Top 10 Disturbing Films (with some redeeming qualities)

Disturbing Films – Hurrah!

Happily, there are shit loads of disturbing and weird movies out there. But which ones are ACTUALLY worth watching?

10. A Serbian Film (2010)

Not the most pleasant of subjects (in fact the complete opposite) but A Serbian Film is so fucking ludicrously sick that I swear you can’t watch it seriously anyway. Plus it was pretty well made, obviously had some kind of budget with okay acting and a decent soundtrack. A very gross story which could potentially haunt unprepared viewers but worth watching at least once if you’re a horror buff.

9. The Skin I Live In (2011)


Starring Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon striving to invent perfect, damage-proof skin, this Spanish movie includes many shock scenes plus a mental twist ending you won’t forget in a hurry. What makes it that bit nicer is the beautiful imagery, colours and moments of tenderness. Amongst all the horror there is genuine love and weirdly good intention. Plus it’s nice to hear Banderas speak his native tongue. 

8. Happiness (1998)

In total honesty I would never watch this film again. But it DID captivate throughout (even if not always for the right reasons), had a pretty funky cast and at times, was mildly and very darkly amusing. Not at ALL TIMES though. I must stress that. Not at all times. Like what times? Well, when a paedophile father explains to his young son that he raped two of his schoolmates, but don’t worry son I’d never rape you, I’d just jerk off instead… Yeah, scenes like that.

7. Once Were Warriors (1994)

With domestic violence, alcoholism, suicide and rape this gritty, low-budget film is not the most cheery but it is still very good. Made in New Zealand, it centers around a poverty-stricken family with descent to Maori warriors, now just living in the slums. Whilst it is difficult to watch in places, it’s undeniably haunting.

6. Kill List (2011)

Kill List is first and foremost very strange – and if you don’t like your films too ambiguous then it may not be for you. What we do know is our lead character (played by a slim Neil Maskell) is a hit man and the story revolves around his new job. Kill List has a constantly eerie feel, twinned with ‘dig your nails in your hand’ ultra-realistic violent scenes. And whilst we go deeper down the rabbit hole it constantly feels as though something dreadful is about to happen –  which it does.

5. Scum (1977)

Scum is one of my personal favourites. Starring a young Ray Winstone (and many youthful faces from The Bill) this film tells the brutal story of life inside the British boys prison – Borstal. Set in the 1970s with top-level violence from both the inmates and the guards, there is cruelty, bullying and what seems to be a complete disregard for any wellbeing. Scum is both upsetting and so very thought-provoking, with brilliant writing. It spawned some of Ray’s most quotable lines, even to this day.

4. Martyrs (2008)

Now quick warning: this film is extremely violent and horrid. One of the most severe torture movies around, this French horror is not for the faint hearted OR children. I’ve seen it once, found it pretty darn interesting but not sure I’d bother to stomach it again. What made it memorable – and indeed, what made me add it to this list – was the complete tenderness I felt for the characters, who I genuinely cared about. I really felt sad watching it in places and with this kind of genre, that doesn’t happen often.

3. Hard Candy (2005)

Something a little tamer now. And a film that serves to both shock and make the viewer think (man). It stars Ellen Page as a fourteen year old intent on getting revenge on an older man (Patrick Wilson) who she believes to be a child molester. The film quickly descends into dangerous territory and Page is both worrying and annoying as the out of control teenager. It’s an interesting one because you end up inevitably sympathising with a supposed child molester. An interesting story.

2. Battle Royale (2000)

Compared to (so) many screwed up Japanese movies, Battle Royale isn’t even that bad. Seriously, it really really isn’t. But it’s so crazy, original – and also another favourite of mine – that I had to include it. Plus it does include children killing each other so surely it deserves to be here? Set in a sort of dystopian Japan – a bunch of (supposedly) unruly school kids are chosen to take part in a new government program – fighting each other to the death. Yay!

1. Eden Lake (2008)


This is my number one choice for one reason only – it’s a fucking brilliant horror film. It’s tense, scary, bleak, cruel, violent and most importantly – highly believable. My mouth was literally left hanging open as the final credits rolled. A British film starring Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly as likeable couple who become the target of some teenagers and end up in a situation escalating out of control. Not as objectively ‘sick’ as many of the films mentioned here but a real, genuine triumph for the horror genre.

About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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47 Responses to Top 10 Disturbing Films (with some redeeming qualities)

  1. GaryGreg828 says:

    “Hard Candy” ranks 3rd on my all-time favorite movie list. I loved the performances and the writing and the way it makes you think and that you never know what’s about to happen next. A truly bold and brilliant film! 🙂

    • emmakwall says:

      Yay! It’s a fantastic film isn’t it, the only thing I thought was a bit disappointing was the ending.

