10 Great Movies I Never Want To Watch Again

Great films. Widely loved. Darlings to the critics. Adored by casual film-goers and buffs alike. But films we never want to see again. Why? Alex Withrow tries to find out…

I saw Alexander Payne’s brilliantly bitter, wine-induced road-trip Sideways and was bowled over by its emotional resonance and Paul Giamatti’s beautifully fragile performance. The film was so good I watched it again, almost straight away. A day later I watched it for a third time. It is one of the best films I’ve ever seen and one of the few that I’ve had to watch again immediately.

However, there are other films I’ve watched, appreciated, and never wanted to see again. Ever! One recent example is Eden Lake – a powerful, downbeat, raw and bloody British horror film that is uncompromising in its depiction of violence and its overarching pessimism towards the state of modern society. I love a good horror film and Eden Lake is undoubtedly a well made example of the genre. But it was too much for me. It wasn’t the violence but the lack of closure more than anything. A horror film has to have a sense of fun about it (Rosemary’s Baby, Dawn Of The Dead) if good fails to triumph over evil for me to go back and experience it again. Like Funny Games, Eden Lake grips you in a vice and is still holding on long after the credits have rolled. There is something exciting about the way a film can do this to you – it is one of the reasons we all love cinema – but sometimes it means I never want to go back.

Top 10 Films contributor Alex Withrow recently took a look at 10 great films, widely appreciated by film fans and critics, that he has no intention of returning to. He said, “We’ve all got them, that handful of films we love, but have never watched twice. Maybe it’s because they’re disturbing, maybe it’s because they’re long, or gory, or complicated – whatever the reason(s), there is something strange and unusually beautiful about a really good movie that you have virtually no interest in seeing more than once.”

Alex’s top 10 makes for a very interesting read…

Triumph of the Will (1935)

Often recalled as a technical masterpiece, Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will glorified Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party by imploring flawless camera work and game-changing editing techniques. For nearly two hours, we’re privy to the most gorgeous Nazi propaganda film ever captured. Hitler looks like a God as he screams from atop a pulpit in front of thousands of his men. For fans of filmmaking as a craft, Triumph of the Will is completely necessary. For everyone else? Probably not. Either way, once is enough.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Toward the middle of Henry, the titular character and his partner in crime break into a home and murder the innocent people inhabiting it. So… what’s the big deal? By this point, we’ve seen Henry kill a handful of people in increasingly gruesome ways, so what makes this home invasion so hard to stomach? Well, in an ingenious but of storytelling, director John McNaughton lets the scene play out via a home recording that Henry’s partner shot. One take. One long, grainy, horrific, brilliant take. I appreciate what Henry did (and how it did it) but once that scene was over, I told myself that Yeah, I’m only watching this thing once.

Read our review of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Man Bites Dog (1992)

Okay, you know that one scene in Henry? Imagine watching an entire film of that shit. In Man Bites Dog, two documentary filmmakers follow Ben, a candid, charismatic serial killer, around as he murders and maims people for no goddamn reason. The movie is dry, hilarious, gruesome, and bearable. That is, until the directors themselves begin to join Ben on the “fun.” You think it’s bad… until it gets worse. (Note: for those unaware, Man Bites Dog is NOT a real documentary, but one of the first, most ingenious uses of the now overused mockumentary technique).

Kids (1995)

I know people who idolize the hell out of Larry Clarke’s teenage angst nightmare, and fair enough. It’s a good movie that gets its point across effectively. Again, and again, and again. I saw this movie when I was quite young and have always positively acknowledged its audacity. And I have never once felt the need to revisit it.

The War Zone (1999)

When I profiled Ray Winstone, I was careful to not describe much of the horror that is depicted in Tim Roth’s The War Zone. Ten seconds of Googling will reveal its big reveal, but it’s still something I don’t want to divulge here. It’s a heartfelt, devastating family drama that has sent audience members screaming while running away from it. No, really.

The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

Peter Mullan’s masterful Magdalene Sisters tells four fictional stories of a real life place where teenage girls were sent for behaving “badly.” After Margaret is raped by her cousin, and Bernadette grows to become too attractive, and Rose gives birth without being married, and Crispina is born mentally disabled, they are sent to the Magdalene Laundries, where they are victim to countless physical, sexual and emotional assaults. Believe me, this is a very good movie, but one that I’ve never been able to muster up the strength to take in twice.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Labeling Mel Gibson’s Jesus movie as “great” may be a stretch, but the point is, I appreciate what Gibson did with it. He pushed it far as far is it could go, made a shit load of money and has been entertaining us with his antics ever since. I saw Passion of the Christ when I was a senior in high school, and once poor Jim Caviezel was whipped for the 978th time, I knew I would never have a reason to sit through it again.

