In here we show you top 10 most disturbing movies of film history. Why are we drawn to disturbing films? There is a valid explanation. “The pleasurable sensation experienced by the brain as it calms down after watching a frightening movie is actually driven by neurochemical processes,” explains research. This is because the release of dopamine associated with the brain’s ‘rest-and-digest’ response induces a heightened sense of well-being.
These films cater to audiences with a strong stomach; they are not for the faint-hearted. This list excludes movies like Saws or Hostels since they are considered less intense. The following films deliver relentless impact for various reasons and possess intriguing narratives behind their creation. They compel even the most seasoned genre enthusiasts to take a step back and exclaim, “Wow.” These movies leave an indelible mark, haunting you long after viewing, and depending on your disposition, they may even leave lasting scars. So, without further delay, allow me to present ten of the most disturbing horror movies ever crafted.
Table of Contents
- 10. Martyrs (Disturbing Movies)
- 09. Men Behind the Sun (Disturbing Movies)
- 08. Nekromantik (Disturbing Movies)
- 07. Grotesque (Disturbing Movies)
- 06. Antichrist (Disturbing Movies)
- 05. Africa Addio (Disturbing Movies)
- 04. Cannibal Holocaust (Disturbing Movies)
- 03. The Bunny Game (Disturbing Movies)
- 02. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Disturbing Movies)
- 01. A Serbian Film (Disturbing Movies)
10. Martyrs (Disturbing Movies)
Martyrs is widely regarded as one of the most disturbing movies in film history. Directed by Pascal Laugier, this French-Canadian psychological horror film takes viewers on a relentless and unsettling journey into the depths of human suffering and the pursuit of transcendent knowledge.
The story revolves around two young women, Lucie and Anna, who form a deep bond as they confront their traumatic pasts. Lucie, haunted by the memories of her childhood abduction and torture, seeks revenge on the people responsible. Anna, who has also experienced abuse, stands by Lucie’s side throughout her quest for vengeance.
As the narrative unfolds, Martyrs evolves into something far more sinister and thought-provoking than a typical revenge tale. Lucie’s relentless pursuit of her tormentors leads her and Anna into a world where physical and psychological pain merge. They encounter a mysterious group that claims to have discovered the existence of an afterlife and believes that through extreme suffering, one can reach a higher plane of enlightenment.
What follows is an unrelenting barrage of disturbing and violent scenes, pushing the boundaries of audience comfort. The film delves into themes of existentialism, transcendence, and the nature of suffering. It forces viewers to confront their own perceptions of pain, the lengths humans will go to understand the unknown, and the consequences of seeking answers in the darkest recesses of human experience.
Martyrs premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and garnered immediate attention due to its shocking content. Critics were divided, with some praising its exploration of philosophical themes and its unflinching portrayal of violence, while others found it excessively disturbing and gratuitous. The film became associated with the New French Extremity movement, a subgenre characterized by its provocative and transgressive nature.
Despite its polarizing reception, Martyrs remains a significant entry in horror cinema. It explores the human psyche in a disturbing and thought-provoking manner, leaving a lasting impression on those brave enough to experience it. The film’s impact has even extended beyond its original release, with an American remake produced in 2015. However, the original French-Canadian version continues to be revered and discussed for its unsettling portrayal of suffering, pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in mainstream cinema.
09. Men Behind the Sun (Disturbing Movies)
Men Behind the Sun is undoubtedly one of the most disturbing movies in film history. Directed by T. F. Mou and released in 1988, this Hong Kong historical exploitation horror film delves into the harrowing and horrific events that took place at Unit 731, a secret Japanese biological weapons experimentation unit during World War II.
The film serves as a graphic depiction of the war atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army. It focuses on the latter stages of the war, where Unit 731 subjected Chinese and Soviet prisoners to unimaginable and cruel medical experiments. Men Behind the Sun explores the depths of human depravity and the horrors that unfolded within the walls of this covert facility.
Throughout the movie, viewers are exposed to a series of disturbing scenes portraying the gruesome experiments conducted on the prisoners. These experiments include vivisections, freezing experiments, germ warfare trials, and other forms of sadistic torture. The filmmakers did not shy away from depicting the graphic and brutal nature of these acts, resulting in a film that is unsettling and deeply disturbing.
