Top Ten Most Disturbing Movies of All Time – A Todd Martin List

What movies bother you? If you are like most people you can name several films that you’ve seen that are so disturbing that they stayed with you for days after you watched them. I have seen quite a few movies that made me feel more than just a little uneasy, but there are some that stand out more than others. Some of them are horror films and some are not (one in particular is aimed at children), but each of them had an impact on me for some reason or the other. Without further ado I present to you my list of the top ten most disturbing movies ever made (in my humble opinion, anyway).

Please be aware that there are some spoilers ahead that may give away key plot points and endings to some of the films listed.

10. Deadgirl (2008)

When two high school outcasts stumble upon a zombie woman strapped to a table in the basement of an old abandoned mental hospital one of them decides to make her his personal sex slave. He rapes her repeatedly-and later allows some of his classmates to do so as well-and none of them seem to be bothered in the least by the fact that she is a rotting zombie. One of the things that really bothered me about this movie (aside from the fact that some of the characters continue to have sex with the woman despite the fact that she is becoming more and more decomposed with each passing day) is that we never really find out anything about the female zombie. Who was she when she was still human and who strapped her to the table? How did she become a zombie in the first place? None of these questions are ever answered, which is a good thing if you ask me as not knowing anything about her makes the overall premise a lot more effective in general. Deadgirl isn’t your typical zombie flick and could best be described as a warped coming-of-age movie that deals with issues such as unrequited love, friendships coming to an end, and the desire that everyone has to just fit in with others. It is one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in a while, and if you are expecting a happy ending you are going to be let down. I don’t want to give anything away, but the final scene haunted me for days after I saw it.

Top-10-Most-Disturbing-Movies-Dead-Girl-2008

9. Watership Down (1978)

When I was a wee lad of about seven or eight I sat down in front of the television one night to watch this movie on cable. I thought that it was going to be a cute little film about bunnies but I was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. Just a few moments into it the first of many disturbing scenes takes place as one of the rabbits is snatched up by a hawk, never to be seen again. A little while later another one ends up in a rabbit trap and coughs up some blood as he dies in front of the others. After witnessing the incredibly brutal and disturbing deaths of countless little rabbits I was terrified beyond belief when the film’s main villain, General Woundwort, finally makes an appearance. The General is a huge, scary, demented-looking jackrabbit that plagued my nightmares on a regular basis for years after seeing this film and I’ll admit that to this day he still freaks me out a bit when I think about him. Needless to say this film is not at all for small children (or children at any age for that matter) and it without a doubt traumatized me for life for a number of reasons (at least I’m not alone, I know a lot of people who were equally bothered by it). I have seen a ton of brutal and violent horror films during my lifetime that are considered by many to be the most disturbing movies ever made, but very few of them have come close to bothering me on the same level as Watership Down did as it really struck a chord with me.

Top-10-Most-Disturbing-Movies-watership-down-1978

8.Titicut Follies (1967)

Have you ever wondered what a mental hospital was really like on the inside without having to be committed there? If so then this documentary, which was made by Frederick Wiseman is for you. This film takes a look into the lives of several inmates and staff members of Bridgewater State Hospital in Massachusetts, and believe me when I say that nothing about it is pretty. The film is made up of more troubling images than I could possibly count, but the one that really stood out for me involved the patient who refused to eat anything (which leads to staff members eventually force feeding him soup through a tube in his nose). It is a very hard movie to watch at times due to the deteriorated mental state of most of the patients that are shown as well as the lack of concern or compassion for these people on the part of the doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff who are supposed to be there to take care of them. It is difficult to find a copy of this film (a friend of mine actually found it at a horror convention a few years back) but is worth the effort as it is not only disturbing (the segment with the patients putting on the talent show bothers me every time I see it), but it will also make you view mental illness (and the care of mentally ill patients) in a different light.

