Features and Columns · Lists · Movies

10 Gnarliest Horror Movie Decapitations

The horror movie genre offers many grisly delights, but none is as pure and satisfying as the decapitation. We rank the gnarliest actions from the most wicked of movies.
Horror Lists Decapitations
By  · Published on October 14th, 2021

5. Evil Dead II

Evil Dead Ii

You can swing a cat and hit an instantly iconic special effect in the Evil Dead movies, but the shovel decapitation in Evil Dead II is a (quite literal) cut above the rest. As it turns out, when your beloved girlfriend becomes possessed, sometimes the only option is to give her the Marie Antoinette treatment with gardening tools. And, naturally, spectacularly well constructed fake heads sure will roll. Even when fans know how this scene goes down, the delivery of the haunting imagery and the film’s pace is delightfully creepy. Sam Raimi is a true showman who knows how to deliver exactly what viewers want from this scene: an uproarious beheading that’s as impressive as it is horrific. (Anna Swanson)

4. Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Sleepy Hollow

Oh, do you like decapitations? Uh, duh, you’re reading this glorious list. And since you love nothing better than watching a head pop from someone’s shoulders, you must offer Sleepy Hollow your careful study. Tim Burton relishes the Headless Horseman’s story by dishing not one or two beheadings but a good half dozen plus two. There are fourteen severings throughout the film’s runtime, and while it’s difficult to claim one as better than the others, it’s an absolute celebration of this most primal bodily assault. And just in case fourteen decapitations is not enough for you, Burton peppers Sleepy Hollow with numerous other cleavings and punctuations, splashing the screen with so much thick blood that your eyes will be seeing the heartfelt color even when they’re shut, and your dreams will swim with rivers of red. (Brad Gullickson)

3. The Omen (1976)

The Omen Decapitations

The way you know you’ve got an extra spicy decapitation scene on your hands is when a director, in their infinite wisdom, shows said decapitation multiple times from multiple different angles. Such multi-shot delights await in Richard Donner’s The Omen. During a scene that melds satanic majesty with the conniving mechanizations of the Final Destination franchise, photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner), who just so happened to be investigating young Damien on the grounds of being the antichrist, winds up on the wrong end of a sheet of glass.

What was Keith supposed to do? Not go to the construction site to retrieve the daggers intended to kill a (satanic) child? How was he to know that a supernatural force would roll a glass-transporting truck down a hill, straight towards his soft, journalist neck? Maybe don’t get on the wrong side of the antichrist (or a swift-moving pane of glass) next time, Keith. (Meg Shields)

2. Re-Animator (1985)

Re Animator Get A Job In Sideshow

There’s a lot that goes into a good decapitation scene. One of the most important choices is the instrument used for removal. For Herbert West, the tool was a shovel. It’s an unconventional choice but a fun one. See, shovels are good for digging and knocking people out, but using one to take a head off? That requires commitment and hard work. And don’t you dare think it’s going to come off clean. It’s going to be messy, and the cut will be uneven. Think of it as a more rustic approach. West is willing to put in the work. He stomps and stomps, welcoming the blood splatter until he finishes with a beautiful, unique cut. Well done, doctor. (Chris Coffel)

1. The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter's The Thing Decapitation

“You gotta be fucking kidding.” Yeah, a little bit. John Carpenter is clearly delighting in this pornographically absurd decapitation, the climax to what is already an all-time great gore effect, where Norris’ heart attack transforms into a full-bodily eruption. His chest caves in, devouring the doc’s arms, spewing a secondary head from his chest and onto the ceiling, and his original noggin stretches off his neck, onto the floor, and sprouts legs. When Palmer clocks the scurrying cabeza, he lets that iconic line-reading rip.

When ranking decapitations, no other lobbed melon could claim the top prize. This one is not just an effect; it’s a character with its own beginning, middle, and end. Norris’ head is the moment where The Thing jumps from a creepy paranoid thriller into a phantasmagoric apocalypse, a crown jewel within the horror genre, misunderstood and rivaled in its time but properly respected as a masterpiece today. (Brad Gullickson)

Don’t lose your head now, it’s time for more of our 31 Days of Horror Lists!

Pages: 1 2

Related Topics:

Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)