Men Behind the Sun is notorious for its unflinching portrayal of these wartime atrocities. It seeks to shed light on a dark chapter in history that is often overlooked or forgotten. By exposing the horrific acts committed by Unit 731, the film aims to educate and inform audiences about the inhumane actions carried out in the name of scientific research during wartime.
The movie faced significant controversy upon its release due to its explicit and graphic content. Critics and audiences were divided in their reactions, with some condemning the film as exploitative and excessively violent, while others praised its historical significance and uncompromising approach to storytelling.
Despite the controversy, Men Behind the Sun remains an important and unsettling piece of cinema. It serves as a stark reminder of the depths of human cruelty and the atrocities committed during times of war. The film stands as a testament to the importance of remembering and acknowledging historical events, even those that are deeply disturbing, to ensure that such horrors are never repeated.
It is worth noting that Men Behind the Sun is an extremely graphic and disturbing film, and its content may not be suitable for all viewers. It explores the darkest aspects of human nature and offers a chilling portrayal of the dehumanizing effects of war and scientific experimentation.
08. Nekromantik (Disturbing Movies)
Nekromantik, released in 1987 and directed by Jörg Buttgereit, is undeniably one of the most disturbing movies in film history. This West German horror exploitation film has gained infamy for its transgressive subject matter, including necrophilia, and its audacious and graphic imagery.
The film revolves around a street cleaner who brings home a human corpse, intending to engage in macabre acts with it along with his wife. However, their relationship becomes strained when his wife develops an increasingly intense fascination with the corpse, causing jealousy and psychological turmoil for the protagonist. While the topic of necrophilia itself is deeply unsettling for many, Nekromantik takes it to extreme and explicit levels, delving into the darkest corners of human desires.
One of the reasons Nekromantik has garnered such attention is due to its controversial nature. It has been banned in numerous countries and has faced censorship challenges. The film pushes boundaries and challenges societal norms, deliberately provoking strong reactions from audiences. Its explicit and disturbing scenes aim to shock and provoke discomfort, leaving a lasting impact on viewers.
Despite the disturbing subject matter, Nekromantik has developed a cult following over the years. It is seen as a unique and provocative piece of cinema that explores taboo themes with a confrontational approach. For some, the film holds fascination as a curiosity, offering a glimpse into the extremes of human psychology and the limits of acceptable artistic expression.
It is important to note that Nekromantik is not for the faint of heart or those easily disturbed. The film contains explicit scenes of necrophilia and other forms of sexual violence, which can be deeply unsettling and offensive to many viewers. Its purpose is to shock and challenge societal norms rather than to entertain in a conventional sense.
Nekromantik, while highly controversial, is a significant film in the realm of transgressive cinema. It pushes boundaries, tests the limits of acceptability, and serves as a reminder of the dark corners of human desire and the extremes to which some individuals are willing to go. It remains a disturbing and thought-provoking work that continues to divide audiences and provoke discussions about the boundaries of art and the limits of our comfort zones.
07. Grotesque (Disturbing Movies)
Grotesque is a highly controversial and disturbing movie that has garnered a reputation as one of the most unsettling films in history. Released in 2009, this Japanese horror film, directed by Kōji Shiraishi, delves into the darkest corners of human sadism and depravity.
The plot revolves around a sadistic doctor who kidnaps a young couple and subjects them to a game of torment and torture. As the couple is forced to endure increasingly horrific acts, their hopes of survival gradually diminish. Grotesque is not a film that offers redemption or a glimmer of hope; instead, it immerses viewers in a world of unrelenting suffering and brutality.
The movie is infamous for its extreme and explicit content, including scenes of extreme violence, sexual sadism, and mutilation. It aims to shock and provoke strong reactions from its audience, pushing the boundaries of acceptability and testing the limits of what is deemed appropriate in cinema. Grotesque offers no respite or relief, relentlessly assaulting the senses and leaving a lasting impact on those who dare to watch.
