Netflix has rapidly turned into one of the most successful companies in the world of television. The streaming service funds an extraordinary number of original shows, and has a library filled with tons of shows acquired from TV networks.
These shows span genres and quality levels. Some are outstanding comedies, while others are pretty unremarkable dramas. Each of these shows almost definitely has something to offer, but how much they have to offer definitely varies from show to show.
Although all of these shows are easily available to stream, some of them almost definitely aren’t worth it. These are the shows that are simply too disturbing or horrifying to spend your time on. After all, the real world is broken enough. Plenty of viewers want entertainment that gives them a chance to forget about the problems that surround them, and instead allows them to laugh or cry about something else unrelated to their own lives.
For some shows on Netflix, comfort isn’t the goal. In fact, these shows set out to disturb their audiences, and often succeed in doing show. Many of these shows are great, but only the toughest of viewers will be able to stomach them. They’re just too unsettling.
Here are 15 TV Shows On Netflix Too Disturbing To Watch.
Debuting on October 13th 2017 as acclaimed director David Fincher's newest contribution to Netflix, Mindhunter follows the early days of the criminal profiling Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI. Two agents travel the United States, interviewing imprisoned serial killers before the term "serial killer" even existed.
With Fincher's trademark look and tone of deep, existential dread, Mindhunter will creep up on you and then severely creep you out. What's interesting is that Mindhunter manages to be incredibly disturbing without ever depicting violence. The horrible acts of the serial killers are only ever recounted via dialogue, and occasionally showcased through black and white photographs. The show disturbs us without ever showing us horrific acts of violence - it's the evil that lies in men's minds that truly disturbs.
14 The Keepers
One of two docuseries to grace this list, The Keepers tells the story of a nun’s disappearance in 1969. She was eventually found dead, but her killer remained a mystery for years. The case reemerged in the '90s when a former students claimed that she was abused while in one of the nun's high school classes, and taken to the then-undiscovered corpse and threatened.
As the show unravels the mystery at its center, we see all the ways in which the Catholic Church has attempted to cover up abuse by its priests, and allowed them to circumvent any form of punishment.
This abuse has been well-documented, and The Keepers serves as another reminder that the people we trust as divine servants are often guilty of real, terrible offenses. What’s more, these offenses sometimes remain hidden, in part because of an organization that seems focused on hiding the truth instead of shining a light on it.
13 Hemlock Grove
Hemlock Grove is far from the most popular show on Netflix, and that might be for perfectly good reasons. The show focuses on the residents of a former steel town in Pennsylvania, filled with terrifying creatures. Filled with both soapy drama and plenty of gore, the show pits incredibly wealthy characters against other characters in poverty, and every one of them is hiding something.
Although the soapy drama is plenty of fun, Hemlock Grove lands on this list largely because of its gory violence, which is really over the top. Of course, that’s part of the point of the show, but it may be way too graphic for many viewers, and that’s understandable.
Violence has become a fixture on TV in recent years, and the increased budgets on many shows has only made it seem more realistic. Hemlock Grove falls squarely into that category. That violence can be disturbing, even if it’s supposed to be fun.
12 Bates Motel
In 1960, it was hard to think of a more shocking movie than Psycho. What initially seemed like a straightforward thriller eventually turned into the story of serial killer Norman Bates and the "mother" that lived inside his head. Psycho is pretty disturbing in its own right, and any show that chronicled the story of Bates as a kid was undoubtedly going to follow suit.
Bates Motel, which tells the story of Norman Bates and his mother, but moves the setting to the present, is filled with terrifying psychodrama that reveals how Norman slowly turned into the man we meet in Psycho. Over the course of five seasons, we see how Norman’s uncomfortable relationship with his mother turned him into the killer we meet in the film.
As the show progresses, it only gets more disturbing. The people who interact with the Bates family begin to suffer their wrath. Norman Bates loves his mother way too much, and that's a big problem for the characters and viewers alike.
