By the time you’re old enough to read this, you’re probably more or less used to having a heart. Inside your chest, this powerful muscle pumps all the blood you need to survive, every second of every day. We say we love things with our hearts because, in some respects, our heart is all we have. The symbol of romantic love is life itself; think about that this Valentine’s Day, won’t you?
And also, think about all the grueling heart trauma we’ve witnessed over the years as horror movie fans. The image of blood splattering is one of the indelible shots in the entire horror genre, and sometimes our favorite movies go one step further and go right to the source. Some movies try to rip your heart out with emotional storylines, and others rip hearts out using practical effects.
It’s gross and incredible, all at the same time, so it’s time to pay tribute to our favorite heart-pounding human heart scenes in movies. These are our ten favorite moments, many of them in the horror genre (but not all of them), that got us pumped by ripping out our pumpers!
BEYOND THE DARKNESS (1979)
BEYOND THE DARKNESS emerged from the mixed-up mind of Joe D’Amato, who was no stranger to the gore genre. He directed the disgusting ANTHROPOPHAGUS, after all, and even snuck a heart-eating scene into the otherwise childish CAVE DWELLERS (which was later lampooned on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000).
But few of D’Amato’s films are as depraved as BEYOND THE DARKNESS, a sleazy orgy of cannibalism and necrophilia about a man who copes with the death of his wife by slaughtering, devouring and stuffing a series of victims. In one scene he pulls out the organs of his latest slay like they were Laffy Taffy, and when he finally gets to the heart, he can’t help himself. If you can’t eat your heart out…eat someone else’s!
BORDELLO OF BLOOD (1996)
The second TALES FROM THE CRYPT feature film was even goofier than the first. Dennis Miller (yes, really) stars as a private detective investigating the mysterious disappearance of Corey Feldman, who has fallen prey to a nest of topless vampires who operate a sex dungeon from the basement of a mortuary.
The head vampire is played by the statuesque Angie Everheart, whose character actually has an “ever-heart,” in that her heart lives on forever, even if it’s cut into pieces. At the beginning of BORDELLO OF BLOOD those pieces are reunited, and she reconstitutes herself in bloody fashion, before spending the rest of the film draining and occasionally punching out everyone else’s hearts. (Oh Angie, you already won our hearts fair and square!)
DUMB AND DUMBER (1994)
The blockbuster comedy from The Farrelly Brothers is, perhaps, one of the most aptly titled films in movie history. This dumb-dumb-dumb comedy stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as two dolts who travel across country to return a briefcase to a beautiful woman, getting in a series of misadventures along the way that involve dog cars, decapitated birds and explosive diarrhea.
And, in one of the film’s funniest moments, ripping a guy’s heart out of his chest and putting it in a doggy bag. Sure, it’s a dream sequence but watching Jim Carrey prove his masculinity to the woman of his dreams, with straight-up murder at a restaurant, is gleefully over the top. And, like many of the jokes in DUMB AND DUMBER, totally gross.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996)
Quentin Tarantino makes high-falutin’ films nowadays about important social issues set in the ol’ west, but back in 1996 he also wrote and starred in a vampire movie, directed by Robert Rodriguez back when both filmmakers seemed like The Second Coming. Tarantino and Clooney play bank robbers who kidnap a pastor and his family in order to sneak across the Mexican border, and then – halfway through the movie, and out of nowhere – they are all attacked by vampire strippers.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is a brassy and out of control movie, filled with crazy images and daffy ideas. One of the best is this particular moment, when a strip club patron played by Fred Williamson takes a squishy, detached but still beating vampire heart and impales it with a pencil. It’s icky, it’s awesome, and it’s just one great moment in a film with a whole lot of them.
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984)
One of the most graphic heart-ripping moments in movie history is in a movie that’s rated PG. They say that’s because “PG-13” hadn’t been invented yet, but come on… this is freakin’ gross and would never have gotten away with anything less than an “R” today.
