The 10 Best Torture Scenes in American Cinema

This article was a featured discussion on this week’s episode of Fat Guys at the Movies. Take a listen below. The discussion begins at the 29:20 mark, which is about 2/3 of the way through the show .


With “Hostel: Part II” cutting into the box office this weekend, dirty-basement torture porn is on everyone’s mind. It seems that while Americans don’t like torture in the real world, it’s thoroughly entertaining at the movies. If you don’t like the torture served up in “Hostel: Part II,” check out some of these movies below that have given us the top 10 torture scenes in American cinema.

10. “The Last King of Scotland” (2006)

While much of “The Last King of Scotland” shied away from on-screen depictions of the atrocities that Ugandan dictator Idi Amin committed, we get a taste of his vengeance at the end of the film. Upon discovering the betrayal of his personal physician and close friend, Amin orders Dr. Nicolas Garrigan hung from his flesh.

9. “Payback” (1999)

Mel Gibson is no stranger to torture, as he shows up on this list multiple times. The first appearance is from “Payback” when Bronson (Kris Kristofferson) ties him to a chair and has a lackey hammer away his toes. This little piggy went to market…

8. “The Princess Bride” (1987)

Maybe you were expected Rob Reiner’s other film “Misery” to take a torture award. After all, wasn’t “The Princess Bride” a fairy tale? It was, but Count Tyrone Rugan (Christopher Guest) has that nifty little machine that sucks the life out of you. When it’s turned on full blast for Westley (Carey Elwes), that was classic torture cinema.

7. “Lethal Weapon” (1987)

Mel makes the list again. Before a harrowing escape, the bad guys are rubbing salt in Sgt. Murtaugh’s (Danny Glover) wounds. But it is the electrocution torture of Sgt. Riggs (Mel Gibson) by that candy-eating Chinese guy from “Die Hard” that made my skin crawl.

6. “Casino Royale” (2006)

James Bond has gotten into some hairy situations over the years, but nothing quite as disturbing as the interrogation scene at the end of last year’s “Casino Royale.” Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) lays waste to Bond’s naughty bits in one of the hardest scenes to watch in 007 history.

5. “Braveheart” (1995)

Mel hits the list again, this time as director and on-screen victim. As inspiring as “Braveheart” was, it wasn’t easy to watch William Wallace (Gibson) take his lumps at the end. As bad as it was to be drawn and quartered, what we see in the movie is only half of what the Brits did to you for treason back then.

4. “Hostel” (2006)

No torture list would be complete without Eli Roth’s “Hostel” making the grade. In this case, it’s a toss up between two scenes. Was it worse to watch the full torture of Josh (Derek Richardson), which included drilling into his joints, cutting his Achilles heel and slicing his throat? Or was it worse to watch the Japanese chick get her eye burned out (and eventually cut off by hero Jay Hernandez) with an acetylene torch? You be the judge.

3. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974 and 2003)

Fat Guys Neil Miller and Kevin Carr disagree as to which version of the classic meat-hook scene is worse. Neil cringed at the remake’s graphic nature which was topped off by dipping the victim’s open wound into a bucket of salt. However, Kevin felt the visceral terror of the original, which relied on your imagination to get the best of you, wins the day.

2. “Reservoir Dogs”

There’s no doubt about it. Michael Madsen is a badass in Quentin Tarantino’s movies. But nothing is worse than his character of Vic Vega (aka Mr. Blonde) carving off the ear of an unlucky cop, then dousing him with gasoline.

1. “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)

After appearing three times on this list already, Mel Gibson takes top prize. But after taking the pain in the other films, as director, he gives it back to Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.” It’s impossible to single out an entire scene, but rather characterize more than half of this film as one long, drawn-out torture extravaganza.


“Sin City” (2005), Sure, we don’t see Marv (Mickey Rourke) slice and dice Kevin (Elijah Wood), but the aftermath alone is enough to make us shiver.

(1997), Another unexpected entrant into the list. After getting a job in the porno industry, Trey Parker’s character of pious Mormon Joe Young must prove his mettle by having sex with the 300-pound-plus T-Rex (Ruby Hart) without the help of a stunt cock.

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