Antichrist (2009)

No list of this sort would be complete without the mention of Lars von Trier. And really, you can take your pick here. Whether it’s Dogville’s aggravating minimalism, Breaking the Waves’ increasing turmoil, or Dancer in the Dark’s utter dread, Lars von Trier simply doesn’t make easy films. And although I happen to love every single one of his movies, Antichrist is my pick for the von Trier flick I love to never rewatch. The block of wood, the scissors, the grindstone – and the blood. It’s all so perfectly von Trierian, and perfectly non repeatable.

Enter the Void (2009)

The notion of having Lars von Trier occupy a spot on this list is as obvious as Gaspar Noé occupying one. His first film, I Stand Alone, famously (and thankfully) warned audiences that they had 30 seconds to leave the theater before its final act began, while Irreversible is, well, Irreversible, but Enter the Void is one of the few movies that the second it was finished, I let out an audible exhale and silently told myself that I Did it. I sat through every one of its dizzying, puzzling, miraculous 154 minutes, and when the credits cued, I was proud of having watched it, but knew it was something I’d likely never see again.

Tyrannosaur (2011)

Having Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur here may not be exactly fair, as it has been out for less than a year, but this is one hell of a ferocious character study that I thoroughly “enjoyed” and, at this point in time, have no interest in repeat viewings. The film chronicles the angry, vengeful, Joseph, (played by Peter Mullan, the director of The Magdalene Sisters) as he attempts to turn a corner and find some sort of value in life. Literally, from minute one, Tyrannosaur is a rough, rough ride, but one that I, by the end, found oddly cathartic. But once, mind you. Just once.

Read our review of Tyrannosaur

Over to you – what great films do you have no intention of watching again?

Written and compiled by Alex Withrow. Introduction by Dan Stephens.

Alex Withrow is a magazine Editor based in Richmond, Virginia. He has been the sole writer of And So it Begins since it went live in 2007. He appreciates, and is obsessed with, anything related to film. Whether it’s writing about them, watching them, or making them, he is a cinephile dedicated to the moving picture. You can read more of Alex’s writing on film at his website and follow him on Twitter @shiftingPersona

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About the Author
Alex Withrow is a magazine Editor based in Richmond, Virginia. He has been the sole writer of And So it Begins since it went live in 2007. He appreciates, and is obsessed with, anything related to film. Whether it’s writing about them, watching them, or making them, he is a cinephile dedicated to the moving picture. You can read more of Alex’s writing on film at his website and follow him on Twitter @shiftingPersona

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  1. Avatar
    Jaina Reply

    Great list. I’ve not seen any of them though! However, I would like to say that Killer Joe is one of these films. Great film from William Friedkin and killer performance from Matthew McConaughey. But I don’t feel like I need to see it again.

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    mark Reply

    Truly interesting list on a strangely difficult topic. A few observations about the ones I’ve seen:

    Triumph of the Will – only great because of its historical matter; pretty unwatchable because otherwise it’s kinda dull.

    Henry – when it was first released in Oz back in the early 1990s, it wasn’t the killing of the family on video that was cut, but a sound edit at the start (and something else I can’t recall). I haven’t watched the DVD to see if it was eventually reinstated, basically because, as correctly noted, it’s a great film that I don’t want to watch again.

    Man Bite Dog – a work of genius … arguably one of the best films ever made. However, having seen it a few times some time back, I haven’t sat thru it in the last 10 years or so.

    Kids – yeah, horrible film about some horrible people. Never watched it more than once … not sure I’d call it great, though.

    Last Temptation – I’m an aethiest, so I don’t really care about the whole Christ thing; or for mad Mel’s purported hatred of the Jews for that matter.

    Missing is Salo, which is arguably great because it manages to work on a number of levels while being a total damnation of the human condition. Plus, regardless of its content, it never stoops to the depths of gratuitious torture porn. Of course I’m not a gay Italian Marxist, so maybe I don’t really know. Still, I’m pretty sure I could never sit through this one again.

  3. Avatar
    Alex Withrow Reply

    @Jaina – Thanks! Ahh my anticipation for Killer Joe is now at an all time high. Can’t wait for it!

