25 Movies You May Only Watch Once Because They’ll Destroy You

By Fangoria Editor · September 22, 2023, 4:44 AM PDT

Some movies can leave such a profound impact on us that we can't bear watching them again. Ever. These films stay with us long after the credits roll, haunting our thoughts and leaving us emotionally shattered. Here, we've compiled a list of 25 movies deemed one-time experiences by viewers on an online forum who have been through the emotional wringer.

1. Irreversible (2002)


Image Credit: Mars Distribution.

The film haunted them and messed up their psyche. This French thriller takes its audience on a dark and disturbing journey through time, exploring themes of violence and revenge. There were also a lot of scenes fans found utterly disgusting.

2. Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)


Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

A coming-of-age film that portrays the harsh realities of adolescence, this movie hits hard with its unflinching portrayal of bullying and social isolation. As one commenter says, “It captures the awkwardness and cruelty of middle school so well that it's almost painful to watch.”

Heather Matarazzo gave a killer performance playing Dawn Wiener, the middle school student who had to pass through the furnace to prove to her vicious classmates that she was worthy of their respect.

3. Johnny Got His Gun (1971)


Image Credit: Cinemation Industries.

This thought-provoking war film tells the story of a soldier who becomes a quadruple amputee and loses his ability to see, speak, and hear. A contributor remarks, “It's a compelling anti-war film that leaves you questioning the value of human life.”

4. Come and See (1985)


Image Credit: underDOC Film.

Set during World War II, this Soviet film depicts the horrors of war through the eyes of a young boy. It is a harrowing experience that leaves viewers in pieces. You might completely lose yourself at the end of this movie, given the depth it goes into addressing the war and the human condition.

5. Into the Wild (2007)


Image Credit: Paramount Vantage.

Based on a true story, this film follows a young man's journey of self-discovery as he ventures into the Alaskan wilderness. Though it is a beautiful and inspiring film, it is also heartbreaking. It is precisely that kind of movie that will leave you questioning your existence and the pursuit of happiness.

6. The Blair Witch Project (1999)


Photo Credit: Artisan Entertainment.

A found-footage horror film that revolutionized the genre, this movie immerses viewers in a terrifying tale of a group of students lost in the woods. The only problem with this beautiful movie is that it is a violent horror film.

One viewer shares, “I was genuinely terrified throughout the film, and the ambiguous ending left me unsettled for days.”

7. Wind River (2017)


Image Credit: The Weinstein Company.

This intense thriller explores the investigation of a murder on a Native American reservation. It includes explicit scenes that are deeply disturbing, leading to many viewers refusing ever to watch it again. Save for the disturbing adult scenes; others think it is a solid work of art.

8. Atonement (2017)


Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The makers of this film need to make an atonement for wrecking viewers' peace. A sweeping romantic drama set against the backdrop of World War II, this film weaves a tale of love, betrayal, and redemption.

After Briony Allis finds her sister and lover in a compromising position, she accuses the lover of a serious criminal offense. Indeed, this is a beautifully made film, but the story's emotional weight is almost too much to bear.

9. 12 Years a Slave (2013)


Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free African American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, this film is a brutal depiction of the horrors of slavery. This film is also the one that earned Lupita Nyong'o her Academy Award in 2014.

One cinephile writes, “It's a necessary and important film, but the unflinching portrayal of human cruelty is deeply unsettling.”

10. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)


Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Inspired by a true story, this film follows a struggling salesman and his young son facing homelessness and adversity. This movie is an emotional rollercoaster that takes you to despair before offering a glimmer of hope.

11. Life is Beautiful (1997)


Image Credit: Cecchi Gori Group.

Set during the Holocaust, this Italian film tells the story of a father who uses his imagination and humor to shield his son from the horrors of the concentration camp. It's a beautiful and heartbreaking film that reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit, but it's emotionally taxing to watch.

12. Schindler's List (1993)


Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Steven Spielberg‘s powerful Holocaust drama tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of over a thousand Jewish people.

The movie richly explores the theme of good and evil, popularizing the protagonist as a “good German.” It's a fantastic movie, but watching it is a haunting and emotionally draining experience.

13. Million Dollar Baby (2004)


Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

This Clint Eastwood-directed film portrays the journey of an aspiring female boxer and her relationship with her coach. The movie performed well, with so many positive reviews, but still, some people prefer not to return to it.

