Thursday, May 31, 2012

100 Very Weird Movies

This is a list of weird, unsettling films. They’re marked by grotesque characters, troubling scenes and menacing atmospheres. The kind of thing that guaranteed inclusion was the video inserted into James Woods’ stomach in Videodrome or the live octopus being eaten in Old Boy. I didn't want anything comedic or quirky, so Re-Animator and Death Becomes Her were excluded despite the fact they both do very strange things to the human body. And being merely surreal was also not enough; they had to be dark and disturbing in some way. Older films and straight-up, no-genre arthouse films were included if there was something particularly perverse about them, or they had an intensely disquieting mood.

Many of these movies are transgressive and had problems with the censors, but being gory or overtly sexual was also not enough. They had to be psychologically discomfiting too. I’ve included famously explicit movies like Last Tango in Paris and In the Realm of the Senses but for their twisted characters rather than their sexual content. I’ve included Herzog’s Nosferatu, but excluded many other horror movies, because it has a genuine creepiness which goes way beyond horror conventions.

I ignored films that are just gross-outs, like La Grande Bouffe or Pasolini’s Salo or Lukas Moodysson’s A Hole in My Heart, because such films seem to cross the line from ‘weird’ into ‘stupid and annoying’. I also ignored a few films I’ve seen from the ‘New French Extreme Cinema’, like Switchblade Romance and Baise-Moi, because they so obviously try to be shocking -and nothing else- that they end up as very banal, unshocking experiences. Nevertheless, this list still contains many films I didn’t like at all. So, for the record, the films I would actually recommend are marked with an asterisk. They’re the ones that are unsettling in a good way...

1. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
2. A Short Film About Killing (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1988)
3. A Zed & Two Noughts (Peter Greenaway, 1985)
4. Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980)*
5. American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)*
6. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)*
7. Audition (Takeshi Miike, 1999)
8. Bad Lieutenant (Abel Ferrara, 1992)
9. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)* 
10. Body Double (Brian De Palma, 1984)* 
11. Caligula (Tinto Brass, 1979)
12. Cobra Verde (Werner Herzog, 1987)
13. Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996) 
14. Cries And Whispers (Ingmar Bergman, 1972)*
15. Cul-De-Sac (Roman Polanski, 1966) 
16. Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)* 
17. Death In Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971)
18. Don’t Look Now (Nicholas Roeg, 1973)*
19. Dressed To Kill (Brian De Palma, 1980)* 
20. Drowning By Numbers (Peter Greenaway, 1988) 
21. Enter The Void (Gaspar Noe, 2009)*
22. Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)
23. Every Man For Himself And God Against All (Werner Herzog, 1974)
24. Existenz (David Cronenberg, 1999)* 
25. Exotica (Atom Egoyan, 1994)*
26. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)*
27. Eyes Without A Face (Georges Franju, 1960)*
28. Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 1997)*
29. Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998)*
30. Heart Of Glass (Werner Herzog, 1976) 
31. Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer (John McNaughton, 1986)
32. Hour of the Wolf (Ingmar Bergman, 1968)*
33. Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich, 1964)*
34. Ichi The Killer (Takeshi Miike, 2001) 
35. In A Year With 13 Moons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978)
36. In The Realm Of The Senses (Nagisa Oshima, 1976)
37. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006) 
38. Irreversible (Gaspar Noe, 2002)*
39. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)*
40. Kids (Larry Clark, 1995)
41. Last Tango In Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1973)
42. Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961)
43. Life During Wartime (Todd Solondz, 2009)
44. Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)*
45. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
46. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)* 
47. Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, 2004)*
48. Naked Lunch (David Cronenberg, 1991) 
49. Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994)
50. Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947)*
51. Nosferatu The Vampyre (Werner Herzog, 1979)
52. Old Boy (Chan-wook Park, 2003)*
53. One Hour Photo (Mark Romanek, 2002)*
54. Onibaba (Kaneto Shindo, 1964)*
55. Open Your Eyes (Alejandro Amenebar, 1997)*
56. Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)*
57. Performance (Nicholas Roeg/Donald Cammell, 1970)*
58. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)* 
59. Pi (Darren Aronofsky, 1998) 
60. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)* 
61. Raising Cain (Brian De Palma, 1992)* 
62. Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)*
63. Requiem For A Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) 
64. Romance (Catherine Breillat, 1999)
65. Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)* 
66. Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995)
67. Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller, 1963)
68. Sick: The Life And Death Of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (Kirby Dick, 1997)
69. Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 2000)
70. Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)* 
71. Storytelling (Todd Solondz, 2001)* 
72. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
73. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)*
74. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989)
75. The Cement Garden (Andrew Birkin, 1993)*
76. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)*
77. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (Peter Greenaway, 1989) 
78. The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel, 1962)*
79. The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)*
80. The Idiots (Lars Von Trier, 1998)
81. The Isle (Kim Ki-Duk, 2000)
82. The King Of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983)*
83. The Machinest (Brad Anderson, 2004)*
84. The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)*
85. The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar, 2011)
86. The Snake Pit (Anatole Litvak, 1948)
87. The Tempest (Derek Jarman, 1979) 
88. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)
89. The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962)*
90. The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)
91. Un Chien Andalou (Luis Bunuel, 1929) *
92. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)*
93. Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)*
94. Visitor Q (Takeshi Miike, 2001) 
95. W.R.-Mysteries of the Organism (Dusan Makavejev, 1971)
96. Welcome To The Dollhouse (Todd Solondz, 1995)*
97. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962)* 
98. Wild At Heart (David Lynch, 1990) 
99. Wisconsin Death Trip (James Marsh, 1999)*
100. Woyzeck (Werner Herzog, 1979)

There are many other films I haven’t seen but, judging from their trailers and things I’ve read about them, it seems like they could well fit into this list; films such as Anti-Christ, Anatomy of Hell, The Baby Of Mâcon, Bad Boy Bubby, Black Snake Moan, Boxing Helena, Cannibal Holocaust, The Devils, El Topo, Fellini Satyricon, Gummo, The Holy Mountain, Hostel, The Hourglass Sanatorium, Julien Donkey-Boy, Lady in a Cage, The Night Porter, Pink Flamingoes, Santa Sangre, Superstar The Karen Carpenter Story, Suspiria, and any number of films by Bela Tarr, Derek Jarman, Guy Maddin or Walerian Borowczyk. However the ultimate weird movie (I’ve only seen clips but it’s enough) was undoubtedly made back in 1932: Tod Browning’s Freaks. 


  1. Dan Zukovic's "DARK ARC". Utterly bizarre.

  2. It cannot possibly get any more bizarre and visably arresting than "The Holy Mountain".

  3. Restored version of "The Holy Mountain". Wow@ it's on YouTube.

  4. Sooooooo disturbing. Love it. Hope you do too! Also, if you enjoy cannibus, fire one up and then watch it. Whoa! It's a total trip. Trust me.

    (This is Anonymous Feb 20, 2014-- 5:11 & 5:21 a.m)

  5. Funny you should mention this film. I just saw clips from it on Mark Cousins' The Story of Film a few days ago, and it looked really good. I'll have to check it out.