Some movies are content with being a light, entertaining, albeit shallow experience. Other movies however, wish to push the envelope, and sometimes, in order to do so, certain film-makers forget to make their film entertaining. This list is here to honor the films that aren’t afraid to dig deep into the darkest side of humanity, whether you like it or not…or vomit. So here it is. The top 10 most shocking/controversial/sadistic/repulsive/sickening movies of all time.
Side note: For movies on the list in which I discuss spoilers, I will put up a warning to let you know to skip it if you don’t want to be spoiled.
#10: Funny Games
The Plot: In this shot-for-shot remake directed by Michael Haneke (Who also directed the original foreign film), a family of three (mother, father, son, and their dog too) take a drive to their vacation home close to the lake. An idyllic, quiet, peaceful home, the family relax, the father (Tim Roth) takes his son (Devon Gearhart) out on the boat while good ole mum (Naomi Watts) prepares the dinner. Shortly enough, two young psychopaths (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet) invade their home and take the family hostage to play a little game, hence the ironic title. What ensues is what you think will be a typical hostage thriller in the vein of Panic Room, but ends up being much more than anyone could bargain for.
What Happens: Here’s the funny thing about Funny Games (pun not intended): None of the violence is ever shown on-screen, at all. You see a few after-views, but as far as the actual acts of the violence go, you hardly see any of it. And yet, funnier still, is the fact that this is still a deeply affecting movie, with plenty of critics and regular viewers alike in film festivals walking out of the theater because of how shocking, unnerving, and uncompromising the movie is.
What Haneke does here is play against almost every single Hollywood thriller trope in the book. Rather than making an entertainingly suspenseful thriller, he makes it incredibly uncomfortable through every step of the way, intentionally. You may think that the cute and innocent little boy won’t get shot because, by nature, we’ve seen enough movies to know that Hollywood children hardly ever get killed in this type of cinematic situation. But, guess what, the kid is murdered point black in front of his disbelieving parents. The actual murder itself isn’t shown, of course, but by god, is it disturbing. Other acts of sadism are on display as well (Some of them actually end up being subverted because the killers can literally break the fourth wall), but none of them are really any match for that scene.
How It’s Used: Haneke uses this uncomfortable atmosphere as a huge middle-finger to the audience. That’s not a compliment to him, nor an insult either. It’s basically done as a message of how Hollywood has glorified violence in their thriller, action, and horror pictures, and he aims to make the basic Hollywood situation as left-field as possible by quite literally breaking every rule in the book. It succeeds. He expects audiences to hate the movie, and you have to admire a guy who is basically putting his balls in front of an angry swarm of piranhas.
#9: The Exorcist
The Plot: Poor Regan (Linda Blair) has had a rough life. Her mother is hardly around due to her job as an actress, she rarely plays with friends, and she’s recently been possessed by a sailor-mouthed demon. It’s up to a faith-confused exorcist (Max von Sydow) to save the girl and rid the Satan-spawn while avoiding projectile vomiting and a slur of foul language.
What Happens: A movie so controversial during its release that the UK banned it for 15-or-so years, so unflinching in its depiction of a possession that audiences across the globe felt like they, too, were being possessed, it also featured inexplicable acts of violence and coarse language all uttered and acted upon by a young girl, which was enough to shock viewers of all kinds.
How It’s Used: Simple: To be scary and disturbing as all f*ck. The Exorcist set an incredibly high bar for the horror genre, and treated viewers to certain things that, for its time, were never quite done before in horror. Watching Linda Blair masterbate and stab her own genitalia with a crucifix while chanting “Let Jesus f*ck you!”, then finally, turning her head in a 180 degree angle to say “Do you know what she did, your c***ing daughter?” scarred many viewers in the 70s, and still does to this day.
The Plot: Before the sequels completely sodomized the series, there was once a time when Saw was actually good. Two guys wake up chained in a decrepit bathroom, each on the opposite end, with a dead body lying in the center. They are each given a saw. At first, they think it’s to saw off the chains, but they later realize that they’re there for something a bit more specific.
What Happens: Lots of stuff happen. A woman must dig through a corpse’s stomach to search for the key to her escape, a man must crawl through a maze of barbed wire, but none could compare to the most infamous scene. As Jigsaw’s little game continues, Cary Elwes couldn’t take it any longer and proceeds to saw off his own foot in order to protect the ones he loves. And he knows it’s gonna hurt.
