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15 Most Shocking Murders in Movies

November 29, 2017
12 min read

There’s something intriguing and repulsive at the same time about a good murder. It arouses our interest about the depths of human depravity. Films allow an excellent outlet to enjoy this depravity in the comfort of our rooms shielded by the screen – we can marvel at the human mind that can conceive and execute the act of murder while being shielded from the horrific realization of the actual deed. Here’s the list of most shocking murders in movies.

15. The Godfather Part II (1974)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this film follows the consolidation of position by Michael Corleone. The film shows Michael in power and not afraid to use violence against his enemies. However, a very poignant and remarkable scene takes place in the movie when Michael decides to assassinate his own brother Fredo for not having stood up for his family. The act that would haunt Michael in subsequent years was shot masterfully by Coppola and executed by Al Neri. The silhouettes on the lake as Fredo is killed and Michael watches gives us the chills. The boat execution sequence remains one of the most memorable Hollywood murders and the necessary coldness of the deed despite family ties earns this killing a place on our list.

14. Hannibal (2001)

The Silence of the Lambs introduced us to the cold and calculating Hannibal Lecter. We witnessed the destruction he wrought even in captivity and it goes to logic that the subsequent film Hannibal where he is a free man will showcase even more death. Directed by Ridley Scott, Anthony Hopkins resumes his role as Hannibal and one of the particularly chilling murders takes place towards the beginning of the movie. A police officer named Rinaldo Pazzi sells out Hannibal’s location to a man searching for him. As retribution, Hannibal kills him. It is no big deal for a serial killer to kill another victim, but the way Hannibal does it is terrible. He lets Pazzi hang but before that he slashes his stomach so his bowels spill out of his body as he hangs from a balcony. The sheer lack of human empathy makes this murder memorable.

13. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino, this film has one of the most memorable mass murder sequences in film history. A Jewish girl on a quest for vengeance burns down an entire theater filled with Nazi officials including Hitler. At the same time a team of American agents open fire in the theater and kill a lot of the audience. With multiple assaults on all fronts, the theater becomes a scene of bloodshed and death as the Nazi party gets wiped out in a single stroke of brilliance from Shoshanna. The maniacal laughter of the girl as she sets the hall on fire is a reminiscent of the rage the persecuted Jews must have felt towards the Nazis and the scene is extremely memorable due to Tarantino’s masterful handling of the violence.

12. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Directed by Anthony Minghella, this film follows the story of a talented young boy who is sent by a rich man to try and convince his carefree son to return from Italy to join his father’s business. Mr. Ripley played by Matt Damon takes to Dickie’s persona played by Jude Law. He begins to emulate Dickie and perhaps even falls a little in love with him. However, the psychological thriller takes a nasty turn when Ripley and Dickie have an argument on a boat and Ripley ends up killing Dickie. While the act itself might be categorized as a crime of passion, it sends him in a downward spiral of murders as he commits multiple crimes to cover up the first act and to lead people to believe that he is Dickie. The rage and subsequent sorrow of the first murder and the visible effect it has on Ripley’s character makes it extremely memorable.

11. Carrie (1976)

Directed by Brian de Palma and based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, this film follows the story of a shy and bullied girl named Carrie. She has supernatural powers of telekinesis and although she stands all the bullying throughout the film, she loses it on the night of prom. After things seem to be going her way, events take a mean turn as pig’s blood is spilled over her after she becomes the prom queen. In her rage Carrie hallucinates and feels that everyone is making fun of her. She proceeds to set the entire gymnasium on fire and locks the students inside and leaves. The act of rage towards the students who made fun of her is symbolized by the fire which burns them all and makes this scene a memorable mass murder by a supernaturally gifted girl.

10. The Conversation (1974)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this film is an underrated work of the director. A film that follows the auditory control exercised by a surveillance expert Harry Caul played by Gene Hackman, the psychological ramifications of the movie is comparable to Antonioni’s Blow Up. However, in this extremely well made film, the crux of the plot depends on the act of murder and the victim which turns Harry’s beliefs upside down. The couple who he had initially thought to be victims- that is the director’s wife and her lover turn out to be cold blooded murderers and the director who he had suspected of being a murderer turns out to be the victim of an elaborate plot. The murder itself is never shown on screen but the overflowing toilet with blood and the newspaper headlines confirms Caul’s belief of a murder, just not his belief in the victim. A wonderfully made film that explores paranoia about a crime and the inability to prevent it all the same, the scene with the overflowing blood remains remarkable.

9. Goodfellas (1990)

Directed by Martin Scorsese, this film often gives The Godfather a run for its money as the best gangster movie of Hollywood. Goodfellas, however, shows the meteoric rise of an ordinary boy in the life of crime and the subsequent fall. Any portrayal of the American mafia is bound to have its fair share of violence and Goodfellas is no exception. A film where people get shot on the whims of a gangster, a murder that stands out and in fact changes the course of the film is the murder of a made-man Billy Batts. Two of the gangsters Jimmy and Tommy played by Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci respectively beat Billy to an apparent death while Henry Hill played by Ray Liotta secures the bar. However, it turns out that Batts is not dead when they go to dump his body, so they stab and shoot a severely beaten man in the trunk of the car. The sheer rage and ferocity followed by the calm procedure like burying of the body makes this scene extremely memorable not for the act itself but for the consequences that would unfold.

