10 Movies That Are Extremely Uncomfortable to Watch with Family

Every fortnight, me and a group of friends have a Movie Night. We go to my friend Stephen’s house. He has a large study which he has converted into a “theatre room” over a long period of time. He is also an avid collector of Criterion Collection DVDs (He has 60-something. I have 5.) We’ve been doing this thing for about six months now, going through all his Criterion movies, and last night we watched the Lars von Trier “horror” movie Antichrist.

Stephen and I were the only two present who had seen the film before. Also in attendance was my girlfriend Ashley, and four other mutual friends who had not seen it and had very little idea of what to expect. I told Ashley (who dealt with the on-screen “happenings” rather well, considering…) that it was a sexually-explicit, often mistaken as misogynistic festival of violence and gore. She was at first optimistic, saying she hadn’t seen a good horror movie in ages. The optimism didn’t last once the film reached the third act. She was unable to watch some parts, and I can well understand why.

Antichrist is not the sort of film you want to watch with someone you hold close or even respect. And I can imagine watching it with actual family would be even worse (my mother would vomit, my dad would laugh). So, without further ado, here are ten movies that (I imagine) would be extremely uncomfortable to watch with family, and since I don’t often actually rank lists, I’m going to make this one a count down from ten.

10: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Darren Aronofsky’s hellish drug drama turns downright terrifying in its drawn-out, brutally punctuated third act. Scenes of Ellen Burstyn being incessantly electrocuted and Jennifer Connelly losing all dignity at a drug-fuelled sex party are enough to make anyone squirm in their seat.

9: Funny Games (1997)

Who really wants to see two men mercilessly break all conventional horror movie rules to draw out torture and eventual murder upon a young couple and their son during the long 100 minutes of this typical Haneke thriller? I know I don’t, and certainly not with family.

8: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

In a horrific home-invasion scene brutally replayed on a home video camera, we see two psychopathic killers at their worst, most disgustingly inhumane attitude. And as if that weren’t enough, an overly depressing, nihilistic ending combined with countless scenes of unmotivated violence punctuate a brilliant reality.

7: Man Bites Dog (1992)

In one of the most unconventional horror films ever made (and one of my personal favourites, he-he-hee), a camera crew follow a serial killer around, documenting his rapes and murders (including the sickeningly slow death of an elderly woman from cardiac arrest) and eventually getting involved in them. A horror film which comically delights in some of the most disgusting acts, Man Bites Dog is grotesque but brilliant.

6: Audition (1999)

This one actually happened. I saw Audition at a young age with my Dad, and the next day we decided to play a prank on my mum. We told her it was a romantic comedy about a man who tries to audition the perfect girlfriend. We completely left out the brutal amputation and torture in the third act, and let her discover that herself…

5: A Serbian Film (2009)

One of the most gratuitously graphic films I have ever seen, A Serbian Film has it all. Kids watching porn, graphic oral sex, rape, paedophilia, facial cumshots, implied rape of an infant, and the gouging of eyes with an erect penis, among many other atrocities. Just perfect for a night in with the family, right?

4: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Two years ago, I broke up with a girlfriend who was a vegetarian when she told me she was in another relationship. I was very angry and immature at the time. I contemplated sending her a downloaded DVD of this disgusting animal snuff film in the mail at one point, though thankfully I refrained from doing so. It’s notorious, repulsive, excessive and bloody. Not for the faint of heart, or anyone with an emotional attachment to turtles.

3: Irreversible (2002)

Gaspar Noe’s 2002 masterpiece may be controversial and filled to the brim with excessive, gratuitous violence but it is nevertheless a serious work of art, as demonstrated in the horrifyingly beautiful final scene. However, that is no reason to watch this with anyone you value in any way.

2: Salo, or: The 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s almost unendurable, 2-hour festival of disturbing violence, rape, sex, and general mistreatment of human beings may be a hateful metaphor for fascism, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier to watch whatsoever.

1: Happiness (1998)

Some will debate this film at the position of number one, but I put it here because, a) it is the most honest of the films on the list, which makes it scarier, and b) it is a disturbing film about family, perfect for a list of movies that are uncomfortable to watch with family. Who wants to see their mum peering curiously at their dad while watching Dylan Baker masturbate to pictures of kids? It’s an awkward, paranoid moment no-one wants to encounter, and makes the movie all the more uncomfortable.

So, those’re my picks. Let me know, was there anything I missed out?

Leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.


About Tyler

Patient observer of all things film and music, from Béla Tarr to Boards of Canada. Foul mouthed and clinging to the edge of sanity.

Posted on June 19, 2011, in Lists, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. ok youre right about happiness to a certain extent but compared to the rest of the films listed it’s positively tame. i recently saw the sequel at a screening populated with middle aged women and they were all talking about happiness beforehand, perhaps it might not be as bad as you fear and you should watch it after the next family dinner?

    • You have a point, but I’m sticking with my choice. Happiness deals with truth, which I think is more terrifying and unnerving than any violence or exaggerated treatment. Watching a murderer on screen is nowhere near as awkward as watching a pedophile. Visually, Happiness is tame. Emotionally, it is the exact opposite.

  2. Haha, I’ve always wanted someone to do a post like this 🙂
    I watched Requiem for a Dream with a couple of my friends and it wasn’t really that awkward. In the end, we all just sat up for four hours bawling our eyes out and promising that we wouldn’t do drugs ever…it was a unique bonding experience.
    Black Swan was quite the awkward film to watch with other people. I watched it with those same two friends and we all went kinda awkward in a few scenes. I got home to find my Mum watching it the other day, which wasn’t fun. Luckily she had past most of the bad bits, but it got awkward during that lesbian sex scene. It’s not the best family movie.
    I haven’t seen many of these movies, but I’ll take your advice!

    • I suppose RFAD isn’t that bad. I think I might replace it with Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots. I mean, who wants to see a bunch of naked people running around embarrassing themselves at all, let alone with family?

      The only film on this list that I think it’s worth going out of your way to see is Irreversible. Seriously, even if you have to ship it all the way from Amazon. It’s brilliant, but very, very, very, very hard to watch.

    • If Requiem for a Dream made you cry, Irreversible will make you scream. Fair warning.

  3. Ahaha well let’s just say I would know better than to watch these movies with my family. I mean it’s pretty obvious with some of those. Violence isn’t as much of a big deal than excess sexuality though 😉

  4. I don’t think I could watch Cannibal Holocaust with anyone, let alone family, because I wouldn’t want the burden of exposing anyone to that horrible film. As if all of the shenanigans weren’t enough, it’s just a bad, bad, bad movie. At least with a lot of other movies on that list, I could point to something- ANYTHING- about why it’s cinematically relevant. Cannibal Holocaust has zero redeeming qualities.

    • You’re absolutely right. Some of the behind-the-scenes stories are quite interesting, though, and many of them can be found on the IMDb trivia page. Some of them are very interesting (such as there was a deleted scene in which a man was fed to piranhas) to the downright disgusting (the monkey slaughter had to be filmed in two takes; meaning two monkeys were killed). The director didn’t care or sympathise with any of the horrible tricks he was pulling until years after the film’s release.

  5. Ahah, well judging from the still you put here, it’s uncomfortable to watch period… like John said, I can’t watch most of these alone, let alone with family!!

  6. I watched Black Swan in theaters with my sister and her friend. My mom was originally gonna go with us, but she fortunately changed her mind at the last minute. Safe to say that was a slightly embarrassing experience.

    Can you just add that most of Aronofsky’s movies aren’t for families to watch together?

    • I agree with you to some degree. What about Pi and The Fountain? I didn’t find them uncomfortable whatsoever, and I wouldn’t mind watching them with family or friends.

  7. Someone finally points out “A Serbian Film”! I have seen all of these movies alone except for “Requiem” and “Funny Games”, and I agree with your choices. I showed my friend (who’s a mom) “Funny Games”. She thoroughly enjoyed it, though in the ‘so terrifying/messed up way’ one enjoys films. The look on her face at the end – pure shock. She still mentions it from time to time (been a few years).

    I would suggest other Haneke films, especially “Benny’s Video” and “The Seventh Continent” which, as you may know, deal with disconnect and are equally horrific in their own ways. Probably a bit uncomfortable in certain situations, too.

    • I am a HUGE Michael Haneke fan (meaning he’s one of my favourite directors of all time), and I’ve seen all his feature films. In fact, I’m writing a review of his “Glaciation” trilogy (which consists of The Seventh Continent, Benny’s Video and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance) which will be up in a few days, so stay tuned for that if you’re a Haneke fan.

  8. Oh, goody. I’ve seen pretty much all including the remake of Games. It’d be perfect but for Pitt, who is/was not as charming as Frisch.

