Some movie scenes fill us with joy, others make us bust a gut laughing, and some make our hearts swell with love. But not every scene can be so uplifting. On the flip side of the cinematic coin, we’ve got movie moments that are just plain unsettling. Perhaps it’s a violent scene that crosses the line from badass to abominable. Maybe it’s a comedy sequence that’s so cringey that we’re forced to look way. Or perhaps the filmmaker wants to gross the audience out and succeeds with a scene truly worthy of an upset stomach.
While these sequences might be wonderfully shot and well-acted, they’re still incredibly difficult to watch, let alone more than once. After all, they leave us feeling sick, scared, or very embarrassed for the characters up onscreen. From sci-fi surgeries to inhuman horrors, these are the most uncomfortable movie scenes that we will never watch again.
A serious stomach ache in Annihilation
Annihilation isn’t what you’d call a feel-good flick. Directed by Alex Garland, this sci-fi movie deals with some heavy themes like regret, infidelity, and depression. On top of all that, you’ve got the Shimmer, an alien electromagnetic field that mixes and matches the DNA of any living creature that steps inside its translucent walls. As a result, we’re treated to a nightmare world where deformed bears scream like women, alligator-sharks grow to enormous size, and Tessa Thompson turns into a tree.
But the most horrific image inside the Shimmer comes when our heroes discover an old video camera that reveals the fate of an earlier expedition. When they play the footage, we see a wild-eyed soldier (Oscar Isaac) holding a knife and slowly slicing open the belly of one of his comrades. As the man groans in pain, Isaac’s character slowly pulls back a giant flap of skin, revealing the dude’s intestines. That would be bad enough by itself… but then the guts start slithering around. Thanks to the Shimmer’s gene-splicing abilities, this guy’s intestines have come to life, and they’re oozing around like some giant worm. It’s a scene that starts off sadistic before taking a turn into Lovecraft territory. And no matter how hard you try, we’ll never be able to annihilate this moment from your memory.
Drilling the point home in Apostle
Apostle is not for the faint of heart. Directed by Gareth Evans, this horror film finds Dan Stevens as an ex-missionary trying to save his sister from a murderous cult. His quest takes him to a remote Welsh island where this psycho religious group worships a bloodthirsty goddess and practices a whole lot of self-mutilation. But all that pales in comparison to the cult’s purification ritual.
Obviously, when a creepy cult starts talking about purification, you know things are going to get nasty. And through an elaborate string of events that involve star-crossed lovers, a jealous father, and a religious coup, a terrified young man (Bill Milner) is dragged into the town square and strapped down to a board. As creepy hooded figures stand by, he’s held in place by vices that crush his bones and leave him shaking with pain. But things get even worse when a psychotic preacher (Mark Lewis Jones) starts boring into the boy’s skull with a massive, twisted drill.
Really, it’s the sounds that make this scene so terrifying — the boy’s screams, the skull crunching, the grind of the drill. It’s slow and painful, and the preacher is enjoying every minute of it. There’s no happy ending here. Dan Stevens doesn’t save the day. Instead, the quivering kid goes limp, he’s left with a massive hole in his head, and that awful moment has been drilled into our minds forever.
Tubby time in Creep
With a title like Creep, it should come as no surprise that this horror flick is one uncomfortable experience. The film follows an unlucky cameraman named Aaron (Patrick Brice) who’s hired to make a video for a weirdo named Josef (Mark Duplass). Josef claims he’s dying of cancer, so he wants to make a film for his unborn child. But this seemingly sweet idea gets freakier and freakier as Josef abandons Aaron in the woods, tells him a disturbing tale about his marriage, and performs a song-and-dance number while wearing a wolf mask.
But all that comes after Josef tells Aaron to follow him into the bathroom for "tubby time." When Josef was a little kid, he would take baths with his dad. Since he won’t be around to share that with his son, Josef wants to recreate that experience on film. And yeah, it’s about as awkward as it sounds. Even though Aaron is behind the camera, he’s clearly uncomfortable as Josef strips down and starts playing with an imaginary baby — pouring water on its invisible head, tickling its non-existent toes, and gently patting thin air.
