Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Messed-Up Action Movie Moments

The action genre is all about violence. Bad guys get shot and buildings are blown up. Cars crash, skulls are crushed, and people pummel each other with everything from nunchucks to knuckle dusters. As a result, you sometimes get scenes that are bit too intense for the average moviegoing audience. In fact, you might describe these moments as "messed-up." 

Perhaps your favorite character is murdered in a super grisly way. Maybe a villain gets his just desserts, but those desserts aren't so sweet to look at. It could be a torture scene, a clever kill, or a fist fight that leaves you feeling like you might lose your lunch. But whether it's a super bloody sequence or one that leaves you emotionally wrecked, these are scenes no action fan will ever forget. From grindhouse flicks to sci-fi films, these are the most messed-up action movie moments of all time.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 - Getting dragged across concrete

Directed by S. Craig Zahler, Brawl in Cell Block 99 starts off slow, but once things get going, it's one messed-up moment after another. A guy gets his arm shot off, a dude's head is crushed by a door, and an abortion doctor threatens to dissect a woman's unborn baby and mail the body parts to her incarcerated husband. But the gnarliest moment in this grindhouse flick comes when a prison goon gets dragged across concrete.

The film finds Vince Vaughn as Bradley Thomas, a boxer-turned-drug smuggler who winds up inside Cell Block 99 — a hellhole inside the world's worst prison — where he's at the mercy of a Mexican drug lord. Several shocking torture scenes later, the boxer decides to fight back, and in the film's climactic showdown, he battles the drug lord's lackies one at a time. The first guy to step up gets dropped hard and lands face first on the ground. That's when Bradley stomps the back of his head... and begins dragging his face across the concrete floor. Flesh and skin peel off the man's skull, and after one final stomp, the bad guy's face is completely stripped away. In a movie filled with gross-out moments, this one might be the nastiest of the bunch.

Casino Royale - Le Chiffre scratches an itch

James Bond has gotten himself into some pretty tricky situations over the years. He was tossed into a crocodile pit in Live or Let Die, nearly cut in two in Goldfinger, and he visited the world's worst acupuncturist in Spectre. But all those moments pale in comparison to the torture scene from Casino Royale. After crashing his Aston Martin, Bond (Daniel Craig) is kidnapped, stripped down, and tied to a chair... one with the seat cut out. That's so terrorist banker Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) can whack Bond's balls with a thick, knotted rope.

See, Le Chiffre wants Bond to give him a password to an account holding over $100 million. So when Bond refuses, Le Chiffre starts playing paddle-ball with Bond's private parts. While he's usually super cool and composed, 007 can't help but scream in agony as Le Chiffre mangles his manhood. Le Chiffre's methods are so simple — here's no fancy devices or crazy tech involved, and that's what makes the scene so relatable. Half the world's population can totally imagine what Bond is going through.

What makes the scene especially bad are the sound effects. Every time Le Chiffre lands with that knot, there's a dull, nauseating thud. But despite the pain, Bond isn't the kind of guy who cracks, except when it comes to cracking jokes in between blows. Thankfully, Le Chiffre gets a bullet in the brain before he can turn the super spy into a soprano, but we're pretty sure Bond will need a few days before he can get back to his womanizing ways.

Die Hard - Shoot the glass

Die Hard sets up its most gruesome moment in the very first scene. Flying to Los Angeles, New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a little tense. He isn't the biggest fan of airplanes, so a helpful passenger gives him advice on how to survive air travel: after you land, take off your shoes and make fists with your toes. McClane is skeptical at first, but when he gets to Nakatomi Plaza, he discovers this trick works like a charm. But that means when Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and friends show up, McClane doesn't have time to grab his sneakers, and he's forced to fight the bad guys barefoot.

Unfortunately for poor McClane, Gruber notices the cop sans shoes, so the terrorists destroy every single office window in sight. Bullets are whizzing everywhere, and McClane knows he has to make a run for it. There's an exit just a few feet away... but the floor is absolutely covered in glass. Sure, he escapes with his life, but every step is agony. Moments later, we see John dragging himself along the ground, unable to walk, and leaving a thick, crimson trail behind him. His feet are soaking wet with blood, and even though it's not overly gory, it's the simplicity that makes this scene so effective. Everybody knows what it's like to have a sliver of glass in their foot. Imagine those slivers are giant chunks, and it's enough to make you gag hard.

Free Fire - Sweet songs and crushed skulls

Directed by Ben Wheatley, Free Fire is basically one big gunfight. Two groups find themselves trapped in a tiny warehouse, and when things take a wrong turn, everybody ends up shooting one another. There's betrayal and blood galore, and it all starts thanks to Harry (Jack Reynor) and Stevo (Sam Riley). Hot-headed Harry works for an incompetent gun runner, and sadistic Stevo is in with a couple of IRA members hoping to buy assault rifles. And unfortunately for everybody involved, Stevo and Harry hate each other's guts. 

