The 10 Best Horror Slasher Movie Kills of All Time
To the casual viewer, the slasher subgenre of horror is just a bunch of screaming teens, stalking murderers, and stabby-stab knife kills. It’s a slasher, ergo, they slash. But over the years, horror movie fans have been treated to increasingly devastating scenes of carnage as our villains get creative with their kills. (Hey, we’ve got sequels to fill out!)
Still, not every new film has to reinvent the wheel. There’s merit in the simple, straightforward murder when it’s used to raise the stakes and ratchet up the narrative tension. But there’s no denying that die-hards want their expectations surpassed with something unexpected. After all, what’s bigger than our fear of the unknown?
From ’70s staples solidly defining the slasher scene to modern flicks making their own bloody marks on pop culture, let’s take a look at the 10 best slasher kills in horror — ranked by innovation, splatter, and overall impact.
10. Kirk’s Death by Mallet — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Starting out with a classic kill, Kirk’s death in the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre film is not explosive or even excessively bloody — but it is effective. When the group of young adults happen upon the Sawyer house, they get more than they bargained for. After trouble with a hitchhiker and lack of fuel, their van arrives at the Sawyer homestead. Discussion follows, and Kirk approaches the home hoping to barter his guitar for gas.
Unfortunately, he’s met by the fearful and frightening Leatherface, who doesn’t take kindly to outsiders. In a time before “jump scares” became a horror norm, this one is pretty shocking. Despite being the jock of the group, Kirk is dispatched with rather quickly by Leatherface’s sledge hammer, traditionally used to smash the skulls of cattle. The kill is quick and not overly detailed, though the victim’s twitching limbs are visible as he is dragged off deeper into the homestead.
A dubious honor, Kirk is the very first kill of the entire TCM franchise, even though Franklin Hardesty joked that Kirk was more likely to frighten and kill someone than the rural strangers. Sometimes a solid, simple execution is all you need to be memorable (though Bubba’s bloodied chainsaw really starts revving from there on out).
9. Dr. Burke Gets the Hook — Candyman (1992)
A more tragic horror movie figure than most, Daniel Robitaille is known as The Candyman. After being lynched by a white mob for having an interracial relationship in the late 1800s, he returned to haunt Cabrini-Green in Chicago, Illinois. Candyman is seen as an urban legend and a scapegoat figure for people to blame their hardships on. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get retribution on those who summon him or deny his legend.
Helen Lyle is blamed for the murder of Bernadette Walsh and committed to a psychiatric hospital. While being interviewed for a trial by Dr. Burke, she tries to summon Candyman to prove her innocence and reveal the actual killer. Though the plan to summon the killer succeeds, his arrival brings the swift death of the psychiatrist, who is stabbed through the back with a hook before Candyman releases Helen’s bonds and escapes by flying out the office window.
Of all the kills in the film, it’s the one that best showcases the hook on his hand, and it also gives Helen the opportunity to escape her confinement. It also leads to their climactic confrontation in Candyman’s lair (which is hard to watch for those with apiphobia, the fear of bees). And while it’s usually said that summoning dangerous characters by name (Beetlejuice, Bloody Mary) never ends well for those involved, this kill still has a notable impact on the dynamic between Robitaille and Lyle that carries through the film’s conclusion.
8. Let’s See Paul Allen’s Death — American Psycho (2000)
Do you like American Psycho? Some of the film’s early kills were a little bit too subtle for my taste. But when it came to Patrick Bateman using a hatchet to get revenge on his office rival Paul Allen, I think the movie really came into its own, commercially and artistically. The whole scene has a stylish execution, a manic disposition, and, oh yeah — a lot of blood.
Fans will likely remember this kill because of the moments leading up to the deed; Paul in Patrick’s apartment, a thorough discussion of Huey Lewis and the News, a to-be-bloodied rain slicker, and Christian Bale absolutely devouring the scenery as he dances around the room and the point of their meeting. But we get it, missing a reservation at Dorsia is enough to make anyone mad. This dark satire-horror film lampoons consumerism, yuppie culture, and empty-hearted capitalism with chilling glee, exemplified in what is perhaps the film’s most iconic scene (apart from the business card showdown).
As he delivers his screed on the cultural significance of “Hip to Be Square,” a spiraling Patrick finally and repeatedly takes the axe to his rival’s head. It’s a kill that has fun with itself while revealing how haunting the mind of Bateman, and by extension corporate America, truly is. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have to return some video tapes.
7. Kate Is Cut Apart — Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (2021)
Fans weren’t sure what to expect from a film series based on the spine-tingling, young adult Fear Street books by R. L. Stine. Kate Schmidt’s death in Part 1: 1994 proved that Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy wasn’t going to pull any punches when it came to gore.
