A sampling of the most shocking and gruesome torture scenes in cinematic history is here.
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As though you were in the middle of a car accident, you couldn’t look away. When something is so horrifying that people can’t look away, they use this well-known saying. On the surface, the idea doesn’t make sense; why would somebody be drawn to visuals that are disturbing?
The amygdala region of the brain, which regulates emotions and survival instincts, is activated when faced with life-threatening situations. The fight-or-flight reaction is then triggered by people’s interpretation and evaluation of the threat. These 10 cinematic torture sequences are a good place to start if you’re searching for an adrenaline boost.
Theo Kogod made the most recent update on January 8th, 2021. There will never be a shortage of brutal torture scenes in movies because audiences love them. It’s possible that these gruesome depictions of torture can actually improve the tale and create emotional moments that haunt viewers for years to come, perhaps adding additional layers of significance to a story. Scenes like this one can be seen as a form of gratuitous violence in some situations. However, no matter how hard the viewer tries to turn away, there are some genuinely vivid sequences of torture that should not be missed. To complete a collection of some of the most gruesome torture sequences ever filmed, we’ve added an additional six to this list.
1. Tempura – Ichi the Killer
Based on Hideo Yamamoto’s subversive manga, Takashi Miike’s iconic yakuza film Ichi the Killer is a masterpiece of the genre. Sadomasochistic enforcer Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) devises ingenious tortures to interrogate his foes after his gang’s boss goes missing.
Yakuza member awakened to find himself hanging from meat hooks that ran the length of his back and arms in an amazing scene. In the course of his interrogation, Kikihara pierces the man’s lips with a steel tempura skewer. To finish things off, he pours a saucepan of boiling oil on him.
2. Parents’ Revenge – Lady Vengeance
In his Vengeance Trilogy, Park Chan-Lady wook’s Vengeance has one of the trilogy’s most memorable and horrifying torture scenes.
Relatives and friends of those whose children were brutally killed are gathered together for a vengeance mission (played by Choi Min-sik). They watch footage of their children’s deaths, and then decide what to do about it. They attack this individual one by one, using axes, knives, and other weapons to inflict pain and ultimately murder him.
3. Speed Bag – Once Upon A Time in America
The criminal drama Once Upon a Time in America, directed by Sergio Leone, is Sergio Leone’s crowning achievement as a filmmaker. Noodles (Robert De Niro) and Max (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are two Jewish gangsters who have known each other for decades (James Woods). Leone’s original vision was restored in an edit of the picture released in 2012 after studio meddling crippled the pacing in the initial release.
The movie opens with one of its most terrifying sequences. Fat Moe (Larry Rapp) gets tied to a speed bag by a choke-rope and his hands are tied behind his back. A series of punches and strangling by ropes leave him with darkened eyes and a swollen face after an interrogation.
4. Roman Execution – The Passion of the Christ
Actor-Director When it comes to Mel Gibson’s filmography, his historical film about Jesus of Nazareth (Jim Caviezel) may be his most terrifying. However, the film was panned for its antisemitism and overemphasis on Jesus’ death, despite its use of reconstructed Aramaic dialogue.
The brutality of Roman penalties like scourging and crucifixion is on display here.
There’s no doubt about it: the weight of gravity made the suffering even more difficult for Jesus when his wooden cross was elevated.
5. Flaying – Martyrs
It’s a brutal revenge tale in Pascal Laugier’s 2008 film Martyrs. Lucie Jurin (Mylène Jampano) kills the family who abused her as a youngster and exposed her to horrific cruelty. Anxiety-induced self-mutilation is what Lucie believes is the work of a demon. One of their own begins to look into the problem and ends up being kidnapped by the same cult that has been torturing members of the group for the sake of spiritual advancement, turning them into what they call “martyrs.”
Anna is skinned alive after being subjected to a barrage of brutal tortures. On a table, skinless and still aware, Anna’s tormentor bends over her to see if she has reached enlightenment through the suffering she has endured.
6. Circle of Blood – Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom
Based on the Marquis de Sade’s most contentious and political classic, The 120 Days of Sodom, director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s controversial film is set in the fascist Republic of Salo during World War II.
As the film investigates fascism, capitalism, authoritarianism, and the institutions of power, four powerful men—a Duke, Bishop, Magistrate, and President—sequester themselves in a castle and torture the victims they’ve instructed soldiers to capture. Much the “kinder” beginning sequences are horrifying, but Circle of Blood, the film’s concluding chapter, takes the gore to a new level, with the victims being shaved, lynched, burned alive, and brandished with hot irons even more than before. The video closes with a peculiar twist: two soldiers dancing together, enjoying the moment despite the fact that they are about to be executed.
