If writer and director James Gunn has a trademark, it’s his use of toe-tapping pop music. That, and also sickening violence. His films Guardians of the Galaxy, Super, and Slither are filled with classic rock tunes, and sure enough his latest movie, the 2021 version of DC’s The Suicide Squad, is bursting with ear-catching pop nuggets. Plus, from opening massacre to bonkers ending and post-credits scene, hilariously gory death.
Although it isn’t doing great in theaters (possibly because it’s also streaming now on HBO Max), this Suicide Squad sequel/reboot is a “scabrous, side-splitting and surprisingly smart supervillain romp”, as I exclaimed in my CNET review. We want to celebrate DC’s latest adventure in the same tone as the colorful, irreverent, utterly vile film itself, and what better way than with a good old-fashioned ranking. People love ranking things! From indie darlings the Decemberists and Pixies to classic rock gods Kansas to a human person with hopes and dreams and a family, presumably, whose head is pulled off and played with by a King Shark, we’ve listed the irresistible tunes and repugnant abhorrent violence by how much they made us want to sing along or sickened us to the pits of our stomachs.
Spoilers, obviously. And this is, like, just our opinion, so go easy, you guys! Hit us up on all the social medias to tell us K.Flay deserves to be higher or that you still see the guy with his face ripped off every time you close your eyes. Enjoy!
51. So Busted (Culture Abuse)
What is this awful rock dirge playing over the final chopper ride? It’s a real bum note to end on, that’s what.
50. Ratcatcher (Overdose)
Taika Waititi delivers the film’s message about the least of us having a purpose, but his drug-addicted demise is squalid and pointless. Easily the least fun death in the movie. Still better than that Culture Abuse song though.
49. Point of Know Return (Kansas)
I think this is the song Milton plays at the checkpoint, which you can barely hear. Scores low in our listing because you can’t really hear the totally bitchin’ organ noodling.
48. Thinker’s scientist (Unspecified)
Killed offscreen. No fun at all.
47. Driver of military truck (Battered from behind)
It’s hard to defend yourself when you’re trying to keep your eyes on the road.
46. Whistle for the Choir (The Fratellis)
This chirpy ditty by Scottish indie troubadours The Fratellis came out in 2006 and plays over the scene in which Harley Quinn falls in love with a sexy Latin despot. But hang on: A shift in the sound suggests it’s actually diegetic — we aren’t just hearing it on the soundtrack, the South American dictator has actually chosen 2000s British indie mulch as his seduction music. I went off my nut to Chelsea Dagger at the indiedisco in 2001 the same as everyone else, but come on.
45. Jotunheim guards (Crushed by burning Humvee)
It says something that “crushed by burning Humvee” is one of the more mundane ways people die in this movie.
44. Oh No!!! (Grandson)
Plays over the credits. Fine if you like that sort of thing.
43. CCTV guard (Blown up)
What I like about this character, who spots the Squad on CCTV and calls her comrades back from their break, is that she seems really capable.
42. Samba Na Sola (Céu)
Lilting loveliness from Brazilian singer-songwriter Céu.
41. Milton (Shot)
You remember Milton. An ordinary guy who wanted to free his country, and for some reason didn’t think to just stay on the bus. Who? Milton. Y’know. Milton! C’mon!
40. Can’t Sleep (K.Flay)
The Squad go drinking and dancing. Possibly the happiest moment in the film. “You say I’m crazy / But I feel amazing.” Quite.
39. Weasel (Drowned)
The first death, except the kicker is he later wakes up again. Only really on this list because Weasel is played by James Gunn’s brother Sean Gunn. Blatant nepotism, that’s what that is.
38. I Ain’t Got Nobody (Louis Prima)
Harley is indeed sad and lonely now she ain’t got nobody, even if it is kinda her fault — she totally had somebody until she shot him in the face. Her torturer taken out, the song rings in our ears as Harley gets over her heartbreak by battering and machine-gunning a palace full of guards. Glad to see her growing as a person.
37. Guard tower guerrillas (Falling from guard tower)
Polka Dot Man thinks big.
