10 Great Films That Are Ugly On Purpose

When a "bad" aesthetic is actually the right choice.

Natural Born Killers Juliette Lewis Robert Downey Jr
Warner Bros.

Making even a basically decent-looking film is a hell of a lot harder than most viewers will ever realise, and so to make something on the beautiful level of, say, Blade Runner 2049, is a truly herculean feat of artistry.

And while Hollywood is full of visually unappealing films you'd never give a second look, there are also those rare great movies which intentionally offer up a deeply offputting aesthetic.

These 10 films are all terrific works of cinema in their own right, yet undeniably roughshod on the visual front, serving up purposefully iffy cinematography, editing, camerawork, and so on, all in the quest of achieving a specific mood or vision.

Whether to place the viewer within a character's disorientated headspace, support the film's own chaotic themes, or simply assume a greater air of realism, these movies all utilised their lack of polish to their sure advantage.

The results clearly aren't for everyone, but these films nevertheless proved that, with the right filmmaker at the helm, it's possible to deviate from the typicality of Hollywood filmmaking in a way that's effective in its absolute unattractiveness.

Whether you dig these films or not, the naked artistic bravery on offer is undeniable...

10. Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers Juliette Lewis Robert Downey Jr
Warner Bros.

Despite its mixed critical and commercial reception, Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers is one of the most boldly provocative films of the 1990s, and arguably the director's last truly visionary movie.

Stone takes the prototypical Bonnie and Clyde formula and gives it a jolting amphetamine injection through not only his unsubtle critique of American culture, but also his intentionally offputting visual style.

From first frame to last, Natural Born Killers is a pure assault on the senses, containing an insane 3000 cuts which took Stone 11 months to edit, while the film's overall visual identity is defined by queasily neon-soaked imagery and sudden camera angle changes intended to disorient the viewer.

While critics and general audiences alike weren't sure what to make of Stone's film, its wilful ugliness ingeniously held up a mirror up to the very ADD-riddled mass media culture Stone was satirising, exposing its shallow stylishness in the process.


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.