15 Most Disturbing Sci-Fi Movies

13. Twelve Monkeys

Brazil Alternate Ending
Universal pictures

This movie doesn’t get enough attention these days. It’s a practically forgotten little gem, with an A-list cast from director Terry Gillam, who wrote the book on disturbing backdrops and photography. In Twelve Monkeys, Gillam is on form with his mise-en-scène, which alone is upsetting. The whole texture of the piece, the way it looks, the way it feels, the way people live and are treated, is sticky dirty and it makes the viewer feel like they need a bath.

We see a vulnerable Bruce Willis at the mercy of cruel authorities and their lackeys. Viciously exposed in the most intimate ways, the character is passive and powerless against the events and the stream of time that have swept him up. As we progress his agency grows, as he becomes more invested in influencing events. Unfortunately, he is quickly reduced back to powerless, as he realizes that he is doomed within a paradoxical time loop.

It’s a real pity that this one doesn’t garner much commentary, because it’s cool, clever and offers up some great performances. As with many Terry Gillam movies the piece is dripping with a surreal style, but there’s substance here too. The torrid world that Gillam painted leaves the viewer feeling violated and makes for a genuinely unsettling journey.

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