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The Most Uncomfortable Movie Scenes Of The Past Decade

Whatever way you look at it, it's hard to deny that the past decade has been a difficult one for everyone to ride out. It's unsurprising, then, that so many movies have tapped into this zeitgeist of discomfort by delivering an onslaught of uncomfortable scenes designed to make us all squirm. The most uncomfortable movie scenes of the past decade have unleashed upsetting, immoral, tense, and otherwise completely hideous situations on unsuspecting audiences. They've drawn on our collective unease and picked at our innate and most intimate fears and insecurities. 

Whether they be horror, comedy, or drama, these are scenes which have drilled into ghastly visions of social, emotional, and physical unrest across a range of genres and made viewers want to clamp a hand over their eyes or a clenched fist into their mouth. Try to keep your eyes open and cringe levels to a minimum, because these are the most uncomfortable movie scenes since 2010. And be warned — there are definite spoilers ahead!

The drunken birthday breakdown in Young Adult

A film full of bracingly uncomfortable moments about a damaged thirty-something woman struggling with adulthood, Young Adult is a cacophony of cringe. Self-destructive young adult author Mavis (Charlize Theron) wards off a serious case of writer's block by heading back to her hometown in pursuit of her high school sweetheart, Buddy. On the one hand, it's a bid to recapture the highs of her youth while attempting to write from the perspective of a teenage girl. But on the other, the trip offers Mavis a chance to rip her high school beau away from his surprisingly cool wife Beth and their newborn baby. It doesn't quite go as she hopes.

In a third-act emotional melee, Mavis attends Beth's wholesome birthday party and makes a final desperate (and delusional) attempt to seduce Buddy, who aggressively rebuffs her advances. Dressed to win and failing to reckon with failure, Mavis gets obscenely drunk and embarks on a shattering public meltdown in front of Beth and Buddy's friends and family. On top of blasting Beth for her happy life with Buddy, Mavis drunkenly screams about the miscarriage she suffered as a teenager when she lost her and Buddy's baby — and their chance at a happy life together. The party guests are mortified. And just as the atmosphere couldn't possibly get more odious, Buddy jubilantly opens up the garage doors to unveil his surprise birthday present for Beth and is met with an awkward silence. It's the absolute pits.

Christian's sex ritual in Midsommar

If you saw Ari Aster's breakup horror Midsommar in theaters, then you'll likely understand the sheer depths of shared discomfort encountered by audiences during the film's jaw-dropping final act. After an entire movie of mistreating his grieving girlfriend Dani (Florence Pugh), Christian (Jack Reynor) finds himself drugged and finally unable to resist the seductive efforts of one of the young, determined bachelorettes of the Swedish cult among which they've been living. The sex ritual that follows is conspicuously stilted and grotesque, with Christian looking reluctant and confused as he grinds away on top of the young woman. All the while, a crowd of cult-elder women look on in encouragement. It's as horrible as is it is low-key hilarious, prompting the most awkward, hesitant, and agonized cinematic chuckles in decades.

Aster once described Midsommar as a "folk horror... with the trajectory of a high-school comedy" and has also confirmed that he intends for this scene to be one "where the film reveals itself... to be a dark comedy." It might not be Jason Biggs enjoying a warm apple pie, but it certainly shares a particularly grotesque DNA with such odious sophomoric japes. When Christian's long-suffering girlfriend catches him in the act, she is spiraled instantly (and understandably) into a shrieking panic attack supported by the Hagan. It's the moment in which the audience realizes that Christian's betrayal may be worse than simple unfaithfulness — it may have marked him for death.

Lamborghini dentistry in Jackass 3D

The third movie of the inexplicably entertaining Jackass oeuvre went the extra mile in pushing audiences to new levels of cringe by delivering every excruciating stunt in 3D. On top of such Oscar-worthy scenes as Steve-O being launched into the air in a port-a-potty filled with excrement, the film's most painful stunt comes courtesy of resident Jackass punching bag Ehren McGhehey and a Lamborghini Murciélago. Throughout the Jackass series it's clear that McGhehey might be the most overly-eager to debase himself in a bid to impress his friends, and it doesn't serve him well.