8. The Shining (1980)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this masterpiece in horror has its share of frightening sequences. While the family manages to escape from a demented ax wielding Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), the good natured cook Dick Halloran is not so lucky. A man who goes down to investigate what is happening, happens to be struck in the heart by Jack with the ax. As he bleeds out in the lobby, his death is undoubtedly painful but the sequence is even more chilling as Jack raises his face with Nicholson’s signature evil grin and with no consideration for the corpse at his feet, hobbles after his son.

7. Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Directed by Jonathan Demme, this film introduced to Hollywood one of the most chilling portrayals by Sir Anthony Hopkins – that of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. A movie about psychopaths and serial killers is bound to have a few murders in the course of the story and it does – from the deplorable crimes of Buffalo Bill to the instances of violence from Hannibal. However, the most gruesome murder sequence occurs when Hannibal escapes from captivity killing the guards in the process. Ever an artist his murder of Pembry while classical music plays in the background and the perfectly ruthless way in which he kills his captors and arranges Pembry’s body makes this one of the most memorable murder scenes and proves that all the fears and rumors about the dangerousness of Lecter were completely justified.

6. Mulholland Drive (2001)

Directed by David Lynch, this film is a psychological thriller about multiple identities and alter egos. However, the movie features an excellent murder scene which in the typical Lynchian style goes awry. A hitman who is supposed to recover a black book, kills the intended victim but in an attempt to clean up after himself shoots through the wall and injures another person. He is then forced to kill this person and a janitor so as to not leave any witnesses. The botched assassination attempt although cold and ruthless turns out to be a moment of very dark humor in the movie as the audience have a few quiet chuckles over the assassin’s apparent incompetence.

5. The Godfather (1972)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this classic gangster movie follows the story of the Corleone family and how they go through tough times due to rival families. This film has some excellent scenes of murder and attempted murder which includes the attempt on Don Vito Corleone’s life, Michael stepping into the family business as he avenges the attempt on his father’s life and the remarkable hits on all rivals during the baptism scene. However, one of the finest murder scenes in cinematic history and a scene which speaks deeply of betrayal is the murder of Sonny Corleone. The fierce and war loving eldest son of the family is gunned down in a toll booth and the violence of the deed, the sheer overkill makes the scene a memorable one. Sonny’s body is riddled with bullets moments after he realizes that he has walked into a trap with no escape. The desperation on his face followed by the painful death makes this one of the most remarkable murders to be witnessed on screen.

4. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this film stars Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando. Brando who plays Colonel Kurtz. As a colonel who’s gone rogue and presumably insane and commands his own troops, his fate his preordained. The moment Sheen’s character is sent after Kurtz we know that the narrative will climax in Kurtz’s death. However, the way Coppola handles the scene of the death is remarkable. In what might be seen as a direct tip of the hat to Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘Strike’ and its intellectual montage comparing the slaughter of the people to the slaughter of cattle, Coppola draws a similar montage sequence in his film. As Kurtz is attacked with his machete repeatedly, the natives, who are part of Kurtz’s army slaughter a water buffalo. The parallel drawn through the montage sequence makes Kurtz’s death one of the most memorable murder sequences in cinema.

3. American Psycho (2000)

Directed by Mary Harron, this story follows a rich CEO Patrick Bateman who hides his psychopathic tendencies beneath a mask of carefully cultivated civility. Played to perfection by Christian Bale, the movie features a particularly chilling murder scene where Bateman discusses a band and its albums all the while preparing for the kill. The premeditation is obvious as he lays out newspapers on the floor to prevent the blood from getting on his floor. He puts on a raincoat to keep his clothes clean and strikes with an ax soon after he puts the song to a deafening volume to drown out the screams. A premeditated violent crime, Bateman’s scene is even more chilling as he smokes in front of his dead victim.

2. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, this film follows the tale of Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day Lewis) a ruthless oil prospector and his greed for money. The film which shows the torment of character and serves as a critique on capitalist society brings its cathartic moment in the murder of an hypocritical holier than thou priest Eli Sunday. The brutal rage with which Plainview attacks Eli and beats him repeatedly to death with a bowling pin serves as a sort of exorcism for Plainview’s demons as he accepts his true self in the face of Eli’s death. The symbolic significance of the murder coupled with the realistic gruesomeness of the act makes this scene stand out in a film with many memorable moments.

1. Psycho (1960)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this psychological thriller features one of the finest murder sequences in film history. The unwitting woman, while showering in her room that she rents at Bates’ motel, sees a menacing shadow loom through her shower curtain clutching a knife in its hand. The repeated strike of the knife brings down the shower curtain and the only remnants of the act of extreme violence is masterfully shown by Hitchcock as the blood flows down the shower drain. The technique of the looming shadow itself might arguably be said to have been influenced by Nosferatu, but Hitchcock makes the scene one of the most memorable murders in terms of the menace that radiates from the silhouette of the murderer and the fear that is echoed in the victim’s eyes.

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