  9. I thought I once commented on this post but I must not have.

    I’m sure I mentioned Rolf de Heer’s Alexandra’s Project and Bad Boy Bubby but is must have been another post but they work for this too.

    Taxidermia I remember talking about but again I’m not sure.

    I’m sure “Gummo” and “Kids” go without saying. Gummo is without a doubt on my “Most Disturbing Films” list.

    However I’m certain I never mentioned my favourite Joseph Gordon-Levitt film “Mysterious Skin.” I just bought it on DVD the other day and made me remember this post. It was roughly released the same time as Brokeback Mountain, which had soooo much hoopla about how ‘brave’ Ledger and Gyllenhaal were for doing ‘gay scenes.’ It disgusts me that they got all that praise and Gordon-Levitt (damn I HATE hyphenated names) goes all out for a independent film and receives little to none.

    Ha ha, also John Cameron Mitchell’s first two films come to mind ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ (awesome transexual rock opera-esque film – very funny and tragic) and his risqué ‘Shortbus’ which contains unsimulated sex scenes (both straight and gay) and opens with a character filming himself pissing in the bath. Enjoy. 😉

    • I’ve seen a lot of disturbing movies but not GUMMO or KIDS. If they’re half good I’ll watch them. I’m still recovering from A SERBIAN FILM.

      I have seen MYSTERIOUS SKIN, and I agree with you, it’s a great movie, if a little fucked up. Haven’t seen those two John Cameron Mitchell movies but I’ve heard a lot about SHORTBUS. I’ve been meaning to check out more of Mitchell’s films since I did thoroughly enjoy RABBIT HOLE, and any director daring enough to do what Mitchell did with SHORTBUS without being perverted or pretentious definitely interests me.

      • Rabbit Hole was the best film I’ve seen in a while and I highly insist you see his other films.

        As for Kids it may not be as unnerving as it originally was when it was made with all the films now about youth in chaos, especially in British cinema but the pure amorality of the main character Telly is still as horrifying as ever.

        As for Gummo…well… it’s one of those films I can never un-watch. I want you to watch it simply because I would love to hear your take on it. I’ve read reviews from both sides of the fence and that film can start some serious discussions, it would make for an interesting post at the very least. (Even if it makes you feel as yucky on the inside as it made me feel.)

      • Ha ha ha. True cinephiles must be fearless. Good luck.

        • I thought I was fearless enough watching films like SALO, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and A SERBIAN FILM. Alas, it looks like I’ll HAVE to watch GUMMO now. Will let you know what I think of it.

  10. I think i’ve said this before, but i’ve watched plenty of R rated films with my dad, and it doesn’t feel awkward at all. In fact we’ve joked about many of the more extreme acts we’ve seen in films.

    My mom on the other hand, is a totally differet story

    • Yeah, you have said that. I’ve watched some pretty strange movies with my Dad (AUDITION springs to mind), and the stronger stuff doesn’t really bother him that much.

      • I remember when we checked out a movie called Wayward Cloud. Now, the plot summary said it was about a porn actor so we both expected graphic sexual content…what we didn’t expect was for it to have that in its opening scene

        Oh, and said graphic sexual content included a watermelon.

      • Nope. We would make a reference to it everytime we saw a watermelon after for quite some time(My dad is currently referencing the “live a little” line in Black Swan at ironic moments). The scene i’m talking about is actually on youtube.

        I would be curious to hear your opinion on it, as you’re probably my only follower who would actually watch it.

      • I haven’t seen A Serbian film, but the only thing Wayward Cloud has that you listed from A Serbian film is oral sex.

      • Actually there may have been necrophilia in it. Saw it a while ago, although i don’t remember it being as traumatizing as some other movies i’ve seen

      • When i first heard about about A Serbian film i was mildly curious. But if its too fucked up even for you i think i will skip it

        • It is seriously fucked up. It’s the sort of movie you don’t forget. I don’t ever want to see it again, and if you watch it then you’d better have a strong stomach. It’s right up there with SALO as a film full of graphic content that’s uncomfortable even to think about.

    • Necrophilia, oral sex… they’re all awkward things. What’s truly annoying about A SERBIAN FILM is that it’s fucked up in so many different ways, rather than just one or two. Did I mention that an infant is raped in that movie (off screen, thankfully)? What the FUCK?

  11. clockwork orange.

  12. I like looking through an article that will make people think.
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

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