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November 7, 2007 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Top 10 Most Disturbing Movies of All Time.

Normally I shy away from Top 10 or Top 50 lists but the first movie in this list, "Freaks" I had completely forgotten about. I remember seeing this image or maybe even the movie when I was really young and it was jarring.

Two I'd add to the list:

Jacobs Ladder and Trilogy of Terror
posted by KevinSkomsvold (216 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd put Irreversible ahead of Eraserhead, but it's too late to do that now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:00 AM on November 7, 2007


I was disappointed that Spice World wasn't on the list...
posted by JibberJabber at 8:03 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would say that "Happiness" disturbed me more than all of those movies combined.
posted by psmealey at 8:03 AM on November 7, 2007


Requiem For A Dream is indeed notoriously absent.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:06 AM on November 7, 2007


Freaks seems pretty tame now. Inland Empire disturbed me more than any movie I've seen in a long time. Audition is a good pick. On the whole a good list!
posted by I Foody at 8:07 AM on November 7, 2007


I would say that "Happiness" disturbed me more than all of those movies combined.

Oh man, yes! I had never seen that movie before and happened across it on cable not too long ago - just as the last scene was playing out. My wife and I looked at each other like "WTF was that?" so we Tivo'ed it and watched the whole thing. Yes, a great addition to the "disturbing" list.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:08 AM on November 7, 2007


Meh, I dunno. It's not that those movies aren't disturbing (I'd quibble seriously with the rankings, though), or even that (most of them) aren't great films, but this whole list is just basically the top shelf of any reputable video store's cult movies section. There might be a revelation or two here if your viewing is largely restricted to Hollywood films from the last twenty years, but...yeah, sorry, but meh. I can't imagine too many people who'd be interested in a list like this haven't already seen these movies -- some probably many times over.

(A recent article with a similar premise, but which goes a bit more obscure and is just generally more fun to read besides: here.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:10 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


As a teenager, I thought it'd be a good idea to watch Eraserhead while high. Never again. It's quite damaging enough to watch it sober.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 8:11 AM on November 7, 2007


Nothing has ever disturbed me quite like the Tim Roth directed War Zone. I was lucky enough to see this with a friend so we could give each other post-trauma counseling.
posted by Kattullus at 8:12 AM on November 7, 2007


I've seen 'em all save for (surprisingly) 'I Spit On Your Grave', but none were as disturbing as that moment in 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' when that chick gets hung on that meat-hook. Or the fisting and gorging atrocities in 'Caligula'.

But a pal of mine has a movie coming out this weekend that may eventually make the list, in spite of the cuts he had to make to get an 'R' rating.
posted by vhsiv at 8:13 AM on November 7, 2007


For me it's a toss up between Happiness, Spanking the Monkey and Chuck and Buck.

But I don't like lists.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:14 AM on November 7, 2007


As far as Takashi Miike goes, I found Visitor Q to be a lot more disturbing than audition. Something about the lactation scene just makes me feel. . .unclean is too mild a word for it, is there a word for "loathing the very skin of your body for its continuing existence"?

Plus, where the hell is Tetsuo: The Iron Man? I was twitching for days after that one.
posted by Ndwright at 8:14 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I lost sleep for weeks over Se7en. But I'm a wuss. (Also, when I was a kid I accidentally saw a portion of Jaws that freaked me the hell out.)
posted by DU at 8:15 AM on November 7, 2007


Someone in the comments mentions Bad Boy Buddy, a film I remember seeing when I must have been 10 or 11. I can't even remember what it's about, all I know is that is seriously freaked me out at the time and I have no desire to watch again.
posted by afx237vi at 8:16 AM on November 7, 2007


Bad Boy Bubby, that should should be.
posted by afx237vi at 8:17 AM on November 7, 2007


What was disturbing about Requiem? I remember enjoying it, but I don't recall being disturbed.

Not as disturbing as the films of the Vienna Actionists, as I recall.

none were as disturbing as that moment in 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' when that chick gets hung on that meat-hook

I saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre in a theatre with a bunch of soldiers in uniform. Their genuine enthusiasm for the bit where the guy in the wheelchair gets pushed down the enbankment probably makes that my single most chilling cinema moment ever.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:18 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Kittens is right—most of these films are pretty weak qua disturbing.

First off, Freaks and Clockwork Orange should get the axe. Both are good movies, both are pretty tame, all things considered. Second, Tetsuo Iron Man should be on there, along with Un Chien Andelou (slicin' up eyeballs, a-ha-ha-ha-ho). Probably Cannibal Holocaust too.
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 AM on November 7, 2007


Uh, Eraserhead is more disturbing than Salo? This list seems to be broken.

I first saw Salo when a friend of mine showed up from an IT job interview with a copy. On his way to the interview he stopped at a McDonalds for lunch and this guy starts talking to him, and it comes up that he's looking to hire a computer guy to set up a series of encrypted video feeds from Memphis to the caribbean. The more he talks the more it sounds like he's trying to start up some sort of kiddie molestation variety hour and my friend gets away from the guy and on to the proper interview, but not before Sleazy gives him a dub of his favorite movie, 120 Days of Sodom.
posted by bunnytricks at 8:18 AM on November 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Violence I can hand. Its the existentially disturbing films that linger, and none on the list has anything of Fat City for its power to depress you for years to come.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:18 AM on November 7, 2007


I'd switch out Clockwork Orange and Freaks for The Vanishing (original Dutch version) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
posted by tula at 8:19 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Santa Sangre my friends, unless you find the notion of Brazilian mongoloid children doing cocaine and devouring the flesh of a dead elephant that has just been thrown in a garbage heap thrilling or somehow pleasing to the mind,.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:20 AM on November 7, 2007


Not a bad list, if somewhat unimaginative. Disturbing is a very subjective thing.

I'd add Night of the Living Dead to that list. It's less viscerally disturbing than say Audition, but the ending, especially the first time around for a non-knowing viewer, is one of the bleakest committed to screen. The ending reverberates beyond the confines of the movie and provides a profound sense of horror and disgust at people's infinite ability to be terrible to each other, as much in the real world as in the cinema.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:22 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Here's a weird one: The Corndog Man.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:24 AM on November 7, 2007


bunnytricks, he could have been working for Videodrome.

Also, yeah, Clockwork Orange has nothing on Gozu, Happiness, or Tetsuo.
posted by Tuwa at 8:25 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just read the synopses of Trilogy of Terror. It was aired on network TV. Pretty edgy! Also, the stories sound like standard Twilight Zone fare. *She* was the evil one! Also, dual personalities!
posted by DU at 8:26 AM on November 7, 2007


Hmm I just finished watching Bug and that one creeped me the hell out.
posted by elendil71 at 8:28 AM on November 7, 2007


Being disturbed by Requiem for a Dream is the Ne Plus Ultra of wussieness.
posted by delmoi at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2007 [5 favorites]


Not a trace of blood & gore but Picnic at Hanging Rock did it for me as a teenager.
posted by ceri richard at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2007


I am happy to say that I have seen relatively few of these. Like the person who didn't want to eat hot spices in order to keep the rest of her taste buds in good shape, I think that watching some of these movies might break me in some irreversible way. Clockwork and The Thing were pretty shocking, Requiem for a Dream, Se7en, Mulholland Drive, and Cube fucked me up for days. Maybe I'm weak, but I think I'm ok with that.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:34 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm totally less freaked out by those films than every motherfucker in the room.
posted by goatdog at 8:34 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just read the synopses of Trilogy of Terror. It was aired on network TV. Pretty edgy! Also, the stories sound like standard Twilight Zone fare. *She* was the evil one! Also, dual personalities!

