18 Movies Where A Severed Body Part Becomes A Key Plot Point

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Vote up the most surprisingly important appendages.

Any time a character loses a body part, it's gonna be a pretty dramatic moment, but in these films, the act of separation or the severed appendage itself is a key plot point. Not only are these sequences among the most intense moments in the movie, but they also prove to be significant to the progression of the narrative. Without the removal of these body parts, the direction of the story may have been notably different.

Sometimes the severed body part belongs to the protagonist and changes the course of their existence by its removal. Other times the appendage belongs to a supporting or minor character, but its removal proves significant to the main character in some way. Whether the lost limb belongs to the main character or a supporting one, it is an important moment in the plot. The act may simply be a means to an end, but the narrative would come to a halt without the body part's separation.

  • The Body Part: The right hand of Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell).

    How It’s Removed: After the possessed head of his girlfriend bites his hand, Ash is forced into a battle with his own limb. To escape attacks from the possessed hand, Ash severs it with a chainsaw.

    Why It’s Important: Despite attempts to destroy the hand with a shotgun, the severed appendage escapes. Ash later modifies a chainsaw and attaches it on the stump where his hand was, using it as his primary weapon against the demonic threat.

    13 votes

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  • The Body Parts: The eyes of PreCrime Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise).

    How They're Removed: In the future city of Minority Report, retinal recognition systems are used for security measures and targeted marketing, so John is forced to cut his own eyes out when he goes on the run from authorities. Anderton goes to a underworld doctor to remove his eyes, replacing them with a new pair.

    Why They're Important: Without the retinal recognition, John is able to break into the PreCrime headquarters to kidnap the head “Precog,” Agatha Lively (Samantha Morton). With Agatha’s help, John can solve the mystery of his son’s disappearance, as well as expose the conspiracy to keep Agatha imprisoned for her psychic abilities.

    40 votes

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  • The Body Part: The eye of the prison warden (Andre Gregory).

    How It’s Removed: Incarcerated career criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) escapes from a parole hearing after using the warden’s severed eye to get through the security measures.

    Why It’s Important: After Phoenix escapes, disgraced LAPD sergeant John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) is brought back from imprisonment in cryogenic sleep to fight the threat. Spartan was the one to initially catch Phoenix before society found him guilty of using methods of extreme violence, and he's the only one capable of catching him again in a peaceful utopian future society.

    17 votes

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  • Paul Orlac's Transplanted Hands In 'The Hands of Orlac'
    Photo: Aywon Film

    The Body Parts: The hands of concert pianist Paul Orlac (Conrad Veidt) and an executed murderer named Vasseur.

    How They're Removed: When Orlac’s hands are destroyed in a train crash, they are cut off and replaced with the hands of the recently executed killer.

    Why They're Important: Orlac becomes convinced the hands are evil, and still capable of carrying out the violent acts of their previous owner. He is unable to play the piano and authorities begin to suspect him of murder when Vasseur’s fingerprints are found at a crime scene.

    4 votes

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  • The Body Part: The hand of Mr. Park (Oh Dal-su), the manager of a private prison.

    How It’s Removed: After Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is held prisoner for 15 years, he is given a few days to figure out the reason for his mysterious captivity. After threatening to cut off the hand of Mr. Park for his part in the plot, Dae-su receives a package from the man responsible for his captivity containing the severed hand.

    Why It’s Important: This “gift” allows Dae-su to realize he has been bugged. When he finds a wire hidden in his shoe, it leads him down a path to discover the man responsible for his captivity - and the removal of Mr. Park’s hand.

    3 votes
  • Naoufel's Hand In 'I Lost My Body'
    Photo: Netflix

    The Body Part: The hand of a young man named Naoufel, who is working as a carpenter’s apprentice.

    How It’s Removed: When Naoufel’s watch catches on the blade of a bandsaw, his hand is cut off.

    Why It’s Important: The fantastical narrative is told non-chronologically, with a portion of the narrative following Naoufel’s severed hand. The hand has a life separate from the rest of the body, capable of moving and even susceptible to ordinary human emotions, but spends much of the film trying to get back to Naoufel.

    3 votes