7. Hobbling – Misery
Annie (Kathy Bates) explains to Paul (James Caan) how a similar technique was employed to keep miners from fleeing. Annie, a major fan of Paul’s novelMisery, rescues and nurses him back to health after he runs his car off the road in a blizzard (1990).
He tries to flee when he discovers that Annie is crazy. As soon as Annie captures him, she inserts a block of wood between his feet and then hammers on both of his ankles using the practice known as “hobbling.”
8. Waterboarding – Zero Dark Thirty
The sequence in which a terrorist is waterboarded for information by the CIA in the Oscar-winning film depicting the US military’s decade-long hunt for al-Queda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after his orchestration of the 9/11 attacks is the toughest to see.
Realism in Zero Dark Thirty (2012) garnered criticism from the US government, who said they merely utilized “advanced interrogation techniques” and that the waterboarding and torture featured in the film was faked..
9. The Vice – Casino
William Goldman’s genre-bending thriller Marathon Man (1976) depicts a New York City Ph.D. student, Thomas Levy (Dustin Hoffman), who reunites with his federal agent brother and becomes engaged in a worldwide diamond theft conspiracy (Roy Scheider).
Levy is strapped to a chair at the hands of former dentist and Nazi war criminal Szell (Laurence Olivier) in an oral interrogation sequence that will leave you with a bad case of toothache.
10. The Vice – Casino
It’s no secret that Martin Scorsese does not shy away from bloodshed in his films, and a particularly brutal sequence from Casino serves as one of the director’s most horrifying examples (1995).
Following days and nights of beating an Irish rival gangster, Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) resorts to his most savage move: sticking the man’s head in an iron bench vice and sucking on it.
11. The Reverse Bear Trap – Saw
It’s possible to spend days watching horror movies to make one’s skin crawl.
Many examples from the Saw franchise’s intricate torture scenes, but none more memorable than the first movie’s Reverse Beartrap.
A lady (Shawnee Smith) who is assisting the police recalls her meeting with serial killer Jigsaw in a flashback (Tobin Bell). When the timer ran out, she had to get a key from her cellmate’s stomach to unlock the metal contraption strapped to her head, which would otherwise cause the device to rip open her mouth and rip her to shreds.
12. The Dotted Line – Oldboy
Original Oldboy included an unforgettable torture scene in which its protagonist removes his captor’s teeth with claw side of a hammer, but Spike Lee’s remake in 2013 went more brutal with his interpretation of the scenario.
Following his capture of Samuel L. Jackson (Samuel L. Jackson), Joe (Josh Brolin) takes his time in exacting revenge and begins the process of marking the man’s neck. Joe then follows the dashes with a box cutter.
13. Aversion Therapy – A Clockwork Orange
To film a torture sequence that permanently damaged his actor’s eye and required the assistance of a doctor was only possible with Stanley Kubrick.
Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is a delinquent who enters an experimental rehabilitation program instead of prison in A Clockwork Orange (1972).
A medicine that causes violent disease is supplied to Alex while he is confined to a chair with his eyes open and forced to see violent montages. The goal is to make him apprehensive about crime, but the therapy has unanticipated results.
14. Stuck In The Middle – Reservoir Dogs
Because the camera angle puts the viewer in Kirk Baltz’s position as he is being tortured by Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), the sequence from Reservoir Dogs (1992) is particularly difficult to watch. The song “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealer’s Wheel has become synonymous with the movie.
In a scenario that begins with Mr. Blonde telling his victim that he’s going to torture him not for information, but because it’s funny, the officer’s ear is cut out while the cruel Blonde dances to ’70s music, all the while the sadistic Blonde is playing.
15. Eye Scream – Hostel
After seeing Taken (2008), many people are scared of visiting Europe after the events shown in the first film of Eli Roth’s torture-filledHostel trilogy, which was released three years earlier.
In the middle of his escape from a torture dungeon, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) retraced his steps and went back to save the girl he had just rescued. He sees Kana (Jennifer Lim) having her eye surgically removed as he enters the room. The stomach-churning scene of Paxton completing the removal of Kana’s semi-detached eyeball after killing her torturer is tough to forget.
16. The Needles – Audition
One of Takashi Miike’s most horrific films is “Audition,” which he directed in 1991. (1999). A faux casting call for ladies to “audition” to be Shigeharu’s new wife is held by his filmmaker buddy Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) after the loss of Shigeharu’s wife (Ryo Ishibashi).
Shigeharu falls in love with Asami (Eihi Shiina), a serial killer who reveals out to be a sociopath. After paralyzing Shigeharu, Asami proceeds to pierce his eyes with a wire before slicing off his foot as her final act.