When you were little, your mom knew at what point in a movie to put her hand in front of your eyes to prevent you from seeing a naked butt, a bleeding face, or a French kiss going too far. Back then, you might have thought that some day you’d be grown enough to watch EVERYTHING without fear and nobody would be monitoring you. But years later, although you may think you have become a callous moviegoer, you still cover your eyes, frozen in terror by a particular violent scene. Yet, no matter how nauseated you feel you warily peek through slightly open fingers because you still want to know what happens.
Mainstream movies are safe to watch as they in no way disturb the viewer’s senses beyond the healthy limit. However, there are movies which keep pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable. Some directors are not interested in bringing a laugh or a tear or two in their audience. They want more. They want to shock us and to shatter our emotional world to the point where our mind and soul become utterly scarred.
On this list, you are going to find 15 of what we believe are the most hard-to-watch movie scenes that still haunt those who have once seen them.
15. Stacy Martin And Shia LaBeouf Doing The Nasty in Nymphomaniac (2013)
Lars Von Trier’s four-hour drama became infamous for the most realistic sex scenes ever be put to film. Even the most thick-skinned moviegoers have found it a bit tough to sit through the whole movie, and felt especially sick to follow the scene where Shia LaBeouf’s character is taking the virginity, of the main character’s younger version, played by Stacy Martin. Although we never see the real thing, the drastically long scene appears shockingly realistic. After the release of the movie, there were rumors that Martin and LeBeouf had actual intercourse on the set. Many were prone to believe it as we know LeBeouf is rather sexually adventurous in real life. He even made it public that he has named his playful instrument “Richard Dreyfuss.”
14. The Stabbing Scene In Saving Private Ryan (1998)
With Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg set a totally new standard in the war film genre. The invasion of Normandy opening scene is a total visual attack – something that can hardly be stomached. However, the hardest scene to watch comes with the film’s culmination when an American soldier (played by Adam Goldberg) fights hand-to-hand with a German soldier. The latter manages to grab the knife they have been fighting for, and, as he pins down Goldberg’s character, starts lowering the blade into his chest. The slow stabbing scene is even more excruciating to watch as one of the other American soldiers is just hanging in the background too scared to come to the help of his compatriot. You simply want to cry out, jump into the scene and punch the impassive guy straight into the face.
13. Officer Murphy’s Horrific Death In Robocop (1987)
Death is an unpleasant experience no matter if one dies in one’s bed or by being dismembered by a shark. There is one place though where death is very often graphically represented brutality – Hollywood. But even in Hollywood death scenes rarely get more cruel than the one of officer Alex Murphy’s in Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop. The set is the dystopian and crime-ridden city of Detroit, where officer Muphy (played by Peter Weller) is tirelessly on the hunt for the bad guys. In this particular scene, he is chasing them to a deserted factory. He is unlucky though and is soon cornered by the entire gang of ruthless criminals. The leader, Clarence (Kurtwood Smith), is a sociopath with a twisted taste for torture. After toying for some time with their captive, he blows the officer’s hand off with a shotgun. A hail of gun fire by the rest of the gang members follows and, as Murphy is in agony, Clarence provides the final blow.
Many rightfully claim this is probably one of the top three most brutal and graphic execution scenes in movie history.
12. Shooting A Kid In City Of God (2002)
For a movie with such a title, there are very few god-like things going on.
Two boys grow up in a violent neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro – one will become a photographer, the other a merciless drug dealer. The latter, Li’l Zé (played by Leandro Firmino) is pissed off by a gang of young criminals calling themselves The Runts. Being the unfeeling professional he is, the dealer decides to teach the petty little thugs a lesson. He catches one of the gang members, a ten-year old kid, who is too slow to run away from him. As the kid stands in the corner, violently shaking and peeing his pants in fear, Li’l Zé presents him with two options – he will shoot him either in the hand or in the foot. Seeing no way out of the situation, the crying kid offers his hand. But then – bang! – Li’l Zé puts a bullet right into his shoe.
Shooting a defenseless child in cold blood definitely tops it when it comes to movie scenes that mess with one’s moral system.