      I wish they’d left it more ambiguous with Patrick Wilson’s character, left it more inconclusive whether he was a predator or not – I felt they played it safe.

      But awesome movie all the same!

      What’s 1 and 2 on your list? 🙂

      • GaryGreg828 says:

        I was a little underwhelmed on the ending of “Hard Candy” as well, I think mostly b/c the film was building and building for 90 minutes that I was expecting a Knock-Out punch at the end; and we didn’t get that. At least not for me. But I didn’t think the end was bad. Just underwhelming. And actually I think the ending was pretty ambiguous b/c the million dollar question was “WHO IS HALEY?” and there is no information provided. We still don’t have a clue! lol.

        My #2 is “Sling Blade” w/ Billy Bob Thornton. BBT’s performance is just fascinating to watch; the way he can completely transform into Karl simply by changing the expression on his face; he looks like a different person. No make-up, mask or anything – and he looks nearly unrecognizable. And the story is top-notch. Great writing and directing. Dwight Yokam really makes you hate him. He did a great job, as well.

        And my #1 is “Dumb & Dumber” just b/c it’s the only comedy I’ve ever seen that has something funny in every scene. You can watch it dozens of times and still find new subtitles you hadn’t noticed in previous viewings. Just a genius script and some of the best comedy performances you will ever see. I honestly think Carey should have been nominated for an Oscar for that role. He completely embodies Lloyd.

        • emmakwall says:

          Never seen Sling Blade but sounds interesting. Just looked it up and Billy Bob Thornton DOES look different.

          Dumb and Dumber haha, great comedy film! “I desperately want to make to a schoolboy” – have you seen the sequel?

          I just found the ending of Hard Candy too “safe” that’s all. It was far more effective watching the film and not knowing for sure if Jeff was guilty or not. That was the whole point surely, the blurred lines of good and bad. But it was almost like they were afraid to push that as far as they could and just made it a plain old apple pie ending – Yes he was a bad man. Yes he deserved what he got.

          When Hayley left at the end I think I would have felt far more shell shocked had I not known for sure what the truth was.

          • GaryGreg828 says:

            That’s the greatest line in the history of comedy cinema! 🙂 Followed by “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance!” moments later. It’s so rare that a film can offer you multiple memorable lines in the same scene!

            I watched the sequel opening night, and it was okay, but obviously not nearly as good as the first. The Farrelly’s didn’t write the script, so that’s what hurt it the most I think. I will likely write an entry on the problems the sequel had.

            • emmakwall says:

              I’m not sure I even want to watch the sequel, I’ve heard it’s pretty poor from a few people and I do love the original.

              Yeah I love that “you’re telling me there’s a chance” line, hahaha!

            • GaryGreg828 says:

              If you’re a fan of the original, go ahead and watch the sequel just b/c it’s good to see the characters back, and there are a few hilarious moments. It’s still better than most comedies that come out. And at the end there’s a nice tribute to the original and a funny post-credits scene to close it out. It’s worth watching one time if you’re a fan.

            • emmakwall says:

              Yeah, to be honest you’re right. It’s in my top 10 comedies ever so I should see the sequel for myself 🙂

  2. GaryGreg828 says:

    What’s #10? It’s blank. You can put “Starry Eyes” there. Hurry up and watch it! 🙂

    • emmakwall says:

      Haha, yes sir!

      Actually I noticed that a little while, I will rectify soon!!!! Maybe with Starry Eyes? 🙂

      • GaryGreg828 says:

        I have some candidates I will recommend!

        • emmakwall says:

          Guess what I randomly watched on DVD last night? Mum & Dad! Ha ha. Thought of you and Eric 🙂

          • GaryGreg828 says:

            It’s good, right? You need to tell Eric to check it out. I think he’d like it.

            • emmakwall says:

              I’ve seen it a few times, yeah it’s good, I don’t think it’s brilliant or anything but the ending is good and the ‘Christmas’ scene is pretty crazy!! The performances are all very decent too.

              Thing is, when you keep telling someone to watch something it can have the opposite, desired effect. Perhaps if we just hang around WordPress talking about it we might prick up his ears? Ha ha.

            • GaryGreg828 says:

              Well, I tend to think if you don’t remind someone that they will forget. When you look at your reader and look at your twitter feed and see so many different reviews and recommendations every day, people will generally only think about what’s in front of them that day or week. That’s what I think, anyway.

              It probably does backfire on me with some people, though. But I nudge Eric harder than most others just b/c we’ve traded so many recommendations over the last 2 years. He typically likes the films I recommend for him; not always, but the large majority of them. But with me, I don’t just recommend movies to others that I personally like. I recommend different titles to specific individuals who I feel will like that particular movie. Sometimes I may not even like the recommendation I am giving someone, but I am sure they would like it.