11 Making a Murderer
Making a Murderer isn’t all that graphic or grotesque. Although it details the after-effects of a murder in excruciating detail, the show never feels the need to depict any of the most brutal aspects of the violence. Instead, it does what many great true crime shows do, and calls into question the very idea of justice in the United States.
The man accused of the murder may not have committed the crime in question, but that hardly seemed to matter to many of the authorities investigating the case. As new details are uncovered, we eventually realize that society often creates criminals, and then punishes them whether or not they’ve done something wrong.
The idea behind Making a Murderer is that society has created its own criminals. It never gave them a chance to be anything else, and wasn’t surprised when they eventually fell into the life that had already been prescribed for them.
10 The Killing
Although The Killing began its run on AMC, it finished up on Netflix, and managed to deliver plenty of disturbing ideas no matter where it was airing. The show followed two detectives who would investigate murder cases over a season or more. The show was intentionally dreary and character-driven, but it also served as an examination of the darkest parts of humanity.
Murders are not only graphic, they can also be incredibly depressing. The Killing was the kind of show that could wear down its audience, forcing them to slowly come to terms with the darkness that exists all around them.
In making murders personal, The Killing revealed just how dark law enforcement could be, even for those on the right side of things. Knowing this can make going through the day harder.
Nothing is ever really black and white, and The Killing was so disturbing because it showed us how gray the world really was.
9 Penny Dreadful
Telling the origin stories of public domain characters like Dorian Gray and Victor Frankenstein, Penny Dreadful was never afraid of getting just a little bit pulpy. The show is, at its heart, horrifying, and that’s because it deals with these terrifying characters in new and graphic ways.
From the show’s very first moments, with a monstrous attack on an innocent woman and child, audiences are given a sense of what they’re in for on the show.
With plenty of blood and gore, the show took advantage of its run on a premium cable network to give us plenty of disgusting imagery. Although the show may be a bridge too far for some viewers who can’t handle the horror the show produces, there are plenty of reasons to watch. The performances from the cast are great, and by the end of its three season run, it was one of the more critically acclaimed shows on the air.
Part of its charm was always its disturbing content, so viewer discretion is advised.
8 The Returned
Sadly, grief is an inextricable part of life. Everyone loses somebody, at some point, and those losses are always hard, but we almost always get through them.
The Returned is unsettling because it turns this idea of grief on its head. Dead people return to the world of the living, unaware that they have been dead for several years. The sheer emotional instability this kind of return could cause created a fascinating show, but for that reason, it's a hard show to get through - especially for those who have lost someone.
The Returned only lasted for a single season, but that was long enough to force viewers to reckon with some heavy questions. When those we’ve lost come back to us, it may seem almost impossible to integrate them into our lives again.
Grief is designed to allow us to let go, but the characters on The Returned are unable to do that.
7 Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks is really two shows. One of them is a high-brow soap opera about a small town and the various schemes of its citizens. The other is a dark examination of evil, and how it came to be a part of our world.
Although the show was recently revived for a third season, the original two seasons are disturbing enough. Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the original show is its depiction of violence against women, which was central to the show and often horrifically shown.
Twin Peaks was always interested in the terror of evil, and in the sheer incomprehensibility of violence. In the final episode of its second season, it took its hero, the only truly moral force in the show’s universe, and corrupted him. This decision proved the depths to which the show was willing to plunge, and the truly strange places it was willing to go.
It may not have always seemed like Twin Peaks was set in the real world, but in its darkest moments, it showed us how close to reality it was.
Although it almost definitely went on too long, the initial run of Dexter was designed to unsettle its audience. The show follows a serial killer who only kills other killers. He’s also a blood-spatter expert during the day.
Dexter feels he’s justified in committing these violent acts because the people he kills are already guilty. If that logic seems a little disturbing to you, you’re definitely not alone.
