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The 50 Most Disturbing Movies

1. Salò, or 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Some unbearably scathing flicks, including several on this here countdown, parcel their shocks throughout the course of their running time; Salò, however, never steps out for air. From top to bottom, notorious Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s relentless “statement” film subjects the viewer to uncompromising cruelty, nastiness, and escalating grotesqueries. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Salò’s only moments of calm are its opening and closing credits, though the latter’s more apt to serve as the background noise for one’s inability to pick his or her jaw off the floor.

Based on the Marquis de Sade’s 1785 book The 120 Days Of Sodom, Salò’s plot is skeletal: Four powerful Italian men kidnap nine teenage boys and nine teenager girls, trap them in a huge mansion, and wreak unholy havoc on them for four months. Salò depicts every disgusting act perpetrated by the elders, including, in no particular order: heads are scalped, tongues are cut off, eyeballs are snipped out, one girl is forced to eat feces, and several poor bastards are raped in front of large crowds.

Pasolini, intending to make vicious points about fascism, shows everything, avoiding tricky edits in favor of steady-cam, front-and-center shots of each and every sick visual. One watch is all it takes for Salò to burn itself into your memory for years hence. Just writing about it makes us want to take a shower.

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