Believe it or not, horror films have been thrilling audiences for over 125 years. Considered to be the first horror film ever made, House of the Devil was made in 1896 and featured Mephistopheles, an evil foot soldier of the devil who conjures up some demons to terrify two men who enter his domain — a spooky castle.
The film heralded the start of one of the most beloved genres of film, one which continues to captivate audiences around the world to this day. So-called gore horror movies (or splatter films) have always been a favorite among fans of the genre. They never seem to fade away no matter how disturbing and even gross they can get. In fact, over the years, gory horror movies have tended to keep pushing boundaries when it comes to bloody deaths, mutilation, and every other type of gore filmmakers can think of to include in them.
When used in conjunction with great plots, scripts, and casts, many horror movies have used gore with great effect to create some truly unsettling and terrifying moments in film. However, whether they were great movies or not, this list focuses on the gore alone. Here’s a look at what we think are the goriest horror movies ever, ranked.
Spoiler Alert: Many of the following descriptions contain explicit details of famous scenes from the movies they describe.
This 1985 zombie movie was the third movie in the Night of the Living Dead franchise. As gory and intense as the first two movies were, Day of the Dead took these elements to new levels. Since the film centers around a zombie apocalypse, like its predecessors, Day of the Dead had a wealth of opportunities to throw in lots of violent scenes. While it wasn’t universally loved by critics in comparison to the first two movies, Day of the Dead featured more than enough gore to satisfy even the most ardent fan of it.
Some of its most intense scenes featured people being torn apart, shootings, severed heads, brains, and faces being ripped off. In one of the most disturbing scenes, a character is shot before having his stomach torn open, and is torn limb from limb. All of this intense gore culminates in a long, bloody, and intense final battle scene.
Subsequent remakes of the movie between 2005 and 2018 failed to capture the original movies acclaim. In 2021, a sTV series based on Day of the Dead was released and enjoyed a relatively successful first season. However, at the time of this article, a second season had not yet been confirmed.
This cult classic made in 2004 was an instant hit and a breakout film for the now acclaimed James Wan. His directorial debut, Saw‘s popularity saw it go on to spawn an entire franchise that included eight more movies to date.While the movie arguably wasn’t as gruesome as other notable gore horror classics, its unique plot and stellar directing made it an incredibly uncomfortable and suspenseful watch.
That isn’t to say that there was no gore at all. In the movie’s most famous scene, one of the main characters who shares a claustrophobic bathroom cell after being abducted and chained up has to eventually saw of his own leg to escape. The chilling moment creeps under the skin of viewers as it forces one to contemplate being stuck in the same situation.
In many of the sequels, the levels of gore and violence are pushed much further. However, Saw makes the list for its brilliant plot and sheer creepiness that added masterful layers of suspense to the gore, making it one unbearably disquieting film at the time. The franchise’s popularity means it’s been green lighted for a 10th installment in 2023.
Horror movies featuring everyone’s favorite undead monsters often provide the best opportunities to add in some gore. This particular classic from Lucio Fulci has a bit of a confusing title, because it’s not actually a sequel. Due to misleading marketing, the Italian film was advertised as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead (which was titled Zombie in Italy). Regardless, the acclaimed 1979 movie Zombie 2 (or Zombi 2) redefined Italian horror cinema in the 1980s through its popularity.
The film featured some pretty intense gore scenes, including an infamous eye-gouging one. It also showcased a scene in which a zombie attacks a shark. Seeing as this was way back in 1979 when CGI wasn’t available, this made for some pretty inventive filmmaking. The movie was rated 18 due to its extreme violence and was also classified as a ‘video nasty.’
An extreme revenge film, the French horror movie Martyrs polarized audiences and critics for its dark and graphic nature. Deeply psychologically disturbing, the film portrays the horrific revenge plot metered out by a woman and her friend after they track down the family that tortured her as a child.
It features some truly unsettling torture scenes, shootings, and brutal fights to the death. When the film was screened at the Marché du Film(a famous film market in France), it resulted in many people walking out. During other infamous screenings, the film caused people to collapse and throw up due to its highly gory nature and psychologically chilling tropes. While it was categorized as an extremely divisive film, it still received generally good ratings from critics. In 2015, an American remake of the film was released by Anchor Bay Films but was a critical failure.
Society was a 1989 horror movie that featured the tale of a rich kid from Beverley Hills who learns that his family belong to a murderous cult. While it was shot and completed in 1989, the movie had to wait another three years to be released in the USA. Also falling into another subgenre of horror known as body horror, the movie is infamous for some wildly over-the-top gore scenes and extreme body mutilations (not to mention a demonic, blood-soaked orgy).
While many critics categorized it as not being an overly serious film, it was still highly rated in some circles and even cracked some lists for the top 100 greatest horror movies in history. The film was also recognized for its effects and make up. Its most famous scene features a “shunting” or extreme mutilation and deformation of a human body.
Hellraiser is a cult classic based on Clive Barker’s disturbing novella The Hellbound Heart, and tells the dark and twisted tale of a hedonistic man named Frank Cotton who unwittingly unleashes unimaginable pain on himself. By opening a mysterious puzzle box while on a quest to attain new levels of carnal pleasure, Frank summons the Cenobites, a monstrous race of creatures for whom pleasure and pain are indistinguishable.
The Cenobites unleash extreme forms of sadomasochism on Frank and the results make for some often ridiculously gory torture scenes. The film was originally rated X and had to be shortened to have its most explicit and graphic scenes cut in order to be released. The film has spawned multiple follow-up movies. In 2022, the franchise received a reboot also named Hellraiser, which featured a newly imagined crop of Cenobites.