Eerie Scenes From War Movies Still Discussed Decades Later
By Jack Ripley | October 2, 2023
Fires On The Plain
Welcome, brave souls, to "Eerie Scenes From War Movies Still Discussed Decades Later." Prepare to embark on a captivating journey into the cinematic abyss, where visceral images from the darkest moments of warfare are forever etched into our collective memory. In this gallery, we explore the chilling artistry behind these unforgettable scenes, delving into the genius that brought them to life, and revealing why they continue to haunt us long after the credits have rolled. Steel your nerves and step into the shadows, as we uncover the chilling mysteries that lie within these eerie masterpieces of war. And don't forget - there are MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
The entire premise of Kon Ichakawa's Fires On The Plain is already scary enough: A soldier suffering from tuberculosis is abandoned by his company, and now wanders the island of Leyte alone. However, things get even darker. The soldier, Tamaru, famished, stumbles upon a gathering of friendly Japanese soldiers. The air hangs heavy with the scent of meat, and as Tamura inquires about their meal, they claim it to be "monkey meat." A wave of revulsion courses through him, but as he turns to leave, a chilling sight arrests his gaze – a human arm amidst the flames. Realizing the soldiers have resorted to cannibalism, Tamaru flees the macabre scene, but the haunting images of cannibalism are forever seared into his soul. This grim and unsettling moment in the film serves as a stark reminder of war's unspeakable horrors and the dark depths humans may descend to when pushed beyond the brink of despair.
The Nightingale is a harrowing tale of revenge set against the backdrop of 19th-century Tasmania. Clare, a young Irish convict, who sets out to seek vengeance against the British officer responsible for the brutal murder of her husband and child. One bone-chilling scene unfolds near the start of the film as Clare, played by Aisling Franciosi, is sexually assaulted right in her own home, in front of her family. Director Jennifer Kent said it was the hardest part of the movie to film:
That particular scene was the hardest, because it was the longest to film and the most brutal. We worked with a stunt co-ordinator and mapped it out almost like a dance. Everyone knew their moves, and then it was just a matter of releasing into that emotion.
Jacob's Ladder, a 1990 psychological horror film directed by Adrian Lyne, is a haunting exploration of the mind of a Vietnam War veteran named Jacob Singer, played by Tim Robbins. There are so many intense scenes that delve into the blurred lines between reality and hallucination, leaving the audience questioning the true nature of Jacob's experiences. One such scene takes place as Jacob waits for a train in a crowded New York City subway station. A seemingly ordinary passenger transforms before his eyes, her face suddenly contorted and monstrous. The eerie atmosphere is heightened by the flickering fluorescent lights and the echoing sounds of the subway, which amplify the sense of disorientation and unease. The scene reaches a fever pitch as Jacob is chased by a faceless, demonic figure, whose presence is accompanied by a cacophony of distorted and dissonant noises.
Come And See
Come And See follows the story of a young boy named Florya, played by Aleksei Kravchenko, as he experiences the brutality and inhumanity of World War II firsthand in Belarus. One of the most disturbing scenes in the movie occurs when Florya comes across a group of Nazi soldiers who are torturing and killing a young woman. The soldiers are laughing and joking as they torture the woman, and they seem to take pleasure in her pain. Florya is horrified by what he sees, and he is powerless to stop the soldiers. This scene is one of the most disturbing in the movie because it shows the depths of depravity to which humans can sink. The witnessing of this horrific act alters Florya forever, shattering his illusions and forces him to confront the dark side of human nature.
Apocalypse Now follows the story of Captain Benjamin Willard, played by Martin Sheen, as he embarks on a dangerous mission to assassinate the rogue Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, portrayed by Marlon Brando. It's an unsettling movie as a whole, but we're still particularly haunted by the scene at Do Lung Bridge. The bridge is a crucial supply route for the U.S. forces, and its constant destruction and reconstruction have turned it into a symbol of the futile and cyclical nature of the conflict. As Captain Willard and his crew draw near, the eerie glow of flares and the cacophony of gunfire and explosions reveal a nightmarish landscape of violence and confusion. The surreal atmosphere intensifies as Willard and his crew navigate through the chaos to find the commanding officer, only to discover that there is no clear chain of command. Soldiers wander aimlessly, some fighting, some dying, and some simply lost in the madness. The haunting sounds of The Doors' "The End" playing in the background further amplify the sense of dread and hopelessness that pervades the scene.