While the dual deaths of the Berman sisters from Part 2: 1978 might have been more outright brutal, the use of a bread slicer to creatively cleave the young drug-selling student’s head into even segments was totally scream-worthy. After Skull Mask slams her face into a sheet cake and stabs her in the stomach, he feeds her through the machine without hesitation, slicing Kate apart in a horrific shot that keeps her recognizable through the carnage. The effect was achieved with a mixture of practical and CG effects, using a prosthetic head in an actual bread slicer, actress Julia Rehwald’s own cake-covered face in a clean shot, and added blood effects over the composite footage.
Never before had this seemingly benign industrial appliance been utilized so grotesquely, but this most memorable kill from Fear Street Part 1: 1994 has now given the bread slicer the same horror acclaim as the garbage disposal and toasters near bathtubs. Let’s face it — this kill is the best thing since sliced bread!
6. Bob Simms’ Kitchen Kill — Halloween (1978)
Sometimes, the most memorable kills are those that reveal a bit more of the character of the killer as opposed to the victims. Bob Simms’ death in Halloween proves the silent strength of Michael Myers, another example of a death not needing to be the most flashy, explosive incident to be effective.
Myers has always been a killer of few words, few footsteps, and a massive body count. On Halloween night, he surprises Robert “Bob” Simms while he’s downstairs in the Wallace family’s kitchen grabbing beers for himself and his girlfriend Lynda. The young man is lifted into the air and stabbed through the stomach with a knife, pinning him to the pantry door with the sheer strength and stability of the embedded weapon. Unlike many modern kills, there’s no sliding gag that severs Bob’s body in half, no collapse to the floor, and no need for a double-tap.
What’s more, Michael shows a frightfully curious side when he steps back, tilts his head, and examines his handiwork in an iconic character moment. Later, he’s found wearing Bob’s glasses in his ghost sheet disguise before he kills Lynda, showing a resourcefulness and awareness of his victims’ dynamics. For a killer who doesn’t say anything, his actions sure speak volumes.
5. Shannon’s Jaw-Dropping Death — Hatchet (2006)
A lot of horror movie characters have largely unexplained supernatural powers — relentless strength and endurance being chief among them. Swamp dwellers and mountain cannibals alike are often as brutal as they are brutish, seen in films like Friday the 13th, Wrong Turn, and Hatchet. Victor Crowley is one such killer, a deformed man murdered by his own father on Halloween. Cursed from birth, he became a restless spirit in death and killed anyone in his path as hunted for his father.
This kill count unfortunately includes a group of tourists visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras. A tour gone wrong gets the group lost in the woods and swamps, past abandoned houses that include the now-mythic Victor’s old residence. Married Minnesota couple Jim and Shannon Permatteo approach the home and are quickly killed. Notably, Crowley grabs the top and bottom of Shannon’s jaws and rips them clean apart. Seeing the gruesome way Mrs. Permatteo’s head tears apart is truly haunting. It’s also well shot, with only a subtle edit in between moments, making this appear like it was all one take.
In addition to several other gut-wrenching kills, the movie boasts an ensemble cast of horror greats — in addition to Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) as Victor Crowley, fans can spot Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Tony Todd (Candyman), and even Joshua Leonard (Josh in The Blair Witch Project) in various roles.
4. Chucky’s Factory Fiasco — Child’s Play 2 (1990)
Rarely does the death of the killer make it onto a list like this, but given the number of times Chucky has bit the big one on screen, it makes sense that his deaths would be some of the flashier ones of the franchise. Like he said, he always comes back! But the killer doll’s various dismemberments and destructions are a testament to some incredible practical effects and creative cinematography.
The finale of Child’s Play 2 culminates in a showdown at the Good Guys toy factory between Chucky, Andy Barclay, and his adoptive sister Kyle. After the death of a factory technician where the man’s eyes are replaced with doll eyes, Chucky gets trapped in some of the machinery by Andy and Kyle. He’s already lost an arm and replaced it with a blade, but you can’t keep a Good Guy down for long — he cuts off his legs and crawls after his victims. Andy then opens a valve of hot molten plastic over the doll, which melts him into submission … that is, until he pops up AGAIN for another attack. It’s only when Kyle shoves an air hose into his mouth and inflates his pliable plastic head until it bursts in a spray of guts and scraps does Charles Lee Ray stay down. (That is, until Child’s Play 3.)
Don Mancini, Kevin Yagher, and the entire team who brought Chucky to life often worked in the realm of practical effects and animatronics for the doll. Watching his panicked eyes swivel as the head inflates is as hilarious as it is horrifying, and the goopy plastic monster is gag-worthy. And even if the death doesn’t stick, there’s no denying it’s one of the standout slaughters from all of Child’s Play‘s extensive track record.
