10 Best Splatter Movies of All Time, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes
In many ways, the emergence of ultra-violent horror movies during the 60s was inevitable. Society had started to push back against previous decades’ traditional and conservative ideals. People adopted a more individualistic and, at the time, transgressive view of the world, horror filmmakers being no exception. Horror is built to transgress, and what is more transgressive than showering the screen in gore and guts?
“Splatter films,” as they came to be called, are almost single-handedly responsible for the “video nasty” controversy in the UK, among other “moral panics.” Sam Raimi and his film, The Evil Dead, were a part of that controversy, living on with the soon-to-be-released Evil Dead Rise. From Deadites to demonic clowns, some of the most infamous splatter films ranked by their Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score. Enjoy, but not too much because that would be pretty sick.
10 ‘Maniac’ (1980)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 37%
After a turbulent childhood, Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) funnels his pain and rage into a ruthless killing spree. Frank’s signature is to scalp his victims before taking the trophies home and nailing them to mannequin heads. Filmed on a meager budget, Maniac has since become a cult favorite.
Despite a hostile reception upon release, Maniac was not without compliments, with particular praise given to the effects. With Tom Savini as make-up and effects supervisor, you know you are in for some gnarly sequences. The film’s most infamous bloodletting scene was inspired by the Son of Sam murders, showcasing some of Savini’s most explosive work.
9 ‘Blood Feast’ (1963)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 38%
Blood Feast is the one that started it all. The original “splatter film” was not a good movie, and critics made sure people knew that. However, when you are the first to do something, quality doesn’t matter. The spectacle is enough to fill the seats.
Before the Sixties, a film’s draw was rarely in its depiction of violence. However, Herschell Gordon Lewis, apparently disheartened that an infamous shower scene was not bloody enough, made a film whose sole purpose was bloodshed. Lewis wanted you to experience every knife slice and see every blood drop. And thus, a new genre was born.
8 ‘Toxic Avenger’ (1984)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
Bullied relentlessly, Melvin (Mitch Cohen) is on the cleaning crew at his local health club. Eventually, a freak accident sees Melvin covered in toxic chemicals. The chemicals change Melvin into a monstrous mutant, hellbent on vengeance and leaving mops as his calling card.
The Toxic Avenger was not well-liked by critics at the time of its release, with it being described as sleazy, disgusting, vile, and every adjective in between. That did not stop the film from achieving the coveted “cult classic” status. It’s unclear how the movie got so popular, but the taco shop scene has something to do with it.
7 ‘Planet Terror’ (2007)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Planet Terror was initially released under Grindhouse, a double feature with Deathproof from Quentin Tarantino. Terror follows the residents of a town in Texas after a chemical outbreak begins turning people into violent monsters. There’s nothing to fear, however, because local dancer Cherry (Rose McGowan) has a machine gun for a leg, and she isn’t afraid to use it.
Planet Terror is high-octane, high-body-count fun. Robert Rodriguez, director of Terror, with an evident love for ’70s Grindhouse and an eye for action filmmaking, lets the guts flow. The flesh falls from the zombie’s bodies, blood sprays the camera lens, and Rose McGowan does a lot of shooting with her leg. It rules.
6 ‘Tokyo Gore Police’ (2008)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Sometimes, a movie comes with a title so ridiculous that you wonder whether it will live up to that name. Rest assured, Tokyo Gore Police is precisely what it sounds like. Future Tokyo is crawling with criminals known as Engineers, mutants that have become killing machines, and it is up to the privatized police force to stop them.
Within the first 10 minutes, before the title card even flashes, a man is maimed with a chainsaw and then sliced down the middle with a samurai sword. Believe it or not, it only gets worse or better, depending on your tolerance for body horror. Gore Police is sometimes chaotic, sometimes stomach-churning, and always bloody.
5 ‘The Evil Dead’ (1981)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
The Evil Dead was made for less than $500,000 in the hills of East Tennessee before spawning one of the most successful horror franchises ever. The film was scrutinized heavily upon release for its graphic violence, and almost a full minute had to be trimmed just to be rated X in the UK.
In the film, the dead rise due to a Sumerian incantation played out loud via tape recorder, and there are very few ways to (re)kill the dead once they’ve risen. According to the Necronomicon, the book containing the incantations, total dismemberment is the only way to be sure. So naturally, people are stabbed with pencils and Sumerian daggers, chopped to pieces with shovels and axes, and bodies rapidly decompose before our unfortunate eyes. However, it’s all in good, gory, fun, making Evil Dead the cult franchise it is today.
4 ‘Terrifier 2’ (2022)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
In 2013, Damien Leone introduced the world to Art the Clown. Acting as a demented Virgil, Art was our “guide” through the hellish anthology film, All Hallows Eve. Ten years later, with one successful Art the Clown solo film (Terrifier), Leone unleashed Art again with Terrifier 2.
Leone thankfully keeps virtually everything that worked about the first film and simply multiples it. More horrific practical effects, a higher body count, and even more brutality. It was so effective that fans allegedly passed out and vomited in the theaters. Leone, Art the Clown, and Lauren LaVera (Terrifier 2‘s badass final girl) have carved out their spot in splatter/slasher history.
3 ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
George A. Romero, the trailblazer of the zombie horror genre, might have been one of the first filmmakers to describe his work as “splatter.” Day of the Dead is splatter, but with the social themes that Romero can integrate, maybe it should be called “elevated splatter.”
Day of the Dead is a showcase for Romero and effects artist Tom Savini. From the jawless “Dr. Tongue” of the title card to Captain Rhodes’ “gut-wrenching” demise, Day of the Dead has some of the most iconic scenes in zombie film history. ” Savini’s best work is in the film and he had help from future The Walking Dead effects supervisor Greg Nicotero.
2 ‘Braindead’ (1992)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Peter Jackson has an incredibly diverse filmography. Just take his earlier work, for example. Braindead (or Dead Alive) chronicles a zombie outbreak that could have been avoided if a particular mom had minded her business. An infected monkey bites Vera (Elizabeth Moody) after spying on her son Lionel (Timothy Balme) while he is out on a date.
The ensuing carnage is shocking, especially if you are only aware of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings work. Rib cages are yanked out of chests, and a zombie baby pulls a woman’s head open from the inside, not to mention the lawnmower scene. Braindead is gooey, grindhouse goodness.
1 ‘Psycho’ (1960)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Compared to other splatter films, there is very little on-screen blood in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho. There are only two on-screen deaths. At the time, though, even that amount of violence was gratuitous, and the implied sexuality was scandalous. Lack of blood aside, there is a direct link between Psycho and many splatter films, specifically Blood Feast.
Psycho was unlike anything seen in theaters before, and Hitchcock wanted to maintain the film’s twists. No one was supposed to be allowed into the theater once the title card had been shown. In keeping virtually all movie details to himself until release, Hitchcock delivered the shock he wanted on his terms. The rest is horror (and film) history.
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