Most superheroes solve their problems with violence. It’s just how it is. Some may be more reluctant to start swinging fists, but it usually culminates with our hero justifiably beating the living daylights out of whatever villain has been causing them grief. In big superhero comics, even the most altruistic and moral heroes will have to roll up their sleeves and throw down when it’s called for. There’s a floor level of expected violence with the genre, and this is just as true when it comes to adapting these stories for the big screen.
When you look at the Marvel movies as a whole, they’re genuinely quite violent, even with their family-friendly reputation. How about that bit in Doctor Strange when some poor monk gets strung out by Kaecilius’ mob and beheaded? Or that one scene in The Avengers where Loki visits Germany and gouges out some rich guy’s eye to classical music? However, we’re not here to talk about moments, we’re concentrating on the movies as a whole. More specifically, the most brutal, wince-inducing, gory and above all, awesomely violent movies based on the big M’s roster of characters. Here are Marvel’s 15 Most Violent Movies.
15, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
James Gunn’s sci-fi hit may not be the first movie that comes to mind when talking about violence, but it earns a mention due to the dubious record it holds. According to one study analyzing the highest body counts in Hollywood movies, Guardians of the Galaxy comes out on top with a staggering 83, 871 on-screen fatalities.
In the scene in question, the Nova Corps pilots bring their Starblaster ships together in a huge energy net to try and stop Ronan’s ship, the Dark Aster, from crashing into Xandar’s surface. The villainous Ronan, however, uses his Infinity Stone infused warhammer and destroys the fleet. As the deadliest movie ever, it earns its place on a technicality more than anything else, but is still worth mentioning. There isn’t much focus afforded to the deaths, although we do see Peter Serafinowicz’s likeable Denarian Saal meet an untimely end in amongst the carnage. With that ridiculous body count in mind, is it any wonder they ended with the more crowd-pleasing spectacle of Baby Groot grooving along to the Jackson 5?
14. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
X-Men: Days of Future Past sets out its stall early on. In the timeline tampering sequel, we’re presented with a bleak vision of the future. Mutants numbers have significantly dwindled since the unbeatable robot Sentinels were set loose and started exterminating super-powereds en masse. We catch up to a ragtag group of mutants, formerly the X-Men, making a last stand against the terrifying metallic monsters. Whilst Kitty Pryde sends Wolverine’s consciousness back in time, Iceman, Colossus, Sunspot, Blink, Warpath and Bishop attempt to hold off the Sentinels’ tireless attack for as long as possible.
Things get dark pretty quick. Despite his best flame-based efforts, Sunspot is the first to go, getting choked out by a massive metal hand. Even Colossus’ metal skin is no match for an adaptive Sentinel, which proceeds to floor him and dent his head with a sickening clunk. Iceman gets his head shattered by a superheated Sentinel, and the teleporting Blink gets impaled by a metal spike. A thought must be spared for Warpath, who is ganged up on by three of the titanic terrors and laser blasted into a wall. It’s a shocking and effective opening that clearly establishes what is as stake if Wolverine fails in his mission. The rest of the movie isn’t nearly as bloodthirsty, but the brutality of DoFP‘s opener earns it a shout-out at the very least.
13. Blade: Trinity (2004)
After the great groundwork established by 1998’s Blade and the Guillermo del Toro directed sequel, you’d think Blade: Trinity would have knocked it out of the park. Judging by the woeful 25% Rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, most people feel it failed to do so. Quality aside, Blade: Trinity does have a few positives. Ryan Reynolds being one of them. Whilst the action wasn’t nearly as well done as the previous movie, there certainly was a lot of it.
As the movie has morally-okay-to-kill vampires in it, there are plenty of guilt-free shootings and stabbings to go around. Blade (Wesley Snipes) uses his strength and martial arts proficiency to easily dispatch enemies left and right. He’s backed up by the just-as-deadly duo of archer Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel) and the wisecracking Hannibal King (Reynolds) who do their fair share of slaying. As the vampires turn to dust when they die, there isn’t any viscera to speak of, but there’s plenty of violence to go around. Some of the fight scenes are decent, but without a strong story or a reason to care about any of the characters, the movie falls apart. Marvel reacquired the Blade rights back several years ago, so it’s possible the character could return. Fingers crossed, because Blade: Trinity is a sour note to bow out on.
