I was inspired to create this list by all those disturbing movie fans who are sick of being recommended A Clockwork Orange, Midsommar, and a Serbian Film. We’ve been there. We’ve done that. It’s time for some original content.
If you’re looking for violence, gore, or just over-all creepy then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve searched high and low for the most out-there movies that will make you squirm and cringe to your heart’s content.
WARNING: The selected trailers contain disturbing footage. We advise discretion when viewing if there is a risk that a child will see or hear the content.
10Slaughtered Vomit Dolls, 2006, Lucifer Valentine
This is definitely a bold start to our list. Prepare yourself for a surreal, vile, exploitation horror. Slaughtered Vomit Dolls is the story of a teenage stripper-turned-prostitute, Angela Aberdeen, with severe bulimia. As her bulimia gets worse she starts to suffer from hellish hallucinations and satanic nightmare. She begins to experience visions of the deaths of her friends, other strippers, and others around her.
If you have a weak stomach I would suggest skipping this film, but who am I kidding? You’re here for that exact reason! If you’ve yet to be properly grossed out by a movie, then this is the perfect start.
9Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist, 1997, Kirby Dick
If you want a real life story that will make you laugh, squirm, and maybe even cry, then Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist is the film for you. Sick is a documentary about Bob, an artist and performer with cystic fibrosis. He is also a sadomasochist. To him, BDSM is a type of therapy used to regain control over his body that he feels he has lost his handle over. This film is a nice break from the gore and violence that this genre is usually known for. Flanagan’s agreement to participate in this project under the condition that his death would also be included in the final product just adds to the oddness of the production. It is an intense and weirdly human experience that will leave you shocked as the credits roll.
8 The 120 Days of Sodom, 1975, Pier Paolo Pasolini
This World War II horror drama is not for the faint-of-heart. When eighteen teenagers are rounded up by fascist libertines, they are forced to endure one hundred and twenty days of mental, physical, and sexual torture. This film contains intense scenes of degradation and torture, sexual violence, and high impact violence.
This is consuming piece of media that has been the subject of much discussion. Not only is it a shocking film, but it is also deep set political themes. So if you like a little politics in your horror then this movie is right for you.
7Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood, 1985, Hideshi Hino
This film is the second installment of the Guinea Pig series, and it is arguably the most disturbing. It’s most notable for the several controversies surrounding the film. It is said to have inspired real life serial killer, Tsutomu Miyazaki, who abducted and murdered four girls in Japan. It also sparked controversy in the U.S. when actor and lunatic Charlie Sheen became convinced that it was an actual snuff film and reported it to the FBI. It is worth watching just for the conspiracies that surround it. This short film revolves around an unknown assailant dressed as a samurai. He kidnaps a woman and takes her back to his home where he proceeds to dismember her. She is arranged into a flower of flesh and blood (Hey! That’s the title!). It is a vile masterpiece that will have even the most avid disturbing movie fans flinching at the sight of it.
6The Snowtown Murders, 2011, Justin Kurzel
Nothing fills movie goers with anticipation more than seeing ‘based on true events’ before the film begins to roll. This is part of what makes The Snowtown Murders such an alarming movie to watch. This retelling of the most notorious serial murders in Australia is filled with incest, pedophilia, murder, and more. All of which make it hard to watch. Jamie, a 16-year-old boy, is taken in by his mother’s boyfriend. They form a self-appointed ‘neighborhood watch’ going after pedophiles and homosexuals. Violence under the guise of vigilantism eventually leads to a spree of violent physical abuse and murder. This is a tale of manipulation and family corruption. Crikey . . .
5I Spit on Your Grave, 1978, Meir Zarchi
If revenge is your cup of tea, then you are going to love I Spit on Your Grave. This movie garnered controversy for its graphic depiction of gang-rape which takes up 30 minutes of the movie’s run time. The aspiring writer who is left for dead by her four rapists systematically hunts each of them down. The writer got his inspiration from an actual rape that occurred in New York City. It is all out revenge porn. Propellor disembowelment included!
