Forking over an hour or two of pay makes going to see a film a burden on the wallet, even if theater chains maintain that it’s cheaper than ever to go to the movies. Most moviegoers want to see a film they know they will enjoy to avoid throwing away their hard-earned cash, so when movies sometimes leave audiences feeling disgruntled, disgusted or even ill enough to walk out, it’s a big deal. Even some of the staunchest movie-goers who refuse to leave the theater for any reason sometimes find themselves walking out of a production for the strangest excuses.
Whether or not the theater will refund tickets paid for movies that upset or sicken audiences, hundreds of people have walked out of startling films for plenty of reasons. Sometimes it’s mind-boggling. For those who wanted a scary movie, why bail when it gets too scary? Whatever happened to turning your head? Then there are the people who never read a single movie blurb or review or rating, happily heading into a dark room to watch two hours of some mysterious media that somehow ended up too appropriate for them- -or worse, their kids. Access to research has never been more readily available… Google it!
Whether they turned audiences away due to sheer laziness, weak stomachs or other incomprehensible reasons, here are 15 Movies So Shocking Audiences Left The Theater.
Some people loved Cloverfield and some people hated the shaky-cam kaiju flick but many of those who walked out of the theater became physically ill due to the footage. It was even dubbed the “Cloverfield Illness,” leaving plenty of moviegoers to scratch their heads wondering how a movie could make someone sick without smell-o-vision.
It turns out that bumpy camera work can actually cause motion sickness, and the nausea was so bad during the release of Cloverfield that theaters took to posting warning signs about the movie to warn audiences and attempt to prevent cleanups mid-movie.
14. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Just as often as Stanley Kubrick is hailed as a genius filmmaker, his film 2001: A Space Odyssey is cited as one of the worst movies of all time. It’s also called the best sci-fi movie of all time, which pretty much sums up the confusing nature of the movie itself. Moviegoers left out of sheer confusion, with even Rock Hudson famously demanding, “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?”
Indeed, Mr. Hudson.
Filmmakers claim that it was meant to be confusing, which seems a lot like the defense of a particularly winding, terrible essay by a college kid who wrote it two hours prior to class. Its long, slow nature would only have fared worse if released today.
This one is for all the clueless people who waste time on cat videos yet somehow can’t manage to see a preview about an obviously R-rated movie. Every parent needs to read up before taking their kids to see movies in the first place, but the makers of Deadpool made it abundantly clear that it was not for children’s eyes.
The campaigns were so aggressive that they are one of the reasons why the film was so popular. It wasn’t just an awesome movie, but people wanted to know why it wasn’t appropriate for the kiddies.
Except for the parents who took their kids to see Deadpool, expecting some Captain America-style fresh-faced heroics. They just heard “comic” and made assumptions that were completely not based on the comic, or else they’d have noticed that nowhere in his history has the Merc with the Mouth ever been kid-friendly.
12. The Revenant
Even the face of Leonardo DiCaprio couldn’t hold audiences in the theater for this one. The Revenant proved to be such a brutal movie that people abandoned all hope – and the theater itself – rather than stick around to watch Leo’s Oscar-winning performance.
While great, this performance included a gruesome battle with a bear that’s considered one of the bloodiest animal scenes in history and acts so disgusting that people found themselves retching while watching. It’s basically what would happen if Castaway and The Road had a baby and fed it nothing but steroids and animal carcasses.
11. The Exorcist
Even if you haven’t seen The Exorcist, you probably already know why shocked audiences decided to exit right while the movie played in theaters. Between the head-spinning, puking, nasty voice, and sheer grossness, there are a few scenes that would bother viewers with weak stomachs, but that’s to be expected.
The religious irreverence, to put it mildly, was blamed for many of the disgusted gasps and high-tailed movie quitters, though. The infamous scene with the crucifix makes everyone cringe, whether or not they are religious – it’s just that haunting.
10. Reservoir Dogs
The violence of a Quentin Tarantino is the draw for many a crowd, but sometimes it’s also the element that boots them out the door. Long before the ear-slicing scene in The Revenant, Tarantino used the tactic in an intensely graphic torture scene that, let’s be honest, might even seem tame by modern standards.
Still, in 1992, Reservoir Dogs paired the peppy verses of “Stuck in the Middle with You” with Michael Madsen’s infamous torture scene and shocked audiences into leaving the theater.
Even Wes Craven famously walked out of the movie, an act that enthralled Tarantino, who asked if the famous writer/director if he’d walked out because he couldn’t “handle it.” Craven, who hated to see torture scenes, admitted that he had, and Tarantino exclaimed, “I just scared Wes Craven!”
Panic seems to be the last thing you’d want to inspire with a film. You wouldn’t yell, “Fire!” or “Bomb!” or “Rat!” in a theater, so why would a filmmaker purposefully implement 27 hertz bass to create panic in an audience? Oh, just to make an endless revenge assault movie even more difficult to watch. It wasn’t just the violence on screen that made people literally sick, but this frequency that viewers couldn’t even acknowledge hearing.
