Who amongst us doesn’t like watching strange and disturbing films and documentaries? As humans, we have an inherent interest and curiosity about all things macabre and sinister. Something about squirming in our seats just makes us…joyous! Truth be told, humanity has had an interest in all things disturbing for hundreds of years. From medieval torture, public executions and our modern-day fascination with watching people fall from grace; our species is fixated on the dark side of life.
It comes as no surprise then, that we are equally enthralled by movies, TV series, articles and books that make us squirm a little. Whether it’s fictional horror films or real-life criminal accounts, we certainly can’t get enough of these skin-crawlers. Creepy stuff gets a lot of hits. We want to be scared, repulsed and appalled. We want blood, guts, gore, murder, alien abductions and kidnappings. We want serial killers, psychotics and drug problems. We want murder, suicide, domestic violence and betrayals. Usually, we also want it with pizza and soda. Oh, humanity!
Lucky for our generation of weirdos, Netflix is chock full of films and specials that will make you feel uncomfortable. There is no shortage of movies and specials that will make you lose sleep at night. Some old, some new, some well-known, and some underground. Here are the weirdest, creepiest and most disturbing of all, the 15 Disturbing Films You Need to Watch on Netflix ASAP.
15. Amanda Knox
The highly anticipated Amanda Knox Netflix special did not disappoint. In her first interview since 2013’s 20/20 special with Diane Sawyer, Amanda Knox recounts her experiences surrounding the murder of her former roommate, Meredith Kercher. Amanda was arrested in connection to the murder, which happened in Italy in 2007. She subsequently spent 4 years in an Italian prison, before being acquitted the charges in 2011. The controversial case was retried in 2013, with Knox and her ex-boyfriend being found guilty in 2014. An ultimate acquittal in 2015 released her of any criminal charges and she is back in the United States living freely. The Netflix original will have you scratching your head; I watched it and still don’t know whether I trust her or not. Despite mountains of evidence indicating that she wasn’t responsible, there is something deviant and suspicious about her demeanor that makes the case so mysterious.
14. Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons
Here’s another great mini docu-series that takes you inside the world’s most dangerous prisons. Get a real sense of what goes on behind the concrete walls of some of the most mysterious and terrifying jails. Journalist Paul Connolly meets some of the most dangerous criminals in four maximum security prisons. The series takes him to Honduras, the Philippines, Poland and Mexico, where he enters and lives amongst the convicted while he conducts interviews. Cop killers, rapists, murderers and gang members are all amongst the characters you will encounter on this spine-tingling journey into the depths of prison life. Paul makes an excellent host, despite his obvious fear. Spending a night in a maximum security prison would make anyone’s heart pump just a little bit faster, right?
I won’t even hide the fact that I almost couldn’t get through this movie. I love creepy things, but Bronson really freaked me out! Based on the true story of British prisoner Michael Peterson (aka Charles Bronson, aka “Britain’s Most Violent Prisoner”) this film definitely delivers on the violence. Tom Hardy is almost unrecognizable as a bald, mustachioed Bronson. His performance as an aggressive and mentally unstable man, who slowly loses touch with reality during his three decades in solitary confinement, is nothing short of incredible. The film is full of visual stimuli; intense fighting scenes mesh with fleeting romantic memories and autobiographical anecdotes. The film has a dark, comedic edge, but it’s still pretty creepy and weird- so give it a chance!
Few things in life are more disturbing than being kidnapped, amirite? I mean, think of it. You’re just going about your day, and someone decides to steal you, against your will, and either hurt you or use you in exchange for ransom. Not very nice. Netflix’s Captive showcases 8 mini-episodes focusing on mass-scale captivities, most of them political in nature. From being captured by Somalian pirates (shoutout to Captain Phillips!) to charity workers being sieged by Al Qaeda, this series gives us an insider’s peek into some pretty terrifying moments in history. Money is the drive for these intense hostage-taking events, and we quickly learn that sometimes freedom doesn’t come for free. You will be chilled by the negotiations and disturbed by the first-hand accounts of those who were lucky to be freed by their captors. A must watch.
