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When it comes to movie night, we all have guilty pleasures or beloved classics we happily enjoy rewatching for the third or tenth time. Maybe it’s a favorite Hitchcock film noir, a raunchy ’80s comedy, a beautiful sci-fi masterpiece, or a cherished animated film that the whole family can enjoy. What you probably aren’t reaching for is a grisly torture-porn art film, an emotionally draining drama, or a bleak take on the pointlessness of life. Some of the movies on this list are worth a watch for their controversial take on a subject or for the Big Reveal that comes at the end, but that’s it. Not even the best acting, dialogue, music, production design, editing, or cinematography can convince us to take these 18 films out for a second spin, because having them burned into our retinas the first time around was hard enough.
American History X (1998)
American History X (1998) Official Trailer – Edward Norton Movie HD
American History X, the story of an antihero’s redemption, is a tough watch from end to end, no matter how well acted. Edward Norton knocks it out of the park as a reformed neo-Nazi just released from prison who comes to terms with his ugly past and wants to keep his impressionable younger brother (Edward Furlong) from following in his footsteps. Racism, hatred, prison injustice, and graphic violence are all represented in their cruel glory, as is a curb-stomping scene that will remain in your head for days, if not forever. Norton earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the role, but that doesn’t mean we want to revisit it.
Antichrist (2009) Official HD Trailer [1080p]
Quite possibly the world’s most dour Dane, Lars von Trier is known for pushing his actors to the lowest of lows. If you thought his movies Dancer In The Dark and Dogville were bummers, well, you haven’t met Antichrist. In it, Willem Dafoe and von Trier’s longtime muse Charlotte Gainsbourg retreat to an isolated cabin to heal after their child’s sudden death, but instead they embark on a violently manic episode of misdirected psychotherapy. Disemboweled talking foxes, genital mutilation, and unrelenting mental suffering ensue in a body-horror movie von Trier called a “fun” way of working through his own depression. Might’ve been his idea of fun, but certainly not ours.
Bad Lieutenant (1992)
Bad Lieutenant – Trailer – HQ
The Lieutenant (he’s never named) is a dirty, rotten cop. To the core. Simple corruption is the least of his offenses: He sexually harasses teen girls, drinks and snorts coke in his patrol car, and sells drugs to dealers instead of turning them in as evidence. A fearless Harvey Keitel rampages through the mean streets of New York in Bad Lieutenant with no remorse, stumbling around full-frontal in a prostitute’s apartment or shooting up in a crack house, until a horrific event sends him into a tailspin of Catholic guilt and compassion. It’s sex, religion, and perverted violence all rolled into one movie you’ll appreciate for Keitel’s performance but will never set eyes on twice. (For a campy good time, watch Nic Cage in Werner Herzog’s 2009 riff, Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans.)
Boxing Helena (1993)
Boxing Helena (1993) Official Trailer – Sherilyn Fenn, Julian Sands
Kim Basinger and Madonna both bailed on the title role in 1993’s Boxing Helena, and when Sherilyn Fenn said “yes,” it essentially ended her career. This misguided psychosexual tale has Fenn playing a woman held captive by a surgeon (Julian Sands) who convinces her that he must amputate her limbs to keep her alive. We won’t reveal the big twist, but rest assured it’s just as much a reason not to rewatch this campy disaster as the scenery chewing and laughable attempts at metaphor.
Crash  Official Trailer
No, not the fraught, Sandra Bullock Crash of 2004 (though it too belongs on this list), but David Cronenberg’s brilliant and disturbing examination of people who get turned on by car accidents. James Spader, Holly Hunter, and Elias Koteas give new meaning to the word “autoerotic” as members of an extreme sex cult where a car wreck is the ultimate climax. Wisely, Cronenberg merely observes these characters (gay, straight, disabled, even automotive) and their motivations rather than sensationalizing them. There is no kissing and no intimacy, just a frigid dive into a world of dangerous fetishism where one’s kink could literally kill. Fascinating though all this is, we’ll put the brakes on taking a second ride.
