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The 25 most disturbing movies ever made

15. The Last House On The Left (1972)

Backstory: This grim and seedy rape revenge story is an early landmark in the careers of horror luminaries Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham, respective creators of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. Its graphic and sustained scenes of sexual humiliation prevented it from finding a cinematic release in the UK, and led to its later video release being banned.

Sickest Scene: Amazingly, not actually the woods-set humiliation. The degrading revenge meted out by the the victim's family - during which her mother seduces and then de-mans one of her attackers - somehow manages to be even more brutal. 

14. Irrversible (2002)

Backstory: Gaspar Noe's unswervingly brutal drama, setting real-life couple Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel in a nightmarish night out played in reverse. The low key style brings a matter-of-fact impact to the plot's horrific peaks - a savage rape, a revenge murder - and made the film the most controversial of 2002.

Sickest Scene: The opener, which is also the dramatic conclusion of the film's central violation. It's a sudden, shocking and unblinking nightclub murder in which a man's head is crushed to paste with a fire extinguisher.

13. Nekromantik (1987)

Backstory: A grimy German drama with a cheap hook: having sex with dead people. The unique thing being that it's not just central loser Rob who likes to rut in peace, but his girlfriend too, a fetish fueled by his job as a civil body-bagger.

Sickest Scene: Rob bringing home a fresh body, and his girlfriend sliding a condom over a metal pole so she can join the fun. Yeah, 'fun'. 

12. Men Behind The Sun (1988)

Backstory: Made in Hong Kong in 1988, this historical gore-fest tells the story of Unit 731, the real biological warfare arm of the Japanese army in World War II. As such, it features various imaginative bits of human experimentation and, controversially, what's claimed to be authentic footage of a young boy's autopsy.

Sickest Scene: The arms of one Chinese prisoner are frozen, then boiled, before a Japanese scientist tears the skin clean off each limb to reveal the bone beneath. The imagery is horrific, but it's the swift, almost casual nature of the grotesque attack - outer hands whipped off like gloves - that really creates the surreal, dizzying impact. 

11. I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

Backstory: Described by Roger Ebert as a "vile bag of garbage," this is another '70s exploitation shocker, in which a female author at a secluded shack is raped and abused in a prolonged and gratuitous sequence by four men. Bans, censorships and years of media frenzy followed.

Sickest Scene: The drawn-out trauma of the attack, which concludes with the mentally ill member of the rapist gang stabbing the victim.

10. Happiness (1998)

Backstory: A dark suburban drama from the taboo poet of American indie cinema, Todd Solondz. The condensed plot reads like a checklist of Bad Things - paedophilia, rape, suicide and murder - but what makes it shocking is that even the worst of characters (like paedophile dad Bill) are shown as rounded people with good qualities.

Sickest Scene: Take your Goddamned pick. The film is made of them. Perhaps more arresting though, is the scene in which Bill confesses to his son that he drugged and raped two of his friends, but would never 'stoop' to raping him. "I'd jerk off instead."

9.  Mother! (2017) 

Backstory: Darren Aranofksy goes abstract again, creating a kind of ugly, dark-side follow-up to The Fountain’s audio-visual love poetry. With precisely no concession to traditional, coherent narrative structure, the divisive (but objectively, brilliantly crafted) Mother! makes sense only as brutal allegory. In this case it’s a relentlessly misanthropic account of the history of the world according to the Bible – from the perspective of a sympathetic Lucifer - as played out as an increasingly fraught, violent, and ultimately horrifying domestic breakdown between Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence.

Sickest scene: After a long period of disorienting, spiralling narrative surrealism, leading to a steady, excruciating escalation of violent incursion, Bardem’s ‘fans’ turn his house into a death-sodden warzone, torturing and killing each other, before eventually stealing Lawrence’s newborn baby, tearing it apart, and eating it. 

8. Visitor Q (2001)

Backstory: Made as part of a micro-budget festival by regular taste offender Takashi Miike, this domestic drama is full of intensely grim acts - incest, rape, prostitution, drug addiction - set within the routine confines of a family home. Did we say it has necrophilia too? Yeah, it has that too. A very tough watch.

Sickest Scene: The father of the family rapes the corpse of a co-worker he's murdered, and is amazed to find that she's wet even through she's dead. Only to then discover the corpse has voided its bowels.

7. Salo, or 120 Days Of Sodom (1975)

Backstory: Pier Palo Pasolini's updated, Fascism-inflected adaptation of the Marquis De Sade's book. Its a pointless and bourgeois sequence of systematic degradations, as a group of powerful men capture several victims and subject them to ritualised sexual humiliation and eventual death. It was banned basically everywhere upon completion, and only released in the UK in 2000.

Sickest Scene: The moment at which a group of victims are presented with a meal entirely made of human faeces. Bon appetite!

6. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Backstory: Another piece of tawdry mondo tat, this time with extra, far too real heave factor. Alongside fabricated scenes of humans being shot and carved up, there are legitimate scenes of animals being violently killed and butchered. The film was seized by the courts after its initial opening in Milan in 1980, and director Ruggero Deodato charged with murder, only released once the still living actors appeared to testify in court.

Sickest Scene: The nihilistic, matter-of-fact machete death of a large (real) turtle, which is decapitated and cooked.