12. Spider-Man (2002)
The massive success of the first Spider-Man movie basically shaped the modern superhero movie landscape. People turned out in droves to see it, as the film seemed to strike a chord with audiences. Sam Raimi was a fitting choice for the director and had a clear affection for the character. Despite it having mass appeal, it’s easy to forget how weird the original movie is. Raimi brought his horror background with him to Spidey’s origin take, resulting in some surprisingly vicious scenes. In one early scene, Dr. Stromm (Ron Perkins) feels the full wrath of a newly Goblin-ed Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) and is brutally murdered by being thrown across an Oscorp lab through metal and glass and landing in a crumpled heap.
The movie has a few scenes like this, but perhaps the most memorable is Spidey’s final fight against the Green Goblin. Peter faces off against a raging Osborn and the pair duke it out in a hellacious and intense battle. Pete is blown up by a Pumpkin Bomb and is then set upon by Gobby, who shows no hesitation in beating Parker to a pulp. The fight finally ends when Norman ends up dying rather gruesomely by being impaled on his own glider. The film can be goofy and corny at times, but it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t have its moments of good ol’ comic book violence, too.
11. The Punisher (1989)
As one of Marvel’s most violent characters period, it shouldn’t be a surprise that The Punisher makes an appearance in this list (spoiler – it won’t be his last). The 1989 movie can probably be best described as a loose adaptation of the comics. Rather than focusing on what makes the character work on the printed page, the ’89 Punisher takes the concept of Frank Castle and his brutal idea of heroism and bends it to fit a more generic ’80s action movie framework. It’s a standard low budget Lundgren actioner, and is therefore just as gleefully violent as a lot of the actor’s other works.
There is no shortage of faceless goons lining up to be dispatched by Dolph. Most of the movie is Frank mowing down busloads of Mafia henchmen with his impressive array of weapons. It isn’t all running and gunning, though. One unsuspecting thug gets hanged, several catch expertly thrown knives to their soft and vulnerable parts, and once Frank storms a Yakuza stronghold in the third act, the number of impalings sharply increases. This Punisher is a bit of a cult classic and many regard the movie’s over-the-top violence as part of its charm. It still stings that this version of Frank never wears the character’s iconic skull logo, though. That’s like Superman not having his “S”.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Marvel’s patriotic poster boy has never been afraid to get his hands dirty. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s clear from the start that Cap may have acquired a bit more attitude since waking up in modern times. When Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is assigned to neutralize a hostage situation on a ship, he brings a ferocity to his work that we hadn’t seen before. Black Widow also does her fair share of ass-kicking too, but that’s to be expected at this point. Armed thugs are taken out with precision shield hits, one guy almost certainly dies after being punted over the side, and one unlucky guard has his hand pinned to a wall with a knife. That’s not even mentioning the titular Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who is portrayed as a cold and calculating assassin with a list of confirmed kills longer than his shiny metal arm.
Winter Soldier arguably has some of the best action yet seen in the MCU. This is especially evident in the highway sequence which takes its cues from Michael Mann’s Heat in terms of grounded violence. Sure, we’re still dealing with superpowers and badass assassins, but the immersive sound design makes it feel authentic. Even Bucky’s mechanical arm sounds dangerous. There isn’t much blood to speak of, but the action has a ton of weight and heft that puts it in the upper ranks of Marvel Studios’ releases so far.
9. Daredevil (2003)
Ben Affleck’s one-film stint as The Man Without Fear is regarded as a misstep by many, and it’s easy to see why. Fox’s Daredevil was a compromised mess that ended up being critically panned. Whilst the theatrical version was still pretty violent, there’s a far superior director’s cut out there that fixes many of the film’s narrative problems and tonal issues. It’s still not perfect, but it does provide a more coherent story, more character depth and, perhaps best of all, more violence.
No matter which version you watch, there are still some brutal moments. Sleazeball Jose Quesada gets cut in half by a train after a bar brawl with DD, a dart-playing gambler gets on the wrong side of Bullseye and catches a handful of sharp straightened paper clips to the throat, and Elektra (Jennifer Garner) is tragically run through with her own sai. The director’s cut takes this one step further, with a particularly vicious scene where Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kingpin takes out his rage on his screw-up bodyguards. He brains one of them with his cane and chokes the life out of the other with one hand in a show of pure strength and ferocity. It’s good to see that Netflix’s Daredevil series has proudly continued this precedent, delivering some of the bloodiest action the MCU has to offer.
