For the most part, superhero movies tend to be at least teen-friendly, reflected by the fact that many get rated PG-13 in America (and equivalent ratings elsewhere around the world). Every theatrically-released MCU movie, for example, hasn’t been given a higher rating than PG-13, and though on the DC side of things, the content’s sometimes a bit more intense, nothing centering around Wonder Woman, Superman, or Batman has (so far) been given an R-rating, besides the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League.
That sense of superhero movies being accessible to most audiences might be the norm, but it’s not a rule that all filmmakers tackling the genre adhere to. The following movies all demonstrate this well, being intensely violent and very much R-rated, making them less than family-friendly, it’s safe to say. Some are good, and some aren’t so great, but the one thing they have in common is plenty of grisly violence, and they are ranked below, starting with the fairly messy and ending with the total bloodbaths.
10 ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010)
One could argue that by 2010, superhero movies needed a little kick in the ass, with an irreverent, crude, and bloody movie being suitable to do such a thing. Enter Kick-Ass, which electrified the increasingly more popular and box office-dominant genre needed, and became one of the year’s best releases as a result.
It’s a darkly comedic crime/superhero movie that looks at what might more realistically happen were a teenager to decide one day they’d become a vigilante/superhero. It’s an awkward coming-of-age teen comedy and a frenetic action movie all at once, feeling definitely of its time, but still holding up when it comes to delivering visceral thrills and sometimes very brutal action scenes.
9 ‘The Suicide Squad’ (2021)
James Gunn became a household name thanks to being the filmmaker behind the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. For complex reasons, he found himself temporarily out of the MCU. At that point, he made The Suicide Squad for DC, which pushed the already irreverent humor found in his MCU movies further, and also contained a great deal more violence and bloodshed.
2016’s Suicide Squad didn’t get the chance to push things in this regard, with the R-rating for the 2021 reboot/sequel being to the film’s immense benefit. The Suicide Squad is about dangerous anti-heroes/villains going on missions where they’re almost guaranteed to die, meaning that while doing particularly dirty work, their hands should get dirty. And no one can say that this version of The Suicide Squad lacks people fighting brutally (often unsuccessfully) for their lives.
8 ‘Deadpool’ (2016)
When the first Deadpool movie finally got made, the ever-popular fourth-wall-breaking anti-hero wasn’t affiliated with the MCU, though he is a Marvel character. Things have changed now that Deadpool 3 is coming out in a post-Disney/Fox Merger world, but the fact remains that the first Deadpool really used its separation from the milder Marvel movies to its advantage.
The titular character is essentially immortal, leading to him receiving extensive damage throughout and dishing out similarly ferocious violence towards his adversaries. Few superhero movies feature so many people getting shot and love him or hate him; you can’t deny that the character of Deadpool earned the R-rating attached to his first movie.
7 ‘Logan’ (2017)
One year after Deadpool, another legendary Marvel character got a graphically violent and very much R-rated movie, and the bloodiness of its action scenes managed to outdo that 2016 film. The film to do just that was 2017’s Logan, which served as a personal and more grounded story for the titular Logan (AKA Wolverine), where his bleak and repetitive existence is shaken to its core by an interaction with a mutant child on the run from nefarious forces.
The intensity of its violence is one thing that makes it stand out against other X-Men movies and also be regarded as one of the best sequels in recent memory. It doesn’t shy away from the grisliness of what adamantium claws would do in hand-to-hand combat, helping ground Logan as an intense, unique, and suitably thrilling R-rated superhero movie.
6 ‘Dredd’ (2012)
Dredd is about as wonderfully simple as hyper-violent, sci-fi-heavy superhero movies could ever hope to get. It’s about a highly-skilled police task force being assigned a dangerous mission to confront vicious criminals in a high-rise tower, during which they’re allowed to use whatever means necessary to get things done.
After the minimal set-up needed for such a direct plot, Dredd turns into a fairly gleeful series of bombastic and bloody action sequences, all enhanced by frequent slow motion. It doesn’t shy away from showing much, but the fact that it’s all very stylized and takes place in a dystopic setting does mitigate some of the violence’s impact.
5 ‘Turbo Kid’ (2015)
Some people might not classify Turbo Kid as a true superhero movie, but it’s possible to see how it might fit into the genre. It’s also a dark comedy, post-apocalyptic movie, and a violent action film, following a young boy taking on one of his favorite heroes’ persona and setting out to combat evil forces living in the bleak world he inhabits.
It’s a wild movie and can easily count itself as one of the most violent superhero movies of all time, should it tick enough boxes to count as one. It’s a well-executed throwback to splatter-heavy B-movies of the 1980s and works as something that’s both self-aware, something of a parody, but also a film that doesn’t forget to have some heart to it, too.
4 ‘Super’ (2010)
Over a decade before he directed The Suicide Squad, and several years before he made the first Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn made his most violent superhero movie with 2010’s Super. Coming out the same year as Kick-Ass, it has a similar premise, as it involves someone who probably shouldn’t be a vigilante deciding one day to become one anyway, with often disastrous results.
Rainn Wilson plays this unlikely “hero” with conviction, turning in a funny yet also very intense lead performance. His vigilante character likes to use a wrench to enact “justice” on anyone who does anything wrong, leading to some incredibly gruesome violence; some of which is played for dark comedy, and some of which is there to genuinely unsettle and disturb.
3 ‘Watchmen’ (2009)
The compelling and dark superhero movie that likely made Zack Snyder a suitable choice to helm some of DC’s biggest movies, Watchmen, is brooding, gruesome, and very intense. It’s set in an alternate reality where superheroes once existed and were widely celebrated, only to find themselves shunned by society and forced to either give up their professions or work in the shadows.
Even though its story is dark enough to make a high level of violence feel somewhat appropriate, Watchmen pushes even further than you might expect, and the results ensure this isn’t a superhero movie for the squeamish. People explode, get torn apart, and frequently bludgeoned, making Watchmen a movie that certainly puts the “graphic” in “graphic novel adaptation.”
2 ‘Hellboy’ (2019)
By no means is the 2019 version of Hellboy as good as either Hellboy movie that Guillermo del Toro directed, but it is certainly bloodier and gorier than what del Toro made. It does this to further emphasize the horror element in the Hellboy comics, which is fitting, given how the story revolves around one demon protecting Earth from other, more evil demons.
It’s quite ludicrous how far Hellboy pushes things in the violence department, with grotesque creatures and human beings alike being destroyed and torn apart in just about every conceivable way. Even if the film isn’t particularly great, it does succeed in being greatly violent, making it a supremely bloody example of a superhero movie.
1 ‘The Toxic Avenger’ (1984)
Sure, The Toxic Avenger is a tongue-in-cheek kind of movie. It was made with what seemed to be little-to-no budget, and is all the more charming for it. Very little of its violence can be said to look realistic, but even then, you still have to appreciate how far it pushes things, and (more begrudgingly) admire how it doesn’t spare anyone from suffering immense physical damage.
The world of the titular hero is a dangerous and constantly blood-drenched one, with his origin story involving him falling into a vat of toxic waste, thereby becoming the Toxic Avenger. Things only get more gruesome from there, with the non-stop – and ridiculous – carnage making the original Toxic Avenger film the cream of the crop, at least when it comes to assessing what superhero movies are the most violent.
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