10 movie scenes you’ll never want to watch twice

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Even in the age of internet streaming, every household has a stack of dusty movie DVDs either proudly lining the bookcase beneath a copy of Guinness World Records 2005 or occupying the shadows of a storage cupboard. While they might not see the light of day too much in the 2020s, studying the back of each disc reveals weathered wrinkles that speak to countless repeated viewings in the DVD player from a bygone past.

Yet, while movies like Toy Story, Shrek, and Pirates of the Caribbean might have seen countless outings for good reason, there are other films that don’t quite have the same ‘rewatchability.’ Indeed, if someone owned the DVD for Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom, you’d certainly raise an eyebrow, grab your coat, and bolt towards the door, only to find out that it’s been double-locked. 

Some disturbing movies, such as Elem Klimov’s Come and See or David Fincher’s Seven, are so great that they demand repeated viewings, but there are others which you’d simply rather watch once and never again. Indeed, many of these movies you might have wished you’d never even watched in the first place.

While there are only a select few truly disturbing movies in the world, there are countless distressing scenes that you will never want to rewatch.

10 movie scenes you’ll never want to watch twice:

Abduction – Fire in the Sky (Robert Lieberman, 1993)

Alien movies have long been popular in Hollywood, with the curious wonders of the outer cosmos bewildering humanity for generations. Cinematic extra-terrestrials like Steven Spielberg’s ET or the titular Iron Giant from 1999 are cuddly fellas, but other filmmakers prefer an entirely different approach, with the aliens of Robert Lieberman’s Fire in the Sky being utterly terrifying.

Telling the story of a logger who is abducted by aliens and his co-workers, who are accused of his murder, Fire in the Sky plods along for the most part until the final scene that sears a horrifying vision into the retinas of the audience. With the protagonist lying down on a table, testicle-like aliens surround him before probing him with jagged metal tubes. It’s truly sickening.

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Big Bang – Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)

Sometimes, nothing is more terrifying than reality, and although Mick Jackson’s 1984 sci-fi Threads certainly isn’t based on fact, all the science within it has been well-researched. Such leads to one of the most terrifying nuclear explosions in cinematic history, with the industrial city of Sheffield, England, going up in flames after the Soviet Union launches an attack on the country.

The scene in which the bomb is dropped on the city is a spectacle of horror, with Jackson preferring to focus on the very real human lives immediately affected by the event rather than the effects-heavy destruction of the environment. The fear in the eyes of each resident is palpable, making Threads one of the most convincing calls for nuclear disarmament ever made.

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Knife scene – Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)

Steven Spielberg’s 1998 movie Saving Private Ryan depicts the horrors of war by showing audiences the senseless violence that occurs in battle. One of the most shocking and hard-to-watch moments occurs when Private Mellish is defeated by a German soldier. While Upham hides around the corner with his gun, too scared to save his pal, Mellish is slowly and painfully murdered.

The German soldier places his knife on Mellish’s chest, and as he pleads for his life, the soldier explains that it’s easier this way before pushing the weapon into his body. It’s an excruciatingly slow death, with Mellish’s face expressing pure terror as he experiences both the pain of the knife and the recognition that he is about to die.

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Nail-stripping – Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is a captivating tale of obsession, with Natalie Portman playing Nina, a ballerina who drives herself to insanity while training to become the lead dancer in her school’s upcoming performance. As Nina’s mind starts to spiral, she engages in countless acts of reckless behaviour which don’t align with her quiet nature.

In one scene, she pulls at a bit of skin near her fingernail, only to keep pulling and pulling. The camera focuses on her finger as the skin continues to peel, and it’s hard not to squirm when watching the painful and self-destructive moment play out. This is just one of many moments that indicate that Nina’s mind – and her ability to make healthy decisions – is rapidly deteriorating.

