True film buffs are perpetually curious about films that defy conventional norms and explore taboo themes. These films tend to have a polarizing effect on the audience leaving them either in awe or disgust with not a whole lot in between. Love it or hate it, you will never forget it. Directors are often questioned if their own mental health is properly intact for having the audacity to create such a disturbing picture.
Though the criteria of genre, theme, time period and cultural origin all fall on a wide spectrum, one part is for certain: there will not be one film on this list where the viewer doesn’t ask themselves at least once, “what the f*** is going on?” Careful who you might recommend these films to, these films have the power to change people’s opinion of you just by merely recommending them for viewing purposes. Share them at your own risk.
Kids is another sick, beautiful creation from Harmony Korine following a group of young teenagers in the heart of New York City. The two main characters, Telly and Casper are juvenile delinquents of the worst kind. They exploit younger virgins into having sex with them, and toying with their emotions for the sport of it.
Telly is unknowingly HIV positive and continues to spread his disease. A former fling of his (Chloe Sevigny) finds out she is HIV positive and tires to hunt him down to inform him. Many scenes in between the plot show a variety of young teens shooting heroin, brutally beating each other with skateboards and engaging in ruthless ridicule.
The movie was shot in 1995 at the height of the AIDS and crack epidemic. This movie is framed in raw, home-video VHS format which makes it too real that it is uncomfortable to watch at times.
19. Enter the Void
Gaspar Noé brings another epileptic-inducing piece of art with the bright neon lights of Tokyo. The sensory stimulus excites the viewer with a fast-paced nightlife background until the realization of danger rears its ugly head. Brother and sister duo, Oscar (an American drug dealer) and Linda (a stripper).
The film sets a spiritual tone as the first scene shows Oscar’s friend Alex referencing The Tibetan Book of the Dead. He explains how when someone dies, their spirit can linger among the living until it sees the events leading to their death, and then the spirit attempts to reincarnate.
Oscar is shot while making a drug deal inside a bathroom stall and immediately his soul sours up to the ceiling into a bird’s eye view. The rest of the movie follows events of Oscar’s post-mortem.
This has been acclaimed as the best-known Italian horror film of all time. This violent supernatural thriller gives a similar aesthetic to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but its frightening giallo genre is far from anything comedic.
Dario Argento blends elements of slasher, crime fiction and eroticism into a beautifully twisted portrait of old school paperback mystery. A young American ballet student gets accepted into a prestigious dance academy in Germany. Upon her arrival, she sees a student fearfully fleeing from the school.
The movie progresses through the scenes with hypnotic music that sounds like a witch chanting as if she is just trying to mess with you. She continues having trouble settling in the school as she learns about her fellow students being murdered or “expelled” for the sketchiest reasons. The vibrant colors and theatrical blood make the movie a bit campy, but yet it doesn’t take away from how uneasy it makes the viewer feel.
17. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
This Czech new wave film is based on a novel based on a collaboration of fairytales. The protagonist is a young teen named Valerie who has just gotten her first period for the first time.
Valerie is a Lolita who finds herself disoriented by her newfound womanhood when seduced by priests, vampires, and even women in this blend of fantasy and fright. The scenery is dreamlike and set in a surrealist Freudian fashion.
This movie will make you squeamish with highly sexualized scenes that will not make much sense on a conscious level. The imagery brings the viewer to a sub-conscious mindset and into an erotic mood while making you feel guilty about it because it is all seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl. Soft, melodic piano music soothes over the perverse events in the film will have you dwelling on the hypnotic tune days after you have watched it.
One of David Lynch’s classics, Eraserhead is shot in 1977 in surrealist body horror fashion in all black and white. The movie makes indirect symbols to religion with an opening scene with a scarred face who is pulling certain levers that change the formation of Henry’s state of mind.
In a desolate and industrial scenery, the timid Henry Spencer finds himself the father of a severely deformed child (who doesn’t even look human). The dialect is short (as the script is only 21 pages) but the highly differentiated scenes are shot as Henry’s nightmare of other-worldly terrors and fantasies. Though Lynch has never made any of his other films shot in this style, this movie is what has coined the term “Lynchian” film among filmmakers.
The 2009 Japanese slasher horror film directed by Köje Shiraishi supplies the psychological terror of Rob Zombie married to the brute physical torture of the Saw series.
A young couple is kidnapped while walking down the street. He drives them into a warehouse where they are mounted on boards and gagged with ping-pong balls in their mouths. From the very beginning, the killer makes it clear that “they are going to die anyway.”
Though the ending in that of itself may not be the biggest shocker, but the slow progression into their torture definitely is. He loves to pit one lover against the other, asking consistently, “would you die for him (or her)?” Though this movie is only about 70 minutes long, it might be one of the most intense 70 minutes of your life.