Even though they’re the most recent examples, Logan and Deadpool aren’t the only R-rated superhero films. In fact, dating back to the ‘80s, there have been some incredibly brutal superhero films, with varying degrees of success. We’ve compiled a list of the 15 most brutal R-rated superhero films that show just how extreme these movies can get. No, these aren’t the “best” superhero films ever, but each one on this ranking pushes the envelope to give audiences an R-rated experience.
Calling a film “brutal” can mean a lot of things in film. Of course, you can mean that a film is brutal by showing extreme violence. Sometimes a movie is hard to watch because it makes audiences feel the brutal emotion. Honestly, there are even movies that are brutal to watch because they torture the audiences with how awful they are. The films on this list run the gamut of the different types of brutality. One thing is for sure, each movie earns its place in this ranking. With that, let’s take a look at the 15 most brutal R-rated Superhero films ever!
WARNING: THIS LIST CONTAINS VIOLENT IMAGES THAT COULD BE DISTURBING FOR SOME READERS.
15. V FOR VENDETTA
V for Vendetta is a really good adaptation of the classic Alan Moore and David Lloyd comic series. Written and produced by the Wachowskis, V for Vendetta has tons of style and great performances. Of course, the film’s themes and violence help earn its R-rating, but the truly brutal parts aren’t the obvious scenes. There are many scenes that show V killing people with knives in spectacular fashion, but even with that violence, the most brutal moments are perhaps some of the quietest.
The scenes where Evey is tortured for information about V are hard to watch. Seeing Natalie Portman’s performance really makes you feel the pain she is enduring. There are also plenty of flashbacks that show V’s history and torture in a version of a concentration camp. These flashbacks and Evey’s torture are way more brutal than any stabbing shown on screen.
14. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE
It’s no surprise that a Punisher film is on this list. By the very nature of the character, any Punisher film is going to be brutal. The most brutal of the films featuring the character is none other than Punisher: War Zone, directed by Lexi Alexander. The film was released and forgotten pretty quickly due to its poor reviews and audiences not being able to get past the campiness.
No matter what you might think of the storyline or acting, the film is definitely brutal. Frank Castle goes through the film killing people in horrific ways. Limbs fly off, faces get mangled, and blood is spattered all over the place. This is a no-holds-barred version of the Marvel character. The amount of over-the-top violence in the film makes the Thomas Jane 2004 Punisher film look like a kid’s movie.
13. THE TOXIC AVENGER
The Toxic Avenger revels in its own absurdity. The movie tells the story of a nerdy, bullied guy who gets exposed to a bunch of toxic waste, turning him into a deformed superhero. Many people know that much about the hero and the film, but for those who have seen the movie, they know The Toxic Avenger is one of the most violent superhero films of all time, with the main hero murdering people.
The most brutal part of the film is a scene that doesn’t even feature Toxie. There is a scene where the bad guys are drinking and driving at night, talking about getting points for killing people with their car. One of them goes over the rules, first naming every racial epithet and giving point totals for each. After that, they see a kid riding his bike, and they decide he’s worth 28 points. Of course, the film doesn’t hold back, and shows them hitting the kid with their car as they laugh. Brutal.
12. BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE
Batman: The Killing Joke is the animated adaptation of the famous Alan Moore and Brian Bolland comic. The film is very controversial with how it adapted the story, and even added a few extra things that divided Batman fans. For some, the idea of making an animated movie based on the comic was a bad idea from the get-go, but they enlisted some high caliber creators to translate the film. Regardless of what you may think of the finished product, Batman: The Killing Joke most definitely has its brutal moments.
The most brutal scene from the film involves Commissioner Gordon being stripped naked and tortured by the Joker. He’s humiliated and walked around on a leash. The worst part is when Joker forces him on a carnival ride where he is shown images of his own daughter after Joker assaulted her. For any fan of Batman and these characters, it’s incredibly difficult to watch.
11. BLADE II
The first two Blade films are regarded as some of the best superhero films of all time. Released well before superheroes and comic book films were seen as profitable, the first two Blade films were pretty big successes. Blade II featured Guillermo Del Toro as director, and Del Toro brought his signature creativity and style to the series.
The film features Blade killing tons of vampires in the most violent ways possible. Using guns and his sword, he slashes through them and mows them down. The brutal violence is one of the film’s strongest points. One scene has Blade cracking necks, smashing skulls, and generally killing tons of security officers before fighting Ron Perlman’s character. Blade takes the sword from Perlman’s character and slices him right down the middle, splitting him completely in two. Ouch!
Deadpool is one of the most successful R-rated films of all time, let alone R-rated superhero films. The film was filled from beginning to end with adult jokes, ridiculous action, and one very weird sex montage. If this was a ranking of the best R-rated superhero films, Deadpool might rank up near the top, but even with its strong acting and fun story, the film isn’t the most brutal ever.
However, when the film wants to show some brutality, it doesn’t hold back. In particular, there’s a scene early on in the film where Deadpool counts his bullets when he’s shooting bad guys. He has one bullet left but more than one bad guy. He then lines them all up and fires the bullet through each of their heads. Blood and brain matter go flying. Then, for good measure, he shoves his swords into a guy. That’s pretty darn brutal.
Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t James Gunn’s first superhero film. Not by a long shot. Before he was exposing the world to Groot and Rocket, he created one of the craziest superhero films of all time in Super. Starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, Super tells the story of a down-on-his-luck guy who becomes a superhero after he gets a message from God.
Instead of being a superhero that apprehends his villains, he uses his wrench to bash their brains in. We’d need a whole list to go through all the brutal moments of the film. No one just dies in Super in a low-key way. Everyone is murdered in a brutal manner. If you want to watch a realistic-verging-on-farcical depiction of superhero violence, do yourself a favor and watch Super.
