Top 50 ‘feel bad’ films part 4: 35 – 31
Hello, and welcome to another instalment of the top 50 feel bad films of all time! It’s been a while since I’ve added to the list, so without further ado, let’s move on with part 4!
Director: Lars Von Trier
Plot synopsis: A grieving couple, She and He (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe) retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.
Why it’s feel bad: Apart from the fact it starts with the tragic death of a toddler, the second half of the film descends into, at its most simple, torture porn, as She performs horrific acts of violence on husband He and herself, in one of the infamous cases of cinematic self mutilation.
Happy ending? He overpowers She and strangles her to death. It’s a fittingly bleak ending to one of the nastiest arthouse films ever produced.
Midnight Express (1978)
Director: Alan Parker
Plot synopsis: Billy (Brad Davis), caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey, is thrown in a hellish prison where has to fight to survive.
Why it’s feel bad: Famously, the people of Turkey claimed that the film portrayed them as evil caricatures, and you’d be hard pressed not to admit it. Throughout his stay, he is betrayed by the court system and given thirty years (from his original four), sees his friends badly beaten and even brutally attacks the prison snitch, after a full psychotic breakdown.
Happy ending? To avoid a brutal rape, Billy kills the chief guard, and escapes to freedom. It ends an extremely tough film on a more positive note.
Never Let Me Go (2010)
Director: Mark Romanek
Plot synopsis: The story of three friends who are tragically born to lead short lives, and the love triangle that forms between them in their brief time together.
Why it’s feel bad: Fairly soon into the film, the three main characters learn they are born as clones in order to donate their organs. Ruth (Keira Knightley), knowing Kathy (Cathy Mulligan) has always had affections for Tommy (Andrew Garfield), starts a relationship with him, and costs the two their chance at happiness.
Happy ending? Tommy believes his drawings are what will convince the nurses he doesn’t deserve to be ‘harvested’, until he discovers the drawings were to test whether the clones were human at all. He is then killed, and Kathy spends her remaining days questioning her fate.
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Plot synopsis: Maximus Block (Max Von Sydow) seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.
Why it’s feel bad: The black plague has torn apart Sweden, and we are subject to such grim and unpleasant sights as corrupt villagers attempting crimes of varying degrees of seriousness, insane religious zealots and a young woman who is to be burned at the stake, all while antagonist Maximus competes for his life in a chess game against Death.
Happy ending? Maximus loses the game, and he, and his followers, are lead by Death over the hills.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Plot synopsis: In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society’s crime problem… but not all goes to plan.
Why it’s feel bad: When we first meet Alex, he is a brutal rapist with a fondness for ‘the old ultra violence’, and he beats a tramp, rapes a writer’s wife and attacks members of his own gang. Once signed up for experimental therapy, he undergoes brutal torture, to the tune of his favourite Beethoven pieces, which almost makes you feel sorry for him,
Happy ending? After attempting to kill himself, Alex winds up a minor celebrity, where he reverts to his old ways, showing that the system doesn’t work.
So, that’s it for another week. I’ll try to be more regular with the next instalment but for now, all I can say is thank you for reading, and tune in next time for another edition of the top 50 feel bad films of all time!
By Harry Ford