Modern audiences are no strangers to violence in cinema. With franchises like Saw dominating the industry, in many ways we’ve become entirely desensitized to it. Seeing someone get punched, maimed, blown up, or killed in a movie is something that’s become almost a regularity, to the extent to which we barely cringe when we see it anymore. That being so, there are still offerings out there that when they hit theaters, even today’s audiences are equal parts shocked, impressed, and disgusted at the sheer violence they witness on screen.
Whether it’s the 1980s or present-day America, there are always going to be ways to surprise moviegoers. These particular films though take the cake as unexpectedly and shockingly bloody flicks.
1. RoboCop (1987)
We all recognize Robocop today as a movie with one of the highest body counts of any of its 1980s contemporaries. But back when it released in ’87, not a single person was ready for it. Leading into its release, the violence shocked the MPAA so thoroughly that they assigned it an “X” rating, something that back then was reserved only for films with extremely explicit sexual content. Eventually, director Paul Verhoeven toned down the blood enough to kick it down to an R-rating, allowing for a wide release in theaters.
2. The Raid 2 (2014)
When The Raid was released in 2011, it was widely heralded as one of the best action movies ever made, garnering support from critics and audiences alike. Three years later, along came the much-anticipated sequel, managing to surprise us even further. Its blood and gore were so profound that /Film saw fit to dub it an “ultra-violent endurance test,” continuing on to say that “this movie is violence.” Bones are broken in every which way, there’s some creative work with a baseball bat, and there’s someone fighting someone else in a delightfully violent way at every turn. With another planned sequel in the works, we imagine this won’t be the last we see of this franchise.
3. In Bruges (2008)
At its core, In Bruges is a thoughtful movie about the more profound nature of death. But the way it gets to that point is almost Tarantino-esque in its delivery. Heads explode, one character bursts into pieces after diving from a tower, and the general sense of terror from Colin Farrell seems pretty genuine based on the way he reacts to all this happening around him. Taking things to the next level, it leans hard into the “chatty hitmen” motif that Pulp Fiction popularized all those years ago, paying tribute to its inspiration both in its story and its blood.
4. Kick-Ass (2010)
If you’ve ever wanted to see a 10-year-old girl cut someone’s hand off with a spear, then Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass may very well be the movie for you. That of course is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the brutality of this movie, in which our main characters spend more time getting horrifically beaten up than saving the day. Our title hero’s main “superpower” is even the ability to not feel pain quite as much as normal, making him the ideal punching for his adversaries. Vaughn’s reputation nowadays precedes him, but back when this movie released in 2010, no one had any idea the young director had this in him.
5. Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone is often described as a family-friendly Christmas movie that anyone can enjoy. But then you sit down and consider just how much actual damage the nigh-cartoonish violence done to the villains was. This list includes setting a man’s head on fire, nails in places they don’t belong, being concussed by a flying paint can, stepping on shards of glass, and falling out of three-story windows. All this made it the poster child for the “seriously, don’t try this at home” warning, as parents across the nation had to explain to their kids why booby-trapping the house is a really bad idea.
6. God Bless America (2011)
Bobcat Goldthwait pulled no punches about his opinions of the social media generation. God Bless America though is his ode to those opinions, acting as a personal catharsis for anyone who’s ever felt like the future of humanity is doomed by its own stupidity. In it, a man and a young girl travel the country shooting people who talk in movie theaters, Westboro Baptist Church members, conservative talk show hosts, and even the judges, audience members, and contestants of an American Idol-like talent show. Its main message is clear: On the whole, everything kind of sucks, and society would be better off starting over.