Gratuitous violence is part and parcel of film, even if over-the-top gore has its fair share of critics. Tarantino is popular for a reason, as there’s just something primal that gets tickled by on-screen carnage.
SPOILERS FOR BIRDS OF PREY
There’s a lot of great moments in violent cinema, from the Goldberg traps laid by Death themselves in Final Destination (2000) to the zombie-killing extravaganza that is Overlord (2018), and picking just five great kills is an arduous task. Nonetheless, here is an attempt at listing the top five on-screen deaths in film.
5. Hitler’s death in Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Seeing Nazis bite the bullet will never not be fun to watch, which is likely due to how horrific they were historically – video-games have taken full advantage of this brilliance, with Nazi Zombies in Call of Duty and popping Hitler’s singular testicle in Sniper Elite, but film and TV aren’t too different in sharing this joyous violence.
Tarantino’s very own Inglorious Basterds tells an alternate history, one in which Hitler gets killed during a cinema screening, with the burning flames engulfing the cinema as gunmen storm the lookout to mow down the head honcho of the Nazi party. It’s not as extravagant as some of the deaths in Saw, but something about seeing the toothbrush-moustached man getting his just-deserves is unbelievably satisfying.
4. The acid bath in Slaughter High (1986)
Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to fill this list with slashers, and so picking just one death from the entirety of the slasher genre was a difficult ask, but Slaughter High takes the cake with its ridiculous, campy and self-aware kills that embrace the silly side of 80s horror.
There’s a lot to pick from, but one of the best moments is a scene in which a woman’s skin melts off her body in an acid bath tub, leaving nothing but a skeleton. It’s so unrealistic that the gory horror is outweighed by the oddly-satisfying and oh-so hilarious demise.
3. Black Mask in Birds of Prey (2020)
Birds of Prey is one of the best comic-book movies in recent years, acting as DC’s very own Deadpool, whilst also spectacularly giving women the team-up film they’ve long deserved, with a woman at the helm. It’s brilliant and the violence is no exception.
The final moment in which Harley and Cassandra overcome Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask, blowing him into pieces, is a moment of exclamation as the audience are overwhelmed with a feeling of “fuck yes!” as the scumbag’s arms and legs shoot off in opposite directions.
2. David’s demise in Shaun of the Dead (2004)
David’s death is particularly horrifying, if not overly gory, which may strike it from some people’s lists of satisfying deaths, but the character was nothing but an annoyance and a plague, acting as a major pain in the various character’s backsides.
Him going was an inevitability, and how he goes is perfectly violent. Cutting him from the action in such a gruesome way is earned, as he is built up in a way as the antagonist to Simon Peg’s character, which is why seeing David getting ripped apart by zombies with horrifying practical effects is a moment of wonder in film’s history.
1. Pencil to the chest in John Wick Chapter 2 (2017)
The ‘John Wick’ franchise is famous for its stellar choreography, which is mostly down to Chad Stahleskis’ previous experience as a stunt double, meaning that the action feels unbelievably tangible, from the way that it is shot to the way that it is rehearsed and performed.
One of the best moments, something that became iconic for its hilarity, was a scene in which Keanu Reeves’ John Wick takes a pencil and uses it to kill an attacker. It’s an odd choice of weapon, but it works, and it makes for a great moment in a high-octane, thrilling scene.
Featured image credit: IMDb
Last modified: 25th February 2020