How It’s Used: Sure the sequels upped the gore-o-meter, but the original movie actually had an emotional center that made the infamous saw scene that much more gut-wrenching. And it also asks a moral question: What would you sacrifice for the ones you love? Would you do something like this in a similar situation. Granted the sequels have officially milked the idea to the point that the cow is dead and is being beaten much like the dead horse next door, but the original still holds up, and yes, it’s still able to shock.
The Plot: Before there was Saw, there was the Japanese movie Audition, about a lonely widower who falls for a beautiful young woman, who isn’t exactly who she appears to be at first.
What Happens: It should come to no surprise that this b*tch is actually crazy. It’s what she does to poor Shigeharu. After believing that he’s been “cheating” on her (her definition of “cheating” is pretty loose), she drugs his drink, opens up his shirt, and proceeds with one of the most gut-wrenching torture scenes you will ever see. With her painful use of acupuncture needles, and a special wire which can “cut through bone, very easily”, all poor Shigeharu could do is just sit there unable to move as he is able to feel every bit of pain while Asami slowly tortures him while chanting cutesy words.
How It’s Used: Did you not get the message that this b*tch was crazy? No? This should’ve sealed the deal for you. What makes this scene that much more hard to watch is the insanely slow build-up leading up to it. The characters actually used to have a connection, and when you see this fragile and insane woman do this to the one she once loved, and to have this grieving man have this inflicted upon him by someone who he thought he trusted, it raises the gut-wrenching levels up to 11. This wire cuts through bone very easily…
#6: A Clockwork Orange
The Plot: Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the novel of the same name by Anthony Burgess, focuses on a dystopian Britain in which young hooligans roam the streets at night spreading chaos all around. Malcom McDowell, and his gang of “droogs” are very much like this, as they just murder, rape, and listen to Beethoven all in the sense of “good fun”. That is until Malcom McDowell is captured by the police and becomes the experiment of a horrid indoctrination experiment.
What Happens: Do you love the song “Singing in the Rain”? You may want to reconsider that after watching this movie, after Malcom McDowell sings the very song while raping a woman right in front of her terrified husband. Add that to the copious nudity, violence, and those god *** painful-looking eye-braces in the pic above, and you have some high octane nightmare fuel ready for your very whim (albeit with a very, very dark sense of humor).
How It’s Used: After McDowell’s experimentation is complete, he becomes a good clean-hearted citizen, but not intentionally. The experiment has taken away all of his free will, and he is now unable to control himself. The film and the book ask the question of what’s worse: Being a horrible person with free-will, or being an admirable citizen who can’t think for himself (“*** as a clockwork orange” is the quote in which the title comes from). Either way though, you can’t hear Singing in the Rain anymore without think of McDowell and rape now, can’t you.
#5: Requiem For A Dream
The Plot: Jared Leto, Jennifer Connely, Marlon Wayans, and Ellen Burstyn; Four lives, four drug addicts, one big fat increasingly downward spiral to hell.
What Happens: Darren Aronofsky’s anti-drug film is bleak multiplied by grim to the power of Hot Topic minus Hot Topic’s ridiculous amount of Twilight merch. Due to each of these four people’s addictions, Marlon Wayans ends up in prison, Ellen Burstyn ends up in rehab, Jennifer Connely forces herself into a degrading orgy, and Jared Leto’s infected arm has to be amputated. Crack is whack.
How It’s Used: Drugs are bad. Don’t f*cking do them.
The Plot: Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi), a young woman who was tormented and tortured as a child, finally finds the people who have scarred her life and pursues to kill them. They seem like a normal family, but she’s still convinced and murders them all anyway. She tells her friend, Anna (Morjana Alaoui), who grew up with her in an orphanage, about what she did and they plan to hide the bodies somewhere. But what’s the truth? Was this seemingly innocent family actually the same group of people who tortured and starved Lucie? If so, what were their intentions?
What Happens: (I warned you of spoilers) Lucie, who realizes that the nightmare will not end, whether vengeance is taken or not, kills herself. Anna, left alone with a bunch of dead bodies, discovers a secret basement containing a naked and bloodied woman with a metallic device screwed into her head. As it turns out, the family, or at least the parents, actually were the ones who tortured Lucie. Anna tries saving the woman, but her efforts are meaningless as the woman is killed and Anna is taken captive by a group of horrid Catholic cult-followers. These people believe that severely torturing young women will cause them to reach a state of Nirvana and see into heaven. They take Anna captive, force feed her disgusting prison-food, beat her repeatedly, give her very little resources in terms of sh*tting and pissing, and all of this depravity is shown repeatedly for 20…straight…agonizing minutes. And finally, when they believe that Anna is ready, she is skinned alive. Does it work? Does she end up seeing the great beyond? That’s the only thing I will not spoil.