36. Sucker’s Prayer (The Decemberists)
Sounding deceptively like the ’70s West Coast pop James Gunn loves so much, this breezy number is in fact from 2018 and it’s by the Decemberists. The hook line — “I want to love somebody but I don’t know how” — is an aching summary of the whole film, and perhaps the entire human condition. But the song isn’t as good as that one they did about being eaten by a whale.
35. Guards in truck x3 (Single punch x3)
34. Guard killed by door (Battered by door)
When one door closes, another door opens, and is then repeatedly slammed into your face by an escaping Harley Quinn.
33. Torturer (Neck snapped)
Harley Quinn goes full Martin Riggs for this one.
32. Knife guard (Cuts own throat)
That’s what you get for bringing a knife to a Harley Quinn fight.
31. Checkpoint guards (Shark nom nom, shot)
Imagine the last thing you hear is soft rock band Kansas before a shark bites off your head. Still, these checkpoint guards totally deserve it — how the hell didn’t they realize Milton was stalling for time?
30. Beach Soldier (Head sliced off by boomerang)
A samurai movie staple, the dude’s head sliding off in the opening attack is a teasing taste of the gory carnage to come.
29. Fancy shirt guerrilla (Eaten by shark)
A great example of how James Gunn gives even the most nameless victim a dash of personality, before dashing their brains out.
28. Bathing guerrilla (Electrocuted by fan)
Shocking. Positively shocking.
27. Hey (Pixies)
Can’t beat a slo-mo power walk in the rain, and you can’t beat a bit of Pixies. Bonus points for the comradely grins shared by Flag and Harley.
26. Mongal (Blown up by a helicopter)
A lot of the deaths on the beach are her fault, including her own.
25. TDM (Shot)
Nathan Fillion is a notable guest star, but The Detachable Man turned out to be (wait for it… ) ‘armless.
24. Michael Rooker (Head blown up)
Savant squishes a bird in the opening scene, so it’s appropriate his headless corpse is pecked by a bird after he panics and swims from the beach assault.
23. Star-crossed Corto Maltesian (Incinerated)
In any other movie, the starfish would drop off and their victims would shake their heads, mutter “Whu… what happened?” and return to being human. Not this movie, pal. So it doesn’t feel too harsh that Bloodsport flame-throwers this otherwise probably perfectly affable Corto Maltesian citizen.
22. Palace guards (Shot)
Harley finds closure for her latest romantic misadventure with a pair of M-16s as flowers fulminate through the air.
21. Guards who shot Milton (Vaporized by interdimensional polka dots)
Vengeance for Milton!
20. Palace guards (Impaled by javelin)
Harley tops off her lovelorn rampage by kebabing a bunch of guards with Javelin’s javelin. This is important because it reminds you about the spear she’s been carrying around, keeping it in your mind for the ending of the film. Think of it as Chekhov’s javelin.
19. Resistance guerrillas (Stabbed, shot, axe in head, blowpipe, set on fire then shot)
The pissing contest between Bloodsport and Peacemaker is very funny while you think they’re killing bad guys in increasingly creative ways. It hits different when you realize they’ve cold-bloodedly murdered actual freedom fighters. Oops.
18. Soldier (Head bitten off by shark)
Nobody told Nanaue not to play with his food.
17. Corto Maltese junta (Shot)
After Suarez is killed, his fellow generals seize power only to be gunned down by the Resistance. Shortest coup ever!
16. Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash)
One of the criticisms of David Ayer’s 2016 original Suicide Squad was the shamelessly on-the-nose soundtrack (which Ayer has since disavowed), like using House of the Rising Sun to introduce a supervillain big house in Louisiana. But Gunn’s opening also intros the same prison with a needle drop every bit as brazen: Johnny Cash intoning Folsom Prison Blues. It’s a sly and irreverent piece of musical playfulness.
15. Corto Maltesians (Crushed)
Stomped by Starro. What a way to go.
14. Javelin (Succumbs to gunshot wounds without completing last words)
Harley’s initial frustration later motivated her to save the day. A fine death, then, or at least relatively less ludicrous.