11. On Death Row
Let’s kick off with a super creepy mini docu-series. On Death Row consists of four 50-minute long episodes. Each episode focuses on one death row inmate. The crime they are convicted of is explained in detail, with personalized interviews hosted by German film star and director, Werner Herzog. The convicted range from sociopathic narcissists to seemingly sane people who made some terrible mistakes. You can decide which category you think these cretins fall into, but be warned: the crimes are quite gruesome, and some of the interviews are upsetting. Despite this, the series is well done. I appreciate Herzog’s ability to remain pretty neutral and non-judgemental during his interviews. There is plenty of darkness in this collection of tales, so make sure to keep the lights on and maybe watch with a friend.
10. Silence of the Lambs
Ah, an old classic worth revisiting. The Academy Awards are right around the corner, why not celebrate by revisiting 1992’s Best Picture? In fact, Silence of the Lambs is the only horror movie to have ever won the Best Picture Oscar. This epic thriller showcases Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in their most celebrated roles. Delving into the sadistic and twisted mind of Dr.Hannibal Lecter is the only way for F.B.I agent Clarice Starling to catch another serial killer, known as “Buffalo Bill”. The film has long been credited as being one of the most terrifying and disturbing movies, with themes that are still referenced today. Even if you’ve seen it before, this cult classic is worth revisiting when you’re in the mood for something creepy and disturbing.
9. 72 Dangerous Places to Live
What’s more disturbing than living in a super dangerous place? Spending your days wondering if you’ll perhaps get buried by an avalanche, die of toxic poisoning or sucked up in a tornado? For many, inhabiting a dangerous place is just a part of life. Of course we can argue that disaster can strike anywhere, anytime, but this mini-series brings us to parts of the world that are considered high-risk for natural and chemical disasters. Earthquakes, wildfires, floods and treacherous, dangerous roads are par for the course in this Netflix special. Not a good watch if you are already prone to bouts of existential anxiety (hi, that’s me) or if you have problems with hypochondria (that’s also me). Otherwise, a great way indulge in some disastrous viewing, and practice gratitude that you don’t live in a dangerous place.
Oh, man. I saw this in theatre when it came out 12 years ago, and can still remember the way it made me feel inside. Not good. Not good at all. I remember thinking “I’m never going to Eastern Europe” and being really upset about it. Oh yes, the times have changed and now I’m living in (almost) Eastern Europe, so don’t worry too much about botching your future travel plans with this terrifying horror film. It’s an Eli Roth film (Cabin Fever, The Last Exorcism) so it’s not shocking that it’s scary as anything. The story follows three young travellers who head to Slovakia to indulge in drinking, partying and meeting women. Fate would have another plan for them, however, as they quickly realize that their hostel is run by some creepy types. If you like the Saw movies, this is for you. I guarantee there is no shortage of sadistic torture. Not for the faint of heart!
Hush is sort of a mix between Scream and Cabin in the Woods, but with a deaf and dumb protagonist. Something about creepy masks always makes my skin crawl, so this film freaked me out even before I watched it. Despite not having an original storyline, the film does hook you in pretty much right off the bat. What has been done in past home invasion films is given a bit of a modern twist. The main character, Maddie, is likeable, and you’ll find yourself really rooting for her to take down the masked assailant. Her inability to communicate or hear gives this movie a little more of an edge; you are constantly aware that she is at a higher risk of takedown. Luckily, her sixth sense is pretty well developed and she makes quite the fierce competitor. This cat-and-mouse thriller manages to be creepy and chilling, without being overly redundant.
