Violence is disturbing when, rather than awesome, violence is shown or perceived to be frightening, disgusting, perhaps even nauseating, i.e. when it denotes brutality, sociopathy, sadism, and other socially undesirable traits, rather the socially desirable traits that are power, capacity for leadership, and effectiveness, staples of The Hero, especially the badass, and the reason why the Big Bad is cool. This is YMMV, since what disgusts some will leave others indifferent, excited, or thrilled. War Is Hell, especially when it's a depiction of the battlefield rather than the civilian (un)life, can strongly overlap with this, but being a helpless civilian caught in the middle of a war is worse. Gorn is when the violence is thrilling rather than merely loathsome. No-Holds-Barred Beatdown is distinguished from a mere Curb-Stomp Battle by the heavy doses of this trope involved. May be involuntarily invoked by the Action Hero and the '90s Anti-Hero, and by any uses of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique and/or Cold-Blooded Torture. Compare Family-Unfriendly Violence, a variation that often shows up in family-friendly works.
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Anime and Manga
- In Code Geass, this is contrasted against making it look cool when Lelouch, the teenaged protagonist, uses his power for the very first time, ordering a bunch of enemy soldiers who (he thinks) killed his childhood friend to kill themselves. At first, he has a look of confusion and shock on his face, then he switches to one of intense, malicious glee. Later on in the same incident, he kills his own brother in cold blood and with a condescending smirk... then the next day, he is shown being sick in the school bathroom, horrified when he realizes what he's done, but resolved that he can't go back on it. This juxtaposition remains kind of a theme throughout the series, since Diabolus ex Machina will often cause violent means to turn against their users and/or cause unacceptable collateral damage.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion plays with this: Eva 01 is this trope, and its fights are visceral, cruel, messy affairs. Eva 02, on the other hand, manages to be cool and awesome even when being brutal in its methods, because it demonstrates great technical proficiency, competence and decisiveness, and mind-blowing athleticism and nimbleness. The latter is audacious, the former is just plain nuts.
- In Bleach, Orihime notes that this is the main difference between normal!Ichigo, who is the epitome of a Shounen Hero, and Visored!Ichigo, who fights in an efficient but frighteningly callous and brutal way. Every time Ichigo goes full Hollow, he takes this trope Up to Eleven (within the acceptable limits of a shounen manga).
- In Naruto, the eponymous character has a similar thing happening when he gives way to his Enemy Within. Ninjas in general can have very disturbing moves which contrast with their more heroic behaviors.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, the Flame Alchemist's power, by its very nature, can only be this, as it consists of burning his opponents alive, leaving their bodies a charred husk.
- Subverted in Full Metal Panic!: Sagara is very violent, brutal and unsporting, but he's so professional and honest and keen about it, it Crosses the Line Twice and becomes hilarious. Most of the time.
- In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, when the villains are winning, plays this trope straight: they always use a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown Curb-Stomp Battle and leave the heroes within an inch of their lives (or kill them altogether). However, immediately subverted when it is the heroes that are on the offensive or counterattacking, everything they do is a Moment of Awesome. Except during a brief Heroic B.S.O.D. by the protagonist, where he played this trope very straight.
- Something similar happens in One Piece, except for Nico Robin, who narrowly averts it on every occasion via Could Have Been Messy.
- Averted for the most part in Digimon, but it is played with a bit in Digimon Tamers. After the Tamers see first hand what its like to have a sympathetic Digimon die, they start to find violence repulsive. This point is driven home by Meggidomon.
- As much as it tends to get lost among the "Killer lolis!" hysteria, this is supposed to be a huge lesson of Higurashi: When They Cry.
- Pokémon has its share of exciting fight scenes, but how about that big one near the end of Pokémon: The First Movie? That gets treated as a Broken Aesop by the critics, given how cruel the White Fang-ish fights are the entire point of the games. The manga, on the other hand, addresses this.
- If all you know about Elfen Lied is that it features superpowered mutants, you would maybe think that the fights looks like something out of a Superhero comic. Oh boy, would you be wrong.