  3. vinnieh says:

    I plan on watching Martyrs as soon as I can. I’ve been warned it’s a draining and uncomfortable watch, but I want to give my opinion on it.

  4. Laura says:

    I wrote up Eden Lake, mainly because I wanted to try and stop thinking about it. I literally could not get it out of my head. I was bloody good, but really got under my skin.

    • emmakwall says:

      100% agree. I still remember the first time I watched it and it was so shocking. This film had more impact on me than…..well….any other horror film I’ve ever watched I think!

      I remember when it ended and I was just shell shocked. I just sat there in disbelief.

      It’s such a realistic, bleak film…..brilliantly made though.

      Great! I’ll find your review, can’t wait to read it 🙂 🙂

  5. Fucking awesome list! I love every single one of these films! Only one I haven’t seen is Once Were Warriors, but I’ll check it out. A Serbian Film is a beautiful film – sick and twisted but just shot wonderfully. Martyrs is a personal favourite. AND THE END OF The Skin I Live In WAS LIKE :O OMG OMG

    • emmakwall says:

      Thank you SO MUCH Zoe!! That really does mean a lot especially from a real horror fan like yourself 🙂 I really appreciate it!

      I’ve just realised I have no number 10 either lol. Oh dear! This was an early post haha.

      I put off watching A Serbian Film for aaaaages but then thought stop being silly Emma! I actually really enjoyed it! I knew about the more intense scenes beforehand anyway so it lost a hell of a lot of shock value but I did enjoy the ride.

      I know!!! The fucking end of Skin I Live In! WHAAAAAAAAAT! It’s so crazy!!!! And it’s clever how sympathy gets shifted from one character to the next!

      Martyrs wow….not an easy watch. It made me feel a bit tearful you know?! And that never, ever, ever happens with those sorts of films (only Disney obviously! Haha) The bit where she helped the tortured woman into the bath and took the metal helmet off, I know it sounds silly but that compassion between them and just knowing that poor woman hadn’t felt another human be kind to her in ages….it really upset me!

      Thanks again so much, you’re so, so nice!!!!!!! 🙂 🙂

      • You have a very good taste in horror!
        I didn’t notice you didn’t have a number 10, so I wouldn’t say it’s too important, even on the top 10 😉 hehe.
        Yes, I put A Serbian Film off, and it’s actually very tame now but it’s just such a beautifully shot film. I loved it.
        Oh definitely, I just couldn’t get over it. It made me feel a bit sick from being so shocked actually!
        I know what you mean, it’s very emotionally powerful and clearly holds a much deeper meaning than just a horror movie. Yes, it shows how much a bit of compassion meant to that woman and clearly how awful she’d been treated! i’m tearing up Emma!
        You’re so nice too – glad to have met 🙂

        • emmakwall says:

          Aww you’re so nice too!!! And I love our chats and comments 🙂 🙂

          Thank you! You have great taste but I guess that goes without saying!!!

          You are one cool mofo 🙂

          • I’m loving our chats and comments! It’s so refreshing finding like-minded people! Well thank you. You’re a super cool mofo!

            • emmakwall says:

              Aww thank you!! So nice 🙂

              Sorry I haven’t been on WordPress on Twitter much over the past few days but I am rectifying that now and going back to answer all of these cool mother fucker, brilliant, lovely comments!!! (and read some more reviews by you!!!)

            • Don’t be sorry! We all have lives away from the Internet (a little)… Haha! Yeah, the comment threads went a bit crazy, enjoy them lol. Awh thank you!

  6. vinnieh says:

    Definitely agree with you about Kill List, that was one brutal and unexpected film.

  7. sheketechad says:

    Hmm, I like psychological thrillers but not much gore – I live alone, lol! (no one to say “What’s happening” to while covering the eyes) But I’ll keep this list as just some of the topics themselves make the sound of a good watch. And will refer to my eldest child, who thrives on such movies (and works with children, which does give me pause…)

    • emmakwall says:

      Thanks very much! 🙂

      It’s strange I’m the opposite, I also live alone and I can pretty much watch any gory stuff but ghost stories and psychological horror leave me unable to sleep and terrified!! It’s nice we still get scared though 🙂 in any way it shows we still have imagination!

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  8. theipc says:

    Howdy! Great post!

    Personally – I hated Martyrs 😦 but I dug Eden Lake! I’ll have to check out this Scum movie you speak of 🙂

  9. Excellent blog here! Also your site loads up fast!
    What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to
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    • emmakwall says:

      Thanks that’s really nice of you to say! I’ll check out your blog 🙂 hmmmm I just host my blog via wordpress itself is that what you meant?

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