Poor Things’ 10 Most Shocking Scenes, Ranked


  • “Duncan’s Dance Floor Fight” – Duncan’s jealousy and insecurity lead to a violent altercation with a man who winks at Bella.
  • “God Subdues Bella In The Carriage” – God uses a chloroform rag to subdue Bella during a carriage ride, showcasing his controlling nature.
  • “Max Operates On God” – Max performs surgery on God to remove a tumor, highlighting the surreal and uncomfortable nature of the film.

This article contains spoilers for
Poor Things

Filled with sex, violence, and perverse scientific experiments, Poor Things is one of the most shocking films of recent years. Yorgos Lanthimos’ adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s novel follows Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), an adult woman with the brain of a child, as she grows up fast and comes to understand the world around her through a unique lens. Without the restrictions of polite society to weigh her down, Bella fixates on sexual pleasure and instant gratification, leading to some intense sex scenes and plenty of regressive outbursts of violence and profanity.

Poor Things‘ 11 Oscar nominations (and four wins) are an indication of its critical charm, which is impressive for a movie that is so visually confronting. Lanthimos uses his signature fish-eye lenses along with bright, saturated colors to create a dizzying world where nothing seems to fit. In Godwin Baxter’s (Willem Dafoe) home laboratory there are frequent scenes of bodies being cut up and experimented on, as strange creatures cobbled together from different animals run around the house. Poor Things establishes a baseline of weirdness, but there are still a few shocking scenes that go even further.

Poor Things Oscar Nominations



Best Picture

Lost to Oppenheimer

Best Director (Yorgos Lanthimos)

Lost to Christopher Nolan (Oppenheimer)

Best Actress (Emma Stone)


Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo)

Lost to Robert Downey Jr. (Oppenheimer)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Lost to American Fiction

Best Original Score

Lost to Oppenheimer

Best Production Design


Best Cinematography

Lost to Oppenheimer

Best Makeup and Hairstyling


Best Costume Design


Best Film Editing

Lost to Oppenheimer

poor-things-movie-emma-stone-mark-ruffalo-stranded-snow Related Poor Things Review: A Strange & Joyous Odyssey Features Emma Stone At Her Best

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things is a horny, hedonistic, and hysterical gem of a film with an all-time great lead performance from Emma Stone. 

10 Bella Bangs On The Piano

Poor Things Opens With Harsh Sounds And Unsettling Imagery


The opening of Poor Things immediately thrusts the viewer into a disquieting world. Sepia tones and fish-eye lenses create a sense of visual unease which calls back to haunting horror classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Bella’s discordant hammering on the piano is an affront to the ears. Poor Things uses uncomfortable music to reflect Bella’s internal state, with silky fado or orchestral tones showing when she is happy.

Part of what makes the moment so shocking is that it follows the death of Bella, which opens the movie. The first images are of Bella in color looking sorrowful and jumping from a bridge. For Poor Things to then cut to her alive is a jolt for the audience. However, it is also the contrast of these two versions of Bella that are telling. Taking her own life, Bella initially seemed like someone who had lived through a lot of pain and heartbreak, but the piano scene depicts her as someone filled with joyful curiosity.

9 Duncan & Alfie Crash The Wedding

A Final Twist To Spoil Bella’s happy Ending


Just when Bella’s odyssey seems to be over, her wedding to Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef) is interrupted by the scornful Duncan (Mark Ruffalo) alongside Victoria’s former husband, Alfie (Christopher Abbott). General Alfred Blessington wants to take his wife home by any means necessary. It is a shocking twist to introduce so late in the story. However, it presents an interesting connection between the life Bella has made for herself and the one she had before. This leads to the even more shocking moment when Bella decides to go with Alfie without much hesitation at all.

Despite being seemingly content with Max, Bella is still curious about her past life as Victoria Blessington. Curiosity has always been the driving force of the character throughout the entire movie and it is fitting that, when presented with the opportunity to view a life she doesn’t even remember, Bella could not pass it up. In the ending of Poor Things, though she quickly ends things with the controlling Alfie, it is clear a relationship is not most important to Bella.

