Read ’em and Seep…
In Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 sci-fi blockbuster, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) finds himself on the run from the governor of Mars. As part of his evasive maneuvers, he must extract a tracking device that’s been implanted in his sinus cavity. A hilarious sequence follows in which Quaid sticks a sort of futuristic caulking gun up his nose and pulls out a red orb the size of a golf ball. Arnie’s face goes through a lot of agonized contortions in this scene, but it doesn’t seem like too tricky a feat, comparatively speaking. After all, since the device was designed to be extractable, the process seems more uncomfortable than painful. And what a relief you must feel once you’re done!
At a certain point in this entertaining, one-crazy-night comedy from last year, suburban husband Max (Jason Bateman) gets shot in the arm, forcing his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams) to figure out how to extract the bullet using only items she’s scavenged from a dollar store, while guided by an instructional video from an alt-right website. I strongly identify with Max in this scene, from the gag reflex that kicks in as soon as the blood begins to flow to his annoyance at the way his wife has arranged the display settings on her smartphone. Not fainting when the penknife accidentally makes contact with bone would be a challenge, but I think I could soldier through.
In Ridley Scott’s 2012 Alien prequel, an astronaut (played by Noomi Rapace) who believed she was sterile suddenly appears to be pregnant. Since she is in an Alien movie, she knows that’s no human embryo inside her, but a killer baby xenomorph. And so she seals herself into an automated surgery pod and tells the computer to give her an emergency cesarean. As grueling as this experience may look, it’s not as sustained a test of one’s pain threshold as other scenes on this list. Once Rapace’s character hits the button that sets the operation in motion, she’s a passive patient in the care of a supercomputer. She even gets local anesthesia!
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
At first blush, the showstopping moment when a crazed Ash (Bruce Campbell) chain-saws off his own hand might seem to be way too low on this list. But here’s my logic: At this point in Sam Raimi’s 1987 splatter comedy, Ash’s hand is possessed by a demonic entity and won’t stop smashing plates and bottles over his head. It seems like a kill-or-be-killed scenario to me, and moreover, the heat of battle would mute the pain of the amputation process. In fact, the hardest aspect of this scene for me to replicate might be revving up a chain saw with my teeth.
Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) extracting a rotten tooth using nothing but a mirror and the blade of an ice skate is easily the most excruciating scene in Hanks’s entire filmography (okay, with the possible exception of his pidgin-English monologues from Cloud Atlas).