Da 5 Bloods
Da 5 Bloods, a 2020 war drama film directed by Spike Lee, tells the story of four African American Vietnam War veterans who return to Vietnam in search of the remains of their fallen squad leader and a hidden treasure. The Bloods come across the mass grave while they are searching for their friend's remains. The grave is located in a remote area of the jungle, and it is covered in overgrown vegetation. The Bloods have to clear away the vegetation in order to access the grave. When they finally reach the grave, they are horrified to see that it is filled with the bodies of Vietnamese civilians. The bodies are all in various states of decomposition, and they are covered in flies. The Bloods are forced to walk through the grave in order to get to the other side.
The Big Red One
In the movie The Big Red One, there is a haunting and eerie scene that leaves a lasting impression on even the most stalwart viewers. It takes placed during the Omaha Beach sequence of the movie, in the midst of the chaos of the battlefield. In the scene, a soldier's arm, still wearing a wrist-watch, is tragically torn off and remains embedded in the sand. Throughout the sequence the director cuts back to the watch, allowing us to witness the passage of time in the most haunting way possible.
Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty, covers the hunt for Bin Laden and the boundaries pushed on that search. Ammar, a young Pakistani man, is apprehended by the CIA. Determined to extract information regarding bin Laden's location, the CIA interrogators resort to torture tactics. Initially, they subject him to waterboarding, a torture technique that simulates drowning. Following hours of waterboarding, they shift to other forms of torture, including sleep deprivation and physical abuse, keeping him awake for days and subjecting him to beatings and death threats. Ultimately, Ammar succumbs and provides the information they seek, the identity of Bin Laden's courier.
The Casualties Of War
Among The Casualties of War's many intense and disturbing moments, one eerie scene stands out, involving the murder of a young Vietnamese girl, Tran Thi Oahn (Thuy Thu Le), who was kidnapped and brutalized by a group of American soldiers led by Sergeant Tony Meserve (Sean Penn). The scene takes place deep in the jungle after the soldiers have raped Tran, a harrowing event that leaves her physically and emotionally broken. As she desperately tries to escape across a narrow bridge, the soldiers open fire on here, until her lifeless and bloodied body falls to the bottom of the gorge, an innocent life abused and lost.
Full Metal Jacket
This scene from Full Metal Jacket sends shivers down viewers' spines! It takes place in the barracks late at night, where the recruits are asleep. The eerie silence is broken by the sound of a toilet flushing, revealing Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence, played by Vincent D'Onofrio, sitting alone on a toilet with his rifle. Pyle, having been subjected to relentless abuse by both his drill instructor and fellow recruits, has been pushed to the brink of his sanity. The dimly lit bathroom casts eerie shadows on Pyle's face, highlighting his glazed eyes and vacant expression. As Private Joker, played by Matthew Modine, cautiously approaches Pyle, the tension in the scene escalates. Pyle speaks in a chilling, detached tone, quoting the Rifleman's Creed while loading live ammunition into his weapon.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
In the 1983 film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, directed by Nagisa Oshima, there is a harrowing scene involving the traditional Japanese ritual of seppuku, or ritual suicide by disembowelment. The man is instructed to lift his head while disemboweling himself, enabling his captors to decapitate him with greater ease. After several sword strikes across his shoulders lead to the man's decapitation, one of the onlooking prisoners succumbs to the horror, collapsing, convulsing, and ultimately dying.
Paths Of Glory
Paths of Glory is a 1957 anti-war masterpiece directed by Stanley Kubrick, set against the backdrop of World War I. Among the movie's many eerie and unsettling scenes, two stand out as particularly unforgettable. The first of these scenes transpires in the trenches, as the camera pans through the muddy, rat-infested passageways, capturing the fear and despair in the soldiers' eyes. The eerie silence is punctuated only by the distant rumblings of artillery fire and the nervous breathing of the men. The second scene is the haunting execution of three innocent soldiers. The men are scapegoats, chosen to pay the ultimate price for their comrades' "cowardice" in the face of insurmountable odds. As they march towards their doom, the camera lingers on their faces, capturing their hopelessness. The chilling sound of the firing squad's rifles echoes through the courtyard, and their bodies slump lifelessly to the ground.