Top-10-Most-Disturbing-Movies-Titicut-Follies

7. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

This was one of those films that was notorious when I was in middle school just because it was so controversial due to its subject matter. For years I heard rumors about how shocking it was so I couldn’t wait to see it so I could experience it for myself (I was an odd kid). When I finally got to check it out one night at a friend’s house I realized that the rumors were true and I was so bothered by it I had trouble sleeping that night. It includes one of the longest rape scenes in the history of film that is very hard and uncomfortable to watch (especially if you are in your teens and the parents of a friend are in the room watching it with you). The fact that one of the men that rapes the victim in mentally handicapped has always bothered me, primarily because he does so thanks to the encouragement of his “friends” who stand around watching as he commits the act. One brutal rape scene would have been enough but this movie has four of them, and they get more disturbing to watch as they go on. I like this movie and disagree with some people who say that it doesn’t have a point as it really does have a message, but at the same time I will admit that it does go a little overboard at times with certain scenes for the sake of just freaking out the people watching it. Note to male viewers: Despite the fact he gets what he deserves you may want to look away during the scene with the guy in the bathtub. Trust me on this one.

Top-10-Most-Disturbing-Movies-I-spit-On-your-Grave-1978

6. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

You can’t have a list of most disturbing movies of all time without this one on it. Not only is it the first “found footage” film, but it’s also the sickest for a number of reasons. In addition to several violent deaths we are subjected to a graphic rape scene, a gruesome impalement (that looks disturbingly realistic), and a scene depicting the cruel and unusual punishment of an unfaithful tribeswoman who cheated on her mate that involves a sharp rock being inserted in a very uncomfortable place (and for you Kevin Smith fans out there I’m not talking about the back of a Volkswagen). Worst of all, several animals were actually killed during the making of this film which I find appalling since I am a huge animal person. This movie is so disturbing that director Ruggero Deodato was actually arrested on obscenity charges upon its release due to its unsettling nature (he also faced murder charges at one point as the movie was believed to be a snuff film which were dropped after the actors who supposedly died proved they were alive by showing up in court). If you want to see something that makes you feel like you need to take a shower afterward then this is the movie for you.

Top-10-Most-Disturbing-Movies-Cannibal-Holocaust-1980

5. Happiness (1998)

This film has one of the most ironic titles in movie history as none of the characters that appear in it are even remotely close to being happy (plus you won’t feel that way either after watching it). From the wonderfully demented mind of Todd Solondz (who was behind equally out there movies such as Welcome to the Dollhouse), Happiness centers around the horrible lives  of a handful of some very miserable people and by the time it was over I felt a little better about my own existence in comparison. There is a lot going on here including marriages falling apart, a shy, lonely guy who can only talk to women via obscene phone calls (I really wish I could unsee his masturbation scene), suicide, and murder. The most unsettling storyline revolves around a pedophile (played by the great Dylan Baker) and his relationship with his wife and son. Their story provides the most disturbing scene of the movie (which is saying something as there are a lot of them) that involves Baker’s character responding to his son when he asks if he would ever molest him if he had the chance. The final scene  (which involves Baker’s son finally achieving something he always wanted) is gross and just wrong, but then again so is most of the rest of the movie.

Top-10-Most-Disturbing-Movies-happiness_1998

4. Nekromantik (1987)

This disgusting little gem from Germany is infamous among horror fans (and even some non-horror fans as well) due to its premise and graphic content. Basically it is about a man who finds a dead body and takes it home so he can have a threesome with it and his girlfriend. If you’ve ever felt the urge to see a mĂ©nage a trois that featured a guy, a woman, and a corpse then this is your chance. I was more than a little shocked and grossed out by what eventually happens to the man after his significant other leaves him and takes the dead body with her (which is honestly one of the most unnerving scenes I have ever witnessed, which is saying something for me), and the haunting score did a great job of depressing the hell out of me and just making me feel uncomfortable in general. I’ve yet to see the sequel but from what I’ve heard it is even more disturbing than its predecessor. One day I plan on tracking it down and watching them both together in the same night just to see if I can keep from losing my sanity (and my lunch).

