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The most messed-up sci-fi movie moments

Science fiction movies can be a lot of fun. Take the original Star Wars or The Iron Giant, for example. Sure, these films might have some intense scenes, but for the most part, they're family-friendly and relatively free of nightmare fuel. But in a genre filled with aliens, monsters, and crazy experiments, science fiction has tendency to get really, really dark. One moment, we might be watching an entertaining movie about space explorers and eccentric inventors; the next, we've got torture, terror, and evil extraterrestrials hunting down our heroes. And sometimes, these scenes can really stick with us, leaving us traumatized and wishing for a time machine so we could go back to the past and hit the "stop" button before things get gruesome. From uncanny androids and demented dystopias to unsettling science projects and bizarre body horror, these are the most messed-up sci-fi moments of all time.

Here come the pod people - Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is playing on some really primal fears. We've got body horror, doppelgängers, and people afraid they might die in their sleep. And in a movie filled with screwed-up scenes (that freaky dog), maybe the most disturbing moment comes when we finally see the pod people in action.

To set the scene, Dr. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) is a San Francisco psychologist who stumbles upon an extraterrestrial conspiracy. Creatures from another world have infiltrated Earth, and they plan on creating emotionless clones of human beings using gigantic vegetable pods. That might sound corny, but it's actually pretty disgusting when we see their methods firsthand, as Matthew takes a nap next to a garden full of alien pods.

As he tries to sleep, one of the pods bursts open, and little tendrils wrap around Matthew's arm, sucking his life force and creating his mirror image. Soon, the pod gives birth to a slimy, silk-covered fetus, one that shakes and groans and drips with goo. In just a matter of seconds, the monstrous clone starts resembling Matthew, but fortunately for our hero, he wakes up in time to find a garden full of gelatinous pod people, all writhing, wriggling, and covered in slime.

Disgusted and horrified, he grabs a gardening hoe and goes to town on his clone. By the time it's all done, even the thought of a salad is enough to make us sick.

Kicking and screaming - Blade Runner

Being a replicant isn't easy. Sure, you've got perfect features, super strength, and a supreme intellect. But you're only going to live for four years, and you'll spend every moment working as a slave. And if you try escaping your off-world colony and coming back to Earth, pistol-packing blade runners are going to fill you full of lead.

So while Pris (Daryl Hannah) might be a creepy murder-bot, we totally understand where she's coming from. She didn't sign up to be a sex worker. She doesn't want to die on her fourth birthday. All she wants is to live a little longer and to have her freedom. And when blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) shows up, weapon in hand, there's part of us that wants Pris to make it out alive.

For moment there, it seems like Pris might have a fighting chance. Using some crazy gymnastics, she tries crushing Deckard's head between her thighs, but it's hard to beat a bullet. Deckard shoots her in the gut, and that's when things get hard to watch. Pris drops to the floor and begins flopping, flailing, and screaming bloody murder. Maybe the bullet is causing her to malfunction, or perhaps it's the immense pain and the intense rage of having her life cut short. It's so upsetting to watch that even Deckard looks traumatized as he finishes the job, leaving everybody with a sick feeling in their stomach — especially Pris.

Bennings and the beast - The Thing

The Thing might be set in the icy wastelands of Antarctica, but it's a movie that oozes with gore and drips with juice. It's one of the slimiest movies ever made, and things get especially nasty when poor Bennings is assimilated by the Thing. A meteorologist at U.S. Outpost 31, Bennings (Peter Maloney) gets too close to the charred remains of the "Split Face" Thing and finds himself wrapped in a horrible hug, with intestine-like tentacles crawling around his body.

By this point, we're reaching for the barf bag, but that's when things go from disgusting to surreal. Still in the middle of assimilating the scientist, Bennings-Things stumbles into the snow, hoping to hide from the rest of the crew so it can finish its transformation. But MacReady (Kurt Russell) and the rest of the outpost find the monster kneeling in the snow, and when they approach, they see the Bennings-Thing has gigantic deformed hands and cold, soulless eyes. It's a super upsetting image and only gets worse when the Thing lets loose with a demonic dinosaur roar. MacReady, hurry up and set this thing on fire already.

You have 20 seconds to comply - RoboCop

RoboCop is a messed-up movie. A radioactive mutant gets splattered across a windshield like he's a big, fat bug. A cop is tortured to death by a gang of shotgun-toting freaks. And then there's the scene when ED-209 turns a man into marinara sauce through the magic of machine guns.

Set in a dystopian Detroit, RoboCop finds the Motor City in desperate need of a hero. Crime is rampant, and officials have turned to mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products for help. So Senior Vice President Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) designs a massive robo-tank called ED-209. Hoping to prove his creation is ready to clean up the street, Jones asks an unfortunate executive named Mr. Kinney (Kevin Page) to volunteer for a test drive. Kinney picks up a pistol and pretends to be a criminal, and ED-209 orders the executive to lay down his weapon in 20 seconds or suffer the consequences. Kinney quickly tosses the gun aside... but ED keeps on counting.

