When Hollywood loosened moral guidelines in the 1960s there came an immediate uptick in violent cinema, with “Bonnie & Clyde” being the most famous example. Yet Arthur Penn’s bloody crime classic looks practically PG-rated when compared to the legion of violent movies that would follow. (These are the movies with the highest body count.)
Why the steady evolution of graphic content over decades, to the point that omnipresent gunfire and bloody corpses have become entirely mainstream? We’ll leave that for the philosophers and psychologists to figure out. What we do know is that violence sells.
Putting aside any deeper analysis, there is something to be said about the depiction of violence as a mode of art unto itself. From elaborate special effects to thrilling choreography to vivid cinematography, some of history’s best films have been unabashedly graphic. There are also a number of directors who use violent content as both a shock to the audience’s system and as a gateway to nuanced themes. Names like David Cronenberg and Lars von Trier come to mind.
Given this cinematic landscape of ubiquitous ultra-violence, it’s virtually impossible to put together a comprehensive list of the most violent movies of all time – but 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of some of cinema’s most violent offerings, based on a mix of Internet-based research, including an IMDb user list of the most violent movies, and editorial discretion.
The resulting list touches down on a number of relevant genres and filmmakers while trying not to repeat itself. It also includes some of history’s most truly graphic and intolerable movies, such as 1975’s “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” and 2010’s “A Serbian Film.” Watch those if you dare, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. (For a genre that tends to include a lot of violence, see this roster of the best revenge movies of all time.)
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