Taking someone out with a gun or a knife or even a bazooka is pretty commonplace in action films today. But every now and then you get a filmmaker or writer who comes up with a clever or unusual item to use for either self-defense or lethal purposes. So here’s a list of some of the most unusual weapons you can find in movies. The Saw and Final Destination-style movies, where the whole point is to create bizarre deaths, are off the table. This is a list where a combination of an unusual item and a flair for using it make the moment memorable.
1) Shoot ‘Em Up (2007)
The number one unusual weapon enjoys the top slot for both the originality of the item and the flair with which it is used. Clive Owen plays a man who helps a pregnant woman deliver her baby while hitmen are chasing her. He describes himself as, “I’m a British nanny and I’m dangerous.” And he certainly is dangerous, and downright lethal with the right vegetable. He relies on a carrot more than once to get him out of a jam, and naturally he can’t resist quipping, “What’s up, doc?”
2) Jackie Chan’s Project A: Part 2 (1987)
Weapon: Chili peppers
While on the subject of food, might as well put Jackie Chan’s use of chili peppers in the number two slot. In this film he’s chased through a village and up scaffolding and in desperation he stuffs his mouth full of red chili peppers, chews frantically, and spits the fiery juice at his attackers. Supposedly the peppers Chan chewed were real ones, possibly making this one of Chan’s more dangerous stunts.
You could probably find 10 unusual weapons in Chan’s films alone, so he deserves an award all on his own for innovative use of practically anything and everything in a scene as a weapon from a ladder to a jacket to a clothes rack.
3) No Country for Old Men (2007)
Weapon: Captive bolt pistol
This film ranks high for the combination of an odd weapon and an even odder killer. Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh, with his incongruous mop-top haircut and laconic demeanor, is one of the creepiest screen villains ever. He’s made all the weirder by his choice of weapons: a captive bolt pistol, something used to stun cows before slaughter. Chigurh lugs this absurd weapon around with its compressed air canister, using it to kill people and bust open doors. He’s like some perverse Ever-Ready Bunny that just keeps going and going.
4) A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Weapon: Porcelain phallus
Malcolm McDowell’s Alex is a violent young thug in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel. He commits a series of brutal crimes and at one point assaults a woman with an art piece adorning her room. The sculpture is a large, white, porcelain phallus that he uses to bash her head in with. There’s a fitting absurdity and grotesque appropriateness to the choice of weapon.
5) The Dark Knight (2008)
Okay, this one gets major points for style. Heath Ledger’s Joker enters a roomful of thugs and proceeds to impress them with a ‘magic’ trick. He jams a pencil into the table and then grabs one of the crooks and slams his head into the pencil. Presto! Now you see the pencil, now you don’t. The sheer audacity of his action and the efficient speed with which he executes his trick make this one a top pick. Wicked.
6) Machete (2010)
Weapon: Meat thermometer
Robert Rodriguez kicks up the action to 11 with this ’70s B-movie homage. Danny Trejo’s Machete proves quite inventive when he has to be so. When he’s attacked in a kitchen, he grabs a meat thermometer and jabs it into a henchman’s neck. When a bomb later explodes in the kitchen, the man is thrown out of the house and the meat thermometer pops up to signal he’s done. This is B-movie genius.
7) Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Weapon: Soldering iron, TV
Michael Rooker plays a serial killer whose M.O. is to have no M.O. Each victim is offed in a different manner and for no particular reason. The unfortunate victim in this instance pisses Henry off and Henry retaliates by first stabbing him repeatedly with a soldering iron and then slamming a TV on the guy’s head. And for a finishing touch, he turns the TV on and fries the guy’s head.
8) Goldfinger (1964)
The James Bond films have often been clever with their gadgets, so it seems only right to include one of the films here. The best Bond villain of course has the most memorable weapon. The hulking Oddjob (played by Japanese American wrestler Harold Sakata) kills people with his hat. It helps that the hat had a lethal steel brim. But Oddjob gets his just desserts: his hat ultimately does him in but not in the way you might expect.
9) Fireworks (1997)
Now for a little ethnic diversity and something with an Asian flair. Filmmaker Takeshi Kitano plays Detective Nishi, a cop coping with an assortment of tragedies and sinking deeper into desperation and despair. This prompts him to violence. So when a local yakura mouths off to him, he simply and abruptly grabs a pair of chopsticks and shoves them into the gangster’s eye.
Michelle Yeoh also used chopsticks – but less brutally – in Jackie Chan’s Super Cop.
