10 of the Best: Limb Losing Moments in Movies

Welcome back to my weekly top 10. This weeks list focuses on the best moments in film where a character loses a limb, or maybe a couple… What is more entertaining than witnessing a character’s hand being lopped off? Okay, maybe that is too far… But this is a countdown of the iconic, the brutal and most memorable scenes.

Some may have gone on to haunt your dream, and others may have provided you many’a laughs. So, if you want to debate my list, express your own or discuss the great films that line up on this list, then get in touch with the We The Nerdy Facebook and/or Twitter accounts.


So without further ado…

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”] Anchorman[/button]

While maybe not the most obvious choice for this list, it is a playful addition to the already over the top nonsense that is Anchorman’s comedic angle. The joy of Anchorman and many other comedies like it is that everything is overplayed, with the dramatics never seeming all that real. Such a style adds to the hilarity and brilliance of the moment that Luke Wilson’s anchor character loses his arm.
When the mass news team brawl kicks off, the viewer never senses that much is at stake or that anyone could actually be hurt. Brick holds a grenade but it is a prop, designed to evoke laughs, and even as a man on fire runs through the ruckus, it’s seen as low key danger. Then in steps Luke Wilson who is about to deliver a blow to someone, but just as he wisecracks, Tim Robbins’ character catches a cleaver and chops off his arm. The comedic beat of it rests on the reactions of those involved… Tim Robbins taking a smoke of his pipe is fantastic and his look at his handy work says it all. Just another day at the office.

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”]RoboCop[/button]

During the 1980s, action movies were becoming more and more violent. With releases like The Terminator, it was only going to grow and grow. When RoboCop was released in 1987, the films featuring much violence were becoming a commentary on certain aspects of society. This was a key aspect with the RoboCop series as it focused on citywide corruption and how it can affect society in every level. A main focus was placed on the nature of the city’s population. Nothing was clear cut, instead the good vs evil debate was far more distorted.
For lead character and eventual RoboCop, Alex Murphy, this would be a brutal firsthand lesson. In one of Murphy’s first patrols, he and his partner, Jones, chase a street gang to a rundown mill. Here he is separated, cornered and taught that not every human being has it in their nature to be sympathetic and/or merciless.
Seeing Murphy’s hand blown straight off via shotgun is a shocking moment. A shocking moment followed by further savagery as he is executed in a flurry of smoke and bullets. RoboCop’s depiction of Alex Murphy’s loss of hand and life is something that is generally unheard of nowadays in cinema.

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”]Jurassic Park[/button]

Okay, so this is kind of a cheat. But who cares, really? It’s Jurassic fricking Park!
Samuel L. Jackson, in all his bad ass mentality and film roles that are now engrained in pop culture, has actually had a fair amount of memorable death scenes. On screen he has shown a distinct ability at killing, line delivery and… dying. Even when only a body part is there to be found, he damn well makes sure you know about it.
So cut to Jurassic Park. Mr. Arnold as he is known as is in charge of all the technical goings on in the park. Those lights go off? He’s got that covered. Telling you when to hold on to your butts? He’s got that sorted. Taking on Velociraptors? He’s got… Oh, maybe not. Does Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler know his inability to hold off a Raptor attack though? Clearly not. Just as she gets the power back on, Ellie is greeted by a congratulatory pat on the shoulder from an AWOL Mr. Arnold. In her moment of relief in thinking good ol’ Sam isn’t dead after all, she then finds out that no, in fact he probably is dead as Mr. Arnold’s arm appears to be flying solo without a body. Chaos ensues, Raptors do some more hunting but a body is never seen or found for our missing techy…
It will be alright though, I’m sure that somewhere on Isla Nublar, Mr. Arnold is alive and well, and getting to grips with having to type one handed.

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”]Monty Python and The Holy Grail[/button]

I like to think that little needs to be said in regards to this scene. A sure favourite among fans of comedy, Monty Python’s the Holy Grail is, to sound deliberately goofy, a holy grail of the comedic genre of film. Not only this movie in particular but the crew’s other films as well, feature laughs that could be considered obvious. The comedy is simple in nature but all the more funny for it. Never attempting to be complex or overdone, scenes such as this one here listed are what make the Monty Python movies absolute classics.
King Arthur in a sword fight with a mighty knight, everyone wants to see that, sure. King Arthur fighting a knight with dialogue from John Cleese, now we are just being spoilt. The scene accompanied by equally as comical choreography features witty one liners as each limb is lopped off. Lines like “‘Tis but a scratch” and “It’s only a flesh wound” make it all the more funny.

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”]Sin City[/button]

Someone losing a limb was always an inevitability in a film like Sin City. The noir feel and deadly setting where the movies universe takes up residence cries out for overly-gratuitous violence. Sin City is a technical masterpiece that although provides many dark moments that some audiences may find uncomfortable, also has a handful of scenes that should be remembered in years to come. One of those, which takes the sixth spot on the list, is Marv’s eventual revenge on Kevin. Kevin, the cannibalistic farm boy played by Elijah Wood is almost as sick as they come, almost… He likes the taste of human flesh and bone, particularly the female kind, but he also apparently likes the sensation of being eaten as well.
It’s all very grim but gripping. Marv played by Mickey Rourke has caught up to the sadistic cannibal and enacted sweet revenge in a way that kind of equals the score. Cutting Kevin limb from limb is not the disturbing aspect of this scene however, it is the look in Elijah Wood’s eyes as he sits there being eaten by his own pet wolf.