Despite its disturbing nature, Grotesque has garnered attention for its well-executed storytelling and an ending that leaves a lasting impression. The film is often praised for its ability to evoke a range of emotions, from disgust and outrage to fascination and even admiration for its audacious approach.
However, it is crucial to note that Grotesque is not for everyone. Its extreme and sadistic content makes it highly controversial, and it has faced bans and censorship in various countries. The movie delves into the darkest aspects of human nature and offers a visceral and disturbing experience that challenges the viewer’s sensibilities.
06. Antichrist (Disturbing Movies)
Antichrist, released in 2009, is an experimental psychological horror film directed by Lars von Trier that has gained a reputation as one of the most disturbing movies in film history. Starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the film explores themes of grief, guilt, and the darkest aspects of human nature.
The story revolves around a couple who, devastated by the accidental death of their young son, retreat to a secluded cabin in the woods called “Eden.” The man (played by Dafoe) is a therapist who takes it upon himself to treat his wife’s (played by Gainsbourg) grief and anxiety. However, as they immerse themselves in the isolation of the wilderness, their psychological states deteriorate.
Antichrist is divided into a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue, each exploring different aspects of the couple’s descent into madness. The prologue sets the tone with a visually striking and explicit sequence depicting the couple’s intimate encounter and their child’s tragic demise.
As the narrative progresses, the woman’s behavior becomes increasingly disturbing. She manifests violent sexual desires, engages in acts of self-mutilation, and exhibits sadomasochistic tendencies. Meanwhile, the man experiences strange visions and struggles to understand his wife’s unraveling mental state.
Von Trier’s direction is uncompromising, presenting viewers with graphic and unsettling scenes that challenge societal taboos and provoke intense emotional reactions. The film delves into the depths of despair, exploring themes of misogyny, fear, and the destructive power of grief. It presents a bleak and unsettling vision that lingers long after the credits roll.
Antichrist received mixed reactions from critics and audiences upon its release. Some praised its bold and unflinching approach to exploring the darkest aspects of the human psyche, while others criticized its explicit content and perceived misogyny. Nevertheless, the film has left a lasting impact on viewers, solidifying its place as a disturbing and thought-provoking entry in the realm of psychological horror.
It is important to note that Antichrist is a highly challenging and divisive film. Its graphic content, including explicit sexual scenes, violence, and self-mutilation, can be deeply unsettling for many viewers. It is not recommended for those who are sensitive to disturbing imagery or easily disturbed by explicit content.
05. Africa Addio (Disturbing Movies)
Africa Addio, released in 1966, is a controversial and deeply disturbing Italian mondodocumentary film co-directed and co-written by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi. The film focuses on the end of the colonial era in Africa and chronicles the violence and political upheavals that occurred during the 1960s.
The documentary presents a grim and unsettling portrayal of the continent during a time of significant change. As many African nations sought independence and transitioned from colonial rule to new forms of government, violent conflicts erupted. Africa Addio captures the aftermath of these struggles, particularly showcasing the revolutions in Zanzibar and Kenya, where thousands lost their lives.
The film includes graphic and unsettling footage of the violence that unfolded, often without any commentary or context. Viewers are exposed to scenes of mass killings, destruction, and chaos, painting a bleak picture of the African continent in turmoil. It highlights the brutal realities of political and social unrest during this period, leaving a lasting impact on audiences.
In addition to the political violence, Africa Addio also includes extensive footage of hunters and poachers engaged in the indiscriminate killing of various wild animals. This aspect of the film has drawn criticism for its exploitative nature and the unnecessary harm inflicted on wildlife. The graphic depiction of animal slaughter adds to the overall disturbing tone of the documentary.
Africa Addio’s depiction of violence and exploitation has sparked controversy and divided opinions since its release. Critics argue that the film presents a one-sided and voyeuristic view of Africa, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and reducing complex political struggles to sensationalized visuals. Others defend it as a raw and unfiltered portrayal of a tumultuous period in history.