No one was expecting much when Dredd was released in 2012. The film is based on a long-running comic series, which was very well respected, but most American audiences only knew the character from the incredibly cheesy 1995 Sylvester Stallone film. The 1995 film was an abomination and you almost have to wonder if the filmmakers behind Dredd went over-the-top just in retaliation to the first film.
Dredd is the story of Judges in Mega-City One. The police force is judge, jury, and executioner in this city, and boy, do they execute. The film is filled with slow-mo action scenes that show some incredibly brutality. Blood goes everywhere, limbs get removed, and parts of faces blow off. Audiences even see the ripple effect of bullets as they impact the body. On top of everything, the film is actually really good and well worth a viewing, just not for those who are squeamish.
7. THE CROW
The Crow is a film that is brutal in a couple of different ways. You have violence that is sometimes difficult to watch, of course, but more affectingly, the story is about a man who is murdered after witnessing his fiancée raped and killed. He’s then brought back to life to avenge their deaths, which he does in very violent ways. Since he’s invulnerable, he’s able to throw himself headfirst into danger, and sometimes he has a witty line before killing the bad guys.
The other way in which The Crow is brutal to watch is in the emotions throughout the film. The audience feels all everything in Brandon Lee’s performance, watching Eric rise from the dead and seek vengeance after realizing that there’s no bringing his love back with him. On top of all that, knowing that actor Brandon Lee was killed during the making of this film just adds a brutal emotional weight to everything.
RoboCop is a film that sets the standard for brutal violence in a film. Telling the story of a police officer who is killed on duty and brought back to life as a cyborg, RoboCop is a case study on how to make brutal violence work in a film. From the beginning, where audiences witness Alex Murphy killed in such a spectacular fashion, everyone knows they’re in for a violent ride. Throughout the film, the violence is turned up to 11. In fact, it’s downright gratuitous!
Even though the beginning scene with Murphy’s death is gruesome, the most brutal scene in RoboCop is towards the end where a bad guy drives a van into a huge container of toxic waste. He emerges with his skin melting off his body. The melting man is moaning and yelling, when out of nowhere another bad guy drives his car right into him, making the melting man explode on impact. It’s incredibly brutal.
Watchmen is one of the greatest comic book series of all time. So, when Zack Snyder decided to adapt the series for a big budget film, fans were skeptical. The film turned out to be an almost shot-for-shot remake of the comic, except for a few key scenes and additions. First, the violence is amped up quite a bit. The heroes in the film routinely punch and kick bad guys hard enough to snap the bones in their bodies.
Secondly, and most brutally of all, is that the ending of Watchmen was changed completely from the comic. Snyder explained that he changed the ending “because we did the math, and we figured it took about 15 minutes to explain [the squid’s appearance] correctly.” To fans, this change was egregious and made watching the film a brutal experience. Many would gladly exchange 15 minutes of the slow-mo sex scene or bone breaking for a quality ending.
Kick-Ass is a fun movie about what it would be like for a teenager to become a superhero and try to do some good. While Dave is the star of the film, and our hero, the story gets hijacked every time Hit-Girl comes on screen. Her fun personality, combined with her penchant for murder, makes her the most memorable part of the whole film.
The best and most brutal scenes in Kick-Ass revolve around the little girl who says bad words and murders with a smile on her face. The first scene where Hit-Girl kills a room full of drug dealers while smiling the whole time is a whole new level of brutality. Then, towards the end, she uses extreme gun-fu to murder about a dozen guys in a hallway. Hit-Girl is the combination of adorable and absolutely, uncompromisingly brutal.
3. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: EXTENDED CUT
When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released, fans were divided. Some loved the movie, while many hated every bit of it. However, everyone was interested in checking out the Extended Cut because it was R-rated and supposed to help fill in some of the blanks in the film. Well, not so much.
The film is still brutal to watch. Now, it’s just three hours of brutality. If you can make it through the whole movie in one sitting, congratulations! That’s a true test of willpower. From the silly storyline to the bad acting by multiple people, the Extended Cut is just painful to viewers’ eyes and ears. There isn’t much on this list that tops the brutality of the “Martha” scene. Yep, your two favorite superheroes stop fighting because their moms have the same name. That happened in a major motion picture.
Blade truly paved the way for the modern superhero film. Showing that you can tell a story about a comic book superhero in a serious but fun way was revolutionary at the time. Blade was the antidote to the Schumacher Batman films that ruined comic book movies a few years before it. The best part about the movie was how it never once tried to be a movie for kids, and it set the tone early.
The most brutal scene in the whole movie happens early on when Blade goes to a nightclub. The nightclub is full of vampires dancing and having a grand time. Then, the sprinkler system comes on to soak the club-goers in blood. It’s so over-the-top that it becomes a riot (in more ways than one). Then Blade enters and destroys everyone in the club. It’s so violent and brutal; a perfect way to introduce the character and start the film that started it all!
When you think of brutal R-rated superhero films, you have to consider Logan the best of the best. The film checks all the brutality boxes. Blood, violence and gore? Check. Little girl who is a badass and murders people with no qualms? Check. Innocent family getting murdered in cold blood for helping the heroes out? Check. Emotionally brutal ending when the main character sacrifices himself to protect the innocent? Check!!
Logan is perhaps the best R-rated superhero movie of all time. Taking the character seriously, and showing how ferocious he is, the film gave audiences exactly what they’d been craving – a truly unleashed Wolverine. On top of having incredibly emotional moments, there’s also a scene where Logan goes from bad guy to bad guy, sticking his claws through their skulls. Come on! He’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does is brutal murder.
What’s your favorite BRUTAL R-rated superhero flick? Let us know in the comments!