The 10 Most Violent Movie Theater Attacks

Shootings are terrifying no matter where they take place, but there's something particularly scary when it happens during a movie, right when you're least suspecting it. Movie theater violence is rare, but that doesn't mean these events are any less meaningful, or interesting, in these cases.

These top ten most violent movie theater attacks are gruesome and downright scary, because they can happen to anyone, anywhere. Do violent movies make people more violent? That's still up for debate. You can check out what the New York Times had to say about it. They said that while people have been saying the two aren't link, new studies may suggest otherwise. 

Check out these ten most violent movie theater attacks, and stay safe. 

  • 1

    Aurora Shooting, The Dark Knight Rises

    Aurora Shooting, The Dark Knight Rises
    Video: YouTube

    The now infamous events of a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises were unlike most of the other acts of violence on this list, seemingly unprovoked.

    On July 20th, 2012, James Holmes entered an Aurora, CO movie theater and opened fire on an unsuspecting audience after detonating tear gas canisters throughout the auditorium. Using several firearms, Holmes targeted equally those who fled and those who remained in their seats. Police apprehended the gunman behind the Century 16 complex within minutes of the shooting.

    The scene inside the theater was ghastly; gunfire and panic left 70 injured and 12 dead. The oldest victim at 51, Gordon Cowden, was in attendance with two of his teenage children (both survived). The youngest victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was just six. She had been escorted to the film by her mother, who survived the attack.

    In March of 2013, Holmes' lawyers offered a guilty plea in exchange for not seeking the death penalty in the case. On April 1st, state prosecutors declined, stating the death penalty would be pursued. As of July 2014, the trial had been delayed.
  • 2

    Man Shot For Talking, Benjamin Button

    Man Shot For Talking, Benjamin Button
    Photo: flickr / CC0

    This is another noise-related attack at the movies. This one just made a bigger noise in the process of doing it. Just wait for it.

    It all started at around 9:30 PM on December 25, 2008 inside the Riverview Movie Theater in South (man, wish it was "West") Philadelphia (born and raised...). A man named James Cialella told a man and his family to be quiet during a showing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and then proceeded to throw popcorn at the victim's son. It could be a pretty quiet movie at times, so we can't really blame this guy for being at least a little miffed by all the commotion. 

    A physical altercation erupted between Cialella and the father. Unable to contain his rage (at the fact that Brad Pitt got to look younger for longer), Cialella walked up to the loud man and shot him.

    Lomax, the victim, was released from the hospital and Cialella charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, along with other charges. The child was unaffected by the popcorn.

    Worst. Christmas. Ever.
  • 3

    Stabbed with a Meat Thermometer, Shutter Island

    Talking on the phone during a movie is an obvious don't. It's rude, annoying, and totally obnoxious. However, speaking up about it can lead to deadly consequence, as proven in the March 2010 stabbing of a moviegoer during a Shutter Island screening in Lancaster, California.

    After an unidentified male complained to a nearby viewer who was on her cellphone during the film, the woman got up with two male friends and exited the theater. This should have eased the guy who actually wanted to watch the movie, and it probably did for a little while – until the lady's guy pals came back and stabbed him in the neck...with a meat thermometer... because apparently, people just carry those around these days.

    If you hire hit men, you'd think they'd at least have enough time to equip themselves correctly.

    To add insult to injury, the guy TOTALLY saw the twist in the movie coming.
  • 4

    Man Commits Suicide, Watchmen

    Yeah, so Watchmen got a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, but c'mon, that's not worth committing suicide over, right? The movie was actually a fair representation of the novel and was almost shot-for-shot the book. Sure, not EVERY single theme was covered, but it was a relatively sound adaptation.

    The poor guy who popped his head with a gun in a midnight screening of Watchmen on April 6, 2009 didn't even give himself the chance to watch the ending. No one else was injured in the theater, as the victim was seated in the back corner and the closest person was two rows away.

    This most likely happened during the awkward sex scene between Night Owl and Silk Spectre II, though, and c'mon, at least there were boobs involved there. It wasn't THAT bad. Also, what if there was something after the credits?

    Everyone's a critic.
  • 5

    Opening Night Shootout, Notorious

    Opening Night Shootout, Notorious
    Video: YouTube

    I guess if there had to be a shootout at a movie, it would be at a movie like Notorious. Based on the life of rapper Notorious B.I.G. whose life was taken away by an unsolved drive-by shooting in Los Angeles and constantly in the throes of East Coast/West Coast rivalry, the movie opened to about 700 people at the Greensboro Movie Theater on January 16, 2009. But it wasn't just opening night for the theater, it was also an occasion for opening fire.

    At around 9 PM, while moviegoers were waiting to get in to the showing, a 32-year-old man was shot twice in the abdomen. It was caused by an argument, and everyone was evacuated (Biggie vs. Tupac, perhaps?).

    Dozens of police cars swarmed the location, and though the moviegoers couldn't see Notorious, they at least got a small dose of a "B.I.G." scene. Feel free to commence knee slapping at any moment now... aaaany minute now....
  • 6

    Stabbed with a Pen, Comic-Con 2010 Movie Panels

    Stabbed with a Pen, Comic-Con 2010 Movie Panels
    Video: YouTube

    Though technically not a movie theater, but a convention hall where they show movies, a dude wearing a Harry Potter shirt stabbed another guy in the face with a pen over a seat for... wait for it... the movie Paul, a film starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost that isn't even directed by Edgar Wright.

    Hall H (notoriously known for being by far the most crowded section at Comic Con) at the 2010 Comic Con International Convention was supposed to be for a panel featuring actor Seth Rogen discussing the science-fiction comedy Paul, but instead it became residence for some nerd evil.

    Male #1 got up out of his seat for a moment, where he had been anxiously awaiting for the last Harry Potter panel of all time for hours, came back to find another guy sitting there instead. After refusing to get up out of his seat, Male #1 went apesh*t and stabbed the dude right under his eye with a pen. Thank goodness it wasn't the jugular, amirite?

    The victim was taken to the hospital with a minor cut, while the attacker was arrested and booked for assault with a deadly weapon. Yeah, you read that right. Deadly.

    Looks like the pen IS mightier...