Most Shocking Documentaries

Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse (1990)

Directed by Larry Peerce

Horrifying, shocking, and chilling. These are a few of the words used to describe the 1990 documentary film Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse. The documentary features the story of 6 year-old Beth Thomas and her interviews with her therapist. Beth was a victim of sexual abuse and had consequently developed Reactive Attachment Disorder – an inability to empathise or connect socially. In her interviews, Beth displayed an extreme lack of conscience, engaging in cruel acts such as attempting to kill her brother and planning to murder her parents. The journey from being an innocent child to a potentially remorseless murderer shocked viewers when the film was first aired on HBO. The documentary followed Beth’s Attachment Therapy that aimed at cultivating a conscience and reattaching her with mainstream society,

Night Will Fall (1945)

Directed by Andre Singer

The Holocaust was certainly one of the most horrifying episodes in human history. Night Will Fall, a 2014 documentary chronicles the tales of the atrocities meted out in the Nazi concentration camps. The state of these camps and the victims terrified viewers when the film was finally released. Based on a 1945 documentary called German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (by the British government), the film showed graphic and gruesome images that are likely to haunt the memories of those who watch it. The earlier film’s footage and research was shelved for about 7 decades before finally being released. Much of the work was overseen by Alfred Hitchcock and includes interviews from survivors and Allied liberators, apart from images and footage shot by combat cameramen.

Body Shock: The Man Who Ate His Lover (2011)

Directed by Srik Narayanan

The 49-minute documentary, Bodyshock: The Man Who Ate His Lover is the true story of Armin Meiwes, a German computer technician who was a cannibal. Meiwes and his victim met over an Internet website dedicated to cannibalism. The victim, Bernd-Jurgen Brandes was a masochist who offered to be killed and eaten. The two met and the victim ingested a great deal of alcohol and painkillers. Meiwes then removed his victim’s penis which the both attempted to eat. Meiwes videotaped the entire “date”. Later, his victim bled profusely and Meiwes killed his victim. He froze and ate the victim’s flesh over the next 10 months. The documentary went on to be nominated for many awards despite its grotesque theme.

The Cove (2009)

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

Rivers of blood are not references to religious mythology. They are results of the cruel and savage practices such as Taiji dolphin drive hunting. Each year about 23,000 dolphins are killed in Japan in a brutal sport. Apart from its disastrous effects on the environment, mercury poisoning from dolphin meat is a very real health hazard for human beings. The Academy Award winning documentary, The Cove, highlights these practices and calls for more awareness and compassion among the fishermen and dolphin hunters of Japan.

Atomic Wounds (2006)

Directed by Marc Petitjean

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb to be used in war on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The five-ton bomb instantly razed down four square miles area and killed over 80,000 people. Three days later, the US dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki which killed 40,000 people more. The long-term effects of the nuclear radiation have been disastrous for the survivors. The US administration had, however, successfully concealed much of these reactions and dangers through the following decades, in an attempt to pursue development of nuclear arms without any opposition. Atomic WOunds explores this concealment and lays bare the suffering of the Japanese survivors in a heart wrenching tale.

Sex: My British Job (2013)

Directed by Nick Broomfield

Sex: My British Job explores the appalling lives of illegal immigrants in the UK who are forced to take to prostitution to work off their debts and to feed themselves. Exploited by brothel owners, unscrupulous pimps and exposed to a great deal of physical, financial, and health hazards, these women live a half life. This movie is journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai’s exposé as she works undercover in a brothel as a maid. Most of the sex workers in the brothels of London are illegal immigrants, says the documentary and their lives and attempts to pay off the trafficking gangs that bring them to the country take them through the hell of prostitution and exploitation. When UK’s Channel 4 aired the documentary, it caused much outrage and calls for action.

Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children (2007)

Director Kate Blewett

When Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children was first aired by BBC in 2007, it was received by a deeply disturbed and emotionally fraught audience. Eminent filmmaker Kate Blewett certainly did a fine job of capturing the plight of mentally or physically disadvantaged children who have been abandoned by parents. Bulgaria has the highest reported rate of institutionalized children in the EU and the country’s orphanages are infamous for their apathy and carelessness in bringing up these children. The documentary is heart wrenching and led to many protests in the UK. The issue was raised with the EU and some reforms were implemented in Bulgaria.

Aftermath: Unanswered Questions from 9/11 (2003)

Directed by Stephen Marshall

The September 11 terrorist attacks shook up the US and many other countries of the world. No country seemed to be secure enough. There have been official versions of the events that occurred that day and again there have been alternative or conspiracy theories. While there is no certain way to determine the truth, the documentary Aftermath: Unanswered Questions from 9/11 attempts to raise some poignant but unanswered questions regarding the events that took place. Interviews with survivors and people who were near Ground Zero on 9/11 leave viewers scared and uncertain about what really happened.

The Imposter (2012)

Directed by Bart Layton

Losing a child is one of the most painful experiences parents can go through. In 1994, 13 year old Texas child Nicholas Barclay disappeared. In 1997 a young man claiming to be Nicholas came back to the family but the impersonation by Frédéric Bourdin was soon unearthed. The documentary is built up of reenactments and interviews with family and friends. Bourdin had a long history of impersonating lost children. The systemic stages of impersonation and the complete lack of remorse displayed by the fraudster make this a terrifying watch for most people with children and families.

Crazy Love (2007)

Directed by Dan Klores, Fisher Stevens

Burton N. Pugach was a New York based attorney who shot into notoriety when he was accused and convicted of having lye thrown on the face of his former girlfriend, Linda Riss. Riss was 10 years his junior and had attempted to break off her courtship with Pugach knowing him to be married. Pugach hired goons to hurt Riss and left her terribly scarred almost blind. Crazy Love chronicles these events and the extraordinary love that grew between Pugach and Riss after the former was imprisoned. 14 years later when Pugach was released the two resumed courtship and married.

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