TV is getting more violent. Much more so. Two decades ago, it would have been tough to even make a list like this. But with the advent of cable and pay channels, there are less and less restrictions about the kind of violence allowed to be broadcast.
All of these are great shows, but it can be hard to watch them through your fingers sometimes as they’re just so incredibly violent. Even after all the years I’ve spent watching horror films and playing violent video games, some scenes in these shows can be too much to handle.
Check out the entire list below, and see if you want to add any picks of your own:
5. The Walking Dead
This past season The Walking Dead kicked things up a notch, and created moments that literally made my jaw drop. Rick ripping the face off a zombie wearing a gas mask is going to haunt my dreams for some time to come, and just because walkers aren’t human, that doesn’t mean violence toward them isn’t brutal.
The hilarious part of all this? The Walking Dead is a TV-14 show. Don’t curse and don’t have sex and you can chop off all the heads and limbs you want I guess. We have a very screwed up priority system in this country when it comes to violence vs. purported vulgarity, and The Walking Dead is an easily mockable example of that.
4. Game of Thrones
I just realized that if I was making a list of the most sexually gratuitous shows out there, that probably four out of the five shows I’m featuring here would be on it. I guess sex and violence just go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Game of Thrones has plenty of the latter however, and has produced some of the most memorable violent scenes in TV history. Take your pick. The assumed main character of the show losing his head? A knight gored by a lance to the throat? A midget cutting a man’s leg off with a battle axe? Game of Thrones has all of it and more.
3. True Blood
Blood isn’t just the window dressing on this show, it’s practically the central premise. In a world where vampires have returned, blood is on the menu from the get go, and is extracted in increasingly gory ways as the show goes on.
But as viewers know, the show opens up to worlds past mere vampires, and when werewolves, shapeshifters, witches, dryads and (sigh) werepanthers come calling, the mayhem gets ratcheted up even more. When vampires die, for instance, they don’t just bleed out onto the floor like us humans. Rather they explode in a pile of gore and sinew that’s enough to make you lose your lunch, and this happens with alarming frequency.
If we were measuring blood by the liter, Spartacus would like take the number one spot on this list. Even the opening credits are graphic splashes of blood used to showcase the names of the cast. Spartacus is essential 300 turned into a film, mixed with a bit of Gladiator as the central premise. It’s based on history to a fractional degree, and life was quite brutal back then.
Between gladiator matches and slave rebellions, there have been too many excruciatingly gory scenes to count when it comes to Spartacus. The only reason I’m not giving this the top spot is because the show is SO bloody and violent, it’s practically comical, and by going too over the top it loses some of the brutality that comes with viewing violent acts in the real world. In a lot of ways, the next show on this list is actually be more grotesque because the violence FEELS real. Here it’s more plentiful, but it’s almost cartoonish.
1. Boardwalk Empire
If this was a decade ago, a show like The Sopranos may have made the list, as it was famous for its brutal depictions of mob violence. But today, Boardwalk Empire makes that show look like My Little Pony.
There is literally almost no scene where it doesn’t feel like someone is about to get murdered, and in most cases, that feeling comes true. The body count in this show is just astronomical, whereas The Sopranos would build up a six episode arc just to off one guy. If a half dozen people are dead at the end of an hour of Boardwalk Empire, it’s been a slow day.
The violence simply feels authentic here, and no amount of CGI blood from some of these other shows can unseat it. Boardwalk Empire can be truly unsettling with its kills, and even more so with who the show chooses to kill in any given episode.