Some things, even when fictional, are so horrific they shock even the most cynical people. For instance, the horrible murders that take place in movies. Some shock for their brutality, some for their normalcy, but after watching flicks like Se7en — in which a killer commits a litany of horrific crimes, each styled to illustrate one of the seven deadly sins — you’ll never be the same. AMC’s newest drama, The Killing, premiering on Sun., Apr. 3, at 9PM | 8C, will soon join the ranks, as the series revolves around the killing of a Seattle teenager. But for now focus on the big screen. The following seven flicks having the most-shocking killings. But which movie murder is the one you will need years of therapy to forget?
7. Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo), The Godfather
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) isn’t a monster, right? He’s a family man, and while he’s had all his external enemies whacked there’s no way he’d ever have his sister’s husband killed — not hours after becoming godfather to Rizzi’s son or right after he explicitly said he wasn’t going to kill him, right? But that’s why Rizzi’s murder is so shocking. It’s not bloody, but the way Michael allows his brother-in-law to think he’s gotten a reprieve before he’s strangled to death, well, that’s just cold-blooded.
6. Nash (Jennifer Jason Leigh), The Hitcher
Lashed between two trucks and torn in half, good-natured truck-stop waitress Nash pays the price for the careless flirtation of college boy Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) with a highway hellhound (Rutger Hauer). You don’t see ripping flesh and spilling guts, but no matter: Nash’s grisly end still shocks beyond belief. That kind of wanton and grotesque destruction of the human body is par for the course in horror flicks like Saw — but this was 1986.
5. Miriam Joyce Haines (Kasey Rogers), Strangers on a Train
The strangling of plain little Miriam is terrible, even in an Alfred Hitchcock flick. The murder is terrifying, coldly clever, and perversely gratifying. The bespectacled Miriam stands between her estranged husband and a financially advantageous marriage. So Miriam is lured away from the crowd and has the life choked out of her. The fact that we see her last moments reflected in her fallen glasses as a carousel plays music is just too pitiful.
4. George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), Easy Rider
Hanson discovers dope, hippie chicks, and the lure of the open road. Fun, right? Well, yes. Until he’s beaten to death by rednecks in a scene that still packs a powerful punch. They’re not even after the clean-cut George — he’s just in the wrong company at the wrong time. George’s cruel, brutal, and essentially random death is a slap in the face to anyone clinging to the notion that you reap what you sow.
3. Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), Psycho
Seeing poor Marion screaming and blinking water out of her eyes as she’s slashed and stabbed in the shower by an elderly woman with a big, big knife is bad enough, but the real shock — especially for moviegoers who saw Psycho when it was new — is that, until the moment when Marion’s car sinks beneath the black water of an isolated patch of swamp, her body wrapped in a shower curtain and stuffed in the trunk, it seemed impossible that the main character had died.
2. Tracy Mills (Gwyneth Paltrow), Se7en
When Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) realizes what John Doe (Kevin Spacey) has done — chop off Mills’s wife’s head and send it to him — the only response he can muster is anguished shouts of “No!” The audience is right with him. In a movie full of truly disgusting murders at the hands of Doe, this is the least graphic and yet by far the most shocking and toughest to watch, as the tortured reaction of Pitt, breaking down and then shooting Doe in his anger, is far worse than anything else, even seeing a man who has to feed himself to death or the other horrific crimes of Se7en.
1. Two Cops, The Silence of the Lambs
When the serial killer escapes during a scene in which he’s transported, strapped to an upright gurney and wearing a mask, you know that if he gets out it will be bad. But nothing can prepare one for what Lecter actually does, leaving one cop barely alive and the other totally disemboweled and strung to the bars of his prison cell. Oh, but it get worse than that: the surviving officer is brought into an ambulance and peels off his face to reveal Lecter beneath.