Ford On Film

Chronicles of a silver screen addict

Top Fifty Feel Bad Films Part 1: 50-46

Hello, and welcome to my countdown of the 50 most ‘feel bad’ films in history. By feel bad, I mean the films that simply make you the most depressed by the end. That’s not to criticise the quality of films, at all; some of the finest films committed to celluloid have made it on the list, for the sheer weight of drama and emotion on display. Unfortunate characters, nasty twists and brutal violence are just some of the recurring elements that makes up this top 50 list. So, enough of the introduction, let’s get to the countdown!



Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension) (2003)


Director: Alexandre Aja

Plot synopsis: Two college friends, Marie (Cécile De France) and Alexa (Maïwenn), encounter trouble while on vacation at Alexa’s parents’ country home when a mysterious killer invades their quiet getaway.

Why it’s feel bad: Apart from the fact it’s one of the most staggeringly awful horror films produced in the last decade (and one of my least favourite films of all time), it is a depressing experience to sit through. None of the characters are particularly likeable, every death is gratuitous and you eventually get bored by the interminable gore and blood and misogyny that it becomes a genuinely hateful experience.

Happy ending? In one of the most illogical twist endings ever conceived, Marie is revealed to be the overweight trucker who has murdered just about every character in the film. However, Alexa does manage to get away and Marie is locked up, so it’s a fairly happy ending.


Donnie Darko (2001)


Director: Richard Kelly

Plot synopsis: A troubled teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit that manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after narrowly escaping a bizarre accident.

Why it’s feel bad: Titular character Donnie is one of the most disturbed teenagers committed to celluloid; he floods his school, exposes a motivational speaker as a paedophile and has to deal with his mother and sister being killed in a plane crash, and his girlfriend being run over by the giant rabbit from his visions.

Happy ending? Darko manages to go back in time and stay in his bed for a wing of an aeroplane to fall and crush him, thus saving his family and future girlfriend. Swings and roundabouts, then…


The Elephant Man (1980)


Director: David Lynch

Plot synopsis: A Victorian surgeon (Anthony Hopkins) rescues a heavily disfigured man, John Merrick (John Hurt) who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous appearance, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.

Why it’s feel bad: The elephant man himself, John Merrick, goes through all manner of hard times; when we first meet him, he is being abused by a carnival worker, and later on he is ridiculed by drunks in the safety of his hospital room, and kidnapped back by the freak show.

Happy ending? After a standing ovation from a theatre audience, Merrick finally sleeps like the boy in his painting (his abnormally large head makes it impossible for him to lie down) and dies. A bittersweet ending, but not necessarily an unhappy ending.


Tony (2009)


Director: Gerard Johnson

Plot synopsis: An un-extraordinary, often ignored London resident (Peter Ferdinando) begins killing the strange characters that cross his path.

Why it’s feel bad: Partly because Tony is an eerily sympathetic serial killer, a man who gets shunned by most realms of society and really, just wants company, and partly because each kill is more grimy than the last, with hammer attacks and TV cable strangling all taking place in Tony’s dingy flat.

Happy ending? Tony manages to hide all the body and leaves the film a free man, suggesting he is still out there ready to kill again.


Shivers (1975)


Director: David Cronenberg

Plot synopsis: The residents of a suburban high-rise apartment building are being infected by a strain of parasites that turn them into mindless, sex-crazed fiends out to infect others by the slightest sexual contact.

Why it’s feel bad: The hideous parasites affect numerous residents of the high rise, most of whom are nice, ordinary people. Boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, even the elderly aren’t same from infection.

Happy ending? Main protagonist Roger (Paul Hampton) gets trapped in a swimming pool by the infected, and after the parasite has been shared, everybody wanders towards the streets of the major city.

There you have it, part 1 of a ten part series ranking the most ‘feel bad’ films of in history. If you have any opinions on the choices for 50-46, or would like to make suggestions for what you hope appears later in the countdown, I’d love to hear your feedback. Thanks for reading!

By Harry Ford


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