11. Serving Human Brain For Dinner In Hannibal (2001)
One of the most iconic movie characters of all times, feared and marvelled at the same time, is no doubt Hannibal Lecter in the incredible performance of Anthony Hopkins. If we have to commemorate all the moments in which Hopkins has demonstrated his bone-chilling way of being obsessed with both human flesh and the human mind, we need to make a separate list. But there is one moment in his frighteningly credible performance as a psychopathic killer that sticks out. It is when he decides to cook a special dinner, and we mean really special. He had previously captured another FBI agent (Ray Liotta), and when the main course is about to be served, Hannibal takes off the top half of the still pretty much alive and tied to a chair agent’s skull to reveal his brain. He then cuts off a small piece, cooks it in a frying pan, and feeds it to Liotta’s character himself.
10. The Self-Amputation Scene In 127 Hours (2010)
Cinema has this strange power over us – no matter how provocative and inhumanly violent some movies are, we are still strongly drawn to seeing them. 127 hours is one of those movies. Even before it was released, people knew James Franco’s character was going to cut off his arm and were impatient to see how he was going to do that. However, nobody could foresee how effective and nerve-wracking the scene was going to be. The self-amputation scene is a cinematic masterpiece in itself.
After being trapped in a crack in an isolated canyon for more than five days with no food or water and with zero chances of being found, the mountaineer Aron Ralston opts for using his dull pocket knife to cut himself free. Ralston improvises a crude tourniquet and starts the slow, nightmarish amputation of his limb. We have to give it to director Danny Boyle who masterly put together the unsteady camerawork and the electrical vibes of the soundtrack to further enhance the viewer’s sensation of the scene.
9. Jesus’ 12 Final Hours In Passion Of The Christ (2004)
This is probably one of the most controversial movies of all time. It still polarizes the public’s and critics’ opinions, and not because of its religious content, but because of the heavy load of violence in it. Some say the ferocious representation of Christ’s last hours on the cross is needed in view of the intended suggestion. Others, however, argue that the suffering scenes are completely unnecessary and, what is more, impossible to stomach. Indeed, you have to be a heartless creature to watch passively as Jesus’ skin is being split open by all the whipping, beating and stabbing. The movie runs for 126 minutes, of which 100 are dedicated to how Jesus (Jim Caviezel) was tortured before death. Whoever thinks these are the most brutal torture scenes and the hardest to watch in movie history, raise your hand!
8. Forcing A Colored Youth To Bite The Curb – American History X (1998)
Living a life marked by racism and violence, neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard (powerfully portrayed by Edward Norton), is sent to prison after killing black young men who tried to steal from him. Most of the people who’ve seen the movie would think of one particular scene whenever the movie’s name is mentioned. This scene ranks among the most disturbing and uncomfortable ones in movie history. Skinhead Edward Norton gets hold of a black kid whom he caught trying to rob his house; he takes the intruder onto the street and forces him to ‘bite the curb’. The next thing we hear is Norton saying, “Now, say goodnight!” and the close-up allows us to see in full detail how the Neo-Nazi stomps on the top of the poor guy’s head, cracking his skull. What is particularly awful about this scene is that you hated it when you watched it the first time. But it makes you even sicker to your stomach when you watch the movie again and you know it’s coming.
7. Unnecessarily Long Assault Scene In Irreversible (2002)
This French art psychological horror drama has become notorious for one of the most sickening rape scenes ever. What makes this sequence so unbearable to watch is the fact that it takes place within a single take. No cuts, no nothing. The impression one gets is of an actual sexual assault happening in real time. In the beginning of this infamous 11-minute scene, Monica Bellucci’s character is attacked in an underpass. The attacker subjects her to harrowing torture, which makes viewers feel being violated themselves. Nobody is actually comfortable sitting through such a long and extremely ugly sequence – the rape just goes on and on, and the only thing you can think is, “God, just make him stop already!” We really hope Monica Bellucci was paid accordingly for the horrible ordeal she had to go through. No matter it was only acting.