3. Glen’s Death Bed — A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
We mentioned that we were also looking at splatter for ranking this list — if that was the only metric, this kill would drown the competition quite literally. Before Freddy Krueger became the king of quips we know him as today, he let a lot of his kills speak for themselves. The original A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s most notable kill is perhaps the blood geyser that follows Glen Lantz’s death in Johnny Depp’s first on-screen role.
When Nancy Thompson unsuccessfully tries to call and warn her boyfriend about Krueger’s plans for vengeance, Glen falls asleep and is dragged down into his mattress. No, that’s not just the magic of Tempur-Pedic. The dream demon has got another victim in his clutches. Shortly thereafter, a well of blood and viscera erupts from the hole, discovered by Glen’s horrified mother. His soulless body is then thrown from the bed before it lands on the mattress.
Granted, we don’t get to see a lot of this kill in action, just the aftermath. But boy, is it glorious. It was also an incredible effect, achieved with over 500 gallons of fake blood. The bedroom was built on a rotating set so the scene could be shot inverted, but an oversight caused the blood tsunami to splash over exposed electrical wires which shorted out the power in the studio. The incident even left Wes Craven and director of photography Jaques Haitkin upside down from the rotation rig. The final shot on film came out incredibly well, but it could have ended with a lot more carnage than Krueger had intended.
2. Tatum Riley in the Garage Door — Scream (1996)
While the film’s iconic cold open with Drew Barrymore as Casey Becker sets the film’s ruthless yet self-aware tone, one of the most memorable kills of all the Scream franchise is the death of Rose McGowan’s not-so-final girl Tatum Riley. Not only does it happen after some of the film’s signature meta commentary, but it has a continued series impact on not only her best friend Sidney Prescott, but also her older brother Deputy Dewey Riley.
Ghost Face shows up late to Stu Macher’s Halloween party, having just missed all the essential rules of surviving a horror film. The masked villain catches Tatum in the garage going to restock the drinks, where she thinks his silent menace is a prank. “No, please. Don’t kill me, Mr. Ghost Face, I want to be in the sequel!”
What follows is a real fight for her life where Tatum nearly gets the upper hand until she tries to escape through the ever-too-small cat flap on the garage door. Ghost Face turns the mechanism on, and it slowly lifts her until her neck and spine are crushed while she helplessly swings on. It’s a creative, striking visual that stings for such a savvy character who almost got away.
What makes this moment even more heartbreaking is that it’s suggested Billy Loomis was the Ghost Face who killed her, later signaling his success to his partner in crime Stu — meaning Tatum’s boyfriend gave his blessing for murder.
1. Adrienne and the Liquid Nitrogen Face Smash — Jason X (2008)
Let’s face it — while Jason X might not be the most flawless horror film, it gave fans the most memorable kill in any slasher film. How can Freddy and Michael compete when this sci-fi flick took Jason into the stratosphere? And if you’re not familiar with this kill already, skip straight to the scene in question and save yourself some time.
After Jason Voorhees is lured into a cryogenic pod, he is frozen in stasis from 2008 to 2445. He awakens in the future after a group of students from New Harvard University on Earth II discover his body and intend to research it. Aboard The Grendel spaceship, Jason’s body thaws rapidly as Adrienne and her unhelpful assistants Stoney and Kinsa work. While the two kids can’t focus because of their flirtation, Adrienne dismisses them so she can finish her work alone.
What follows is a scientifically dubious yet insanely memorable kill, made possible thanks to a sink of liquid nitrogen used for freezing dissection specimens. Studious Adrienne actually cuts Jason’s signature mask off his face and has a few near-misses with his slowly awakening form before he fully thaws, moves off the slab, and throws her into the wall. As she pleads for her life, the killer submerges her in the sink and her face freezes instantly.
She’s already dead by the time Jason pulls her out to inspect his work, but the finishing blow that cements this kill at #1 is when the reanimated antagonist smashes Adrienne’s face on the nearby counter, shattering it like glass.
Can liquid nitrogen really kill someone?
Is the science sound? Debatable. Liquid nitrogen can be extremely dangerous when mishandled, and submerging someone could probably kill them. But viewers note that the length of time that transpired in the film wouldn’t be enough to fully freeze a human head (not that we’ve ever tried). Still, no one is arguing that this was one seriously creative kill from a movie that’s mostly memorable for a lot of weird reasons.
And that’s our list of the top 10 most memorable, best-executed kills in slasher films. While some are memorable for all the worst reasons, they exemplify the best of the worst when it comes to chilling our spines and turning our stomachs. If you’re looking to add the carnage to your collection, be sure to check out all the horror collectibles offered at Sideshow.com.
Did we miss any kills you think should be on this list? Keep the conversation going at side.show/geekgroup, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!