Bleak but beautiful movies

by robert-grimminck | created - 29 Jul 2011 | updated - 08 Sep 2011 | Public

This is a list of the most depressing movies I've ever seen. A lot of these movies disturbed me but I still loved them.

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1. The Orphanage (2007)

R | 105 min | Drama, Fantasy, Mystery

74 Metascore

A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.

Director: J.A. Bayona | Stars: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Mabel Rivera

Votes: 131,987 | Gross: $7.16M

Utterly heartbreaking. I have never really seen a horror movie with this much depth. Hell, not just a horror movie, but for movies in general. This is an outstanding movie, just don't watch it on a date or something.

2. The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

R | 112 min | Drama

90 Metascore

A bus crash in a small town brings a lawyer to the town to defend the families, but he discovers that everything is not what it seems.

Director: Atom Egoyan | Stars: Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Caerthan Banks, Tom McCamus

Votes: 29,024 | Gross: $3.25M

There is a school bus accident in a small town and a lot of the kids of the town are killed. It's sad just explaining the plot line! However, Atom Egoyan makes a beautiful movie about death, despair and moving on.

3. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

R | 102 min | Drama

68 Metascore

The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans

Votes: 661,455 | Gross: $3.64M

Unlike of other movies on the list that are trying to inspire hope, this movie's point is to be as bleak and dark as possible. I'm pretty sure it was Roger Ebert who said this movie shouldn't be rated R because young people should see this movie to see the effects drugs can have on a person.

4. Schindler's List (1993)

R | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History

93 Metascore

In German-occupied Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazi Germans.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall

Votes: 1,009,025 | Gross: $96.07M

I almost didn't put this on the list because it's an obvious choice. It is unrelenting in it's horrors and that is the point. The holocaust was a series of atrocities followed by more atrocities.

5. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

R | 136 min | Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi

78 Metascore

In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

Votes: 646,680

I saw this movie 20 years after it was released and as I watched it I kept saying to myself "I can't believe someone actually made a movie about this." I have never wanted to watch it again. It was like Kubrick grabbed reality and wrung all the goodness out of it.

6. American History X (1998)

R | 119 min | Crime, Drama

62 Metascore

A former neo-nazi skinhead tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did.

Director: Tony Kaye | Stars: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D'Angelo, Jennifer Lien

Votes: 897,119 | Gross: $6.72M

From start to finish Tony Kay stomps happiness out of this movie. The movie is fascinating with great performances. If you haven't seen this movie yet, stop everything you're doing and watch it now.

7. Let the Right One In (2008)

R | 115 min | Drama, Horror, Romance

82 Metascore

Oskar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl.

Director: Tomas Alfredson | Stars: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl

Votes: 188,165 | Gross: $2.12M

A young boy who is bullied at school and has a miserable home life finds a friend in a monster. It's a depressing set up to a sad movie. Is it a happy ending? This movie is as bleak the Swedish weather. (The American remake Let Me In and the original novel are all excellent as well)

8. Oldeuboi (2003)

R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

74 Metascore

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.

Director: Chan-wook Park | Stars: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang, Dae-han Ji

Votes: 425,968 | Gross: $0.71M

One of the best movies of all time. It is so depressing and the only reasons there are happy spots is to drop you even further into despair. The movie is brilliant otherwise and a fascinating look at revenge.

9. The Road (I) (2009)

R | 111 min | Adventure, Drama

64 Metascore

In a dangerous post-apocalyptic world, an ailing father defends his son as they slowly travel to the sea.

Director: John Hillcoat | Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall

Votes: 197,743 | Gross: $0.06M

A lot of times Dystopian novels/movies try to inspire hope, or they are allegories for something else. The Road on the other hand is straight up depressing. There is little to be happy for throughout the whole story and that the ending has little or no impact. Everything dies.

10. The Lives of Others (2006)

R | 137 min | Drama, Thriller

89 Metascore

In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck | Stars: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur

Votes: 302,806 | Gross: $11.29M

An incredibly powerful movie about the power of art in culture. Any movie that is set in East Berlin is going to be depressing but this one is messy and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

11. M (1931)

Not Rated | 99 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

Director: Fritz Lang | Stars: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut, Otto Wernicke

Votes: 118,665 | Gross: $0.03M

I still can't believe they made a movie about a child serial killer in 1931. While no gore is shown, the movie has an amazing amount of tension. Everyone in the movie is uneasy and it makes the viewer feel part of that community. They even show the killer before the audience knows. I want to scream at the people, "there he is!" But last time I did that, people in class told me to shut up.

12. Blade Runner (1982)

R | 117 min | Sci-Fi, Thriller

89 Metascore

A blade runner must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos

Votes: 585,231 | Gross: $27.00M

How does someone sum up all the bleakness that Blade Runner? Every single aspect, from the script to the cinematography, of this movie is meant to inspire despair and hopelessness.

13. Se7en (1995)

R | 127 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

65 Metascore

Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.

Director: David Fincher | Stars: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Andrew Kevin Walker

Votes: 1,194,441 | Gross: $100.13M

Much like Blade Runner, atmosphere adds so much to this thriller. The story is dark and twisted. It's too bad Brad Pitt almost ruins the whole movie in the last scene. Other than that, the bleakest serial killer movie ever made.

