I watch a lot of movies that could be categorised as disturbing. It’s not that there’s something wrong with me, it’s just that they tend to be more interesting than films which don’t shock and grab the viewer. Making a film disturbing or shocking works, and often is used to prove a point. Here are ten films which prove their point extremely well, and do so by being very disturbing. So here it is, the ten most disturbing movies I have ever seen:
10: Un Chien Andalou (1929)
Luis Bunuel’s first feature is the well-known, influential and horrific masterpiece of surrealism, Un Chien Andalou. Images of a woman’s eyeball being sliced, ants crawling out of a human hand and dead donkeys are among the disturbing features of this meaningful 16-minute work which if you haven’t seen, you desperately need to see.
9: Dogtooth (2009)
Of all the films of Greek cinema, Dogtooth is probably the most well-known. The plotline is spooky enough: a husband and wife keep their children confined to their estate for their whole lives, forbidden to leave. The results of an accidental revolt takes the film into a realm of disturbing, shocking revelation. The definition of thought-provoking.
8: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
A stunningly honest look at times when abortions were illegal and lengths to which two women go to make it happen has left an impression on me ever since I first saw it. Incredibly difficult to watch, even though visually it’s quite tame. The thoughts and emotions evoked by what it suggests, as well as the constantly lingering single camera keep the audience riveted in silent disbelief.
7: Irreversible (2002)
We’ve all at least heard of this one. Gaspar Noe’s flooring, sickening look at the consequences of rape and the lasting impact left on the human persona when faced with such a brutal violation of a loved one might be difficult to watch, but not a second is wasted and not a second should be cut from this brilliant French film reflective on the dark side of a sickening underbelly.
6: Eraserhead (1976)
David Lynch’s first feature-length film mocks the viewers with nihilistic visions of a future existent as a barren waste land where mutant children are born, the human mind exists as nothing more than a useful tool in the production of stationary and a woman with a severe allergy taunts the viewer that “in heaven, everything is fine.” How is this not disturbing?
5: Man Bites Dog (1992)
What’s really sickening about this serial killer mockumentary is how the viewer is tricked into “befriending” and ocassionally siding with the relentless, disgusting lead character and the media’s obsession with documenting his sadistic acts, careless of the affect it will have on society. Powerful and important, but incredibly difficult to sit through.
4: Happiness (1998)
All of Todd Solondz’s films could make the shortlist for this list, but none moreso than Happiness, the relentless examination of a society where the curtains are thrown open and all is revealed, in its sickening, ugly glory and realistic criticism. Characters that are impossible to love are thrown along a path of loneliness and self-doubt to the point when for the viewer, hatred is impossible but pity is unavoidable.
3: Persona (1966)
The Un Chien Andalou of its age, Ingmar Bergman’s film about the diverse complexities of the human personality and its fractures is difficult to watch, in more ways than one. Not only does it hit the human psyche hard, the film often breaks and malfunctions, blips in the cinematic radar designed to jolt the viewer back into reality.
2: The Seventh Continent (1989)
A scathing, spite-fuelled look at bourgeois society descending into dystopia, Michael Haneke’s first feature film follows the boring routine-filled repetitive life of a typical family, as their emotional and personal lives begin to fray and their fractured psyches begin to snap, resulting in a shocking third act that will change the way you look at middle-class society.
1: Week End (1967)
I’ve mentioned before that this is the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen, and I’m sticking by that statement. Yet another criticism of the routine of middle-class society, Godard’s film sees it all disintegrate to the point of the complete annihilation of normality. Cannibalism, rape, murder, and various other atrocities serve to prove Godard’s point about the senselessness of it all.
That’s my list. I’ve tried to make it briefer than my usual lists, because many of the films will be obscure to some, and I’ve already written reviews of most of them, and there are more on the way. I hope the list was informative and enjoyable. Anything you’d like to add? Which ones have you seen? Leave a comment below.