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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

The Most Disturbing Films I Have Ever Seen

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Over the course of my 17 years I have watched nearly 2100 movies, needless to say some stick out more than others, but only a few have permanently etched themselves into my memory in terms of sheer terror. These were extraordinarily hard to rank and it was a tough call deciding which of these were more disturbing than the others. If you can help your curiosity, I would strongly advise using caution before checking out any of these movies for yourself. With all that being said, please enjoy my list of the 17 most disturbing films I've ever watched.

#17: Hereditary (2018) dir. Ari Aster

Yes, on this list Hereditary is ranked dead last so consider this your last warning for what's to come. With all that taken into account, Hereditary is easily one of the most terrifying, impactful, and well-made horror movies to come out in decades. Every performance is flawless, especially the incredible, Toni Collette. The horror genre seems to never get taken seriously because of how many lazy cash grabs come out of it, but Hereditary was able to set a new standard for the world of horror. At this point, you have no right calling yourself a horror fan if you haven't seen Hereditary. Just don't lose your head...

#16: Kids (1995) dir. Larry Clark

I don't think I've ever felt so uncomfortable while watching a movie...and I watched this by myself. Kids is a film by American director, Larry Clark that centers around a group of young teenagers throughout a single day as they partake in hedonistic activities such as substance abuse and sexual acts. Both of which are things I can handle in any other movie however what makes Kids such a difficult watch is that the characters are all...well, kids. So much of this film feels like genuine child exploitation and I have a very hard time trusting anyone who lists this as one of their favorite movies. After your first watch, you're gonna want a long shower and to clear your search history.

#15: Climax (2018) dir. Gaspar Noé

Climax is a fairly recent psychological thriller directed by the extremely controversial director, Gaspar Noé, and if you're familiar with Noé's other work, I'm sure you'll have an idea of what Climax will be like. The film tells the story about an underground dance club in France where the dancers all socialize and perform until somebody spikes the drinks. From then on, the movie portrays chaos like no other production I've ever seen. The unorthodox cinematography by Benoît Debie will make you feel sick and the violence that takes place during everyone's collective drug trip is something you'll have a hard time unseeing. Like all of Gaspar Noé's other films, it is best to proceed with caution before you decide to brave this psychological freak show.

#14: The Pianist (2002) dir. Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski's The Pianist serves as a masterclass in how to completely shatter the hearts of your audience. It's a Holocaust movie I find a lot more compelling than Spielberg's Schindler's List because it feels a lot more personal. Like any film about World War II, this isn't by any means a light watch, you will go through every emotion imaginable and by the time you finish, you won't be the same person you were when you began. Every performance is astounding and the cinematography is gorgeous. The Pianist is a film so emotionally exhausting, it still haunts the lead actor, Adrien Brody to this very day.

#13: Happiness (1998) dir. Todd Solondz

Happiness is a film that is seldom talked about these days, probably because it causes anyone who sees it to never want to think of it again. While many other films on this list are disturbing because of violence or extreme visuals, Happiness doesn't have any of that. What makes this film so upsetting is because of its firsthand portrayal of a pedophile. Dylan Baker's performance is so convincing in this dark suburbia movie you'll never look at your neighbors the same way again. It isn't a disturbing film in the traditional sense, but it'll leave an impact on you.

#12: Jesus Camp (2006) dir. Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady

Ewing and Grady's 2006 film, Jesus Camp tells the story about a summer camp for evangelical Christians and the psychotic indoctrination of today's youth. However, the most terrifying part about this film is that it's not a film at's a documentary. While watching, you are witnessing the real practices of evangelical Christians in the United States and the footage you'll be exposed to is absolutely haunting. It's borderline child abuse forcing these children to protest abortion rights and worship George Bush like he's a deity. Jesus Camp is a documentary that holds a mirror up to the face of America and it's not something you'll be able to forget for a long, long time.

#11: Requiem For A Dream (2000) dir. Darren Aronofsky

For many, Requiem For A Dream is a movie you watch once, and never again, and it's easy to see why. With stomach-churning visuals and heartbreaking performances, Darren Aronofsky's most infamous work certainly isn't for the faint of heart. Its stark portrayal of drug abuse will leave you either speechless or physically sick. Aronofsky and company do such an incredible job at making the audience feel uneasy and in as much pain as the characters. Although it's not for those with a weak stomach, Requiem For A Dream is a film that gets better with multiple watches. That is, if you're strong enough to survive the first one.

#10: Funny Games (1997) dir. Michael Haneke

Don't be decieved by the title, the last thing this German film will do is put a smile on your face. In true Michael Haneke fashion, Funny Games tells the story of a couple and their young son as they are held hostage and tortured in their own home by two young men. Sadism and violence ensue throughout almost the entire runtime and the incredibly realistic performances by Susanne Lothar and Ulrich Mühe make the film so much harder to watch. After your first watch of Funny Games, you'll definitely have a hard time trusting those around you. Make sure to keep your friends close and your enemies closer...

