Odds are pretty good that it’s happened to all of us. You’re watching a film, you might have even heard that there’s something “trying” in it, or “challenging”, or whatever other ominous adjective someone used to describe what you’re going to watch. And then it happens- the “it”, the scene that makes you cover your eyes. It’s the scene that makes your stomach turn. And what is “it”? Probably one of these horribly uncomfortable acts:
“It”- incest- has been happening in pop culture ever since Oedipus did the worm with his mom in the 5th century B.C. I guess you could say it’s nothing new. It still pops up in films from time to time. Sometimes, but not always, you can see guideposts all the way and you spend the entire film hoping beyond hope that the filmmaker won’t actually follow through with it. Other times, it’s a horrible twist that you didn’t see coming.
Examples: Oldboy (2003); Chinatown (1974); Murmur of the Heart (1971); The Godfather: Part III (1990)
Like the act itself, vomiting in film happens without warning and leaves you feeling horrible yet relieved that you’re not witnessing it any longer. Fortunately, most films will cut away after holding onto the shot of the outstretched mouth, on the brink of volcanic eruption, for as long as possible before eventually leaving viewers to only hear (and not see) the awful event from off-camera. Unfortunately, some films hold onto the shot even longer and the viewer is forced to see movie characters’ mouths give forth to the great geyser.
Examples: Stand by Me (1986); The Exorcist (1973); The Right Stuff (1983); Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
Nothing in movies gets to me quite like this one. And there are plenty of films that seem to make it a contest to see how long they can show the act, which amazingly makes the act even more vile and reprehensible than it already was. Having it implied is bad enough.
Examples: A Clockwork Orange (1971); Straw Dogs (1971); Irreversible (2002)
I don’t particularly fault filmmakers for putting this on display because it’s such a horrible-yet-important piece of history. It’s imperative that future generations realize that this type of thing can happen, and still does happen. As horrible as it is to watch, there is at least a purpose behind it. And in some cases, it’s even real footage.
Examples: Schindler’s List (1993); Hotel Rwanda (2004); Night and Fog (1955)
Child Molestation/Child Sexual Abuse
It’s like rape in film but even worse because it involves children, pretty much the most heinous act around. At least most of the time, filmmakers have the tact to not show the act. Just the mere implication of it incites a certain repulsion that I couldn’t even begin to describe.
Examples: Happiness (1998); The Woodsman (2004); Hard Candy (2005)
Human Waste/Human Waste Consumption
Having seen this category, you fall into one of two camps. There will be the camp that says “THAT ACTUALLY EXISTS IN MOVIES?!?!”, and I understand your trauma at the end of your naïveté. I was like you at one point in time, not even knowing that there’s a whole horrible world of films that show feces, or worse yet- the consumption of feces or urine. The other camp will say “You could not be more right, and I wish I had never seen _______”, internally naming the film (or films) that ruined your appetite for days.
Examples: Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975); A Hole in My Heart (2004); Pink Flamingos (1972); Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Animal Murder (or Torture)
Part of what makes this so difficult to watch is because it seems unnecessary, especially when characters are doing it for fun. And in some cases in older films, it’s infinitely worse because the animal in the film was actually murdered in the process of making the film.
Examples: Dogtooth (2010); Cannibal Holocaust (1980); Gummo (1997)
I guess this category is a little bit more broad, but it definitely belongs. Watching another human being inflicting pain upon another in the immersive context of a theater (or even a television screen) is bound to make the blood boil or the stomach turn.
Examples: Reservoir Dogs (1992); Kick-Ass (2010); Funny Games (1997 or 2007)
I think most film-goers can relate to depression. There are probably a lot who can relate to being suicidal- certainly more than would be willing to admit it. Seeing the act on screen brings a lot of powerful and very uncomfortable emotions to the forefront. Even those who ideate suicide feel something very deep upon witnessing another person willingly ending their own life.
Examples: The Fire Within (1963); Taste of Cherry (1997); Le Jour se Leve (1939); Mouchette (1967)
I think it’s important to note here that I absolutely, positively do not intend to discourage anyone from watching the examples I’ve listed, or any other movie that features one of these acts. Uncomfortable scenes or not, filmmakers are free to ply their craft and employ whatever creative license that they wish within the realm of legalities. To further prove my point, some of my very favorite films along with some of the most critically-acclaimed ever made are listed in the examples.