So when party boy Chris Pontius struts up to him in a doctor's coat to tie a piece of string around one of his front teeth, "Danger Ehron" tries his best to keep his cool, but his nervous horror at the events about to transpire is absolutely palpable. As the other end of the string gets tied to the car and Bam Margera revs the engine, McGhehey has tight hold of Pontius' hand and looks absolutely riddled with terror. "Aren't you stoked?" Pontius asks him. "It's a Lamborghini!" 

He is not stoked. In fact, McGhehey is screaming before the car even starts moving.Though the stunt is over quickly, the noise of McGhehey's tooth being ripped out by the root is something that will echo through the chambers of time. Blood pours down his face and he's so traumatized that he says, "You're pulling my tooth!" long after the damn thing has left his head.

Wallace's final transformation in Tusk

In truth, there were few people who likely ever imagined that Kevin Smith had it in him to make a genuinely unnerving horror film. Perhaps best known for building a career off the back of "d**k and fart jokes" (something the man himself would never deny), Smith genuinely pulled off a disturbing movie with Tusk, a film where arrogant podcast host Wallace (Justin Long) is kidnapped by a deranged ex-seaman (Michael Parks) and turned into a walrus. While there are certainly glimpses of cinematic malevolence early on in the story — particularly when Wallace is shown getting limbs amputated in preparation for his transformation — it's the first unveiling of his new final form as a human-walrus hybrid which is truly, unfathomably horrific.

The distressing design of the walrus suit Wallace is sewn into is bad enough. But Long's troubling depiction of a man striving and failing to communicate his anguish in a body suppressing every part of his humanity provides the movie's greatest disquieting centerpiece. Chained and struggling to adapt to his new form, Wallace is presented as "Mr. Tusk" and is encouraged to perform for the man who has inflicted this trauma upon him. He frets and fights, but the most haunting part of the scene is Wallace's clearly distressed, crying eyes which pierce through the only part of the suit in which his humanity can still be seen. It's a ghastly, unforgettable, and hugely uncomfortable moment that the rest of the film doesn't quite live up to.

The lie detector test in BlacKkKlansman

Spike Lee's '70s-set dark comedy follows an African American detective who infiltrates and exposes the local Ku Klux Klan chapter of Colorado Springs. In exploring this outrageous true story, BlacKkKlansman also offers some uncomfortable parallels and statements concerning the far-right movements currently at work in modern America. And some of those contemporary tensions can be felt most during a scene in which Jewish detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) is trying to integrate with the Klan, but has raised suspicions about his heritage with Felix (Jasper Pääkkönen), one of their most aggressive members.

Forced into a basement to take a polygraph test at gunpoint, Zimmerman is both tasked with remaining completely cool under the threat of certain violence and with enduring an onslaught of antisemitic abuse that he must also share and take part in. Seeing Zimmerman forced to discuss how the Holocaust was a fantastic event in human history is uncomfortable enough. But it's the way that Driver plays his character as a man caught between his dueling instincts to impress Felix as an undercover cop and to destroy him as a member of the Jewish community, which makes for a truly harrowing and unpredictable scene full of bristling, painful moments which could erupt into violence at any time.

A bad bikini wax in Raw

Uncompromising in its gruesome coming-of-age story about a teenage vegetarian who develops a taste for human flesh after a hazing ritual at her college, Raw is unquestionably one of the most squirm-worthy horror movies of the past decade. With that in mind, there are countless scenes from Julia Ducournau's French-Belgian masterpiece which could have easily made this list, but there's one that stands head and shoulders above the rest — and it involves a pair of sisters, a bikini wax, and a severed finger.

For starters, there's something deeply disconcerting about Alexia giving her younger sister Justine a bikini wax in a bid to encourage her to get laid. But somehow the cringe levels get even worse when a waxing strip gets stuck to Justine's most delicate of body parts and Alexia attempts to shear it off with a pair of scissors, resulting in her inexplicably losing the tip of her finger and passing out in horror. But that's not all! Panicked and distraught, Justine finds her sister's fingertip and spends a ghoulish amount of time inspecting it with the sort of fever-dream hunger that turns cartoon characters into visages of cooked turkeys. And then she finally gives in to her desires and starts to nibble away at the thing like beef jerky. Naturally, her sister wakes up at this exact moment to witness the snacking, and it's nothing short of horrible on just about every level possible.

