“We’re Going to Have to Operate:” 10 Great Pop Culture Surgeries

Putting a character under the knife is a guaranteed way to raise the tension in your movie. “Alien” features one of the great moments in accidental/impromptu chest surgery in the classic bursting scene and in a salute to the original film, “Prometheus,” which opened Friday, features a wonderfully gory, tense and vile surgery. Walking out of the theater, my mind went back to that scene and others that explored how disgusting, gory and downright strange our own bodies can be.

1. Rape, Pills, Mormons and Power Tools – “Heavy Rain”

In the most harrowing scene in a thoroughly harrowing game, the photojournalist Madison chases down a lead to a drug dealing ex-doctor. Depending on player choice, she can end up chained up in the basement, where the doctor plans on sexually assaulting her, as well as performing a variety of experimental surgeries on her. Its a stressful scene and one that forced me to put the game down for almost a week after finishing it.

2. It was a baby! – “The Fly”

As Geena Davis continues to fret over her relationship with Jeff Goldblum’s increasingly mutated self, she has a panicked dream about giving birth to a mutated, fleshy, wormlike child. Its a disgusting moment and one that makes the ultimate horror of Goldblum’s wish for a family into a true threat.

3. He’s just getting started – “Crank 2”

“Crank 2” is probably one of the most kinetic, fast paced and intense action movies ever and the opening sets up exactly what you’re in for. As Jason Statham is revived by an Asian cartel, the doctors attempt to remove his penis. Comatose Statham isn’t having that and he lays out an epic amount of ass kicking in the first four minutes of the film.

5. “He died of old age.” – Fringe: “The Same Old Story” 

In the second episode of Fox’s sci-fi procedural, a man has sex with a hooker in the cold open, only for her to begin to rapidly expand. He drops her off in front of a hospital, where she gives birth to a child who ages 80 years in a matter of minutes. Its a tense cold open, moving very quickly and ratcheting up the tension with louder background noise and the panic of doctors. Its a great opening for the show’s first great episode.

6. Cancer for the cure… – The X-Files: “Leonard Betts”

The big surgery episode of “The X-Files” is also one of the show’s worst. Instead, we’re going with the homemade surgery of the classic episode “Leonard Betts.” Its not only one of the best episodes of the show but also one of the episodes that secured the show’s place as a stone cold hit. In one particularly memorable moment, the eponymous character submerges himself in iodine in order to regenerate his cancer dominated body. It is disgusting, memorable and wonderfully symbolic of the rebirth he goes through and the changes he’s about to bring to Agent Scully’s life.

7.  A very bad bluff – “Inglorious Basterds”

After all the shit goes down, the Bastereds are left with one turncoat German and a room full of dead Nazis and Brits. As Brad Pitt struggles to come up with a plan, he goads the captured German actress into helping while they remove the bullets from her legs. Its a rough scene and Tarantino manages to milk the scene for as much drama and pain as possible as they pick the shrapnel out.

8. “I want the other doctor.” – Arrested Development: “Sword of Destiny”

Hurray, I finally got an “Arrested Development” reference in here. As Michael’s order for houses is cut back, he struggles to not cause a panic. Unfortunately, the stress gets to him and he ends up in the hospital, where his respect for authority sticks him with an incompetent doctor who’s either losing scissors inside of him or performing experimental surgeries. This is also the episode that introduced us to “dong tea.” I’d say its pretty great.

9. “Take off your ghost clothes!” – Children’s Hospital: “No One Can Replace Her”

The pleasure of “Children’s Hospital” has always been the way the show subverts the expectations of the audience, even an audience that’s in on the parody. They’ll build to a climactic moment only to tear it down in a dramatically ridiculous fashion. Nowhere is this done as memorably as when Cat prepares to give birth.

10. “I lost my lunch box and I’m having a baby” – Mad Men: “The Fog”

In the dreamy, ephemeral “The Fog,” everyone in Sterling, Cooper, Pryce is on edge while courting London Fog but Betty is struggling with giving birth as well as struggling with her father’s death and Don’s infidelities. Put on pain killers as she gives birth, she alternatively imagines herself as something of an earth mother and a child, lost in the decade. Its a little heavy handed but also one of the most well shot and well done sequences of the show’s third season. That being said, I’m sure Bert would have something to say about the whole thing.


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