In the world of film, there are a lot of directors that just want to make a movie that keeps you entertained and eating popcorn. Despite what a certain sect of cinephiles may tell you, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s a great approach to making a film. Most people walk into a theater or sit down at home in front of a movie purely because they want to be entertained. Moments of intense violence, heavy drama, or thought provoking surreal imagery isn’t necessarily what the average person wants to sit down to when they want to relax on the couch or take a date out to the theater. It’s a little hard to relax when you’re sweating bullets and clutching a pillow during the final torture scene in Takashi Miike’s Audition. Irreversible isn’t exactly the kind of movie you want to take a date to.
As much fun as it is to be entertained, sometimes there is nothing better than sitting down to a film that made you feel something outside the norm. Sometimes it’s nice to be terrified, deeply saddened, a little sickened, or offended. These feelings bring a lot of people to places their mind and body doesn’t usually go. It’s nice to think of a movie for days because you aren’t quite sure what it all meant. These are the kinds of movies that get people talking and keep the mind sharp. This side of heavier film comes with a price though – they portray some scenes that are sometimes a bit too disturbing and hard to watch, some hard to ever forget. Let’s take a look at some of those scenes that tend to stick in the viewer’s mind…whether they like it or not.
Graphic descriptions of unpalatable, violent and heinous acts (some involving children) follow. Portions of the following article is not for the faint of heart.
13. Blue Velvet (1986) – Meeting Frank Booth
The first mildly disturbing scene in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is when Dorothy Vallens catches Jeffery Beaumont hiding out in her apartment. Dorothy doesn’t call the police or force Jeffery to leave, but instead forces him into stripping down and engaging in sexual acts with her at knife-point. Through the whole scene, Dorothy seems to be completely broken mentally. At one point during their meetings, we finally meet the man named Frank Booth and the scenes with Dorothy and Jeffery don’t seem so bad and they begin to make some sense. Dorothy hides Jeffery in a closet where he is forced to watch one of the most bizarre sexual abuse scenes in film. Frank gets very vulgar, repeatedly refers to himself as “daddy”, demeans and verbally abuses Dorothy, all while he wields a pair of scissors and his henchman watch. It gets weirder still as Frank periodically takes heavy drags off an oxygen tank throughout the attack.
12. Trainspotting (1996) – Ceiling Baby
In an early scene in Trainspotting, we see Renton (played by Ewan McGregor) crawl out of a toilet with flecks of scat still stuck to his knuckles. This scene had enough humor thrown in that it never felt too extreme. Fast forward a bit in the film and you’ll be faced with another disturbing image when the baby of a heroin addict dies of what seems to be neglect. However, nothing is harder to watch than the dead infant’s return during a hallucination as Renton is coming off heroin. Most of the images in Renton’s hallucinations are of the people he’s let down. As the hallucinations build up, Renton sees the baby with a dead bloated face and an over-filled diaper crawling up his walls. When it makes it to the ceiling, the infant turns its head 180 degrees to look at Renton. If you only see the movie once, this scene will stay with you forever.
11. Gummo (1997) – A Shady Business Transaction
There are basically two kinds of people when it comes to Harmony Korine’s Gummo: those that think the film is pretentious garbage and those that think it’s one of the most brilliant films ever made. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground. There are a number of scenes in the film that are a bit hard to watch so narrowing it down to one is a little difficult.
One of the films most disturbing scenes is when Tummler and Solomon meet with a pimp at his home to pay for sex. When they get there, you find out that the prostitute is the “pimp’s” sister. Then, if all this wasn’t hard enough on the soul, her brother peeks in on Tummler with his sister.
10. Antichrist (2009) – Genital Mutilations
When you hear about Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, a couple scenes of genital mutilation might be all that viewers regrettably remember. The genital mutilation scenes are still the hardest part to watch. At one point, the character of “She” smashes “He’s” genitals with a brick and then gets him to a bloody climax. At another point, “She” removes her own clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors. The film is not for those with weak stomachs or even fans of traditional horror with strong stomachs.
9. Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door (2007) – Final Torture Scene
The Girl Next Door tells the story of Meg Loughlin, a girl who comes to live with Ruth Chandler. Ruth is a seemingly proper woman in her neighborhood. In reality, Ruth is actually aiding in the delinquency of minors and a closet Satanist. Ruth ties Meg up in the basement where she is tortured both mentally and physically by Ruth and a group of children. In the final scene, Ruth allows her own teenage children and neighborhood boys to sexually assault Meg. When one local boy who has had enough refuses to take part, Ruth brands some graphic insults into Meg’s stomach with a hot needle. The boy is beaten for not sleeping with Meg and as he slips out of consciousness he sees Ruth and the boys put a blowtorch to Meg. When the young man wakes up, Meg is passing away from the pain.
The film is actually based on true events though names and some details were changed. A much easier to watch film based on the tragic story of Sylvia Likens is called An American Crime and stars Ellen Page.
8. Pink Flamingos (1972) – A Snack For Divine
Once again we see a film with a number of scenes that stick in your mind and make your skin crawl, but that was pretty much director John Waters intent with Pink Flamingos and the genre of “trash cinema.” Out of all the disturbing scenes in cinema history, Divine’s final moment in Pink Flamingos as she attempts to prove she “is not only the filthiest person in the world, but is also the world’s filthiest actress” is one of the most often mentioned.