10) The Bourne Identity (2002)
Weapon: Ballpoint pen
Okay, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is one badass and he can kill people with his bare hands. But common household items can also come in handy, as when he’s ambushed in an apartment by a knife-wielding assassin. Bourne takes the guy out with a common ballpoint pen, prompting thoughts of “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
11) True Romance (1993)
This makes the list mainly because of the sheer determination and ingenuity of the person using it. Patricia Arquette is a hooker named Alabama who squares off against James Gandolfini’s brutal gangster in this Quentin Tarantino-scripted film. The match-up may appear uneven, but Arquette’s hooker has got a lot of moxie. Even after being beaten up and thrown through a glass shower door she still has the impudence to flip off her attacker. When she grabs a corkscrew to defend herself, the hitman just laughs. But he stops laughing when she stabs him in the foot. And in the end, it’s the little girl who survives.
12) Shaun of the Dead (2004)
In this brilliant romantic zombie comedy, Simon Pegg’s Shaun finds himself under attack from zombies. Fortunately, these are old school Romero zombies that move ever so slowly. So slow in fact that it gives Shaun plenty of time to react to a pair of zombies invading his backyard. So much time in fact that when he and his roommate decide to throw LPs at the advancing undead, they can argue about each album title to decide which are worth keeping and which can be used as a weapon. Unfortunately, the LPs prove rather ineffective.
This one ranks high because of the way the scene is used to poke fun at genre conventions. The weapon chosen is ridiculous and Shaun ends up being the most unlikely action hero.
13) Braindead a.k.a. Dead Alive (1992)
And while we’re dealing with the zombies apocalypse, how about Peter Jackson’s Kiwi horror tale? Braindead’s final showdown finds our hero going out to the shed for a common yard item: a lawnmower. With modified mower in hand, our hero mows down a houseful of the undead. Needless to say, blood and body parts fly. Night of the Creeps may have used a lawnmower as a weapon before Braindead, but Braindead uses it with such flair that it gets the slot here.
14) Re-Animator (1985)
I wasn’t going to include any part of the human body as a weapon (and believe me there have been a few inventive choices, if you recall Scary Movie) but I couldn’t resist Re-Animator. Jeffrey Combs plays Herbert West, a young med student who continues the research of his mentor and experiments with reanimating dead people. But the dead are quite pissed off when they come back. When he kills and reanimates his bitter rival, the dead doc sends his intestines out across the room to strangle West. Now that’s original!
15) Serial Mom (1994)
Weapon: Leg of lamb
Leave it to John Waters to come up with original kills in this suburban satire. Kathleen Turner plays Beverly Sutphin, a June Cleaver-like suburban mom and housewife, and a bastion of American values. She’s outraged by neighbors who don’t recycle and women who commit the fashion faux pas of wearing white shoes after Labor Day. When Beverly deems her neighbor not worthy to live, she pays a sneak visit, picks up a butcher knife, and heads off to kill the woman. But Bev decides against the conventional knife as a weapon and instead picks up a leg of lamb and pummels the lady to death as she watches Annie and sings along to “Tomorrow.”
Waters proves so good at skewering American middle-class morality.
16) The Last House on the Left (2009)
A microwave isn’t exactly an easy thing to carry around in case of emergencies, but if you’re all set up in, say, your garage or boathouse to get a little revenge on some creepazoid, well then it might just do the trick. And that’s precisely what a pair of parents do when they want to deliver their own brand of justice to the brutal sociopath who attacked their daughter and left her for dead. Of course, you can’t fit an entire person in a microwave, but it can do some damage to just their head.
17) And Now for Something Completely Different (1971)
And now for something completely different: Monty Python. And a rather goofy weapon. This Monty Python film is actually made up mostly of sketches from their British TV series. One of the funniest ones involves something called a Killer Joke. It was invented during World War II and translated into German (people who got a hold of just two words were sent to the hospital) to be used as possibly the most unusual weapon of mass destruction.
18) Single White Female (1992)
Weapon: Stiletto high heels
High heels have often been viewed as a symbol of female power and sexuality. And sometimes that can come in handy as an improvised weapon. Here, Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a pretty little psycho who fixates on her roommate and tries to become her. When the roommate’s boyfriend pays a visit, Leigh uses her heels to make a point.
Stilettos have been used before and since, most recently Jessica Alba used red stilettos to kill a hitman in a Mexican wrestling mask in Machete. That’s dressing for success.
19) Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
Gerard Butler’s Clyde masterminds an elaborate revenge scheme after the men who kill his family get off too easy. At one point, his character makes a deal: information in exchange for a special meal with a Porterhouse steak. The warden doesn’t trust him in the least so when Clyde asks for a steak knife, all he gets is a spork. But Clyde doesn’t need no stinking knife, not when he has a steak with the bone in. After enjoying his meal, he takes the t-bone and stabs his cellmate to death. Yet another reason to go vegetarian.
20) Brooklyn’s Finest (2009)
Weapon: Zip tie
This film gets high marks for creativity in its choice of weapons, but the film itself is a dud. But kudos to whoever came up with the idea of using a zip tie to strangle an attacker.
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