Content Warning: The following article contains discussions of sexual abuse, homophobia, pedophilia, cannibalism and drug addiction.Everyone has those movies they swear they will never watch again. Not because they were bad, or were not good enough to warrant revisiting, but because they made you feel uncomfortable. Maybe it was an ending that left you shaking, a favorite character who received a fate they did not deserve, or perhaps the entire film was just too much to handle. They can even be movies we loved on the first watch but that we never want to experience again.
Often when one discusses the topic of most disturbing movies, horror is inevitably the genre most featured. These movies are usually designed to frighten the audience, so it is more intriguing to see which films in other genres had the same effect. The question has been asked on Reddit, with users submitting a wide range of movies and genres that they never want to see again, even if they did enjoy them the first time.
‘Mysterious Skin’ (2004)
Directed by famous indie filmmaker Gregg Araki, Mysterious Skin follows two teenage boys as they still feel the effects of the abuse they suffered as children. Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) becomes a carefree prostitute, fully embracing his sexuality after the incident, while introverted Brian (Brady Corbet) blocks out the trauma by believing aliens abducted him instead in Mysterious Skin.
The film was praised for the way it handled the issue of sexual abuse and the never-ending trauma it inflicts on the victims. This same realistic approach to the subject is what makes it such a tough watch, as HawkeyeFLA says “I will never watch it again. But, I also don’t 100% regret it.”
Based on a series of murders that occurred in Australia during the 1990s, Snowtown follows those responsible in the lead-up to the killings. Daniel Henshall stars as John Bunting, a charming predator who takes his girlfriend’s teenage son under his wing and inducts him into his world of homophobic violence.
Being based on a true story, Snowtown was always going to be a tough watch, but the filmmakers’ desire to not shy away from the true depravity of the situation and the actors’ committed performances makes it extra confronting. One Redditor says that this basis in reality is “what makes it so much worse.”
‘Requiem for a Dream’ (2000)
Available to stream on Tubi.
A drama centered around drug addiction, Requiem for a Dream follows four characters during their downward spiral. Harry (Jared Leto), Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) are three young friends whose lives are ruled by heroin, while Harry’s mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn) becomes addicted to weight loss pills.
Films about addiction have the tendency to become overblown and dramatic, but Requiem for a Dream really nails the nature of having one’s life influenced by drugs. The characters’ situations only get worse and worse, and as OhHeyImAlex says “they just nailed the desperation of addiction so well that it’s really hard to watch.”
Available to stream on Prime Video and Hulu.
Based on a series of real-life incidents, Compliance follows restaurant manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) as she receives a phone call from someone pretending to be a police officer. The officer tells Sandra that employee Becky (Dreama Walker) is a thief, and instructs her to inflict increasingly humiliating and abusive acts on Becky to reveal the truth.
Cerberaspeedtwelve describes it as “pretty much the most disturbing movie I have ever seen, and it did it without ghosts or monsters or drug overdoses.” It achieves this by showcasing the lack of self-awareness some people possess when being obstructed by an authority figure, even if it means unjustly harming those around us.
‘Hard Candy’ (2005)
Available to stream on Tubi.
14-year-old Hayley (Elliot Page) has been chatting with 32-year-old Jeff (Patrick Wilson) online and decides to meet him in person. As Jeff begins to show signs of ill-intent towards the underage teen, Hayley swiftly drugs him and reveals themselves as a vigilante who targets pedophiles, with Jeff as their next victim.
Hard Candy regularly turns the tables between predator and prey, as both characters take turns being the victim. It makes for a twisty story as both leads reveal dark secrets about themselves and each other. In the end, it leaves the viewer feeling rather dirty, as grazzac says “felt like showering in bleach after watching that one.”
‘The Road’ (2009)
Available to stream on Tubi.
One of the best apocalypse movies of all time, The Road charts the journey of a father and son (Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they travel through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Looking for anywhere livable, the pair cross paths with an assortment of shady characters, including a group of cannibals.
Like the novel it is based on, The Road often feels like a hopeless tale as the father and son often encounter the worst of humanity throughout their travels. Kevinlanefoster said it struck a particular chord with him, saying “As a single father to a boy, I just can’t watch this one again.” It is definitely a tough watch for parents in particular.
Imagine being abducted and locked in a single room for 15 years without any contact with the outside world. That is the fate that befalls Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) in Oldboy before he is finally released on the streets with no explanation. As he adapts to a world that has moved past him, he attempts to discover those responsible for his imprisonment.
One of the best films to come from South Korea, Oldboy has long been heralded as a masterpiece. That does not mean it is an easy watch, however, as certain plot points prove unbelievably depraved. Apple_kicks says it is an “amazing film I could only watch once” and it is easy to imagine many others feel the same.
Infamous for the act of sexual violence that its plot revolves around, Irreversible remains one of the most controversial films in cinema. Shown in reverse order, the plot of the film centers around two men in Paris as they try to avenge the savage attack on the woman they both love, Alex (Monica Bellucci).
Definitely a film you will only want to watch once, Irreversible is bound to make you feel dirty after viewing it and will have you running for the nearest shower. The fact that the movie does not achieve any sort of closure makes it even worse, with hitwallinfashion saying they “felt incredibly depressed angry and hopeless” after watching it.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve before his move into Hollywood, Incendies follows a pair of adult siblings after the death of their mother. As part of her will she has asked them to deliver two letters, one to the father they never met and the other to the brother they never knew they had. They travel to their mother’s native Middle East and learn shocking secrets about the life she led.
Despite its often confronting subject matter, Incendies remains a beautifully made film thanks to the auteur’s assured direction, and some argue it is still Villeneuve’s best film. The revelations that the twins discover in the closing scenes of the film hit like a truck and BiggDope ultimately describes Incendies as a “great film” that is “extremely bleak and depressing.”
Available to stream on Shudder and Tubi.
A made-for-television film from the 1980s, Threads attempts to predict what would happen to the UK and its people after the fallout of a nuclear war. Rather than being a documentary, Threads focuses on two families as they try to survive the wasteland that becomes their home, as well as their children that grow up in this new world.
Threads is often referred to as one of the scariest movies of all time, especially as it dramatizes an event many fear will eventually happen. A Redditor says they have “seen all sorts of gore” in movies, but Threads “remains the only film that has forced me to pull an all nighter” due to its disturbing content.