The key to this list is the word “movie”. Films are often violent, and violence calls for weaponry, but there is a certain class of movie weapon that is purely fictional, either because it simply doesn’t (or couldn’t) exist in the real world, or because it does exist but couldn’t possibly be used in the way portrayed. Unfortunately this means a lot of iconic weapons have to be left out. Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world that could blow your head clean off, is a real gun that works. Similarly you’ll find no Beretta or Uzi 9mm, M16, Colt .45 or Winchester ’73 here; no bullwhips (Indy uses it creatively but doesn’t do a lot of damage); no knives; no Anton Chigurh cattlegun and – almost – no swords. No bombs, either: not even, after much soul-searching, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, which, when all’s said and done, was just a hand grenade with a silly name and a costume. This list is about weapons that are either cool or ridiculous, or both. You can’t own them. Or if you can, they won’t work like this. And for those who feel a Death Star would be even better than a lightsaber, consider the admin involved: it needs over a million staff, so its payroll department alone would be a nightmare. Plus, all that Imperial efficiency still doesn’t stop the Rebels taking it down twice.
Evil Dead 2 & 3 (1987/1992) (A classic of B-grade flims)
As iconic horror-movie weapons go, the chainsaw is top of the bloody pile, but Leatherface, at least in the original incarnation of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, does little more than wave it around. For expert saw-wielding we need to look to Ash, Bruce Campbell’s put-upon anti-hero in Sam Raimi’s berserk Evil Dead series. Ash uses the saw both for impromptu self-surgery of a possessed hand, and later as a replacement for the missing appendage, ripcord attached to his chest for an easy start (the smoke from the engine is actually tobacco smoke being pumped through a hose attached to Campbell’s leg). The boomstick is all well and good, but the saw is your weapon of choice for the vanquishing of Deadite hordes. In a word, groovy.
You probably couldn’t lift it, you certainly couldn’t aim it, you couldn’t fire it without being blown backwards off your feet by massive recoil, you couldn’t possibly carry enough ammunition to fire it for more than a couple of seconds, and the ejected bullet casings would tear you to shreds. Oh, and it needs a power source: three truck batteries for preference. None of which prevents Governor Jesse Ventura from hefting the not-so-mini 7.62mm M134 minigun, designed for mounting on helicopters, into a gun-battle with jungle guerrillas, or Bill Duke from using it to blast hell out of an acre of foliage in an attempt to mow down Kevin Peter Hall. Director John McTiernan’s DVD commentary gleefully admits how ludicrous it is. It’s also super-super-cool.
Giving a whole new meaning to the term “duelling banjos”, the aptly named Banjo (William Berger) carries a four-string with a shotgun replacing the neck. As a disguised shotgun it’s feasible, but it seems unlikely that it would also function as a working musical instrument, as it does here. You would, at the very least, find yourself replacing a lot of strings and re-tuning often. See also the bazooka instrument cases hefted around in El Mariachi and its sequels. Lee Van Cleef’s Sabata himself carries a four-barrelled Derringer that also shoots a single bullet from the butt. It’s unclear why this is better than a normal six-shooter.
The Phantom Menace (1999)
What could possibly be more awesome than a sword with a blade of pure energy? Why, a quarterstaff version with a blade at both ends, of course. Star Wars: Episode I may have been a massive let-down to all but the criminally insane, but it did at least provide the spectacle of Darth Maul’s pimped-out Sith sidearm, and for that we thank you, George Lucas, we thank you.
No movie-weapons list would be complete without something from the James Bond canon: Dr. No’s claw hands, Tee Hee’s hook, the razor yo-yo and countless examples from Q’s lab are all worthy contenders. But Oddjob’s Frisbee razorblade bowler – capable of cutting through stone, steel and Tania Mallet, and not actually a proper bowler because it doesn’t have a round top – is the clear winner, both for its sheer silliness, and for the taciturn élan with which the stumpy chauffeur puts it to use.
M56 Smart Gun
Ripley’s flame-throwing, grenade-launching pulse rifle is top stuff, but technically two weapons strapped together. The connoisseur’s xenomorph-killer is the all-singing, all-dancing smart gun. Designed for covering fire, it sports an onboard computer for auto-aiming at moving targets, can hold either 300 or 500 rounds depending on whether you’re watching Aliens or AvP, and makes a very excellent noise.
The Spider Woman (1944)
Gale Sondergaard’s sneaky weapon in The Spider Woman is the lycosa carnivora: a giant spider whose bite is so painful that its victim commits suicide. It’s a murder weapon where the murder is unnecessary – and she would have gotten away with it too, if not for that meddling Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, it’s hardly worthy of Conan Doyle himself: there’s no such spider, and the lycosa species is harmless to humans. You might get a bit of swelling and an itch. See also Dr. No and the Hammer version of The Hound Of The Baskervilles.
Essential for rescuing princesses from magic castles, the Glaive is a five-pointed throwing star with retractable blades, retrieved from a lava pit on a volcano. It comes back like a boomerang when thrown, and can be controlled psychically. Preferable as a 1980s telekinetic sci-fi weapon to Dune’s Weirding Modules because you don’t have to shout a silly name to make it function. See also Tron, for the neon throwing discs.
The Blade (1995) (One of my favourite films)
A busted blade wielded by a one-armed swordsman. On a chain. Jet Li’s sword-with-a-hole-in-it from Hero is a nifty gadget for disarming your opponent, but it’s trumped by Tsui Hark’s unusual vision of the sword as a blunt instrument: why enter into close combat when you can whack someone round the head from a distance? Plus, the idea of a damaged sword and a damaged swordsman amounting to a whole being is, like, deep, man.
Peter Jackson produced horror cinema’s most unbeatable splatter scene with an everyday industrial appliance when Lionel Cosgrove strapped on his lawnmower. Cue a jawdropping few minutes of spraying blood and flying offal. It doesn’t matter that most lawnmowers have difficulty with the slightest tump of uneven garden: zombie flesh is soft. The dictionary definition of “splatstick”.
Article stolen from Empire magazine and written by Owen Williams