Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Disturbing Cinematic Images That Will Forever Haunt Me June 26, 2007

Filed under: Memories,Movies — Emily @ 3:42 pm

Part of the magic of movies is their ability to leave an indelible mark upon us. Sometimes they make us see the world differently, sometimes they inspire us, sometimes they anger us. However, sometimes they just downright disturb us. These are the moments I would like to revisit now – the disturbing images that I would rather forget, but that somehow have always stayed with me since the moment my eyes first made contact with them and my brain processed them. For me, “disturbing” takes different forms, including scary, sad, sickening, strange, and shocking. And remember, these are disturbing images or moments – the movies themselves may not be particularly disturbing, although in some cases they are.

  • A fully naked, fully exposed Harvey Keitel caressing a piano in The PianoNeed I say more? I don’t think so. But this movie, and this scene, left such an unsightly impression in my mind, that I believe I have never watched a Harvey Keitel movie since then for fear that the man will unclothe himself again. I take that back. I did see Pulp Fiction and Red Dragon, but thankfully he stayed suited up in those.
  • Christian Bale’s emaciated body in The Machinist – Christian Bale is normally a beautiful man, so it was tragic and truly frightening to see his appearance in this movie. That’s not to say it was a bad movie. It was actually very good, if you could stand the sight of Christian’s gaunt frame and sunken eyes. Here are the details on his extreme weight loss, according to IMDb: “The producers of the film claim that Christian Bale dropped from about 180 pounds in weight down to about 120 pounds in weight to make this film. They also claim that Bale actually wanted to drop down to 100 pounds, but that they would not let him go below 120 out of fear that his health could be in too much danger if he did. His diet consisted of one can of tuna and an apple per day. His 63-pound weight loss is said to be a record for any actor for a movie role. He since gained the weight back for his role in Batman Begins (2005).” All I can say is thank goodness he regained his weight and his health, because Batman Begins, and especially Christian Bale in Batman Begins, is a wonderful thing.
  • Samara, the long-haired ghost-girl in The Ring, climbing first out of the well, and then out of Noah’s television and into his living room (and eventually killing him). The scene was so effective that I felt like she was about to take it a step further and climb out of the movie screen and into the theater!
  • The “sloth” victim in Se7en. This description from Wikipedia gives some idea of the repulsive nature of this scene: “the man is found tied to his bed, alive but suffering from severe mental and physical deterioration after spending a year completely immobile. Above the bed is the word SLOTH written in excrement.” However, that description is nothing compared to what the man looked like. He looked so inhuman that the detectives assumed him dead, as did the audience. The most horrific moment is when they hear him utter a gurgling breath. For weeks after I watched that movie, I would have to check behind my shower curtain to make sure “Sloth Man” wasn’t in my bathtub every time I went to the bathroom. If you’re interested in being given a visual reminder of what Sloth Man looked like, click here and scroll down the page until you see photos of him. They’re impossible to overlook.
  • Two particular death scenes in Saving Private Ryan – The only two things I remember from this movie, which I could only bear to watch once, are two very different, but equally gruesome death scenes. The first is very brief. We see a soldier hunkered down next to Tom Hanks’ character, and the camera pans away from him as he rolls over. Seconds later, the camera pans back to him as Tom Hanks’ character turns to talk to him. Shockingly, the soldier’s face is gone, as he has fallen victim to the enemy attack. The director left nothing to the imagination, but instead showed us a gruesome close-up of the realities of war. The second death scene that deeply disturbed me was much longer and involved a struggle between an American and a German soldier. After what seems like several minutes, the German soldier gets the upper hand and pins the American down. Rather than kill him swiftly, the German opts to make the American suffer a horrible, slow death as he slowly pushes his knife into his chest.
  • Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in the head in Pulp Fiction – Quentin Tarantino has one sick sense of humor. This scene is supposed to be funny, but I didn’t find someone getting shot in the head and having their brains splattered all over a car window very amusing. Perhaps this scene was all the more disturbing because real people die this way (in accidental shootings).
  • The scene with the random man wearing a bear costume in The Shining – The movie was disturbing enough without having to contribute to my fear of people in costumes. It doesn’t matter if it’s Captain Hook, Big Bird, or a college sports mascot. I always get a little nervous when I see someone dressed up as an animal or cartoonish character. Since this “Bear Man” showed up in a movie where there was also a scary old naked lady and creepy little girl twins, it was all the more disturbing.