Funny Games (2007)
Funny Games Trailer
With 2007’s Funny Games, director Michael Haneke remade his own 1997 Austrian art-house film shot for shot, for those looking for double the punishment a decade later. Here we have a family (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth play the parents) off to have fun at their lake house, only to be taken hostage by two depraved reprobates who start by killing the family dog. They then spend the next 24 hours putting the family through abject hell for their own amusement, threatening them with death if they don’t follow the instructions of their brutal “games.” Haneke intended all this nastiness to be a commentary on violence in the media rather than a horror film, but if you can even sit through Funny Games once, you’ll have to be the judge of that.
Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)
Grave of the Fireflies – Official Trailer
While you may have watched Ponyo or Spirited Away with your kids, Grave Of The Fireflies is a Studio Ghibli film that is 100 percent not for them. You probably won’t want to rewatch it either, despite it being widely regarded as one of the best war movies ever made. An orphaned brother and sister live through the attack on Japan in World War II and are forced to survive a scorched-earth world full of suffering and inhumanity—needless to say, it doesn’t end well (but to be fair, you know this from the outset). Rather than glamorizing war, Fireflies is a bleak commentary on how society can so abjectly fail the people it’s supposed to protect.
Happiness Trailer, Todd Solondz
Abject loneliness, murder, and pedophilia–in a comedy? UNhappiness is the more apt title for Todd Solondz’s haunting (yet oddly moving) exploration of white suburban angst. Happiness follows three sisters and the deviants they’re connected to, but in an unexpectedly compassionate way. Instead of judging the characters’ actions, Solondz steps back and invites us to understand the whys of their behavior and even chuckle a bit at the darkest parts. We won’t give much of the plot away, because as reprehensibly as these people behave, Happiness is well worth the tough—if not to be repeated—watch. Just be forewarned you’ll want to take a long hot shower after you delete this from your playlist forever.
Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer (1986)
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) – Trailer HD 1080p
Michael Rooker stars as the titular psycho in Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, a low-budget crime film set in the 1980s. But Henry isn’t the only depraved miscreant here—he teams up with a degenerate named Otis (Tom Towles) who may be even worse, whether he’s molesting a corpse or raping his own sister. The story follows Henry as he wanders from murder to murder, with no threat of pursuit or law enforcement investigation, just scene after scene of squalid depravity that earned the movie a deserved X rating. As a grainy, gritty, and likely more realistic look into a serial killer’s mind than later big-budget horror films, it’s worth one watch … if you can stomach it.
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE – Official Trailer
We have the hype machine to thank for The Human Centipede (First Sequence), a taboo-breaking B-movie horror film that became the first in a trilogy—moviegoers were both repulsed and curious about what was being touted as “100 percent medically accurate.” The plot, such as it is, revolves around a crazed surgeon who sews two American women and a Japanese man end-to-end in a sort of Nazi-inspired experiment. If that sounds hard to stomach (ahem), in the end (AHEM) it never lives up to its sadistic promises—the sewn areas are covered with gauze, and the disgusting act you’ve been waiting for is more implied than seen. All the buildup might have appealed to the morbidly curious among us, but once you know, you know. You know?
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995) Trailer
The writer of the semi-autobiographical novel this film is based on committed suicide after signing away the rights to it, if that gives you any indication of what you’re in for with Leaving Las Vegas. Ben (Nicolas Cage in an Oscar-winning performance) is a screenwriter hell-bent on killing himself in Sin City by way of alcohol who develops a relationship with a local prostitute (Elisabeth Shue). They shack up, with the agreement to never criticize each other’s life-or-death choices, flawed or not. It’s a devastating tale of acceptance, love, and loss that will shatter even the hardest-hearted viewers to the core. Once.
