Great movies come in all shapes and sizes. That’s a rather lame way of saying there are great movies from all genres. But great movies aren’t by necessity ones you watch over and over again. In fact some can be dark, disturbing, and difficult to sit through while still being truly wonderful films. Today’s Phenomenal 5 looks at five incredible movies you may never want to watch a second time. Now with so many to choose from I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these are truly phenomenal (even if you only see them once).
#5 – “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)
Mel Gibson’s passion project chronicling the final twelve hours in the life of Jesus polarized critics. Much of it came from Gibson’s unwillingness to compromise in depicting the graphically violent nature of Jesus’ scourging and crucifixion. The bloody brutality overwhelmed some and provided ammo for others looking for reasons to dismiss the film. But many were moved by the intensity of the realism despite it being excruciating to watch. And its impact and its message has stuck with a particular segment of cinema fans.
#4 – “Au Hasard Balthazar” (1966)
This 1966 classic from acclaimed French auteur Robert Bresson is as heart-crushing as it is brilliant. The movie follows a donkey named Balthazar who is passed from owner to owner, many of whom are cold, callous and abusive. Bresson’s movie is rich with symbolism but it’s the potency of his images that makes this such a difficult watch. The moments of compassion Balthazar experiences are few, but we cherish each one as a welcomed respite from the abject cruelty that defines most of his life. It all packs one massive emotional wallop.
#3 – “Funny Games” (1997)
Michael Haneke has a reputation for pulling no punches in his movies. This sometimes makes for brutally uncomfortable yet deeply affecting cinema experiences. None of his movies personifies this more than “Funny Games”. In giving a stinging rebuke of violence in the media and our penchant for absorbing it, Haneke tells a story that is horrifying both narratively and visually. Many people were repulsed by the film and the graphic nature of its violence. I think it makes a powerful statement despite being one of the hardest films I’ve ever sat through.
#2 – “Amour” (2012)
It may surprise some that a movie titled “Love” would be so incredible difficult to watch. But Michael Haneke (yes, again) looks at love in its truest and rawest sense. “Amour” follows a loving elderly couple exquisitely played by legendary French stars Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant. The wife suffers a debilitating stroke and the husband is determined to care for her himself. By highlighting the daily routines, Haneke shows the deep commitment (aka the love) it takes to care for a ailing loved one. And as her condition worsens it becomes even harder to watch. Still, it so beautifully examines an element of true love that is rarely considered.
#1 – “Schindler’s List” (1993)
Steven Spielberg is credited with so many great films but none are quite like his historical masterpiece “Schindler’s List”. Holocaust movies are important and (as their subject matter dictates) they are naturally tough to watch. “Schindler’s List” more so due to Spielberg’s earnest and passionate desire to show the Nazi atrocities without taking shortcuts. The intensity of the Jewish roundups, the inexplicable horrors of the concentration camps, the heart-wrenching emotions of all those victimized. It is all depicted in vivid detail. I love “Schindler’s List”, but it leaves a mark on me every time I watch it.
So those are my choices of great movies that you may never want to watch a second time. What do you think? What would have made your list? Let me know in the comments below.
I have seen Schindlers list, but not the others, and I don’t think my little heart would take the sadness to do so, I like my violence & cruelty cartoon style aka Rambo or Jason Statham. I would add Boy in the Striped Pyjama’s if you want your heart ripped out! I couldn’t do it again.
Oooooh I’ve seen that one! You’re right. That is a REALLY tough watch. You can see where the story is heading but it still cuts deep.
Yes that’s the thing with it, knowing what’s gonna happen, and you’re willing it not to, but it does. Think I cried for an hour after!
I like this round up, Keith. My personal list would include Life is Beautiful (1997). ❤️
Oh yes. I really like “Life is Beautiful” but that second half is tough. I know a fairly big number of critics of who accuse it of being too whimsical. I see that film from a much different perspective. I think it’s as terrifying as it is heartbreaking.
I completely agree with your perspective. That’s what made the movie so special for me too.
The only film I haven’t seen on your list is Au Hasard Balthazar. I’d agree with the others, though i’ve seen Schindler’s List more than once. I hated Amour and Funny Games and Passion was just an interesting experience. I find a lot of people massively hypocritical for going to that yet condemning other violent films, yet Passion gets a pass because “it really happened.” There was just a lot of mental gymnastics from Church groups involved there that rubs me the wrong way in hindsight.
If I made something like this, I’d add Requim for a Dream, Tyrannosaur, and Grave of the Fireflies (I didn’t care for Graves but I can acknowledge that it’s a very well made movie)
Interesting. I understand Funny Games. My wife feels the same way. I adore Amour and it affected me deeply. I love Passion as well and I don’t doubt some church groups were hypocritical. But I know others who responded to it the same way they did the opening of Saving Private Ryan.
I knew without a doubt Requiem would be mentioned. It’s a movie I appreciate but don’t really love. That’s the only reason it’s not on here.
