Movies can have a serious impact on audience members. They can evoke so much emotion and be so engaging that they will leave you thinking about it for days after the credits roll. Some brilliant films have such a profound effect on the audience, that the majority of viewers will only watch it the one time. This could be because it is such an emotionally draining watch, it may hit a little too close to home, be too harrowing or too violent. Regardless of the reason, once is enough for these excellent and incredibly powerful films.
10. Funny Games (1997 & 2007)
There are not many films that are as cruel and punishing as Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, which is an Austrian film made in 1997 and remade shot for shot in English in 2007. The viewer will feel as victimized as the family by the time the credits roll, as the fourth wall is broken to drag the audience into this twisted story. After a very strange and unsettling scene where a young man comes to borrow some eggs, the family’s vacation home is invaded by two polite, well-spoken yet psychopathic young men who go on to play a cold-blooded, sadistic game with the family and viewers. It is an excellent film that pushes the medium, comments on the violence in the media, and brutally toys with the audience to create an unforgettable, unique and bold film. One watch is certainly enough for this stand out home invasion thriller.
9. This Is England (2006)
Shane Meadows is the master of gritty, complex and fascinating British drama. This Is England is considered to be his finest work and has also spawned two excellent mini-series (which should also only be watched once). The film is set in 1983 and follows a group of skinheads, a UK subculture which became adopted by white nationalists. The group of young skinheads takes 12-year-old Shaun under their wing, and he soon becomes a member of their gang. An older member, Combo, then returns from prison and soon expresses English nationalist views, which divides the group. Combo becomes a mentor to the impressionable Shaun, but a violent incident and excruciating scene lead Shaun to question the path he is set on. It is a gripping film and intriguing insight into the subculture, but the heavy subject matter and tension ensures that a single viewing will do.
8. Happiness (1998)
Do not be fooled by the name, Happiness is depraved, traumatic and an incredibly tough watch. Director Todd Solondz is famous for his very dark satire, which features lots of gallows humor that many find too unsettling. Happiness explores the lives of three sisters and their families, all of whom are struggling and attempting to find happiness. The most shocking character is Bill (Dylan Baker), who plays a pedophile that becomes obsessed with his son’s male classmate. The troubling and depraved scenes and dialogue make for a challenging watch, and it also caused plenty of controversy for the sexual scenes—seeing The Sundance Film Festival refused to accept the film. It is also an award winner, including the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Those familiar with Solondz’s dark humor may find this film more bearable than others, but even they will grimace when they see the cover.
7. Straw Dogs (1971)
This cult classic was hugely controversial, largely due to the sexual violence within the film. Straw Dogs straddles the line between home invasion, psychological thriller, and revenge film, making it a gritty story that polarizes many film fans. The plot follows a young married couple as they look to make renovations to their property in the countryside, a small town where the wife, Amy, grew up. The men hired to work on the house include her ex-boyfriend, and they soon begin taunting the husband, David. The danger escalates to sexual violence when Amy is home alone, and this culminates in an explosive ending where David, an introvert, is forced into violence to protect his household, his wife and himself. The exploration of David’s character is fascinating, enhanced by Dustin Hoffman’s captivating portrayal. Straw Dogs is a difficult watch, but also an enthralling film that examines masculinity, human nature and violence.
6. Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Director Lars Von Trier could have had multiple entries on this list, but it is the 2000 Danish Musical Dancer in the Dark which cuts. Starring Bjork as Selma, an immigrant factory worker in Washington State, the film follows Selma as she gradually turns blind due to a hereditary degenerative disease. As if this were not depressing enough, the money that she had been saving for surgery, so that her son will not suffer the same fate, is stolen by the town policeman she had confided in. Things turn from very bad to worse for Selma, and this all culminates in a harrowing and brutal end which is very difficult to sit through. The film polarized many critics (like the majority on this list), and although it is heavily discussed, you will struggle to find someone that has watched Dancer in the Dark twice.
5. Kids (1995)
Kids may sound like a friendly coming-of-age flick, but this is certainly not the case. The 1995 film, written by Harmony Korine and directed by Larry Clark, became hugely controversial and sparked plenty of public debate. Some claim it is exploitative and grotesque, whilst others found it to be an eye-opening look into modern-day youth lifestyle. Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on, there is no denying that this is a powerful, shocking and draining film, and certainly not one that will get repeated viewings. Kids follow a day in the life of a group of young teenagers in New York, all of whom are sexually active, involved in recreational drugs and are often cruel and physically violent to the public. This all occurs during the AIDS epidemic, making it a poignant film that will stick with you long after its troubling end.
4. Precious (2009)
Precious is a 2009 adaptation of Sapphire’s novel, and the film has been widely celebrated. It saw Geoffrey Fletcher pick up an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Mo’Nique pick up Best Supporting Actress. It tells the story of a 16-year-old, Precious, living in Harlem, who is abused both physically and mentally by her parents. After discovering an incestuous pregnancy, she is given hope when she transfers to school and learns how to read and write. Her life once again takes a bleak turn after the birth of the child, however, and this includes some truly awful and heart-wrenching scenes that make for an unforgettable watch. The bleakness, despair and heavy subject matter of the film make for an emotionally draining experience, and not a movie you will want to watch more than once. The accolades speak for themselves, however, and it is certainly a powerful movie.
3. Martyrs (2008)
Regular Goliath readers will recall seeing French horror Martyrs ranked second on our recent 10 Underrated Horror Films That Are Actually Great list, and whilst it is underrated outside the horror world, it is still a film that will require just one viewing. Pascal Laughier’s 2008 film is extreme cinema (which are usually single viewing movies), but it is an exceptional story if you can stomach the gore, unsettling scenes, and troubling subject matter. The film follows a woman seeking revenge on a group that tortured her as a child, and this reveals a secret society that is looking to discover the secrets of the afterlife. Martyrs explore some profound themes in addition to its harrowing plot, making it a fascinating, thought-provoking watch. Those that have ticked Martyrs off the list will soon have a big decision to make, with the remake set to arrive later this year.
2. Irreversible (2002)
Irreversible is a truly harrowing watch and contains one of the most controversial movie scenes of all time. The 2000 French thriller uses a non-linear narrative, involving 13 scenes that are presented in reverse chronological order. The non-linear narrative and frantic pace make it an intriguing and highly engaging film, which also makes it that much more excruciating as you begin to put together the plot. The scene that has caused so much controversy is a disturbing and agonizing rape scene, which is one excruciatingly long take that features no camera movement. This makes it a very real and helpless situation which will still haunt the mind of those that have sat through this film. The story follows a man trying to get revenge for the rape of his girlfriend (played by Monica Bellucci), and the unflinching approach is nauseating but, equally, it is a brilliant and gripping piece of cinema.
1. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
You will not find a more effective anti-drug PSA than Darren Aronofsky’s 2000 psychological drama, Requiem for a Dream. It features excellent performances from Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connolly, and Marlon Wayans, all of whom play drug addicts who gradually succumb to their crippling addictions. It is stylistically shot and uses montages of very short shots, including split-screen and tight close-ups, which ensure that you are entirely absorbed into the characters’ extreme highs and their fantasies, as well as their devastating lows. This engaging style of the film feels almost like a horrible fairground ride, and it only becomes more agonizing before reaching an utterly shattering conclusion, which will leave you unsure what to do with yourself after the credits roll. This is a powerful, absorbing and engaging film about addiction which you will never forget, and most likely never watch again.