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The most memorable MOVIE MURDER SCENES

Most interesting and memorable on-screen kills

Krzysztof Dylak

9 July 2023

Kill, how easy it is to say. Certainly easier than writing a list about it. Killing is an everyday thing on screen. This is a topic for many publications and even film literature. And always with this type of selection some important scene will be missed. Creating a description of the most suggestive sequences, where one person takes the life of another or a third, aimed at creating an impression of horror and shock, often also moving, means a difficult choice. There is a certain simplification of the task: it does not say that the more brutal and gory the scene, the better the emotional result on the part of the viewer. One moment of murder can have more impact and meaning than mass murders in a typical slasher, gore movie or ordinary “stock” where the corpse is too dense and the mother’s head (sometimes literally) served on a plate. Much depends on the dramaturgy and climate, context, convention, meaning or justification of a given murder. The performance of the actors and the work of the director also play a significant role in building the effect. Sometimes such scenes can also have a negative impact on the viewer. Fascination with the crime shown may be born. After all, there have been cases of murder inspired by a film record, and the cinematic matter also draws from authentic killings. Below is a subjective list of the most interesting and memorable on-screen kills. In some descriptions, references were made to other scenes that could not be included in the general list due to their volume. The sequence of the scenes listed is random.


The House That Jack BuiltĀ (2018)

Quite a fresh proposition, but definitely worth noting in this list. The titular Jack (Matt Dillon in a life role) creates himself as an artist by murdering people. He goes further and further in this, wanting to cross further boundaries. A particularly shocking moment that caused the Cannes audience to leave the cinema en masse occurs halfway through the film. Von Trier’s antihero takes his partner and her two sons on a trip to the forest. He explains the origins of animal hunting, teaches how to shoot a hunting rifle, and, like a good father, passes on important values and skills. It soon turns out that Jack, under the pretext of a family trip, wanted to commit an exceptionally creative murder. He shoots the boys like prey, then forces their mother to have a picnic with the dead sons. He’s not going to spare her either. The woman is shocked, she does not understand what happened. Jack’s taunting her is the height of bad taste, and the killer’s cynicism reaches heights when he tells the woman to pick any number. He begins to count down, implying that the mother will follow in her sons’ footsteps. And so it becomes. In the uncensored version, we see the details of the entire crime. The merits: proud of himself, Jack arranges a pot of three bodies as if on display in an art gallery. He translated his tales of the principles and types of hunting into deed. He does not hesitate to brag about his achievements during the polemic with Verge, who stands in opposition to Jacek’s actions, according to whom the elaborate killing of a mother with her sons can be compared with an outstanding artistic composition. Up to this scene, Lars Von Trier’s film seemed to be a self-deprecating play on the serial killer thriller formula, but during it there was a shift to a different key that changed the viewer’s perception. This scene is pure provocation, designed to jeopardize the viewer’s comfort, shock play on his feelings, sting his sensitivity, and above all, what is often found in the case of the controversial Dane’s paintings: emotional blackmail. However, it is difficult to ignore it, because art, in Von Trier’s opinion, should also touch the less comfortable chords of the recipient, he can afford audacity and insolence in his convention, and after all, Lars has been a leader in this context for a long time. The scene of the murder of a child (out of frame) in Funny Games or the primitive murder of a family in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has a similar effect on the viewer’s nerves.

Platoon (1986)

Sergeant Barnes kills Elias. Oliver Stone’s painting shows the Vietnam War honestly and honestly. We see a division among American soldiers, the main catalyst of which is the conflict of two commanders, diametrically opposed in their approach to war. Sergeant Elias is characterized by nobility and integrity, which cannot be said about Barnes (the most important role in Tom Berenger’s output), who brutally pacifies a village of Vietnamese civilians. Elias exposes himself to Barnes by preventing him from killing a girl. From now on, the unsentimental sergeant will wait for an opportunity to settle the score. When the platoon is ambushed by the Viet Cong, Elias’ experience and courage put him out of trouble. When he returns to the unit after a successful crusade against enemy forces, he stumbles upon Barnes. The latter in cold blood shoots his comrade-in-arms as if he belonged to the Vietnamese camp. In the helicopter during the evacuation, it turns out that Elias managed to survive, he was shot and left on the battlefield. But it’s too late to be saved. Elias dies a heroic death that Barnes contributed to. War takes away scruples and moral principles. Some of its participants become anesthetized because they have seen too much, they cannot distinguish what is wicked from what is right. Values can wait, it’s mostly about survival, the rest is a pipe dream, you have to kill to survive. In war, the same laws do not apply as in normal life. Certainly this was the motto of Barnes, a commander lacking in sensitivity and not adhering to the honorable rules of war. His killing of Elias is unprecedented. It is no longer a fight against a foreign enemy, but a fight against an ally. This is not a court-martial, Barnes takes Elias’s intervention as a personal insult. Barnes establishes his own law of war, recognizing himself as the true and only commander of this platoon. In the final phase of the film, after a fierce, bloody clash of the Vietnamese with the Americans, one of the survivors is Chris, who takes revenge on Barnes not only on behalf of the killed sergeant, but in the name of general principles, which were expressed by Elias. From similar scenes from films similar in genre and theme, one can also mention the murder of a Vietnamese girl in De Palma’s Casualties of War.

The Hitcher (1986)

The included murder scene in Robert Harmon’s film is steeped in such tension that few sequences, not only of this kind, can match it in this respect. And again, the recently deceased Rutger Hauer appears as the culprit, in his second classic incarnation after Blade Runner. His John Ryder is a dangerous psychopath who kills stopped drivers, being a combination of the two previously mentioned on-screen killers: John Doe and Anton Chigurh. Ryder was in the movie before them and could be a clear signpost. The scene where the hitchhiker kills Nash, the girl supporting the bullied boy, is a prime example of a defining moment in a thriller. Ryder abducts Nash from a roadside hotel and Jim Halsey rushes to the rescue. The ominous atmosphere grows. The boy falls into the hands of the police who pursued him, suspecting the murders committed by his stalker. Law enforcement asks Jim to intervene when Ryder threatens to kill a girl he tied to two trucks. The police are helpless in this situation, so only Halsey is able to convince the killer to spare her life. Ryder allows the conversation, expects the fear-stricken boy to shoot him. Halsey can’t do it, he knows the girl will die. A disappointed Ryder releases his foot from the clutch and Nash suffers a cruel death. John Ryder wanted to put Jim to the test. At the moment when the boy, despite the knife to his throat, escaped the killer in the car, the hitchhiker appointed him as his slayer. Halsey didn’t let himself be murdered, he managed to survive Ryder’s traps. The murderer, stalking his victim, tested her and at the same time wanted to be stopped by her. The final stage of the exam came at the time of Nash’s abduction. Ryder wanted Jim to end his life even at the cost of the girl’s life, but in the eyes of the psychopath he failed this test. The boy wasn’t ready for this step yet, fear or and weakness took over him. Only in the final confrontation, Jim, motivated by revenge for Nash’s death, no longer hesitates to do what Ryder has been waiting for a long time. Rutger Hauer, as the embodiment of the devil incarnate, evokes genuine fear in this scene, while magnetizing the viewer. He is cold as steel and immovable as stone. It’s hard to believe that he had serious moral reservations about taking part in this sequence and that the crew had to persuade him to return to the set. In the new version, the same fragment shows the moment of tearing apart (this time by Jim Halsey), but there is no denying that it has been stripped of the dark atmosphere that characterized the original.