Eventually, Dexter’s lifestyle of serial murder catches up with him, and results in the loss of the people he’s closest to. Dexter could be a deeply violent show, but that’s only part of the reason the show proves to be so disturbing. It also forces us to sympathize with a man who loves murdering people, and justifies it to himself by saying that his victims deserve punishment. He’s not a good guy, but Dexter tries to fool you into believing that he might be.
5 American Horror Story
The first season of American Horror Story took many viewers by surprise, in part because it revealed that the show was actually going to be an anthology series that told a different story every season. Since then, each subsequent season of the show has been designed to shock and horrify its viewers in a variety of ways.
The most recent season tackles the 2016 United States election - and its aftermath - through the lens of horror, while other seasons have been set in asylums, covens, or haunted houses.
Since it first debuted, the goal of American Horror Story has been a singular one. Its desire is to be the most terrifying show on television, and it very often succeeds. Each season is packed with creepy imagery, sinister performances, and new ideas that only increase the terror quotient.
If you’re looking for horror on TV, this is where you find it. If you’re not, you might want to steer clear.
4 Black Mirror
Part of Black Mirror’s appeal comes directly from its desire to disturb. The show is an incisive look at the way technology has infected every aspect of our lives, and most of its episodes picture a future in which technology has done something to ruin our lives forever. Needless to say, it's a pretty dark series.
This show’s popularity has only grown since it came to Netflix, but the show itself hasn’t gotten any more jovial with that change. Instead, it’s only examining its themes more thoroughly, and showing us all the ways that our innovations could go horribly wrong.
Black Mirror is the kind of show that’s meant to disturb, but it’s also really good at its job. Its messages about technology, privacy, and our culture more broadly, are disturbing enough to make any viewer cringe. This is the kind of show that holds a mirror up to the world we live in, and doesn’t particularly care whether we live what we see.
Black Mirror tells the truth, and it’s often a truth that we can’t handle.
3 The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is one of the biggest shows in the history of television. It’s still quite highly-rated, but at its peak, it was the most popular show in existence.
Following a group of survivors in the wake of the zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead has never been shy about the level of violence and disgusting imagery that it’s willing to present to viewers. Just recently, the show caused quite a bit of controversy when it killed off a central character in a particularly violent manner.
The show has often been accused of nihilism, and that accusation is not entirely unfounded. The Walking Dead traffics in plenty of violence, and its unafraid to kill off its major characters.
The problem the show has encountered is the feeling of pointlessness that often surrounds these killings, which only makes them feel more disturbing. Violence needs to feel purposeful on TV, and on The Walking Dead, it often doesn’t.
2 13 Reasons Why
Telling the story of Hannah, a young girl who takes her own life and leaves tapes behind that explain why she did it, the show was unafraid of getting truly dark. The world of this show is not meant for the faint of heart, and the depiction of Hannah’s actual suicide in the first season’s finale is definitely disturbing.
Although it’s unclear exactly what will come with the show’s second season, viewers can expect a show that continues to unsettle its audience. In addition to its disturbing depiction of suicide, 13 Reasons Why also has several terrible rape scenes that only reinforce the show’s brutal depiction of high school.
Although some have argued that suicide is glamorized by the show, 13 Reasons Why is also a disturbing cultural artifact, one that can be really hard to sit through.
1 The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone might have been the very first disturbing television show ever made. The series was built around the idea of surprise from its very first moment, and it rarely disappointed viewers on that front. Telling stories set in alternative universes that nevertheless bears a striking resemblance to our own, the show managed to reveal terrifying truths.
The show could easily be seen as out of date or antiquated by today’s standards, but it holds up more than you might expect. Its visions of the future, aliens, and space travel all hold up, and many of its best episodes work as cautionary tales to this day.
It’s a supremely unsettling show because it gives us a peek into the unreality of our own world. It reminds us that we’ve been conditioned to try to live normal lives, but that doesn’t mean they always end up that way. Sometimes, we’re really in The Twilight Zone.
Have you seen any of these shows on Netflix? Would you recommend them to others? Sound off in the comments!