These last three images are from my childhood movie-viewing, so they are probably considerably less disturbing than the previous items. I just wanted to make that disclaimer. Please, continue reading now…

  • Large Marge, the truck driver, reveals herself to be the victim in her story about a horrendous car accident, by transforming into a bug-eyed, monstrous ghostRemember this scene from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure? The movie was only disturbing in the same way that Pee-wee’s Playhouse was on Saturday morning, but as a small child, this scene really scared me.
  • Carol Anne stares at the TV, which is showing nothing but noisy static, and exclaims, “They’re here!” in the original Poltergeist – This little girl, Heather O’Rourke, was disturbing just to look at. Throw in a snowy tv screen and a creepy line, and you have enough to give me a recurring nightmare about nothing but tv static. Yep, it’s true. I had nightmares about tv static when I was little.
  • The two Nazi villains (was it two, or one?) slowly burn and melt away when they open the Ark of the Covenant and unleash God’s wrath upon themselves (Raiders of the Lost Ark) – This scene is disturbing in a similar way to the Large Marge scene. I was probably more disturbed by the unnatural special effects in both situations than by what they were supposed to convey. Claymation (or whatever this was) can be really creepy! See for yourself.

Please add your own disturbing movie images to the comments section.

External Link: For more disturbing movie memories, go to Filmsite’s alphabetical list of Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes.


28 Responses to “Disturbing Cinematic Images That Will Forever Haunt Me”

  1. baby221 Says:

    *shudders* That scene from The Ring was the one that convinced me to lock my own television in the guest room across the hall (under a stack of family Bibles, even) for the next two weeks.

  2. daphnewood Says:

    the scene in Saving Private Ryan where the sgt. (Tom Sizemore’s character) dies is what haunted me. I don’t even remember how he died. All I can see is his blue eyes open and they really did look lifeless. It doesn’t freak me out but definitely haunts me. I haven’t been able to watch the movie a second time. I cannot remember anything else about Saving Private Ryan, just that one scene.

  3. Lindsay Says:

    The scariest/creepiest/most real scene from a movie that has freaked me out recently was the awful stabbing scene in the movie Zodiac. If I wasn’t creeped out enough, the sound made it 20 times worse, upon the fact that it was a true story. It was just awful!

    • YanniFangZ Says:

      There are very few things that disturb me more than a human stabbing another human. While I can understand and likely accomplish such a task in self defense of a life-threatening nature, it is so very horrific to know that someone could jab a blade repeatedly into another person out of anger or whatever it is. WTF. (that is literally the only time I have ever used ‘WTF’, so you just know how serious I am…) And yes, the sound effects made it that much more disturbing. But Maybe not knowing the story and having a small hope that cooperation would keep the victims safe made it so much more scarring to me,. I just wasn’t ready for that cold does of reality.

  4. Beth Ivy Says:

    The scariest movie I have ever seen (it really messed me up and gave me nightmares for a while, and I refuse to ever see it again) is the newer release of The Exorcist. The little girl doing the creepy spider walk upside down on the stairs was the worst.
    The Ring was probably the next scariest. Now I can’t watch those kinds of scary movies.

  5. Leah Says:

    I have more disturbing movie images in my head than I would like to think about, but I’ll try to just pick a few:
    1. The woman being hung on a meat hook in the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
    2. The man scraping his own face off in “Hannibal.”
    3. David’s father setting his bed on fire in the 80s tv movie “David.”
    4. The man in a black leather suit and mask who raped and killed women in the first movie I ever remember watching. I don’t know what the movie was, but for years afterward, I thought that man lived at the top of my parents’ stairs.

  6. Emily Says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only person to have irrational fears of disturbing movie characters suddenly materializing in my home (see “Sloth Man” and Samara in this blog).

    Baby221, I’m sure that if Samara had crawled out of the tv in the guest room, the Bibles would have saved you!

    Leah, I am unfamiliar with the masked black leather suit man, but it must have been terrifying to imagine he was always waiting upstairs for you. Your other listed moments were equally horrific sounding.

    Beth, I can understand why you were disturbed by the girl’s “creepy upside down spider walk” in “The Exorcist.” That scene is similar in some ways to Samara’s herky jerky movements at various moments in “The Ring.”

    Daphne, I thankfully can’t remember Tom Sizemore’s death scene from “Saving Private Ryan.” I imagine that I’ve blocked it out.

    Lindsay, I have to agree with you about the stabbing scene in “Zodiac.” There are two or three other scenes in that movie that could be on this list. But that stabbing scene was the worst because while most murder scenes take place at night or in a dark environment, this one happened next to a beautiful lake on a sunny day. The contrast between the picturesque scenery and the methodical stabbings (with, yes, those awful sound effects) by the hooded figure was quite jolting and is hard to forget.