#9: Gummo (1997) dir. Harmony Korine

Gummo is very similar to Larry Clark's Kids in the way it uses minimal, low-budget production to make each scene feel realistic. In many ways, Gummo doesn't feel like a film at all, it feels like you're watching the depraved contents of a long lost VHS tape. Gummo is about the small town of Xenia, Ohio following a devastating tornado that the citizens were simply too poor to recover from. There are a lot of upsetting visuals throughout the film and an unusual amount of animal cruelty against cats as well. Despite my iron stomach, I'd be lying if I said this movie didn't make me feel queasy a couple times. Make sure not to watch this in front of your pets.

#8: A Clockwork Orange (1971) dir. Stanley Kubrick

A Clockwork Orange is my favorite movie of all time and I've probably seen it close to one hundred times, however the weight of its subject matter has yet to fade on me. I still remember how shocked I was at 14 years old, watching simulated rape and violence paired with such lighthearted humor. I even know a few people who just simply weren't able to get through the Ludovico Technique scenes. The amount of moral depravity Kubrick was able to fit into this movie will never ease to amaze me. Although A Clockwork Orange is an iconic staple of pop culture today, that doesn't change just how shocking the film is, especially to first time viewers.

#7: Cannibal Holocaust (1980) dir. Ruggero Deodato

This film is so realistic in its depictions of gore that the director was brought to court on murder charges and the participants had to prove they were still alive. Cannibal Holocaust is a movie as infamous as it is unsettling. Sure, there's an excess of simulated tribal violence but what many people, including me have a huge problem with: real animal cruelty. Throughout the film's production, seven animals were slaughtered, six of those deaths appear on-screen. Despite the ethical dilemma of this movie, it singelandedly pioneered the found footage genre, although I can't say I'd recommend watching it...

#6: Come and See (1985) dir. Elem Klimov

Come and See is a Soviet film that takes place from the point of view of a young teenage boy during World War II. The violence and carnage of Come and See is so graphic that the director had to fight censorship from the Soviet Union for nearly a decade in order to get the film released in its entirety. It's an incredibly realistic film, and the lead performance by Aleksei Kravchenko is easily one of the best in history. In the world of Holocaust cinema, Come and See tends to not get the credit it deserves, but it's an important movie that everyone should see at least once.

#5: August Underground's Mordum (2003) dir. Fred Vogel

Shot on a budget of $300, August Underground's Mordum is the closest I have ever come to throwing up from a movie and turning it off entirely. I usually don't have a problem with horror movies because nine times out of ten you can tell everything is fake and professionally produced, however that is not the case for August Underground's Mordum. The low budget and amateur production make this movie about murder, rape, and torture feel like a genuine snuff film. This disgusting passion project will make you feel sick to your stomach before it's even halfway finished. I really don't recommend watching this one.

#4: A Serbian Film (2010) dir. Srđan Spasojević

One of the internet's most depraved pictures, just reading the wikipedia synopsis for A Serbian Film is enough to make anyone lose sleep. The movie centers around a retired porn star as he is roped into some shady film work that includes rape, torture, and gratuitous violence. Two infamous scenes include the main character sodomizing his own child and an infant being violated as soon as it is born. That baby prop would go on to sell on eBay for over $6,000. Despite the depravity, A Serbian Film doesn't seem to have a strong message to go with it and only seems to be shocking for the sake of being shocking. For that reason, as well as many others, I would try to avoid this film at all costs.

#3: Irréversible (2002) dir. Gaspar Noé

Gaspar Noé's second entry on this list and possibly his most infamous movie. Irréversible is a film about the immoral nature of the world and the strangers you may pass by every day. Never before has a film made me so terrified about going out in public. The movie is filled to the brim with some of the most insane violence you'll ever see. At one point a man has his face bashed in with a fire extinguisher. However what Irréversible is most known for is having possibly the most graphic rape scene to ever hit theaters. Most people aren't even capable of making it through this 90 minute torture fest, but those who are will be rewarded with some masterful filmmaking amongst the chaos.

#2: Traces of Death (1993) dir. Damon Fox

Among all the films on this list, Traces of Death stands out as the most shocking, because this isn't a film at all. Traces of Death by Damon Fox is a shockumentary that consists of 76 straight minutes of real death footage. That's right, people dying, suicides, car accidents, everything gross you can imagine has been condensed into this monstrosity. It's basically a snuff film and if you are to heed any of my advice on what to watch, do not go near this thing.

#1: Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini

Salò was written by the one and only Marquis de Sade, so that should give you some warning as to what you're about to witness. Salò tells the story of a group of kidnapped teenagers in 1944 fascist Italy as they are forced to fulfill the depravd fantasies of four wealthy libertines. Salò has no shortage of sexual abuse, graphic violence and most unique of all...coprophagia. Despite how upsetting it might be to watch, Salò includes a powerful message about the dangers of fascism. Pier Paolo Pasolini surely left his mark on the world with this horrifying yet insightful film.

That concludes my list of the 17 most disturbing films I've ever seen. If you're interested in watching any of them, none are particularly hard to find but I would strongly advise to use caution before checking any of them out. Thank you for reading and once again, thank you for supporting

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