In any case, Steven Spielberg’s impish sequel to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is one of the filmmaker’s most inventive, but most childish movies. It’s the film that gave badass archaeologist Indiana Jones a kid sidekick, a screeching love interest, and made them both eat bugs and monkey brains. Meanwhile, an Indian cult is so busy tearing beating hearts out of chest cavities that they have completely neglecting proper maintenance on their mining cart tracks. INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is wild, woolly, crazy fun… and one of the many 1980s movies that probably scarred a generation for life.
JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)
The ninth FRIDAY THE 13TH movie has a somewhat troubled reputation amongst fans of the series, partly because it dramatically rewrites the rules of the series and partly because it was seriously chopped up in the editing room. But a lot of crazy memorable moments survived the butchering process, including an epic opening in which undead serial killer Jason Voorhees is obliterated by a heavily-armed military force, and the even nuttier moment that followed when the doctors finally get his corpse on the slab.
Because the thing is, if you actually have the body of Jason Voorhees on the coroner’s table, it’s kind of an irresistible moment. There’s nothing preventing you from picking up Jason’s wretched, black, pus-filled heart and taking a big bite out of it. And then another bite, and then another. It looks gross to the audience but come on, this guy wouldn’t actually have eaten the whole heart if it wasn’t delicious. Would he? Would he…?
THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992)
Michael Mann’s sumptuous adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s colonial adventure has everything: action, drama, politics, social commentary and a villain who plans to rip out his enemy’s heart after murdering the dude’s children, so his seed will have been wiped off the earth forever.
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the rugged hero Hawkeye, Madeline Stowe plays his dignified love interest and most importantly, Wes Studi plays Magua, whose vendetta against Stowe’s father is all-consuming. Studi is one of the great movie villains in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, and somehow the scene where he finally stands over his nemesis, heart in hand, isn’t even his most badass scene in the film. But it’s wrenching nevertheless.
MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE (1983)
Poor Mr. Creosote. In MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE, the British comedy troupe explores many of the most important human experiences, including religion and sexuality and organ donation. It also features one of Monty Python’s funniest and most disgusting scenes, in which a comically obese gentleman (Terry Jones) enters a restaurant, eats everything in sight, and is then tempted to have just one more, wafer-thin mint by an enabling waiter, played by John Cleese.
What follows is an explosively funny punchline, absolutely repugnant but undeniably amusing until the sequence’s final image: Mr. Creosote, hollowed hot, somehow still alive because his little heart is still beating. It’s funny because he doesn’t seem terribly phased by the experience, but it’s horrifying for every other reason imaginable. Holy crap, Monty Python. Holy crap.
It’s one of the most incredible horror movies ever produced, stylish and colorful and impeccable scored by Goblin. SUSPIRIA is a film for the history books, still studied today for its dreamlike imagery and plot, about a young ballet student who discovers that her school is also home to an ancient evil with seemingly godlike powers.
It is also – and this is very important – violent as all hell. Dario Argento is known for his brutal murder scenes but the opening of SUSPIRIA is one of his most dastardly, in which a young woman gets stabbed in the heart, after her chest has been exposed, so we can actually seen the knife penetrate the muscle. And on top of that, she is then hung in mid-air, breaking through glass that also kills her good friend. It’s shocking and terrible and filmed with such an eye for beauty that it will probably always give audiences mixed feelings (but mostly the willies).
THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER (1982)
Albert Pyun may not be known for making great movies (his credits include BRAINSMASHER… A LOVE STORY and the infamous 1990 version of CAPTAIN AMERICA), but we’ll go to bat for this film. His 1982 fantasy adventure THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER is every sleazy pulp novel cover come to life, packed with monsters and sword fights and sensuality and a flip sense of humor. Also, there’s a bastard sword with three blades, two of which shoot out like bullets. How many other movies can say that?
And how many other movies can claim that they have a scene where someone’s heart gets ripped out from across the room? We’ve seen a lot of films on this list where someone reaches into the chest of their enemy and pulls out their heart, but Xusia of Delos (Richard Moll from HOUSE) just reaches out his hand and hearts explode out of chests and fly into his waiting mitts. It’s one hell of a great scene that tells you everything THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER is about: crazy good times. Totally irresponsible and ridiculous, but crazy and good.