The situation gets even weirder when Josef sinks into a depression and starts talking about suicide. One moment, he’s playing with his unborn son. The next, he’s sliding under the water, like he plans to drown himself. Concerned, Aaron leans over the tub to check on Josef, and that’s when the madman comes screaming at the camera. It’s quite the jump scare and perfectly sets the mood for all the creepiness to come.
Wrestling 101 in Foxcatcher
Steve Carell is no stranger to cringe-worthy moments, but even after leaving The Office, he wound up in more awkward situations in Foxcatcher. This biopic finds Carell playing John du Pont, an eccentric millionaire with a fondness for firearms, cocaine, and combat sports. But even though he’s incredibly rich, du Pont is still desperate to win the approval of his mother (Vanessa Redgrave), a cold woman more fond of her prize-winning horses than her own son.
Hoping to get just a tiny bit of praise, du Pont starts a wrestling team in hopes of winning some prestigious trophies and maybe even Olympic gold. Finally, Du Pont’s big chance to impress his mom comes when the old lady visits his little gym. Even though he’s just a novice when it comes to the sport, he takes control of the class from coach Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and starts giving an inspirational speech to the athletes about representing America and becoming "winners in life." Things get especially cringey when he calls one of the wrestlers onto the mat and demonstrates some moves. See, his techniques are all incredibly basic, and the team watches in confusion as du Pont desperately takes them through Wrestling 101.
Eventually, du Pont winds up on the ground with a guy on his back, and that’s when his mom leaves with a disapproving scowl for this "low sport." The look on du Pont’s face is heartbreaking, and even though he’s a manipulative psycho, watching this man humiliate himself will make you wrestle with some complicated feelings.
World’s worst coffee in The Hateful Eight
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight is full of mean, disgusting moments that will make you squirm in your seat. There’s a disturbing necktie party, a shocking Samuel L. Jackson story, and a whole lot of scenes where Kurt Russell punches Jennifer Jason Leigh. And then there’s the grossest scene that Tarantino has ever put to film: the poisoned coffee sequence.
The Hateful Eight finds a bunch of killers trapped inside a cabin as a blizzard rages outside. Among these shootists and scoundrels, we’ve got John Ruth (Russell), a bounty hunter handcuffed to notorious murderer Daisy Domergue (Leigh). Ruth knows that Daisy has a mole in the cabin, somebody who wants to kill him and set his outlaw boss free, but Ruth never suspects that mysterious someone would go so far as to poison his coffee. But after Ruth takes a swig from his mug, he immediately starts vomiting rivers of chunky blood.
He isn’t the only one to drink the poisoned beverage either, as a stagecoach driver (James Parks) begins projectile vomiting streams of gore. By the time the scene is over, these guys have thrown up gallons of red goo. Ruth even intentionally aims at the cackling Domergue, coating her with gore before he finally keels over. It’s a gross-out moment that only Tarantino could come up with, and we’d definitely hate to watch it again.
Don’t lose your head in Hereditary
When it comes to uncomfortable content, Hereditary has creepy naked cultists, fiery family moments, and piano wire where it doesn’t belong. But the horror doesn’t truly start until a poor little kid gets her block knocked off. Literally.
The plot finds the unfortunate Graham family in the middle of a devilish conspiracy involving a demon-worshiping cult. The first part of the cult’s convoluted scheme involves the Graham children — Peter (Alex Wolff) and his younger sister Charlie (Milly Shapiro) — going to a party where Charlie eats some nuts and suffers a severe allergic reaction. As the two rush to the nearest hospital, we watch as Charlie desperately gasps for breath in the backseat of their car. It’s incredibly painful as she struggles to breathe, and when the terrified little girl stick her head out the window, bam, she gets decapitated by a telephone pole.