It is essential to approach Africa Addio with caution due to its graphic and disturbing content. The film explores themes of violence, colonialism, and political upheaval, offering a stark and unsettling perspective on a significant period in African history. However, its controversial nature and the ethical questions raised by its depiction of violence and animal cruelty make it a highly divisive film.
04. Cannibal Holocaust (Disturbing Movies)
Cannibal Holocaust, released in 1980, is widely regarded as one of the most disturbing movies in film history. Directed by Ruggero Deodato and written by Gianfranco Clerici, the Italian cannibal film pushes the boundaries of horror and explores the darkest aspects of human nature.
The film follows Harold Monroe, an anthropologist from New York University, who leads a rescue team into the Amazon rainforest to find a crew of filmmakers who have gone missing while documenting local cannibal tribes. The crew, portrayed by Carl Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, and Luca Barbareschi, had captured their own brutal acts of violence and exploitation on film before their disappearance.
When the rescue team recovers only the lost cans of film, an American television station expresses an interest in broadcasting the footage as a sensationalized television special. As Monroe views the reels, he becomes appalled by the crew’s actions and strongly objects to the station’s intent to air the documentary.
Cannibal Holocaust delves into themes of exploitation, voyeurism, and the fine line between observer and participant. The film confronts viewers with graphic scenes of extreme violence, including real animal killings and simulated acts of sexual violence. These explicit and unsettling scenes aim to provoke strong emotional reactions and challenge the audience’s comfort zones.
Cannibal Holocaust is notorious for its controversy and has faced extensive censorship and bans in various countries due to its explicit content and realistic portrayals of violence. The film’s depiction of indigenous people and its graphic nature have drawn criticism for perpetuating harmful stereotypes and sensationalizing brutality.
However, some argue that Cannibal Holocaust serves as a scathing critique of the media’s obsession with sensationalism and the exploitative nature of documentary filmmaking. The film blurs the line between fiction and reality, raising ethical questions about the responsibilities of filmmakers and the impact of their work.
Despite its divisive nature, Cannibal Holocaust has left a significant impact on the horror genre and has gained a cult following over the years. It remains a disturbing and thought-provoking work that challenges traditional storytelling conventions and forces viewers to confront uncomfortable truths about human nature.
03. The Bunny Game (Disturbing Movies)
The Bunny Game, released in 2010, is a highly disturbing and controversial independent horror film directed by Adam Rehmeier. This black-and-white psychological horror film has gained a reputation as one of the most disturbing movies in film history due to its unflinching and extreme portrayal of violence and depravity.
The film follows the story of a prostitute named Bunny (played by Rodleen Getsic), who is abducted by a truck driver (played by Jeff F. Renfro) and subjected to a series of sadistic and torturous acts. Bunny is physically and psychologically tormented throughout the movie, as she becomes a captive in the truck driver’s sadistic game.
The Bunny Game pushes the boundaries of acceptability with its explicit and graphic content. It includes scenes of extreme physical and sexual violence, drug abuse, and degradation. The film does not shy away from showcasing the brutal and dehumanizing treatment inflicted upon Bunny, creating an atmosphere of unrelenting tension and discomfort.
What sets The Bunny Game apart is its unapologetic and unfiltered approach to storytelling. The film is shot in a raw and gritty documentary-style, adding to its unsettling and disturbing atmosphere. The lack of traditional narrative structure and character development intensifies the sense of unease and disorientation experienced by the viewer.
Due to its explicit content and controversial nature, The Bunny Game has faced significant challenges in terms of censorship and distribution. It has been banned in several countries and has drawn strong criticism for its portrayal of violence against women.
It is important to note that The Bunny Game is not for the faint of heart or those easily disturbed by explicit and brutal content. The film aims to shock and provoke strong emotional reactions from its audience, presenting a disturbing and visceral experience that pushes the boundaries of acceptability in cinema.
02. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Disturbing Movies)
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, released in 1975 and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, is unquestionably one of the most disturbing and controversial films in the history of cinema. This Italian horror-art film delves into the darkest depths of human depravity, pushing boundaries and challenging viewers with its graphic and explicit content.