So, when Harry manages to climb into a van and spots an injured Stevo lying on the ground, well, he isn't going to offer the guy a ride. Instead, Stevo's head is right there, begging to be run over. Grinning like a maniac, a beaten and bloodied Harry takes aim and starts driving straight toward his fallen foe, with a terrified Stevo unloading his gun at the van. Sure, one of those bullets manages to kill Harry, but that doesn't stop the van — which is going so incredibly slow — from rolling right over Stevo's head. His skull implodes like it's a rotten watermelon, and what makes the scene especially macabre is that the whole entire time, Harry's van is playing "Annie's Song" by John Denver. It's one of the sweetest love songs ever written, and it makes all the screaming and shooting and pulverizing all the more messed-up.

Inglourious Basterds - A disturbing masterpiece

Inglourious Basterds is not a film for the faint of heart. A woman is violently choked to death. A man is beaten with a baseball bat. An entire family is machine-gunned down. But the most jaw-dropping moment comes in the final few seconds, when Col. Hans Landa has his forehead turned into Lt. Aldo Raine's personal art project.

Played to sinister perfection by Christoph Waltz, Landa is an SS officer who excels at tracking down Jews. He's a great detective using his powers for evil, and he's also an expert when it comes to survival. No matter the situation, Landa finds a way to adapt. So when he sees a way of ditching Hitler and retiring to America in style, he cuts a deal with the U.S. government to get immunity, a medal of honor, and a getaway home on Nantucket Island.

But Landa has killed a whole lot of people, so Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) isn't just going to let him slip away unscathed. At the end of the film, the Nazi-killing basterd pulls out a Bowie knife and goes to work, carving a gigantic swastika into Landa's head. Sure, Landa totally deserves his fascist fate — and far worse, to be honest — but it's still pretty shocking to see him kicking and screaming as that knife slices through his skin. If you're looking for an action movie moment that's both justified and dreadful, well, this one is a bingo.

John Wick - Daisy's death

Movie characters can kill as many people as they want — and in the most gruesome ways possible — and we'll still cheer them on. But the moment they murder a dog, well, that dude deserves the most painful death possible. Canine-killing is an unacceptable crime, and that's especially true in John Wick.  

Keanu Reeves plays the titular assassin, who retired from a life of murder after meeting his true love. But there's no fairy tale ending for Baba Yaga, as John's wife gets sick and slips away. However, John isn't completely alone. Knowing he'd need something to help him move on, John's wife left him with an adorable puppy named Daisy, and boy, does John love that dog. How could he not? It's the cutest beagle in cinematic history. Plus, Daisy offers John hope and a chance to "grieve unalone."

And then a bunch of Russian gangsters show up.

They want John's 1969 Mustang, and when he refuses to hand it over, they beat him senseless and take off with the car. Now, if they'd just stolen the Mustang, that would've been bad enough, but these monsters take it one step further and beat John's dog to death. One moment, Daisy is all cute, happy, and scampering around. The next, John is lying next to her bloody body. When John grabs his guns and goes on a killing spree, we know those fools had it coming.

Kick-Ass - Superhero torture time

Being a superhero isn't easy. That's a lesson David Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) learns the hard way when he puts on a skintight suit and becomes the teenage vigilante known as Kick-Ass. Sure, an accident left him nearly impervious to pain, but when you mess with the Mafia long enough, sooner or later, you're going to get hurt. And in a movie filled with shocking scenes, perhaps the most upsetting moment in Kick-Ass comes when the title character and his superhero compatriot, Big Daddy, are tied to chairs and mercilessly tortured by mobsters.

Enjoying themselves way too much, the Mafiosos live-stream the beatdown for the world to see, and man, do they work these guys over. The mobsters use brass knuckles, batons, and baseball bats. They punch jaws, whack shoulders, and crack kneecaps. Even David's screwed-up nerve endings can't spare him from the nightmare he's going through. Eventually, the gangsters decide it's execution time, and they douse the two heroes with kerosene. Big Daddy plays the Batman card, acting all stoic despite the pain, but David is just a kid, and he breaks down crying as that cigarette lighter gets closer and closer.

Fortunately, that's when Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) shows up to save the day, but she's too late to rescue her superhero father. Big Daddy is cooked alive, with the flames slowly climbing up his legs and engulfing his entire body. Sure, that shoot-out scene is awesome, but when it's all done, Big Daddy has been turned into Burnt Daddy.

Kill Bill Vol. 2 - Eye for an eye

Quentin Tarantino loves his gross-out moments, and the Kill Bill movies are loaded with unsettling sequences. The hero alone goes through hell from the very first scene. Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) is beaten on her wedding day, is repeatedly assaulted while in a coma, and then she's buried alive by a sadistic redneck. But perhaps the most messed-up moment comes at the hands of the Bride herself, when she lays down some Old Testament justice on her eyepatched rival, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah).

The two sword-wielding assassins go to war in a dingy old trailer, and there's nothing noble about this battle. They crash through walls, wrestle on the bathroom floor, and the Bride hurls a can of tobacco spit in Driver's face. It's messy and brutal, and anything that's lying around gets turned into a weapon — a lamp, a chair, a guitar, a TV antenna. The two are covered in blood, dust, and sweat, and that's when Kiddo strikes like a black mamba, plucking out Driver's one good eye.

