30 Hard-to-Watch Film Scenes

Part one (first five movies- divided into six parts)

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Some scenes from movies just make you want to scrub them out of your brain so you won’t have to ever think about their disturbing horribleness again. These are some of those movies. Be forewarned, there is some disturbing content in this post so NSFW… obviously. Also, some spoilers may be included in the descriptions.

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#1. Curb Stomp from American History X (1998, Directed by Tony Kaye)

If you talk to someone who has seen American History X and you mention the Curb Stomp scene, chances are they will know exactly what you’re talking about. The 1998 film concerning neo-nazism and the limits of brotherly love is famous for that scene, a particularly grotesque moment when skinhead Derek (Edward Norton) forces the young black gang member who has foolishly attempted to pilfer his car to lick the curb before stomping his head into the ground. The scene isn’t particularly graphic as far as disturbing films go, but although it’s mostly implied it is still absolutely blood-curdling, especially the sound the head makes as Derek kills the kid. There are other disturbing moments in this movie, including the attack on the Vietnamese store owners and the rape of Norton’s character in the prison showers, but this scene stands out as the most shocking.

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#2. Singing in the Rain from A Clockwork Orange (1972, Directed by Stanley Kubrick)

Another absolutely iconic scene that is also absolutely gruesome and disturbing. A teenage sociopath named Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his ‘droogs’ raising hell in a grim futuristic environment break into a couple’s house, where they cripple the man (Patrick McGee) and gang-rape his wife (Adrienne Corri), while doing an impromptu song and dance inspired by Singing in the Rain. Apparently the first woman hired to play the wife, Mrs. Alexander, quit because her part in the movie was just too traumatizing for her. It is a harsh and unflinchingly graphic scene and Singing in the Rain star Gene Kelly was understandably appalled by how his song was used in the movie. Now more people actually remember the song from A Clockwork Orange than they do from Singing in the Rain itself.  The scene has become iconic, but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

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#3. The First Twenty or so Minutes of Bad Boy Bubby (1993, Directed by Rolf de Heer)

In this Australian cult oddity, a thirty-something year old man-child played by Nicholas Hope is locked in a squalid apartment (where he has been imprisoned his entire life) and is molested by his insane mother. He finally kills his parents and escapes to face an uncertain future as a misfit and weirdo, but the scenes before that are very, very hard to watch, as mother and son share a bond that is close; very, very close; incestuously close, if you want to get downright technical about it. The way these scenes are presented is extremely creepy, the cinematography and sound mixing make Bubby’s pitiful situation seem almost nightmarish. The mother pretty much keeps Bubby like a dog and f**ks him whenever she darn well feels like it, but the dynamics shift when his equally nutty father returns to the flat to get back together with his crazy wife. Weirdness ensues. Bad Boy Bubby actually has a happy ending, if you get that far into it; let’s just say that Bubby finds love and ends up leading a lot more functional of a life than many people with far more normal childhoods. But until then, the movie is singularly weird and disturbing, a black comedy reserved for truly twisted minds and fans of the relentlessly strange.

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#4. Home Invasion from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990, Directed by John McNaughton)

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a deeply discomforting movie that got some controversy upon it’s release in 1990. It is a very matter-of-fact portrayal of Henry (Michael Rooker, who would later go on to play Daryl Dixon’s brother Merle in the wild popular television series The Walking Dead.) Henry, as you might have guessed from the title, is a serial killer, and he instructs his white trash friend Otis (Tom Towles) on the fine points of murdering prostitutes while Otis tries to take his attractive sister Becky (Tracy Arnold) to bed. In this scene, Otis and Henry break into a comfortably middle-class family’s house and kill the young boy and his father, molesting the mother before she, too, is murdered in cold blood. They watch the attack on video and Otis actually rewinds it so he ‘can see it again,’ acting as if it’s a much loved film whose hijinks he can’t get enough of. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a classic of the horror genre and much less ‘Hollywood’ than serial killer movies like Seven and Silence of the Lambs, but it’s ugly naturalism and lack of gloss makes it that much more hard to watch.

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#5. Ass-to-Ass from Requiem for a Dream (2000, Directed by Darren Aronofsky)

My mom doesn’t like this movie (yeah, I watched this with my mom. Weird? You decide.) She thinks it’s over-the-top and tries to hard to invoke reactions of horror and disgust in the viewer. “With the subtlety of a sledgehammer.” Well, I actually do like Requiem for a Dream, mostly for the acting of Ellen Burstyn, who plays the diet pill-gobbling mother of addict Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto). But subtle it ain’t. It’s a hyperkinetic descent into hell, featuring a particularly harrowing scene where a drug addict named Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly) who has gotten caught up in the world of sex work to support her habit goes ‘ass-to-ass’ with a another woman in a bizarre sexual display at a nightclub. The pain and humiliation is all too evident on her face as the men in the audience hoot and laugh like a bunch of monkeys. Come on, Marion. Those drugs can’t be that good.

Stay tuned in for the next five movies on this list! Thanks for reading, friends!

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3 thoughts on “30 Hard-to-Watch Film Scenes”

  1. Nice list and feature! Interested to see what else appears on it.

    Saw AHX for the first time a couple of years ago in my Propaganda Analysis class in college. While that curb stomp is unforgettable graphic (without really showing anything), the scenes that stick with me the most are the dinner table scene (where you see Derek’s father impart his hate on his son), and the store scene, the latter is just so disturbing.

    1. Yes, AHX is a powerful movie. I was very impressed with Edward Norton’s performance as well. Have you seen “This is England?” A semi-autobiographical portrayal of skinhead culture from one of my favorite British filmmakers, Shane Meadows. The actor, who plays Combo blew me away, he gave Norton a run for his money. Thanks for commenting, sorry I took so long to respond 😛

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