The Wildest Moments Of Cocaine Bear, Ranked

The following post contains spoilers for "Cocaine Bear"

There is currently a movie by a major studio, loosely based on true events, packed with name actors, directed by Elizabeth Banks called "Cocaine Bear." What a time to be alive. If you have yet to hear of this soon-to-be coked-out camp classic, the premise is a bunch of cocaine gets dumped in the woods, and a bear does a lot of said cocaine and then murders a call sheet full of characters looking for more. The real story ended tragically with the bear dying from an overdose, but luckily the film takes about three kilos worth of liberties with the events. Imagine taking a screwball ensemble comedy and mixing it with an ultra-gory '80s creature B-movie, and you'll get a sniff of what this movie is cooking up.

It would be a total buzzkill if it didn't live up to the premise and deliver some genuinely wild moments. Luckily, Elizabeth Banks and screenwriter Jimmy Warden understood the assignment and then some. "Cocaine Bear" is the most unabashedly gory studio release this year (so far), and several of the kills will be tough to beat. The cast is fantastic, with a mix of veteran character actors like Margo Martindale, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Kristofer Hivyu, and a solid cast of well-known faces, too — O'Shea Jackson, Kerri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, and the late great Ray Liotta. They all know exactly the type of movie this is and seem to be having a blast making it. So enough hibernating here. Let's sink our claws into the wildest moments of 2023's "Cocaine Bear."

10. Don't do drugs and parachute

The opening of "Cocaine Bear" comes in hot and hilarious. Matthew Rhys ("The Americans") plays Andrew Thornton, a real-life drug runner for Ray Liotta's fictional character, Syd. He's flying over the Chattahoochee National Forest while gleefully tossing out duffle bags filled with cocaine. He does a bump for the road and then gears up to parachute out, only to knock his head on the door frame, slam to the aircraft's ground, and slump out into the night sky to meet an untimely demise.

This zany opening establishes the audience is in for a silly, high-energy ride. While tame compared to the bear rampages later, the shock of Thornton smacking his head and flopping out of frame is physical comedy gold. Matthew Rhys and Kerri Russell are married in real life, so it's fun to see him pop up, even if his screen time is short-lived (yep, bad pun, but we're sticking with it.) The fact that this particular part of the story is more truth than fiction is even wilder. The real-life Thornton was found dead in a man's driveway. As local NBC affiliate WBIR reported, he had "34 kilos of uncut cocaine marked 'USA,' worth nearly $40 million today ... he wore a bulletproof vest, carried two guns and extra ammunition." Can we please get an Andrew Thornton prequel? 

9. Two kids eat drugs

When two kids, Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and Henry (Christian Convery), play hooky and hike in the woods instead, they had no idea their day would end with lots of cocaine and near-death-by-drugged-out-bear experiences. Upon entering the park, they stumble upon one of the many scattered bricks of cocaine. Henry, in typical kid fashion, claims to have tried it before. They egg each other on until both try to eat a tablespoon of cocaine, the way Henry claims to have done cocaine before. The audience giggles and squirms until both kids spit the powder out with expletive-laced disgust. 

This moment feels quintessentially '80s childhood (not that we all ate cocaine in the '80s. Hear us out). It was a time before the Internet when kids only knew about drugs or anything "adult" through playground rumors. If this occurred in 2023, Dee Dee could just Google, "how do you do cocaine?" There's an innocence to this era and to these two kids. Their only frame of reference is the barrage of anti-drug campaigns on TV and what Dee Dee's mom Sari (Kerri Russell) told them. So they have no idea how to do the drug or its effects. Watching them scoop a giant heap of it and slowly go to take a bite is like watching the "cinnamon challenge" on TikTok, but with an illegal drug. It's hilarious and an adorably innocent moment from a pre-Internet era.

8. Bathroom beatdown

O'Shea Jackson Jr. plays Daveed, one of Syd's guys reluctantly sent to the forest to retrieve millions in missing cocaine. Syd's son, Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), joins him on his journey. He's mourning the loss of his wife and plays the sympathetic yet comedic sad-sack, ultimately changing Daveed's perspective on what's important. But before that whole buddy movie arc, they stop at the park bathroom, and three delinquents who call themselves "the Duchamps Gang" confront Daveed. This gang assumes this will be an easy robbery. However, Daveed ruins any hope of that as their faces are met with punches, kicks, toilet seats, sinks, and the wall. It's a great mix of violent and funny, in line with the rest of the movie's antics.

The choreography and ease with which Daveed takes down these flailing cocky punks is a joy to watch. We've already seen one of them, Vest (J.B. Moore), steal from the park's gift shop and heard murmurs they've been robbing hikers by knife point, so we don't have much sympathy as they get their comeuppance. The fight ends with Daveed realizing he has a knife in his shoulder, yet he is not mad about his injury. Nope, he's miffed they messed up his favorite jersey. Eddie discovers some of the missing cocaine, and they make Stache (Aaron Holliday) help them find the rest. Stache ends up being one of the funniest characters in the movie, and their paths would never have crossed without this commode kerfuffle.

