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6 Movies So Brutal We Wish We’d “UNSEE” Them

Sometimes there are movies and scenes so brutal, so drastic, that we watch them through the fingers, with closed eyes.

Michalina Peruga

7 April 2023

Viewers love violence – an inseparable element of the film medium since the birth of cinema. Brutal, drastic scenes shown on the screen mean that the viewer can experience what is forbidden, what is not given to him every day, from the safe position of a cinema armchair or home sofa. In addition, screen brutality is always associated with experiencing strong emotions for the viewer – with an element of fascination, thrill, suspense, which is what we most often look for in cinema. It is violence that is often the driving element of the plot of many film genres – dramas, crime stories, war films, gangsters or westerns. And although voices are most often heard raising the issue of the ethicality of screen violence, proclaiming the society’s indifference to acts of violence and the resulting aggression, film images of violence do not traumatize viewers at all. The way we experience scenes of violence – always in some convention, always at a distance – makes us not take these experiences seriously. Sometimes, however, there are films and scenes so brutal, so drastic, watched through the fingers, with closed eyes, which hiccup us for a long time. Here are six movies so brutal we’d rather forget them.

I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

I Spit on Your Grave is a classic example of rape and revenge, a subgenre especially popular in the 1970s, with a simple plot in which a raped and traumatized woman takes revenge on her rapists. The protagonist of the film is Jennifer (Camille Keaton), a young writer from New York who moves to the countryside, where she intends to write her book in peace and quiet. Very quickly, local men, typical American “rednecks”, become interested in her, and their goal is one thing – to rape the young writer. There are several gang rape scenes in the film and they are particularly hard to watch. When it seems to us that Jennifer’s nightmare is over, in a moment the torturers catch up with her again and the whole torture begins all over again.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

The film is one of the first examples of found footage film. A group of filmmakers, led by anthropologist Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman), sets out into the Amazon jungle to find another film crew that has been missing for weeks. In the jungle lives a mysterious, murderous tribe waiting for newcomers from the United States. Cannibal Holocaust gained a bad reputation because of extremely brutal scenes – numerous drastic rapes and murders in the form of stoning or impaling. Several animals were killed on the set in an extremely bestial way, including a turtle (which had its head cut off, then all its limbs), a monkey, a koati, a boa snake, and even a tarantula. At the time of the film’s release, there were rumors that Cannibal Holocaust was actually a snuff movie where all the killings were real. This even led to the arrest of the film’s director, Ruggero Deodato. Despite the passage of more than thirty years, the film still evokes great discomfort in the viewer. I regret that I can’t “unsee” at least a few scenes.

Funny Games (1997)

It’s hard to write about cinematic violence without mentioning the work of Austrian Michael Haneke. This is a particularly difficult film to watch, full of violence, brutality and fear that keeps the viewer on the edge of the seat throughout the screening. When a family of three is about to start an idyllic vacation at a lake house, they are visited by two psychopathic killers who start a psychological game with them and wind up a spiral of violence. The drastic nature of Haneke’s vision of the world is hard to bear.

It is a paradox that the director’s violent film is in fact a critique of the violent cinema of attractions – it is perfectly visible in the scene where the director breaks down the fourth wall and allows one of the murderers to wink at us. Criticism of violence becomes at the same time its affirmation, and we let Haneke catch us in his trap – after all, despite the brutality of the film scenes, we watch a film about violence created by him with a mixture of fear and pleasure.

Irreversible (2002)

Gaspar Noe does not spare the audience – he is an artist who likes expressive artistic means that intensify the viewer’s experience. In Irreversible, the director shows us the story not chronologically, but starting from the end. However, this is not the most controversial aspect of the film, because it is here that the most shocking rape scene in the history of cinema occurs. When the protagonist Alex (Monica Bellucci) leaves the party to return home, she is attacked, brutally beaten and raped in an underground passage. It is thanks to this unusual narrative structure that the rape scene hits the viewer even harder. It is difficult to watch this scene in its entirety, and its emotional load is so great that it is not easy to forget about it.

Titane (2021)


Titane is a bold and controversial film by French actress Julia Ducournau. It’s hard to describe the plot of this film, especially without spoilers – suffice it to say that its main character is Alexia (the great Agathe Rousselle), who, due to a car accident in her childhood, struggles with a peculiar affliction. There is no shortage of drastic and brutal scenes in the film, especially since Titane takes up various aspects of gender performativity, so it is very strongly connected with corporeality. The main character’s body is shown in various physiological situations and is constantly changing, and sometimes these are drastic scenes. Like when Alexia needs to quickly camouflage herself, and to do so, she punches herself several times in the face.

The Sadness (2021)

The Sadness‘ protagonists Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei) live in Taipei, Taiwan. For a year, the Alvin virus pandemic has been going on in the world, which so far has not been particularly dangerous. However, a sudden mutation causes people infected with it to turn into bloodthirsty beasts with a murderous instinct. In this survival horror, combining the best traditions of films about global pandemics, there is no shortage of brutal, mind-blowing scenes. I don’t think anyone needs convincing that right after seeing The Sadness because of all the brutal scenes, you will immediately want to unsee it .

Michalina Peruga

Michalina Peruga

Film scholar, art historian and lover of contemporary horror cinema and classic Hollywood cinema, especially film noir and the work of Alfred Hitchcock. In cinema, she loves mixing genres, breaking patterns and looking closely at characters.

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