In its nearly 10 year history, The Walking Dead has had its fair share of chilling and gory moments. Despite the zombie apocalypse premise of the show, a lot of these moments include the human characters—Negan killing Glenn and Abraham, Rick biting that dudes throat out, all of the terminus arc—but this list aims to go back to the undead heart of the show, that being the walkers and the ten most horrific moments that made us cry, wince, and put our hands over our eyes.
10 The Well Walker (Season 2 Episode 4 – ‘Cherokee Rose’)
This gross masterpiece featured in episode four of the second season is one of the most well-known images in the show (you can even buy a figure of this guy). This walker is trapped at the bottom of one of Hershel’s wells and is contaminating the water supply. Glenn, being the smallest and the unluckiest, is picked to be lowered into the well and tie a rope around the walker. They manage to string up the walker, but as the group starts pulling it up, he bursts. Like a balloon, the well walker just pops, and his insides come flowing out. It’s gross stuff, and even those with the strongest stomachs might find themselves gagging at the sight of his entrails wriggling about on the ground.
9 Fire Truck (Season 5 Episode 5, ‘Self-Help’)
After their truck is sabotaged on the way to Washington, Glenn, Maggie, Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita are forced to look for alternate methods of travel. They come across a fire truck that looks to be in acceptable condition. When things start going south and a walker horde approaches, Eugene saves the day by blasting the walkers apart with the fire hose. Skin and flesh are blasted off of the bone and the dead are practically liquidated into puddles of gloop on the floor. It’s one of the most unusual ways the dead have been dispatched and showed audiences that the show still had a few tricks up its sleeve.
8 Trunk Head Smash (Season 3 Episode 10, ‘Home’)
Norman Reedus’ character Daryl has a lot of awesome walker kills throughout his nine-year tenure on the show. Perhaps his most horrific kill, though, comes during a scene in the season three episode ‘Home’. Having recently split from the group, he and his big brother Merle come across a family trapped on a bridge by walkers. Despite Merle’s reluctance, the brothers help the family. The best kill of the scene comes when Daryl slams the trunk of a car shut on an unfortunate walker’s head. The head explodes in a flurry of bloody brain chunks, looking real and gross enough to disgust even the most die-hard horror fans.
7 Gun Through The Mouth (Season 2 Episode 10, ’18 Miles Out’)
After the glacial pace in the previous few episodes of season two, the tenth episode was a breath of fresh air. It had our first major confrontation between Andrew Lincoln’s Rick and Jon Bernthal’s Shane and some wonderfully gory zombie moments. The highlight of the episode comes when, amid the fighting, some trapped walkers get free. A couple of them fall onto Rick, trapping him on the floor in a big zombie pile-up. Their mouths inch closer, but he can’t raise his gun high enough to shoot the ones on top. So, in a totally vicious move, Rick jams his gun in the first zombie’s mouth and pulls the trigger until it clicks, killing all of the zombies piled on top of him.
6 Daryl’s Chain Kill (Season 5 Episode 16 ‘Conquer)
Not only is this the sixth most vicious kill on our list, but it’s also Daryl actor Norman Reedus’ favourite Daryl kill. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment too, but it’s shocking and entirely awesome. After Daryl and Aaron become surrounded by one of the Wolves’ traps (remember them?) they crawl beneath a truck, and Daryl grabs hold of a useful-looking chain. Just when you think the two of them are completely trapped, Daryl does his best Ghostrider impression, swinging the chain above his head and decapitating three walkers in one go. It’s a cool moment and begs the question, why not use chains as weapons more often?
5 Car Clothesline (Season 7 Episode 9 ‘Rock in The Road’)
This fantastic scene may get lost within the blur that was season seven, but that’d be a shame because it’s one the show’s coolest zombie set pieces (and, according to executive producer Greg Nicotero, one that very nearly didn’t happen). The group spot a Savior booby trap on the highway and decide to dismantle it and keep the explosives for themselves as a horde inches closer and closer. Originally the scene called for some of the walkers to be blown up with a stick of dynamite, but when Nicotero got to set and saw the explosive wire strung between the two cars, he had an even better idea. The scene sees the show’s power couple Rick and Michonne take a car each and drive down the highway, slicing the walker horde in half with the wire. It’s fun, it’s gratuitous, and, in terms of scale, it’s something that has yet to be topped.
4 Winslow (Season 7 Episode 10 ‘New Best Friends’)
The trash folk were a weird bunch. Not much liked by the other groups in the show and often despised by the audiences at home, their time on The Walking Dead was a mixed bag. But one of the great things they gave us was the showdown between Rick and the mysterious, metal-clad walker Winslow. After Jadis/Anne, the leader of the trash folk, has a tense introductory meeting with Rick, she forces him to prove his worth in an arena-style death match against the spiky Winslow. The fight is brutal, with Rick impaling his hand on one of Winslow’s spikes. But Rick does eventually prevail, ripping Winslow’s still-gnashing head from his shoulders.
3 Riot Gear Walkers (Season 3 Episode 1 ‘Seed’)
After Rick announced the ‘Ricktatorship’ at the end of Season two, the gang follow him to an uninhabited prison. But before they make themselves at home, they have to deal with the dead who stalk the place. Unlike the normal, everyday walkers the group have encountered so far, the undead at the prison are a different breed. Having died wearing riot gear, these walkers are now impenetrable to the normal stab to the brain. It’s an awesome scene, the highlight being when Rick pulls the mask off of one of them and pulls away the walker’s entire face, leaving only a chomping skull behind.
2 First Kill (Season 1 Episode 1, ‘Days Gone Bye’)
This harsh moment was the first experience many people had of The Walking Dead. Whilst on the road looking for gas, Sheriff Rick Grimes comes across an innocent-looking little girl (well, she looked innocent from a distance, at least). As soon as he gets close, however, the audience sees the cold, dead eyes and the rotting, pale skin that would come to typify the early walkers on the show. Rick raises his gun and shoots the girl right in the head, painting the floor with her brains. The Walking Dead is nearly into its tenth season, so perhaps this scene seems pretty tame now. It’s not like this is even the only time a kid has been killed. But, as the very first few minutes of TV shows go, not many have been as shocking or as wicked as The Walking Dead.
1 Sophia (Season 2 Episode 7, ‘Pretty Much Dead Already’)
Only in a list about The Walking Dead (and maybe Game of Thrones) would you find two entries about killing children. The killing of zombie-Sophia is especially harrowing and unexpected, though, as it leaves viewers feeling completely defeated. Much of season two revolves around the hunt for Carol’s daughter Sophia. But in the mid-season finale, it’s revealed that Sophia has been undead in the barn this whole time. After Shane releases the zombies in the barn, there’s a sickening realization the newly-undead Sophia steps out. In a true show of leadership, it’s Rick who steps up to put Sophia down. Her mother, Carol, cries, Hershel looks utterly broken, and the audience is left in complete shock. Classic The Walking Dead.
NEXT: Ranked: All The Villains So Far In The Walking Dead