Many critics of horror have compared the genre to pornography, because they claim that the plots of the film come secondary to the grotesque murder scenes which serve as the film's "money shots." This cannot be further from the truth, as many horror films serve as intelligent social commentaries on the fears and flaws of the time in which they are made. That being said, some are just excuses to show horny teenagers getting gutted. Here are some of the best scenes from both kinds.
James Kirk, "Final Destination 2" (2003)
The "Final Destination" films are known for their elaborate death scenes, so picking just one is a challenge. While most of the deaths are Goldbergian in their complexity (to the point of absurdity), some are simple and brilliant. One that falls in the latter category for sure is the death of poor little Timmy, who is squished into vapor by a plate of heavy glass.
Paris Hilton, "House Of Wax" (2005)
The 2005 remake of the Vincent Price classic has nothing in common with the original and is a vastly inferior film. However, Paris Hilton is killed in it, and boy does she ever get it. By the time her prolonged attempted escape from the killer is over, she's on her knees with a giant pole in her mouth. Insert your own joke here.
Anthony Guidera, "Species" (1995)
If an alien ever wants to make out with you, say no, no matter how hot she is. That's the lesson you can take away from this hysterical/horrifying moment from the first "Species" film. Sil, the uber-hot alien played by Natasha Henstridge, hits the clubs to find a suitable mate to produce offspring, but instead goes home with a slimeball date-rapist. Not interested in his inferior genetic structure, she literally kisses him goodbye by forcing her tongue through the back of his head. If he would have taken no for an answer, then this never would have happened.
Debora Kessler, "Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood" (1988)
Good old Jason Voorhees has used spears, axes, machetes, hacksaws, pitchforks and about 20 dozen other pieces of hardware and such to kill promiscuous teenagers throughout the years, but as an artist, his best tools for his trade have been his own hands, as this brutal death from the seventh film in the series proves. Descending upon a hopeless group of campers in the woods (again), Jason grabs Judy (Kessler) while she's hiding in her sleeping bag and proceeds to repeatedly slam her into a neighboring tree until the bag is a lifeless pile of bones.
Fisher Stevens, "The Burning" (1981)
"The Burning" is a "Friday the 13th" rip-off that would have been completely forgotten if it wasn't for this scene, where the killer decimates an entire raft of stupid teenagers with his pair of gardening shears. Highlights include a blade through the neck and a hapless idiot's fingers (that would be Stevens) getting sliced to bits. This is probably the only scene on this list to feature music by Rick Wakeman of Yes, making it doubly terrifying.
Kevin Bacon, "Friday The 13th" (1980)
Sometimes a death scene isn't memorable because of how the person died, but because of who died. The under-the-bed stabbing of a horny camp counselor is timid when compared to most of the death scenes in "Friday The 13th" films, but the fact that it's a post-coitus pot-smoking Kevin Bacon getting turned into teenager-kabob makes it much more entertaining.
Clayton Landey, "The Blob" (1988)
While the 1988 remake of the ‘50s classic horror film doesn't have Steve McQueen and a catchy theme song by Burt Bacharach, it is full of some great marquee death scenes, including the one in which a man is sucked down (face first) into a kitchen sink by the menacing amoeba from another dimension. The biggest bottle of Liquid Plumr in the universe isn't going to unclog that drain now.
Rose McGowan, "Scream" (1996)
Proof that sometimes breasts can be too big. As Tatum (played by the oh-so- wonderfully endowed Rose McGowan) tries to escape ghostface by squeezing through the doggie door in the garage, her funbags get stuck, allowing the masked marauder to raise the door, causing her face to slam into the house as the door rises. Her two best (breast) assets brought her down. What a shame.
Sandra Cassel, "The Last House on the Left" (1972)
"Mari, seventeen and dying, even for her the worst is yet to come!" A truer tagline has never been placed on a poster. After being raped, brutalized and humiliated by a band of thugs, Mari is finally disposed of, being viciously stabbed so many times that by the time she's dead, the killers are playing with her intestines. Despite the crude, amateurish nature of the film, this scene is still incredibly hard to watch and in fact remains heavily censored in several countries. Thirty-five years later, it remains the most disturbing and morally bankrupt scene Wes Craven has ever filmed.
