Some movies push the envelope, while other movies tear up the envelope, put it through a shredder, and do so without worrying about how they will be perceived by the mainstream. This is what the following movies have done and they are – infamously or not – embedded into the DNA of cinema history because of the provocative emotions they riled up, not just among moviegoers, but also among government censors and seats of political power. They depict various forms of violence, in such unique, but morally questionable ways, that hundreds of years from now people will be studying these movies to compare our reactions towards them between then and now.
Here is Screen Rant’s list of the 10 Most Shockingly Violent Movies Ever Made.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
The violence is so brutal in this Italian exploitation film that some people thought it was real. Controversy arose over Cannibal Holocaust‘s graphic depiction of the clash between a tribe in the Amazon jungle and an American film crew shooting in their remote area. The film is an amalgam of disturbing visuals meant to shock our senses. Sexual violence, animal cruelty, and cannibalism figure among the more gore-inducing moments, but the biggest shocker was the rumor that the movie was a “snuff film,” and that its actors were actually killed on camera.
This was not true, but people believed it enough that director Ruggero Deodato went to court without his actors coming to his defense. Why didn’t they? They signed a confidentiality agreement prior to the film’s release stating that they wouldn’t appear in any type of media in order to make the film look even more realistic.
When Sylvester Stallone decided to bring back Rambo for one last go-around in 2008, he wasn’t joking around. This time, John Rambo is given the task of saving a group of missionaries held captive in a remote area by a militant Burmese regime.
Once missionaries are killed and revenge enters the equation, there are many horrific images to behold: Rambo liquifies dozens of bad guys with a mounted Gatling gun and literally disembowels another, just in case you missed anatomy class that night.
Directed by Gaspar Noe, Irreversible is so violent that even the strong stomached might not be able to fully watch it. Roger Ebert once said that it was “a movie so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable.” The movie features a graphic, single-take nine and a half minute rape scene, featuring Italian superstar Monica Bellucci, that had people enraged at Noe.
It wasn’t just the rape scene, but other violence acts that are depicted as well. In one particularly brutal scene, one man bludgeons another to death with a fire extinguisher, crushing his skull, and Noe refuses to cut away. There are no limits to what can be depicted in cinema, and Noe wants to make sure you remember that.
Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson isn’t scared of showing violence in the movies he directs. Apocalypto and Braveheart could have both been on this list, but instead we’ll settle for The Passion of the Christ. The Bible isn’t tame on violence and the film makes us well aware of that, recounting Jesus’ final days of suffering before his ultimate crucifixion.
There are only three sentences in the Bible that mention the flogging of Jesus and yet Gibson dedicates more than 10 minutes of screentime to Jesus getting whipped until he collapses. The crucifixion scene isn’t any better, as Gibson apparently wants the audience to feel the pain as much as possible.
However, Gibson has stated that he believes that The Bible describes a far more horrific crucifixion than the movie. The film is shocking, extreme, and tries to make you see the – as the director of the film has stated – “enormity of the sacrifice”. The brutality onscreen had audiences not only seeing the sacrifice, but feeling it as well.
Hostel: Part II (2007)
As violent as the first Hostel movie got, it never reached the torturous peaks of its sequel. Three female American college students are travelling abroad in eastern Europe, when they are lured, kidnapped, and offered to sadistic members of an underground business that allows customers to buy people for torture and murder.
There is sadism and gore, but ultimately, Roth seems to have an overall of shocking his audience in whichever way necessary. The film was so graphic that the The House of Commons of the United Kingdom stated that it could possibly be illegal to possess stills of the film, as it may count as “extreme pornography”. Most of the blame lies on scenes that depict misogynistic and violent behavior towards women.
A Serbian Film (2010)
This appropriately-titled Serbian movie was banned in so many European countries that you might as well give yourself in to police if you are in possession of the DVD on that continent. Rape, murder, necrophilia, and child abuse figure prominently in the film’s plot, which centers around a porn star who mistakenly ends up in a pornographic “snuff” film. The most disturbing moment in the film is so disturbing that we can’t even mention it here, but trust us when we say you need to have a strong stomach and a will of steel to sit through it. Its filmmakers have claimed that the violence is politically motivated, as it denounces the failures of Serbia’s post-communist regime. You be the judge.
Battle Royale (2000)
Battle Royale makes The Hunger Games look like a kids afternoon special. The plot is so similar and yet the execution is so different. Taking place in a future where Japanese bigwigs force ninth graders to kill each other off in a 3 day span. The result is a blood bath like no other; think Kill Bill meets The Running Man.
The film caused quite a stir in Japan, where its release sparked a debate over government action on media violence. This was enhanced even further when director Kinji Fukasaku told under-aged kids who could not see the movie to “sneak in, and I encourage you to do so”. The film never got a theatrical release in the States, where it probably wouldn’t have made it through the MPAA ratings board without an NC-17. However, as the years have gone by, Battle Royale has become a cult classic and the movie many film geeks wished The Hunger Games would have been.
Ichi The Killer (2001)
Movies about the Japanese mafia – the Yakuza – will always have some kind of violent aspect to them. Ichi the Killer takes that violence and makes bloody art out of it. Due to the movie’s brutal depiction of graphic violence and cruelty, Ichi the Killer was banned in many countries around the world. Why would anyone be surprised with content this twisted?
One character gets suspended from hooks and tortured, while another character’s mouth is mutilated and… well, it’s better to save your appetite. Vomit bags were distributed at the midnight screening of the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival. Coming from Japanese auteur Takashi Miike, the film is an artful blend of thoughtful malaise and grotesque bloodshed.
Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
The title says it all, doesn’t it? This 1975 art film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini is based on The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade. The film revolves around the disturbing kidnappings of eighteen children by the fascist Libertines, who subject their victims to murder, forced sexual acts and sadism.
Martin Scorsese has argued over the years that film has “artistic merit” and many other auteurs have liberally defended the film and its director. Paolini tried to explore persistent, relevant themes such as political corruption, abuse of power, and fascism. Criterion released it as part of their collection in 2011. This was Pasolini’s final film, as he was murdered shortly before its release.
I Spit on Your Grave (1978; 2010)
A woman vacations in the woods, but is captured by a group of men who take turns raping her. In most movies she would be killed and that would be the end of that, but in a twist of fate she manages to escape … barely. Revenge is a dish best served cold and both versions of this movie bring a whole new meaning to that term.
The escapee ends up taking her own revenge by killing each rapist one by one in the most cruel and unusual ways imaginable. There’s a beer-bottle assault, an ingenious castration, and a very memorable stabbing. Many have seen the film as a critique on feminism, while others saw it as a feminist critique. No matter what you think of the movie, it still haunts viewers to this day. The 2010 remake is just as shocking, upping the ante in some scenes and polishing up the female-empowerment message to fit with the 21st century.
These aren’t the only movies push the limits of movie violence. Did we miss any violent movies that shocked you? Let us know in the comments below!