Let’s start by setting the record straight: mainstream comedies and dramas are great. In an increasingly complicated and frustrating world, cinema as a form of escapism is a valid move, and transporting an audience to a different world and making them laugh or cry is a noble endeavor in 2018. Plus, the people who claim to not enjoy being entertained by Marvel’s huge blockbusters like Black Panther or Avengers: Infinity War are liars. But cinema is an all-encompassing monster, full of strange nooks and deep crevices filled with the most bizarre works you could think of.
At the end of the day, the horror movie is one of the most escapist genres we’ve invented. By leaning into a horror that’s either impossible or more hyperbolic than can be found in our own world, horror creators imagine a whole other universe for their audience. By extension, the specific sub-genre of disturbing movies, with their extended, realistic scenes of extreme violence, anxiety-inducing edits, and total disregard for human life, offer a wholly different kind of escape. Sure, the movies on this list come with mental scarring and potential for years of nightmares, but trust me: there are people who love that kind of stuff.
The truth is: if a movie is out to get you to feel something, if it’s made you squirm, scream, or threaten to throw up your lunch, then it’s done its job. The movies on this list prove that a movie can still be considered artsy or significant, even if they are on the extreme end of the violent spectrum. If you’re looking to find out what exactly we mean by “disturbing,” my advice is to browse the list, choose wisely, and have some comedies on Netflix queued up to cleanse your palate afterwards. These are the most disturbing movies.