1. ICHI THE KILLER (2001)

If someone were to ask us for one Takashi Miike recommendation, we’d suggest a rental of the director’s cult shocker Ichi The Killer. The reasoning is simple: If one can make it through this absurdly violent and stomach-churning gorefest, the rest of Miike’s disturbed catalog should be easier to withstand than light drizzle.

Based on Japanese artist Hideo Yamamoto’s manga series, Ichi The Killer is an orgy of homicide, centered on a murdered crime lord’s top goon who becomes obsessed with one-upping his boss’s killer, rubber-suited Ichi. As Kakihara and Ichi’s connection increases, several prostitutes and thugs meet graphic demises.

Only, Miike isn’t the type to settle for mere gunshots or knife fights; in Ichi The Killer, he turns murder and torture into sadistic exhibitions. One scene involves a torture victim getting steel needles hurled at his face like his head’s a dartboard; in another, Miike unflinchingly shows a guy jamming skewers into his ears. If Ichi The Killer were nothing more than a sick bloodbath, it’d still belong on this list. But the fact that it’s a powerful drama in light of all the brutality makes it a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

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