8. Blade (1998)
1998’s Blade wastes little time in showing audiences what they came to see. Wesley Snipes’ Daywalker crashes a blood-soaked vampire rave and soon introduces a handful of fanged partiers to the business end of his shotgun. Blade whips out the stakes for some old-school vampire slaying before finally switching to his katana when the heavies come out to play. He pins vamp lackey Quinn to a wall before callously setting him ablaze as a message to head honcho Deacon Frost.
Blade is unashamedly R-Rated and has all the naughty language and glorious violence you could ask for, and the opening is just a teaser. Vampires get burned by UV light and toward the end of the film, Kris Kristofferson’s Whistler invents a formula that literally explodes vamps in a shower of blood. Looking back on the movie now, some of the effects are pretty dated, robbing several scenes of their intended impact. Having said that, the fight choreography remains impressive to this day and ensures that most of the action still has the necessary bite.
7. The Wolverine (2013)
After the disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Fox needed a drastic change of direction if it was going to recruit the masses to come see their second solo Wolverine movie. They chose to hire James Mangold to helm their adaptation of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s seminal Wolverine limited series about Logan’s time in Japan. The movie managed to be a decent take on the character and the story but something about the action felt a little off. When the Extended Cut was released, all became clear – some of the more objectionable violence had been cut, and any blood had to be digitally removed for the PG-13 theatrical release.
It’s odd how much difference a splash of the red stuff can make. In previous X-Men films, Wolverine’s claws are nerfed somewhat, stabbing and killing enemies with little blood to speak of. In the extended cut, this all changes and plenty is spilled over the movie’s duration. There’s even one sequence where a smattering of motorbiking ninjas gets shredded by a snowblower, painting the pristine winter landscape red. Violence is an integral part of Logan’s character, and it seems strange that they didn’t grasp that until 2013. While the full, R-rated potential of the character wasn’t truly unleashed for a few years, this was a step in the right direction nonetheless.
6. The Punisher (2004)
We’re back with Frank Castle and unfortunately, the results are about as disappointing as the previous cinematic attempt. The 2004 version at least tries for more authenticity (he has the skull this time, hooray!), but made needless changes to the character’s motivation, introducing John Travolta’s hammy bad guy Howard Saint to the mix. Thomas Jane’s Punisher doesn’t rack up the same number of kills as Lundgren’s version, but the way he takes people out is a lot more gruesome.
Frank’s offense is certain more varied this time around. He kills the huge thug known as “The Russian” (ex-wrestler Kevin Nash) by scalding his face with a pan of boiling water and tackling him down a flight of stairs. Several guards get arrows through the neck and Frank is a dab hand at up close and personal kills. The one that sticks out the most is when Frank meets his father’s killer and blasts his foot with buckshot, breaks his arm, and stabs him in the hand before producing another knife and shanking him through his jaw, leaving him gurgling. It’s gory stuff, but no less than fans of the character expect. He’s The Punisher, after all, not The Cuddler.
5. Blade II (2004)
Everyone’s favorite non-Buffy vampire slayer returned in 2002 with cult director Guillermo del Toro taking the series’ reins. Blade II took the foundations of the first and built on them. The horror aspects were ramped up and del Toro lent his unique visual style to the film, including a noticeable uptick in the quality of the fight scenes. Cast member and all-around badass Donnie Yen also choreographed the movie’s many fight sequences, and as a result, Blade kicks a crazy amount of vampire ass, slaughtering hordes of the bloodsuckers without even breaking a sweat.
This definitely isn’t the sort of Marvel movie that young fans of The Avengers should be watching. Throats get gored and slashed, countless vamps and humans are ended with a hail of gunfire, and Blade lives up to his name, cutting down dozens of fanged foes with his signature sword. The movie even ups the stakes (no pun intended) with vampire ninjas. Any Norman Reedus fans not familiar with the movie may also be upset to see him explode into a chunky red mist. It’s a lot of fun, and it’d be great to see this version of Blade resurrected somehow. Surely a bloody Netflix series is a no-brainer? If they got Wesley Snipes back too, they could have a license to print money. We’d binge watch the hell out of that.
