8 Most Disturbing Movies

Every now and then there will be a movie that leaves me with a disturbed, nauseous feeling that lasts for weeks on end. To be clear, I’m not saying that these aren’t good movies. I’m just saying that for me, they’re a once-in-a-lifetime sort of experience.

8. Alpha Dog  (2006)


This movie really lulled me into a false sense of security. I think it was especially shocking because all of the characters were humanized and well-developed, so their actions were even harder to comprehend. Plus, it’s based on a true story.

7. The Road  (2009)

the road

This was such a depressing movie. The thing about post-apocalyptic movies is that you know you’re probably not gonna get a happy ending (maybe unless it’s starring Brad Pitt). But this movie was so persistently heartbreaking and dark that it redefined my concept of “depressing movies.” That scene with the can of coke still makes me want to cry. On the plus side, it’s the type of movie that makes me feel so grateful for my cushy life.

6. We Need To Talk About Kevin  (2011)


This movie is so dark and creepy. “Evil kids” is always a subject that freaks me out, but some of the weird visuals in combination with the dark, tense atmosphere really shifted this movie from being “creepy” to being “emotionally scarring.”

5. American History X  (1998)

images (3)

Seeing as Jordan pointed out that I messed up my numbering, I thought I’d better add one more. I didn’t include this movie originally because I felt like the awesomeness outweighed the disturbing aspect, but as Devin said in the comments, it deals with some extremely disturbing subject matter. Plus, like Alpha Dog, the end is a huge shock.

4. The Conjuring (2013)


Daytime Jenna loves this movie. Nighttime Jenna… not so much. There was something about it that just felt so real; I think it was the perfect balance of ambiguity and explanation, so it all just felt like it could totally happen. Plus, there were those dreaded words at the end… “based on true events.” One of my biggest fears is that something will pull on my leg while I’m sleeping.

3. Grimm Love  (2006)

grimm love

Cannibalism is never a bright, cheery subject matter, but this movie really outdoes itself in the dark/creepy departments. The emotional and sexualized take on cannibalism is what left me sick to my stomach.

2. The Machinist  (2004)


Well, firstly there’s the fact that Christian Bale weighs like 90 pounds. Then add that dark, depressing, and ominous tone that leads up to a horrible revelation and you get a truly disturbing story.

1. Requiem For A Dream  (2000)


While this movie was exceptionally well-made, it left me feeling nauseous for days after watching it. The whole storyline with the depressed Ellen Burstyn and the one ending scene with Jennifer Connelly still make me cringe. Drugs are bad.

So after I finished my list I googled “disturbing movies” to make sure I didn’t miss any that I’d seen, and I realized how incredibly mild this list is. Sorry, but I can only handle so much.

What are some of the most messed up, emotionally-scarring movies that you’ve seen?

Photos courtesy of Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)

40 thoughts on “8 Most Disturbing Movies

  1. I have not seen most of these on this list, but this is really an interesting topic!

    For me, my top three (that I can really remember anyway) would have to be: 1) 12 Years a Slave; 2) The Passion of the Christ and 3) The Act of Killing (recent documentary). All three of them I appreciate their existence of, but I really kinda wish I could unsee them all! I’ll be sure to never cross paths with them again lol

    • All great choices! I am sort of embarrassed to admit that I have not yet seen all of 12 Years a Slave. I know it will be disturbing so I am waiting for the right time.
      And I totally agree, some of these movies are significant and easy to appreciate, but they are really not meant for enjoyment, and are so hard to watch!
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Awesome list. The carnival ride scene in The Machinist messed me up for a long time. And it took me a while to get over Requiem.

    The movies that I found particular disturbing are American History X and Antichrist. Oh god, Antichrist still haunts my dreams.

    But I looooove the Conjuring. Seriously one of my favourite recent horror movies!

    • Uggh the Machinist and Requiem are so intense. Too intense for me.
      I was going to include American History X but I couldn’t say that I wouldn’t watch it again because its awesomeness outweighed its disturbing-ness for me. I haven’t seen Antichrist, maybe I’ll keep it that way if it’s that disturbing!
      I loved The Conjuring too! It was one of my favourite 2013 movies, but it played a major role in me believing that my apartment was haunted haha! But I will definitely watch it again, so I guess the awesomeness probably outweighs the disturbing-ness too!
      Thanks for the comment

    • I was going to say I’m surprised Antichrist wasn’t on here. I’ve heard horrible fantastic things about it. Still trying to work up the courage to sit through it

      • I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it (because who really would enjoy a close up shot of female genital mutilation… So fun). But I definitely appreciated it as a film. It’s not one I think I’ll ever watch again but Lars Von Trier is a very unique guy and his films certainly reflect that.

