Most memorable violent film scenes

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

Throats are cut, a neck is broken, there are fistfights that end in death and a machine gun spree down Main Street.

Man, the '30s were violent.

The above is from Lawless, the Shia LaBoeuf/Tom Hardy movie about Depression-era moonshiners at war with dirty cops.

Interestingly, it arrives on the 45th anniversary of the release of Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the movie that broke Hollywood's violence barrier with a Dirty '30s love story between two bank robbers ("They're young, they're in love ... and they kill people").

The movie's slo-mo payoff, in which a posse of lawmen empty every bullet in their arsenal into the bodies and car of their quarry, enraged some and enthralled others with its brutal artistry (New York Times critic Bosley Crowther was said to have been let go for being "out of touch" partly on the basis of his angry review of the film).

So where did we go from there? Here are a handful of memorably violent scenes, subjectively chosen (I ignored outright body counts, given Roland Emmerich's tendency to destroy the world in every film, and the sheer tedious splatter of the slasher genre).

In some cases, these films generated Bonnie and Clyde-sized outrage of their own.

-The Wild Bunch (1969): The world had never seen a Western like Sam Peckinpah's movie about a gang of aging outlaws (William Holden stars) hiding out in a Revolution-era Mexican town, a surly standoff and eventual massacre of Mexican and German troops (long story). Honourable mention, same director: Straw Dogs

-Old Boy (2003): In some ways, it seems like Koreans are reliving '70s-era Hollywood with a stream of transgressive films full of sex and violence. This one, about a guy held prisoner in an apartment for 13 years and then given a day to figure out why, featured both explicitly. But it's hard to forget a hammer fight. Currently being remade by Spike Lee with Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Brolin.

-Pulp Fiction (1994): If you've seen it, you know what happens next when Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) says "And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee." (Honourable mention, same director: Inglourious Basterds).

-Saving Private Ryan (1998): The opening invasion of Omaha Beach. Nobody could ever watch this scene and ever think of war in romantic terms again.

-Natural Born Killers (1994): If outrage is a measure of a violent film's impact, Oliver Stone's movie about serial-killing couple Mickey and Mallory (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) is an all-timer. It's been blamed for more copycat killings than any movie I can think of. Most disturbing scene: the eeny-meeny-miney-mo slaughter game at the diner.

-Taxi Driver (1976): The final shoot-out not only was one of the most memorable film massacres ever, its aftermath (in which the media make Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle a hero) spokes volumes to America's love-hate relationship with violence.

Meanwhile, here are three songs that will never sound the same again if you've heard them in these movies.

Singing in the Rain (A Clockwork Orange), Stuck in the Middle with You (Reservoir Dogs) and Hip to be Square (American Psycho).

 


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