The seconds that follow are absolutely unbearable, as Alex realizes what’s happened but is too horrified to look in the backseat at his headless sister. In shock, he drives home and crawls into bed, leaving the decapitated corpse in the car for his distraught mother to find. Her screams are absolutely heart-wrenching, and the nightmare sequence is capped off with a disgusting shot of Charlie’s severed head, crawling with ants. Most Hollywood films are too afraid to kill of a kid, but this truly awful moment in Hereditary will haunt us for life.
An awkward home invasion in The King of Comedy
The King of Comedy was the fourth collaboration between Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, and while it’s not as well known as Taxi Driver or Raging Bull, it’s definitely the most awkward movie they’ve ever made. A black comedy about the dark side of show business, the film finds De Niro as Rupert Pupkin, a wannabe comedian who idolizes late night talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Rupert thinks if he could just get on Jerry’s show and perform his set, then he could make it into the big time.
However, Rupert is a delusional creep who fantasizes about being Jerry’s best friend. Eventually, the fantasy spills over into reality when Rupert starts stalking Jerry. Things get especially especially uncomfortable when the persistent comedian shows up at Jerry’s mansion, completely uninvited. Making things worse, Rupert has brought along a date (Diahnne Abbott) who has no idea that her psycho boyfriend isn’t really friends with the talk show host. As far as she’s concerned, they’re really there to spend the weekend with a superstar.
After the two barge into the house, they make themselves at home until an infuriated Jerry shows up, demanding that Rupert leave. Slowly but surely, Rupert’s date realizes they’re not supposed to be in this man’s house, and we can totally feel this poor woman’s embarrassment. But Rupert just keeps on pretending that he’s Jerry’s best friend, even as Jerry gets angrier and angrier. The whole scene is incredibly cringe-worthy — almost as if Michael Scott were stalker — and it feels so genuinely raw and confrontational because the actors were improvising all their lines.
Bending the rules and getting bloody in The Nice Guys
Holland March is the worst detective in Los Angeles — maybe even the world. Played by a hilarious Ryan Gosling, March is a bumbling alcoholic who’s hired to find a missing porn star, and his quest is filled with all sorts of injuries, both to his pride and his well-being, but the most painful moment comes when he accidentally slits his wrist.
Early in the film, March is trying to break into a building so he can do a bit of sleuthing. Of course, the door is locked, so March decides to get macho. Having seen too many movies, he thinks he can just wrap his hand, punch through a small pane of glass, and reach inside to unlock the door. But March is no superhero, and like any mortal man, the glass cuts his wrist to ribbons.
Immediately, blood starts gushing everywhere, and we can hear it oozing all over the place. Granted, the scene is played for laughs, and Gosling does an amazing job selling the comedy. He almost loses his lunch and then manages to gasp, "That’s a lot of blood," before stumbling down the stairs. Still, seeing (and hearing) all that blood leaves us feeling queasy, and that definitely isn’t nice, guys.
Jared Leto needs a hand in Requiem for a Dream
There’s no movie more traumatic than Requiem for a Dream. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, this movie is so devastating and depressing that the idea of watching it a second time is nearly unthinkable. It’s an endurance test of a movie and probably the greatest anti-drug PSA ever made. Every moment with Ellen Burstyn as Sarah Goldfarb is just heartbreaking, from her red dress speech to the scene where she’s cruelly force-fed by two cold-hearted nurses. And then there’s the infamous climax where our four main characters experience what it must be like to visit hell. But if we’re going to pick one scene that forces viewers to look away in disgust, it could be any scene involving Jared Leto’s arm.
Leto plays junkie Harry Goldfarb, a man desperate for some heroin. But his intravenous drug use takes a major toll on his body, as the vein in one of his arms becomes horribly infected. In one of the saddest moments of the film, the arm grows so disgusting that doctors actually chop it off during an operation. But before that awful moment, we witness a jittery Harry prepare to shoot up by sticking the needle in his swollen, black arm. The injection site is oozing with dark liquid, but Harry jabs that needle into the vein anyway, causing moviegoers everywhere to say no to drugs.