How It’s Used: Part of what was considered the “Extreme French horror fad” (Which I actually liked, since it consisted of other good films like Inside and Haute Tension minus Haute Tension‘s stupid, stupid twist ending), this torture flick is actually an allegory on religion and extreme cults. There are allusions to many other religious martyrs who suffered for their religion. The movie ends with a very thought-provoking reference from the dictionary: “Martyr” is actually Greek for “witness”. Take that for what you will. Just don’t think that it’ll take the skinning scene out of your head.
The Plot: In Lars von Trier’s art-house psycho-thriller, Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s baby has died. Right from that very first sentence, you should tell that this is gonna be fun. Dafoe, who is apparently a therapist, decides to treat his own grieving wife. To do this, they go on a woods expedition together in a cabin called Eden (Symbollic? Pssh naw), where lots of strange happenings begin to take shape. Some of the animals are acting strange, tiny stones rain from the sky. It’s almost as if nature itself has been possessed by Satan. Soon, it gets to the point where Dafoe and Gainsbourg begin to do unspeakable things to each other, and the insanity begins.
What Happens: In the opening scene, a child dies from falling down a window. This scene is done with a surprising amount of restraint…with the exception of a short camera shot of sexual penetration in real-time. But okay, that isn’t too bad, right? Next, we see a deer and it’s dragging a dead deer fetus from its very womb. Creepy, but hey, it’s an animal, that’s nothing too graphic, right? Finally in the climax, Willem Dafoe’s testicles are crushed by a block of wood, his erection ejaculates blood, a grinding stone is drilled into his leg, and to top it all f*cking off, Gainsbourg proceeds to cut her cl*t off with with a pair of scissors. Nope…definitely not gonna make me vomi–BLARGHBRABURBAHBLEEEEEEEEERRGHH!!
How It’s Used: To be honest, I still don’t have any sure idea. I reviewed this movie a while back and gave it a somewhat positive review, but after watching it a second time (Yes, I was man enough), I’ve come to see this film as utterly pretentious. I hate using that word, and I hate the overuse of that word, but really it kinda is. I see a message in there of misogyny and this movie does have AMAZING and brave performances from Gainsbourg and Dafoe, but Jesus f*cking Christ, Mr. Von Trier, you didn’t need to make me watch someone *** blood everywhere. Still though, I admire a movie that still strongly affects me emotionally, no matter how pretentious, or depraved it is. It still deserves credit where credit is due.
#2: Cannibal Holocaust
The Plot: A group of documentary film-makers make their way to a village of cannibals in the Amazon for their next documentary. The cannibals agree to be filmed, but the filmmakers aren’t impressed with the footage they’re getting. So, naturally, they begin to “stage” certain scenes by burning down certain homes, raping and then impaling a young tribe girl on a stake, all done for more interesting footage. As you may have guessed, things do not end well for the doc-crew.
What Happens: Well the graphic amounts of rape and gore are obvious, so not much needs to be said on just how shocking this movie is. However, there was one scene that upset quite an amount of movie-goers and animal-rights activists as the actual killing of live animals is shown. Unlike all of the previous violence and rape, which was all done for the film, the deaths of these animals are actually real. Weird, considering when you have a movie about cannibals and rape all across the board, lots of people tend to be upset about something like a turtle dying, but…er…okay? The movie was done in a mockumentary style, not unlike The Blair Witch Project, which gave the movie a very realistic quality. Perhaps a bit too real. The film-makers were put on trial because it was believed that they actually had the actors perform these acts of violence, and they literally had to bring in their special effects team and stunt-woman for the “impaling” scene in order to prove they were innocent. Ouch.
How’s It Used: One of the last lines you hear from the movie is “I wonder who the real cannibals are.” And lo, the point is made exceedingly apparent. These film-makers, who are civilized folk who live in a civilized world, end up being bigger monsters than the actual cannibals themselves. Deep down in all of humanity, no matter how civilized or not, there is a dark side lurking within. Who are the real cannibals, indeed?