It seems this robot still has a few bugs, and it's fixing to lay down the law. The frightened executive screams for help and tries to escape, but when ED-209 finishes the countdown, it unloads on Mr. Kinney with two massive machine guns, ripping the man apart and sending him staggering across the room. Really, just one bullet would do the trick, but ED keeps firing and firing, and soon, the bullet-ridden body looks more like the Kool-Aid Man than poor Mr. Kinney. 

Neo is speechless - The Matrix

Released in 1999, The Matrix is just as amazing today as it was when it hit theaters 20 years ago. And you know what also holds up all these years later? That interrogation scene. It's still one of the freakiest things you'll ever see in a sci-fi movie.

Played by Keanu Reeves, Neo is a computer hacker who's been arrested by the Agents, men in black hunting for a freedom fighter named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). The Agents offer to clear Neo's record if he'll lead them to Morpheus, but the hacker responds by asking for a phone call and giving them the finger.

That's when Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) asks a bone-chilling question. "What good is a phone call if you're unable to speak?" At first, Neo thinks they're going to sock him in the jaw... but that's when his mouth actually disappears. His lips vanish, skin melts over his teeth, and Neo goes into full-blown panic mode.

Things get worse when the Agents pin Neo to a table and decide to bug him... literally. Smith pulls out a little metal microphone that morphs into an insect, complete with whip-like tentacles and a nasty, wriggling body. The bug lands on Neo and burrows its way into his belly button. Sure it's all a simulation, but that doesn't make it any less disgusting. And what's truly messed-up is that during all this, Neo has no mouth, and he so badly has to scream.

Flashes of hell - Event Horizon

Mash The Shining with Hellraiser, put that on a spaceship, and you've got Event Horizon. The title refers to a mysterious spaceship that entered a portal into Hell — that's right, Hell — and came back out a sentient being. Needless to say, the ship isn't interested in bravely exploring new worlds. Instead, it wants to shuttle new victims back to the bad place, and that's not great news for Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) and his search-and-rescue crew. They were supposed to look for survivors aboard the ship, and now, their immortal souls are in peril.

On top of the haunted vessel, they've also got to worry about Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill), the man who designed the Event Horizon. He's been possessed by the ship, and he's all gung-ho about sending Miller and company to the lake of fire so they can experience some good old-fashioned torture. In the big climax, Miller is desperately trying to stop the hellbound ship when a mutilated Weir — looking like Pinhead's cousin — arrives on the scene, eager to show him the wonderful sights in store for his crew. Miller is treated to a lightning-fast montage of horrible tortures. We see maggots and spikes, chains and barbed wire, flayed flesh and a whole lot of blood. It all happens incredibly fast, but that's what makes it so awful. We just get quick little glimpses, our imagination fills in the blanks, and the result is hell to watch.

Sci-fi's scariest surgeon - Minority Report

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Minority Report finds Captain John Anderton (Tom Cruise) in a tricky situation. Anderton lives in a city where there's no more murder courtesy of PreCrime, a system that predicts murders before they happen. But now the respected police officer is in trouble, as the system says he's going to kill a stranger in 36 hours. Desperate to clear his name and avoid the world's creepiest prison, Anderton goes on the run, but that's easier said than done when you're living in 2054.

In this futuristic world, there are eye scanners everywhere, and if they get a glimpse at your irises, Big Brother will know exactly where you are. In order to avoid detection, Anderton needs eye replacement surgery courtesy of sci-fi's scariest surgeon. Played to pervy perfection by Peter Stormare, this disgusting doctor makes our skin crawl from the moment he appears. He's got snot running down his face. His surgical instruments look like the tools of a serial killer. He sneaks up on Anderton and surreptitiously injects with him anesthesia. And as the cop gets sleepy, the surgeon drops a bombshell.

As it turns out, Anderton busted this guy years ago... for setting his patients on fire. That's not what you want to hear before going under the knife, especially with your eyeballs on the line. From the dingy operating space to the surgeon's demented assistant, everything about this scene just makes us squirm. Surgeons are scary enough in sterilized hospitals, but when you've got a psycho doctor carving out your corneas, well, we'll take our chances with the eye scanners.

A really bad trip - Beyond the Black Rainbow

Beyond the Black Rainbow is a trip, man. We're not going to pretend we 100 percent understand what this movie is about, but its mind-bending imagery certainly makes it worth watching, especially the moment when Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) crosses over to the other side and absolutely loses his mind.

In a flashback set in 1966, we watch as Dr. Nyle embarks on a "great journey" by submerging himself in an oily black pool. By slipping into this bizarre realm, he hopes to expand his mind and find transcendence. But after he disappears into the void, he finds himself trapped in the world's worst acid trip. The images flashing onscreen feel like scenes taken from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Under the Skin, and Mandy, all blended together to create a hellish concoction. We see roaring flames, melting skulls, and rolling purple clouds, and when Nyle pulls himself out of the pit, covered in tar, his sanity is gone for good.

