Film can evoke a emotional response which is undeniable. We can be viewing something completely brilliant – appreciating every single frame – and yet as the credits roll, we vow we’ll never, ever take that trip again. Whether sad, horrific, profound or psychologically challenging, our picks of these most disturbing films we never want to see again are certainly essential views; just tread with assured caution….
The Most Disturbing Films of all time
COME AND SEE
War is bitter, uncompromising and unimaginably draining, and few films have quite caught it in such staggeringly haunting detail than Elem Klimov’s stunning drama.
What makes the film such a difficult view is the narrative perspective; we follow the progression through the eyes of a child – someone naïve, someone pure. As the story rolls on and the tension amongst the Soviets mounts, this World War II account arrives at a gruelling, quite frankly bone-chilling climax.
Once the disc leaves the DVD/Blu-ray player, it’ll never be reinserted.
DANCER IN THE DARK
Lars von Trier is a nasty piece of work. He’s made some truly brilliant films and nearly all of them are tough to sit through, but few are as bruising and soul-destroying as his musical. Yes, a musical is his toughest film to endure.
Starring a sensational Bjork who learned to speak English just for this role, the film tells of a struggling mother going blind who is tested at every possible opportunity. She is at the mercy of her wealthy peers, her illness, her long-suffering child, and the climax of her story is so emotionally gutbusting that audiences will never wish to feel that deflated ever again.
Seriously though it must be seen; it’s a breathtaking piece of motion picture art.
No list of one time only films is complete without Gaspar Noe’s towering masterpiece. It is a film so perfectly orchestrated, so intrinsically designed and so undeniably hideous that watching more than once is almost impossible.
One says ‘almost’ as I have seen it in excess of ten times…Although most reference the unfathomably brutal fire extinguisher scene and the monumentally sickening rape sequence as the reasons why this is so tough to sit through, the real horror comes from the reverse storytelling; the climatic sequence is one of the bleakest, most heartbreaking moments in modern foreign film, and if the film was told chronologically it would be something to truly celebrate and rejoice over.
Now that’s straight evil.
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
It’s all doom and gloom for those who occupy Darren Aronofsky’s universally acclaimed drug saga. Everything about the picture is so emotionally draining and spirit-crushing that it’s difficult to reach the final frames, let alone contemplate rewatching.
Jared Leto and Jennifer Connolly are captivating in their spiralling disaster of a relationship but it’s Ellen Burstyn who truly twists the rusty blade that’s lodged in the heart; watching her Sara Goldfarb ride the brutal road to ruin is a seriously tough pill to swallow (excuse the pun). The film is an abject masterwork though and features one of the finest modern film scores so be sure to see it if you haven’t already.
NIL BY MOUTH
Acting royalty Gary Oldman serves behind the camera for his gruelling semi-autobiographical drama which depicts his brutal upbringing in working class London.
This study of humanity at it’s darkest shades is something extremely difficult to witness; the violence is unrelenting, the language is spat like poisonous bile, the true horrors Kathy Burkes’ Valerie is subjected to – it all comes together to a cavalcade of images so earth-shattering you wouldn’t bare sit through it again.
The film however, and the seminal central performance from Ray Winstone is like a car crash; impossible to ignore despite being so grim.
If you were able to see inside Todd Solondz’s mind, the results would be equally wondrous and terrifying. His famed jet-black comedy is an ensemble piece which tells of a series of interlinking stories, all revolved around individuals searching for happiness.
It sounds all warm and fussy, but deep-seeded here is richly layered subtexts of true horror, wincingly awkward scenarios and untold social depravity. Paedophilia, incest, sodomy, drug abuse, alcoholism; it’s all here, and in eye-watering detail.
The humour here is razor-sharp and the performances are universally fantastic, but you’ll never wish to sit through this more than once.
Paddy Considine’s blistering directorial debut is a staggering feat of British filmmaking. It’s also absolutely flipping horrible.
Starring an amazing Peter Mullan and an even more amazing Olivia Colman, this is an equally tender and raw depiction of personal redemption which plays on the same field as a gruelling study of domestic violence. Coleman’s portrayal as delicate charity shop owner Hannah is stomach-twistingly poignant and watching her undergo horrendous abuse at the hands of her vile husband (Eddie Marsan) is too tough to endure a second time.
GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES
Yup, a Studio Ghibli film features on this list. A truly beautiful work of animated art is something nobody in their right mind would wish to revisit, and that’s a true testament to how extraordinary the filmmakers are at the production company.
A deeply tragic story which follows a young boy and his little sister as they attempt to survive alone in the wake of World War II, Isao Takahata’s picture is a severe assault on the heartstrings and will have you manically sobbing over a collection of two dimensional drawings.
Sounds ridiculous I know but it is impossible to deny the emotional gravitas of this remarkable movie.
HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER
Fewer performances are quite as distressing, disturbing and downright harrowing as Michael Rooker’s central screen turn in John McNaughton’s highly controversial biographical horror. Not only is the violence deeply sickening, the manner in which the film is formatted makes the audience feel actively involved; as if we are participating in a rotten snuff film.
After watching you’ll feel so dirty and vulnerable that crying in the shower could be a likely occurrence. There are very few titles at current which can really strike such a sense of unease in the audience, and that’s why this one is a truly tough ordeal.
SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM
The big one. The film that ‘apparently’ led to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s murder which has recently spawned a Willem Dafoe-led biopic. This relentlessly morbid, shocking and downright depraved work dramatizes the account in which four fascist libertines kidnapped nine young men and nine young women before subjecting them to one hundred and twenty days of physical, sexual and psychological torture.
Audiences witness brutal rape, humiliation, force-feeding of excrement, public beatings…yeah it’s a truly horrid experience. Pasolini’s picture is a key turning point in politically motivated cinema and is undoubtedly a great film, but it’s also eye-coveringly, gag-inducingly grim and unquestionably too tough to watch again.