10 of the Best: Movies with Surprising Levels of Violence

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Posted November 11, 2013 by Jake Morris in Movies

10 of the Best

Moving on from last week’s Haloween special which focused on all kinds of creepiness in cinema, this week we’re back to the random features of films that provide entertainment to the masses.

The latest addition of ’10 of the Best’ focuses on the films that provided surprisingly high levels of violence. The kind of movies that, whether you already had prior knowledge of their violent content, or were simply oblivious to the extent of it, still made you sit back and gasp. Violence that may have made sense due to the subject matter at hand, but could still send any human being into a sheepish, cowering shell of a person. The sheer levels of the violence in some of these movies has sent countless viewers running to the hills in the hopes of blanking out the scenes that have scarred their minds, leaving lasting, horrifying impressions. These films have pushed the boundaries of violent content and how the use of it may be essential to the depiction of specific material.

So without further ado…

10.
Saving Private Ryan

10. Saving Private Ryan

10. Saving Private Ryan

A Film that is known for showcasing the brutality of the second World War, Saving Private Ryan still encapsulates the feeling of not really being ready for what was about to unfold. As the boats approach the beaches of Normandy, every viewer senses something of epic proportions. It is not until those first few bullets wiz past the heads of numerous doomed but brave soldiers, that those watching come to the realisation that this is a completely different beast.
In the years since the film’s release, the shock, surprise and awe at the ‘realism’ of the action may have grown thin for viewers revisiting the film, but for those who be laying eyes upon the WWII classic for the first time; nothing readies them for the next couple of hours.

9.
Eden Lake

9. Eden Lake

9. Eden Lake

It is hard to imagine a time when Michael Fassbender was not at the top of the acting food chain; a time when he wasn’t invincible to the appetites of horror buffs craving violent outcomes for unsuspecting victims. Rewind back to 2008 and you will discover that the actor was not always so artful in dodging the chop. Eden Lake focuses on the holiday getaway turned nightmare in which a young woman is terrorised by youths in a way that only British horror can capture so vividly on screen. The violence that follows is relentless, as Jenny played by Kelly Reilly defends herself from the torturous and sadistic methods of the yobs who sought to ruin her time in the English countryside.
The beauty in Eden Lake’s set up is how subtle the film builds towards the horror. Similar to a Jack-in-the-Box, the film winds up until the eventual moment where the violence breaks out. The tension in waiting for something terrible to happen is prominent, but once the violence is unleashed it becomes a haunting look at youth culture.

8.
Hard Candy

8. Hard Candy

8. Hard Candy

There are few films that toe the line in the realm of providing sympathy for a character that might be a seemingly villainous persona. Hard Candy handles that perfectly. Ellen Page plays Hayley, a young girl who baits Patrick Willson’s character into meeting up, believing him to be a paedophile and connected to the disappearance of a missing girl. The ways in which Hayley goes about interrogating Willson’s Jeff is an excruciating watch, committing many acts of violent torture that should leave any man white in the face. What is so incredibly clever about Hard Candy and its violent themes though, is that Page’s Hayley is very much a hero, but also one that carries out cruel acts on Jeff in such a way that it becomes unclear who it is you are supposed to root for and who it is you should feel sympathy towards.
Hard Candy does a great job of exploring when violence should be used, and how far you can go before you cross a line into an area where violent means may not necessarily be the correct course of action.

7. 
Starship Troopers

7. Starship Troopers

7. Starship Troopers


Not all films featuring violence are intended to be dark, scary or full of deep meaningful messages. Some films just want to be all about giving the audience a great time, and maybe even having poking fun at the expense of a non-fictional nation. Starship Troopers was as much a rollicking sci-fi affair as it was a satire on America and the military set up that occurs once war breaks out. The film focuses on a galactic war, with Earth under threat from alien bugs, and not only does it pack a compilation of jokes but it also features a string of violence and death. All of the violence featured is not so much horrific as it is standard action movie gore. The frequency of death means it is hard not to lose track of the body count as soldiers are torn limb from limb, impaling becomes standard procedure and aliens drinking human brains is just another day on the front lines.
Even though the film is full of violence, the extent of it constantly keeps you guessing as to how much worse it could possibly get. In the case of Starship Troopers, the violence is relentless but all the better for it. Even after continued viewing, the violence succeeds in providing surprise after surprise, giving audiences a reward for their loyalty to the Federation’s cause.

6.
A History of Violence

6. A History of Violence

6. A History of Violence

There are not many actors with a distinctly high calibre for giving someone a good beating, but if there is one that could duke it out with the best of them it is Viggo Mortensen. A History of Violence, an adaption of the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, centres around the story of Tom Stall and how his secret life of violence and crime come back to haunt him. Stall, played by Mortensen, is a restaurant owner in a small town and just another member of the community until he stops a robbery. After his intervention, Tom is aptly named a hero, but his life is sent on a continuous downward spiral. Visits from the mob, claiming to know Tom from earlier in his life, place strain on his relationship with his family, and it is here that Tom is pushed over the edge and forced to resort to what he knows best.
The violence in the film is as much sneaky as it is brutal, creeping up on the plot in a way that is expected but all the more rewarding for it.

