There are a handful of movies that have been both venerated by film buffs, but also contain scenes that are so tragic, disturbing or brutal that audiences aren’t jumping at the chance at a repeat viewing.
“A Clockwork Orange” (1971)
Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian look at youth violence initially nabbed an X rating in the U.S. — and was withdrawn from U.K. release in 1973 after some copycat crimes. And the aversion-therapy scenes remain unforgettable and difficult to watch, even the first time.
“Pink Flamingos” (1972)
John Waters‘ cult classic pre-dates gross-out humor popularized in the 1990s by two decades. Pictured here, Divine, who played a version of herself in the fictional comedy, is seen eating a pig’s face. But in the film’s most famous scene, she eats dog feces.
Featuring a much younger Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight and Ned Beatty, this dramatic thriller revolves around a river-rafting trip that turns violent and dangerous in the backwoods of Georgia. And yes, there’s a creepy dueling-banjos rape scene.
“Schindler’s List” (1993)
If you aren’t deeply moved upon viewing Steven Spielberg‘s seven-time Oscar-winning Holocaust film, there’s something wrong with you.
“American History X” (1998)
Edward Norton is pure evil as a Los Angeles-based Neo-Nazi with violent tendencies. One particularly gruesome scene involves someone’s head being bashed into a curb — a sequence in celluloid history that once witnessed, can never be forgotten.
Takashi Miike’s thriller focuses on a widower who falls for a sadistic killer — who tortures her lover in an excruciating scene involving elongated needles and a wire saw. It’s the sort of scene that can’t be unseen.
“City of God” (2002)
This brutal-but-acclaimed Brazilian film, about the lives of two boys in Rio de Janeiro who take two very different paths, depicts kids killing kids in street gang warfare. It’s not easy on the eyes.
The Oscar-winning drama about an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who becomes pregnant with her second child, starred Gabourey Sidibe in her breakout role. While it received critical raves and awards, it reflects a side of society that’s likely excruciating to witness for many.
“127 Hours” (2010)
Do you want to watch James Franco cut his arm off again? We didn’t think so.
“In the Land of Blood and Honey” (2011)
Angelina Jolie‘s feature film directorial debut depicts the brutalities of the 1990s-era Bosnian War. One scene involving an infant is so gut-wrenching, moviegoing audiences were reported to have either left the theater or covered their eyes.
“12 Years a Slave” (2013)
Lupita Nyong’o won an Oscar for her role in this widely-lauded slavery drama. Depicting a woman who receives life-threatening lashes and is repeatedly raped, it’s her scenes that are easily the most difficult on viewers.
“The Revenant” (2015)
While beautifully shot, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning drama features Leonardo DiCaprio on a protracted journey of survival through the unforgiving wilderness. Two words: Bear attack.
Of all the frat house films in cinema history, this one isn’t funny. “Goat” depicts savagery that college freshman pledges endure. One scene involving duct tape placed over the face of a pledge may leave audiences gasping for breath.