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”]Kill Bill[/button]

A film from Quentin Tarantino that doesn’t feature someone losing their head or a limb or two is unheard of. That isn’t a complaint, but more of a disclaimer that begs the question “who would have it any other way?”
Kill Bill, the two part saga that tells a tale of revenge where in which Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo brings death upon her former work colleagues who ruined her wedding day. Although it is a blood bath, the humour from Tarantino lies in that he plays on the old stereotype of never messing with a woman on her wedding day. Bill and his band of merry killers would come to understand this later on…
The showdown between Kiddo and The Crazy 88s is a full on homage to every samurai movie that Tarantino has ever loved. Yes, it is over the top and full to the brim with blood and gore, but he expresses his love for those movies here. Want to know how far a limb can be sent flying after a samurai swipe to the arm? Look no further than this full on display of body part subtraction.

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”]Forrest Gump[/button]

There is a distinct reason that Forrest Gump was well received upon release and continues to be viewed fondly of. The emotional beats of the story are heavy and they continue to hit you, but the film also has some charm and delivers humour when some films would naturally stay clear of the jokes. The Vietnam War sections of the film are an example of this. The Vietnam War, which to this day is still a dark moment in US military history, was always likely to bring about much sadness for the film and it is in a specific scene where the emotion truly hits home.
Up to now Forrest and his troop have encountered little to no hostility, but once a mortar strike bombards the surrounding area, Forrest and his friends run for the hills. His Lieutenant, Dan Taylor, played by Gary Sinise is sure of his eventual death in combat after previous generations of his family have also done the same. Forrest, however, has other ideas and after saving a few of his friends, returns for Lieutenant Dan. He finds that Dan has also been hit during the shelling, and while his legs are not completely severed during this particular scene, the attack leads to them being amputated.
It is a chilling moment as you see a character that has been a leader, but is now losing grip of his sanity. You don’t see the moment he loses his legs but sometimes what you don’t see, is more powerful than what you do…

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”]127 Hours[/button]

Some would argue that being that 127 Hours is based on real events, it is hard to include the film in a list with other movies that perhaps glorify the loss of one’s limb. However, it is because of such realness that it has to be on this particular list. Telling the story of Aaron Ralston’s hellish entrapment in the American outback as his right arm becomes trapped between a rock and a hard place, 127 Hours is an emotionally isolated journey that makes you wonder how far you would go to ensure you survive.
Jam packed with beautiful visuals, a fantastic soundtrack and an Oscar nominated performance from James Franco, the film plays on the fact that the outcome is always lurking in the background. His escape relies on one decision, and the knowing of how he escapes only enhances the viewing experience.
Danny Boyle’s choice of portrayal for the severing of Ralston’s arm is, to put it simply, horrific. The shoots of pain from his nerves, displayed by the sound effects, send you into a writhing cringe as you sit and watch. What makes such a scene all the more striking is that you realise, even though Aaron’s choice is that of a terrible one, it is yet his only choice. An unavoidable one.

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”]Evil Dead 2[/button]

The Evil Dead movies have never liked the idea of being recycled material just for the sake of having a sequel. The first Evil Dead was a straight up horror film whereas Evil Dead 2 was a horror movie that bordered on comedy. The scenes featuring Bruce Campbell’s Ash, alone in the cabin, are full of experimental camera work and set pieces that could disturb the best of us.
Bruce Campbell’s finest work is when acting on his own, using the props that surround him and utilising every facial expression that encompasses madness. His style is almost slapstick and it shines through here as he has a showdown with his possessed right hand. After an unsuccessful battle with a pile of plates, he lies unconscious, leaving his right hand to enact a murderous scheme. In the nick of time however, Ash awakens and stabs the hand resulting in a maniacal scene in which he chainsaws his hand off.
It is a brilliant display of classic horror. Gruesome and without apologies, but unfortunately for Ash, it only gets worse from there.

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[button link=”The URL of the button” variation=”grey”]Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back[/button]

Number one couldn’t have been anything else. The ultimate definition of a bad day, brought to you by wannabe Jedi, Luke Skywalker.
One of the greatest sequels in cinemas history and possibly the best Star Wars movie. Luke might not remember it so fondly though… On the sandy plains of Tatooine, in a dank and boisterous bar, sits a couple of aliens laughing about how no matter what, their day cannot be any worse than the day Luke lost his hand and found out his father was his biggest nemesis. Laughing behind the now Jedi Masters back, of course…
It just does not get any bigger in terms of iconography in film. A person will lose count of the amount of times they hear that famous line from that famous black cloaked Sith.
However it is that moment before the big reveal where Vader turns the tide on the young hero. In one big swoop, Vader takes his hand off with the Lightsaber, then revealing his family lineage and watches as Luke jumps in to the giant abyss.
Star Wars has never been afraid to stray away from the family movie genre tropes and this was the defining stage. Although further movies would be aimed towards children, Empire showed that the Star Wars universe was as dark as the space that it inhabited. I suppose it wasn’t all bad for Luke though… He can always claim to be that bad ass that he is the only person to ever use the Millennium Falcon as a taxi service.

Well, that’s your lot! Thanks for reading, and be sure to come back next week for another top 10.
Until next time…