The Most Uncomfortable Movie Scenes of All Time

Irreversible rape scene

Chris Stipp: Irreversible

Sometimes I do worry that I was born without emotional nerve endings.

Outrage, being offended, taking up small arms in the form of pen, pencil or keyboard to express raging passion about a topic that has displeased me? For the most part, I just don’t react vehemently to the world’s stimuli, especially when it comes to movies; I get that what we’re seeing is make-believe and it takes a lot for me to give myself over to a work of fiction. That being said, filmmaker Gaspar Noé’s incredible achievement with his movie Irreversible pierced the thick armor plating around my emotional core, and I left the movie watching experience feeling wildly uncomfortable about what I had just seen. The totality of the movie was absolutely something that either connected with you, or it didn’t. The way the story ended stood into sharp contrast to the way it started, and I believe it earned every moment you see on the screen.

The moments in this film range from the most physically vulnerable two people can share to the most savage. Setting up the relationship that Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel have with one another as lovers was one thing, it was something else entirely to see Vincent Cassel dispatched as he was, in the manner in which he was, off this mortal coil. Worse yet, it was the interminably long scene that showed Bellucci being brutally raped by a stranger that was so affecting. In and of itself, it was actors on a set, but what made this so different was how we linger as it happens. We watch, we’re made to watch without any creative edits to somehow divert us from the puerile act being performed in front of our eyes. The guttural noises, the clumsiness of it all, the dirtiness of the environment, it’s all too much to bear by the end of the moment as we witness to something that blurs the line between manufactured art and something else entirely too common in our world.


David Chen: Oldboy

I think the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been while watching a movie is with the ending Park Chan-wook‘s Oldboy. Up until the last few moments of the film, the story is a somewhat unconventional revenge thriller with a quirky romance. But in his final confrontation, when you very slowly learn that Oh Daesu (played by Choi Min-Sik) has in fact unknowingly had sex with his daughter, the movie goes into overdrive. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Oh Daesu’s subsequent freakout feels entirely earned and leads to the final moment of the film that is haunting and disturbing.

Requiem For A Dream end scene with Jennifer Connelly

Peter Sciretta: Requiem for a Dream

This is the second time that I’ve included a Darren Aronofsky film as my pick in /Answers, and that’s probably because his films were seminal to my exploration and discovery of what movies could be. Requiem for a Dream is a film that ranks in my top ten of all time. It is a masterwork of tension from beginning to end, with Clint Mansell‘s beautiful rhythmic score perfectly combined with Aronofsky’s ultra stylistic hip-hop montage-filled adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.‘s book about drug-filled addiction with some really remarkable performances from Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans and Ellen Burstyn.

The end of Requiem for a Dream is as intense as it can possibly get. Our heroes are all put in the most horrible situations, all of which are hard to watch. Tyrone is suffering a drug withdrawal in jail while being taunted by prison guards, Harry’s arm is amputated, Sara undergoes electroshock therapy, and Marion returns to her dealer’s apartment, where she is forced to perform in a private sex show in the middle of a crowded room. The theatrical version of the film is hard enough to watch, but the unrated cut released on home video shows Marion forced into double-dildo anal sex with another woman, with rich men throwing banknotes toward the girls.

The Shining

Jack Giroux: The Shining

There’s a lot of The Shining that still makes me uncomfortable. Even the scene where Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) tells Danny (Danny Lloyd) to stay out of room 237 sends shivers down my spine, but the scene in the maze, from the first time I saw Stanley Kubrick’s Stephen King adaptation to now, still gets under my skin.
But Jack (Jack Nicholson) hunting down his son, shouting his name like a monster, the shots of a frightened and alone Danny, the sound of the harsh wind, and the terrifying score always unnerves me (though admittedly more so the first time I saw it). When I first saw The Shining, the fact that it was a parent wielding the ax, someone Danny once thought he could trust, made the horrifying sequence all the more uneasy and upsetting. When I think of uncomfortable scenes in movies, the pure terror and evil in that maze quickly comes to my mind.

under the skin beach scene

Dan Trachtenberg: Under the Skin

Whenever something tragic happens on the news I immediately think “Could that have happened to me?” My survival instinct kicks in as I search for rationalizations of how the tragedy either COULDN’T happen to me or how I can now PREVENT it from ever happening to me in the future.

The “Most Disturbing Scene” I’ve ever seen is the “beach scene” in Under the Skin. It depicts a set of events, a series of innocent accidents and decisions, that lead to the death of a mother, father, their dog and baby— wiped out in a matter of minutes— washed away by the ocean as if they never existed.  The family didn’t do anything wrong to EARN their death, both mother and father make relatable and noble decisions. And the cries of the baby left alone to die because his or her parents were the opposite of neglectful.  And it’s shot in monotone. Very matter-of-fact and without judgment. From a distance almost like a nature documentary (which it basically is for the movie’s alien-on-earth protagonist). It’s kind of like the existential horror crisis depiction of the “If a tree falls…” thought experiment.

For someone who fears death and is desperate to find silver linings and meaning in the mundane— this isn’t just a scary scene— but a truly disturbing one.

most uncomfortable movie scenes

What Is Your Most Uncomfortable Movie Scene?

What do you think of our picks? What is your most uncomfortable movie scene? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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