6. Hitting The Bottom In Requiem For A Dream (2000)
Graphically depicting the horrors that come as an unwanted bonus to heroin addiction is an underlying theme in not just one or two movies. But this one says it all. Aronofsky’s drama gives the viewer full access to feeling first-hand the anguish that comes along with substance abuse. And the viewer can experience this from three different perspectives, that is through the eyes of three addicts, which makes the movie a form of a sadistic cinematic occurrence. We sure cannot pick only one scene that stands out, but we certainly cannot skip the one in which Jared Leto’s character has his arm severed after suffering a bad infection from heroin injection. And then there is his girlfriend, played by Jennifer Connelly, whom we’ll remember for a repulsive sex scene. Marion, the girlfriend, befriends a pimp who promises to get her some drugs if she consents to participating in a sex show for some businessmen. In the scene, Marion is made to sit against another girl as a dildo is inserted between them both.
5. The Dead Baby In Trainspotting (1996)
Here is another movie about the negative outcome of chronic heroin use. Unlike Aronofsky’s Requiem, however, Danny Boyle’s 1996 masterpiece has some elements of dark humor. The drug-addicted protagonists’ behavior is exemplary of self-destruction. And yet, the only victim of their heroin obsessed daily routine happens to be an innocent baby. In this particularly disturbing scene, Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) checks on his own kid in the crib, and the camera ruthlessly shows us what he sees – the body of a pretty much dead-looking infant. We clearly get the message – this is what happens to the little ones dependent on grown-ups who, on their part, are dependent on heroin. The point is you don’t often see a purple corpse of a baby girl in a movie! Danny Boyle certainly knows how to score big.
4. “Delivering” The Baby In Inside (2007)
We couldn’t find a single still image of that scene online. You wonder why? OK, let us draw you a picture. For starters, there is this psychotic woman who always wears black. On Christmas Eve, she breaks into the house of pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis) with the intention to steal her unborn baby. The enigmatic intruder is equipped with scissors for the bigger part of the movie. And once she is done with poor Sarah, she does… oh, no! What? The psycho cuts open Sara’s belly and simply pulls the baby out of the lifeless body of its mother. The directors, Maury and Bustillo, do not spare their audience a single moment of this sadistic act – the camera is as steady as it can get.
If you are a horror movie fan, then you will certainly vote Inside one of the best ones that appeared in the last decade.
3. Offing The Captives In Salò (1975)
The longer title under which this movie is known is 120 Days of Sodom, which is pretty much self-explanatory of what one should expect to see in this 116-minute drama. But if, for some reason, you have missed seeing it, here is in short what is going on: A small group of fascist philanderers capture nine adolescent boys and girls and subject them to 120 days of physical, sexual and mental abuse. The director Pier Paolo Pasolini made his captives suffer the most unthinkable tortures – from fecal eating to sodomy. And as if the humiliation and pain wasn’t enough, he comes up with the most horrific grand finale scene in which the teens are murdered slowly using different techniques. One gets his tongue pulled out, another her eyes cut out, and there is this kid who’s scalped.
We don’t know people who’ve gone through this scene and haven’t lost their appetite for days.
2. Cavity Inspection In Hunger (2008)
Hunger is the story of Bobby Sands, an IRA member who leads inmates in a Northern Ireland prison in a hunger strike. Director Steve McQueen’s camera cannot be more cruel and persistent in capturing all the atrocities the prisoners face while behind the bars. One of the most mind-racking scenes is when the prisoners are dragged out of their cells and are forcibly inspected by police with batons. They are lifted above a mirror placed on the ground, so that it will be more convenient for the guards to check if they are hiding something up their rectums. The scene would have been truly unbearable to watch if it wasn’t for the brilliant camera work. Apparently, the moral is: even the ugliest butt may look nice when shown from the right angle.
1. Self-Mutilation In Antichrist (2009)
If there is a ranking for the most depressing movies, Lars von Trier’s Antichrist will top it. He himself has stated in a couple of interviews that the movie was shot during a period of deep personal depression. We can tell! Throughout the whole movie, one can feel the intense and persistent feeling of self-hatred that a husband and wife experience after the accidental death of their baby. The man (Willem Dafoe) and the woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) constantly hurt each other in the most incredible of ways, but Gainsbourg wins the grand prize for the most odious act of self-abuse. During a moment of intense self-pleasuring, she gets hold of a rusty pair of scissors and cuts off her… part of her lady bits.