Maybe I should have qualified it by saying I was 12 when I saw it. A different kind of disturbing, I guess.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2007


Dead Ringers. Not as graphic as some of the films listed, but disturbing as all hell. I can only watch it every couple of years or so, and it's one of my favorite films.
posted by brundlefly at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Blue Velvet messed me up, but probably because I was too young when I saw it.

Also, swap.avi.
posted by kosem at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nthing Happiness. whoa, seriously disturbing. Ingmar Bergman's last film, Saraband. Apocalypse Now. Diana Rigg in Mother Love. The entire, amazing I, Claudius series. Cronos. City of God. Brazil.

And now is the time to ask anybody if they know the name of this movie. It's Japanese, disturbing. Story of a woman forensic detective investigating a serial murderer cult leader. I think it may also have the name Happiness or Happy in it the title. Damn, cannot remember it.
posted by nickyskye at 8:36 AM on November 7, 2007


I heard a lot of great stuff about Audition before I saw it, but...meh. I had a real hard time sympathizing with the guy, or seeing the girl as anything other than some kind of alien. I absolutely could not suspend my disbelief that this guy wouldn't notice that there was something weird about this woman, no matter how sexist he was. Maybe it's a cultural thing, oh well.

El Topo would come off that list too.

The one I would have included: Begotten.
posted by zebra3 at 8:36 AM on November 7, 2007


brundlefly, Dead Ringers is a fantastic and definitely disturbing film. In my mind, Cronenberg's best. No disrespect to your namesake intended.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:39 AM on November 7, 2007


I thought Happiness was hilarious.

Zebra3 is correct, however, Begotten is the one that got away. Terrifically fucked.
posted by dobbs at 8:40 AM on November 7, 2007


I agree with others that Croenenberg's body-horror, especially in Dead Ringers, is usually pretty disturbing in both an existential and a visceral way.
posted by Falconetti at 8:42 AM on November 7, 2007


The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T disturbed the hell out of me when I saw it on TV one Saturday afternoon (I was 7). Literally gave me nightmares. That Dr. Seuss was one crazy mofo.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:42 AM on November 7, 2007


I will have to see Begotten finally. It's one of those that I keep pushing back on the old queue.

Come to think of it, I think the most disturbing thing I've ever seen on film was a furtive, sleepover-at-a-friend's-house viewing of Poltergeist. Scared my 6-year-old ass to death.
posted by kosem at 8:47 AM on November 7, 2007


Good list, but I agree with Blazecock Pigeon that Irreversable should be ahead of Eraserhead. I can't even begin to describe how stunned I was after seeing that.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:48 AM on November 7, 2007


Seconding Bad Boy Bubby. You can practically smell the filth in that film.
Also, yeah, Begotten.
And Man Bites Dog.
posted by hellbient at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2007


I found The Devil's Rejects to be an exceptionally disturbing movie. Perhaps not disturbing enough to make this list (I haven't seen most of the films on this list, although Eraserhead made me forever curse and revile David Lynch), but nonetheless a difficult and disturbing film. I've seen it twice and I still haven't decided whether the film has any value or meaning at all, or whether perhaps the message is so obscured by grotesqueness that I can't see it through my fog of disgust.
posted by baphomet at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2007


Lame list. Graphic slasher stuff, big deal. Now, The Vanishingthat was disturbing. And Grave of the Fireflies, which I'm not sure I could bring myself to watch again.
posted by languagehat at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2007


PILEON. Not Pigeon. I apologize profusely for the unintended slander.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2007


Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer was indeed disturbing. I agree about Bug and The Vanishing. I thought Happiness was funny too.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:56 AM on November 7, 2007


nickyskye:
And now is the time to ask anybody if they know the name of this movie. It's Japanese, disturbing. Story of a woman forensic detective investigating a serial murderer cult leader. I think it may also have the name Happiness or Happy in it the title. Damn, cannot remember it.
You might be thinking of Enjeru Dasuto (Angel Dust)?
posted by yz at 9:01 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


ooh, The Vanishing, good call lh. Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence was also disturbing.
posted by nickyskye at 9:01 AM on November 7, 2007


No documentaries? I find the most disturbing films to be documentaries. Capturing the Friedmans, even the slow build impact of The Sorrow and the Pity.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:01 AM on November 7, 2007


Must Love Dogs is much more disturbing than any of these.
posted by milarepa at 9:03 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a list of notorious movies, not disturbing movies.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 AM on November 7, 2007


I'd add Winter Soldier to the list. Exceedingly disturbing, and also REAL.
posted by mike_bling at 9:05 AM on November 7, 2007


Wow, I thought Bad Boy Bubby was really funny. At least after things get rolling (I'm trying not to spoil anything here).

Anyways, a pretty meh list but lots of good suggestions here in-thread. I would add In A Glass Cage, and The Seventh Continent.

Also, I found Gaspar Noe's first feature film Seul contre nous, while a bit gimmicky, far more disturbing than Irreversible.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:05 AM on November 7, 2007


At least they got Last House on the Left right. For whatever reason, I sat down to watch it thinking that it was going to be a slightly tongue-in-cheek, laughable first effort from Wes Craven. I ended up turning it off after the initial tortuous deaths refused to end.
posted by Iridic at 9:07 AM on November 7, 2007


That's a very poor list focusing on a lot of fakey films featuring stuff we are all expected to be shocked about, as well as some tomato sauce.

"Cries and Whispers" would be my suggested entry.
posted by fire&wings at 9:10 AM on November 7, 2007


ANGEL DUST!!!!! Yes, *Snoopy dance* woo hoo!!! THANK YOU yz !! I love you! Was wracking my brain. Ah, relief. Thank you. Thank you Thank you.

And that's also a disturbing movie. yikes.
posted by nickyskye at 9:16 AM on November 7, 2007


Notably absent for me (but not surprisingly, as it's pretty damn obscure) is Singapore Sling, the only movie I've ever seen that I wish I could unwatch. I'm amazed that it's now available on DVD.
posted by carrienation at 9:16 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Titicut Follies. Only because it is a documentary. (from IMDB) The only American film banned from release for reasons other than obscenity or national security, Titicut Follies was filmed inside the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Bridgewater, a prison hospital for the criminally insane. After the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sued the filmmakers, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the film constituted was an invasion of inmate privacy and ordered the withdrawal of the film from circulation.
posted by Gungho at 9:16 AM on November 7, 2007


Noriko's Dinner Table. Man, I couldn't take that, and it screwed up my dreams for a week.

It had less to do with the occassional moments of shock. I never wished so hard for a movie to end and stop the mewling from the all-star cast of nihilistic whiners and twerps throwing themselves into one bad idea after another in slow motion.

See? It's still got me worked up.
posted by ardgedee at 9:18 AM on November 7, 2007


The reflecting skin anyone? Saw it when I was a kid so maybe it's not that disturbing anymore.

And I'm disturbed by anyone being disturbed by Bad Boy Bubby. It's a feel-good movie with a happy ending for christs sake!
posted by uandt at 9:19 AM on November 7, 2007


Hooray! A Singapore Sling fan. The director just died. I helped translate some of the film for a local screening of it.
The Ebola Syndrome
Baise Moi
Surrender Dorothy
posted by doctorschlock at 9:22 AM on November 7, 2007


Another Hong Kong shocker...."Run and Kill".
posted by doctorschlock at 9:24 AM on November 7, 2007


No mention of The Baby of Macon, which I found more disturbing than any on that list.
posted by phooky at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2007


Wow, I sort of fancied myself as a movie person but this thread has a LOT of movies I've never even heard of let alone seen. Great stuff.