Going ape in The Square
Written and directed by Ruben Östlund, The Square is a brilliant satire of the contemporary art world, and it features perhaps the most uncomfortable scene ever put to film: the infamous monkey man scene.
This show-stopping sequence comes at a prestigious dinner party, where a muscle-bound artist storms into a room full of wealthy patrons. Played by Terry Notary (who’s done some amazing mocap work), this guy is hunched over, with stilts attached to his arms, and he’s howling like an ape. He’s a performance artist pretending to be a chimpanzee, and at first, it seems like fun and games. He waddles around the room, grunts, and amuses the patrons with his eerily accurate chimp impression.
But just like real chimps, the artist gets ultra-aggressive incredibly fast. The monkey-man stalks around the room, harassing guests and tormenting everyone in sight. The terrified patrons keep perfectly quiet and still, desperately trying to avoid eye contact as the artist screams, threatens, and chases guests out of the room. Things finally go too far when he leaps on a table and sexually assaults a female patron, prompting everyone in the room to beat him to a pulp.
This insane performance goes on for around 12 minutes, and perhaps it feels so real because Notary actually picked on extras he sensed were nervous whenever he walked by (don’t worry — the woman he attacked was a stunt person who was ready to get hauled around by her hair). The final product is unbearably tense and amazingly uncomfortable, and just like the horror-struck patrons, we don’t want to revisit this terrifying experience again.
Postoperative creepiness in Tusk
Tusk is not a great movie. It bombed at the box office, it offended critics, and it features one of Johnny Depp’s worst performances. But among all the dreck, there are some pretty killer scenes in this Kevin Smith film. And perhaps the most horrifically uncomfortable moment comes when Justin Long realizes he’s missing a pretty important body part.
Long plays podcaster Wallace Bryton, who winds up in a mansion in the middle of nowhere. He’s searching for a good story for his show, and that’s how he comes to meet Howard Howe (Michael Parks), an eccentric adventurer with some scary plans for poor Wallace. During their first meeting, Howard spikes Wallace’s tea, and when the anesthetized podcaster wakes up, he realizes there’s something amiss — he’s in a wheelchair, and his leg is gone.
Still under the effects of Howard’s spiked tea, Wallace is confused and terrified when he sees his stitched-up stump. He begins freaking out, and Howard explains that a doctor had to amputate the limb after Wallace was bitten by a brown recluse. But as tears well up in Wallace’s eyes, Howard is trying to hold back laughter. After all, he’s the one who cut the leg off as part of a twisted experiment. And it’s Howard’s sadistic glee in the face of Wallace’s fear that makes this scene so queasy and uneasy to watch.
Alien behavior on the beach in Under the Skin
From its 2001: A Space Odyssey-style opening to its fiery finale, everything about Under the Skin is eerie. Even the score by Mica Levi will make your skin crawl. But even though this film has dudes getting sucked out of their skin, the most unsettling moment has got to be that awful beach scene.
Scarlett Johansson plays an extraterrestrial being who lures men to their deaths for mysterious purposes. Usually, she’s driving around in a van, picking up guys and taking them back to her apartment, where they meet a fate worse than death. But in this particular scene, Johansson is hunting for prey at a Scottish beach, where she witnesses a woman getting pulled out into the sea. She dispassionately watches the woman disappear into the waves, and she doesn’t move to help when the woman’s lover drowns trying to save her.
In fact, she only reacts after a would-be hero tries in vain to save the couple and is washed ashore unconscious. She drags the man to her van, intent on killing him, and completely ignores the abandoned baby on the beach. The drowned couple were parents, and now their infant is screaming in fear, alone on the rocky shore. Any human would quickly pick up the kid and make sure she was okay, but Johansson’s character isn’t a human. She’s an alien who sees people as prey, so she leaves the baby to die… and also leaves a sick, cold feeling in our stomachs as we think about what’s going to happen to that poor kid.