    @Mark – I agree that Triumph of the Will is long and dull. Once was definitely enough. Man Bites Dog rattled me to the core, so unique and brilliant and horrifying. Really glad to hear you “like” that one too.

    “Great” for Kids is an admitted stretch. I’d probably give the film a B, B- as a whole.

    Religion plays virtually no part in my life, so the Christ stuff doesn’t bother me in the least either. What bothers me is watching one poor bastard get the shit beaten out of him for 2 hours. Just too much.

    I thought about putting Salo, but man, I simply can’t justify that as a great film. I get what Pasolini was doing there, and I certainly appreciate the movie, but I don’t think it’s great. Either way, I’ll never watch it again.

  4. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    I haven’t seen Kids but I did watch Larry Calrk’s Bully for the first time at the weekend. To say I enjoyed it would be the wrong expression to use but I was impressed by the performances and the raw intensity of it. It felt very natural which made the experience all the more powerful. Perhaps unlike Kids it is a film I feel I must return to at some point.

  5. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Ray Winston has been in a few films I’d rather not see again. His performances always have that powerhouse emotion but it is so strong he often manages to punch directly through the screen. Perhaps I would swap The War Zone with the Winston-starring, Gary Oldman-directed Nil By Mouth – a truly tough film to watch.

    Antichrist is a film I totally agree with. I’m not sure even a single viewing is merited but I have this hate-hate relationship with von Trier. Henry and Man Bites Dog are two films I have no intention of sitting through again too.

    Tyrannosaur was one of my favourite films of 2011 and while I haven’t seen it for a second time, I know I will get round to it eventually. Olivia Colman is sensational.

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    amy Reply

    Having seen half of your list only, I have to agree on Kids, Enter the Void and Antichrist. xD Though as big a fan of Von Trier’s work I am…

    I always end up watching – however segmented — Passion of the Christ on TV whenever it’s Easter Week, though. It doesn’t help that 3 or maybe 4 or 5 different channels broadcast it during that weekend.

    Great list 🙂

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    Fredo Reply

    I’d add Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. Beautiful movie, never want to see it again.

  8. Avatar
    Scott Lawlor Reply

    I am with you on a lot of these movies.

    Man Bites Dog is a classic but I would never like to go down that route again!!

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    Pete Reply

    Interesting to choose Enter the Void over Irreversible. Kids I have seen more than once already and still find it horribly fascinating. Man Bites Dog and Henry I completely agree on. Dirty grubby little films and while I appreciate them, I did not enjoy them.

    I’d have to add Requiem for a Dream as well. Love the film so much but found it very difficult to even get through a second watch!

    Great list Alex!

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    Good list Andy……just for the simple fact that you have KIDS on here. I saw the opening premiere of this film at York Sq Cinema on broadway St in New Haven CT. At the ending I walked out of the theater with a sick feeling in my stomach I really cannot describe. I never watched it again. It just made me feel empty inside after viewing it. Kids are not this disgusting even in NYC. Never liked the movie I thought it was an over exaggeration! Obviously you have a different take on it and enjoyed, that’s cool but I think Larry Clark went on to make far better films.

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    Judy Scott Reply

    This may just be a female perspective speaking, but I don’t think I could watch “Breaking the Waves” again, brilliant though it may be.

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    Rodney Reply

    I’m ashamed to admit I’ve seen only a few of these. I guess I don’t tend to go for films that I can sense are gonna depress me – and it would seem to be so for the ones listed here. Generally, films where people are just nasty to each other for the sake of being nasty just don’t resonate with me that much, so I usually just avoid them.

    Requiem For A Dream, however, is a film I’d add to this list, even though I’ve seen it a number of times now and can’t help but remain impressed with just how good it is…..

  13. Avatar
    mark Reply

    This list got me trying to think of others. Here goes:

    Betty Blue – saw it in 1988 on the screen and haven’t managed to build up the courage to watch it again, even when the director’s cut came out. I loved all of it – the direction, the cinematography, the performaces, the music – thought it was truly great. But it left me wanting a drink afterwards, and it’s a thirst I still haven’t managed to quench.

    Dead Ringers – how hopelessly tragic is the final double suicide? How distressing is the twins’ slide into madness? One of Cronenberg’s best.

    Last Exit to Brooklyn – powerful stuff … Eliza Kazan might have been proud of it if he had had 1980s sensibilities – that is until the big rape/gang bang scene.

    The Cook, The Thief etc – I think Greenaway only wants us to watch his films once … The Baby of Macon is testament to that.

