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The Most Horrific Movie Scenes That Happened Offscreen

The human imagination is pretty powerful. Left to its own devices, it can create some incredibly disturbing images — which is why many of the scariest scenes in cinema occur offscreen. Sure, watching a monster rip a person to pieces is freaky, and watching somebody get tortured can definitely be super upsetting. But when a filmmaker decides to cut away before the big moment, our minds are left to fill in the blanks, and our brains can usually come up with images that are far worse than anything we'll ever see in a movie. That's why scary scenes that happen out of frame are so effective. They cause us to think and relive the terrifying sequence over and over again, and every time that mysterious moment pops into our head, it only gets worse. From sci-fi fright fests to bloody gangster dramas, here are some of the most horrific movie scenes that happened offscreen.

Lambert's frightening final moments

Everybody knows Alien features one of the greatest movie deaths of all time, and no matter how many times you watch it, that chestburster scene never loses its terrifying impact. Ash's milky robo-death is pretty freaky too, but besides those scenes, most of the kills in Alien occur off-camera. Brett is dragged out of the frame, Dallas dies via jump scare, and when the Xenomorph murders Parker with its mini-mouth, it happens so fast that it's hard to make out what's going on. But while most of these kills go down in the dark, that doesn't make them any less disturbing...especially what happens to poor Lambert.

Played by Veronica Cartwright, Lambert is the most relatable member of the crew. When a serial killing extraterrestrial shows up, she understandably freaks out. And when she finally comes face to face with the beast, Lambert is totally paralyzed. All she can do is cry as the Xenomorph Tai chi's its away across the room. She's trapped, frozen in fear, and that's when the creature's pointed tail wraps around her leg. In a movie that's basically one big allegory for sexual assault, we all know what's about to happen, but fortunately, the camera cuts away before things get too disgusting. Still, we can hear Lambert's screams as the alien does whatever it's doing, capping off one of the most unsettling scenes in sci-fi history.

Han's shocking scene

Sure, he's got a winning smile and gigantic ego, but don't let Han Solo's smarmy charm fool you. Despite his his devil-may-care grin, this guy has had a pretty rough life. He was sold out by a buddy, frozen in carbonite, and murdered by his own son. On top of all that, everybody's favorite scoundrel was viciously tortured in The Empire Strikes Back. After showing up in Cloud City, Han is double-crossed by Lando Calrissian and handed over to Darth Vader, who has some very nasty plans for poor Solo. Hoping to lure Luke Skywalker into a trap, Vader straps Han into a devious contraption that lights the smuggler up with electricity. We watch as the machine sparks and Han winces, and then the camera cuts away. But that doesn't spare us from Solo's agonized screams — screams that get Luke's attention and that have traumatized Star Wars fans since 1980.

Scarface's buzz

The chainsaw sequence in Scarface walks a bizarre, brutal line between showing nothing and showing everything. After a drug deal gone wrong, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and his buddy find themselves at the mercy of Colombian gangsters — and these guys ain't in the mood to show any mercy. The psycho coke dealers chain Tony's pal in the shower, pull out a chainsaw, and force Tony to watch as they carve up his buddy. We see the chainsaw whirring, and we see a huge gush of dark blood, but despite the gore, we never see this guy lose his arm. We just see his eyes go wide with pain.

Of course, these Colombians take the expression "an arm and a leg" very seriously, so when it's time for amputation number two, the camera focuses on Tony. As we hear the saw chopping off that leg, Tony does his best to look away, hiding his face behind the shower curtain. Blood splatters all over the wall, but for all those arterial sprays, we never see a single limb get lopped off. Still, just witnessing all the blood and Tony's horrified face is more than enough to make this a scene you're going to want to fast forward through.

World's worst kiss

Never insult a serial killer. That's a lesson that Freddy Lounds learns the hard way in Michael Mann's Manhunter. Lounds (Stephen Lang) is a greasy tabloid reporter who's recruited by the FBI to publish a disparaging article about the mysterious "Tooth Fairy" (Tom Noonan), a psychopath who murders entire families. The hit piece is meant to draw the killer out of hiding, and the plan works...a little too well.