4. Kick-Ass (2010)
Kick-Ass is a gloriously violent movie that answers the question of what could actually happen if real people started dressing up as heroes and fighting crime. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) finds himself way over his head when he gets embroiled in the dark and dangerous world of killers and vigilantes. He meets the father and daughter team of Big Daddy (Nic Cage doing his best Adam West impression) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), later realizing that the man in black isn’t the hero he thought he was. Both BD and HG are incredibly brutal fighters, but Hit-Girl is responsible for most of the movie’s eyebrow-raising scenes, lopping off limbs and slashing throats with her blades with joyful abandon.
That’s not to mention the scene where some unfortunate soul gets cooked and exploded in a giant lumber microwave, or the genuinely disquieting scene where Big Daddy and Hit-Girl squish a man inside his car with an industrial crusher. The death of Cage’s vigilante is nothing to scoff at, either. Most of the violence is heavily stylized, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that a child viciously tears through roomfuls of goons with startling regularity.
3. Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Despite Jon Bernthal blowing people away (both figuratively and literally) with his performance as Frank Castle in the second season of Daredevil, many Punisher fans still consider Ray Stevenson’s take in 2008’s Punisher: War Zone to be the definitive version of the character. He’s certainly the most comic accurate, and he’s more than a little disturbed. Stevenson’s Frank is more tight-lipped than his previous incarnations, as he elects to allow his guns and knives to do the talking. He shoots and slices his way through hordes of criminals, all without the faintest flicker of emotion.
If you wanted exploding heads, Punisher: War Zone‘s got ’em by the barrelful. For fans of more unique kills, they need look no further than one of the movie’s best scenes, where a freerunner gets hit with a rocket mid-flip. Dominic West’s horrifying villain Jigsaw is no joke either, and he’s responsible for several people’s violent demises. It’s alright though; he gets what is perhaps the most gruesome death of the entire film – being impaled on spear before being roasted on an open flame like the ugliest marshmallow you’ve ever seen.
2. Deadpool (2016)
It’s great to live in a world where Deadpool happened, isn’t it? Even if you weren’t a fan of the movie, its success was part of the reason that studios started considering R-ratings for comic book movies again, after years of them all fervently chasing after the family-friendly dollar in PG-13 land. Deadpool helped buck the trend by being true to the character and including all the obscenities and violence that fans had been craving, without skimping on the nasty.
As for the violence specifically, let’s see…Deadpool kills three people with one bullet, he turns one guy into a kebab with his swords, several people are decapitated. The list is endless. Let’s also not forget that Deadpool is even a danger to himself, breaking his hands and feet on Colossus’s metal skin, leading to an equally hilarious and wince-inducing scene where Wade hacks off his own hand with a knife to evade capture in an apparent homage to 127 Hours. While most of these are played for laughs, Wade’s torture and his sickening slugfest against Ajax/ Francis in a burning lab certainly isn’t, and it gives the film an edge it wouldn’t have had if everything had been treated with the same irreverence. You might be laughing the whole way through, but make no mistake: this flick is brutal.
1. Logan (2017)
We’re going to miss Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. As sad as it is to see him hang up his claws after nearly two decades, at least we can pretty much all agree that Logan was a great send-off to that version of the character. Unlike James Mangold’s last Wolverine movie, Logan isn’t compromised in the slightest, proudly wearing its R-Rating with a barrage of four-letter words in the first few minutes. This attitude extends to the action too, with comic fans finally getting to see Wolverine unleashed and brutalizing people with his claws (as he should have done from day one).
One of the movie’s themes is that violence follows Logan wherever he goes. From the foolish gang members at the start to his deadly adventures on the road, James Howlett can’t catch a break. Even though the titular hero pops his claws regularly throughout, perhaps some of the film’s most brutal moments come thanks to young mutant Laura/ X-23 (the scene-stealing Dafne Keen). She’s like a feral child with razor sharp claws, and she shows even less restraint than Logan when it comes to using them. The movie is intentionally bleak, and much of its violence is genuinely harrowing at times, but it was all wrapped up in a bold and mature narrative that made it the best reviewed X-Men film to date.
Did we forget any of Marvel’s bloodiest and brightest? Let us know in the comments.