13. Captain Boomerang (Impaled by tree splinters)
One of the previous film’s stars, Jai Courtney, is sacrificed in the opening sequence to show James Gunn means business. Perhaps the most significant death of the opening assault, as it firmly establishes this world’s rules (or lack of).
12. General Suarez and soldiers (Star-crossed)
It’s unclear when star-crossed individuals actually die: when Starro’s mind-controlling starfish glom onto their faces, or when Starro himself bites the big one. The obnoxious General Suarez gets two moments of fatal hubris, first as he watches his army succumb to a rain of hot pink extra-terrestrial echinoderms, then again when he delivers Starro’s only line: “I was happy floating, staring at stars.”
11. People Who Died (The Jim Carroll Band)
Also used in ET, Dawn of the Dead and Mr. Robot, this punky obituary was sung by New York poet Jim Carroll (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in 1995 film The Basketball Diaries). This catalog of presumably real-life wasted lives plays over the corpses of various guest stars killed in assorted absurd ways, which seems, I don’t know, kinda bad taste?
10. Jotunheim guard (Torn in half by shark)
This one made the trailer!
9. Thinker (Dismembered)
Starro the giant alien starfish finally gets its suckers on the man who imprisoned and tortured it. First there’s a classic tentacle drag across the floor, then Thinker’s arms and legs are ripped off. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Although I can’t help thinking the film missed a trick here: Imagine if Starro had absorbed the Thinker — then we’d have had a super-smart kaiju up in this shit.
8. Soldier guarding bar back door (Rat in mouth)
Does the rat kill him? Doesn’t matter, this is frickin’ horrible.
7. Star-crossed dissidents (Experimented on)
The machinery they’re hooked up to could be keeping these unfortunate opponents of the Corto regime alive, but judging by the gaps where their legs and even faces were it’s unlikely. Amid all the flick’s bloody gore, the Thinker’s handiwork is perhaps the most obscene.
6. Guerrilla shot in shoulder who then blows up (Shot then blown up)
Peacemaker’s exploding compression bullets are indeed pretty dope. Bonus points for the way the wounded guy sways for a moment like a video game character about to be KO’d.
5. Pete Davidson (Face blown off)
The Saturday Night Live star gets killed by the very people to whom he tried to betray his teammates. Karma! The first and most shocking of the film’s many violent deaths, this is a clear jolt to the viewer.
4. Polka Dot Man (Crushed)
Has there ever been a more pathetic character in a comic book movie than poor Polka Dot Man, tortured by mental visions of his mother and contorted by inter-dimensional neon body horror. At least when he’s crushed by the giant alien starfish he has a brief moment of enjoying being a real superhero.
3. Peacemaker (Shot in throat)
Smaller bullets! Bloodsport finally proves himself the better shot as his bullet smashes Peacemaker’s in midflight. The post-credits scene, however, reveals the patriotic psycho survives to set up a new HBO Max TV show. I’ve included this apparent kill here because it is, to borrow a phrase, dope as fuck.
2. Rick Flag (Stabbed in heart)
Flag’s fight with Peacemaker degenerates into a desperate scuffle in the filthy water of a toilet. Fighting to blow the whistle on US government machinations, Flag is literally pulled down into the muck and mire he’s trying to rise above. Subtext! The look on Peacemaker’s face when he stabs Flag with a shard of porcelain throne suggests this moment will haunt the over-patriotic psycho when the story continues in his HBO Max show.
In one of the film’s gonzo stylistic flourishes, the camera zooms into Flag’s chest to show his impaled heart. This calls back to Flag’s possession of Enchantress’ heart in the first film, as well as demonstrating that this major character is indeed really dead, and also suggesting that in the end he was killed because he finally cared about something. I never saw it coming, but it turns out lunkheaded soldier boy Rick Flag is literally the heart of the film.
1. Starro (Brain eaten by rats)
After the psychotic clown lady pierces the giant starfish’s eye with a javelin she took from a dead supervillain, a horde of rats swim into its blood and chew its brain to pieces. Wait… what?
Movies coming in 2021 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more
See all photos