  7. Linda Says:

    The scene that truly haunts me is from The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, a 1970 film directed by Vittorio De Sica, about a wealthy Jewish Italian family during the rize of Facism before World War II. A young woman and her elderly grandmother are in a train station after being rounded up by the Facists, frightened and totally confused by what is happening, especially the grandmother who has led a sheltered, comfortable life. Perhaps it haunts me because it so heartbreakingly shows how uncertain life is. All that we know can be turned upside down in an instant.

  8. James McD Says:

    Large Marge was a very traumatic experience for me as a child. That and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

  9. Emily Says:

    I, too, was traumatized by “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Something about the carousel, the carnival, the scary man in the black top hat… It’s all a blur. Another disturbing movie from my childhood was The Watcher in the Woods. That had me afraid of people wearing blindfolds for years!

  10. zennifer516 Says:

    I’m so enjoying your blog, Emily! I’ll revive this post with my own comment about horrific movie memories: the entire film: Requiem For A Dream, but in particular the amputation scene. It is the best movie I’ve ever seen that I cannot, will not, ever watch again. Not a horror flick, but the horror is all too real.

  11. Maygan Says:

    Dawn of the Dead…. I’m terrified of zombies now… in other movies they’re depicted as slow and clutsy. This movie they move fast, and that really messed me up.

    Also the first Resident Evil, especially in the laser room that cubes the people.

  12. Chris B Says:

    I agree with the Large Marge assessment. I didn’t watch that movie again (and all the way through) until I was married soley due to that creepy scene.

    One of the most disturbing images I remember is from an old horror flick I watched a couple minutes of when I was a kid. I don’t know the name of the movie (I’ll never watch it anyway) but a teenager is trapped in the bathroom and his braces turn into some kind of creepy bug. (Bugs creep me out enough as it is.) Then, when his dad grabs the doorknob to help him, his hand turns to decayed flesh, or something.

    This same movie has an old guy in a black “Quaker” type hat. Anyway, that movie has pretty much convinced me that I don’t like horror movies and I’ve watched very few since.

    Finally, the Lust scene in Se7en is quite possibly one of the worst images ever. (Worse than even the Sloth scene.) When you see the “device” that the guy has been using….well…I don’t really want to think about it. That movie was a one time deal for me. I don’t need to see it anymore.

  13. Katerina Says:

    The ending to Sleepaway Camp.

  14. Trac' Says:

    I am all kinds of late chirping in here but I just wanted to add that the scene in No Country For Old Men where Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh) strangles the Depute is the most frightening and intense thing I’ve ever seen. I am fairly certain that for the duration that was being shot Bardem was possessed by pure, crazy hate.

  15. Brian Says:

    I have been trying to come up with the name of this movie that I saw as a 4th grader in class. (1978 or 1979)I remember some kids riding in a carriage through the woods, and suddenly, some guy in a top hat jumps out at them, or startles them somehow. Please share any info you have about this to absurd1us at It is not Something Wicked, since I remember that from the theatre. It’s also apparently not the Watcher in the Woods, since that was released after the event that I’m talking about. This was a 16 mm projector movie.

  16. Tom Says:

    Hi, I’m Tom. 24yrs old. I was just browsing around and came across this interesting thread. I agree. The large marge scene scared me very much when I was little. I have never seen Requiem For A Dream, but plan on renting it. I’m a big fan of horror movies. The more scarier and disturbing, the better. Although, I will get nightmares and am afraid to fall asleep if something freaks me out that bad. Here are a couple of scenes that really scared me when I was younger just to name a few: 1: The skinned humans hanging upside down in a tree in the movie “Predator”.
    2:The scene from “The Terminator” where Arnold cuts his own eyeball out.
    3: Any scene with oversized spiders, alligators, insects, ect. (Oversized mutated species always scared me)
    When I was little, I was always scared of movies with decapitations.
    But one scene that really scared me when I was little and still does to this day is the scene from “A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream warriors” where the one kid Philip is sleeping and Freddy appears and slices his arms and legs, then uses his veins and tendons to walk him through the halls of the hospital. Just mentioning that scene freaks me out. I will comment back later because I remember seeing some other creepy scene from movies, but don’t know what the movie is called. I just remember certain parts.

    • Emily Says:

      Hi Tom,
      I never saw all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but I’m sure they would have scared me. The scene you describe sounds really gross. I really enjoyed scary movies when I was in high school and college, but for some reason the older I get the less I can handle them. I’ve had nightmares just from watching some movie previews, such as The Strangers!

