The best, most well-regarded scene from 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, which sees its sequel in theaters on Friday, is the one where Colin Firth’s character, an impossibly cool secret agent named Harry Hart, ends up in a church participating in a gigantic killing free-for-all. It happens because the main bad guy in the movie, Samuel L. Jackson’s Richmond Valentine, inserts SIM cards into free cellphones he gives away that, when activated, emit a sound that turns everybody within earshot super violent. (Valentine’s plan is to use the triggering device to get millions and millions of people to kill each other, thus lessening the population, thus presumably preventing the eventual extinction of the human race due to overpopulation.)
Almost all of the people in the church have one of the phones, and so when Valentine turns on the corrupted SIM cards, everyone starts fighting. Harry, since he’s a highly trained secret agent and all, becomes a truly unstoppable murder demon. It’s an unquestionably brilliant, kinetic scene; one that, without doubt, is a masterclass in fight timing and filming. (The only one that was anywhere near as brilliant that year, or even in the past 15 years, was the exceptional nightclub fight scene in the exceptional John Wick, and even that one was at least half a step behind it.) (You could also argue that the lobby fight scene in The Protector belongs in this category, along with the Crazy 88 fight scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1, any fight scene that Tony Jaa was in, the courtyard fight in Hero, and when Hugh Grant fought Colin Firth in Bridget Jones’s Diary.)
In a little under four minutes, Harry kills nearly 40 people, some of whom are killed in quick and obvious ways (like shooting them in the head), others of whom are killed in impromptu and gruesome ways (like breaking a wooden rod in half and then stabbing a guy in the chest with it). In this article, let’s arrange all of those deaths in ascending order of gnarliness. To land on a round number, let’s assume that anyone who was shot in the gut definitely died. Let’s also assume that the guy Harry crushes in the head with a pot of flaming ash died. Let’s also assume the guy who he sprays in the face with the actual flaming ash died. And let’s also assume that the guy we see with the ax stuck in his head was killed by Harry during one of the cutaways to Valentine and his assistant as they watched the fight. That puts us at an even 40 kills.
40. (seven-way tie) The seven guys who Harry just straight up shoots in the head. If I’m going to be killed in a humongous movie massacre, please let me be one of the people who goes out early and quick.
33. The guy who Harry shoots in the head after he dodges the guy’s spear attack. He’s one spot ahead of the seven-way-tie guys because he actually had a shot at killing Harry (a blindside spear attack using a wooden pole) and just completely botched it.
32. The second woman who Harry shoots in the head. She finishes a spot higher than the eight guys who were killed the same way for two reasons. First, when Harry shot those other guys in the head, it was from a distance. When he shoots this woman, it’s after he’s grabbed ahold of her the way a hostage-taker would. That means there was at least a teeny, tiny amount of time when she had to consider the idea that she was about to die, which makes it just a little bit heavier than the others. Secondly, it’s just always a little more startling to see a man shoot a woman than to see a man shoot a man.
31. The guy who Harry shoots in the chest (but not the heart). Because it’s not the heart.
30. The guy who Harry shoots straight in the heart. Because it’s the heart.
29. The guy who Harry shoots in the face after the guy trips over another guy. In part because it’s the face, and the face is absolutely different than the head, but mostly because it happened after the guy tripped. Tripping is already a terrible thing. Tripping + getting shot in the face is a total disaster.
28. The guy who Harry shoots in the face and then uses as a human shield for a second as he kills other people. If you shoot me in the face, please just let me die. Please do not carry my corpse around and use it as an impromptu bulletproof vest.
27. (two-way tie) The two guys who Harry shoots in the gut. Worse than getting shot in the head, because you don’t get to die instantly if you get shot in the gut. You have to lie there and die painfully in slow motion for a bit.
25. The guy who Harry shoots in the gut with a behind-the-back shot. The only reason he’s not lumped in with the other two guys who got shot in the gut is because it’s going to be a little more embarrassing when all of these people are together in the afterlife and they’re all talking about how they got there and he has to explain that he was killed while Harry was doing a fucking trick shot.
24. (two-way tie) The two guys who Harry shoots in the gut and then the head. Dying this way is for sure faster than just being shot in the gut, but I can’t figure out how to talk myself into the idea that getting shot twice is ever less gnarly than getting shot once.
23. The guy who Harry shoots in the chest three times. Because getting shot three times is worse than getting shot two times.
22. The first woman who Harry shoots in the head. She jumps past the people above because she’s the first person that dies in the scene. Prior to this, you really have no idea what’s about to happen. It’s just a situation where a woman is yelling at a man in a church. When Harry reaches into his jacket, pulls out his gun, and then explodes her brains out of the back of her head, it’s a very startling, very what-the-fuck moment.