After attacking Lounds in a parking garage, the Tooth Fairy ties him to a chair and forces the reporter to watch the world's scariest slide show before launching into an epic monologue about slugs, the sun, and great becomings. Lounds is appropriately awed and recants his insulting article, but that's not enough for the Tooth Fairy. He wants to show the writer how he got his nickname. The killer pops in a pair of nasty looking dentures and moves in for the world's worst kiss. Luckily for squeamish cinephiles, the camera cuts away, but we can still hear the bloodcurdling screams as the Tooth Fairy bites off Freddy Lounds' lips.

Hannibal's escape

Hannibal Lecter's prison break in The Silence of the Lambs is a masterclass in letting audiences imagine the horror of a scene for themselves. After winding up in a cube-like cage, the psychotic psychologist (Anthony Hopkins) lures two guards into his cell, uses a pen to pick his handcuffs, and then decides it's time for a snack, grabbing Guard One by the face and chowing down. We don't ever see Lecter's teeth; we don't see him pull off any flesh. But the horrified look in the guard's eyes (and the glee in Hannibal's) is more than enough to turn a few stomachs.

Lecter then turns his attention to Guard Two, who he handcuffed to the cage seconds before. Picking up a baton, he strolls across the cell, fully enjoying the Goldberg Variations as the guard screams in terror. Lecter then begins beating the guard to death. The whole scene plays on Hannibal's face. We never actually see him hit the guard. We just watch as the serial killer gasps with every blow. It's been so long since he's killed someone, and he certainly seems to be enjoying himself after his extended break. Finally, Hannibal sees Guard One crawling away, so as calm as can be, the cannibal picks up a pocket knife and walks offscreen, calmly following his next victim. We don't see what happens next, but the full grisly impact hits a few minutes later, when we're forced to — ahem — face what Hannibal has done.

Stuck in the middle with eww

Filmmakers love contrasting cheerful tunes with gruesome scenes (think "Singin' in the Rain" and A Clockwork Orange or "Hip to Be Square" and American Psycho), but nobody has ruined a song like Quentin Tarantino ruined "Stuck in the Middle with You." The song plays during the infamous torture sequence in Reservoir Dogs, when the psychopathic Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) grabs a straight razor and dances his way toward a tied-up cop. It's a truly twisted scene, even for Tarantino, but while it left a lot of filmgoers scarred and upset, the truly rough stuff takes place offscreen.

With Stealers Wheel blaring in the background, Mr. Blonde shimmies around the warehouse, wearing a sadistic smile. The policeman's eyes are wide with horror, and there's blood dripping over his duct-taped mouth (courtesy of an earlier beating). It only gets worse when Blonde gives the cop the closest shave of all time. The officer howls in pain, and while Tarantino generally lingers on violence, even he couldn't stomach this scene. The camera actually pans away from the torture and stares into a corner, as if the movie itself is too freaked out to watch what's happening. And when the camera finally pans back, the cop is missing an ear. Tarantino has gone on to film plenty of other disturbing scenes—a lynching, a Mandingo fight, a baseball bat execution—but none have the shocking impact of the ear amputation, and we never even saw it happen.

Hungry hyenas

Some bad guys deserve to die gruesome deaths. Scar from The Lion King is definitely one of those bad guys. Played by the inimitable Jeremy Irons, Scar killed his awesome older brother, tried to murder his adorable nephew, unleashed a horde of hyenas on the pride lands, and plunged the savannah into famine. Of course, as this is a Disney movie, Scar's death can't be too gruesome, right? He'll probably just fall off a cliff or something, right?

Nope. Not exactly. After coming back to reclaim his throne, Simba (Matthew Broderick) does toss him off the side of Pride Rock. But when Scar gets back up, he's surrounded by his hyena army. Unfortunately for Scar, he just majorly dissed his lackeys and tried to sell them out, so now the starving carnivores want to turn their boss into brunch. Encircled by flames, Scar has nowhere to run as the hyenas pounce. We watch as his death plays out in shadows on the rocks behind him, and while we can only see shapes and outlines, it's impossible not to imagine those hungry hyenas going all National Geographic.