Polly Holliday, "Gremlins" (1984)
Some characters exist in films just so the audience can enjoy watching their creative demise later on. Ms. Deagle is that character in "Gremlins." A mean old cat lady who makes life hell for our hero Billy, the Gremlins descend upon her house early on in the film, sabotaging her motorized chair so it shoots her up the stairs and out the second story window.
Joseph Pilato, "Day of the Dead" (1985)
"Day of the Dead" was derided by critics when it was originally released, but it has since found a following on home video by people who love its dark view on the military-industrial complex, the great electronic film score and the gore-galore death scenes which still serve as the end-all-be-all of practical (i.e. non-CG) effects. The ultimate of these ultimate deaths is the graphic demise of the psychotic army leader Rhodes (Pilato), who is literally torn in two by a decaying legion of the undead. Rhodes was such a prick that you wanted him to die, but this death is so brutal, painful and hard to watch that you even feel sorry for him after a bit.
Johnny Depp, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984)
Now, this death scene would be a classic no matter who the victim was, but the fact that it's Johnny Depp just happens to be a nice bonus. Finally succumbing to sleep while watching TV, the soon-to-be superstar is sucked into his bed by Freddy Krueger, and is then shot back out…in liquid form. Who wants a movie-star smoothie? This is still the ultimate death scene from any "Elm Street" film.
Sean Chapman, "Hellraiser" (1987)
"Hellraiser" is messed up in ways that few films can legitimately claim. The sick combination of S&M and demonic imagery creates a one-of-a-kind version of hell where pain and pleasure almost overlap…unless you're Frank, and you're about to get torn to bits by dozens of hooked chains. Facing death (and eternal torture) doesn't stop him from looking at his niece one last time, licking his lips lustfully and declaring, "Jesus wept," right before getting torn to bits. Memo to BE staff: do not invite Clive Barker to your next party.
John Hurt, "Alien" (1979)
The impact of this scene has weakened over the years, as the original shock of it has slowly vanished and the scene itself is now part of our public consciousness. Still, this is one of the most famous and memorable death scenes in movie history. Once you see it you'll never look at heartburn the same way again.
Olga Karlatos, "Zombi 2" (1979)
Eyes are a touchy area for most people, ironically because they don't like anyone touching them. This grand-guginol classic from Italian splatter master Lucio Fulci features the one of the goriest and most squirm-inducing moments ever caught on film, when a poor innocent woman's eye is sloooooowwwwwllllly forced into a wooden splinter. That, and the only known zombie-versus-shark scene in movie history, make this flick a classic.
Marilyn Eastman, "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)
Unending terror. That's the best way to describe any of Romero's zombie films, and none of them had the impact that his original "Night of the Living Dead" did. The feeling of dread and inescapable doom lingers throughout most of the film, but it hits the audience right in the face when the Eastman's daughter, previously bitten by one of the zombies, comes back to life and promptly kills her with a garden hoe before gnawing on her flesh. This gruesome scene serves as a symbol for what the entire series of films is about, that there is no hope, no escape and nowhere to go. It's also worth noting that every movie mentioned from this point on would have probably never been made without "Night of the Living Dead"coming first.
David Warner, "The Omen" (1976)
Even though his death was foreshadowed in his own photographs, the sudden demise of Warner's character, photographer Keith Jennings, is still a shocking display of graphic violence. Set into motion by a Rube Goldberg-inspired chain of events (preceding "Final Destination" by 20 years), the unfortunate photojournalist finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time, as a rogue plate of glass flies off of a truck and through his neck. This was one of the first decapitation scenes in a mainstream Hollywood film, and it gets bonus points for style, as the recently severed head does two complete flips before flopping onto the ground.
