The 25 Most Disturbing Horror Movies of All Time

9. Angst (1983)


This is an exceptional Austrian film about a psychopathic killer who is released from prison after spending ten years in there for previously murdering an elderly woman. As soon as he is released, he instantly goes on the hunt to murder more people in order to appease his lust and pleasure for violence and murder.

This was loosely based on the real life triple murder by Werner Kniesek in Salzburg, Austria, who is as well known as Ed Gein and other popular serial killers in other countries.

It is a beautifully forgotten picture that influenced director Gasper Noe and is a precursor to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. It is stylishly shot, with some very unconventional camera work that included high angle crane shots and handheld cameras placed very close to the actors.

The performance by the lead actor Erwin Leder is absolutely brilliant, who also has appeared in Das Boot, Schindler’s List, and Taxidermia. It has a superb synth score, which has been compared to the band Tangerine Dream. Sadly, this was the last movie that director Gerald Kargl would make due financial issues, moving into commercials and promotional films.

Personally, I find this disturbing because of the portrayal of the serial killer by Leder. The combination of his personal narration regarding his past along with his ineptitude and physical clumsiness makes him all the more disturbing than a calculating killer like Henry. His sexual excitement and nervousness cause him to rush and constantly screw up these major plans that he has in store for himself and his victims.


10. Lucker the Necrophagous (1986)


“Your Death Is Only The Beginning!” [12]. This Belgian production is about the serial killer John Lucker, who happens to perform necrophilia on his murder victims. He was eventually caught and one of his victims managed to survive. Eight years after being caught, he escapes during a transfer at a hospital and murders everyone in his path while he hunts down his lone survivor.

This is a wild one that contains heaps of blood, gore, necrophilia, rotting corpse sex, and a killer that is dressed up like he is the Terminator. The camerawork is pretty average and it has been described as looking amateurish, but it does have several interesting looking scenes and a fairly decent synth score.

The film was originally longer with the plot being somewhat different; however most of the original negatives were destroyed, making it difficult for the director to compile anything more than the current 74 minute runtime [12].


11. In a Glass Cage (1986)

Dr. Klaus in In a Glass Cage (1987)

This Spanish production is about a former Nazi doctor Klaus, a pedophile who spent years sexually abusing and murdering young boys. He tries to commit suicide by jumping off of a roof but survives and ends up being paralyzed and dependent on an iron lung that he is confined in. His wife hires a teenage boy named Angelo to assist in caring for him. Angelo is one of Klaus’s severally disturbed former victims that plans on reenacting acts that are in his diary, while forcing Klaus to watch.

This picture is disturbing mainly for its extremely difficult subject matter dealing with the sexual abuse of children and the psychological damage that it has on its victims, often creating a repeating cycle of abuse.

The on screen murders aren’t particularly graphic, but the manner in which they are portrayed makes them all the more shocking. It’s a stylishly shot thriller that was somewhat forgotten after its initial release due to the unnerving themes that are addressed.


12. Nekromantik (1987)

Nekromantik (1988)

“Death is just the Beginning” [13]. Is it a cult masterpiece or just trash cinema? That is something you will have to make your own determination about regarding this necrophilia love story from German director Jorg Buttgereit.

A member of a cleanup crew for death accidents collects body parts and keeps them in his Ed Gein style apartment with his girlfriend. He brings home a full corpse for both of them to enjoy sexually, but can their relationship survive the extra partner?

This has a wonderful mix of blood, gore, body parts, animal mutilation, and a three way sex scene with a rotting corpse. It’s an offbeat love story that is mostly known for the sex scene which is crazy, disturbing, artful, and yet somehow wildly erotic.

Without spoiling anything, the finale is also pretty shocking. While it is a crudely filmed low budget exploitation picture, the score is simply stunning and Buttgereit’s movies improve quality wise as his budget increased.

It has gained a strong cult status ever since it was first released, despite the fact that it has been banned in multiple countries. Buttgereit followed this up with Der Todesking, Nekromantik 2, and Schramm, which are all available in a box set titled Sex Murder Art released by Cult Epics. The box set also includes the soundtracks for each film.


