There are only two certainties in life: Death and taxes. And today, we don’t want anything to do with your IRP5’s. Through the wonder of movie magic, people have been getting killed on-screen ever since there even was an “on-screen”. But whereas a poignant death here and there is par for the course for many movies, some take the death-dealing to the extreme, wiping out more people than more Josef Stalin on a bad day.
So to see which title boasts the highest body count around, here are the 10 biggest mass-murdering movies in history.
- 10. We Were Soldiers (Body count: 305)
Of course it would be a war movie that opened proceedings today, because where else besides a Liam Neeson Eastern-European family holiday do you normally find such high mortality rates clustered in one location. In this case, it’s Vietnam in director Randall Wallace’s 2002 inspired-by-a-true-story drama, which sees Mel Gibson as U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore who has to lead his 400 man strong, newly created air cavalry unit to find and eliminate a group of Vietnamese attackers without much intel. Things, of course, do not go as planned. During the course of the resultant battle heavy losses are inflicted on both sides. In real life, the US’s 12-to-1 kill ratio resulted in over 1,800 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong soldiers being killed, whereas they “only” suffered 305 casualties. While the movie doesn’t show every single one of these – because that would make for one horrendously long movie – it does show a fair portion of the fallen.
- 9. Titanic (Body count: 307)
And it bloody well could have been 306, if that damn selfish Rose had just scooched up a little! There was plenty of place on that board!…. Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes. While James Cameron’s blockbuster retelling of the most famous ship accident in history is most widely known for slaying the box office records, it also did it’s fair bit of slaying on the ill-fated crew and passengers of the clearly wrongly identified “unsinkable ship”. Now imagine how much higher this body count would have been had Michael Bay directed the movie!
- 8. Hard Boiled (Body count: 307)
The previous two movies on this list featured a massive military battle and a historical tragedy, two things that you expect to have a high casualty rate. Quite the different scenario in John Woo’s cult Hong Kong action flick classic Hard Boiled, which tells the story of just one badass cop, his rather silly nickname, and his undercover partner laying waste to everything Triad related in front of them… In… Super… Slow… Motion… That… Looks… So… Cool.
Hard Boiled was Woo’s final Hong Kong production before he left to ply his trade in Hollywood, so I guess he decided to go out on 307 bangs!
- 7. Grindhouse: Double Feature (Body count: 310)
Technically, this is kind of cheating, as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse project is essentially two flicks, played back to back. And then you have to include the over the top fake trailers that play throughout the “film”, also adding to the body count. So yeah, a team effort really. Although it has to be noted that Rodriguez’s bloody offering, Planet Terror, is responsible for the bulk of the kills seen on-screen in Grindhouse‘s 190-minute running time. It must also be noted that several of those kills are from an assault rifle used as a prosthetic leg for an amputee stripper played by Rose McGowan, because holy hell did you just read that description?!
- 6. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Body count: 468)
I remember sitting in the cinema watching the second installment of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s epic fantasy trilogy, and hearing the collective gasps of astonishment as the ginormous orc army, marching to besiege Helm’s Deep where our heroes were holed up, appeared on-screen for the first time. Pardon my French, but sainte merde, ce était beaucoup d’orcs. And most of them were about to die. Sometimes, embarrassingly, at the hand of an elf that was a walking Pantene commercial and who “surfed” down stairs on the back of shields.
- 5. The Last Samurai (Body count: 558)
Tom Cruise as a samurai, is admittedly a silly sounding concept at first (would he have to shop in the kiddies section of the samurai armour shop?), but director Edward Zwick made you forget all of that in this epic tale. Samurai were known for being incredible warriors, who could face down incredible odds. And over and over again in this was proven in the movie, whether against US soldiers, Japanese soldiers or even ninjas, as the samurai cut down all in their path with their swords and bows. Unfortunately for them (and the main reason why the movie ends up on this list), swords and bows don’t have much advantage over some gatling guns.
- 4. Troy (Body count: 572)
Maybe I need to rewatch Wolfgang Petersen’s epic Troy, because the only deaths I can remember in the movie are those of Brad Pitt’s Achilles (naturally), Eric Bana’s Hector (at the hands of Achilles) and Garret Hedlund’s Patroclus (after doing a mean Brad Pitt impersonation – man, it really isn’t safe to hang around that guy). Clearly though, based on the huge number up top, many more people died in this retelling of the legendary Trojan War.
- 3. 300 (Body count: 600)
THIS…. IS…. A LOT OF DEAD PEOPLE! Zack Snyder’s feature film adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel adaptation of the real battle of Thermopyle (don’t get confused now) must be the only movie in history that features this many on-screen deaths, where half of them are the heroes!
- 2. Kingdom of Heaven (Body count: 610)
Ridley Scott’s 2005 historical epic Kingdom of Heaven is probably most famous for being Eva Green’s big international breakout role (before that, she was mainly known for breaking out of her clothes in Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial The Dreamers), as well as having one of the greatest “Director’s Cuts” of all time. The film’s theatrical version received a mixed critical response on release, but that version was gimped through cut footage, tweaked story arcs, etc. The real story of what happened during the production isn’t clear, but what is, is that the Director’s Cut which was eventually released was vastly superior.
It added a whopping 45-minutes of extra footage to film, with additional edits all over the place, with the end result being possibly one of the best things Scott has ever done. It is definitely the most violent thing he has ever done though, as his fictionalized account of certain true events of the Crusades racked up a serious body count.
- 1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Body count: 836)
Forget about ruling them all, the final chapter of the Lord of the Rings epic clearly possesses the one ring to kill them all. With a 28% boost in death over its nearest competitor, Return of the King stands decapitated orc head and shoulders above the rest, with scenes like the epic “Ride of the Rohirrim”, the slaughter inflicted by the giant Oliphaunts and the final battle at the Gates of Mordor all adding to its monstrous tally. And that’s not even including all the cinemagoers who died of old age waiting for the movie’s interminably long epilogue to finally come to a close!
BONUS FACT: In case you haven’t noticed, Orlando Bloom appears in four of the movies on this list (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Troy, Kingdom of Heaven, and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King). Clearly this pretty boy elf hides one seriously violent streak.
Last Updated: February 19, 2015