8 Duncan’s Dance Floor Fight

Duncan Uses Violence To Reassure Himself Of His Own Masculine Control

Emma Stone as Bella Baxter dancing in Poor Things

Duncan first becomes interested in Bella because he sees the restrictive marriage contract that God and Max have drawn up for her. He doesn’t know her as a person, but he wants to own and control her because he sees her as a valuable prize. As soon as she starts developing more autonomy and opinions of her own, he resents her. Duncan’s insecurities spill over when Bella sees a man winking at her in a restaurant. No scene underlines Duncan’s immature emotionality as well as him meekly wrestling with the man as the band continues to play.

The dance scene itself is a wonderfully entertaining moment in the movie with the unexpected fight only adding to the wildness of the moment. It is a pivotal moment in the movie, with Duncan becoming consumed with jealousy over Bella while also coming to the realization that he cannot control her. According to the choreographer, Constanza Macras, Mark Ruffalo was nervous about the dancing (via Business Insider):

“Mark was a bit afraid of the dancing at the beginning, but he worked very hard to get it right and it shows because the finished dance looks natural.:

While Ruffalo sells the dance well, his own insecurities might have also helped for the character of Duncan in this moment.

Emma Stone as Bella Baxter in Poor Things next to a fresh ripe tomato Related Poor Things Rotten Tomatoes Score Ties A Major Emma Stone Record

Poor Things’ Rotten Tomatoes score ties a five-year-old Emma Stone record set by her last film from the same director, Yorgos Lanthimos.

7 God Subdues Bella In The Carriage

God Shows An Unexpected Brutal Streak

A disfigured Willem Dafoe sitting at a table in Poor Things.

Every man in Bella’s life tries to subdue and control her, even those who are meant to care for her.

God treats Bella like a daughter in some ways, but she still has the strength of an adult when she throws a tantrum. During a carriage ride home from a day trip outside, Bella gets upset and starts screaming, so God subdues her using a rag dipped in chloroform. Up until this point, God was seen as an eccentric man of science who cared for Bella deeply. However, this moment is a sure sign that, as genuine as his love for her is, it is an unhealthy relationship.

In many ways, the shocking reaction God has is heartbreaking, as it becomes clear how little agency she is given in her life with him. It’s a violent reminder that every man in Bella’s life tries to subdue and control her, even those who are meant to care for her. Poor Things has been heralded as a feminist masterpiece for its depiction of men’s reactions to a liberated woman who doesn’t submit to society’s rigid norms.

6 Max Operates On God

The Most Visceral Of Poor Things’ Many Surgery Scenes

Ramy Youssef as Max smiling in Poor Things

Poor Things has plenty of uncomfortably close-up scenes of surgeries being performed. Cutting up bodies is an everyday occurrence in God’s life, and the film shows him removing a brain and performing a surgery for his students in visceral detail. But no surgery scene is more excruciating than when Max operates on God to remove what appears to be a malignant tumor in his abdomen.

God is conscious throughout the operation with a few puffs of anesthetic, but he shows no signs of pain. His scientific approach to human life seemingly extends to his own body. Poor Things is a very funny movie at times, but Yorgos Lanthimos is certainly willing to make the audience feel uncomfortable in between those moments of humor. Throwing in such moments of extreme gore might not be what the audience expects, but it adds to the surreal nature of the movie.

5 Bella Witnesses The Slums In Alexandria

Poor Things Gives A Confronting View Into The Dark Side Of The Human Experience


The first stop on Bella and Duncan’s cruise from Lisbon is in Alexandria, where Harry Astley (Jerrod Carmichael) takes Bella on a walk to see the abject poverty in the slums far below the cafés and restaurants of high society. Bella is shocked by the confronting image, her first real window into true inequality and human misery. Yorgos Lanthimos frames the slums in detached wide shots, mirroring the upper-class vision of poverty as a monoculture, rather than a group of fellow humans.

Bella is the only character who sees them in detail, as shown by her generous but naïve donation. However, her cries of seeing dead babies are perhaps more impactful than anything the movie could have put on screen. It is a moment of immense change for Bella in the movie and in her strange journey of discovery. The sight of Alexandria is an end to her innocence. The movie’s cinematographer, Robbie Ryan, spoke about the power of the sequence (via LA Times):

“She will be coming home with different eyes than when she left and I think the film deals with that really well visually.”