Languagehat, I'd agree to a certain extent that the list is lame but those weren't only slasher flicks. Although Clockwork Orange has been mentioned to death, I still think it stands as a disturbing movie (at least by my definition of disturbing). Thanks for mentioning "Grave of the Fireflies." I remember when Ebert reviewed it and I wanted to see it but couldn't remember the name of the movie.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:27 AM on November 7, 2007


Falconetti: "I agree with others that Croenenberg's body-horror, especially in Dead Ringers, is usually pretty disturbing in both an existential and a visceral way."

Videodrome freaked me out for days.
posted by octothorpe at 9:27 AM on November 7, 2007


No Disney movies? Bambi and Pinocchio traumatized generations of children for life.
posted by streetdreams at 9:29 AM on November 7, 2007


I was at the D.C. premiere of 'The Baby of Macon' at the Hirschorn museum and for the first time ever.....the audience was speechless.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:31 AM on November 7, 2007


Only because it hasn't been mentioned: One Hour Photo really messed with my head in terms of personal space. I once described it as similar to riding public transportation and having a stranger come up and just place their hands on your chest. Total and blatant invasion of space.

The film holds up okay, but the premise has almost been killed since almost everybody who takes snapshots has gone digital in the five years since it came out. Regardless, it will have you second guess everyone's motives toward taking your picture. And then wonder what might have happened to all those prints that are already out there.

Not a bad list. A little predictable, though.
posted by dogwalker at 9:32 AM on November 7, 2007


I'm having flashbacks to The War Zone. I hadn't thought of it in years but it immediately sprang to mind as the most disturbing movie I've ever seen. Here's a passage from a review:

At a public screening of this movie during the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival, one viewer was so upset that, in the midst of a crucial scene, he rose to his feet and shouted that he couldn't take any more, then headed for the exit, intending to pull the fire alarm. Roth, who was in attendance, intercepted him at the door, and it took 20 minutes of intense conversation to calm the man down.

The War Zone is a devastating motion picture; it's the kind of movie that stuns an audience so absolutely that they remain paralyzed in their seats through the end credits. It does not deal in euphemisms nor does it hide the physical and emotional brutality of the act from viewers. What Roth has accomplished is nothing short of brilliant, but it is also incredibly daring, because the film has no commercial prospects. No matter how many critics trumpet The War Zone's merits, viewers will not flock to see it; the subject matter is too upsetting and daunting. Yet for sheer force of emotional power, I have not seen the movie's like in years. As I write this review two weeks after seeing The War Zone, every scene remains fresh in my mind, and the overall impact has not lessened.

posted by Kattullus at 9:34 AM on November 7, 2007


Ooh, doctorschlock! I forgot all about Category III pictures.

Red To Kill would certainly disturb most, and the Untold Story, like Run & Kill, actually shows violence directed at children, which kind of sends it off to its own zone of disturbia. Anything with Anthony Wong has a good chance of being disturbing really.

Wow, I'd forgotten about Run & Kill. That movie really messed me up.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:35 AM on November 7, 2007


I always thought the most disturbing Cronenberg film was Crash.

Oh, and in terms of "terrible nuclear bomb disturbing," Black Rain is right there. It's just so fucking soul-crushingly sad and bleak.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 AM on November 7, 2007


Certain aspects of Bliss were disturbing, though others were pretty life-affirming.

Considering my dad's take on some of his experiences in WW II, I found A Midnight Clear a little more disturbing than most of the other couple of dozen people or so who seem to've seen it.
posted by pax digita at 9:41 AM on November 7, 2007


I loved A Midnight Clear. That's a great film. What about your dad's take on his WWII experiences made it so disturbing, pax digita?
posted by Kattullus at 9:42 AM on November 7, 2007


Oh, and in terms of "terrible nuclear bomb disturbing," Black Rain is right there.

Oh, man. I thought you were talking about the Michael Douglas/Andy Garcia bomb from the 80s. I mean, Andy got his head chopped off with a samurai sword, but I didn't bother me that much.

But, I guess you were talking about this
posted by psmealey at 9:46 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


72 comments and nobody's mentioned Meet the Feebles yet?
posted by Rhomboid at 9:47 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Two of my favorite Lynch scenes:

"I told you I was here."

"It looks just like this, except for the light..."

(And a quick bonus: "David Lynch Keeps His Head," by David Foster Wallace.)
posted by Iridic at 9:50 AM on November 7, 2007


Baise Moi

I really thought this one was laughable. I think it was Roger Ebert that made a great point about this. He said that showing the rape scene in the same way sex is depicted in pr0n movies, diminishes its impact. Because you know that the actors are all "in on it" (so to speak), it lessens the horror somehow. Although I thought the scene was plenty terrible enough when I saw the movie, I had to agree he was right in retrospect. "Last Exit to Brooklyn" and "Leaving Las Vegas" were both much more disturbing to me.
posted by psmealey at 9:51 AM on November 7, 2007


I watched Eraserhead when I was around 22. Woke up in bed with an adult sized baby from the movie in the bed. I freak out and shoved it on to the floor. It turned out to be my girlfriend. Obviously the movie left an impression on me. I have not seen Irreversible, and doubt that I want to.
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:51 AM on November 7, 2007


Katullus, apropos the movie and my dad, here. More to you personally now that I got your address off your MF user page.
posted by pax digita at 9:51 AM on November 7, 2007


Oh man! I almost forgot Oldboy!
posted by Iridic at 9:54 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Freddie Got Fingered.
posted by Joeforking at 9:56 AM on November 7, 2007


Speaking of Lynch, am I the only one who thinks Blue Velvet [VeryNSFW link] should be on this kind of list?
posted by nola at 9:57 AM on November 7, 2007


The last 30 seconds of Sleepaway Camp.
posted by futility closet at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


If humans really were basically good then the movie Audition would have never been made.
posted by tkchrist at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2007


I watch a lot of horror and exploitation movies, and I have to say that for me, probably the most disturbing stuff going in the last decade or so have been those Farrelly Brothers (and their ilk) comedies of humiliation. The sick, sad world of a movie like Kingpin -- played for laughs, no less -- is way more upsetting to me than anything in the Takashi Miike oeuvre. Pathetic grotesques in a non-stop cringe-a-thon. Brrrrr. Thankfully, I think these movies are now pretty much passe, but Jesus. I'd rather watch Threads again than be forced to endure another showing of, say, Meet the Parents.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


No nola, you're not. Dennis Hopper's creepy bug eyed stare while huffing from his mask chills me to this day.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:08 AM on November 7, 2007


72 comments and nobody's mentioned Meet the Feebles yet?

I was just about to, but you beat me to it. That was a seriously fucked up film.
posted by quin at 10:12 AM on November 7, 2007


brundlefly, Dead Ringers is a fantastic and definitely disturbing film. In my mind, Cronenberg's best.

Thirded. Or more.

One Hour Photo really messed with my head

It messed with my head in that I struggled to stay awake throughout.

No Disney movies?

The wicked queen in Snow White, and Donkey Island in Pinocchio will forever haunt my dreams.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:15 AM on November 7, 2007


I think, as pointed out above, that "disturbing" is way too subjective. "most graphic" is probably less subjective -- in this case, it's hard to say Salò doesn't win the contest.

"most exploitative", well, it's hard to deny that using actual deformed people -- as is the case in "Freaks" -- makes the case for most exploitative. "disturbing" is very personal -- I found Irreversible literally unwatchable (not to mention Noé is too much of a lamer to actually show an actual cock and he had to Photoshop it in the frame later), and "I Spit on your grave" is pretty much up there in the "unwatchable" category.

what really works for me in the "disturbing" department is, frankly, the little things, much more than the bloodbaths -- and Michael Haneke is the master of that stuff. Haneke's films -- their moments of deep, lasting discomfort -- remain with me for days after I watch them. and despite that -- because of that -- I always come back to them.
posted by matteo at 10:17 AM on November 7, 2007


I love half these movies, and have the other half at home to be watched later this week, coincidentally enough. I would second that the meathook scene in TCM is one of the most disturbing moments in film, and add Mysterious Skin to the list. Brutal rape is right up there for me. I wish ACO wasn't like an old friend, sometimes, so it couls still shock me with the rape.