Top-10-Most-Disturbing-Movies-Nekromantik-1987-Movie

3. Megan is Missing (2011)

I wasn’t really familiar with this film until I saw someone talk about it on an online message board. The person said that it was one of the most disturbing movies he’d seen in a very long time so I knew that I had to see it (I actually ended up watching it later on that same night). I didn’t think that it would be anywhere near as shocking  and unnerving as the person claimed it was and went into it expecting it to be lame and unforgettable. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Megan is Missing ended up really bothering me, more so than any other movie has been able to do in quite a while. It is a movie about a girl named Megan who is never seen alive again after she agrees to meet a guy she met online in person. Not satisfied with just taking Megan, the online predator also abducts her best friend as well and subjects her to a series of horrible and unspeakable events I don’t want to spoil anything but there are many disturbing moments that take place (the pictures of Megan that are later discovered on a fetish site after she disappears come to mind immediately as they are sure to creep any viewer out as much as they did me) and the last twenty minutes or so are extremely hard to watch. My wife and I were so bothered by this film that we had to watch cartoons afterward to lighten the mood, and we are both hard core horror fans who have seen our share of sick and twisted movies in our lifetimes. If you are the parent of teenagers this is a good movie to watch with them to make them realize the dangers of talking to strangers online as it shows them what could possibly happen to them as a result if they aren’t careful.

Top-10-Most-Disturbing-Movies-Megan-is-Missing-Movie

2. Cutting Moments  (1997)

If you know anything about Douglas Buck then you know that he has a different outlook on life than most filmmakers. His films are usually dark, disturbing, gruesome, and more than a little sick. His short Cutting Moments is no different and is probably his most famous work. The story goes that when it was screened at a film festival back in the day the majority of the audience members in attendance threw up, passed out, or left the theater in shock before the movie was over. Basically what the story entails is an unhappy couple who aren’t really sexually attracted to each other anymore (and the husband is actually more interested in having sex with their young son than he is with her) and the desperate lengths they end up going to in order to arouse the other. They end up physically mutilating themselves while having sex and highlights (or should that be low lights?) include lips being sanded off with steel wool and various body parts (including her breasts and his penis) being cut off with a pair of hedge clippers. It may not sound like much on paper but believe me you’ll think differently when you see it for yourself. I have a pretty strong stomach when it comes to blood and gore but even I was a little taken aback by this one. Douglas Buck you are a sick individual indeed, my friend.

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1. Guinea Pig: The Devil’s Experiment (1985)

I’ve seen some pretty disturbing films in my day, but without a doubt this movie takes the cake. There’s really no plot so to speak of and the entire movie is made up of a number of scenes that show this group of guys torturing some woman that they have abducted in a variety of horrible and painful ways. She is beaten, stabbed with a needle, burned, has one of her eyeballs removed, and even has worms placed over her wounds during the film’s forty-five minute running time, and there are moments that even I had to look away in disgust. There are some parts that look so realistic that some people who see it believe it to be a genuine stuff film, and the first time I watched it I thought the same thing to be honest. It is brutal, graphic, disgusting, and disturbing on many levels, but yet I found myself unable to stop watching it despite the fact that it was so unsettling. I know many people who had trouble getting all the way through it without feeling sick due to some of the more brutal and disgusting things that take place, so if you have a weak stomach (or just had lunch) you may want to avoid it. Check it out if you’re curious about it, but keep in mind that you probably aren’t going to like the way you feel after watching it.

Top-10-Most-Disturbing-Movies-Devils-Experiment

Honorable Mentions:

Men Behind the Sun (1988)
120 Days of Sodom
In a Glass Cage
Make-Out with Violence (2008)
Irreversible
L.I.E.
Mysterious Skin

There you have it folks, my picks for the most disturbing movies of all time. Please feel free to agree or disagree, I love getting your feedback!

