From gruesome violence to shocking depravity, cinema has the power to explore the darkest aspects of human nature in ways that can leave viewers feeling disgusted, disturbed, or even traumatized. These 15 movies pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable. They delved into some of the most depraved and disturbing aspects of human behavior, leaving a lasting impact on the audience long after the credits have rolled.
1. Dogville (2003)
Lars von Trier's Dogville is a starkly brutal tale that reveals the dark underbelly of human nature. Set in a small town in America, the film depicts the residents' cruelty and apathy towards a stranger who seeks refuge in their community, highlighting the dark side of human nature.
2. Happiness (1998)
This was one of the most commonly mentioned films that meets the standard of being dreadfully disturbing. Happiness is a dark comedy that explores the lives of a dysfunctional family and their perverse desires. The film's frank depiction of taboo subjects like pedophilia and murder is disturbing and thought-provoking, leaving viewers uneasy and disgusted.
3 – Mother! (2017)
Darren Aronofsky's psychological horror film takes a disturbing turn as a young couple's idyllic life turns into a nightmare of biblical proportions. The film's shocking ending leaves a lasting impression on viewers, questioning the morality of humanity and the impact of blind faith.
4. Melancholia (2011)
Directed by Lars Von Trier, this haunting film explores the end of the world through the lens of two sisters (played by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) and their strained relationship. As a planet threatens to collide with Earth, the characters grapple with their own mortality, ultimately revealing the bleakness and futility of human existence.
5. Spring Breakers (2012)
Harmony Korine's dark satire follows a group of college girls on a hedonistic spring break trip that quickly spirals out of control. The film's depiction of excess and depravity is shocking and mesmerizing, leaving viewers feeling disgusted and complicit in the characters' actions. This exploitation film avoids overtly proselytizing about the unethical actions of its main characters.
The film is shot like a videogame, with electronic music, graphic violence, and vibrant colors that give us some insight into the mindset of the characters. This is one of my favorite A24 films, and the casting of former Disney stars perfectly satirizes the societal pressures young women face to conform to certain standards of behavior and morality while exposing the exploitative and destructive nature of the spring break culture.
6. A Serbian Film (2010)
Film fanatics overwhelmingly agree this is the most disturbing movie you will probably ever watch. Commenters suggesting this movie to fit the theme of disturbing films add that many of them cannot say that they “enjoy” the film and apologize in advance for even recommending it. One viewer leaves this haunting warning, “I must insist you abandon this foolish crusade before attempting to watch this one. If you follow through, you'll find what you're seeking in the worst way.”
This notorious film pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable, depicting extreme violence and sexual depravity that leave viewers feeling traumatized and disgusted. The film's brutal imagery and unflinching portrayal of evil make it one of the most controversial and unsettling films ever made.
7. Dogtooth (2009)
This Greek film explores the twisted dynamics of a dysfunctional family living in isolation, with shocking and disturbing consequences. The film's portrayal of power dynamics and abuse is both uncomfortable and thought-provoking, leaving viewers feeling disturbed and unnerved.
8. Kids (1995)
Larry Clark's controversial film depicts the nihilistic and destructive lives of New York City teenagers, including drugs and violence. The film's raw and unapologetic portrayal of youth culture is both fascinating and horrifying, leaving viewers feeling disgusted and disillusioned with society.
9. Gummo (1997)
This unsettling film follows the lives of the impoverished residents of a small Midwestern town, revealing a disturbing portrait of America's forgotten underclass. The film's bleak and surreal depiction of poverty and desperation is haunting and challenging, leaving viewers feeling disgusted and helpless.
10. The Girl Next Door (2007)
Based on a true story, this film tells the horrifying tale of a teenage girl who is tortured and abused by her aunt and cousins. The film's depiction of human cruelty and depravity is both unrelenting and gut-wrenching, leaving viewers feeling sickened and traumatized by the horrors of humanity.
11. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Requiem for a Dream is a heartbreaking movie about what drugs and addiction can do to people. The film follows four people who believe they are living wonderful lives, only to have these drug-induced fantasies come crashing down around them.
12. Amistad (1997)
This Steven Spielberg movie is about the horrible slave ship, the Amistad, which is traveling from Cuba to the United States. During the passage, Cinque, who was a tribal leader back in Africa, led a mutiny onboard the ship. Those left on the ship try to sail to Africa but are only met with their terrible fate when they reach the shores of the U.S.
13. The Cement Garden (2007)
The Cement Garden has left a lot of viewers feeling pretty horrible after watching. Four children live together with their terminally ill mother. When she passes, the oldest children try to keep the family together with the little means they have left and decide to hide their mother's body in a makeshift concrete tomb in their basement.
14. Once Were Warriors (2007)
This film from New Zealand is about a family descended from Maori warriors and their struggles within their abusive family and the struggles they face being outcasts in society.
15. Barfly (1987)
Barfly is based on the life of Charles Bukowski, a successful poet who deals with alcohol addiction and struggles with his craft over the years. The film explores his life in Hollywood in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and how drinking takes over his life.
Jaimee Marshall is a culture writer, avid movie buff, and political junkie. She spends the bulk of her time watching and critiquing films, writing political op-eds, and dabbling in philosophy. She has a Communication Studies degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where she flirted with several different majors before deciding to pursue writing. As a result, she has a diverse educational background, having studied economics, political science, psychology, business admin, rhetoric, and debate.
At Wealth of Geeks, Jaimee places an emphasis on film and television analysis, ranking the best [and worst] in media so you can find more diamonds in the rough and waste less time on box-office duds. You can find her articles on politics and culture in Evie Magazine, Katie Couric Media, Lotus Eaters, and Her Campus. You can also find her find her episode of Popcorned Planet, where she analyzes the Johnny Depp & Amber Heard trial. She has written extensively about due process, free speech, and pop culture.