If there’s one thing that Chainsaw Man creator Tatsuki Fujimoto loves, it’s movies. Fans of Fujimoto’s work will know the author is an enthusiastic cinephile, incorporating references from his favorite movies in all his series to date, from his 2016 manga series Fire Punch to 2022’s Goodbye, Eri. This is particularly notable in the opening title credits of studio MAPPA’s Chainsaw Man anime, which packs in visual nods to such popular films as Pulp Fiction, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Fight Club, and more.
Back in July, Japanese magazine SWITCH published a (near-complete) list of every movie, TV show, and anime Fujimoto has referenced in Fire Punch and Chainsaw Man or cited in an interview as inspirations on his work. Between the referenced movies and visual allusions in the manga, Fujimoto’s reference points are an eclectic bunch. So we’ve combed through and cherry-picked a handful of unexpected films to consider, along with an explanation of how the influence of these movies can be seen in the manga itself.
We’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum as much as possible, but if you haven’t already read the first part of the manga in its entirety yet, tread lightly.
[Ed. note: This post contains light spoilers for the Chainsaw Man anime and manga.]
Let’s not mince words here: Chainsaw Man is a name so patently ridiculous on its face that it somehow circles back around to being awesome by the sheer dint of its raw descriptive power. The same could be said of Psycho Goreman, the sci-fi action horror-comedy written and directed by Steven Kostanski.
The film plays out like a Troma-style parody of Japanese tokusatsu shows (e.g., Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), following the story of a sister and brother who accidentally come into possession of an amulet that gives them command over a fearsome alien warlord from the planet Gigax. Psycho Goreman is tongue-in-cheek, gleefully skewering the touchstone tropes of more lighthearted Amblin-like fare like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and 1997’s Star Kid with the same abandon that Chainsaw Man continues to eviscerate expectations all the while surpassing them. At one point Psycho Goreman wields a sword made out of an enemy’s spine and bodily viscera, which should sound… well, familiar to anyone who’s been keeping up with the most recent arc of Chainsaw Man.
Fujimoto enjoyed Psycho Goreman so much, he drew a piece of fan art depicting protagonist Mimi controlling the titular alien warlord in 2021 and went so far as to call it “the funniest movie I’ve seen this year! The best and worst ending!”
Psycho Goreman is available to stream on Shudder.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Denji from Chainsaw Man and the eponymous protagonist of Edgar Wright’s 2010 romantic action comedy (and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s original comic) have a lot in common, in that they are both young men who are down so bad they are willing to repeatedly thrust themselves into mortal peril just to have the chance to talk to their respective crushes. Like Chainsaw Man, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is about a young adult who is forced to reckon with his own arrested development and grow into an altogether more mature, if not better, person.
If for no other reason, now is as good a time as any to either reacquaint (or acquaint) oneself with Scott Pilgrim in either comic book or movie form, especially with a new anime adaptation produced by Science SARU (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Devilman Crybaby) set to premiere on Netflix in the near future.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.
Richard Raaphrost’s 2013 found-footage horror film follows a squad of Soviet troops on the Eastern Front of WWII who stumble upon a series of horrific human-machine creatures created by a mad scientist with a penchant for lobotomies. Fans of Chainsaw Man will particularly enjoy the creature designs, with their lumbering bodies and ghastly surgical appendages.
The last half hour of the film, wherein Dr. Frankenstein kidnaps a Soviet cameraman and forces him to document his workshop of horrors in scrupulous detail, is by far the peak of the film, almost akin to the experience of walking through a haunted house at a county fair. If you enjoyed Overlord or Timo Tjahjanto’s action horror short “The Subject” from V/H/S/94, you’ll dig this one.
Frankenstein’s Army is available to stream for free with ads on Vudu, Tubi, and Freevee on Prime Video.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
What other film is more inseparable from the image of a chainsaw in the popular imagination than Tobe Hooper’s 1974 slasher classic? The connection between The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Chainsaw Man is so elemental and apparent it’s spelled out right there, plain as day, in their respective names.
As Fujimoto stated in the opening chapter of the first volume of the manga, “I love chainsaws!” It really doesn’t get much more cut and dried than that.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available to stream on Paramount Plus.
