Top 50 ‘feel bad’ films part 7: 20-11
Hello readers, and welcome to part 7, the penultimate chapter, of my countdown of the 50 most feel bad films. So far we’ve seen some of the most unpleasant, unfair, and upsetting films ever made, so let’s countdown from 20 to 11!
Director: Mike Leigh
Plot synopsis: Johnny (David Thewlis) flees Manchester for London, to avoid the aftermath of a criminal encounter. There he finds an old girlfriend, Louise (Lesley Sharp), and spends his time damaging the lives of those around him.
Why it’s feel bad: Johnny is one of the most risible protagonists in film history, as he rants, complains, abuses friends and generally treats everyone horribly. To make things worse, he isn’t even the most unpleasant character in the film; landlord Jeremy (Greg Cruttwell) is a misogynist and rapist who abuses Louise’s flatmate, treats dates horrifically and beats Johnny, leading to the film being one of the scuzziest depictions of suburbia ever filmed.
Happy ending? Despite making plans to leave with Louise, Johnny abandons her and disappears back into his sleazy, grimy world.
Wolf Creek (2005)
Director: Greg McLean
Plot synopsis: Stranded backpackers in remote Australia fall prey to murderous bushman Mick (John Jarratt) who offers to fix their car, then takes them captive.
Why it’s feel bad: Mick tortures them in various brutal ways, including the now infamous ‘head on a stick’ scene in which he stabs a girl through the spine with a sharpened stick, before hunting down another, escaped girl in his truck and shooting her down.
Happy ending? Third victim Ben (Nathan Phillips) manages to escape, but the final moments reveal no evidence was found of his two companions, and Mick was never caught.
Red White and Blue (2011)
Director: Simon Rumley
Plot synopsis: Cool, emotionless Erica (Amanda Fuller) dives into bed with any man she meets. When she is offered a job in a DIY store in Austin, she discovers the kindness of drifter Nate (Noah Taylor), but also the brutality of one night stand Franki (Marc Senter).
Why it’s feel bad: Franki, infected with HIV by Erica, kidnaps and murders her, leading to enigmatic Nate, at this point seemingly normal in a film full of psychopaths, uses his marine skills to take revenge. He nastily tortures Franki and his friends, in some of the most realistically brutal scenes in recent history.
Happy ending? After murdering those who killed Erica, Nate burns his lasting memories of her, while revealing they also got married.
Session 9 (2001)
Director: Brad Anderson
Plot synopsis: Tensions rise within an asbestos cleaning crew as they work in an abandoned mental hospital with a horrific past that seems to be coming back.
Why it’s feel bad: All the workers begin to die off one by one, and the killer is revealed to be aggressive, schizophrenic worker Gordon (Peter Mullan), who has been possessed by the same entity as was discovered on tapes abandoned in the asylum.
Happy ending? In the gut wrenching twist, it is revealed that Gordon murdered his wife and young child, hence why she hasn’t been returning his calls. It truly is one of nastiest endings of the millennium.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Director: Robin Hardy
Plot synopsis: Police Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there.
Why it’s feel bad: While most of the film is a solid mystery about Howie’s search for a missing girl, the feel bad element is all about the ending.
Happy ending? In one of the most influential twists of all time, Howie discovers the real reason he has been called to the island; the villagers are Pagans who need a Christian sacrifice. As Howie is the perfect sacrifice, he is burnt alive in the wicker man of the title, as the villagers celebrate.
Kill List (2011)
Director: Ben Wheatley
Plot synopsis: Nearly a year after a botched job, hitman Jay (Neil Maskell) takes a new assignment, with the help of friend Gal (Michael Smiley), with the promise of a big payoff for three killings. What starts off as an easy task soon unravels, sending the killer into the heart of darkness.
Why it’s feel bad: First, their new boss cuts Jay’s hand and gives him an infection which everybody seems to be ignoring. Then, the guys go off mission when they find disturbing content in a Librarian’s lockup, and brutally bludgeon him with a hammer. On their third mission, meanwhile, Gal is savaged by some mysterious cult members, leaving Jay to fend for himself.
Happy ending? Jay discovers he has been hired to be the latest member of the cult, and is welcomed in when forced to murder his wife and son.
Director: Steve McQueen
Plot synopsis: In New York City, Brandon (Michael Fassbender)’s carefully cultivated private life, which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction, is disrupted when his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.
Why it’s feel bad: Brandon struggles to conquer his addiction, leading to humiliation, venomous anger and sexual failure with the one girl he truly has feelings for.
Happy ending? Sissy tries to commit suicide, leading to Brandon having a breakdown. In the final shot of the film, director McQueen leaves it ambiguous as to whether Brandon is cured of his predatory instincts or not.
The Hunt (2012)
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Plot synopsis: Teacher Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son’s custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.
Why it’s feel bad: Lucas is wrongly accused of being a paedophile and hounded by the community. He loses his job, loses custody of his son and even gets battered by the owners of his local shop. Meanwhile, his friends abandon him, his son fights back against his neighbours and even Lucas’ dog is murdered.
Happy ending? Lucas manages to clear his name, and all seems well, but even a year later, an unspecified member of the community takes a shot at him on a hunting trip, reminding Lucas that his past will never truly be forgotten.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Plot synopsis: Kevin’s mother (Tilda Swinton) struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly vicious things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin (Ezra Miller) is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.
Why it’s feel bad: Kevin grows up to be a violent sociopath, and some of his horrible antics include killing his sister’s pet and blinding her in one eye. However, the entire film builds up to Kevin’s one most infamous moment, and the ending reveals exactly what he did…
Happy ending? First, his mother discovers that Kevin took his archery set to school and massacred multiple students. Then, she returns home to discover her ex-husband, Kevin’s father (John C. Reilly), and her daughter also dead from arrow wounds. To make matters worse, when his mother visits him in prison, Kevin explains that he isn’t sure why he killed them anymore.
Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
Director: Shane Meadows
Plot synopsis: A disaffected soldier, Richard (Paddy Considine), returns to his hometown to get even with the thugs who brutalized his mentally-challenged brother (Toby Kebbel) years ago.
Why it’s feel bad: Along with the generally grim northern atmosphere of the film, Dead Man’s Shoes boasts not only one of the most intense performances from Considine in a British film, but also features some incredibly intense murders. Axe wounds, drug induced nightmares, and one of the cruellest twists of the noughties.
Happy ending? In the film’s lauded twist ending, it is revealed that Richard’s brother was left to die by the thugs, and Richard convinces the last gang member to murder him, as he has “become the monster”, and has nothing more to live for.
Thanks for the reading, and join me next week for the top ten most feel bad films of all time!
By Harry Ford
- Posted in: Lists
- Tagged: ben wheatley, carey mulligan, classic, dead man's shoes, depressing, ezra miller, horror, kill list, lynne ramsay, mads mikkelsen, michael fassbender, mike leigh, naked, paddy considine, red white and blue, session 9, shame, shane meadows, the hunt, the wicker man, tilda swinton, toby kebbell, violent, we need to talk about kevin, wolf creek