For their mental health safety, they might argue. Reflecting on this movie, a contributor notes: “The ending is so devastating that it lingers in your mind long after the film ends.”

14. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)


Image Credit: MGM/UA Distribution Co.

A heartbreaking tale of self-destruction and addiction, this film follows a suicidal alcoholic who forms an unlikely bond with an adult worker. With Leaving Las Vegas, you can see willing artists pouring their hearts into what they know how to do best.

Their efforts paid up, making this movie a powerful and poignant film, even if the subject matter is so heavy that it's difficult to revisit.

15. Dogville (2003)


Image Credit: Trust Film Sales ApS.

This experimental film, directed by Lars von Trier, challenges traditional storytelling and explores themes of power and morality. The movie is a unique and thought-provoking film, but the bleakness and cruelty depicted make it a one-time watch.

Because of its nonconformities, the movie received polarizing reviews from critics; some used terms such as “pretentious” and “exasperating” to define it, while others called it a masterpiece.

16. “S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine” (2003)


Image Credit: Institut national de l'audiovisuel and First Run Features.

This documentary messed with people's nerves and emotions, so they'd rather not watch movies again than spend quality hours rewatching this.

This documentary delves into the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and is a disturbing and eye-opening account of a dark chapter in history.

17. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)


Image Credit: Miramax.

Set during World War II, this heartbreaking film tells the story of a forbidden friendship between a young German boy and a Jewish boy in a concentration camp.

Some fans argue that there was a misrepresentation of the story told; still, it was a devastating watch. A viewer says, “It's a deeply moving film that leaves you with a profound sense of grief and loss.”

18. Vanilla Sky (2001)


Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

A mind-bending thriller that blurs the lines between reality and illusion, this film takes its audience on a perplexing and emotionally tumultuous ride. The story follows the life of a wealthy man who finds himself caught in a surreal and confusing web of dreams and reality.

The twists and turns were so captivating that they left viewers feeling emotionally drained, making it a film they might not want to experience more than once.

19. Deer Hunter (1978)


Image Credit: EMI Films.

This epic war drama, directed by Michael Cimino, follows a group of friends from a small Pennsylvania town who are profoundly affected by their experiences in the Vietnam War.

The film explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and the psychological impact of war. The movie is a deeply moving and emotionally devastating film that captures the harrowing realities of war.

20. Angel Heart (1987)


Image Credit: Tri-Star Pictures.

Angel Heart is a neo-noir psychological horror film directed by Alan Parker. The movie takes viewers on a dark and twisted journey into the supernatural.

The story follows a private investigator hired to track down a missing person, which leads him down a path of mystery, intrigue, and unimaginable horror. One movieholic describes it as a dark and unsettling film that delves into the depths of the human psyche.

21. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)


Image Credit: Mobra Films.

Set in 1980s Romania, this critically acclaimed drama directed by Cristian Mungiu follows the harrowing journey of two college roommates as they seek an illegal abortion in a society where it is prohibited. The film portrays their struggles, sacrifices, and moral dilemmas in their quest for reproductive freedom.

22. Devil's Advocate (1997)


Image Credit: Warner Bros.

This supernatural thriller, directed by Taylor Hackford, delves into the seductive and sinister world of temptation and corruption. The film follows a talented lawyer entangled in a web of deceit as a powerful law firm with a sinister secret recruits him.

With its psychological torment and moral ambiguity, this movie will fascinate and disturb you as it delves into the darkest aspects of human nature.

23. Elephant Man (1980)


Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This heartbreaking and poignant film reminds us of the power of compassion and the importance of looking beyond superficial judgments. Directed by David Lynch, Elephant Man is a biographical drama based on the true story of Joseph Merrick, a man with severe physical deformities in Victorian England.

The film portrays Merrick's journey from a circus sideshow exhibit to a respected member of society, highlighting themes of empathy, acceptance, and beauty.

24. Martyrs (2008)


Image Credit: Wild Bunch.

A French psychological horror film that pushes the boundaries of psychological terror, this movie delves into themes of pain, suffering, and transcendence. “It's an alarming and brutal film,” says a contributor, and I can't agree more.

25. Marley & Me (2008)


Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

A heartwarming yet emotionally wrenching story of a family and their beloved dog, this film captures the joys and sorrows of unconditional love. One viewer shares, “It's a touching and relatable film, but the emotional gut-punch of the ending makes it a challenging movie to rewatch.”

Article syndicated with permission from WealthofGeeks.