Samuel L. Jackson, "Deep Blue Sea" (1999)
Samuel L. Jackson may be able to take down a plane of snakes, but even the baddest motherfucker on the planet can't defend himself against a genetically engineered super-shark. After the sharks have wreaked havoc on the underwater research station, Jackson's character Russell Franklin gives a rousing speech to inspire the survivors, only to be surprisingly eaten by one of the sharks after wandering too close to a wading pool. Supposedly this scene was the reason why Jackson signed up to be in the film, and considering his sick sense of humor, it's not surprising. In real life Jackson would have kicked that shark's ass, though. Wait, do sharks even have asses?
Susan Backlinie, "Jaws" (1975)
Possibly the only movie that can compete with "Psycho's" affect on the world population is "Jaws," a movie that continues to scare countless people out of the water. The film's first death remains the most intense and horrifying of the entire movie, even though the viewer is never granted a single glimpse of the toothed beast from below as it tears a hapless skinny-dipper to bits.
Janet Leigh, "Psycho" (1960)
If you haven't seen "Psycho," you had no right to read this article. Turn off your computer and go to the damn video store already. The iconic murder of Janet Leigh's Marion at the hands of Norman Bates' "mother" remains one of the most terrifying and unsettling moments ever put to celluloid. It's not often that a singular scene in a movie creates an entirely new phobia (who doesn't know someone that was scared out of taking showers because of this movie), and for that alone this will always be credited as the best and most terrifying death scene of all time.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, "The Hitcher" (1986)
In the old west people, used to be killed by being strapped to two horses and getting torn apart. The title character in "The Hitcher" does the same, but instead of two horses he uses two semi-trucks. A terrifying scene, it only gets honorable mentions status because you don't actually see it happen.
Uncredited Yanomamo tribeswoman, "Cannibal Holocaust" (1980)
A group of amateur filmmakers stumble upon the body of a local woman, who was killed via anal impalement. This showstopping moment from the film is truly a marvel of special effects, and in fact looks so real that the director was charged with murder in his home country of Italy, and had to have the "victim" come forward to avoid prosecution.
Hospital delivery staff, "It's Alive" (1974)
Sometimes a scene works better when you don't see everything, a prime example of which being the delivery room massacre in the opening of this exploitation classic. After hearing screams coming from the delivery room, a father rushes in to see what's the matter, only to discover that the entire delivery team has been brutally mauled…by his mutant baby. If we actually saw the baby fly out of his mother's vagina and into the jugular vein of the OBGYN it would look silly, but seeing the aftereffects is far from it. Added note: This scene put my mother (who was pregnant at the time) into shock.
Brad Pitt, "Meet Joe Black"
Pitt is offed in the opening minutes of "Meet Joe Black" in order for Death to procure a suitable host for his vacation. He just isn't just hit by a car though, he's nailed by a van that causes him to fly into the air and into the windshield of a taxi (headfirst, mind you), which then vaults into a full backflip that ends with him dead and bloodied on the street. You can watch this one all day. We're sure Jennifer Aniston has.
Jim Caviezel, "The Passion of the Christ" (2004)
Can't knock the classics.
Prison fink, "Riki-Oh" (1991)
Remember the exploding head from "The Daily Show"? That's from this movie.
Noodle man, "Dead or Alive" (1999)
In an insane hyper-stylized orgy of sex, drugs and violence, a team of Yakuza hitmen take out their target, who had just downed about 10 bowls of noodle soup. After receiving a shotgun blast to the gut, the noodles come flying out towards the camera. Brilliant insanity from the master of batshit crazy, Takashi Miike.
Steven Seagal, "Executive Decision" (1996)
Steven Seagal gets sucked out of a stealth plane at 30,000 feet and falls to his doom. A crowd-pleasing moment if there ever was one.
Timothy Dalton, "Hot Fuzz" (2007)
The award for goriest non-death goes to this great send-up of cop movies by the wacky geniuses behind "Shaun of the Dead." As the bad guy descends upon the hero of the film while running through a miniaturized version of the town, he ends up getting his face impaled on the church steeple. He lives through the ordeal, but is left with one hell of a sore throat.