Divine and her friends follow a woman walking a dog and begin to look at it hungrily. You think they might attempt to eat the dog but that would almost be less disgusting. The dog defecates on the street, Divine sits down by the curb, picks up the waste, and puts it in her mouth. There are no practical effects in the scene. Everything is actually happening in real time. Divine winks at the camera as she gags down the feces.
7. Sleepaway Camp (1983) – Final Scene
For the most part, the original Sleepaway Camp is rather tame. Up until the film’s final scene, you might actually find it pretty shocking that this horror/slasher even received an R-rating as most of the violence and language hovers around PG-13. Sure the film has some weird moments but nothing truly terrifying really happens. In fact, some of the antics and quotes from the campers are just plain funny.
The fun stops at the film’s end when we find out that camper Angela is a boy who was forced into living as a girl. In the film’s finale, the campers and counselors find Angela at the lake with a boy she had been seeing.The campers see Angela fully nude (exposing her true gender),severed head of her date to the dance in hand, while making the strangest sustained growl and holding the same face until the credits start to role.
6. A Serbian Film (2010) – A New Genre
Like Gummo, most people who have seen A Serbian Film are split right down the middle. Viewers who can make it through some of the events in the film either think it’s brilliant social commentary or nothing more than bad taste for the sake of bad taste. It’s incredibly hard to pick one scene in particular as the film is pretty disturbing from beginning to end. The brutal sex and violence almost never let up. The most disturbing scene of all cannot be explained here with any real detail as the acts are committed on a newborn infant. Just know that when someone tells you that A Serbian Film is one of the single most disturbing films ever made, they aren’t easily offended nor do they have a weak tolerance when it comes to sex and violence in film. A Serbian Film is easily the most disturbing film ever made.
5. Visitor Q (2010) – It’s Not So Bad Out of Context…
One of the most disturbing scenes in Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q isn’t the violent finale, but the film’s opening scene. At first you think a timid salary man is engaging in very awkward sex acts with a prostitute that seems keenly aware she has a good degree of power over her customer. She belittles and laughs at him during the whole ordeal. It turns out the prostitute and her customer are actually father and daughter. The scene itself isn’t overly graphic without the knowledge of the relationship between the two people involved in the scene.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Family Dinner
By today’s standards, Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t all that bad. The violence and gore isn’t all that extreme and Leatherface really doesn’t look very scary. In fact, there isn’t even a chainsaw massacre in the entire film.
The most disturbing scene in the film isn’t that violent at all. The antagonists of the film, cannibalistic family, force sole survivor Sally to sit down at the dinner table with them. At the head of the table sits what appears to be a dead body (Grandpa Sawyer) that Sally had seen earlier when trying to escape. The cannibals cut Sally’s fingers and shove them into Grandpa’s mouth, which the “dead” body immediately starts to suckle. The reveal is enough to make your skin crawl.
3. American History X (1998) – Curb Stomp
Unlike a lot of films on the list, Tony Kaye’s American History X doesn’t fall in the realms of shock horror or slasher films. The film is a powerful drama about two brothers with ties to the Neo-Nazi party and The Aryan Brotherhood. Obviously a film involving a hate group is going to have its fair share of violence. One of the most brutal (and most often mentioned) scenes in the film is when Derek (Edward Norton) catches three black men he had a previous run-in with trying to steal his truck. Fueled by racism and hate, Derek goes berserk and takes things way too far. He grabs his pistol, shoots one of the men several times, and then forces one of the men to lie down on the sidewalk and bite the curb at gunpoint. Once the man is in position, Derek stomps down on his head as hard as he can.
2. Misery (1990) – A Precautionary Measure
Here is another film that isn’t from a genre already known for it’s over the top brutality. In Misery, writer Paul Sheldon gets into a car accident during a blizzard. He wakes up to find out he was rescued by Annie, who also happens to be his biggest fan. As Annie nurses Paul back to health, she reads Paul’s latest book and finds out the writer has killed off her favorite character, a woman known as Misery. Annie reveals that no one knows where Paul is and forces him to write a new book that will bring Misery back to life. At one point while Annie is out, Paul leaves his room and finds out that Annie may be connected to a number of infant deaths. What follows is an act of brutal violence that’s very hard to watch. Annie puts a wood block between Paul’s feet and breaks his ankles with a sledge hammer. The effect of the bone breaking is sickeningly realistic.
1. Audition (1999) – Feeding Time
Here we have another film from director Takashi Miike that includes an almost endless amount of disturbing sequences. In Audition, a man named Shigeharu discovers Asami, a woman he has been pursuing as a love interest, hides a dark and disturbing secret. When Shigeharu pays a visit to Asami’s apartment he finds an old sack on the floor that appears to have something alive in it. Shigeharu pokes at the sack and eventually lets out its contents. What he finds is a human male that has had several appendages removed, including his tongue. The man is so broken mentally that he’s barely recognizable as human and is better described as a creature. Asami nonchalantly enters the room with a dog dish of vomit. She sets it on the floor and the broken and disfigured man laps it up hungrily as Shigeharu watches in horror.