6. The Shining
Another classic that can’t be omitted from the disturbing list! The Shining might be close to 40 years old, but it’s still considered one of the best horror-thriller flicks of all time. In a career-shaping role, Jack Nicholson delves into character. He plays Jack Torrance, the caretaker of a haunted hotel who moves his family into the isolated inn for the winter. Based on the horror novel by Stephen King, this movie gives me shivers and goosebumps every single time I watch it. Full of horrific scenes, psychological twists and disturbing material, The Shining brings new light to the word “nightmare”. If you haven’t seen it yet (I refuse to believe that anyone has not seen it, but I digress) please drop what you’re doing and watch it now. And if you have seen it, watch it again, cause it’s that good.
5. Drag Me To Hell
This remains one of my absolute favorite horror films of all time. Sam Raimi is the king! When it came out in 2009, I didn’t hesitate to get tickets for the premiere. In a classic tale of karma, Christine (Alison Lohman) is a loan officer who has a supernatural curse placed on her after a calculated business decision results in the eviction of an old woman from her home. She attempts to reverse the effects of the curse by visiting a psychic, but finds herself facing hurdle upon hurdle in her pursuit. The reality of the situation causes Christine to panic; a race against the clock ensues as she tries to rid herself of the evil curse for good. A true horror flick created by one of the most notorious horror masters of all time. Alison Lohman and Justin Long are fantastic in this classic.
4. The Witness
After the success of Making a Murderer, true crime stories are all the rage on Netflix. Eye-witness testimony and false accusations are often to blame for the wrongfully committed. But what if there were plenty of witnesses who refused to help an innocent victim while she was being attacked? That’s exactly what reportedly happened in 1964 in Queens, New York. Kitty Genovese was murdered in the street, in broad daylight, while 38 people allegedly stood watch and did nothing. The story soon became sensational news; articles, news reports and spreads were all over the media for months. In The Witness, Kitty’s brother William digs deeper into the unsolved crime and seeks answers. What he uncovers is deeply disturbing, and reinforces the power that the media has over our beliefs of facts.
3. The Fear of 13
This Netflix special is absolutely not to be missed. The Fear of 13 is the story of Nick Yarris, a wrongfully convicted prisoner who spent 21 years on death row after being charged with a murder that he did not commit. Yes, he was a petty criminal who was caught “Red-handed” with a car full of drugs, but he did not kill victim Linda May Craig. Because the crime was committed in the 80s, DNA evidence was not advanced enough to secure his liberty. It was only in 2003, after having served more than two decades behind bars (most of it being spent in solitary confinement) that DNA evidence proved his innocence. He was released the following year. The interview is absolutely incredible. Nick Yarris, a super-intelligent reading fanatic shows us a more hopeful and optimistic side to desperate situations.
2. Killer Women With Piers Morgan
The title alone is intriguing and begs to be watched, right? Who doesn’t love a murder story where the perpetrator is NOT a man? Women commit violent crimes at a much lower rate than men, so it’s no surprise that we are intrigued by those that kill. This docu-series features a sassy Piers Morgan as host, and includes only two episodes. The first is the story of Erin Caffey, the Texan teen who, with the help of her then-boyfriend, executed her entire family (her father made it out alive). The second is the case of a mother who was accused of drowning her young son. Despite maintaining her innocence, she is serving a life sentence. Piers Morgan makes this fun to watch; he keeps the ladies on their toes and doesn’t pretend to believe their claims of innocence.
1. Gone Girl
I’m sure you’ve all seen Gone Girl by now, but it makes my list because I am a sucker for Ben Affleck AND it is pretty disturbing, right? The mysterious crime drama follows a super twisted (or brilliant, you decide!) wife who disappears under mysterious circumstances and leaves her hubby to search for her. A media frenzy ensues and different facets of the couple’s troubled marriage are revealed scene by scene. The plot twists in this movie are great and generally unexpected. I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoiling. I mean, if you’ve lived under a rock for the last three years, you might not have seen it yet! Or maybe you just hate Ben Affleck. That’s totally possible. Watch it anyways, it’s disturbing and good.