The Sharknado series
Sharknado is yet another film on this list whose entire premise, like Chainsaw Man, can be summed up by its title. The first in a series of made-for-television sci-fi comedy disaster movies directed by Thunder Levin, the Sharknado films rode the wave of Shark Week’s popularity to cult classic status among DTV connoisseurs.
As a creator, Fujimoto has never been one to take himself too seriously. Sharknado’s influence on Chainsaw Man seems explicit in the character of Beam, a “Shark Devil” fiend who works alongside Denji and co. as a Public Service Devil Hunter. There’s also the fact that nearly every entry in the Sharknado series at one point or another involves someone using a chainsaw to kill a massive shark. ’Nuff said.
Sharknado is available to stream on Prime Video.
If there’s one thing fans of Chainsaw Man know, it’s to brace themselves for tragedy whenever things are going just a little too well for Denji and his friends. David Aames Jr. (Tom Cruise), the protagonist of Cameron Crowe’s romantic psychological thriller Vanilla Sky, shares this in common with Chainsaw Man.
Following a tragic car accident, the privileged life of the vain, womanizing publishing magnate is upended when he wakes up to find himself horribly disfigured and implicated in the death of his former lover. As David attempts to recount the story of the events that led up to his incarceration and move forward with his life, he soon realizes that his own life isn’t the only thing that’s changed in this strange new world.
Fujimoto loves Vanilla Sky, so much so that he not only included references to it in his 2016 debut manga Fire Punch, but went so far as to change the title of chapter 92 of the Chainsaw Man manga — one of the major turning points of the series — from “Zombie, Blood, Chainsaw” to “Vanilla Sky” for its release in the 11th volume of the series.
Vanilla Sky is available to stream on Prime Video and Paramount Plus.
Un Chien Andalou
Directed by Luis Buñuel in 1929 and co-written by acclaimed painter Salvador Dalí, this 16-minute silent short is commonly credited as one of the earliest examples of surrealism in modern cinema. Un Chien Andalou (or “An Andalusian Dog”) is by far the strangest entry on this list, infamously featuring a shot of a man slitting open a woman’s eye with a barber’s razor, as well as a scene of a dead horse being pulled along the top of a piano.
Un Chien Andalou is one of a few visible inspirations for Chainsaw Man conspicuously absent from SWITCH’s list. But rest assured, its influence on the series can be both seen and keenly felt in chapters 63 and 64 of the manga, where Denji and co. are mysteriously transported to another dimension. The scene opens with a shot of a severed hand in a field of grass surrounded by a swarm of ants, a direct reference to a similar scene from Un Chien Andalou. Saying any more would spoil the surprise, but needless to say, the imagery seen in this frightening new world owes a huge debt to Buñuel and Dalí’s avant-garde masterpiece.
Un Chien Andalou is available to stream on Tubi.
The Kizumonogatari trilogy
Gorgeously animated, gratuitously gory, and unapologetically horny, the Kizumonogatari trilogy was probably the closest anime equivalent to the Chainsaw Man manga prior to the existence of studio MAPPA’s own anime adaptation.
Co-directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and Tatsuya Oishi and produced by studio Shaft, the trilogy of films is set before the events of the 2009’s Bakemonogatari and follows the story of high-schooler Koyomi Araragi, who becomes a vampire after being sired by Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade, a powerful elder vampire on the verge of death. Becoming her new minion, Araragi is forced to battle a trio of vampire hunters to win back Heart-Under-Blade’s severed body parts in exchange for being transformed back into a human, all while protecting his doting love interest, Tsubasa Hanekawa.
Fujimoto has specifically cited the climax of the final film in the trilogy, Kizumonogatari Part 3: Reiketsu, as an inspiration for the climactic battle at the end of the Public Security arc of the Chainsaw Man manga. Saying anything more would spoil fans new to the series, but suffice it to say — if you love Chainsaw Man, you owe it to yourself to give these films a watch. It also doesn’t hurt that several key animators that worked on Kizumonogatari have gone on to now work on the Chainsaw Man anime!