4Visitor Q, 2001, Takashi Miike
Released in the same year as the much better known Ichi the Killer (see bonus item), Visitor Q is just as focused on sexual deviance and violence. At the center of this film is the story of a perverted family whose lives intertwine with a mysterious stranger.
This movie contain explicit sexual scenes, incest, and intense violence. The fact that it is filmed in a ‘home movie’ style just adds to the creepiness and uncomfortable nature of this film.
3Michael, 2011, Markus Schleinzer and Kathrin Resetarits
Michael is a slice of life film . . . If you consider slice of life to be five months following the life of a pedophile keeping a 10-year-old, Wolfgang, in his basement. It is a deeply distressing piece of work that leaves viewers in utter suspense and horror. The relationship between Michael and Wolfgang is depicted almost like a father and son, which makes knowing the truth all the more horrifying. The cliffhanger ending leaves viewers shocked and deeply distressed.
2Murder-Set-Pieces, 2004, Nick Palumbo
Fashion photographer by day, rapist and murderer by night, Murder-Set-Pieces follows a German serial killer in America. The Photographer’s demented childhood plagues him into adulthood, leading him to commit unspeakable acts of violence. He lures girls under the guise of them modeling for him. Instead he proceedes to rape, torture, and kill them. All while photographing the whole graphic experience. The utter brutality of this movie is what makes it notorious, It is also why it has been censored in several countries as well as banned in the UK (which is always a promising sign for a disturbing film fan).
1Vase de Notes (Wedding Trough), 1974, Thierry Zéno
Saving the most disturbing for last . . . This is the oldest film on this list but it is certainly not the tamest in any way. Wedding Trough is a film that has been given many other (very accurate) names. A mentally handicapped farmer falls in love with his pig. He rapes and impregnates the sow, and when the mutant piglets are born he hangs them. This film relies heavily on shock value and grotesque imagery to disturb the audience.
This movie contains real and simulated animal killings, zoophilia, and coprophagia. It is a volatile creation that might even make the most seasoned disturbing film viewer gag.
+8MM, 1999, Joel Schemacher
This, and the following bonus item, are added simply because they are too disturbing to ignore on a list like this. They are the close-contenders that missed out on appearing in the top 10 due to the fact that they are too well known in the disturbing genre.
It is rare to see household names in a disturbing films list, but we find both Nicholas Cage and Joaquin Phoenix in this next flick. 8MM is the story of a private investigator, Tom Welles, hired by a widow who discovers a ‘snuff film’ amongst her late husband’s possessions. Welles is tasked with discovering whether or not the film is authentic. It is a mystery thriller that plays heavily on the emotional disturbance and inner conflicts of the characters. While this film is more tame than some of the other picks on this list, the subject matter is still extremely eerie. This is a high quality film that is often overlooked by beginners to the disturbing film genre. It is a definite “must-see” – even for those with weaker temperaments who will manage it better than other films on this list.
++ Ichi the Killer, 2001, Takashi Miike
This is probably the most well known film featured here, which it should be because it is a truly excellent film. It also makes for the second mention of Takashi Miike (see item 4). Unfortunately, it is still often missing from other disturbing movie lists. Ichi the Killer follows Kakihara, a sadomasochistic enforcer for the yakuza. He comes into contact with Ichi while searching for his missing boss. Ichi, being the psychotic killer that he is, inflicts pain on Kakihara that he could only dream of. If you are looking for a movie about sexual deviance, anarchy, and graphic violence, Ichi the Killer is my best recommendation—in fact, if it weren’t so famous it would be the first item on this list.
This film is particularly notorious for being outright banned in several countries. Besides just the graphic content, the neon retro visuals are also what make this film particularly enjoyable to watch. It is a fluorescent spatter of adrenaline and violence.