    1900 – Could a director in this day and age get away with a scene where a small girl tries to jerk an old man off with the line “You can’t milk a bull”? What about Donny Sutherland’s take on Mussilini (forgive spelling), when he not only sodomises (with his girlfiend) a prepubescent boy, but then smashes his head against a wall post the act? And what about the moment when he ties a cat to a post and crushes it with his head (just before intermission, no less). Then there’s DeNiro/Depardeiu (how young and thin they were back then) and the peasant girl who has the epileptic seizure when they forcefully feed her booze during a three way. Yeah, haven’t watched that one since since I first saw it in 1982, even when the Italian dubbed four hour version was shown on TV.

    Problem is I now want to watch Man Bites Dog again and hear that great line of poetry: “Pigeon – cloak of gray”. A truly remarkable film ….

  14. Avatar
    Alex Withrow Reply

    @Amy – Thanks! Curious: is Passion of the Christ edited heavily on TV? I have no idea how you’d show that movie on regular TV. Crazy stuff.

    @Fredo – I think Requiem is the most commonly named flick on lists like these. Just brutal.

    @Scott – It’s just horrifying, isn’t it?

    @Pete – Thanks buddy! I’ve actually seen Irreversible more times then I care to admit, but I’ve watched the rape scene in its entirety just once. Sometimes fast-forward isn’t a bad thing.

    @Neal – Yeah Kids is rough shit, for sure. I’ve only seen it once, many many years ago, and I have memories of appreciation, but I’ve never been curious enough to revisit it.
    @Judy – I was this close to having Breaking the Waves on here. That is a tough ride, right there. But I do find the final scene unspeakably moving.

    @Rodney – Hey man, fair enough. Some people just don’t want to spend 2 hours watching something that’s gonna bum them out. Can’t argue with that.

    @Mark – You’re such an insightful dude, Mark. Love your comments. Great choices you’ve listed here. Oh man I had completely forgotten about 1900. Seen it once and yeah, never again.

    Thanks for all the comments everyone! And thanks again to Dan for posting this!

  15. Avatar
    Colin Biggs Reply

    A truly harrowing list, one of the most well-done films I’ve seen that I would never watch again is Requiem for a Dream.

  16. Avatar
    Alex Withrow Reply

    @Colin – Thanks! I definitely think Requiem is the chart topper for this list.

  17. Avatar
    Marc Reply

    Nice list, really well crafted…especially with a lead-off nod to Eden Lake. I’ve seen half of these and agree with you (especially about Henry) but the other half have dissuaded me from seeing at all…except maybe Tyrannosaur.

    Also totally agree with those who commented on Requiem…haven’t seen it for over a decade and for good reason:P But I think just in the light of the post I’d add a few like ‘The Road’ and ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ and maybe ‘Dogtooth’. None of them are as in your face and nightmare inducing as Antichrist but similarly well-crafted and damn good movies but ones that are so depressing the thought of a second viewing makes you wince.

    Again, well done list Alex!

  18. Avatar
    Alex Withrow Reply

    Thanks Marc! You know, I loved Dogtooth (like really loved), but I don’t think I need to see it again. That’s a really good choice on your part. WKTTAK was a rough ride. I’ll wait a very long time before watching that one again.

  19. Avatar
    ruth Reply

    Very interesting and original list, Alex. We’ve certainly got films we simply can’t and won’t see again. I agree w/ Triumph of the Will, it’s just too creepy though it was technically excellent.

    As for Passion of the Christ, I have not been able to watch that again either but for an entirely different reason than yours. Y’see I am a Christian and I do believe Christ endured a much harsher beating than even what Mel put on film, so for me it was just too emotionally draining to watch. The point of the film is to illustrate just how passionate the Lord did to save humanity, and it is indeed repulsive what the Romans did to Him.

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    Paolo Reply

    Ugh Passion of the Christ and having been forced to see that in high school. We were rounded up to a downtown theatre to watch it.

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    I would also like to add a little unknown Jason Schwartzman and Brittany Murphy (rip) film called “SPUN” to this list, completely vile film, godawful no redeeming qualities …..you can only watch this movie once

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    Bill Thompson Reply

    Interesting list, and idea for a list. I, however, don’t have such a list because there’s really nothing I wouldn’t watch again. Certain films are tough watches, but I love the heck out of them for their toughness. Take Come and See for instance, that’s a brutal, brutal film, but I can’t wait to see it again someday and be swept away by its greatness.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    I have Enter the Void sitting in my pile of unwatched films. I’ll give it a shot this week.

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