Todd Martin’s Top Ten Most Disturbing Movies of All Time

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About Todd Martin

Todd Martin grew up in Irvington, a small town in Kentucky. Thanks to his mother, father, and favorite uncle he started watching horror films at a very young age and has been a horror geek ever since. He is basically a walking encyclopedia of horror flicks (especially the 80’s slashers), comic books, and pro wrestling, and has been writing for the biggest majority of his life.

His first book, Nightmare Tales was published in 2006 and he has had several short stories published in several collections. He and his wife Trish published their book “The Gardener,” a horror novel that is a throwback to the slasher films of the 80’s in 2011 and he is working on a collection of short horror stories When he isn’t reviewing movies and books or doing interviews for Horrornews.net he has been known to act from time to time as he has appeared in a handful of low budget horror films. He also enjoys writing screenplays and enjoys making movies as well. He wrote the segment “Angel” which appeared in the 2004 film “Tales from the Grave 2: Happy Holidays!” which was produced and directed by Stephanie Beaton, and recently appeared in Tim Ritter’s film “Deadly Dares: Truth or Dare 4.”. He resides in Kentucky with his wife Trish, their cat Buffy, and their wiener dog, Cujo

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12 Responses to Top Ten Most Disturbing Movies of All Time – A Todd Martin List

  1. One of mine is definitely Cannibal by Marian Dora. Very disturbing images.

  2. “Watership Down”! Man I cried at this movie so much when I first laid eyes on it. I couldn’t believe how cruel it was. I only saw it the one time…I fear what might happen if I watch it now.

  3. Todd Martin says:

    I hear you, Santos! The same guy that wrote the book also did one called “The Plague Dogs” that is also a animated movie that I don’t dare to watch as it is about dogs in a lab and you know how I feel about mistreatment of ANY animals. A hardcore horror film friend of mine had a copy of it and pretty much told me “You can borrow it if you want but I really, really, really don’t think you need to watch it.” I took his advice because I didn’t want to be so sad and upset after I watched it that I couldn’t stop thinking about it…

  4. td says:

    A Serbian Film. Very difficult to watch the whole thing in one sitting.

  5. Daniel says:

    Plague Dogs is a very good film, and unlike WD it is appropriately rated PG-13. Great list, although I’m shocked Salo only made the honorable mentions haha. I would add the original Chainsaw Massacre, the original Last House on the Left, and the truly bizarre and unsettling Begotten. I would like very much to see Nekromantik, but can’t find it anywhere. The documentary sounds excellent as well, I’ll have to check that out.

  6. reno says:

    you should have the human centipede up there

  7. Kathie says:

    I dunno why Titicut Follies is on here. I watched it & the only thing I found a little disturbing is how they were naked all the time. The staff seemed to care about the patients & they seemed for the most part pretty content. I was waiting for some crazy frontal lobotomy shit but nothing like that happened.

  8. snowkatt says:

    Actually the rabbit that’s caught in the snare ( Bigwig ) doesn’t die.
    He manages to survive but it was a close call.

    And with out him to stand up to General Woundwort, the ending would have been quite different.

    I saw this movie when I was 9 i didnt know what thellI saw but I did know that it struck a chord.
    And 5 years later I managed to snag a vhs off it.

    Many years later the vhs was replaced for a dvd.

    The PlaugeDogs is even more bleak, but the novel is an mess. It loses it self too much in overwrought purple prose, so that the reader is jolted out of it.

    The animated movie is better.
    And anybody who says animation is just for kids, needs to see these two movies.
    They will never look at animation the same ever again.

  9. don Hoff says:

    I think Maniac starring Joe Spinnel was very disturbing and gross. The scene where he’s in bed rubbing up against the manequin saying” I’m so happy” just really creeped me out.

  10. SableGlen says:

    The Human Centipede! Or perhaps you don’t consider it horror. I do.

  11. Aaron Hatfield says:

    Nacho Cerda’s short film “Aftermath” deserves a call out here.

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