What the frequency does do is induce panic, heavy feelings of sadness, heart palpitations, and anxiety, which are all things that people pretty much already feel when they think of assault. That’s why the movie Irréversible had so many people running away from what was essentially an experiment session being conducted on them.
8. Swiss Army Man
When Daniel Radcliffe set out to make a new name for himself following a young lifetime of playing Harry Potter in the titular series, he meant business. From Equus to Imperium, he’s not only proven his mettle but he’s strayed as far from the boy-wizard as possible.
2016’s critically well-received comedy-drama Swiss Army Man seemed to be just another example in a long line of wide-ranging movies for the actor, but the role of farting, rotting corpse apparently overdid it for many moviegoers who fled after witnessing Paul Dano use Radcliffe’s dead body as a flatulence-powered jet ski.
7. The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael
As popular as Game of Thrones may be, audiences are increasingly becoming intolerant of assault scenes. Even when movie-makers defend the scenes as art, realism, or something in between, they tend to glamorize the act, portray it through the gaze of the assaulted and focus more often on women being assaulted than men.
In 2005, a violent gang assault in the film The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael sent waves of audience members out of the Cannes Film Festival.
The director and actors claimed they wanted audiences to be shocked and disgusted, arguing that assaults are a regular occurrence in war zones, but they undoubtedly took things beyond the realm of necessary realism. It was several miles too far.
6. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
At its release, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was one of the most shockingly violent movies ever made. It broke the mold not only with its themes but its very inception, serving as one of the first popular low-budget movies made by independent youth.
Today both its birth and content might not be a big deal, but in 1974 it was revolutionary. The movie inspired generations of horror fans, became one of the most beloved slasher movies of all time – and sent audiences away screaming, barf bags in hand.
The original uncut film had to be slashed in order to be shown as an R-rated feature instead of an X-rated one, but moviegoers who saw the full original movie left so outraged they actually threatened to sue theater owners for its bankrupt morality. Had they expected a feel-good movie?
Some movies that audiences abandoned are considered so abhorrent by society that they’ve been banned. Some are banned out of pure censorship, but movies like Tod Browning’s Freaks received their bans following claims by viewers that the media caused terrible health effects, such as a miscarriage.
American Horror Story fans might find that especially implausible, but in 1932 audiences turned away in horror from people who simply didn’t look or act like they did.
The movie might be considered a classic today, but in its own time it killed Browning’s career. Though it was partly based on his real-life experiences with a circus, viewers couldn’t handle the real conjoined twins, bearded lady, and other individuals who might be given their own reality shows in the modern world.
4. Inherent Vice
Critics may have been wowed by Paul Thomas Anderson’s flick Inherent Vice, which stars Joaquin Phoenix, but audiences were not all as enthused. Some viewers say that many people walked out not because they were disgusted, but because they simply couldn’t understand a bit of the thick dialogue taken from the film’s original text.
The book itself isn’t a breezy read but it was as if Anderson never even attempted to mold it into an accessible piece of media for movie goers but instead checked out 2001: A Space Odyssey, heard that no film could ever be as dense or obtuse and said, “Hold my beer.”
It’s one of the most bizarre movies of all time, a unique experience where you can see the Fox from the hell of Narnia die in slow-motion, Willem Defoe’s hand swell up with tick bites… and much, much worse. Charlotte Gainsbourg may have won best actress at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival for her role in Antichrist but her masochistic and horrifying torture of both herself and her husband sent audience members out of the theater retching.
The movie was so graphically disturbing that even Eva Green’s people wouldn’t let her touch it. Lars von Trier may say that the second film in his “Depression Trilogy” was “therapeutic” for him and that it’s the most important movie he’s ever made, but some people sure with that they could unsee the art horror production.
2. A Clockwork Orange
It may not be the most shocking movie in this list, but at the time of its release it sure was. It’s also the most notorious among these films, widely remembered as the film that ruined “Singin’ in the Rain” for generations of people.
Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is pretty much an ode to violence, and Malcolm McDowell himself witnessed dozens of people existing the film between its slow start and its violent development. Kubrick famously stated that Alex exists within all of us as a representation of the id, but plenty of viewers certainly failed to, or didn’t wish to, identify with the psychopath.
Unfortunately, as films can sometimes do, A Clockwork Orange inspired depraved souls to commit similar crimes in England, resulting in the movie being yanked out of theaters before more could see it. It remains McDowell’s most famous role to this day.
The main reason why audiences bailed on the Sundance Film Festival entry Kuso was the “ew” factor. People said much worse than “Ew” as they rushed out of the screening, ready to barf over the viles scenes in the movie. The film was filled with such terrible gross-out material that many wondered whether or not it was some kind of joke on them.
Flying Lotus’ film is meant to describe what could happen after an earthquake hits Los Angeles. Ever heard of heroic first responders and citizens helping each other out?
Lotus says that only 20 people walked out, but that’s pretty significant for a Sundance Film Festival entry. He says his next movie will be even more “avant-garde.” Is that a threat?
Have you ever walked out of a movie? Let us know in the comments.
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