6. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)
Where would a list about films that make us angry be without at least mentioning a riveting documentary? There are several documentaries that could easily fit here, but Dear Zachary may be one of the more upsetting ones. It’s about a woman that murders Andrew Bagby, her husband, after a breakup. Shortly after it is revealed she was pregnant with the man’s child.
What makes Dear Zachary an exceptional film is how personal it is; the film was made entirely by a close friend of Andrew Bagby. It has the feeling of a passion project, without the stigma those types of films usually have. Dear Zachary is an authentic, heartbreaking film made by the one man who could do the story justice.
7. Funny Games (2007)
Michael Haneke has always been a filmmaker brave enough to offend his own audience. This film is one of the best examples of Haneke’s fondness for subverting film conventions. Funny Games is basically a film about a home invasion with all the hallmarks of what that type of film would typically entail: familiar villains, an innocent family, etc.
What Haneke does with this setup is brilliant: in a single sequence that comes completely left field, a character breaks the fourth wall, and disrupts the logic of the entire film. It’s as if Haneke created the scenario for the sole purpose of toying with the viewer. What is particularly interesting about this is the fact that Haneke originally made the film in 1997, and in both the original and American version he made the choice to include the fourth wall breaking sequence.
Funny Games frustrates us because it never unfolds the way we think it will. It feels like a Hollywood thriller film might, but it throws that out the window. Haneke has commented, “I wanted to show the audience how much they can be manipulated.”
8. Owning Mahowny (2003)
Films that depict addiction realistically can often be very upsetting because they will usually entail a character making the same mistakes over and over again. As a viewer, it can make you really angry to see a character you’re rooting for make drastically chaotic decisions. Owning Mahowny is a great film about a man with a gambling addiction who finds himself in the position of having to commit fraud to support his problem.
What sets this film apart from other films about addicts is the fact that it’s based on a real life person. Any behaviour the main character engages in that seems too outlandish becomes heightened. Owning Mahowny also features a fantastic Philip Seymour Hoffman performance; Hoffman suffered from addiction himself in real life, and he gives the role an authentic pathos.
9. A Married Couple (1969)
This is the second documentary on this list, and it’s not as upsetting as Dear Zachary. However, it’s being included because when we’re discussing films that make us angry, movies that depict a relationship in some form of turmoil can be one of the most maddening setups ever.
In A Married Couple, Allan King gives us one of the best portraits of a rocky relationship. The film goes to some very dark places, and at times it can be challenging to watch this man and woman argue with each other. Their arguments get vicious and you may find yourself in disbelief that King was able to capture all of this in a documentary.
10. Blue Ruin (2013)
Blue Ruin is the most recent film to be featured on this list, and it’s also one of the more memorable efforts to be released in the last few years. It tells the story of a man who attempts to get revenge for the murders of his parents that occurred years before the world of the film begins.
Blue Ruin is a great example of a subversive film; it takes the conventions of the revenge film and alters them to toy with our expectations. A character losing their parents tragically is a quick way to get a viewer on that character’s side, but Jeremy Saulnier also carefully inserts a lingering feeling of tension throughout. Details aren’t given to us quickly and easily, and when they do finally come the effect is a lot more cathartic.
We have the anger typically associated with the revenge genre, but Saulnier has found a way to make it fresh. We get what we are looking for, but the question is still asked: does revenge really cure anything? Blue Ruin is one of the few revenge films to approach the idea of responding to violence with more violence thoughtfully.
Author Bio: Dilair Singh is a film lover from Toronto. He particularly enjoys screenwriting, and hopes to sell a screenplay someday. You can find him on Twitter: @dilairsingh.