21. The guy who Harry smashes in the head with one of those metal pots with the flaming ash in it that churches have. (I’m assuming that the guy died instantly here.)
20. (two-way tie) After Harry smashes the no. 21 guy in the head with the metal pot with the flaming ash in it, he then throws the actual ash into another guy’s face. He’s here. So is the guy who Harry fireflames in the face with a spy tool. (I’m also assuming that both of these guys died shortly after having their faces burned off, which definitely seems like what would happen if you had your face burned off.)
19. The guy who Harry spears with a wooden pole and then shoots in the head. The only wooden pole–based way to die that’s worse than this is if you get stabbed with it and then are left to bleed out.
18. The guy who Harry stabs in the chest with a wooden pole after he breaks the wooden pole in half. See? Told you.
17. The guy who Harry stabs in the side of the neck. (see no. 15)
16. The guy who Harry stabs in the chest. (see no. 15)
15. The woman who Harry stabs twice in the stomach. As far as places for stab wounds in major areas go, the order from most worst to least worst goes: top of the head like if you were a candy apple; eyeball; ear; stomach; chest; neck; back (literally); back (metaphorically).
14. The guy whose neck Harry breaks with a wrestling move. It’s hard for me to gauge exactly how difficult it is to break someone’s neck because movies have always made it look so different. In this particular case, it seems like a pretty tough thing to do. In older action movies, though, that shit seemed like the easiest thing in the world.
13. (three-way tie) The three people who Harry turns into a human shish kebab with a large wooden pole. I wonder if they have to walk around for all of eternity in heaven or hell like that? (A note: All of the people who died in this church, which preaches hate, are for sure going to hell.)
10. The guy who Harry stabs in the eyeball after incapacitating him by crushing his windpipe with a Bible. If this movie had been made 30 years ago, this kill almost certainly would’ve been followed with some sort of “eye for an eye” biblical-reference one-liner.
9. The guy whose throat Harry slices after incapacitating him by hitting him in the dick with a Bible. It might seem like this violates the order of stab-wound rankings that was laid out in no. 15, but this one leapfrogs over the neck stab at no. 17 because (1) getting your throat sliced is no doubt worse than getting stabbed in the neck, and (2) you also have to consider that the guy got hit in the dick with a Bible, which was probably the last thing he was expecting was going to happen when he walked into the chapel that day.
8. Remember the guy who got stabbed in the eyeball. OK, there’s a thing after that where Harry yanks the knife out of the guy’s eye, then turns around and stabs a different guy in the top of the head with it. That’s this guy. He got candy apple’d.
7. The guy who gets an ax buried into the back of his head. If I have to be killed by an ax, please let it happen from the back and deep into my head so I feel as little as possible (given that you will feel as little as possible if an ax goes deep enough into your brain).
6. The woman who gets an ax buried into the side of her neck. The ones where Harry takes a sharp weapon he’d just used to kill someone and then kills someone else with it always gross me out a little bit because of the mixing of the blood. And, I mean, I’m sure that while you’re getting an ax chopped into your neck that’s probably not what you’re thinking about, but you might think about it a little bit in the afterlife.
5. The guy whose nose Harry jams into his brain using the butt of an empty gun. Probably for all of time I’m only ever going to associate jamming someone’s nose up into their brain with Cameron Crowe.
4. The guy who gets a spear rammed up through his head from under his jaw and out of the top of his skull. A very cool kill, but also one of the ones where you watch it and it’s like, “OK, Harry, that’s quite enough.”
3. There are two guys who Harry goes back and forth between killing at the same time (and also stabbing the aforementioned woman in the stomach). He stabs the first one through his arm, steals his gun, whirls around in a circle to slice a second guy across the gut, then stabs the first guy in the neck, then shoots the second guy in the head, then shoots the first guy in the head, too. This one was poetry, really.
2. The guy who Harry, after his gun runs out of bullets, kills by separating the gun into two pieces, then stabbing one of the pieces into the guy’s eye and the second piece into his throat. This is one of my favorite ones because I like to imagine the guy seeing that Harry was out of bullets, saying something to himself like, “Cool, at least I’m safe from the gun,” and then getting its pieces jammed into his head and neck and saying like, “Man … I did not see that coming.”
1. The guy who Harry electrocutes in the face, puts a grenade in his pocket, cracks his spine with an elbow blow, and then slams head-first into the judge’s stanchion, breaking his neck and his spine. (And then the grenade goes off, exploding his body into a million bits.) This was just a little too far, really. He killed the guy, like, maybe three times in a row. That’s too many times to kill a guy. Once is definitely enough.