I don’t know what gave me the idea to do a list of the best movies with severed digits – in this case, digits is not meant in a mathematical way, but in the fingers and toes way – but since all lists are inherently arbitrary constructed and a little stupid (AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs, anybody?), it seemed all right just to embrace these lists for all their stupidity and pick something outre.
So, here it is, the ten best movies that prominently feature a severed finger. Or toe.
(Incidentally, I thought about calling this ‘pieces and parts’ but chose an equally silly title.)
10. Four Rooms – “The Man From Hollywood”, dir. by Quentin Tarantino
This movie might’ve gone higher on the list if the sum of its parts wasn’t less than the value of those parts. After all, while Robert Rodriguez’s segment it great and seems to have inspired him to do Spy Kids – come on, who doesn’t love little kids in tuxedoes? – and Tarantino’s segment, which revolves entirely around a bet over a lighter and a finger, the other two segments are lousy. No, they’re not lousy. They’re dreadfully lousy and that’s the reason this film tanked at the box-office – because half-good is just not good enough. Still, the moment with the finger is classic.
9. Big Lebowski, dir. by Joel and Ethan Coen
Apparently Walter wasn’t lying when he said it was easy to get a toe, by three o’clock if needed, even one with nail polish – you’re choice of color. It’s so easy, even the nihilists can do it.
8. Dead of Winter, dir. by Arthur Penn
In this twisty, somewhat little-known late-career thriller from Arthur Penn, Mary Steenburgen plays an actress who thinks she’s being hired for a part in a movie, but actually she’s been tricked into playing out the part of a dead woman in a blackmail scheme. Ensuring verisimilitude requires the loss of a finger – talk about method acting.
Anyway, the finger is not in the trailer above, though you do get to see the bandaged hand that gave up the finger, for whatever that’s worth.
7. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, dir. by Peter Jackson
So, at the end of nearly nine hours of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy – but infamously not at the end of this particular film – Frodo finally gets ready to throw the damned ring into the fires of Mordor only to have that troll Gollum bite the damned thing off, finger and all. (ABOUT 230 into clip) I suppose we can be thankful Gollum didn’t get away from it, or else we’d have to endure 75 more endings for this interminable film.
6. The Royal Tenenbaums, dir. by Wes Anderson
When adopted daughter Margot decides she needs to discover her past, she goes off to join her real family somewhere in Indiana. Except, she’s obviously not accustomed to the rustic life of the real family because first day out, she loses the finger helping the family cut firewood and comes right back home. In fairness to her, the guy doing the chopping – I assume he’s her real father – looks like he’s cut enough wood in his life to know you should let a person take their hand off the log before you start swinging that axe. So if anybody is to blame, it’s him.
5. Miami Blues, dir. by George Armitage
This movie is a bit of an unsung classic in its own right, and is deserving of rediscovery. After all, it’s got a young Alec Baldwin, a nude Jennifer Jason Leigh, and enough black humor to last all day. In a sense, it’s like what Out Of Sight would be if everybody in that movie was a little bit on the dumb side.
In any event, the missing digit here comes during the films endgame, when Baldwin, pulling another of his scams in a coin shop with a stolen policeman’s badge, comes out on the wrong end of a machete. Ouch.
4. The Prestige, dir. by Christopher Nolan
The loss of the first finger in an illusion-gone-wrong is bad enough. But to have to complete the symmetry with a chisel on the other finger – well, that’s definitely worse. Doubly worse? It’s actually two fingers that need to get the chop.
3. Escape from Alcatraz, dir. by Don Siegel
There are lots of lessons to take away from this movie. Prison inmates are resourceful. Concrete and salt water don’t really mix. Oh, and taking away the thing the inmate loves most above all others is a recipe for disaster. Let’s just say this – if you do take that thing away from that guy, you probably shouldn’t given him a hatchet for a few days after.
2. The Piano, dir. by Jane Campion
I’ll boil this movie down to one simple lesson: if you cheat on your husband, he will cut your finger off. Any questions?
1. The 39 Steps, dir. by Alfred Hitchcock
After a strange woman dies in his apartment, Robert Donat finds himself embroiled in a messy spy caper over the ultimate Maguffin. Warned only to watch out for the man missing part of his little pinky, it comes as no surprise Donat finds the man without even trying and spends the rest of the movie trying to solve the mystery.
BTW, I don’t have a short vid of the scene where we see the finger, but you can see the whole film over on Youtube. If you haven’t seen it yet, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
(((As always, if you want to buy anything I’ve written, you can look at this link and follow the trail)))