5.
Taxi Driver

5. Taxi Driver

5. Taxi Driver

While the film has gone on to become a staple of pop culture due to its quotable lines and the controversial casting of a twelve year old Jodie Foster in the role of a prostitute, it is also remembered for the insane methodical violence that Robert DeNiro’s Travis Bickle carries out. A former soldier, Bickle is a loner, struggling to come to grips with his life after the military. DeNiro’s character begins a steady slope into dissolution as he becomes increasingly more disgusted with the ongoing crime and treatment of prostitutes in the area. The more pent up Travis becomes, the more the violence escalates, resulting in a flurry of shoot-outs and surreal violence.
Taxi Driver is a display of vigilantism in a world that could only be crafted by the genius of Martin Scorsese. It is in that craftsmanship that the audience gets a look at how violence, although the end result may be justified by the means, can descend someone into madness.

4.
Kick-Ass

4. Kick-Ass

4. Kick-Ass

Anyone with knowledge of Mark Millar’s writing style will know his overly-violent method of storytelling. Even with that knowledge, no one expected the film adaption of his comic book series to follow so closely to the source material. That is the way most adaptations work. Parts of the story are changed here and there for the mainstream audience, but from the moment Kick-Ass is stabbed to the introduction of Hit Girl and her martial arts expertise, it was obvious that this was no ordinary by-the-numbers comic book movie.
The films use of violence is explosive. Where there is action, there is blood and dismemberment, but the use of it never feels overly gratuitous for the sake of it. In a way, the film’s method of violence outweighs that of the original material, giving it a more purposeful place. The style of the film does suit the violence and although Chloe-Grace Moretz might have been a minor at the time of filming, her character’s portrayal is both charming and vicious. Kick-Ass set the bar for violence in comic book movies, and it doesn’t look to be moving higher any time soon, even if its sequel did try to better the original.

3.
Oldboy

3. Oldboy

3. Oldboy

It’s not that surprising when a man who has been locked up for fifteen years ends up on a rollercoaster ride of vengeance. The surprising aspect of Oldboy is the ferocity in which the film delivers the violent scenes, showcasing incredible moments of action and brutality. Hailed as one of the best films to come out of Asian cinema, Oldboy is a gritty look at one man’s search for answers as to why he was forcefully incarcerated. The mystery surrounding the film’s premise is balanced by Oh Dae-su’s lust for violence as he utilises any means necessary. Moments such as the corridor scene, where Dae-su wielding just a hammer, fights an ongoing wave of enemies, is an astonishing depiction of violence.
Oldboy is full to the brim with similar scenes, never letting the audiences mind rest and instead taking it up a further notch each time a cry of pain can be heard from Oh Dae-su’s enemies. Even as the film builds towards its climax, the prior levels of brutality cannot prepare viewers for the eventual end.

2.
The Passion of the Christ

2. The Passion of the Christ

2. The Passion of the Christ

If you are looking for a man with a bullseye on his back and hatred flooding in from any and every angle, then you needn’t look any further than Mel Gibson. The majority of the controversy stems from Gibson’s directorial effort, The Passion of the Christ. While the film was a hit at the box office, it created a lot of heat thanks to the violent depiction of Jesus Christ’s torture in the lead up to his crucifixion. Jesus, played by Jim Caviezel, is shown to be less the son of God and more a normal human being as he withstands the countless violent actions from the Romans. There is blood, and it is not for the faint hearted. But, regardless of the accuracy of such violent means, the age in which Jesus’ crucifixion is believed to have taken place was anything but pleasant. Violence was a form of entertainment in the days of the Roman Empire; however the depiction of Jesus as a simple man undergoing the torture was as much a gruesome showing of violence as it was honesty. The honesty on show was the vision of Gibson’s version of events. The director brought realism to an aspect of human culture that, despite the barbaric disposition of the time, was bereft of violent depictions.

1.
Drive

1. Drive

1. Drive

Adapted from the book of the same name and written by James Sallis, Drive is the story of a nameless man who acts as a getaway driver for robberies and numerous other criminal activities. The premise however, is much more in-depth as it is divided into two halves. One half focuses on the subdued nature of the driver, played by Ryan Gosling, who is more than perfect for the role. He is a man who really does let his driving do the talking. It is not until he meets Carey Mulligan’s Irene, that he opens up and shows another side, but with that other side, there is also violence. The driver’s involvement in Irene’s family matters brings about a run in with the mob, bringing out his violent side in order to protect what he has grown to feel affection for.
Gosling’s portrayal of the driver has become quite iconic, along with the movie becoming a modern cult hit, though it is the switch towards a violent second half that ramped up the conviction of the film. The complete one-eighty in the film’s nature is unexpected and something that no one sees coming. Due to the film’s stylistic approach, though, it works and the violence is often a beautiful depiction of both rage and calm meeting somewhere in the middle. If the character of the driver is anything to go by, Drive provides proof that the saying ‘it’s always the quiet ones’ may not always be a cliché.

Be sure to check back next week for another addition of 10 of the Best.
Thanks for reading.


About the Author

Jake Morris

When is Deadman going to get a film? Never, you say? Well, I'm just going to sit here and sulk. Comics, films, stuff... I like it aaaaall.