+ votes)
> Directed by: John Alan Schwartz
Presented in a documentary-like style, this controversial film mixed fake death footage with the genuine article. It made a killing at the box office and spawned a string of direct-to-video sequels, all of which featured much more footage of actual death.
Eden Lake (2008)
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.7 / 10 (87,065 votes)
> Tomatometer: 80% (30 votes)
> RT audience score: 66% (37,298 votes)
> Directed by: James Watkins
This British horror thriller is one among a legion of films that can draw a direct line back to 1972’s “Deliverance.” A couple heads out to the rural countryside for a romantic getaway, only to end up in a deadly confrontation with unruly teens.
Ichi the Killer (2001)
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.0 / 10 (57,239 votes)
> Tomatometer: 65% (40 votes)
> RT audience score: 82% (25,000 votes)
> Directed by: Takashi Miike
Japanese director Takashi Miike is nothing if not a master of extreme and absurdist violence, as demonstrated by this controversial crime thriller. It chronicles the escalating and outrageously graphic feud between a sadistic killer and a sociopathic Yakuza boss.
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.2 / 10 (27,421 votes)
> Tomatometer: 57% (21 votes)
> RT audience score: 66% (5,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Xavier Gens
“A relentlessly ugly and derivative reworking of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is how AV Club critic Scott Tobias described this French-Swiss indie horror film. After fleeing from political riots in Paris, a group of Muslim gang members enter a remote inn run by former Nazis. Bloody mayhem ensues.
Kill Bill 1 (2003)
> IMDb avg. rating: 8.2 / 10 (1,123,227 votes)
> Tomatometer: 85% (238 votes)
> RT audience score: 81% (250,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Tarantino’s beloved revenge saga opens with a literal bang and unfolds through a series of violent showdowns. Dispensing with a quick tongue and quicker sword, former assassin The Bride (Uma Thurman) hunts down the killers who betrayed her. The film’s climactic fight sequence is a masterclass in excessive violence unto itself.
Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence (2011)
> IMDb avg. rating: 3.8 / 10 (39,799 votes)
> Tomatometer: 29% (82 votes)
> RT audience score: 22% (11,207 votes)
> Directed by: Tom Six
An exercise in pure tastelessness, this body horror sequel tries to outdo its similarly awful predecessor in just about every way. After watching the first film, a depraved fan attempts to build a human centipede of his own. The gory premise and vague meta-commentary can’t save director Tom Six’s dull execution.
> IMDb avg. rating: 8.3 / 10 (848,705 votes)
> Tomatometer: 81% (69 votes)
> RT audience score: 93% (250,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Brian De Palma
This sprawling crime saga follows Cuban gangster Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as he climbs the ladder to the top of Miami’s drug trade. Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay and reportedly risked his life while researching the material. Among the film’s many violent scenes are an infamous chainsaw death and a climactic final shootout.
I Spit on Your Grave (2009)
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.2 / 10 (86,060 votes)
> Tomatometer: 32% (63 votes)
> RT audience score: 47% (10,917 votes)
> Directed by: Steven R. Monroe
This modern remake of a cult classic employs a similarly brutal template in its depiction of rape and revenge. Viciously assaulted and left for dead, a woman (Sarah Butler) picks off her attackers one by one. “It’s better made, more plausible than the original, the sexual violations less drawn out, the vengeance more violent and elaborate,” wrote critic Philip French for the Guardian.
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.5 / 10 (128,809 votes)
> Tomatometer: 53% (178 votes)
> RT audience score: 55% (29,326 votes)
> Directed by: Lars von Trier
While Lars von Trier’s controversial drama isn’t overflowing with traditional violence, its graphic scenes are impossible to forget. In the wake of a personal tragedy, a guilt-ridden couple (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) head into the woods for some isolated therapy. What follows is raw and visceral in execution but multi-layered in meaning.
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.3 / 10 (137,720 votes)
> Tomatometer: 58% (123 votes)
> RT audience score: 80% (45,544 votes)
> Directed by: Gaspar Noé
This French experimental thriller unfolds in reverse and revolves around the brutal rape of a beautiful woman (Monica Bellucci). When it premiered at Cannes, there were reports of audience members fainting and throwing up.