7. What's for dinner? Ray Liotta

Syd arrives to take matters into his own hands. He's on the hook for untold millions if he can't recover these duffles of drugs. He leads Daveed, Eddie, and the corrupt Officer Reba (Ayoola Smart) to the bear's cave, where they hope to retrieve its stash. They find one bag and two bear cubs playing in it like children making snow angels. Syd kicks at the baby bears and is generally a total a**hole. So when Mama Bear returns, she slashes open his stomach, and he falls with his gut hanging out. Apparently, human intestines are a delicacy because these cubs dig in like his belly is a pot of honey. 

Syd is a bad guy. He's introduced complaining about being stuck with his grandson and how whiny his son, Eddie, is over the death of his wife. He shoots and kills poor Detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who started bonding with his newly adopted dog, Rosette. When Sari and the kids get in the way, his desperation and lack of empathy make him willing to point a gun at them. He shoots poor Cocaine Bear, and she falls seemingly to her death, only to be supercharged by a smattering of cocaine that falls from above (side note, a ridiculously awesome moment). So, after all the despicable things we've seen him do, it's oddly satisfying to watch two adorable cubs rip out and devour his insides ... or maybe we're just twisted?

6. Cocaine Bear's first strike

A Norwegian tourist named Olaf (Kristofer Hivju) and his German fiance, Elsa (Hannah Hoekstra), are hiking in the woods when they see the bear. Elsa excitedly says, "We have such good luck in nature." Olaf begins snapping photos but quickly notices this bear is acting ... odd. She's smashing her head against the tree, but when Elsa looks through the lens, the bear is cuddling the tree. Olaf looks again, but the bear is gone ... it reappears and gives chase, eventually pouncing on Elsa. She's flopped around in the bushes and emerges unscathed, thanks to her giant backpack taking most of the hits, but the bear quickly pulls her back in, and what we hear sounds pretty darn terrible. Her severed leg is tossed out in front of Olaf, who screams in horror.

While most of the gore happens off-camera, the lead-up sells this scene. Olaf and Elsa are adorably enthusiastic tourists, utterly unaware of the gruesome fate in store for them. The shot of the bear smashing its head against the tree is unsettling and goofy, and there's some decent suspense built before the attack happens. This scene serves as an appetizer for what's to come. We'll soon have a buffet of quirky characters for the audience to laugh with (and at) as the Cocaine Bear makes gore-iffic meals out of them. Showing glimpses of the kill and ending with the bloody stump of a leg is an excellent way to preview the buckets of gore about to pour over the screen.

5. A gazebo stand-off

Detective Bob makes his way to the scene on a hunch he'll finally be able to nail Syd. He takes a break in a gazebo, only to see a red duffle bag hidden in the rafters. Daveed, Eddie, and Stache arrive at this gazebo where the Duchamps Gang hid the drugs. Bob and Daveed end up in a standoff, with Daveed getting two fingers shot off. Bob's bravado of telling them to stay put ends with him awkwardly realizing he has no easy way to get down. Eddie grabs Daveed's fingers, and the group is at a draw until good ol' Cocaine Bear appears and falls asleep on top of Eddie.

The idea of someone getting their fingers shot off doesn't instantly scream comedy, but Elizabeth Banks and company make this moment work. When Daveed holds up his hand, he's missing his index and ring finger, which Stache hysterically points out is a physical impossibility since they aren't even beside each other. Eddie picking up Daveed's fingers and pocketing them is a test of friendship if we've ever seen one. Meanwhile, Bob's deadpan discomfort with having no way off this gazebo is a riot. The scene also has the bear eating a brick of cocaine whole and backsliding to Eddie and Daveed, and the moment that Bob creates a "cocaine Christmas" is a hoot and a half. This entire sequence serves as a lighter comedic breather before more blood-soaked mayhem.

4. Ranger Liz vs. Cocaine Bear

The legendary Margo Martindale plays the gun-toting, perfume-wearing, cigarette-smoking, wildlife-inspector-flirting Ranger Liz. She begrudgingly goes out into the forest to help Sari find her daughter, accompanied by her wildlife inspector crush, Peter (an unrecognizably wigged and mustachioed Jesse Tyler Ferguson). The group quickly finds Henry, who has climbed impossibly high to escape the bear's wrath. Branches crack, leaves rustle, bullets fly and miss, and nerves ratchet up higher than the bear (well, almost) until it lunges out at Ranger Liz and tosses her about. She fires away but is not what you'd call a crack shot — nearly hitting everything and everyone instead of the bear. She narrowly survives, with a giant claw mark on her thigh and wounds from her decent pummeling. 