Dark Disturbing vs. Peculiar Disturbing is a tough call to make as well... Breaking The Waves disturbs me more than El Topo. Although now that I'm in stride with Von Trier, I feel pretty differently. Through Dogville and Manderlay I was like "Yes! Suffer! Suffer MORE! Make ME suffer!" Y'know, it's all subjective. I can't tell if Blue Velvet is disturbing or not, it's just COOL all the time.

For you people who liked Chuck and Buck, see Year of the Dog. It's not as cute as it looks.

From Buñuel, Land Without Bread/Las Hurdes is more disturbing as well, than Un Chien, by my standards.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:17 AM on November 7, 2007


The Men Behind the Sun.
posted by doctorschlock at 10:19 AM on November 7, 2007


Goodbye Uncle Tom.
posted by doctorschlock at 10:20 AM on November 7, 2007


I'm kind of surprised no one has mentioned Gummo.

Also, nthing Happiness.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:21 AM on November 7, 2007


Lady in a Cage.
Daddy's Gone A-Hunting.
Pink Flamingos.
posted by doctorschlock at 10:21 AM on November 7, 2007


(and seriously, any sick fuck can make a video with their cell phone of somebody torturing a stray dog to death and then upload it on YouTube or something -- gore is shockingly easy; giving you fear of a big shark eating your legs when you swim at night in a location where you rationally know there are no sharks, or making you afraid that when you're in the shower Tony Perkins in drag will come and slash you to death, well, that takes cinematic balls)
posted by matteo at 10:21 AM on November 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Peeping Tom
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:21 AM on November 7, 2007


Wiseblood.
Nekromantic.
The Death King.
posted by doctorschlock at 10:23 AM on November 7, 2007


The Exorcist should be on this list. Oh, sure, it's a joke now, but it wasn't when it first came out. Inside the theaters, people were freaking out; outside, people were protesting it. In terms of the objective evidence, I'd say it was a very disturbing film.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 10:25 AM on November 7, 2007


To Kill a Mockingbird. When I was a child. I thought this and "The Birds" were the scariest things.
posted by doctorschlock at 10:25 AM on November 7, 2007


Freaks may be tame so far as plot goes, but the fact that it uses real deformities instead of a bunch of hollywood makeup brings it to the top of the list for me. That really is disturbing, on several levels.
posted by Narual at 10:28 AM on November 7, 2007


Audition (and Ichi: The Killer) messed with my head for a while. And Henry was just numbing. And a load of old horror films when I was a kid.

Nothing gets close to Threads though... (if you allow tv films)

Capturing the Friedmans, because it's a documentary, so the screwed up stuff actually happened...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:29 AM on November 7, 2007


Notably absent for me (but not surprisingly, as it's pretty damn obscure) is Singapore Sling, the only movie I've ever seen that I wish I could unwatch. I'm amazed that it's now available on DVD

Singapore Sling is on dvd . Synapse Films puts it out in North America.
posted by oninochuck at 10:31 AM on November 7, 2007


KokoRyu's got it.

And another vote here for The Reflecting Skin being more disturbing than anything on that list.
posted by jtron at 10:32 AM on November 7, 2007


Flowers of Flesh and Blood.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:34 AM on November 7, 2007


Brundlefly: years ago, in the couple of weeks before i was scheduled for a preventative hysterectomy due to my uterus having gone pre-cancerously feral on me, i kept having an overwhelming urge to watch Dead Ringers again. but then i realized that i didn't *actually* want that fresh in my head when i was going to end up on high end pharmaceuticals.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:34 AM on November 7, 2007


I'd rather watch Threads again than be forced to endure another showing of, say, Meet the Parents.

Man, you're so edgy.
posted by tkchrist at 10:38 AM on November 7, 2007


Man, you're so edgy.

Dude? I know.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:40 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've always thought of A Clockwork Orange as a black comedy. I think it's pretty funny. It's satire. And I have a soft spot for Freaks. Neither of those movies is particularly disturbing at all.

The Shining is pretty disturbing to see as a little kid, though, if you want to talk about Kubrick.
posted by MythMaker at 10:47 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I always laugh at that last shot of Nicholson frozen in ice.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:49 AM on November 7, 2007


I thought Closet Land was pretty disturbing. And I had nightmares for months after they showed us this movie in the third grade.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:58 AM on November 7, 2007


Wow, I thought Bad Boy Bubby was really funny.

You're right it was, in the second half. But there's still no putting that first half behind you.
posted by hellbient at 11:02 AM on November 7, 2007


Documentaries:

General Idi Amin Dada: A Self-Portrait. (The Last King of Scotland recreates scenes from that documentary and marries them to more traditional horror imagery, but that's not the same as the real thing.)

Another one: Night and Fog. When I was in college a professor showed that to my class with zero warning of its content, an action that borders on cruelty. Granted, this was a class in the Religion department called "Suffering and Pain," so I should have known what I was in for--still, though.
posted by Prospero at 11:03 AM on November 7, 2007


I always laugh at that last shot of Nicholson frozen in ice.

I usually create an exact replicate ice sculpture. It usually takes most of the film. So I have start at the beginning of the film.

I add cherry flavoring to the ice the night before.

And then when the ice sculpture is done I slowly lick Jack's glassy face until it's featureless smooth and I can see my reflection. That's when I take off my clothes.

Hey. We were talking about disturbing, right?
posted by tkchrist at 11:03 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have to second a post I saw in a different forum on this topic. The boat scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory taught my little 5 year old adrenal glands how to do horrified. To this day, most disturbing (in memory).
posted by Pliskie at 11:04 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Damn! I meant to favorite and I pressed the flag button by mistake. How to undo it, I ask?
posted by doctorschlock at 11:11 AM on November 7, 2007


People occasionally mention Night and Fog. I don't get it. It's so lyrical and understated. Maybe back when it was released it was disturbing, but now I think it's just a beautiful documentary about a tragic event. I think what it is, is effective.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:12 AM on November 7, 2007


I don't get it.

I could be wrong...but it's probably the piles of dead bodies.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:15 AM on November 7, 2007


The Stepford Wives -- the original one, not the screwball-black-comedy remake -- was disturbing. Not for any imagery that was particularly hard to look at so much as the idea that the husbands would prefer...well, y'know. The remake helped me understand it as social satire as opposed to horror.
posted by pax digita at 11:16 AM on November 7, 2007


What about the aptly named Bad Lieutenant?

For Christ sake it opens with a nun being raped.

Though it is rather boring through 70% of the film that by the time Harvey Keitel jacks off into the car window of the two New Jersey chicks it kind of makes you laugh.
posted by tkchrist at 11:16 AM on November 7, 2007


Oh, and one night when I was all depressed and insomniac and stuff, Fritz Lang's M bothered me a lot. Mostly it was the atmosphere.
posted by pax digita at 11:19 AM on November 7, 2007


pax digita - both, not "as opposed to".
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on November 7, 2007


Top 15 Most Disturbing Movies

Includes many on this list as well as some mentioned in the comments, including Bad Boy Bubby and Begotten. The list includes Google video links to clips from the films, or in the case of Begotten, the entirety of the film.

The first ten minutes of Begotten are not to be missed.