One last coin toss

No Country for Old Men is full of unseen horrors. A guy is strangled by handcuffs slightly out of frame. A terrified crook is executed behind a shower curtain. The dude we've been rooting for the whole time is unceremoniously murdered off-camera. But perhaps the most chilling offscreen moment comes when bowl-cutted butcher Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) confronts Carla Jean Moss (Kelly Macdonald).

Having just returned from her husband's funeral, Carla Jean is appropriately dressed in black when she finds the angel of death waiting in her bedroom. Earlier in the film, Chigurh promised Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) that he'd murder Carla Jean if he didn't hand over a suitcase full of cash. Llewelyn didn't listen, so Chigurh shows up at the Moss residence to keep his promise. However, before pulling the trigger, the hitman does the old coin toss trick, giving Carla Jean a chance to save herself.

Baffled by his bizarre ethics, Carla Jean refuses to play his game, and while Chigurh is initially confused by her decision, her refusal to cooperate doesn't slow him down for long. You can run, beg, and resist all you like. Death is going to get you eventually. And while we don't see Carla Jean's fate, it's pretty clear what went down when Chigurh steps outside her house, pauses for a moment on the porch, and check his boots for blood. Fortunately for angry audience members, Chigurh doesn't get away with his evil deeds as he...oh wait, he totally does.

I'm finished!

A brutal takedown of capitalism, religion and American society, There Will Be Blood also features Daniel Day-Lewis at his over-the-top best. For most of the movie, Day-Lewis keeps his rage at a steady simmer, but at the end, he absolutely explodes, morphing into a madman determined to beat some sense into a sleazy preacher.

From the moment they meet, you just know oil tycoon Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) will inflict some serious pain on the self-proclaimed prophet Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). The two spend most of the film trying to outmaneuver and humiliate one another, and everything comes to a bloody head after an intense conversation about oil wells and milkshakes. Realizing Plainview has finally flipped his lid, Eli takes off running down the businessman's bowling alley, dodging Daniel's bowling balls and frantically trying to crawl away.

Things get grisly when Plainview picks up a bowling pin and begins wailing away on the preacher's head. After the initial blow, the camera plays completely on Plainview as he bashes Eli's skull to a bloody pulp. The sound design here is disgustingly effective, as we hear the pin crack against his head like a hammer on a coconut. It's both chilling and cathartic — admit it, Eli totally deserved it — and we're appropriately appalled and awestruck by the time Plainview is finished.

Terror in the tent

If Ben Wheatley is in the director's chair, brace yourself for an assault of unsettling visuals. Kill List, High-Rise, and Free Fire all have moments that will make you cringe, gasp, or cover your eyes. But when it comes to acid-fueled nightmares that leave you feeling completely creeped out, nothing beats the terrifying tent scene from A Field in England.

Set during the English Civil War, this black-and-white thriller follows a ragtag bunch who've fled from a nearby battle. Eventually, they encounter a dangerous alchemist named O'Neill (Michael Smiley) who's searching for a missing treasure. O'Neill believes that one member of this group — a cowardly alchemist's assistant named Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) — can lead him to the buried loot, but the magician has a very eerie way of convincing Whitehead to cooperate.

O'Neill leads his prisoner inside a tent, shuts the flap, and then...something happens. We never see inside the tent, we just hear Whitehead letting out the most agonizing, ghoulish screams imaginable. They're so bad that one of Whitehead's companions desperately covers his ears because he can't take it anymore. The scene goes on and on, and we're left wondering what O'Neill is doing. Is he torturing Whitehead? Raping him? Is it a possession? We never know. We're just left to wonder in horror, until Whitehead stumbles out of the tent, grinning like a crazy person and eager to hunt for the treasure. The mystery of the scene is maddening, and we're left wondering what happened inside that tent long after the credits roll.