Movies are for the most part made to be entertainment, nothing more than big harmless fluff that’s primarily there to make money and even though these films can be really enjoyable and fun they can get a bit stale if you don’t consume a few thought-provoking and complex films in-between, films that are made to be something more than mere entertainment and actually have something to say.
These kinds of films will most likely leave more behind than the average blockbuster and might stay with us for years to come, some of them can even be so emotionally effective that they’ll leave us devastated, those are the kind of films we’ll be looking at in this list.
Warning, there will be SPOILERS for some of the movies.
10. Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Heavenly Creatures is a film that hides its true nature as cutesy fluff for about an hour before slowly descending further and further into the delusional minds of the main character’s before landing on an emotional gut-punch of an ending.
It’s the type of film that rewards multiple viewings as the knowledge of the ending changes your perception of every single thing that happens in the film, everything that at first looked campy or fluffy takes on a creepier dimension as you see that the delusional nature of the character’s that made itself apparent in the film’s finale was there the whole time but that you just didn’t notice it because you were too stuck viewing them as innocent but eccentric little girls that were just having fun, a mindset that all the adult’s in this film share and that blinds them to the reality of the situation, which is precisely what leads to the film’s tragic ending.
The film is based on true events, which gives the film an even stronger edge as you see that the tragedy at the end of the story could have been adverted had someone sensed that something was seriously off with these two girls, but nobody did and when they finally did, tragedy had already struck.
This film might be Peter Jackson’s crowning achievement when it comes to his mastery of cinematic language, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy will always be his magnum opus but Heavenly Creatures is just so perfectly and carefully crafted that it might be one of the best directed films of all time, and the ending might be the best thing Jackson has ever directed, or at least the most devastating.
9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the only film on this list that could be categorised as a comedy, because the film is absolutely hilarious and spends about 80% of the runtime being a really fun and charming ride through some serious subject matter, mental health issues have never been this charming.
But that is all part of the trick, because by being this fun and enjoyable and care-free the film slowly draws you in and makes you fall head over heels in love with all the character’s, except Nurse Ratched, so when tragedy finally strikes in the third act it hits a lot harder because of how much we’ve come to love the characters and seeing them fall victim to Nurse Ratched’s psychotically obsessive hunger for control is devastating.
8. The Deer Hunter (1978)
The Deer Hunter is a film that poses the question: would you rather live your whole life in an uneventful small town or shoot yourself in the head in the deepest, darkest pits of Vietnam?
It’s a film that takes its time to get us fully invested in the lives of the main character and then spends the rest of the film putting them through hell and back.
It’s one of the most powerful war films ever made and has lost none of its impact 40 years later.
7. The Green Mile (1999)
The Green Mile is a classic, it might even be the best of Frank Darabont’s three Stephen King adaptations, and considering that the other two are the masterpiece The Shawshank Redemption and the great but slightly underrated The Mist then it’s no small claim, but The Green Mile is just such an emotional powerhouse of a film that there really is no way to watch it and not cry (or at least tear up) over the films ending.
Nothing more needs to be said about this film, it’s the kind of film that will have every single audience member in tears by the end but is also entertaining enough that you’ll want to revisit it time and time again.
6. Irréversible (2002)
Irréversible is devastating in a different way from all the other films on this list, it’s not devastating because it’ll have such a profound emotional effect you but because it’s such an inhumanely brutal and disturbing film that there is no way anyone can watch it and not be disturbed afterwards, and that’s mostly because of the now infamous 20-minute long unbearably realistic rape scene, it’s one of the hardest scenes you’ll ever watch and it will stay with you and haunt you for a long time afterwards.
Most of the films on this list show humanity at its worst, but also show that life will find a way back to beauty and that hope will return with time, but not this film, this film gives us a happy ending but that happy ending only happens because the film tells it’s story in reverse, so the happy ending we get is nothing more than a beautiful lie, a single moment of happiness that will eventually be snuffed out by darkness and leave everyone involved face down in the dirt.
Irréversible is a film that shows us the worst sides of humanity and tells us that the darkness will always outweigh the light and that all the happiness we feel might just be one decision away from turning into something utterly horrifying and ugly.
It’s in no way an easy film to watch as it’s quite a horrific experience, but you can’t really talk about devastating films without mentioning Irréversible.