13. Men Behind the Sun (1988)

Men Behind The Sun

This is a Chinese production that tells the true graphical and disturbing accounts of the war atrocities committed by the Japanese at Unit 731 during World War II, in which they conducted cruel medical experiments on Chinese and Russian prisoners of war. Their main purpose was to create a highly contagious strain of bubonic plague in order to win the war.

It is controversial for both its difficult subject matter and several scenes that reportedly involved the use of a real child’s cadaver, several cadaver arms, the killing of a cat by a large group of rates, and live rats being set on fire. It was the first movie to receive a category III rating in Hong Kong, which is the equivalent to the NC-17 rating in the United States. Despite the controversy, its exploitation success led to three pseudo-sequels; Laboratory of the Devil, Narrow Escape, and Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre.


14. The Burning Moon (1992)

The Burning Moon (1992)

This is a German production that is possibly one of the most violent films ever made. A teenager tells his sister a series of violent and highly gruesome bedtime stories: including a blind date that ends up being a serial killer, and a murdering priest who is sent to hell and tortured.

The film was directed by Olaf Ittenbach, who is known for making pictures containing a heavy amount of gore. It was one of his earliest films and the most memorable of all of them based on the level of gruesomeness that it has. The final torture sequence makes you question whether or not you’re watching someone really being ripped apart. It had been pretty hard to obtain a copy of this, but there is a DVD version available now. Also recommended from this director is Beyond the Limits.


15. Traces of Death (1993)


“It doesn’t get any deader than this….” [14]. Welcome to the world of true horror, this shockumentary is a collection of stock crime scene and hospital photos and footage featuring real deaths and depictions of violence.

There are some well known publicized sequences that include the R. Budd Dwyer press conference suicide, the helicopter accident that killed Vic Morrow and two child actors on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie, Pit Dernitz being eaten by lions, and several others. It is scripted and narrated by Damon Fox, whose narration seems so corny when watching it now.

The music sounds like it came from a 1980’s Nintendo game. The video quality is pretty bad throughout and with all of the harsh video footage that has aired on news networks since its release, many viewers may not be thoroughly shocked by the imagery. Its popularity led to four sequels and several spinoffs and similar videos from competitors. It is banned in the United Kingdom.


16. Audition (1999)


“She always gets a part” [15]. This is a Japanese horror film from the now legendary director Takashi Miike, also well known for his violent crime picture Ichi the Killer. It is based upon a novel written by Ryu Murakami and released in 1997.

The story is about a middle aged widower who stages a fake casting audition in order to find a new wife. Unbeknownst to him, the woman he selects has a very dark past and some gruesome plans for him.

Despite what could be described as being slowly paced, Miike lulls the audience and then delivers at the end with an extremely gruesome and disturbing finale. The joyful pleasure that the female killer takes in dishing out torture and mutilation makes for one of the most terrifying killers put to film. In many horror polls and lists, this often makes it into at least the top 25.

In his examination of this motion picture, author Robin Wood compared it to the likes of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, saying that it was: “almost as unwatchable as the news reels – of Auschwitz, of the innocent victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Vietnam, victims of Nazi or American dehumanization” [16].


17. Subconscious Cruelty (2000)


A series of four tales are told in this surrealistic art house style Canadian gore fest that took nearly five years to complete. The first story involves a naked woman getting her stomach cut open and having an eye pulled out of it, while a series of silent film style titles randomly pop up discussing the functions of each side of the brain.

Then a brother kills his sister and her baby, while discussing the creation and destruction of life. Several naked people roll around in mud and have weird bloody sex with each other. Finally, a man is tortured and then a group of naked women eat Jesus like they were zombies.

It has a very determined visual style that makes use of interesting angles and colored light effects, yet it is hard to determine if the narrative is meant to be thought provoking or simply shocking.

It should manage to be disturbing for most viewers; featuring tons of blood, gore, full nudity, various sexual acts, incest, a fetus being murdered, and Jesus being cannibalized by several naked women. It has received mixed reviews and was never released to the U.S. market, with the only DVD available in a Swedish PAL format version.