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The 50 Most Disturbing Movies

19. Eraserhead (1977)

Director: David Lynch

Trying to describe David Lynch’s Eraserhead in words is like asking someone to play “Clair de Lune” on the piano while wearing a pair of mittens—it just won’t do it justice. But what we can tell you about the film is that it is a surreal nightmare filled with the type of haunted imagery that most sober minds can’t fathom.

Starring actor Jack Nance, Eraserhead is about a printer who has a horribly deformed baby with a woman who soon leaves him to raise it on his own. That might not sound too disturbing on the surface, but it’s director David Lynch’s approach to the material that gets it on this list.

Misshapen and bizarre characters populate this dreamlike world as the movie moves from scene to scene with very little linear direction to its credit. But it’s the appearances and voices of the cast that will settle in your brain and fester there as you try to sleep in the days after watching it. There is an offbeat madness here that is very troubling, much like the denizens of a circus sideshow. It’s not particularly violent or gruesome, but nearly every shot pokes at our psyche like a raw, open wound.

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