Completely blind, Driver drops to the floor and begins screaming and flailing like a wounded animal. And that might be a good thing because she doesn't have to watch as the Bride steps on her eyeball. The squishing sound effect is absolutely disgusting, and you might lose your lunch as the eyeball oozes between the Bride's toes. It's the ultimate example of "eye for an eye," and it's a moment you'll never be able to unsee.

Man on Fire - Interrogation time

The moral of Man on Fire is pretty simple: don't abduct kids, especially if that kid's bodyguard is John Creasy (Denzel Washington). If you do, that man will track you down and give you the world's worst manicure. With a background in special ops, Creasy isn't afraid to cross the line, especially when nine-year-old Pita (Dakota Fanning) is in danger. He's got one job to do, and that's to keep Pita safe. So when she's kidnapped by a Mexican cartel, Creasy captures one of the guys involved, strips the dude down to his underwear, and duct tapes his hands to a steering wheel.

At first, Creasy tries to be polite. He asks the man questions about who was involved in Pita's kidnapping. When the dude doesn't reply, that's when the knife comes out. He proceeds to cut off the man's fingers, and when there's nothing left but a bloody stump, he cauterizes the wound with a cigarette lighter. The gangster screams and sweats, the camera jostles and shakes, and Creasy dices those digits with the greatest of ease. We're definitely rooting for Creasy and hopes he gets some answers out of this guy, but we're still watching this scene through our greatly-appreciated fingers.

The Night Comes for Us - Giving the finger

When it comes to martial arts mayhem, The Night Comes for Us is one of the most brutal movies ever made. This is a film where people are hung on meat hooks, a dude takes a box cutter to the face, and pretty much every artery in the human body is severed at one point or another. But the biggest barf moment by far comes when the ladies finally go at it.

On one side, you've got "the Operator" (Julie Estelle), an assassin who's helping our protagonist protect a little girl. On the other side, there's Alma (Dian Sastrowardoyo) and Elena (Hannah Al Rashid), Triad enforcers who slaughter anyone dumb enough to get in their way. These three women have killed quite a few people over the course of the film, and when they finally cross paths, things get incredibly nasty incredibly fast.

They fight with knives, machetes, and a lariat from hell, and after the Operator cuts Alma's throat in the bloodiest way possible, she turns her attention to the one bad guy left standing. The two battle down a hallway, hacking at each other with razor-sharp blades, and then both women just go for broke, swinging as hard as they possibly can. That's when they take a moment to pause and assess their damage. When Elena looks down, her intestines are hanging out of her body. When the Operator looks down, she sees her pinky hanging on by a thread... so she just rips it off and tosses it to the ground. After all, who has time for stitches?

RoboCop - Murdering Alex Murphy

RoboCop does not pull any punches when it comes to violence. The eponymous police officer shoots a bunch of dudes between the legs, a malfunctioning machine turns an office worker into the Kool-Aid Man, and a mutated monster gets splattered all over a windshield. Those moments are so wonderfully over-the-top that you can't help but laugh. The murder of Alex Murphy, on the other hand, is just straight-up sick.

Played by Peter Weller, Officer Alex Murphy is dedicated to keeping the city of Detroit safe from crime. Unfortunately for the noble hero, this city is home to Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), a gangster who makes a sport of killing cops. And when Murphy tracks Boddicker and his gang back to their lair, he quickly finds himself surrounded by shotgun-toting thugs. Boddicker enjoys taunting Murphy, pretending like he might shoot him in the chest or the head before finally blowing off the cop's hand. That's when Boddicker's goons join in on the fun, cackling like hyenas as they unload on the poor policeman.

By the time they're done, Murphy is in shock, covered in blood, and missing an arm. And he's barely got any time to move before Boddicker pulls out a pistol and caps him in the head. Of course, that will turn out to be the biggest mistake this gangster ever made, as Murphy is about to get one extreme makeover. Still, the character's death is extremely upsetting, and what's even more shocking is that director Paul Verhoeven actually had to trim the scene's violence down to get an R-rating.

Upgrade - STEM gets a knife

An action-horror hybrid with plenty of gore to go around, Upgrade follows a mechanic named Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) who wants revenge for his murdered wife. Of course, that's going to be a bit difficult since Grey was paralyzed in the same attack that left his loved one dead. But when he's implanted with an artificial intelligence system named STEM, Grey not only gets the ability to walk, but he also learns some pretty sweet ninja moves.

With STEM helping him move, Grey tracks down one of his assailants and starts throwing punches. At first, the mechanic is totally outmatched, but when he gives STEM full control of his body, suddenly Grey turns into Neo from The Matrix. He's dodging punches, twisting joints, and making this bad guy look like a fool. But things get gross when STEM/Grey grabs a knife. Instead of stabbing somebody like your typical action hero, these two put the blade in the villain's mouth and pull back hard, slicing the dude's head in two. Absolutely disgusted at the sight of this bisected bad guy, Grey rushes to the sink to throw up, and honestly, that's exactly what we're doing too.