Horror on the beach in Under the Skin

There's a lot that's uncomfortable about Jonathan Glazer's strange sci-fi drama about an extraterrestrial in the guise of a very sexy lady simply known as "The Female" (Scarlett Johansson). From the scenes of the Female picking up and seducing random men into a black void to Johansson's kinda dodgy British accent (sorry not sorry), it's uncomfortable from start to finish. But the scene in which the Female is witness to — but completely unmoved by — a devastating tragedy on a Scottish beach is the one which may inflict the biggest waves of discomfort upon the audience.

The Female watches as a man she's trying to sweet-talk runs desperately into some seriously choppy water to save a married couple who appear to be drowning. However, the Female only approaches the shore when the man eventually returns, having failed to save anyone. And as it becomes harrowingly clear that the couple have drowned — and that their screaming baby has been left behind on the beach — the Female unemotionally smashes the man on the head with a rock and drags him away as a tasty snack. All the while, the screams of the abandoned orphan ring out completely unheard. It's a cold and galling scene that really drives home how otherworldly and inhuman the Female actually is, even if she looks (and occasionally acts) like one of our own.

Aron chops off his arm in 127 Hours

Like other movies based around a singular cataclysmic real-life event, 127 Hours only had one way to end. In this case, that's with the grim scene of a man amputating his own arm. Based on the horrifying survival act of canyoneer Aron Ralston, who got his arm trapped by a boulder in an isolated part of Utah's Bluejohn Canyon in 2003, Danny Boyle's drama steadily ramps up the tension to the notorious moment wherein Ralston finally performs the act which saves his life. To call it uncomfortable is a vast understatement, with Ralston (depicted by James Franco) desperately breaking the bones in his arm before hacking away at it with a blunt pocket knife after six days of hallucinatory, urine-drinking misery.

The moment is thankfully not as invasive or gory as the similarly queasy hand-severing scene from Gerald's Game, but it's nonetheless utterly horrifying. Boyle maintains an atmosphere of panicked claustrophobia, trapping the audience in the cramped boulder space with Ralston and making it tempting, but also difficult, to look away from. It leaves the viewer with a singular devastating question about survival: could they ever do the same to save their life? Truthfully... probably not.

The worst anniversary sex ever in Blue Valentine

Not every uncomfortable movie scene has to revolve around bodily injury, monstrous transformations, or threats of irreparable violence. As Blue Valentine proves, sometimes the most uncomfortable movie scenes can revolve around something as basic and relatable as the damaged dynamics of a fledgling relationship. Showcasing the absolute highs and heart-wrenching lows of a love affair from its blissful beginnings to its wretched, gloomy finish, Blue Valentine might be one of the truest and most anguished depictions of love in the past decade. And the midpoint of the movie provides the most dreary and pained scene of the entire film.

It's a moment of no return, in which miserable married couple Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) lock themselves into a hideous sci-fi themed motel in a sad attempt to celebrate their anniversary. Instead, Dean fails to romance his wife and the two wind up getting sloppy drunk and firing barbs at each other. It all culminates in a dismal sex scene wherein an emotionless Cindy simply allows her husband to have sex with her while she grimaces in absolute displeasure and paws morosely at his face. As if the set-up wasn't sad or uncomfortable enough to watch, director Derek Cianfrance positions every shot to be as invasive and up-close to the character's faces and bodies as possible, capturing every passionless movement and every agonized expression in savage detail. It's honestly enough to put you off dating for life.

Fletcher humiliates Andrew one last time in Whiplash

After almost an entire movie spent at each other's throats, mentor (J. K. Simmons' Fletcher) and student (Miles Teller's Andrew) come to a resolution at the end of Whiplash which initially feels hopeful and positive. After being fired from his job as a teacher at Shaffer, the prestigious music college which Andrew was also expelled from, Fletcher invites his former student to drum with his band at the JVC Jazz Festival. It's a huge moment for the talented young drummer, and one which appears to signal that Fletcher is willing to put aside the past and to give his former protege a final opportunity at greatness.