  17. Dan NZ Says:

    Hi. I just saw that scene from Zodiac. Damn that was horrible… so realistic and graphic. And I agree with the post about the stabbing scene from Saving Private Ryan. I hate stabbing scenes I guess. Cool blog btw.

  18. Marco Says:

    I would say a Disturbing scene in movie history, was that of the scene from The Happening when Mrs. Jones slammed her head through a window of her house. It was quite Brief, Random, Rational, Bloody, Disturbing, and DOES NOT LACK HORROR JUMP SCENES…. Another scene in the movie, was when that guy let himself be rundown by a drivable lawn mower. Spews, Squirts, and dusts of Blood lets out from the contraption..

    • Emily Says:

      I’ve actually never seen The Happening, but those scenes do sound disturbing! I was surprised that I was disturbed by another M. Night movie, Signs. The tone of that movie made it seem very realistic and creepy.

      • Marco Says:

        I understand your excitement and pain of that. The Aliens in that movie were so Psycho… They had to be SILENCED……. Either way some people would be screwed if they came across Alien…. Or a Predator…. And I could barely watch some of the scenes in The Happening, I couldn’t tell when things were about to get ugly.. But the good thing, and sqeemish thing about the Chilling death scenes in The Happening were that they went slowly slowly, and the clean ones were TOO FAST…..

  19. Marco Says:


    2 other Disturbing and quite LITERALLY FRESHLY GORY SCENES, are from a personal favorite of mine, George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead. Now the zombies in this Master piece, will make you get to know them, and also will get the crap scared out of you, because of what some of them look like, and what LITERALLY UNTHINKABLE THINGS they can do to YOU…. These Undead Goons like to eat flesh right? In this 2005 flick, 2005 OLD FLICK…… There were a special effect full color version of different death scenes of people being having their bodies being devoured by (Stenches), a nickname the zombies were given in the film, I think that should be their only nickname. ANYWAYS.. 3 of I THINK, the top flesh eating scenes in this movie, were when a crow of child, and clown zombies found a guy with a skate board waiting for a boat full of money come to him from across a river in Pittsburgh, the guy gets overrun, a 10 second scene of the freaking things feeding on his guts, legs, arms, neck, and pulling out Intestines from his lower part for it felt LIKE 10 SECONDS…… 3 other eating scenes from this movie, was when the Zombie Army Freaking Infiltrated a construction site inside Pittsburgh.. A zombie with the top of it’s cranium showing, is biting out 2 times blood and meat from a guys throat, another grabs a guy by the mouth, and you not gonna believe this BS, it pulls with all it’s might the guys upper jaw over the guys head, seeming to it as revealing his scull and eyes covered in blood. And another scene, kinda similar to the one with the skate board guy, his name was Mouse. Was when during the construction site attack, when a small crowd of zombies catch a guy struggling to get up from the ground, but then gets put back down by the Zombies, gets his shirt taken off. And then has his body pulled by two zombies away from his first half of his body, while thick dark red intestines drag from the bottom part.

    I REALLY APOLOGIZE if this info was a little to much for you guys, but I just though that Land of the Dead take the cake with most top Disturbing Gore scenes that will haunt me FOREVER….. Always be prepared for the Undead………. Unless if it’s Damn, Day of Dead, or Resident Evil. Then probably screwed in outrunning those types of freak bags…..

    • Emily Says:

      I’ve never seen Land of the Dead, but your detailed descriptions of all the gore do sound very disturbing. As a fan of zombies, have you seen any of the new AMC show The Walking Dead? It is very well done, and has extremely realistic special effects. The most disturbing moment for me so far is when one of the main characters comes across a zombie who has had the bottom half of her body ripped off. She is dragging herself around, and nearly looks like a skeleton. Good show, though.

      • Marco Says:

        LAND OF THE DEAD VS. THE WALKING DEAD….. I vote for LAND…. Reason why…. I’ve seen ads for The Walking Dead, but are the Zombies in it FAST?

      • Emily Says:

        The zombies on The Walking Dead are generally slow moving and dumb. But if they are really hungry and in a mob of zombies, they can go pretty fast.

      • Marco Says:

        Your joking……. They are slow and dumb. But when they see food, they GO SUPERNOVA FOR FLESH? That’s some SCARY S***……. But the Zombies in LOTD are Scary as well… The zombies in Resident Evil Afterlife were some what RETARDED……

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