Remember the iconic scene from "The Revenant" where Leonardo DiCaprio gets attacked by a bear? Great, now imagine the same scene, but funny. Ranger Liz is just as dangerous as the bear with her terrible aim (a setup that will pay off soon). She shoots away at anything that moves. Peter pops up and frantically screams, "Why are you shooting at me?" The group scatters, and Henry stumbles into a pile of cocaine, which serves as a distraction that saves Liz but will soon seal his fate. The moment Liz gets tossed around, it seems like she's done for, so there's genuine tension sprinkled in with laughs — a light dusting of fear amidst small bumps of comedy. 

3. There's a bear on the roof

Ranger Liz limps back to the station to call for help and finds Vest and Ponytail (Leo Hanna) of the Duchamps Gang already there. Since they both look beaten up, she assumes the bear attacked them too. She loads her gun, ready to shoot. Since the Duchamps think Liz is talking about Daveed, killing a guy seems extreme, but Ponytail follows the Ranger's directions and opens the door to find the bear. Ranger Liz pulls the trigger and instead blows Ponytail's head off. Vest reacts in shock, and Liz responds with the world's least convincing apology. She makes Vest drag Ponytail's body out of the doorway. Thuds come from the roof above until ... crash. A paw slams through the window and grabs Vest's face.

This sequence feels ripped straight out of an '80s creature feature. The victim takes shelter from the voracious beast, finding other survivors. Then they anxiously await as the beast stalks outside until the jump scare happens. The payoff to Ranger Liz's pre-established shoddy aim is the most shocking and brutal moment. Poor Ponytail, you seemed like a jerk, but you still deserved better. That said, we get a "Pulp Fiction" level of shock and laughs when the blood and brain matter splatter all over Liz and Vest. Ranger Liz apologizing to Vest feels more like she spilled coffee on his rug than that she just killed his buddy. This droll comedic timing really stands out amidst all the bonkers gore.

2. Bears CAN climb trees

Henry and Peter are clinging for dear life in opposing trees when Henry reassures him that bears can't climb trees, to which Peter shrieks, "Of course they can!" The mad-as-hell mama bear pursues as Henry climbs higher, kicking her in the cocaine kisser to ward off its attacks. Luckily for Henry, not for Peter, the bear catches a whiff of the magic powder on Peter's shirt and, like lightning, goes for its real prey. The bear begins gnawing away at Peter's leg, who falls upside down and dangles as blood spouts out, until his limp body crashes head first on the ground, followed by the second severed leg of the movie. The bear comes down and takes another toot of nose candy off Peter's lopped-off leg for good measure. 

Cocaine Bear's second attack is the goriest we've seen yet, with poor Peter getting shredded. The build-up to the kill has a solid mix of chills and laughs. Once the bear starts climbing toward Henry, we have no idea how dark this movie will go. Elizabeth Banks smartly knows the line not to cross and leaves the kiddos and the dog, Rosette, unscathed by the end. The scene treats us to a nervous build-up with Henry, and then as soon as the bear's nostrils flare and it locks eyes with Peter, it's back to hilariously gory carnage. Having the bear above the camera and gnawing away allows it to be graphic, but not so much that the audience runs for the barf bags. But don't worry, that level of gore is coming up next. 

1. Ambulance massacre

Paramedics Beth (Kahyun Kim) and Tom (Scott Seiss) arrive after being called about a concussion by the Duchamps gang. Let's just say a lot has happened since then. They force their way through the station door to find Ponytail and what's left of his head scattered about. Beth rushes over to Liz, who attempts to warn them through gasps. Meanwhile, Tom opens a door with blood pooling, and a bucket containing Vest's head and entrails falls out (how that got in there, we may never know). Liz takes Beth's stethoscope, and whispers, "BEAR!" right as the bear smashes the door on top of Tom. As Tom struggles not to be crushed, Beth gets Liz onto a gurney in the ambulance. Beth drives off as Tom hops in the open doors of the ambulance, wrongfully assuming they're safe.

The above would be enough excitement for one scene, but what happens next is why this is the movie's best and most brutal scene in "Cocaine Bear." As Beth speeds away, the bear (who just did another rail) comes bounding after them, smashes through a wooden park sign, and jumps an impossible distance into the ambulance. Cocaine Bear eats its way up a screaming Tom until he's pushed next to the driver's seat, where we see his hand hanging on by a thread. Yuck ... and kind of awesome. Liz's gurney launches face-first out of the ambulance, and she dies via the worst case of road rash. Beth hits a tree, and her body is tossed out and twisted like a pretzel. This one scene is worth the price of admission alone — it's brutal, gag-worthy, and laugh-out-loud funny.