Set in the time of the fascist Republic of Salò (1943-1945), the film follows four wealthy and corrupt Italian libertines who abduct 18 teenagers. Over the course of four months, these individuals subject their captives to extreme acts of violence, sadism, sexual abuse, and psychological torture.
Salò explores a multitude of disturbing themes, including political corruption, consumerism, authoritarianism, nihilism, morality, capitalism, totalitarianism, sadism, sexuality, and fascism. The film is divided into four segments, each inspired by a section of Dante’s Divine Comedy: the Anteinferno, the Circle of Manias, the Circle of Excrement, and the Circle of Blood.
Pasolini’s intention with Salò was to critique and expose the darkest aspects of power and human behavior. The film presents a harrowing and unflinching portrayal of the depths to which individuals can sink when given absolute authority and unrestricted power. It is a scathing indictment of the brutality and dehumanization inherent in fascist regimes.
The explicit and graphic scenes depicted in Salò have drawn widespread controversy and censorship. The film contains scenes of sexual violence, torture, degradation, and extreme bodily harm. These disturbing visuals, coupled with Pasolini’s stark and unapologetic direction, aim to provoke a visceral response from the viewer, challenging their notions of morality and forcing them to confront the darkest corners of human nature.
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom remains a highly divisive film, hailed by some as a masterpiece of social commentary and condemned by others as gratuitous and exploitative. It is a work that demands caution and critical engagement due to its disturbing content and challenging subject matter.
01. A Serbian Film (Disturbing Movies)
A Serbian Film, released in 2010, is widely regarded as one of the most disturbing and controversial movies in film history. Directed by Srđan Spasojević in his feature film debut, this Serbian horror film delves into extreme and graphic violence, sexual content, and taboo themes.
The film revolves around Milos, a financially struggling former porn star who agrees to participate in what he believes is an “art film” in order to support his family. However, Milos soon discovers that he has been unwittingly drawn into a dark and sadistic world of snuff filmmaking. The film explores themes of exploitation, abuse, and the degradation of human dignity.
A Serbian Film pushes boundaries and presents its disturbing content with unrelenting intensity. It contains scenes of extreme violence, including sexual violence, pedophilic themes, and necrophilia. These graphic and shocking sequences aim to provoke strong emotional reactions and challenge societal taboos.
The film generated substantial controversy and censorship due to its explicit content. It has been banned in several countries, including the Philippines, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Norway. A Serbian Film’s release and screening have also faced temporary bans in Brazil.
The extreme and disturbing nature of A Serbian Film has sparked debates about artistic freedom, censorship, and the ethical boundaries of filmmaking. It has been criticized for its relentless focus on explicit and gratuitous violence, leading some to argue that the film crosses the line into exploitation and sensationalism.
It is important to note that A Serbian Film is highly controversial and not recommended for sensitive audiences or those easily disturbed by extreme content. The film explores the darkest aspects of human nature and confronts viewers with graphic and unsettling scenes that challenge conventional storytelling and societal norms.
In conclusion, the films mentioned, such as Martyrs, Men Behind the Sun, Nekromantik, Grotesque, Antichrist, The Bunny Game, Cannibal Holocaust, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, and A Serbian Film, stand as some of the most disturbing movies in film history. These films push the boundaries of acceptability, exploring taboo themes, graphic violence, and unsettling subject matter that can deeply disturb and unsettle audiences.
These movies often provoke strong emotional reactions and challenge societal norms, forcing viewers to confront the darkest aspects of human nature. They delve into themes such as torture, sadism, exploitation, violence, and the degradation of humanity. While some argue for their artistic merits or social commentary, their explicit and disturbing content has led to controversies, censorship, and bans in several countries.
It is important to approach these films with caution and critical awareness, as they can be highly unsettling and may not be suitable for all viewers. Their graphic and disturbing nature serves to shock, challenge, and provoke audiences, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and exploring the depths of human psychology.
Ultimately, the disturbing movies discussed here are significant in the realm of cinema, as they highlight the extremes of human experience and confront audiences with uncomfortable truths. Whether appreciated as thought-provoking works of art or condemned as exploitative and gratuitous, these films leave a lasting impact on those who dare to watch them, solidifying their place in the history of cinema.