Things only escalate from here, with Nyle going full vampire on a horrified colleague. And if you aren't grossed out yet, a second scientist decides it's a good idea to dip an adorable little baby in the black pit. It's no wonder Nyle has gone mad, and by the end of this scene, so have we.

Old Seth falls to pieces - Looper

Young Seth (Paul Dano) is just a side character in Looper, the time travel masterpiece from Rian Johnson, but he might have the most memorable scene in the entire movie, thanks to some poor career choices. Seth is a hitman living in 2044, but his employers are living 30 years in the future. They're sci-fi mobsters, and when they want somebody to disappear, they send them back in time so Seth can blast them away with a blunderbuss.

Unfortunately, working as a time-traveling hitman means you've got to kill your older self one day to "close the loop," and as Seth gets grayer, he realizes he's made a horrible deal. So when he's sent back in time to meet his doom, Old Seth (Frank Brennan) decides to skip the whole suicide-by-homicide thing and go on the run. However, the old guy doesn't get very far before noticing a mysterious address carved into his arm. Then a finger disappears, then his nose, and then Old Seth realizes what's going on. 

Young Seth has been kidnapped by the modern-day mob, and they're amputating his body, one piece at a time. We watch in revulsion as Old Seth vanishes before our eyes — a foot, a hand, a tongue — while he frantically tries reach the address and save himself from living decades without limbs, unable to speak or smell. When he finally arrives at the address, deformed beyond belief, we breathe a sigh of relief as the gangsters finally put us all out of our misery.

Dying like a dog - The Lobster

Dating is hard, especially when you're dealing with pressure from friends, family, and government institutions that will turn you into an animal if you don't settle down. Okay, maybe that last part isn't relatable, unless you're in The Lobster. This dystopian comedy finds newly single David (Colin Farrell) living in a bizarro hotel where he's required to find a new partner in 45 days. If he doesn't, he'll be morphed into the animal of his choosing (the eponymous crustacean).

There are quite a few rules for picking a potential mate. For example, partners must share a similar trait, like a chronic limp. But not everyone can find the perfect soulmate. Take David's brother, for instance, who was morphed into a dog. Our bespectacled hero would rather not spend his life as a shellfish, so he hooks up with the sociopathic "Heartless Woman" (Angeliki Papoulia). She takes pleasure in pain and is exceptionally good at hunting down single people, so David has to pretend he's just as cold-blooded as his bride-to-be.

Suspicious, the Heartless Woman puts him to the test, and when David wakes up one fine morning, he finds her looming over his bed. "I killed your brother," she says in a monotone voice. "I left him to die very slowly.... I was kicking him for ages." She even impersonates the dog's dying whimper. David tries to keep calm, but when he sees his sibling soaked in blood, he breaks down crying, blowing his cover. Sure, your girlfriend might not always get along with your family, but this is taking things to an upsetting new level.

Babies taste best - Snowpiercer

Directed by Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer takes place in an icy apocalypse, a world that's covered in snow and subzero temperatures, and the only survivors live aboard the titular train that travels around the globe. Life aboard the locomotive is pretty good... if you live in the front. The folks in the tail section are treated like slaves. They're fed disgusting protein blocks, their children are regularly kidnapped, and anyone who fights back is viciously punished.

Of course, you can only suppress the masses for so long before someone starts a revolution, and that someone's name is Curtis (Chris Evans). The Che Guevara of the caboose, Curtis leads his army through the train, fighting forward one car at a time, in hopes of taking the engine. But as his friends are violently butchered and the revolution peters out, Curtis falls into despair and recounts what life was like in the tail section back in the early days. In short, it was Hannibal Lecter's wildest fantasy.

According to Curtis, in the first months of life aboard, before there were protein blocks for the "scum" to eat, people were on the menu. Worse still, Curtis was one of the cannibals who feasted on human flesh. "You know what I hate about myself?" Curtis asks through tears. "I know what people taste like. I know that babies taste best." On its own, the scene is super disturbing, but what really takes this to the next screwed-up level is this is Captain America admitting to cannibalism.

Max becomes a blood bag - Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is not for the faint of heart. This George Miller movie knows how to disturb, from that unsettling Cesarean to hideously deformed characters. But the most messed-up moment comes early in the film, before the opening title card. After making a mad dash for freedom, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is captured by an army of ghoulish War Boys. These painted-up punks aren't going to kill Max, not yet. Out here in the apocalyptic wastelands, the human body is a valuable resource.

Max is dragged back to the citadel of Immortan Joe, and this fortress feels like a labyrinth in the center of hell. The demonic warboys chain Max spread-eagle and reduce him to a living, breathing blood bag. They forcibly shear his head like he's a sheep as a tattoo artist goes to work on his back, writing down pertinent information like "two good eyes," "multiple scars," and most importantly, Max's blood type, O negative, making him a universal donor. And when it comes time to give blood, it won't be consensual. If Max didn't feel like cattle just yet, a War Boy starts moving in with a fiery brand, aimed straight at the Road Warrior's face. And this is all in the first 10 minutes of the film, setting up a movie that won't shy away from the gross and grotesque.