5 Great Films You’ll Only Watch Once

Back in university, I had to watch Hunger (2008), a film about the prison hunger strikes that occurred in Northern Island during the early 1980s. Despite being a brilliant film, I’m never going to watch it ever again. It left me feeling pretty numb, so I have no plans to revisit it.

With that in mind, it’s clear how films can seriously effect us emotionally. Certain films lend themselves well to repeat viewings, but there are also those that we don’t want to see again, or at least any time soon. This is usually because they’re too depressing, disturbing, or emotionally draining. So, take a look at my list of five great films that you’ll only watch once.

Shame (2011)


If you’re like me and are drawn to challenging and slightly morbid films, then Shame should be on your watch-list. However, the first time you watch it will likely be your last. The film tells the story of Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender), a man struggling with a sex addiction. Shame is a fascinating exploration of what’s it like to be a human being with such a life-altering addiction. It’s a captivating film and very courageous in its execution.

However, Shame is simply too emotionally strenuous to want to sit through again, and requires a large amount of investment in Fassbender’s character. It’s quite a dark and harrowing film as well, so I don’t think revisiting it will be high on your agenda.

Detachment (2011)


Tony Kaye’s Detachment is a drama film about the high school education system, starring Adrien Brody as substitute teacher, Henry Barthes. The film follows his journey through a failing school, as he develops a genuine bond with the pupils in his class, as well as caring for a teenage runaway who unexpectedly enters his life. 

Detachment also chronicles the lives of various other teachers, all of which are pretty miserable. The film is excellent. It presents such a realistic image of high school life and troubled teenagers. It has a great cast, tremendous performances and great writing.

So why will you only watch it once? Because it’s really depressing, is my answer. For such an excellent film, there is very little happiness. Detachment explores bullying, isolation, death and just generally much of the horrible parts of life. Nevertheless, it’s still a film I highly recommend, but I’d be quite surprised if you were eager to see it again.

Read full review here

Fish Tank (2009)


Embarrassingly, it took me ages to work out why Fish Tank is named as it is. The main character Mia Williams (Katie Jarvis), is a socially isolated teen, who’s on the periphery and trapped in her own environment. Just like being in a fish tank (See, pretty cool title, right?)

The film is about her troubled life, living with her party-animal single mother, on an East London council estate. Fish Tank is a compelling and raw depiction of low working class life. It’s a really good film that makes you think about society. But it has a level of grittiness that makes it difficult to want to watch again. It’s very bleak in places, but definitely a film worth seeing, and it’s a great addition to British cinema.

United 93 (2006)

UNITED 93, Peter Hermann, Christian Clemenson, Cheyenne Jackson, 2006. ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Now, I don’t think I need to explain why you most likely won’t watch United 93 more than once. This film is an account of the courageous acts by the passengers who were held hostage on United Airlines Flight 93, during the September 11 attacks. United 93 is hands-down the saddest film I’ve ever seen in my life. 

You have to credit Paul Greengrass for making such a confident and unflinching film. It’s incredibly well-made and presented in real time. Despite being so sad, it’s an exceptional film.

Read full review here

The Woodsman (2004)


The Woodsman is arguably the most powerful film on this list. It follows convicted sex offender and paedophile Walter (Kevin Bacon), who has just been released from prison after a 12 year sentence. The film is about his attempt to re-enter society.

When I watched this film, I was astonished by the amount of dedication it must have taken to make a film like this. It’s also a bold move from first-time director, Nicole Kassell. Believe it or not, Walter isn’t presented as a complete monster, as he knows his compulsion is wrong, but he isn’t under any circumstances an object for our sympathy. 

The Woodsman is an intriguing character study, that tackles a taboo subject so honestly, but it’s far too disturbing to want to see again. It’s an uncomfortable watch even on the first viewing, but I really recommend this film for anyone who can handle it.

Do you agree with my list? Are there any other films you think could have been added?

Obviously, it’s a matter of opinion and there’s a chance you may have seen some of these films more than once. Feel free to comment your opinions.

Also, you might be interested in my other film lists here.


19 thoughts on “5 Great Films You’ll Only Watch Once

  1. I’ve only seen two films on your list those being Shame and United 93. I totally agree that once is enough for them, for the very reasons you mentioned. I am still haunted by them years later, which show how powerful the messages in them are.

    I have thought about putting together a list like this before, A Clockwork Orange, The Pianist and The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas are the ones I will never watch again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, Shame and United 93 are way too emotionally draining to ever watch again. And I agree with the film’s you suggested as well, I haven’t seen The Pianist though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice list. Strange, but I watched Shame and Requiem for a Dream (as Marcko pointed out) many many times over, and could watch them with pleasure any time again. On the other hand, your other entries are spot-on for me. Adrien Brody and Kevin Bacon were in some very hard-to watch films in their careers. I will never ever ever watch again Sleepers (1996) if there were a gun pointed to my head, and the Experiment (2010) is also emotional. I compiled a similar list a few years ago, and think there is no one who saw these films twice: https://dbmoviesblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/20-films-you-should-think-twice-before-watching/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think Brody and Bacon were exceptional in those films. I think Kevin Bacon is a pretty underrated actor. I haven’t seen Sleepers and The Experiment, and I’ll have a look at your list.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I certainly do believe that Bacon is a very underrated actor. I am now unable to look at his face in the same manner after seeing Sleepers. Even though his performances may not always be major or even the best in a movie, they are often unforgettable and powerful. A Few Good Men is a good example.


    1. Yes, Funny Games is a great film. I did consider putting it on this list but I’ve already put funny games in another list I did not too long ago, so I thought I’d mix it up a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only seen Shame on this list, but I totally understand not wanting to watch it again. To this day, I’ve only seen it once. Great performances in it too! The only other film I’d consider seeing on here would be Fish Tank…heard good things about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oops – because I’ve wanted to see it for a long time! Fish Tank is a good movie but I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews on it. Have you seen American Honey yet? From the same director?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, Andrea Arnold. She’s brill. She also did a great British movie before Fish Tank called ‘Red Road’, worth a watch. It’s very unflinching though.

        Liked by 1 person

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