We often hear that movies and television are getting more violent and vulgar as every year goes by. It’s true, language restrictions have definitely become more relaxed over the years as certain words once banned on tv are now common. The animated series South Park even made fun of this fact by keeping count of how many times a certain S-word was said over the course of the show. In film, the 2013 movie The Wolf of Wall Street reportedly saw the F-bomb dropped 569 times – an average of 3.16 times every minute!
In terms of violence and on-screen death, it is safe to say that films are generally getting more graphic today than they were even a few decades ago. A quick search around the internet brings up a number of sites which analyze and count up the number of deaths or body count in various films. Looking over the lists it is easy to see that the top 10 is dominated by films of the 2000s. This surprised us here at The Richest as surely the war epics like Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far had some of the highest body counts? We were wrong. Those films are ranked highly in terms of body count, but they come nowhere near the top 10.
The following list gives the Top 10 films in terms of body count. Thanks to the hard work of people over at MovieBodyCounts.com, it is possible to rank films in terms of the number of people who drop dead. Of course, there are rules as to who can be counted and who can’t. People, monsters and creatures are all fair game. That means zombies, aliens and CGI characters are included in the body count tallies. Miscellaneous piles of bodies are not counted only definable individual bodies, on-screen kills or implied deaths where the character(s) most certainly die. On that happy note, on to the Top 10 Movies with the highest body counts.
10 We Were Soldiers – Body Count: 305
The moment you find out this 2002 film is based on an actual battle which took place during the Vietnam War, it becomes unsurprising it made the top 10. We Were Soldiers is based on the battle which took place in the Ia Drang Valley between American and North Vietnamese forces from November 14th-18th, 1965. It was the first major engagement of American forces during the war and saw US Cavalry forces deployed using helicopters – a new tactic in warfare. The film portrays Mel Gibson, playing Colonel Hal Moore, as coolly organizing and leading his men while under relentless assault. While even conservative estimates place casualties during the actual battle at well over 1000, the body count in We Were Soldiers tops out at 305 with Gibson credited with 15 of those.
9 T8. Titanic – Body Count: 307
Apparently there was once this ship called the RMS Titanic that people said was unsinkable. The problem is that when you label something un-anything you are tempting fate. In mid-April 1912 the Titanic made its maiden voyage only to strike an iceberg and sink, taking the lives of 1500 crew and passengers. In any event, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and co. were all on board when the Titanic sank. They must have been ok because I’ve seen them all making movies since and they really haven’t aged that much at all. In terms of characters and actors getting killed off, the movie’s body count skyrockets when the ship goes under producing over two-thirds of the film’s 307 dead. Cue "My Heart Will Go On."
8 T8. Hard Boiled – Body Count: 307
This 1992 film was John Woo’s last before he made the move to Hollywood and started to make films like Broken Arrow, Face/Off and Mission: Impossible II. Take one vengeful cop (angry about a dead partner) and team him up with a socially isolated undercover cop; put them in Hong Kong, give them both lots of guns and enemies and let the bloodbath commence. The movie has all the stereotypes you’d expect – an evil henchman named Mad Dog, big shootout scenes, a hospital rigged to blow up, an evil king-pin that just won’t die until one of the good cops sacrifices themselves to allow their partner to take him out and the scene where the conflicted and isolated ‘good-guy’ sails away leaving us wondering what the future holds for him. Oh yes, and through all of this the body count just keeps rising, ending at 307 in total.
7 Grindhouse (Double Feature) – Body Count: 310
Once you find out that Quentin Tarantino had a role in the creation of Grindhouse we doubt you’ll be surprised it has such a large body count. The movie itself is made up of two feature length films, Robert Rodriguez’ Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof. The first film follows a group of rebels who are fighting military forces and zombie-like creatures, while the second film sees a psychopath stuntman murdering women with his stunt car. Written and directed in the B-film genre, Rodriguez (Sin City) and Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) do what they do best and the bodies start to pile up. Seriously, when one character has a machine-gun for a leg, would you expect anything less than a 300+ body count?