The Plot: A French film, told in reverse chronological order, similar to Memento and opening with what is normally the closing credits going down instead of up, director Gaspar Noe’s story begins with two men, Pierre (Albert Dupontel) and Marcus (Vincent Cassel) out for revenge against the man who raped Marcus’s wife, Alex (Monica Bellushi). The film jumps backward to the investigation, to the rape, and then all the way to the beginning with what is quite possibly the most ironic happy ending ever made.
What Happens: There are literally only two scenes containing the insanely controversial stuff, but oh what a two scenes they are. As Marcus and Pierre venture through a gay-bar called The Rectum looking for the perpetrator of the crime, named the Tenia. When they find him, he is repeatedly bludgeoned in the face with a fire extinguisher, and what ensues is one of the most graphically realistic acts of violence ever put to film. Blood, brain, and even skull matter just fly on all directions as the beating takes place, and the man’s face is reduced to a mere bloody pulp. As horrible as it is, you at least think that it can’t get any worse. It does…
The film jumps back to Alex walking down an isolated under-passage after leaving a party, where she ends up getting brutally raped. And to call this moment a mere rape-scene is an understatement. This is one of the most cruelly unrelenting pieces of torture you, as the viewer, may ever have to endure in a film, as Alex (With an absolutely exceptional performance from Bellushi) is thoroughly raped for nine…whole…minutes. The camera never even cuts away and it is all done in one, long, steady take. No breaks, no gasps for breath, it just seems to go on…for…ever. This scene absolutely killed me as I sat through it all. Covering the eyes in many moments throughout, it is perhaps the most torturous and graphically realistic rape scene ever conceived into film.
How It’s Used: I believe Roger Ebert said it best, so I’m just going to have his words come out of my mouth…er…keyboard.
“The fact is, the reverse chronology makes Irreversible a film that structurally argues against rape and violence, while ordinary chronology would lead us down a seductive narrative path toward a shocking, exploitative payoff. By placing the ugliness at the beginning, Gaspar Noe forces us to think seriously about the sexual violence involved. The movie does not end with rape as its climax and send us out of the theater as if something had been communicated. It starts with it, and asks us to sit there for another hour and process our thoughts. It is therefore moral – at a structural level.”
Well said, Mr. Ebert. Irreversible knows exactly what it’s trying to do and what message it wants to convey, and it succeeds so well at it that it becomes rather sickening. To its credit, however, this is very much a film that does have meaning. Some may find it objectionable, tasteless, merciless, cruel, and relentless. But unlike a movie like I Spit On Your Grave, there is a true message involved in this film, a message that will linger in your mind for many, many months after your first viewing. See it once, if you have the balls to, and then when all is said and done, never do it again.
Honorable Mention: A Serbian Film
The only reason why this movie is not on the list is because just from its description alone, it just seemed a bit too sick for my taste, even though I’ve already seen Antichrist and Irreversible. I have not seen it, and I have no desire to see it. Why? Because any movie proclaiming to have “newborn rape” in it as a selling point just isn’t something I want to see. I’m fine with my nine-minute long rape-scene, thank you very much.
That is all for this list. Did you find this list offensive? Have you seen any of the movies listed? Have you actually seen A Serbian Film? Were there any other movies that shocked you that you thought deserved to be on the list? Are you here to complain to me about how The Human Centipede wasn’t included in the list while I laugh hysterically at that mess of a movie? Well, we have a comment section for that, and you can post in it, b*tch.
See ya next time, which may not be too soon due to the trauma you may have received from reading this list.
- The Exorcist (1973) Movie Review (oldgamereviewer.com)
- Censor Me! Truly horrifying: The Exorcist (moonwolves.wordpress.com)
- 71 Countries Submit For Best Foreign Language Oscar: Who Are The Contenders? (contactmusic.com)
- Best Horror Movies of All Time (mrmovietimes.com)
- Flashback Weekend 2012 Report: Linda Blair Hosts Special Screening of The Exorcist in Support of The Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation (dreadcentral.com)
- Top 10 Horror Movies Of All Time (kiss951.cbslocal.com)
- TIFF 2012: ‘Amour’ Is a Touching Punch to the Gut for Viewers Young and Old (hollywood.com)
- French, Austrian films in Oscars foreign long-list (dawn.com)
- Movie Discussion: Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) (girlmeetsfreak.com)
- The White Ribbon (mrmovietimes.com)