- In Powers, Michael Avon Oeming's stated intention is to make any fight scenes feel as brutal to view as it would be to experience them (or as close as he can get), averting glorification of violence despite the overall dark and violent nature of the setting. One scene where Deena beats up a cop-killer already in confinement especially stands out.
- In Demolition Man the society is so pacifist that police officers watching Simon Phoenix acting violent feel sick and shaken.
- In There Will Be Blood, the violence ranges between gruesome and pathetic, but is never shown in a positive light.
- The Last King of Scotland is quite disturbing all the way through, but the arguably worst part comes near the end, when the protagonist gets hung from a ceiling with meat hooks in his chest. It's not a Gory Discretion Shot, either.
- In The Road, the violence is cringe-inducing and unglamorous, even (or especially) when done by the hero.
- A History of Violence, particularly the infamous diner scene, shows that violence is an ugly necessity sometimes, but it's still ugly. It's made very clear that a woman was about to be raped and that she, along several more innocent people, would be murdered if Tom didn't take action against the two robbers, but there's absolutely nothing cool or stylish about the way he kills them.
- The Danish film Flame and Citron features some (slightly) romanticized violence, but uses this trope as well.
- Pan's Labyrinth plays almost all of its violence seriously.
- Kick-Ass, both comic and movie, especially when Big Daddy and Kickass are being tortured as a prelude to execution, on live internet feed. Even moreso when Damico is about to kill Hitgirl.
- Michael Haneke LOVES this trope. Case in point: Funny Games. As Scott Tobias puts it:
"Funny Games punishes the audience for its casual bloodlust by giving it all the sickening torture and mayhem it could possibly desire. Neat trick, that."
- It is also worth noting that ALL of the violence utilizes some form of Gory Discretion Shot.
- Martin Scorsese takes this line in Casino. The brutal murders of Nicky Santoro and his brother at the end spring to mind. There's nothing remotely attractive about the way that's portrayed, unless you think being beaten to death with baseball bats and buried alive in your own blood by your former friends is cool. Earlier in the same film, Nicky and his crew murder a man at the behest of a Mafia boss, and before killing him, torture him for information by putting his head in a vice. The reaction shots in the scene reveal even they find this work disgusting.
- This is the case for the majority of Martin Scorsese's films.
- Another Scorsese example would be Travis Bickle's bloody and unglamourised shooting of the pimp near the end of Taxi Driver.
- In Come and See, the horrific qualities of violence are really ramped up, though in its case it's through displaying the nightmarish scenes surrounding the violence.
- The director Gaspar Noe (Irreversible, Enter the Void, I Stand Alone) is very fond of this. The violence featured in his movies is always graphic and revolting. Irreversible in particular features a brutal rape scene that goes on, uninterrupted, for nine minutes.
- Most of the violence in Cold Mountain is repulsive and unstylized, particularly the first war scene.
- Per the subject matter, The Holocaust movie The Grey Zone makes no attempt to glamorize the violence that occurs. A Sonderkommando beating a Jewish man to death over an argument is shocking, and every time a character is shot to death, it's sudden and disturbing.
- The Killer Inside Me has a notorious scene where the Villain Protagonist graphically beats a woman to death for five whole minutes. Her face is mangled beyond belief when he's done.
- French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve specializes in this trope in his movies (such as Polytechnique, Incendies, Prisoners and Sicario). While violence is infrequent, tension lingers in almost every frame and when violence is shown, it is always ugly, brutal and dispiriting for all involved. He also uses a lot of Gory Discretion Shot to disallow the violence from ever becoming stylized and to make the audience reflect on its aftereffects rather than on the violence itself.
- In A Brother's Price Jerin is disturbed when he witnesses violence. When he has to shoot someone in order to save his rescuer, he's shocked. Other characters are a bit more matter-of-factly about the violence they have to do, but it's clear none of them enjoys it.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, this is played with depending on the occasion, but usually anything that happens in those books is brutal and/or disturbing in some way or another. Even the sex. It's reached memetic levels.