I think with Amour, I just personally struggle with dementia/Alzheimer’s movies. They’re all so depressing that I just can’t see any other artistic merit to it other than misery. I think the closest I ever got to appreciating one was Away From Her
Oh okay. I can certainly respect that. It’s pretty personal for me as well. My wife and I both have had people in our close families who have been stricken with it. My grandfather had a terrible fight with Alzheimer’s and many of his episodes are still vivid memories.
I have a small list of this sort of thing in my head. A little more along the line of movies with a message and a social conscience, which, once you’ve gotten the message, aren’t really entertaining. The two that pop into my head are “Twelve Angry Men”, and “The Oxbow Incident”. Good, but no desire to sit through either ever again. I could probably come up with a few more if I thought about it for a while.
I agree on your number one, and that still photo you used is probably my least favorite part of the movie. Hit us over the head why don’t you Steven.
That’s an interesting idea and you got my mind going. As for that Schindler’s scene, I actually love it. I get what you’re saying but I look at it a little different. I see it as coming from Schindler’s perspective and that red dress is something vividly etched in his mind. Something that will forever stick with him, hence the bright red emphasis. His expression is so telling.
Nice list! I guess I would add Border, Magical Girl, and Son of Saul!
When it comes to The Passion, I’m really not sure what the message was intended to be. Or that it is really clear enough because it is so well buried underneath the EXCESSIVE violence and bloodshed. There was a way to depict his final 12 hours in a way that wasn’t so hyper-stylized. It’s the same way I feel about Irreversible’s rape scene. There’s just no way you can justify that scene going on for 10 or so minutes (real time).
I would agree The Passion has an important story to tell and it is a challenge to sit through without squirming though, but in my eyes testing an audience’s resolve to sit through sadistic torture is seemingly its only purpose.
I saw Passion of the Christ in the theater when it came out. The next year, my mom asked me if I would watch it with her for Good Friday, and I said, “Nnnnnnope” and walked away haha. Also Funny Games, not what the title advertises and I don’t need to see it again! Schindler’s List I actually own and have seen more than once, I also have to mention the score for it, so unlike anything else John Williams ever composed.
Oh I LOOOOVE the score for Schindler’s List. I don’t think it gets enough appreciation. It just shows the incredible range Williams has.
Right?! It’s soooooo haunting I get chills each time I hear it. I’m trying to learn the theme song on my violin these days (lots of quarantine downtime haha) but it’s quite hard!
That’s really cool. I’m like you, I’ve seen that movie several times. I’m probably going to show it to my kids for the first time later this year. They’re old enough to not only handle it but appreciate it the way it should be.
I’d be very interested to hear how they take it – I saw it for the first time at 12 or 13ish, and I remember it impacting me very deeply. To this day I credit it for helping me grasp the Holocaust and how important it is to NEVER forget.
I can relate to the effect you felt. Powerful stuff!
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST – 6/10
AMOUR; SCHINDLER’S LIST – 7/10
I’m still waiting to hear from someone else who has seen Au Hasard Balthazar. Such a heartbreaking movie.
Au Hasard Balthasar is a film that is just devastating to watch as it’s one I’m not sure I want to see again as well as Funny Games (original version unless I buy the Criterion DVD) and Amour. The Passion of the Christ I had re-watched and it hasn’t aged well as I’ve begun to see more of its flaws as well as its lack of subtext which is why I’ve become critical lately towards Mel Gibson’s work as a director. Schindler’s List I did re-watch again last year as it is still an incredible film that holds up.
Audition is a horror film that I have seen a long time ago and I don’t want to see it again because it scared the fuck out of me. Shoah was an immersive experience that I saw late last year and I don’t think I can watch it again.
So good to hear from someone else who has seen Au Hasard Balthazar. “Devastating” is the perfect word for it. I haven’t seen Audition but I’m with you on Shoah. It’s a really sobering watch.
Two recent movies that immediately comes to mind are 12 Years a Slave and The Nightingale. Powerful but rough to sit through.
I still need to see The Nightingale. It slipped by me last year but I’ve heard it’s a tough watch.
I’ve been tempted to try Au Hasard Balthasar, so I’m grateful for the warning. May save it for happier times.
My addition would be Requiem for a Dream. Must be twenty years since I saw it and it still haunts me.
Thanks for the comments, I can’t reccomend Balthazar enough. It’s a tremendous film but a heartbreaking watch. If you check it out be sure to let me know what you think.
Top of my list would be Requiem for a Dream, Grave of the Fireflies, The Road and Come and See.
Out of those I really love Grave and The Road. You’re right about them. They are super tough to watch.
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“A Clockwork Orange” (which you must see if you haven’t already done so, particularly since you clearly admire the slightly similar “Funny Games”) should definitely be on here. A brilliant film for sure, but some scenes are pretty tough to sit through.
It’s funny, “Clockwork” is a movie I’ve been meaning to see again. It didn’t really do much for me when I first saw it but that has been YEARS ago. I deserves a revisit.