Why do we enjoy witnessing violent deeds on television? The simplest explanation might be that people seek the adrenaline rush that comes from being startled or terrified. Maybe it’s a form of vicarious catharsis, or maybe it’s because we know it’s all a lie, which gives us “permission” to enjoy it. A certain type of cinema is drawn to extreme, obscene, taboo, and frightful content.
These movies aim to disturb you on a deeper level than just to frighten you. It attacks the audience through both form and content, focusing on an unpleasant narrative theme while also experimenting with the audiovisual tools utilized to tell these stories. These criteria can initially lead you to believe that disturbing films are only a subgenre of the horror genre. However, we frequently overlook the fact that the horror subgenre is really a subset of drama and tragedy. These movies aim to make the viewer uneasy, often by using unusual cutting and breaking both societal standards and filmmaking conventions.
Here is a list of the most disturbing movies of all time, a selection of transgressed cinema that will leave you speechless and trembling:
- Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
- A Serbian Film (2010)
- The Human Centipede 2 (2011)
- In a Glass Cage (1986)
- Audition (1999)
- August Underground’s Mordum (2003)
- Eraserhead (1977)
- Inside (2007)
- Irréversible (2002)
- Man Bites Dog (1992)
- Nekromantik (1988)
- Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
- Saw (2004)
- A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Cannibal Holocaust tells us the story of a group of anthropologists who visit an Amazonian hamlet to try to rescue a group of filmmakers abandoned there. When they get there, they find reels of footage showing the horrific crimes the cannibalistic natives have committed. This leads to a tangled metatextual narrative that aggressively pokes fun at white saviors, colonialism, the role of sensational television news in escalating violence, and even the role of the viewer of this particular movie.
- Release date: February 7, 1980
- IMDB rating: 5.8/10
- Runtime: 1h 38m
A Serbian Film (2010)
Milo (Sran Todorovi), a retired porn star, struggles to provide for his family. So, against his better judgment, he accepts the role of the lead in a controversial auteur (Sergej Trifunoviartsy )’s porn movie. However, the director’s techniques and subjects entail sedating Milo into a catatonic state and compelling him to perform horrible acts on tape. And when I use the word “unspeakable,” I’m not exaggerating. With its meticulously documented depictions of taboo subjects including pedophilia, necrophilia, incest, and sexual violence, the movie quickly gained recognition on the festival circuit.
- Release date: June 16, 2010
- IMDB rating: 5.0/10
- Runtime: 1h 44m
The Human Centipede 2 (2011)
Laurence R. Harvey, who plays a disease-suffering guy who is fixated on the Tom Six movie The Human Centipede, is the main focus of Human Centipede 2. Harvey, who after violently killing his abusive mother, decides to make his own human centipede out of his own poor “medical supplies.”
- Release date: September 22, 2011
- IMDB rating: 3.8/10
- Runtime: 1h 31m
In a Glass Cage (1986)
Klaus (Günter Meisner), a former Nazi doctor who subjected children to gruesome sexual abuse and tortured them for scientific research, in a case of his demons catching up with him, Klaus makes an unsuccessful attempt at suicide and ends up being placed in an iron lung. He is offered care by a nurse named Angelo (David Suet), but he is not your typical nurse. He is a victim of Klaus’, an adult who grew up not only to get revenge on the Nazi doctor but also to take on the characteristics of him.
- Release date: August 6, 1986
- IMDB rating: 6.7/10
- Runtime: 1h 50m
The widower Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), the protagonist of this unnerving Japanese thriller, decides to start dating again. With the assistance of a friend who works as a film producer, Aoyama impersonates a dating service while holding auditions for a bogus project. When Aoyama develops feelings for the solitary, gorgeous Asami (Eihi Shiina), they begin dating. The tension gradually rises to a scary climax when he realizes that Asami isn’t as contained as she appears to be.
- Release date: March 3, 2000
- IMDB rating: 7.1/10
- Runtime: 1h 55m
August Underground’s Mordum (2003)
In “August Underground,” two serial killers brutally tortured, raped, humiliated, and killed their victims. A third man joins two insane buddies on their spree of random murder. Lesbian lovers and couples were abducted, and they were tortured in every way the audience could think of. In this horrifying narrative of a murdering spree, everything of your darkest nightmares will come true.
- Release date: 2003
- IMDB rating: 3.0/10
- Runtime: 1h 17m
Jack Nance plays weak and sensitive Henry Spencer, who struggles to survive his harsh industrial surroundings, his irate girlfriend, and the agonizing cries of his newly born mutant child.
- Release date: February 3, 1978
- IMDB rating: 7.3/10
- Runtime: 1h 29m
Sarah (Béatrice Dalle), a recent widow, is pregnant and on her own. Then “La Femme” (Alysson Paradis), a lady who is certain that Sarah’s child is hers, breaks into her house. And she’s going to use all means necessary to acquire it. What follows is a physically awful, visceral experience of abominable brutality and self-defense that is fiercely agitated by psychological provocations related to trauma, entitlement, and motherhood.
- Release date: June 13, 2007
- IMDB rating: 6.7/10
- Runtime: 1h 22m
After being raped, a woman’s lover (Vincent Cassel) and her ex-boyfriend (Albert Dupontel) decide to take matters into their own hands.
- Release date: May 22, 2002
- IMDB rating: 7.3/10
- Runtime: 1h 37m
Man Bites Dog (1992)
Following Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde) is a team of journalists. He’s witty and endearing in addition to being a serial killer with a sadistic agenda. The journalists want to capture him and his increasingly violent actions on camera in an unbiased manner. However, the journalists can’t help but actively take part in his crimes covertly, cunningly, and uncomfortably.
- Release date: January 15, 1993
- IMDB rating: 7.4 /10
- Runtime: 1h 36m
In Nekromantik, Rob, a street-cleaning agency employee, visits roadside crashes to clean up the area. Rob, incidentally, gathers the body parts and gives them to Beatrice, his girlfriend. Their unwavering devotion is at its height when Rob presents them with a full corpse that was dug up from a swamp.
- Release date: January 29, 1988
- IMDB rating: 4.9 /10
- Runtime: 1h 11m
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
A Vietnam War veteran with a severe case of dissociative identity disorder searches for his past while grieving for his deceased child. He must achieve this by separating his own dreams, fancies, and ideas of death from reality and life.
- Release date: November 2, 1990
- IMDB rating: 7.4 /10
- Runtime: 1h 53m
Two strangers wake up in a room with no memory of how they got there and quickly realize they are being used as pawns by a known serial killer in his deadly game.
- Release date: October 29, 2004
- IMDB rating: 7.6 /10
- Runtime: 1h 43m
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The aggressive and psychotic delinquent Alex, who is the head of a group of extremely violent teens who murder, steal, and rape, is captured by the police in the future. After being arrested, he is given the choice to take part in a government-developed program that can shorten his prison sentence. Alex becomes a test subject for research meant to quell men’s destructive tendencies and address society’s crime issues, but he ultimately finds himself helpless to deal with the violence that is all around him.
- Release date: February 2, 1972
- IMDB rating: 8.3/10
- Runtime: 2h 16m