Skip to content

The 20 Most Controversially Violent Movies Of All Time

21 June 2013 | Features, Film Lists | by David Zou

most violent movies

Violence in a movie can be a good thing if it serves the story, that it illustrates the point the director is trying to convey, and it’s not violence for the sake of violence and in the particular film, it’s actually violence for the annihilation of violence.

Of course if the violence is carried to the extreme, it can easily become controversial. The audiences are divided, some can’t bear the violent scenes and the other become faithful followers. It all depends on how you look at the violence and how you think of its function in the movie.

Here are 20 most controversially violent movies which all share in common an ability to shock through their violent content.


20. Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer


The Movie: Shot on a tiny budget of $100,000 (using 16mm), Henry is a grubby thriller following the titular killer, played by wouldn’t-like-to-meet-him-in-a-dark-alley Michael Rooker. His travails are loosely based on the life of Henry Lee Lucas, one of America’s most prolific serial killers.

The Violence: The very first shot of the film gives us a taste of the violence we’re about to encounter – a dead woman lies naked in a field. From there on in, it’s all screaming, sweaty deeds filmed in a gritty handheld fashion that only serves to deepen the disturbing nature of the film.

Reaction: Certification disagreements between the filmmakers MPAA meant that Henry was delayed four whole years after the cameras stopped rolling. It finally got released, unrated, in 1990. Things were equally complicated with the BBFC. It wasn’t until 2003 that the film finally received an uncut DVD release.

None of which matters when your film’s got an 88% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Considered a low budget tour de force, many critics now celebrate the film as the antithesis of slashers – here, the violence is unrelentingly realistic.


19. Battle Royale


The Movie: A thematic predecessor to The Hunger Games, as Japanese school kids are forced to kill each other during a singularly brutal school trip.

The Violence: Unlike Hunger Games, the violence is up there for everybody to see in all its claret-soaked glory.

As if the incendiary collars around the students’ necks wasn’t enough, some turn to suicide in a gory escape. Most affecting is the death of Sugimura at the hands of his crush Kotohiki.

Reaction: Japanese parliament labelled the film “crude and tasteless”, and opened up a forum for debate about violence in the media. Politicians used the film as a scapegoat for troublesome youths.

The film remains unreleased in the US and Canada, thanks to its ties with so much controversy – especially in the wake of the Columbine Massacre. Everywhere else, the film’s hailed as a salient, sobering social commentary.


18. Irreversible


The Movie: Gaspar Noé’s harrowing, non-linear French drama which opens with two men seeking revenge for the brutal rape of a young woman.

The Violence: That opening scene is a nightmare, but that’s nothing compared to the film’s infamous rape scene. Bellucci’s character is threatened, then beaten and finally raped for what feels like an age. In crushing, unrelenting detail.

Reaction: Noé’s film caused outrage among female (and male) viewers when it opened at the Cannes Film Festivall. In general, critics were divided, some admiring its bravery, others condemning its apparent adolescent approach to sinister material.

On top of that, the film’s been accused of homophobia. Sheesh.


17. Philosophy Of A Knife


The Movie: Another one about Unit 731, this Russian horror flick revels in the same grotesque depictions of cruel experimentations as Men Behind The Sun. It’s four hours long…

The Violence: Some truly grisly reenactments of the experiments that took place in Unit 731 take centre stage here. You may want to avert your eyes (we know we did).

Reaction: It was released on DVD by TLA Releasing and didn’t seem to cause much of a stir anywhere, to be honest. Guess it’s doomed to live forever in the shadow of Men Behind The Sun.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5


Other Brilliant Movie Posts On The Web


Like Us on Facebook!

  • Steven Flores

    The Motherfuckin’ Wild Bunch… truly one of the greatest films ever made. And a true definition of the “Fuck You” movie.

  • Todd Koontz

    Regarding Ichi…the comment “If you can stomach this, you can pretty much stomach anything”…I’d disagree. I own Ichi and have watched it plenty of times. The way the violence is depicted, which definitely earns a spot on this list, is sometimes comical. But that also makes it somewhat easy to digest. I have absolutely no desire to watch The Serbian Film for instance because it is just too over the top for me. Others you mentioned in the list I would also shy away from…like Martyrs. Good list though. I agree with most of them even though I haven’t seen, nor will I see, several of the films named.

  • Christ Curt Hrastich

    …How is A Serbian Film not #1? It had *SPOILER ALERT* infant rape…

  • Hiei-and-shino

    Please, Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most boring movies EVER. It is controversial, yes, but violent? Only if we count the poor animals (I do).

  • Iam_Sparticus

    Surprised A Clockwork Orange is not listed. Kubrick himself banned it in England for decades for supposedly copycat crimes ravaging London.

  • Eduardo Simões

    NekRomantic is more violent and controversial than all of this together!

  • Red Lagoon

    Was it Robert Ebert or Roger Ebert?