Also, thank to Iridic for reminding me of how awesome Mulholland Drive was. I had not forgotten how awesome Lost Highway was.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:34 AM on November 7, 2007


I'd agree on the awesomeness Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway. Inland Empire, on the other hand, left me completely cold.
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on November 7, 2007


nickyskye:"And now is the time to ask anybody if they know the name of this movie. It's Japanese, disturbing. Story of a woman forensic detective investigating a serial murderer cult leader. I think it may also have the name Happiness or Happy in it the title. Damn, cannot remember it."

Sounds like you're talking about 'Another Heaven' (2000), which was a Japanese take on 'Se7en' though the plot details elude me at the moment.

(Time to pull out the disk and watch it again...)
posted by vhsiv at 11:48 AM on November 7, 2007


I no longer wish to be disturbed.

I will be in the drawing room listening to Bach and thumbing through my puppy photo albums.
posted by tkchrist at 11:53 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Did anyone see Kids? I was sick for days.
posted by mtevis at 11:53 AM on November 7, 2007


There is disturbing yet artistically rewarding, and there is disturbing without merit.

The Baby of Macon (mentioned by a few above) I found very, very disturbing but artistically brilliant... intellectually and emotionally provocative and brilliant and disturbing. Wow. I keep hoping it will eventually get the DVD release it deserves.

And then there is Gummo. I'm not sure which I'd rather watch: a 2 hour looped video of tub-girl, or a second viewing of Gummo. (Actually, since I walked out of Gummo, it would probably count as the same viewing, with the rest of my life as intermission.)

One film that I found VERY (sexually) disturbing at an impressionable age was the vampire flick Martin.
posted by Auden at 11:55 AM on November 7, 2007


Nthing Happiness. It's the only movie I can think of where just having two people sitting down and talking makes me want to turn the movie off, and that happens multiple times in the movie.

Kind of on the flip side--I watched a few movies with my friends that they had rented recently, a couple of which had previews for a movie that I think was called "Holiday" on them. It had Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black in it. After seeing it once, I absolutely had to leave the room whenever it came on.
posted by LionIndex at 11:56 AM on November 7, 2007


One vote for The Chekist.
posted by Football Bat at 12:04 PM on November 7, 2007


Ah, delmoi - you're so cool. Yet, despite your "Emperor's-New-Clothes"-ish attempt to dissuade people from admitting they think differently to you, Requiem For A Dream is still the only film I've ever seen where the audience filed out in stunned silence as the end credits rolled. Even to this day, it is a very disturbing movie for me to watch, up there with the final "over the top" scene from Gallipoli.
posted by benzo8 at 12:13 PM on November 7, 2007


Really? I assumed people were disturbed by the inane didacticism and gimmickry of Requiem, not the content.
posted by klangklangston at 12:20 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


The second clip Iridic linked to is the scariest thing I have ever seen in any movie ever, even scarier than when I was two and wailed so loudly at the end of Snow White that my mom had to remove me from the theater, even scarier than when I was eight and saw the scene in Popcorn where the giant mosquito sucks out the farmer's brain, even scarier than when I was four and realized that I was going to die someday. Even scarier than the night before I saw Mullholland Drive, when based on hearsay of its weirdness I dreamt that I was watching it and the plot created by my brain was so terrifying that I woke up with a little shriek. But then, I haven't seen any of the movies on this list except for Freaks. I made the dog sleep in bed with me the night after I saw that.
posted by granted at 12:25 PM on November 7, 2007


Gummo was the movie that I felt got left off that list. But a movie I saw most recently that freaked the bejeezus outta me was Tideland. The scene when the taxidermist lady tells the little girl to throw something valuable into her dead daddy's body before she sews him up is simply ghastly. Had a hard time shaking that one out of my head.
posted by msali at 12:26 PM on November 7, 2007


Visitor Q.
posted by doctorschlock at 12:28 PM on November 7, 2007


Gah @ Requiem. It's good in the rare spots where Aronofsky manages to go against his panting-melodrama instincts and play it small (the scene where Jared Leto -- not exactly a master thespian under the best circumstances -- realizes that his mother is, like himself, a drug addict, is so well-done, and so subtly done, that it seemed to have been inserted from another movie altogether), but it's mostly a huge vat of 21st C Reefer Madness horseshit. Worst part? When poor Keith David is forced to play the Evil Negro Who Exploits the Naive Upper Class White Junkie Chick (see also the otherwise pretty good Traffic). Also, whoever told Darren Aronofsky that one thing that's really, really super cool in movies is when you shoot scenes from a moving wheelchair? Yeah. Fuck that guy.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:34 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


agreed about including Requiem for a Dream...
also I'd nominate The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I think D. Cronenberg is less "disturbing" than plain sick. People who get off on inspecting deformed female organs or being maimed in auto wrecks? My disbelief doesn't suspend that far.
posted by Julie at 12:46 PM on November 7, 2007


Worst part? When poor Keith David is forced to play the Evil Negro Who Exploits the Naive Upper Class White Junkie Chick (see also the otherwise pretty good Traffic)

Yes! I thought the exact same thing. Both movies let you know how evil heroin is because *gasp* white women will have sex with black men if they take it.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:49 PM on November 7, 2007


I read an article once about Flowers of Flesh and Blood and the other films in the series... that was disturbing enough, never mind seeing the actual film.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:50 PM on November 7, 2007


Safe. None of you fools have mentioned Todd Haynes' skin-crawling masterpiece. Fools!
posted by item at 12:51 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Meh. No "Man Bites Dog", "Kids", "Gummo", etc.

Worst part? When poor Keith David is forced to play the Evil Negro Who Exploits the Naive Upper Class White Junkie Chick (see also the otherwise pretty good Traffic).

No kidding. There's always a trace of the old but oddly specific "drugs will make your white daughters sleep with big black dealers" vibe in movies that deal with the subject.
posted by clevershark at 12:53 PM on November 7, 2007


I'm kind of a junkie for disturbing films; some favorites are Gummo and Brazil, though I've seen most of the films in this thread (excluding the Lynch stuff; dunno why, just never got around to it.) I didn't find Happiness disturbing as much as, say, disgustingly hilarious.
posted by p3on at 1:03 PM on November 7, 2007


Lynch Spoiler: Everything's a remake of Blue Velvet.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:10 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


fearfulsymmetry: It disturbed Charlie Sheen enough that he called the FBI. Seriously.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:11 PM on November 7, 2007


There's always Ken Park for a guaranteed room-clearing flick. I've watched it twice this decade, and while I'm still not sure I like it, I can at least respect it. Larry Clark goes way over the top. There are scenes of auto-erotic masturbation, suicide, and plenty of sex (two boys "spit-roast" a girl, Peaches, at the end of the film).

Kids is like an after-school special in comparison, although it's certainly full of grotesque moments.
posted by porn in the woods at 1:15 PM on November 7, 2007


I agree Ken Park is pretty OOT but there really isn't anything as out-and-out cruel as the final scene in Kids. Well...there's some cruel stuff certainly, but...eh, this is all so subjective really.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:19 PM on November 7, 2007


stinkycheese: So I've heard... it's one of the few times I didn't follow up the link to the film-maker's website from the article.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:23 PM on November 7, 2007


There are scenes of auto-erotic masturbation

If it isn't auto-erotic, you're doing it wrong.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:28 PM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


The scene in Sideways where Sandra Oh beats the crap out of Thomas Haden Church is both disturbing and immensely satisfying. It's DISTURBIFYING.
posted by psmealey at 1:33 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm somewhat disturbed remembering that in college I somehow thought Eraserhead and Pink Flamingos were acceptable date movies.
posted by cairnish at 1:36 PM on November 7, 2007


Are we talking only fiction here? The meditation/documentary on an Iranian leper colony, called The House Is Black, directed by Iranian poet, Forough Farrokhzad, disturbed me.
posted by rw at 1:37 PM on November 7, 2007


Hmmm ... nobody mentioned Fargo? The end of that flick shook me up pretty good, and I tend to look for disturbing films. It's not along the same lines as Gummo or Salo, but it's still pretty brutal. Then again, I was also disturbed by Barton Fink, another Coen brothers film, but it's not near the top 10.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:55 PM on November 7, 2007


Oh, btw, very glad this is not a cracked.com list.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:58 PM on November 7, 2007


krinkly, cracked.com, n’ I don’t care.

