5. Caché (2005)
Michael Haneke is another filmmaker that enjoys pushing buttons and experimenting with audiences. Caché is one of Haneke’s best films; it’s a thriller that never loses steam as the story unfolds. It’s about a family that is mysteriously being sent videotapes by a stranger. However, in classic Haneke fashion he subverts the whole idea of the thriller we expect to see.
The film becomes less about the strange videotapes, and more about the family’s paranoia. Caché is a great film because it never gives us answers we’re looking for and does not wrap things up neatly. We are left to pick up the pieces ourselves to figure out what happened exactly.
4. Nightcrawler (2014)
Nightcrawler is obviously literally “dark” as it takes place primarily at nighttime. However, it’s also a film with one of the darkest premises for a widely released studio movie in recent history.
Nightcrawler tells the story of Louis Bloom, a young man struggling to find gainful employment. When he discovers the lucrative underworld of taking photos of crime scenes, he goes all in. Lou ends up becoming really successful at his new profession, and we soon learn Lou will not let anything get in the way of a good photo.
Dan Gilroy’s film is a great character study of a dark, driven person fuelled by a capitalist society. If you like movies like Drive and Taxi Driver, Nightcrawler is for you. The film is a great mood piece: the whole atmosphere of the film is a grim portrait of what a hungry person pushed by a competitive society can become.
Gyllenhaal has described Lou Bloom as a “human coyote,” and has mentioned that his performance and appearance in the film were inspired by the hunger wild coyotes have. In another film that choice might sound utterly ridiculous, but somehow in Nightcrawler that inspiration is perfect.
We can see Gyllenhaal’s animalistic hunger on his face: he apparently made the decision to lose 30 pounds, snacking only with tiny amounts of meat, and kale. He would also run to the film’s set instead of getting chauffeured like a pampered actor.
This unorthodox approach to the character really works; the Jake Gyllenhaal that exists in Nightcrawler doesn’t exist anywhere else in his filmography. He has mentioned that during filming Nightcrawler he wanted to be consistently just as hungry in real life as Lou.
3. The Rover (2014)
This is the third film on this list from the year 2014, but it’s a necessary inclusion. Like The Road, The Rover attempts to tell the story of a failed society. What happens when the rules of the world we used to know are thrown out the window? The Rover is one of the best films to cover “dystopia” as a theme in the last decade.
Aside from its fascinatingly realistic portrayal of an economic collapse, The Rover has great performances. Guy Pearce plays the main character, but Robert Pattinson almost steals the film.
Pattinson’s performance in this film convinced me that he is a “serious” actor. He would eventually go on to give great performances in The Lost City of Z and Good Time, but in The Rover we see the beginning of a really great actor. It’s a remarkable look at what a vulnerable person stuck in a terrifying moment in history might be like.
2. Irreversible (2002)
Irreversible is a great film by provocateur Gaspar Noe. It tells the story of a woman’s assault, and an attempt to get revenge. Even if you haven’t seen this film you have probably heard about the notorious rape sequence. It may be one of the most disturbing scenes in cinema: Noe makes it as nihilistic as he can by not cutting for 10-minutes. The reality of the situation is heightened when someone is seen passing by in the background, and continues going about their business nonchalantly.
1. A Serbian Film (2010)
This movie is so dark it’s divisive; some people really hate this movie. It’s a film designed to shock you throughout its running time. A Serbian Film is about a former porn star who is lured into making a disturbing movie in the guise of an art film.
It’s one of those movies (most recently we have seen it with Julia Ducournau’s Raw) that has developed a reputation for being a “disgusting” film. Regardless of viewing the filmmaker’s style as being “dark on purpose,” A Serbian Film is one of the toughest films in the past few years to sit through.
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.