Johnny Got His Gun
Johnny Got His Gun is a heartbreaking film about a young American soldier named Joe Bonham who is horribly injured in World War I. He is left deaf, mute, blind, and limbless, and he is confined to a hospital bed. One of the most eerie and unsettling scenes in the movie occurs when Joe realizes the full extent of his injuries. The scene begins with Joe drifting in and out of consciousness, his mind teetering between reality and dreamlike states. As he slowly regains awareness, he feels an inexplicable numbness throughout his body. As Joe's awareness sharpens, he makes a horrifying discovery: his arms, legs, sight, hearing, and speech are all gone. The camera lingers on his face, now a featureless, skin-covered surface. The stark contrast between his previous life as a healthy, vibrant young man and his current mutilated state is profoundly disturbing.
The Painted Bird
The Painted Bird is filled with excruciatingly creepy moments, echoing the movie's themes of survival and cruelty. The young protagonist is at one point buried up to his neck so that birds can peck at his eyeballs, but this is far from the most upsetting point of the film. For many, the most unwatchable scene comes at the very beginning, when the Boy and his tiny dog are being chased by a group of jeering children. Once caught, The Boy is left helpless as his canine companion is set ablaze for the group's amusement. You have been warned.
The Best Years Of Our Lives
The Best Years of Our Lives, a poignant 1946 drama directed by William Wyler, delves into the lives of three World War II veterans as they return home and grapple with the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life. Despite the film's focus on the personal and emotional struggles of its characters, there are a few eerie scenes that stand out, evoking the lingering shadows of war. One such scene unfolds as Homer Parrish, played by real-life veteran and amputee Harold Russell, returns to his family's home for the first time since losing both hands in the war. The uneasy silence that envelops the room is punctuated by his family's shocked and pained expressions, as they witness the mechanical hooks that have replaced his hands. The scene is both heart-wrenching and eerie, as it lays bare the stark reality faced by many returning veterans—forever changed, both physically and emotionally, by their experiences.
Saving Private Ryan - Omaha Beach
Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg's 1998 war epic, is renowned for its realistic and harrowing portrayal of the brutality and chaos of war. The opening sequence depicting the Omaha Beach landing during the D-Day invasion is a chilling and unforgettable cinematic experience that leaves a mark on viewers. The camera follows Captain John Miller, played by Tom Hanks, as he navigates the pandemonium. The eerie, disorienting soundscape of muffled screams, gunfire, and explosions immerses the audience in the nightmarish reality faced by these soldiers. One particularly chilling moment sees a soldier walking dazedly with his severed arm, encapsulating the surreal and horrifying nature of the scene.
Inglourious Basterds (Yes, that's the right spelling) is Quentin Tarantino's 2009 revisionist take on World War II, well-known for its unique blend of humor, violence, and tension. Although the film has many memorable moments, the opening scene at the dairy farm is often talked about for its masterful buildup of suspense. The scene commences with the arrival of SS Colonel Hans Landa, portrayed by Christoph Waltz, at the idyllic French dairy farm owned by a farmer named Perrier LaPadite. Landa suspects that LaPadite is hiding a Jewish family somewhere on his farm. The two men engage in a cordial conversation, while the terrified family listens from beneath the floorboards, their fate hanging in the balance of the next moments.
Grave Of The Fireflies
Grave Of The Fireflies chronicles the lives of Seita and Setsuko, two siblings struggling to survive in a war-torn Japan. It's a story full of love and loss and terror, masterfully woven together by Isao Takahata's in a beautiful, animated tapestry. One eerie scene unfolds The scene unfolds as Seita, voiced by Tsutomu Tatsumi, returns to their makeshift shelter after finally finding food. Upon entering, he discovers Setsuko, voiced by Ayano Shiraishi, dying on the floor, hallucinating from the effects of malnutrition. Thinking that rocks are candy in her delirium, she has attempted to eat them. She dies starving with holding the actual food Seita has found in her hand.