6 Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers – Body Count: 468
Loaded with epic battle scenes, it was only a matter of time until we came across a film in the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy. Released in 2002, The Two Towers follows the diverging stories of the characters from The Fellowship of the Ring. While we still stay up-to-date on Frodo and Sam’s journey to destroy the ring, the massive battles at Isengard and Helm’s Deep are the focus of this part of the story. Between the thousands of Uruk-hai being mowed down by Elvish archers and the rampaging Ents (see massive angry talking trees) smashing everything in their path, the on-screen body count climbs quickly. Fun-Fact: Orlando Bloom’s character, Legolas, is credited with 26 of the 468 on-screen kills over the course of this movie.
5 The Last Samurai – Body Count: 558
In the latter part of the 19th century, Japan opened up to Western trade and influence and began a process of modernization. The warrior class of Japan, the samurai, rejected this change and rebelled in 1877. This forms the basis of the 2003 film The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise. Cruise plays a Civil War veteran who goes to Japan to help the Japanese army modernize and train in order to defeat the samurai forces. Over the course of the film there are a number of bloody battles where sword-wielding samurai engage firearm-equipped soldiers. With the help of Tom Cruise, the samurai hack and slash their way through the Japanese army but, themselves, suffer heavy casualties in the face of improving tactics and weaponry. Ultimately, as in real life, the samurai are defeated although we’re pretty sure the real-life body count was far higher than the film’s 558.
4 Troy – Body Count: 572
Set during the Trojan War, the film Troy is based on Homer’s Iliad. Brad Pitt (who plays Achilles) leads the Myrmidon and Greek forces against Troy. Not distracted by his good looks and possibly frightened by the fact that his wife may try to adopt their children, the defenders of Troy resist and set the stage for an epic on-screen battle. Unfortunately, the Trojans find a wooden horse left behind after the Greeks “retreat” and decide to bring it into the city. A huge fight erupts and Achilles is shot in his heel – and then several more times – and dies. Needless to say, thanks to all the fighting throughout this film the body count climbs rapidly with 35 on-screen deaths attributed to Brad Pitt alone.
3 300 – Body Count: 600
Based on a comic series, the 2006 film 300 retells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae. During the battle, 300 Spartan warriors (led by Gerard Butler) make a stand against hundreds of thousands of Persians led by Xerxes. The outnumbered Spartans stand up to barrages of arrows and slaughter many Persians in hand-to-hand combat as they make their doomed stand. In addition to spawning numerous memes based on Butler’s character kicking a Persian messenger into a pit, 300 also racks up a massive body count thanks to its graphic battle scenes. Butler alone notches 30 of the 600 kills over the course of the film.
2 Kingdom of Heaven – Body Count: 610
A fictionalized account of the Crusades of the 12th century, Kingdom of Heaven follows Balian (Orlando Bloom) as he travels to Jerusalem to help defend it against a Muslim army. The cast is impressive and includes Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson and Edward Norton, to name a few. As you’d expect, there are some big battles and, given the Crusades were not known as friendly affairs, the film’s body count rises quickly. The film’s interpretation of the Battle of Hattin sees the Crusader army annihilated and the body count would definitely have been much higher if Orlando Bloom hadn’t surrendered Jerusalem. In any event, the body count is a massive 610 with Bloom’s character accounting for 40 of those.
1 Lord of the Rings, Return of the King – Body Count: 836
Oh look, another film with Orlando Bloom. The final installment in the LOTR trilogy, The Return of the King sees the final climactic battles where the forces of evil are finally defeated. Despite dragging on a bit – and no doubt making some viewers wish to join the body count themselves – the film ties almost everything together and gives us a body count head and shoulders above anything else out there. Thanks in large part to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and the Battle at the Black Gate, humans, orcs, uruk-hai, haradrim, witch-kings and nazguls start dropping like flies. It all seems kind of needless once the Army of the Dead arrives and sweeps everything out of their way within a couple minutes. Nevertheless, the impressive battle scenes help make this the most successful LOTR film, in terms of reception, gross income and body count.