14. Man Bites Dog (1992)

NC-17 | 95 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

A film crew follows a ruthless thief and heartless killer as he goes about his daily routine. But complications set in when the film crew lose their objectivity and begin lending a hand.

Directors: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde | Stars: Benoît Poelvoorde, Jacqueline Poelvoorde-Pappaert, Nelly Pappaert, Hector Pappaert

Votes: 31,746 | Gross: $0.21M

This movie is straight up ugly. I don't know if I enjoyed it or not. I think they could have done more with the premise but even then there are some shocking moments.

15. 21 Grams (2003)

R | 124 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

70 Metascore

A freak accident brings together a critically ill mathematician, a grieving mother, and a born-again ex-con.

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu | Stars: Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts, Danny Huston

Votes: 205,404 | Gross: $16.25M

This is a really tumultuous film with the ending that is satisfying because it's not too sad. It's not a happy ending. It simply is the least heartbreaking part of the movie. Now that's bleak!

16. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

R | 111 min | Drama, Romance

82 Metascore

Ben Sanderson, a Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his alcoholism, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera.

Director: Mike Figgis | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands, Richard Lewis

Votes: 101,943 | Gross: $31.97M

A man tries to drink himself to death. How, in any way can this be upbeat? Luckily Nicholas Cage pulls it off and the movie is fascinating to watch...even if you feel hung over and ashamed after watching it.

17. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

R | 117 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

84 Metascore

When two brothers organize the robbery of their parent's jewelry store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father and one brother's wife hurtling towards a shattering climax.

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei

Votes: 87,521 | Gross: $7.08M

This one is a bit different than the other ones whereas its not as depressing, it is unsettlingly dark. I've never seen a crime movie like this before and needed to have a shower after watching it.

18. Taxi Driver (1976)

R | 114 min | Crime, Drama

94 Metascore

A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action, while attempting to liberate a twelve-year-old prostitute.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks

Votes: 594,481 | Gross: $28.26M

How could I not include this on the list? Does anyone else have a sense of uneasiness while they watch this movie? De Niro is simply amazing and makes Travis Bickle that guy you feel you need to shake after a few minutes of conversation.

19. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Unrated | 83 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

80 Metascore

Henry, a drifter, commits a series of brutal murders, supposedly operating with impunity.

Director: John McNaughton | Stars: Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold, Tom Towles, Mary Demas

Votes: 26,464 | Gross: $0.61M

While some of the gore comes across as cheap, it's the whole atmophere of the film that makes this one of the bleakest. None of the characters crack a smile (unless they are slaughtering people). From start to finish, this movie is deadly serious.

20. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

R | 134 min | Drama, Romance

87 Metascore

The story of a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys, and their lives over the years.

Director: Ang Lee | Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams, Randy Quaid

Votes: 285,684 | Gross: $83.04M

Like other movies on this least, it's not constantly bleak, but it only wants you to be happy so the losses can be even more devastating.

21. Double Indemnity (1944)

Passed | 107 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

95 Metascore

An insurance representative lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator's suspicions.

Director: Billy Wilder | Stars: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Byron Barr

Votes: 118,472 | Gross: $5.72M

While this may not be the bleakest by today's standards, no one wanted to make this movie at the time because it was so dark. It is hard to make a film where the criminals are the main characters during the Hayes Code era but the movie is original and clips along at a good pace.

22. Irreversible (2002)

Not Rated | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

51 Metascore

Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.

Director: Gaspar Noé | Stars: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel, Jo Prestia

Votes: 99,035 | Gross: $0.75M

I was torn putting this on the list because I do not recommend it in any form. I hated this movie. It is vile and ugly but of course, all that makes it one of the bleakest movies I've ever seen.

23. Wolf Creek (2005)

R | 99 min | Horror, Thriller

54 Metascore

Three backpackers stranded in the Australian outback are plunged in a hellish nightmare of insufferable torture by a sadistic psychopathic local.

Director: Greg McLean | Stars: Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, John Jarratt

Votes: 60,948 | Gross: $16.19M

I didn't really find this movie really that innovative but it is brutal. I can't think of a better way to describe doesn't have a darker or meaner edge to it, it's just more brutal than other recent horrors.

24. WALL·E (2008)

G | 98 min | Animation, Adventure, Family

95 Metascore

In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

Director: Andrew Stanton | Stars: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard

Votes: 845,145 | Gross: $223.81M

Didn't anyone else find this movie unbelievably depressing? From WALL-E alone on trash yard that was once earth. Now humans are all just fat slops. Yes, WALL-E and EVE is a cute story line...but it's not enough.

25. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

R | 133 min | Drama

80 Metascore

A criminal pleads insanity after getting into trouble again and once in the mental institution rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.

Director: Milos Forman | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Michael Berryman, Peter Brocco

Votes: 779,611 | Gross: $112.00M

This was another one I wasn't sure if I want to put on. Sure, it's bleak but isn't it also meant to be ultimately uplifting? And there are spots of happiness in this one, more than anything else on the list and that's what makes this such a great movie. So this is why it gets the 25th spot.