  3. When my wife and I choose this sort of self-torture, we call the movies “brilliant downers”. 12 Years a Slave was the latest one I’ve seen, but The Master, There Will Be Blood and (long ago) The Deer Hunter were significant others. I’ve only seen and had nightmares over your #1 and 2 films, so thanks for the rest.

    • That’s a great name! What an apt description of the experience. All of these are perfect examples of brilliant movies that are really difficult to watch.
      Thanks for checking out my blog!

  4. I haven’t seen The Machinist or Requiem For a Dream, but I can vouch for The Road and We Need To Talk About Kevin. I love disturbing movies in general and on top of my head: Antichrist, Trainspotting, Funny Games and Revolutionary Road are films that left me disturbed for years.

    • The only one of these that I’ve seen is Funny Games, but only the American version and I didn’t like it, but I heard the original one was a lot better.
      I really have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy a disturbing movie, but maybe I will check some of these ones out, thanks!

  5. I’d be keen to know what no. 5 is! ha. I spent a great deal of time at one stage tracking down all the most notorious and disturbing movies made, and definitely agree with your choices here (Requiem for a Dream and Kevin especially). Others in my opinion would be Enter the Void (or anything by Gaspar Noe… I Stand Alone and Irreversible are just as confronting), Salo, El Topo, Last House on the Left, Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door and Eraserhead. None of which I recommend, ha, although I kind of do at the same time.

    • Haha thanks for that Jordan. I promise I can count (usually).
      That sounds like it could have beed a very depressing search! I can only watch a disturbing movie when I am in the right frame of mind, sometimes they bother me for weeks.
      The only one of those I’ve seen is the 2009 version of Last House on the Left, but I heard the original is a much better movie.
      Maybe I’ll check some of these out the next time I’m looking for something disturbing, thanks!

  6. Great list! I have seen 6 of the 8 – and I totally agree 100% with your #1. Requeim For A Dream literally made me sick to my stomach more than any gore fest could. It was insane. It’s a fantastic movie in the sense that it’s one of the few I can say is all the better because of how much I HATED watching it.

    A few others are Prisoners of this year, Antichrist, A Clockwork Orange and Funny Games. Not commenting on my opinions on these ones, but they’re all disturbing in their own right!

    • Nicely put! Requiem would not have been nearly as fascinating or as memorable if it wasn’t so hard to watch.
      Prisoners was one of my favourite 2013 movies! Did you still like it, or did you find it too disturbing? I can definitely see why you would call it disturbing based on how crazy Hugh Jackman’s actions were!
      I saw the newer American version of Funny Games and I didn’t really like it, but I heard the original is a lot better.
      And yes! A Clockwork Orange! I’ve been really interested in Kubrick lately, but I am so nervous to watch that. I have heard about some of the scenes and it sounds terrifying. I read somewhere that the scene where his eyes were forced open to watch all of those terrible things was sort of real in the sense that the actor actually did it to get a realistic portrayal. Not sure if it’s true, but that would be so horrible!
      Thanks for reading!

      • Awesome, I loved Prisoners! I ended up giving it a 9.5/10 on my website. It was incredible in the suspense and mystery departments and the plot was amazing. But yeah, that’s why I added it to the list! It has a great ‘what would you do’ moral dilemma.

        Kubrick’s films are crazy – the Shining is nuts. yeah Clockwork is a little nuts and the characters are so weird they can cause some nightmares ha – I’ve read that too, I’m pretty sure it’s true. He must of made a few extra dollars to film that!

      • I agree, Prisoners was amazing! I will have to go check out your review.
        I’ve seen The Shining, and really loved it. It’s crazy how much hidden meaning there apparently is behind everything in the movie. I also found the dog/ bear scene to be quite disturbing.

  7. Really good choices! The Machinist is definitely unsettling and the picture you showed is evidence. I would also mention Schindler’s List but for a different and more obvious reason.

    • Thanks! I’m sort of embarrassed to admit that I haven’t seen Schindler’s List yet. I know it will be so intense, so once again, I’ve kind of been putting it off.
      Thanks for the comment!

      • It’s very intense! It’s one of the more difficult watches you’ll find mainly because of how firmly rooted it is in reality. Hope you get a chance to see it soon. It’s well worth seeing.

      • I know! I have been planning on seeing it soon. Like you said, it’s so much worse because it’s so closely based on real events.
        Maybe I will finally check it out this weekend, thanks!

  8. I tend to try and stay away from movies that I think will be too disturbing, so not surprisingly, I’ve only seen American History X from your list.

    I think the most disturbing movie I’ve seen and fits your definition is Compliance. The fact that it’s based on truth just makes the idea even more disturbing to me.

    Excellent idea for a list Jenna.

    Thanks for sharing

  9. Is it weird that I watch “Requiem for a Dream” to help me fall asleep at night? Not the first time. After watching it I had a hard time sleeping, but I do use it as my nighttime movie if I cant sleep

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