If you saw William Friedkin's Killer Joe in theaters, then you know exactly why we've come up with this list. The film, based on a stage play by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts, stars Matthew McConaughey as Joe Cooper, a police officer who also moonlights as a hired killer. When Chris Smith, a hapless boob played by Emile Hirsch, enlists Joe's services without having the money, Joe agrees on the condition that Chris's younger sister Dottie, played by Juno Temple, be his – in every way – until the insurance money comes in for the murder and Chris can pay him back. As you can imagine, being a movie and all, everything goes terribly wrong. As you could probably not imagine, the film culminates in a scene involving Gina Gershon and a fried chicken leg that you have to see to be believe. We're sure as heck not going to spoil it here.
With Killer Joe coming out on DVD and Blu-ray on December 21, we decided to take a look at some of the other greatest chicken scenes in movie history. Everything just seems funnier when a damned chicken is involved, except on those rare occasions when the chicken manages to scare the hell out of us. What follows are a collection of both. It's CraveOnline's Top Ten Movie Chicken Scenes!
Sleeper (dir. Woody Allen, 1973)
Woody Allen’s lone foray into the science fiction genre, Sleeper finds the neurotic hero frozen in cryostasis and awoken 200 years in the future, where Nixon has been erased from the history books and food is grown in gigantic proportions. After repeatedly slipping on a five foot-long banana peel, Allen tries to abscond with giant fruits and vegetables before spying a man in the distance, walking an eight foot tall chicken on a leash. “That’s a big chicken,” Allen says. It is never spoken of again.
Hot Shots! Part Deux (dir. Jim Abrahams, 1993)
The sequel to Abrahams’ Top Gun parody Hot Shots! finds Charlie Sheen’s character Topper Harley on a covert mission to rescue hostages in Iraq. In one of the film’s many parodies of the Rambo movies, Topper kills an entire platoon of Iraqi soldiers, but when he runs out of ammo, there’s only one solution: Topper picks up a chicken, nocks it on his bow, and fires it directly into the chest of an enemy soldier, where it sticks in headfirst and lays an egg. That’s weird. It looked like a rooster, didn’t it?
Rocky II (dir. Sylvester Stallone, 1979)
Rocky Balboa may have won the respect of himself and others in 1976’s Rocky, but in Rocky II he actually has to win the danged fight. To do that, he’ll need to undergo all-new training techniques like… chasing a chicken? “Why do I got to chase a chicken for? It’s embarrassing, you know?” But it’s harder than it looks. After chasing the chicken around for a while, unsuccessfully, Sylvester Stallone takes a breather and utters the immortal line of dialogue, “I feel like a Kentucky fried idiot.”
U.S. Marshals (dir. Stuart Baird, 1998)
Dr. Richard Kimble may have cleared his name in The Fugitive, by Hollywood didn’t let a little thing like that stop them from making a sequel. In Stuart Baird’s U.S. Marshals, Tommy Lee Jones returns as Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard, the part that one him an Oscar five years earlier, this time on a mission to capture escaped fugitive Wesley Snipes. Jones perpetuates the dignity of the character by showing up in his first scene wearing a giant yellow chicken suit, walking down the road, kicking off his giant chicken shoes and whipping out a firearm. Sure, he looks ridiculous, but he catches the bad guys in full chicken regalia anyway. Guess the yolk’s on them.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (dir. Michel Hazanavicius, 2006)
Before director Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin each won Oscars for 2011’s The Artist, they made a series of 1960’s superspy parodies called OSS 117. In the first film, Cairo, Nest of Spies, Dujardin’s character finds himself in a chicken coup when something feathered whizzes by him at top speed. It’s a chicken, he discovers, cradling its lifeless frame tenderly in his arms. “Mon Dieu,” he exclaims, taking in the moment. Then, an enemy agent begins flinging even more chickens at OSS 117 with deadly force, and Academy Award-winning Best Actor Jean Dujardin returns with a clucking salvo of his own. But wouldn’t you know it? The bad guy gets away. OSS 117 is sure to get henpecked back at the office for that one.
The Help (dir. Tate Taylor, 2011)
While teaching the lovable but hapless housewife Jessica Chastain how to make fried chicken, Octavia Spencer, one of “the help” in Tate Taylor’s civil rights drama, gives a speech about how “fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life.” Her character, Minny, also waxes rhapsodic about Crisco. Earlier, she intones with complete sincerity, “Minny don’t burn chicken.” Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for The Help. We imagine the Academy was particularly impressed with her ability to keep a straight face.
Chicken Run (dirs. Peter Lord & Nick Park, 2000)
Pretty much every scene in Chicken Run, the first feature film from Aardman Animation, is a chicken scene, and pretty much all of them are great. A sort of Great Egg-scape movie, the film follows a group of hens who try to fly away from their life on death row in a chicken farm, which would be a lot easier if they could actually fly. When a rooster named Rocky arrives, claiming he actually knows how to fly, the ladies think they have finally found their savior. But oh, the tangled web he weaves. The best line: chicken farmer Mr. Tweedy, whilst being attacked by chickens, yells, “Mrs. Tweedy! The chickens are revolting!” “Finally,” she replies, oblivious to his plight. “Something we agree on.”
The Muppets (dir. James Bobin, 2011)
Did you know you can sneak in as many F-bombs as you want in a children’s movie so long as they’re sung by chickens? That’s what director James Bobin proved with The Muppets, the hilarious new reboot of the Muppet franchise released last year. Muppet Studios, along with the rights to the characters themselves, is at risk of being exploited by the evil billionaire Tex Richman. There’s only one solution: put on a show! All the Muppets contribute to the big telethon, but the best performance of the night comes from Gonzo’s girlfriend, Camilla, who along with all her chicken friends belts out Cee-Lo Green’s “F*ck You” in an elaborately choreographed musical number, using nothing but clucks. Camilla? Before this most folks considered you a minor Muppet character. Now… we’ll never forget you.
Eraserhead (dir. David Lynch, 1977)
David Lynch’s surreal masterpiece about stifled urban living, parental anxiety and women living in radiators kicks off when the protagonist, played by Jack Nance, is invited to his girlfriend’s house for dinner. Meeting the folks is always awkward. You have to pretend you like whatever they cooked for dinner; in this case, as her dad explains, “We’ve got chicken tonight. Strangest damn things. They’re man made. Little damn things. Smaller than my fist. But they’re new! Hi, I’m Bill.” These chickens are so new that don’t stop even moving, even after they’re cooked, and they have a strange tendency to bleed out of their most suggestive orifices. They’re not the funniest chickens on our list, but at least they are the most disturbing.
Freaks (dir. Tod Browning, 1932)
Actually, make that the second most disturbing. Tod Browning’s horror classic Freaks, about a beautiful trapeze artist who marries into the sideshow for a little person’s money, starting a string of terrifying events, has a chicken scene in it. The most horrifying chicken scene in movie history. The best chicken scene in movie history. And while it may seem like a cheat, we can’t tell you what it is. It would be the cruelest kind of spoiler. Watch this nightmarish film for yourself and find out what we mean. Then, you’ll be one of us. One of us. One of us!