Kilo Two Bravo
Kilo Two Bravo, or Kajaki, is a harrowing account of a real-life incident involving a British Army unit in Afghanistan.A military unit, on a mission to disable a Taliban roadblock, unknowingly stumbles into a minefield. One soldier, Stu Hale, portrayed by Benjamin O'Mahony, steps on a landmine, triggering a deafening explosion that leaves him grievously injured. In the immediate aftermath, the eerie silence that follows the blast is both haunting and disorienting. The dust slowly settles, revealing the shocking extent of the damage. As the realization of their dire predicament dawns on the unit, the sense of dread and fear becomes palpable. The soldiers are trapped in a deadly minefield with no clear path to safety. The eerie tension of the scene is heightened by the knowledge that any movement could result in another devastating explosion.
Gallipoli follows two young Australian soldiers, Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson), who are sent to fight in the Gallipoli Campaign of World War. In one memorably horrific scene, the soldiers are forced to battle at dawn. The charge is a disaster. The Australian troops are mowed down by Turkish machine gun fire, falling to the ground in heaps. As Archy's fellow soldiers fall victim to a hail of bullets, he abandons his weapon and dashes with all his might. The final shot of the film captures the moment Archy is struck by gunfire in his chest, his head thrown backward as though crossing the finish line of a 100-yard dash, before he tumbles backward.
Waltz With Bashir
Waltz With Bashir is about an Israeli filmmaker named Ari Folman who is trying to remember his experiences as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War. In one particularly disturbing dream sequence, Ari is walking through a field of dead bodies. The bodies are all of young men, and they are all in various states of decomposition. Ari is horrified by the scene, and he tries to run away, but he can't move. Suddenly, Ari sees a figure in the distance. The figure is a young man, and he is wearing an Israeli uniform. Ari runs towards the figure, but as he gets closer, he realizes that the figure is just a hallucination. He wakes up from the dream in a cold sweat, he is shaken and traumatized by what he has seen.
In Oliver Stone's 1986 war film Platoon, one of the most eerie and unsettling scenes occurs during the infamous village raid, which highlights the moral degradation of the soldiers and the devastating effects of the Vietnam War on both the American troops and the Vietnamese civilians. The atmosphere is tense and ominous as the soldiers fan out, searching the huts for weapons and enemy combatants. As the search progresses, the situation rapidly deteriorates. A group of soldiers, including Bunny (Kevin Dillon), discover a one-legged elderly villager hiding in a hut. Bunny's sadistic tendencies and pent-up frustration boil over, and he begins to brutally beat the man, egged on by his fellow soldiers. The camera lingers on their faces, twisted with rage and fear, as they lose themselves in the violence.
In Wolfgang Petersen's 1981 war film Das Boot, a tense scene unfolds as the German U-boat U-96 encounters a British destroyer while submerged in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The U-boat dives deeper to avoid detection from the destroyer, causing the U-boat's depth gauge to inch closer to its limit, threatening to crush the submarine and its crew. Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock orders complete silence, and the crew members hold their breath, their eyes wide with terror. The British destroyer's depth charges begin to explode around the U-boat, shaking the vessel violently and causing the lights to flicker ominously. The crew members can only watch in horror as the explosions draw closer, knowing that any one of them could be their last.
In Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, one of the most chilling and disturbing scenes involves Amon Goeth, the sadistic SS officer played by Ralph Fiennes, who callously shoots random Jews from his balcony, simply because he can. The scene takes place at the Plaszów concentration camp, with Goeth standing on the balcony of his villa, overlooking the camp. He casually picks up a sniper rifle, displaying an unnerving detachment, and scans the grounds below, picking off his victims simply for entertainment. The brutality and randomness of this act, devoid of any reason or purpose, underscore the chilling reality that the victims were dehumanized and seen as disposable.