The scene in Sideways where Sandra Oh beats the crap out of Thomas Haden Church is also somewhat arousing.

“Trilogy of Terror” - the bit with the doll is a great read by Matheson (I think it’s in the latest “I am Legend” print).
I gotta go with "Un Chien Andalou" being up there. (Both actors committed suicide later - damned creepy if you watch it with that in mind)
But for #1 I have to go with the film that Ian Curtis (Joy Division) watched just before he (understandably) took his own life: Strozek
One of my favorite films tho. Sort of nihilistic and rueful of banality.
I keep getting the Nazi interrogator from Schindler’s List now in my head watching the ending (the scene where someone stole a chicken - there’s a Nazi asking questions and then the other guy, far creepier, walking around and around everyone saying “Tell him. Tell him about the chicken.”) just makes me laugh in sort of a bitter way.
(because say what you will about national socialism - at least it’s an ethos, etc - cruelty seems to be one alternative to nothingness people grasp for to have any sense of meaning in their lives, and of course, insanity and/or death.)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:38 PM on November 7, 2007


Blue Velvet messed me up...

When I saw 'Blue Velvet' I walked out of the theater with a stomach ache. I then proceeded to a bar/club with friends and got "shit-faced." Boy, that film fucked me up!
posted by ericb at 2:47 PM on November 7, 2007


Houston, we have a winner.

WHAT IS IT?!!!
posted by aftermarketradio at 3:04 PM on November 7, 2007


Thanks guys - my Quickflix list looks like a study in depravity so I'm sure to have some fun flick-watching ahead of me.

And yes, I'm n-thing "The Reflecting Skin". I saw it about 15 years ago and there are some scenes that make me squirm even now; the accused father drinking petrol and setting himself alight, the toad-inflation and subsequent popping with a slingshot... There was never anything scary per se but jesus, that movie freaked me the heck out.
posted by ninazer0 at 3:06 PM on November 7, 2007


Itchi the Killer

is missing...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:27 PM on November 7, 2007


I loved "The Reflecting Skin", but I actually thought it was more funny than disturbing; similarly with "Santa Sangre". I would nominate "Man Bites Dog" however, because it sucks you in somehow before it repels you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:28 PM on November 7, 2007


I guess it's up to me to mention Taxi Driver. Watched it once to see what all the fuss was about. I'll never watch it again.
posted by deborah at 3:28 PM on November 7, 2007


Smedleyman writes "I gotta go with 'Un Chien Andalou' being up there."

Yeah, that's one I was trying to remember. The ultimate surrealist film. The opening scene may be the most disturbing, but at least people know right away what they're getting into and whether they can handle the rest.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:33 PM on November 7, 2007


Surprised nobody's mentioned Full Metal Jacket...specifically the soap scene. There are moments in other films that made me feel ill, or scared me as a kid, and there's plenty of stuff now that I don't like (over the top gore especially). But few things have made me feel ill and shaken like that one.
posted by lhall at 3:42 PM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Off the top of my head, I should point out how disturbing Se7en is. It's easy to dismiss it, but I remember people talking about it a lot when it was in theaters.

Aguirre, The Wrath of God is quite disturbing, as is much by Werner Herzog.

Oh, and a disturbing and bad movie: Tideland.
posted by zardoz at 4:05 PM on November 7, 2007


I am shamefaced that I didn't think of What Is It? I went to that in the Catro with some drunken greasers and kicked Crispin while talking to him about public arts funding, un a peculiar convergence of tall and clumsy. Most memorable.

Film School has made my noggin a dusty alcove crammed with titles, a plurality of which are disturbing.

Anyway, that film RULES and the man is a saint for speaking as patiently and as clearly about it as he did.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:12 PM on November 7, 2007


I had nightmares about Fire in the Sky for a long time after watching it when I was 12, especially since it's "based on a true story." Whatever that means for an alien abduction movie, it at least made what happens on screen seem to be in the realm of possibility in my mind.
posted by msbrauer at 4:23 PM on November 7, 2007


The author must have an amputee phobia. Freaks, El Topo and Eraserhead all feature armless legless people.
(Eraserhead wasn't so much disturbing as pointlessly disgusting).
posted by Popular Ethics at 4:24 PM on November 7, 2007


I actually saw Tideland for the first time two days ago (Gilliam binge) and I agree with zardoz. It's really just not worth watching.
posted by p3on at 4:25 PM on November 7, 2007


Disturbing? Try:
Dancer in the Dark
Saving Private Ryan
Freak shows don't compare to these.
posted by DarkForest at 4:48 PM on November 7, 2007


How are lists like flypaper?
posted by itchylick at 5:01 PM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Lynch Spoiler: Everything's a remake of Blue Velvet.

Ambrosia Voyeur, I'm wondering how this applies to either The Straight Story or INLAND EMPIRE, but I do agree about Crispin Glover. I just saw the second part of his IT trilogy, It is fine. Everything is Fine!, starring and written by Steven C. Stewart, who died of cerebral palsy weeks after the film wrapped. Stuart plays the wheelchair-bound lothario/hair fetishist/murderer-hero who is so handicapped (his word) you can barely understand a word he's saying. That was pretty disturbing, and I confess I almost walked out after the first twenty minutes -- but Mr. Glover himself was guarding the door. In the end I was glad I stayed because the movie's also strangely tender and honest. Definitely the most unique thing I've seen in a while.
posted by muckster at 5:50 PM on November 7, 2007


Adding The original Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Dr. Strangelove to the list.
posted by nickyskye at 6:02 PM on November 7, 2007


Nthing Gummo. I always tell my friends that anyone who even considers emigrating to the US should have to watch it with this warning: "All those flashy, shallow-plot, beautiful people Hollywood films? Those aren't representative of what America is and does when no one's paying attention. Gummo is."

Old Boy fucked me up for a good fifteen minutes afterwards. Stong stuff, and I'm pretty jaded.

Why hasn't anyone mentioned Faces of Death yet? Does anyone ever finish watching it? Or it's [too] many sequels?

[The very fact that Faces of Death has five sequels means that we, as a species, emphasize bad priorities. Also, WE'RE TOTALLY FUCKED.]
posted by Minus215Cee at 6:04 PM on November 7, 2007


I thought Tideland was another great Gilliam movie.

This isn't to say I'd expect people to agree with me.
posted by Alex404 at 6:19 PM on November 7, 2007


This has also been an awesome post in terms of comments.

Except for this:

Disturbing? Try:
Dancer in the Dark
Saving Private Ryan
Freak shows don't compare to these.


Fuck von Trier and Spielberg.
posted by Alex404 at 6:21 PM on November 7, 2007


I guess whomever compiled that list has never seen SWEET MOVIE or ILSA: SHEWOLF OF THE S.S. or MEN BEHIND THE SUN or BEGOTTEN or NEKROMANTIK or that many movies to begin with... (I would not advocate watching any of the movies on this list, except for SWEET MOVIE and BEGOTTEN)
posted by cinemafiend at 6:22 PM on November 7, 2007


I recently posted an AskMe question wondering what the value of films like these are. It was an interesting discussion and today I awarded 'best answers' to two of the participants.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:24 PM on November 7, 2007


Lynch Spoiler: Everything's a remake of Blue Velvet.