4 Bella “Works” Herself With An Apple

She Discovers Pleasure Without Its Taboo Nature

Emma Stone as Bella Baxter lying on the floor with her eyes closed in Poor Things

As Bella first discovers the depths of sexual pleasure, she doesn’t yet understand the social norms that prohibit certain acts. After first “working” herself in bed, as she puts it, she finds new objects around the house to use for her pleasure. Poor Things’ surprising apple scene highlights how Bella has a child’s mind, but a fully-grown woman’s libido. She doesn’t understand why people are so prudish and secretive about something that can bring them so much joy, and she even offers to work Mrs. Prim when she is upset by Bella’s behavior.

In many other movies, the moment with the apple might have seemed like an easy way to get in some shock value or vulgar humor. While it does fit in with Poor Things‘ dark sense of humor, it is also an important moment of Bella’s self-discovery and her curiosity about the world. Her actions shock the people around her and they insist she cannot do such things, but her questioning of these social norms often makes her seem like the more elevated one in the conversation.

3 Bella Gleefully Mutilates A Corpse

Bella’s Fascination With Violence Needs An Outlet

Emma Stone as Bella Baxter in black in the snow in Poor Things.

During the early stages of Bella’s development, she has an obsession with violence and death, aided by witnessing God cutting open patients and cadavers alike. While she is not a malicious person, part of her curiosity about the world and penchant for acting on a whim leads Bella to sudden violent moments. She punches Max when they first meet, expresses a desire to punch a crying baby, and she later crushes a frog to death in his hands.

All of these are shocking outbursts of violence, but they don’t come close to the sight of Bella stabbing a dead man in the eyes with a pair of scissors and shrieking with glee. God lets her do this to distract her from his patient, knowing that her violent tendencies need some kind of outlet. Emma Stone sells the moment wonderfully, playing it as if Bella were a toddler innocently smashing her toys together for fun.

Poor Things Godwin Bella Baxter Mac McCandles Related Poor Things Finally Gives Closure To A Classic Horror Monster

Poor Things takes a lot of inspiration from a classic horror novel, and through one character, it finally gives closure to a tragic horror monster.

2 Poor Things’ Montage At The Brothel

Bella’s Sexual Awakening Takes A Fascinating Turn

Bella enters the brothel in Poor Things

One man ties Bella up while he humps her lower leg, and another man skitters about the floor like a crab before biting into a handful of her hair.

After Bella’s first scene at the Parisian brothel, she returns to seek more employment, and soon discovers a much broader definition of sex than she had previously been able to grasp. Bella is expected to see to every need of the clientele. Some are straightforward, while others are brand-new experiences for her. One man ties Bella up while he humps her lower leg, and another man skitters about the floor like a crab before biting into a handful of her hair.

There are moments when she is surprised by how the clients desire to partake in her services, but she approaches each encounter with the same type of curiosity and desire to learn that she has with every other aspect of her journey. Poor Things‘ intense sex scenes have courted controversy, and this scene certainly gives audiences a lot to talk about. However, Emma Stone praised the ways these scenes were filmed:

They were very comfortable. It was a really small room every time, it was very few people, and we had an amazing intimacy coordinator, Elle McAlpine. In some ways, those scenes were kind of easier than the other ones because they were so choreographed and so straightforward.

1 A Man Uses Bella To Show His Sons How To Have Sex

Poor Things’ Most Shocking Scene Pushes The Commodification Of Bella’s Body To New Extremes

Emma Stone standing in the snow in Poor Things.

Bella meets many unusual people working at the brothel, but none of her encounters are as uncomfortable as the one she has with a father who brings his sons along to watch him. He first explains to them the importance of foreplay, treating Bella’s body like a piece of lab equipment. The two boys seem as uninterested as any young schoolchildren might be, and Bella doesn’t have the experience to understand the awkwardness of the situation either. Only the audience realizes how bizarre this scene is, as Bella tries to assist in the lesson.

The moment comes late in Poor Things, and the audience has already seen a lot of shocking moments. However, this scene is sure to be controversial with a lot of people. The idea of Bella having sex in front of young children is already quite disturbing but the scene does not simply introduce the idea; it proceeds by showing it in graphic detail which can be hard to watch.

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Poor Things is a sci-fi romance film from The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos. The story focuses on the bizarre and fantastical world of Bella Baxter after a scientist named Dr. Godwin Baxter brings her back to life. The film is based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos Release Date September 8, 2023 Distributor(s) Searchlight Pictures Cast Emma Stone , Willem Dafoe , Mark Ruffalo , Ramy Youssef , Jerrod Carmichael , Christopher Abbott Runtime 141 Minutes

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