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Picnic killing – Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)

From true crime podcasts to movies based on real crimes, people have been morbidly fascinated with learning the ins and outs of murder cases for decades. Zodiac, directed by David Fincher, explores the case of the Zodiac Killer, a murderer who actively sent letters with clues about his identity to the police, and to this day, the man behind the killings remains a mystery.

One of the most upsetting scenes comes when a couple are enjoying a peaceful picnic, only to be disturbed by the killer. He ties them up and lays them on their fronts, only to stab them both in the backs, one at a time. The camera keeps close to the characters’ faces as they realise that this is the end for them. Then they scream, and a lack of music makes the scene feel even more realistic and unnerving.

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Ripped apart – Bone Tomahawk (S. Craig Zahler, 2015)

The American director and screenwriter S. Craig Zahler is one of the most unique creatives currently working in American cinema, with each and every one of his films being stuffed full of unique flair. His venture into the western genre with 2015’s Bone Tomahawk may be his most popular movie, with the film starring Kurt Russell as a sheriff who braves the wild to try and save the town’s doctor from cannibals.

The disturbing scene in question has become infamous in the world of contemporary cinema, coming towards the end of the film when the sheriff and his posse are captured by the cannibals. Out of nowhere, one of the captives is taken from his cell and hacked in half by his assaults, with Zahler pulling no punches in his depiction of violence.

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Six Feet Under – The Vanishing (George Sluizer, 1988)

Is there a better filmmaker in human history to praise your movie than the great Stanley Kubrick? Back when the late auteur was in his prime, he called George Sluizer’s Dutch thriller The Vanishing “the most horrifying film I’ve ever seen,” praising the late 1980s flick that told the story of a young woman who is abducted while on vacation and the partner who hasn’t stopped looking for her three years later.

Obsessed with her disappearance, the man goes down a dangerous rabbit hole that takes him face-to-face with the abductor. But, flying far too close to the sun, the protagonist ends up exactly where his lover rested her head for the final time, in a coffin six feet under. It’s one of cinema’s most shocking finales.

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Suicide – Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

After Hereditary, Ari Aster’s next project, Midsommar, took us to a quaint countryside location. However, we soon learn that this is a cult, and the members aren’t afraid of a few human sacrifices. The folk horror movie, clearly inspired by the likes of The Wicker Man, sees the main characters become victims of the cult, with only one surviving.

It turns out the cult needs nine people to use as sacrifices, and while most of these are outsiders, two elderly people from the cult give themselves over by jumping off a cliff. The scene is harrowing, not only because it’s hard to watch people willingly killing themselves, but also because Aster decides to show us their bodies splatting on the ground. These images are undoubtedly burned into the brains of everyone who has watched Midsommar.

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Syringes – Saw II (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2005)

Anyone familiar with the notorious Saw movies will surely know that all ten of the films currently in the horror franchise contain scenes that are almost entirely unwatchable thanks to their graphic gore. Even though the syringe trap in the first sequel may not be the most violent of the bunch, it is the most viscerally cringeworthy, with Amanda being tossed into a pit full of used needles in an attempt to find a lone key.

While desperately searching for almost a literal needle in a haystack, she screams in pain as the sound crew and cinematographer find joy in making the scene as horrible as possible. Even with all of Saw’s intricate traps, nothing is worse than a pit full of dirty needles.

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Underpass – Irreversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002)

Gaspar Noé caused significant controversy with Irreversible, his second feature film, when it was released in 2002. Told in reverse, the film depicts a woman’s brutal rape and her boyfriend’s violent search for the perpetrator. The movie doesn’t spare anyone relief, including the audience, as disorientating camera angles and pounding music become a constant feature. The movie is so hard to watch that many people even walked out at its Cannes Film Festival premiere, a handful even fainting.

The underpass scene, where Monica Belluci’s character is painfully raped and beaten by a random stranger, is easily the worst scene. It’s a ten-minute-long sequence, and the camera forces us to watch the assault play out in real-time. The tough scene cemented Noé as one of modern cinema’s most controversial filmmakers.

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