I’m not sure how or why people would ever list a movie that really, truly makes them sad as their favorite. Even if they are beautiful films that tell a strong story, melancholy is melancholy. I usually try to avoid overt homages to outright miserableness in my escapism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I write off all movies with downbeat ending, including punch-in-the-gut, man-that-sucked-for-them ones. For example, I loved the ending of The Mist. I also don’t care if the movie promotes a bleak view of society. I list Fight Club as one of my all time favorite films and Chuck Palahniuk as one of my all time favorite writers. And that dude is a nihilist.
But I’m talking more about films that just make you feel uneasy as you are watching them. Movies that constantly remind you how horrible things can get and how horrible people will act in those situations. Three different movies came to mind, all pretty equal in misery and melancholy but different in topic. They are definitely worth a least an initial viewing, but I can’t really recommend watching them repeatedly unless you just started listening to My Chemical Romance and quoting Sylvia Plath.
And nobody wants that.
The Miserable Top Three:
1. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Director: Darren Aronosky
Before he was wowing us by having Natalie Portman turn into a bird and get all lesbo with Mila Kunis (and I can’t thank him enough for that) in Black Swan, he was smacking us in the face with this tale of the modern drug addict. He single-handedly ruined Jennifer Connolly for me and that is a feat after I first saw her riding that plastic horse in Career Opportunities. You know what I’m talking about (if not you should watch that link). But Aronosky’s story of addiction was so unflinching in it’s portrayal of the dangers of drugs that you simply can’t really stomach multiple viewings., which is what I usually set as a barometer of a great film. But they should make all sophomores in high school watch this if they want to scare kids off drugs.
2. 21 Grams (2003)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Director Iñárritu makes some bleak, bleak films. You could put Babel in place of 21 Grams on this list and even use the same arguments against it. I don’t want to feel horrible as a person when I’m watching a movie. I feel that way normally. I look to film as an escape as I’m sure everyone does. So I don’t need to be reminded that the world is a pretty rotten place when I’m trying to escape it for a few hours. That’s just counterproductive.
3. United 93 (2006)
Director: Paul Greengrass
To be honest, this one was hard to put on here because I really do think it’s a fantastic movie. It really pulls you back to that September day and that feeling that everyone had of just not knowing what was going on. But that feeling is not and was not a good one. And as you watch the events unfold on screen, you become emotionally invested again. Greengrass (director of the latter two Bourne films) does an excellent job of making you feel for the passengers and feel like you are one of them. Again, that’s not necessarily a good one since you know how the story ends. Now I am in no way, shape or form making a political statement, nor am I saying that the film is historically accurate. I do feel it is a important piece of film that does a good job of capturing that feeling of confusion that permeated those first few hours and rejuvenates that feeling of unease and dread that we all felt that day. And in light of recent events, it’s a good thing to keep things in perspective.