- Played straight in Dragon Bones: All those who haven't previously killed someone are deeply disturbed by having to do so. The protagonist is disturbed when he notices that he enjoys fighting - he is aware that this is a sign of sociopathy, and he doesn't want to become like his father. He later tries to comfort his brother, who is a bit embarrassed, by mentioning that there are skilled warriors who get sick after each battle. PTSD is mentioned as something that happens to soldiers.
- Settings like Warhammer 40,000 and Sin City make a show of using this trope, but are so over-the-top it always ends up treated as cool, no matter how horrifying it may look on paper.
- Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment may be the most triumphant example. A rather pathetic double murder is committed in the first thirty pages, and the remaining 500-something deal with the psychological aftermath.
- Carla celebrates her uncle's victory over Hammerstein in The Red And The Rest for about thirty seconds before realizing that there's an unconscious man bleeding out on the ground in front of them. And after putting him out of his misery, even Uncle Mel seems pretty heartbroken.
Live Action TV
- In Skins, the brutal murder of Freddie is probably one of the most disturbing and disgusting scenes that have occurred in the entire series.
- Hannibal still portrays its title character as Wicked Cultured, but all of the violence is portrayed as startling, upsetting (especially to borderline-supernaturally-empathic Will Graham) and repulsive, no matter how artfully contrived. Though the aftermath of the murders may be grotesquely beautiful, the process of them being committed - when we see it - is always unambiguously horrific.
- The 100 generally portrays violence as very disturbing, both through the visible brutality of the scenes and through how the people committing the violence are left horrified and disgusted by their own actions.
- GURPS. This trope is deliberately invoked with both the Pacifism (Reluctant Killer) and Pacifism (Cannot Kill) Disadvantages. The former makes hardcore violence of any kind against a human being extremely difficult, and both seriously traumatize the character that possesses them if they are forced to kill. Characters with the Post-Combat Shakes Disadvantage are always sickened after a fight.
- Hotline Miami pulls no punches when it comes to this. Extreme violence is shown in graphic detail despite the retro graphics, but the fast paced, one-hit kill gameplay leaves little time to dwell on it...until you complete a level, that is. The music cuts from upbeat synths to a dark drone and you're forced to walk through the carnage you just caused to leave the area.
- The violence of the Mass Effect games is usually fun and often tame enough so as not to be too disturbing... until the third game, when you get treated to a front-row seat of Dr. Eva Core smashing the Virmire Survivor's head against a shuttle door. Even worse if the Virmire Survivor is your love interest.
- Spec Ops: The Line makes use of the trope in a way that gets more and more noticeable as the plot unfolds, to the point where the player may find themselves wondering whether they're having fun, and then whether they should be, and then why. It's not just the violence, but the reactions the characters have - the protagonist grows increasingly vicious and traumatised, the enemies realistically scream in pain and terror as they die, and it's hard to take satisfaction in success knowing neither protagonist nor enemies hold the moral high ground or are genuinely evil at heart.
- One of the omake style end of chapter bonus strips for Gunnerkrigg Court has Kat introduce Antimony to Grand Theft Auto, which leaves her thoroughly disturbed (Word of God is that she was more upset by the way Kat was enjoying the violence than the violence itself though).
- Even the protagonists are disturbed by Eisse violence, in Kidd Commander, although in this case, it's a villain punishing another villain .
- A 5 Second Films video has a Cat Fight with the two women rolling around scratching at each other as the male onlookers cheer and hoot excitedly. When one of the girls gouges the other's eyes out, they suddenly stop laughing (except one guy).
- The Great Mouse Detective:
- The No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that Ratigan bears down on the eponymous Basil is a clear example.
- The opening scene where Fidget burst in Flavesham toy shop and beat Hiram Flavesham while his daughter Olivia watches from her hiding place in closet in horror. That scene was done in Shadow Discretion Shot (from this scene, it can be noticed what kind of maniac Fidget is and what is he capable of doing when he has a motive).