High Tension (2003)
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.7 / 10 (73,547 votes)
> Tomatometer: 40% (131 votes)
> RT audience score: 67% (48,589 votes)
> Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Two female friends are terrorized by a sadistic killer in this gruesome French horror film. It’s another classic from the annals of New French Extremity, a movement that ranges in terms of tone and style but consistently dispenses depraved violence.
> IMDb avg. rating: 8.4 / 10 (584,957 votes)
> Tomatometer: 82% (151 votes)
> RT audience score: 94% (100,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Park Chan-wook
South Korean cinema offers no shortage of violent outings, including this acclaimed thriller from director Park Chan-wook. It makes up part of his Vengeance Trilogy and centers on a man who is inexplicably held captive for 15 long years. With his sudden release comes a blood-soaked search for justice.
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.9 / 10 (252,643 votes)
> Tomatometer: 62% (99 votes)
> RT audience score: 71% (250,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
This hyperkinetic action movie uses excessive stimulation as its central conceit and squeezes impressive amounts of violence into every frame. Jason Statham plays poisoned assassin Chev Chelios, who must keep his heart rate above a certain level if he wants to survive. A similarly bonkers sequel would follow.
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.6 / 10 (262,848 votes)
> Tomatometer: 91% (80 votes)
> RT audience score: 84% (100,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Director Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi action masterpiece layers Reagan-era satire beneath an ultra-violent veneer. Against the dystopian backdrop of future Detroit, a cyborg cop (Peter Weller) doles out brutal justice while uncovering the mystery of his own past. An original cut of the film was even bloodier than the theatrical version, which was edited down so as to avoid an X rating.
Dead Alive (1992)
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.5 / 10 (98,918 votes)
> Tomatometer: 89% (46 votes)
> RT audience score: 87% (50,000+ votes)
> Directed by: Peter Jackson
Alternately known as “Braindead,” this Peter Jackson horror comedy simply revels in its abundance of blood and guts. After she’s bitten by a rat-monkey, an overprotective mother becomes a flesh-eating zombie with a bottomless appetite. Time Out critic Nigel Floyd described the finale as “probably the goriest scene ever.”
Die Hard (1988)
> IMDb avg. rating: 8.2 / 10 (890,841 votes)
> Tomatometer: 94% (87 votes)
> RT audience score: 94% (250,000+ votes)
> Directed by: John McTiernan
An everyman cop (Bruce Willis) squares off against international terrorists in this blockbuster action movie. Replete with loud explosions, ceaseless bullets, and blood-soaked set pieces, it helped set a benchmark for cinematic violence in the mainstream. Multiple sequels would follow and so too would a slew of films with similar premises.
> IMDb avg. rating: 5.9 / 10 (182,840 votes)
> Tomatometer: 59% (110 votes)
> RT audience score: 53% (471,224 votes)
> Directed by: Eli Roth
Director Eli Roth helped launch the torture porn subgenre (for better or worse) with this grisly tale of terror. It follows a trio of backpackers to a hostel in Slovakia, where they’re lured into a chamber of graphic torment. Over 20 minutes of NC-17 footage was cut in order for the film to qualify for its R rating.
Saw III (2006)
> IMDb avg. rating: 6.2 / 10 (196,664 votes)
> Tomatometer: 30% (94 votes)
> RT audience score: 71% (561,060 votes)
> Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
The entire “Saw” franchise delivers copious amounts of grotesque violence, and this particular installment is regarded as one of the most brutal. As Jigsaw’s life hangs in the balance, his apprentice oversees a fresh series of deadly torture games.
Eastern Promises (2007)
> IMDb avg. rating: 7.6 / 10 (246,812 votes)
> Tomatometer: 89% (203 votes)
> RT audience score: 83% (100,000+ votes)
> Directed by: David Cronenberg
Director David Cronenberg’s entire oeuvre basically doubles as a cinematic history of violence (see what we did there?) and body horror. But only one of his films puts a naked man (Viggo Mortensen) in the middle of an epic knife fight and that’s this grisly crime drama from 2007. The story kicks off with the discovery of an incriminating diary, which has grave implications for the Russian mob.
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