Except Fletcher doesn't actually have the best of intentions with this opportunity. Just before the performance begins, he reveals to Andrew that he knows about his role in the firing. He then starts the concert with a piece Andrew doesn't know, hasn't practiced, and doesn't even have sheet music for. It's a nightmarish sequence which sees Andrew struggling to keep up with the rest of the band or even improvise anything that can keep the ensemble coherent. The audience gasps in horror and his fellow bandmates sneer at his failed attempts to play the song. Luckily, Andrew manages to fight back with the greatest live drum solo in the history of cinema (winning Fletcher's unyielding respect in the process), but those five minutes where it's nothing but missed beats and awkwardness? They're pure hell.

The godawful CGI baby in Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part Two

It's a scene so abysmally terrible that even director Bill Condon called it "a disaster" — the moment in which Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward's (Robert Pattinson) half-vampire baby Renesmee is revealed to the audience. It's already become iconic for how dreadful it is. While not intentionally uncomfortable, the uncanny valley into which the CGI-mess-of-a-creation pushes the scene offers some next-level nightmare fuel for a movie series in which vampires are so distinctly unscary that they have glittering flesh. 

According to behind-the-scenes footage from the film, the original animatronic doll created for the young character (who experiences advanced ageing because vampire blood, or something) was so monstrous that the cast and crew called it Chuckesmee with doll producer Wyck Godrey referring to it as being "one of the most grotesque animatronic babies ever to be seen on film." Sadly, the CGI creation doesn't fare much better, with the resulting "creature" bearing a molten infant face with wild, boggling eyes and a mouth that morphs into something vaguely resembling human emotion. The Cullen family, meanwhile, coo and smile at the hideous supernatural spawn as though it isn't an absolute abomination. Making matters worse, the scene evolves to show Renesmee growing up with all the tactile humanity of a cheese string that somebody is trying to pass off as a child. In short, it's unsettling and memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Brotherly love in Climax

If feeling uncomfortable for the entire duration of a movie is your bag, then Gaspar Noé is your man. And with Climax, a film where a troupe of ridiculously good-looking dancers get spiked en-masse with LSD after a dance rehearsal, Noé is certainly back in form when it comes to making the audience squirm for the better part of an hour. Though you can throw a dart into just about any point of the movie and find something truly uncomfortable to ruin your evening, watching a brother hit on his sister and drag her to bed may just be the film's pinnacle of nope.

The incestuous moment between Taylor and Gazelle comes towards the end of Climax, and it doesn't happen without Noé leaving some cringe-laden breadcrumbs leading up to the act. For much of the film, Taylor berates Gazelle for her taste in men and even seems resentful towards his sister's boyfriend for various vague overly-protective reasons. It's a plot point that really strikes hard when Taylor finds his sister convulsing on the floor and starts acting less than brotherly to her. Though Gazelle survives the fit, Taylor takes it upon himself to take her to bed — judging from the way he's pawing at her, without the best of intentions. When next we see them they're half-clothed, with Taylor assuring his sister that "nothing happened" while also awkwardly begging her not to "tell Dad" about whatever didn't happen. Gazelle seemingly has no memory of whatever transpired, but their awkward, unclothed body language says it all and it's absolutely harrowing.

The best friend speech battle in Bridesmaids

While it certainly might not be the most original of comedy scenes, it's truly a testament to Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne's performances as a pair of insecure and overly-competitive bridesmaids that the best friend speech from Bridesmaids can remain so uncomfortable after several viewings. At an engagement party for Lillian (Maya Rudolph), life-long bestie Annie (Wiig) finds herself competitively trying to prove her deep connection with the bride-to-be against the seemingly perfect Helen (Byrne), who also claims to be Lillian's best friend. The resulting mess of a speech delivers a wildly uncomfortable back-and-forth that unearths the deep insecurities of both women.

Annie serves up a sincere and simple tribute to her best friend, only to be unexpectedly shown up by a bloated and over-the-top declaration of platonic love from Helen. Behind a pair of clenched smiles, the two continue to fight it out on the battlefield of the stage, snatching the microphone from one another as they go. There are embarrassing tributes in foreign languages, and the term "soulmate" is tossed about, until finally Annie takes the mic for a mortifying a capella performance of Dionne Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For". Just when you think it can't get any worse, Helen makes the performance a duet and the two warble the song out together to a ferocious, screeching end which is nothing short of frightful.