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20 Biggest Movie Downers

Posted by Ty Burr  April 9, 2008 07:25 AM

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The Canadian film website Movies Online has come up with a list of Top 20 Feel-Bad Movies of the Past 20 Years, and it's worth chewing over. Of course the wrist-slitters at both ends of the list are Canadian, but they've got "Jesus' Son" in there (Billy Crudup as a heroin addict and the best title ever taken from a Velvet Underground song) and "Igby Goes Down," which is an underrated movie even if it's not a colossal bummer. "Lilya 4-Ever," about a teenage sex slave? Essential to a list of this type and, sadly, also essential viewing.

But, sheesh, where's the work of Todd Solondz -- grim masterpieces like "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Happiness"? Talk about bleak. Or Tim Blake Nelson's "The Grey Zone," a death-camp movie that never lets up? And, while we're at it, where's either version of Michael Haneke's "Funny Games"? If the aim is to beat an audience into cowering submission, you can't do better. Except maybe a Michael Bay movie.

It's also notable that it's a list of the last 20 years, which leaves out the New Hollywood of the 1970s -- how convenient. Downer dramas like "The Parallax View," "The King of Marvin Gardens" (photo above, and, yes, that's Jack Nicholson), and, hell, "Chinatown" would overwhelm this group like a tsunami.

Your own choices for the biggest movie bummer ever? Send 'em on in.

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9 comments so far...
  1. Where's good old Lars - Dogville? Breaking the Waves?
    Dancer in the Dark was a little too merry in the delivery of its downlifting message to make my list.

    Posted by schlep April 9, 08 08:25 AM
  1. Really? I thought the merry delivery in Dancer in the Dark made it that much more awful. I felt terrible for days after I saw that.

    Requiem for a Dream. Ugh. I mean wow. But ugh.

    My boyfriend likes to point out how maudlin it is that one of my top ten favorite movies is about children who die in a bus accident (The Sweet Hereafter). Another bit of brilliance that makes me want to never leave my house.

    Posted by JLS April 9, 08 12:10 PM
  1. If I am correct, you referred to the twist ending of "The Mist" as being particularly cruel. Would that also make your list?

    I found the ending of "Jesus Son" to be uplifting, but that's just me.
    Shouldn't soul-grinding events like "Requiem for a Dream" or "Irreversible" be on this list as well?

    Favorite Bummer Movies from last 20 years:
    "Crimes & Misdemeanors"
    "Leaving Los Vegas"
    "No Country For Old Men"

    TY RESPONDS: "The Mist" -- good call, and that's a bum-out in a commercially minded movie. Daring, in its fashion, if not actually *good*. And, yeah, "Irreversible," but since it's told backwards, it actually ends happily! Until you play it forward in your head afterwards, at least.

    Posted by flightjkt April 9, 08 12:52 PM
  1. 'The Sweet Hereafter' was devastating!

    Got to give the Irish their due, 'The Butcher Boy' ('97, I thought it was older) was a grim experience.

    Posted by schlep April 9, 08 03:35 PM
  1. There are a few that are worthy of mention and missing from the list and from comments (how did Requiem *not* make that list?):

    Boys Don't Cry (absolutely heartbreaking that people can be killed for trying to be true to themselves)
    Kissed (a necrophiliac and her boyfriend struggle to satisfy each other)
    The Descent (sure, it's visceral horror, but there's a message there too)
    Monster (society can help create some of our worst villains)
    George Washington or All The Real Girls

    Posted by Andrew April 9, 08 06:04 PM
  1. Yep, like a couple of you I'm really not sure how Requiem for a Dream could have ever been left off the list.

    I also think you could make a pretty strong case for Leaving Las Vegas (though, I suppose you could consider it a happy ending of sorts in that Nick Cage DID manage to complete the goal he set for himself... see kids, dreams really can come true, ugh).

    Let's not forget such upbeat, feel-good fare as Mystic River and Monster's Ball.

    Posted by Eric April 10, 08 07:42 AM
  1. "Pelle the Conqueror": Brilliant (I guess) but grim and grimmer.

    "Brazil": Big Brother on steroids. Frightening but nearly impossible to follow for the casual moviegoer.

    Both courtesy of my wife, whose memory for this type of thing far exceeds mine.

    Posted by Bobo Deluxe April 10, 08 10:04 AM
  1. den of geek did a list as well, which was posted on cinematical:

    I'm glad Movies Online included "Donnie Darko." That was the only movie that really hit me. I felt so alone after watching it. Of course, I have yet to see Requiem, though after all these comment I am wary of it, I hate being depressed.

    TY RESPONDS: Oh, go for it, Sunshine, although you may have to change your screen-name afterwards. Worth the price of admission alone for the scene where Ellen Burstyn (fantastic) is grinding her teeth and Jared Leto says, "Ma?... Are you on uppers?"

    Posted by Margaret April 10, 08 10:28 AM
  1. Sophie's Choice by far the toughest movie to sit through.

    Posted by John Burke April 10, 08 11:21 AM

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

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