5. Under the Skin
The oddly entrancing appeal of director Jonathan Glazer’s Birth left people wondering what he would bring next. After over ten years of trying to get Under the Skin into production, he was successful and the movie garnered instant buzz at the Venice Film Festival. As strong as the acclaim was, a number of viewers found the movie’s density impenetrable and vapid.
Scarlett Johansson plays the unnamed lead character, an alien who scours the Scottish countryside searching for human subjects to study. The blatant sexuality and use of visual storytelling over dialogue and exposition caused viewers seeking a more straightforward movie experience to walk out. It was their loss as the movie is now considered among the best of the 21st century and a must-see for fans of intelligent cinema.
Scenes to look out for: A man submerged in a dense liquid disseminates into just skin.
4. The Exorcist
While the majority of other movies on this list have have had their walkouts based on the negative reception to their graphic or shocking content, The Exorcist forced audiences out for the effect it had. In other words, people left because they were simply too scared to sit through the whole thing. Many horror movies have caused audiences to watch through splayed fingers but it reaches another level to have viewers walk out due to how scared they were. The Exorcist was able to achieve that effect.
The movie’s plot is simple and has been rehashed many times; a young girl gets possessed by a malevolent demon. Audiences were new to seeing the horror tropes done in such a chilling and nightmarish way and it proved too much for some. This is why The Exorcist’s masterful make-up effects, brooding atmosphere, and haunting visuals remain iconic to this day.
Scenes to look out for: a possessed young girl penetrates herself with a crucifix.
3. Santa Sangre
Alejandro Jodorowski’s magnum opus shocked audiences worldwide, earning an NC-17 rating in the United States and banned in numerous other countries. The psychosexual drama creates a unique brand of horror that draws influence from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
The bizarre violence and aberrant sexuality caused some audience members to jeer as loud as the censors with some even walking out on it.
After his mother’s arms are chopped off, a former child circus artist becomes his mother’s arms, performing brutal murders in the name of her inspired cult. It’s not hard to see why audiences took to the exits. Jodorowski’s already unique style make the imagery even more frightening and the director’s unwillingness to sacrifice his creative vision in favor of the censors keeps Santa Sangre a movie that revels in its taboo themes and tests its audience’s offenses.
Scenes to look out for: A woman has her arms chopped off in slow motion; a woman is repeatedly and gruesomely stabbed in multiple body parts.
2. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
One of the more infamous Cannes screenings, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me was abhorred by many viewers at its premiere who claimed that director David Lynch had taken advantage of the film platform to make something more perverse and violent than anything in the show that produced it. The movie was accused of misogyny and condemned as a nonsensical vanity project.
The movie is of course inspired by the show Twin Peaks (created by David Lynch) and works as a prequel and sequel to where the show started and ended, following Laura Palmer before her murder and the life in which she led. Retrospective reviews have been exponentially more popular, with critics rediscovering the movie’s greatness. Especially with the release of Twin Peaks: The Return in 2017, Fire Walk with Me is now viewed as an essential part of the Twin Peaks mythos and a masterpiece in its own right.
Scenes to look out for: A girl is raped and murdered by her father.
1. Eyes Without a Face
Eyes Without a Face’s graphic depictions of skin grafting left viewers unable to watch as the realistic visuals were too shocking at the time. As the censors came, audience members fled leaving the rest to watch through splayed fingers. Eyes Without a Face follows the story of a doctor who attempts to fix the disfigured face of his daughter by attaching someone else’s.
Though movies were starting to test the censors more than they had in the past, Eyes Without a Face produced something audiences had never seen before. The special effects and believable imagery have allowed it to become a horror classic. Beyond its fright factor, the movie is beautifully shot and superbly acted, cementing itself as a horror landmark.
Scenes to look out for: A woman has her face removed by a surgeon.