The Machinist (2004)
The Machinist trailer
Christian Bale shocked movie fans when leaked photos showed his frightening real-life weight loss for this film in which he plays Trevor, a shop worker who hasn’t slept in a year. A series of strange events has Trevor convinced that someone named Ivan is trying to drive him mad. Eventually, he loses his job and his mind, in addition to some 60 pounds, and the line between reality and mania is so blurred even the viewer has a hard time deciphering what’s real. In the end, The Machinist is less about the plot than conveying Trevor’s absolute despair through a gray-and-blue cinematic palate of depression that you won’t be anxious to put on repeat any time soon.
The Passion Of The Christ (2004)
The Passion of the Christ – HD (Trailer)
Few movies have been as polarizing as The Passion Of The Christ, director Mel Gibson’s take on Christ’s crucifixion, which not only doesn’t look away from the horror, but shoves the agony of it right in your face. There’s absolutely no nuance to Gibson’s sadistic, voyeuristic approach that sees Jim Caviezel’s Christ flayed to a bloody pulp—and that’s just one scene. What Gibson said he wanted to portray was “the truth,” but the real truth is, you may want to sit through it to see what the fuss was about, but this’ll be one and done.
Precious (2009) – Official Trailer
The true story of Precious, a teenager abused by her mother and pregnant (twice) by her father, is tragic to begin with, but phenomenal performances by everyone in Precious give it an emotional punch you won’t recover from quickly. Nobody, however, sends this film into awards territory as much as Mo’Nique—known for her comedy—playing Precious’ mother, an absolutely appalling human being you can’t believe really existed. She’ll make you hate yet appreciate a film that manages to end on a positive note—unlike most of the movies on this list.
Requiem For A Dream (2000)
Requiem for a Dream (2000) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers
Yes, Requiem For A Dream, Darren Aronofsky’s downward-spiral tragedy, is as soul-crushing as you’ve heard, and if you’re scared to watch it once, you should be. Jennifer Connelly and Jared Leto star as smack addicts always after the next score, Marlon Wayans is their junkie partner in crime, and Ellen Burstyn will break your heart as a mother who gets addicted to amphetamines while attempting to lose a few pounds. It’s a tough (but important) look at four characters’ descent into drug addiction and how they discover that even hitting rock bottom isn’t the lowest you can go when it comes to getting high. Devastating? Definitely. Rewatchable? No thanks.
The Revenant (2015)
The Revenant | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX
Two words: Bear attack. Leonardo DiCaprio hardly spoke in this two-and-a-half-hour ordeal, but managed to carry the film nearly all by himself (with help from a terrifying CGI grizzly) and win an Oscar to boot. (Fun fact: someone counted and he spoke a total of 1,148 words.) For the sake of authenticity, the shoot was grueling—it was so cold, film crews walked off the set and DiCaprio was as freezing as he looked playing a frontiersman mauled by a bear and left for dead. While gorgeously shot and terrifically acted, the drawn-out survival story is such an endurance test that one watch of The Revenant is certainly enough.
Sophie’s Choice (1982)
Sophie’s Choice Official Trailer #1 – Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline Movie (1982) HD
Meryl Streep won her first Best Actress Oscar for Sophie’s Choice, starring as a mother captured by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz who must make a decision no parent should be forced to make. Now, if you have never seen this otherwise meh film, her tour-de-force performance (as well as Kevin Kline’s as her eccentric partner) is well worth a couple hours of your time. Plus, she pulls off a Polish-American accent like a champ. But once you’ve seen Sophie’s big reveal play out in a convo with her neighbor, there’s certainly no reason to revisit all this melodrama again.
United 93 (2006)
United 93 Official Trailer #1 – Paul Greengrass, David Alan Basche Movie (2006) HD
First of all, we ALL know how this ended, even those who weren’t around in 2001, so that isn’t even the main reason this fails the rewatch test. It’s a (mostly) faithful, real-time re-creation of the horrific flight from Newark to L.A. on September 11, from the point the terrorists prepped for their suicide mission to the intervention of the passengers (played by relatively unknown actors) to when the plane crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside, leaving no survivors. Gut-wrenchingly hard to watch the first time around, United 93 leaves little to be rediscovered.
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