Ambrosia Voyeur, I'm wondering how this applies to The Straight Story


Oh. My. God. It's SO obvious.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:26 PM on November 7, 2007


Lynch Spoiler: Everything's a remake of Blue Velvet.

Ambrosia Voyeur, I'm wondering how this applies to The Straight Story


I think I would be more comfortable saying that he's remade Lost Highway twice in Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. Also, that at some point in his life someone cheated on him, and it fucked his head.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:30 PM on November 7, 2007


I forgot to mention the Japanese GUINEA PIG films...

All that I could think after watching two of these films was: "thank god I did not watch that by myself" and "for whom were these films made?"
posted by cinemafiend at 6:34 PM on November 7, 2007


I was once randomly flipping through the channels in Buenos Aires and came upon the rape scene in Irreversible, it was unbelievably disturbing and I only watched half of it. I had no idea what movie it was from until now. I didn't watch the rest of the movie to say the least. I do wonder if the movie has actual redeeming value, however I don't ever intend to find out for myself.
posted by whoaali at 7:22 PM on November 7, 2007


Fuck von Trier and Spielberg.

This is tough for me -- I'm okay with a fuck you to the Spielberg who makes touchy-feely dreck and too-long popcorn movies about cartoon dinosaurs and who fucked up a perfectly good movie like A.I. with a bullshit Disney ending (that's vaguely creepy and oedipal), but I'm rather fond of the Spielberg who made Jaws, Raiders, and Close Encounters. I'm even partial to the one who made Schindler's List and Munich. And I loathe the von Trier who made fucking Dogtown, but I like the one who made The Kingdom a lot. What to do?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:42 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and throw me in as a big supporter of Tideland. It tried really hard to make me hate it, but ultimately it just couldn't do it.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:44 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


It’s not a movie, but that brief David Letterman interview with Crispin Glover was pretty disturbing.

Although Miracle Mile (tkchrist, I’m looking at you) really, really, really, screwed with my head. I mean, it’s a sappy, kind of boring love story...ya think. Someone sat me down without telling me anything about it and said “Watch this” so I’m thinking it’s just some predictable schlock about a couplea mixed up crazy kids whOHMYFRIGGINGOD!
(not a spoiler, but the helicopter pilot towards the end of the movie has perhaps the most overdeveloped sense of honor I’ve ever seen, I mean way past Roarschach (from Watchman))
posted by Smedleyman at 8:33 PM on November 7, 2007


Minus215Cee writes "Why hasn't anyone mentioned Faces of Death yet? Does anyone ever finish watching it? Or it's [too] many sequels?"

Nah. Fake snuff films aren't that disturbing. It was more disturbing when I was a kid and believed it.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:36 PM on November 7, 2007


(I mean it’s Anthony “Revenge of the Nerds” Edwards )
posted by Smedleyman at 8:36 PM on November 7, 2007


Of the movies on this list, I've seen El Topo, Clockwork Orange, and Eraserhead. They're not exactly kids' movies, but none of those three disturbed me as much as Sympathy For Lady Vengeance. It's a very good movie and you really don't see much gore, but you anticipate and imagine it, which is much, much worse. I have never walked out of a movie (I usually just close my eyes if things are too gory/scary for my taste), but while watching Lady Vengeance, I actually experienced a strong physical urge to leave the theatre. The final 20 minutes or so are just wrenching. I think part of the problem is that I was repelled and horrified but also riveted and unable to stop watching. It's a dreadful combination.

That said, it's a well-made, thought-provoking film about the nature of revenge and vigilantism. I appreciated it while watching it as well as after watching it. But I don't think I want to see it again. (That reminds me, this list of 24 Films Too Painful to Watch Twice is interesting.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:53 PM on November 7, 2007


Fail-Safe is more disturbing than Dr. Strangelove.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:08 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Seconding "Sweet Movie." It and "El Topo" are honestly my two favorite movies of all time. They scour the paint off.
posted by rleamon at 9:09 PM on November 7, 2007


ooh, you're right about Fail Safe compared with Strangelove, kirkaracha...but in Strangelove there is also the dark humor about the nutcase officer who obsesses about his fluids being contaminated, the heil hitler wheelchair inanity and not being able to make a call on the public phone...so many twisted dark moments there...
posted by nickyskye at 9:42 PM on November 7, 2007


Fair enough, kittensforbreakfast. I was more reacting against the Saving-private-ryan-dancer-in-the-dark-ness.

It brought out in me a strong reaction.

And actually, now that I think of it, while I thought Munich was pretty uneven (and the ending was just goofy), the killing of the beautiful Marie-Josée Croze haunted me for quite a while. I hated seeing it, but the fallout from it was fascinating.
posted by Alex404 at 9:45 PM on November 7, 2007


Come and See is disturbing for all the right reasons (if there can be right reasons). It's also very, very good.
I'm glad this discussion hasn't veered into the territory of movies like Saw 3 and Hostel etc. that kind of modern horror film feels like it's lost something with all the viceral sledgehammer violence.
Session 9 is pretty good on the fear level, quite a few people I know were scared witless by that and unfortunately it's not got the cred it deserves.
posted by sam and rufus at 10:51 PM on November 7, 2007


Gummo still disturbs the shit out of me, but not for any of the obvious reasons. Something about the spaghetti in the bathtub scene just empties out everything good in my soul, and I can't explain it.

Battle Royale is an amazing film (and much better than Gummo, actually) which didn't exactly disturb me as it did just sit at the forefront of my consciousness and stay there for weeks, the Lighthouse Girls scene playing over and over in my head.

Happiness doesn't have as much of an effect on me as it has on others (I think I was innoculated against the pedo-son conversations before seeing it) but I love it and own it on DVD.

For some reason having to do with my own personality, self-view, and personal history, Shattered Glass (which I also own) disturbs me greatly. I think it's because I know how much bukshit I've gotten away with in my life, and have some degree of synpathy for the downward spiral of those who've gotten in over their heads doing the same thing. The first time I saw that one, I just felt ill afterwards. That's just my own thing though, of course, and it has no place on this list.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:01 PM on November 7, 2007


Legend Of The Overfiend
When The Wind Blows (which I've only watched on YouTube...the final section, where the two kindly old people are dying and have wrapped themselves in sacks, was one of the saddest things I've ever seen)
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:07 PM on November 7, 2007


Shit, Gummo! I totally forgot about that one. I'll never get the image of the kid eating spaghetti in the tub full of nasty-looking water out of my head.

As an eight-year-old, The Day After fucked me up but good. And Threads, the British version out about the same time, but one I didn't see until much later, is even more fucked up.
posted by zardoz at 11:29 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hurdy Gurdy Girl-
Have you seen the other two in that trilogy?
Oldboy, and
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
all three of those movies are spectacular.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:30 PM on November 7, 2007


The ending of the 1973 Wicker Man is all kinds of disturbing (SPOILER). As are the creepy pagan animal-head costumes.

More graphically disturbing is Tetsuo. (TETSUOOOOO!)
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:37 PM on November 7, 2007


Oooh Spaghetti in the bathtub reminded me of beans in the television. Tommy creeps me the hell out.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:38 PM on November 7, 2007


The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew (great name, btw): I have seen Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, but still need to see Oldboy. I saw Mr. Vengeance first, and although it was intense, it didn't prepare me for Lady Vengeance. (That scene in the schoolhouse! My GOD.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:28 AM on November 8, 2007


The ending of the 1973 Wicker Man is all kinds of disturbing

Man, he really didn't put up much of a fight there. He just sort of let himself get stuffed in there.

And I'd think kicking the crap out of the silly wicker door holding him in would be more useful than screaming about Jesus.