The climax of Yann Demange's '71 is also one of the most disturbing points of the film. When a Loyalist bomb goes off prematurely, the eerily silent streets of Belfast are transformed into a blazing inferno without warning. The protagonist, Thomas Hook, stumbles back into the pub he had just left, desperate to save the boy who had accompanied him. However, Hook is too late: he discovers the child's burnt body, gruesomely missing both arms.
The scene takes place in the Warsaw Ghetto, where the film's protagonist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, played by Adrien Brody, witnesses the daily horrors and atrocities committed by the Nazis. In this particular scene, an elderly Jewish man in a wheelchair is seen sitting at the dinner table with his family, as German soldiers storm the building. His companions stand as the Nazi officers enter, but, obviously, the man cannot, despite the officers' order. With callous disregard for human life, a Nazi officer approaches him and, without hesitation, pushes the wheelchair-bound man off the balcony. The camera follows the wheelchair's descent, ultimately revealing the lifeless, shattered body of the old man on the ground below. The man's companions are ordered outside, where they are also killed by the Nazis.
The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields is a 1984 British biographical drama film directed by Roland Joffé, based on the true story of two journalists during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. The film stars Sam Waterston as New York Times journalist Sydney Schanberg, Haing S. Ngor as Cambodian photojournalist Dith Pran, and John Malkovich as photojournalist Al Rockoff. The film follows Pran's capture by the Khmer Rouge. He is sent to a labor camp, where he experiences firsthand the brutality and inhumanity of the regime. One of the most terrifying moments in the movie is when Pran stumbles into a watery pit and, to his horror, realizes that the path he had been traversing is lined with the skeletal remains of slain Cambodians. The scene is a haunting reminder of the atrocities committed during this dark period in history.
The Deer Hunter
Michael Cimino's Oscar-winning film The Deer Hunter is filled with numerous impactful scenes. But none are as potent, as chilling, or as controversial as the infamous Russian roulette sequence. The scene takes place in a squalid, makeshift prison camp, where the film's protagonists, Mike (Robert De Niro) and Nick (Christopher Walken), along with their friend Steven (John Savage), are held captive by the Viet Cong, who force the prisoners to participate in a terrifying game of Russian roulette. As the game progresses and tensions rise, Mike comes up with a desperate plan to turn the tables on their captors, increasing the number of bullets in the revolver and taking the opportunity to shoot their captors when it's his turn.
Rescue Dawn is a 2006 war film directed by acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog. It stars Christian Bale as Dieter Dengler, a U.S. Navy pilot shot down and captured during the Vietnam War, and features Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies as his fellow prisoners. The film is based on the true story of Dengler's harrowing experiences as a prisoner of war and his eventual escape from captivity. The plot revolves around Dieter Dengler's struggle to survive in the harsh conditions of a desolate and brutal POW camp, where he and his fellow prisoners face starvation, torture, and the constant threat of death. One scene at the camp that left audiences pale features an...interesting meal. A particularly sadistic guard serves Dengler and his fellow prisoner a large bowl of maggots, which Dengler somehow, defiantly, manages to choke down. I think I'll be skipping dinner tonight, thanks!
Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful is a tragic film that follows Guido Orefice, a Jewish Italian bookshop owner, and his son, Giosuè as they navigate the terror of life in a concentration camp. Throughout the film, Guido attempts to protect his son from the horrors around him. He convinces Giosuè that they are participating in an elaborate game, in which he must complete tasks assigned by Guido. Each task earns points, and the first to reach a thousand points wins a tank. Guido warns Giosuè that crying, complaining about missing his mother, or expressing hunger will cost him points, while staying hidden from camp guards earns extra points. Guido's game is the ultimate symbol of paternal love, but it culminates in the most eerie scene of the film. Guido is eventually ordered to be executed. Still keeping up pretenses on his way to his death, Guido winks at Giosuè. He is then shot and left for dead in an alley. The next morning, Giosuè emerges from his hiding place just as a U.S. Army unit, led by a Sherman tank, liberates the camp. Overjoyed at "winning" the game, and not knowing that his father is now dead, Giosuè believes he has won the tank. An American soldier lets him ride on the tank, further cementing his belief in the game's victory.