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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 a Subjective Trope, 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 Nineties Anti-Hero, and by any uses of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique and/or Cold-Blooded Torture.

Examples of Violence Is Disturbing include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Code Geass, this is weirdly juxtaposed to Destruction Is Awesome when teenager Lelouch wears a look of utter shock after, using his power for the very first time, he orders a bunch of war criminals to kill themselves, then switches to one of intense, malicious glee, and again later on, when after killing his own brother in cold blood and with a condescending smirk, the scene cuts to him puking in the bathroom with an expression between horror, angst, and resolve. This juxtaposition remains kind of a theme throughout the series, since Finagle's Law and 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 incarnate, 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 Berserk, it's very difficult to have a fight look cool when Apostles are involved.
  • 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 Crowning Moment of Awesome. Anything. Except during a brief Heroic BSOD 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 tends to get lost among the "Killer lolis!" hysteria, this is supposed to be a huge lesson of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.
  • 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 the cruel the White Fang-ish fights are the entire point of the games. The manga, on the other hand, addresses this.


  • 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 discretion shot, either.
  • In The Road, the violence is cringe-inducing and unglamorous, even (or especially) when done by the hero.
  • 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."

  • A 5 Second Films has a Cat Fight with [{{[http|// 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).
  • 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 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 Gasper Noe (Irreversible, Enter the Void, I Stand Alone) is very fond of this.
  • Most of the violence in Cold Mountain is repulsive and unstylized, particularly the first war scene.


  • 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.
  • Settings like Warhammer40K and Sin City make a show of using this trope, but are so over-the-top it always ends up treated as awesomecool, 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.

Web Comics

Western Animation