I know if I was going to be burned alive I'm damn well make them knock me unconscious before I stopped fighting.
posted by flaterik at 12:49 AM on November 8, 2007


Lynch is over in the UK at the moment doing interviews promoting Transcendental Meditation... there's some real cognitive dissonance in listening to someone who sound genuinely blissed-up compared to the films he has produced. Jimmy Stewart from Mars indeed.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:16 AM on November 8, 2007


flaterlik, that's what makes it disturbing for me. He doesn't really want to escape, but somewhat voluntarily becomes a martyr for his god.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:42 AM on November 8, 2007


I think what Aristotle said about the difference between Comedy and Tragedy might apply to the difference between Disturbing and Gross. Basically, Disturbing inspires a change in attitude and behavior, while Gross is entertaining, and somehow validates the values one already has. So, while still very subjective, it might be helpful to look at it that way.

I haven't seen a lot of these, and probably won't. For one thing, I have an intense aversion to the theme of revenge. Especially anything in which one horrific act is used to justify another horrific act in retribution. It's not the acts so much as the justification that gets me. For another, I'm a total wuss. So, for me:

Gross: a long, long time ago I saw a short grand guignol, I believe from Monty Python, featuring a crusty garden party during which improbable accidents cause gouts of gore all over the clean, white costumes and set pieces. Scarred me for life. I'd love to see it again.

Disturbing: NBC's The Office (I haven't seen the BBC one yet). Michael Scott's pronouncements cause such spasms of cringing that I have to leave the room. But worse, is the paralyzing fury I get about the complasance of the rest of the cast about their various situations. And then I think about my own on-the-job frustrations and humiliations which I continue to endure out of fear. Why? Because I'm as spineless and stone-less as any of them. How did I get that way? How can I change? I'm no communist and I'm no William Wallace but I am neck-deep bullshit and I can't get out on my own. We all have to get together and ... I don't know ... fight The Man or something.

Lastly, I don't care what anyone says, Disney's Beauty and the Beast is sick and wrong.
posted by wobh at 5:34 AM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I knew Eraserhead was going to be on that list. I am surprised that Requiem for a Dream did not make it, notwithstanding that others here don't find it disturbing.

But then, I might be closer to Father Dougal on this count:

DOUGAL: Can I stay up tonight to watch the scary film?
TED: Ah, no no no. The last time you stayed up to watch a scary film, you ended up having to sleep in my bed. I wouldn't mind, but it wasn't even a scary film.
DOUGAL: Come on, Ted. A Volkswagen with a mind of its own. Driving all over the place and going mad. If that isn't scary, I don't know what is.
posted by A-Train at 5:52 AM on November 8, 2007


but in Strangelove there is also the dark humor

It's the same story, straight up or with a twist. The humor in Dr. Strangelove leavens the horror; there isn't anything to lighten up moments like this:
Right after that, the bombs will explode. I'm told that what we will hear at this end will be a high, shrill sound. That will be the ambassador's phone melting from the heat of the fireball. When we hear that sound, the ambassador will be dead. You understand, Mr. Ambassador, you're to stay exactly where you are.

Yes, Mr. President.
Worst. Job assignment. Ever.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:26 AM on November 8, 2007


Wow, I can't even put Strangelove in the same category as these other films. For sure it's dark humor, but not in an uncomfortable sense; it's laugh out loud hysterical from start to finish. To me, not at all disturbing. For dark humor that's disturbing and uncomfortable to watch, I'd put "Happiness", "Ghost World" and "the King of Comedy" in that category.

I think wobh hits on a very interesting point above, but what's "disturbing" seems to vary according to personal wiring. The duel scene in "Barry Lyndon" never ceases to trouble me where most people are not troubled by that type of violence, and I cannot explain why a PG-13 movie like "The Ring" gave me night terrors for a month when others wrote it off as forgettable.
posted by psmealey at 6:41 AM on November 8, 2007


For me, "An American Werewolf in London" was absolutely terrifying. I had been expecting a daffy spoof, but the special effects and the dream within a dream sequence scared me silly. Now, I look at it and it's so cheesy.
posted by emanresubmud at 7:55 AM on November 8, 2007


Also fascinated by the variance of opinion. I'm pretty much with tkchrist at this point, where I don't seek this kind of stuff out anymore, but then again you never know where you'll find it.

So long as we're compiling a list here, I'll add The Butcher Boy. It stuck with me much in the way that the above-mentioned Dead Ringers did. If you enjoy that sort of thing, I highly recommend it, as the direction and editing are fantastic.
posted by zebra3 at 8:08 AM on November 8, 2007


The repeated mentions of Dead Ringers reminds me of the first time I saw it, at the Oshawa Centre mall*, back in 1988 I suppose. I would've been in Grade 11 or so. I walked into the rather large theatre bathroom after the film was over & was shocked to see a man in his fifties or thereabouts in a state of acute rage.

He was swinging his arms about and had a crazed look in his eyes. "If anybody liked that movie", he yelled - and then turned and punched a paper towel dispenser on the wall so hard I'm surprised he didn't break his hand. This guy was really ready to go to town on somebody, and everybody else in the bathroom gave him a lot of space, and just eked away quickly without a word.

This made a huge impression on me, and for many years afterward I'd tell you this was why I majored post-graduate in film studies. I was really impressed that a simple film could raise such strong emotions in someone, could have such a visceral impact. For many years, I actively sought out films that were purported to have similar effects; this thread has a lot of the better ones out there.

*this is about a forty minute drive from the theatre in Toronto where the aforementioned incident at The War Zone screening took place. I wonder (somewhat facetiously) if it could have possibly been the same man?
posted by stinkycheese at 10:40 AM on November 8, 2007


Old Boy, for me, was all about the hammer fight scene. Too over the top I thought at the end to disturb me.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:02 AM on November 8, 2007


I'm a little bit surprised that no one has mentioned Combat Shock. That movie gave me and my friend Matt such a profoundly empty feeling of helplessness and nihilism.
posted by Snyder at 11:03 AM on November 8, 2007


wobh wrote: I have an intense aversion to the theme of revenge. Especially anything in which one horrific act is used to justify another horrific act in retribution. It's not the acts so much as the justification that gets me.

That's what made Lady Vengeance so powerful, for me. It really questions the justifications society makes for things like capital punishment. How much of that is about a desire for justice, and how much of it is about bloodthirstiness and a desire to make someone suffer?

At first in the movie, the grieving parents of child murder victims are sympathetic characters. Later, they are portrayed as being no better than the original murderer.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:34 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Someday we too will smell of cabbage...

I'd drop my support for them the moment they embrace their fusty-old persons sweet image with a werthers original style marketing campaign, of course. Theres something hideous about how werthers knowingly target the old and their hopes and dreams of giving sweeties to grandchildren and getting gratitude in response (Instead of a reaction of "Blech! Yukky old people sweets, which is probably more the case. Vile little trainer-wearing nintendo-palying shits)
posted by Artw at 12:53 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


And wrong thread...
posted by Artw at 12:54 PM on November 8, 2007


Still, pretty disturbing, Artw
posted by Smedleyman at 9:34 PM on November 8, 2007


Thanks to this thread, my Netflix queue just doubled in size.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 4:52 AM on November 9, 2007


Watched The Shout last night... no blood or gore, but I found it weirdly disturbing all the same.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:26 AM on November 9, 2007


Nowadays there are way more disturbing movies just check out any cinema magazine and the usual topics or if your gut is up to it just tune into any Tarantino movie there you will find very much a gory portrait of life itself.
And if not you could always watch again Rambo III if that ain't disturbing then I won't post anymore on this topic for readers sake.
posted by Adrian M. at 4:03 AM on November 10, 2007


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