This is because, while some horror can be classified as “disturbing,” the films on this list push the envelope and bring to life scenes so disturbing that audiences everywhere are left shocked, disturbed and unable to shake the images out of their heads.
This list is in no particular order, so enjoy the ride!
See also: Ratingperson | Top 10 ski movies
1. The Exorcist (1973)
While most horror films try to scare audiences through subliminal imagery hidden within shadows or just off-camera, William Friedkin’s masterpiece knows that the scariest things are often right in front of you. What he does to scare audiences isn’t by showing them something terrifying – it’s by showing them everything and letting their imaginations do the rest.
“The Exorcist”, for those who haven’t seen it, is about a 12 year-old girl who becomes possessed by a demonic entity and the two priests tasked to perform the exorcism. It’s not as simple as it sounds, though – this movie is horrifying.
2. A Serbian Film (2010)
This film was so shocking that it caused protests all around Serbia and even got banned in Spain for its “obscene” content containing scenes of rape, necrophilia, and child pornography among other things. If you’re going to watch it – don’t say we didn’t warn you!
While most horror movies try to scare us with gore or jump scares, “A Serbian Film” takes a different approach: realism. The filmmakers take a long hard into how far humans are willing
3. A Clockwork Orange
Some movies on this list look tame by today’s standard of shock and horror in movies—not A Clockwork Orange. Released in 1971, Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian crime film was banned in several countries, yet still received four Oscar nominations.
Among the countries to ban A Clockwork Orange were Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, Brazil, Spain, South Korea and parts of Canada. The British movie was released in America after Kubrick removed 30 seconds of explicit sexual footage which got it an R rating in theaters.
4. The Last House on the Left – 1972
Wes Craven’s 1972 movie had to be censored to play in the likes of the US, the UK and Australia because of its scenes of graphic violence, rape and humiliation.
The story is based on a classic Swedish arthouse film The Virgin Spring by Ingmar Bergman. It tells the story of two girls who are kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered in the woods. The parents of the girls then exact revenge. Craven made a remake of the movie in 2009 that wasn’t banned at all.
5. The Exorcist – 1973
While it may have been banned on release in 1973, The Exorcist is now considered a cult classic and still widely shown in movie theaters today.
The movie allegedly made cinema-goers faint and vomit while others complained of more serious reactions like heart attacks and a miscarriage. The movie was banned across different cities in the US and the UK. Despite the furor, The Exorcist still won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay.
6. Grotesque – 2009
Kōji Shiraishi’s Japanese horror movie features a young couple being subjected to unspeakable torture methods. For seemingly no reason, the couple who were snatched on their first date, are stabbed, dismembered then healed, purely for the sexual satisfaction of their captor.
The UK refused to release the film which led to a backlash in Japan and DVD sales of the movie were banned there too.
7. Cannibal Holocaust – 1980
The title may give away the reason why this Italian movie was banned in several countries. The found-footage style film featured intense gore and was investigated after its release to determine whether the scenes were staged or real.
Seven animals were also killed during production of the movie with six of those deaths seen on screen. The animals killed included a large turtle, a squirrel monkey, a pig and a boa constrictor.
8. The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) – 2011
Referred to as a Dutch body horror film series, it’s a wonder that the first movie was made, let alone three.
The first movie was shocking, but not banned anywhere, whereas The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) was deemed too extreme for British audiences, and it did not receive a classification and was banned in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Funnily enough, the third movie, which features the human centipede concept on an even bigger scale, slipped by the censors without alteration.
9. I Spit on Your Grave – 1978
While I Spit On Your Grave has spawned its own franchise thanks to the 2010 remake and sequels, the original version disturbed audiences in 1978.
Showing the rape and revenge journey of Jennifer Hills, I Spit on Your Grave features a lengthy 30 minutes of gang rape. Famed filmed critic Roger Ebert called it “a vile bag of garbage” upon its release in theaters. The likes of West Germany, Ireland, Norway, Iceland and Ireland banned the movie while heavily censored versions were shown in Australia, Canada and the UK.
10. The Evil Dead – 1981
It’s hard to believe that the same director who gave the world the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy and a Wizard of Oz spinoff movie made his debut with a horror film that was banned upon its release.
Sam Raimi made the movie while he was still a student, and The Evil Dead was deemed to be one of the most gruesome and gory movies ever made in 1981. It performed better overseas than it did in the United States, but was and reportedly still is banned in some countries. The 2013 remake was banned by the likes of Finland, Ukraine and Singapore.