SPOILER AND STOMACH ALERT! OUR GALLERY FEATURES MANY MAJOR AND INTENTIONAL FILM SPOILERS, PLUS SOME SHOCKING, POSSIBLY APPETITE-UPSETTING CONTENT
Great movies strive to affect us on a deeply emotional level. They try to make us cry, to make us laugh, or make us cheer. And in some cases, movies do everything in their power to shock us with the images on the screen. Some of the most memorable movies of all time owe at least a portion of that distinction to their startling or core-rattling content. The upcoming remake of Straw Dogs certainly seems poised to deliver those breathtaking, unbelievable moments. Therefore in celebration of its release, we’ve compiled a list of some the greatest of these shocking cinematic moments.
Few horror movies continue to resonate with, and completely horrify, audiences almost 40 years after their release. But the outstanding makeup effects and shocking imagery of The Exorcist retain their impact to this day. The scene wherein poor Regan, possessed by a demon, repeatedly violates herself with a crucifix is still cringe inducing and bold considering the invitation it sent for backlash from religious groups.
Psycho - Norman is the Killer
At the time of its release, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was considered one of the most shocking movies ever made. Hitch turned his nose up at the convention that the leading lady had to survive to the end of the film and killed Janet Leigh in the first half hour. The shower scene - although it wasn't explicit - suggested a level of violence and malice unseen in film up to that point.
Pink Flamingos - Divine Eats Dog Poo
John Waters has proven himself to be someone who doesn’t play by Hollywood’s rules. But in 1972’s Pink Flamingos, he further demonstrated his utter disregard for the rules of decency, hygiene, and…proper diet. In the film, outrageous transgender actor, and frequent Waters collaborator, Divine actually picks up and eats a piece of dog excrement. In so many ways, this shocking moment exemplifies bad taste.
The Sixth Sense - Dead the Whole Time
M Night Shyamalan turned the gimmick of the twist ending into his calling card with The Sixth Sense. The moment of realization for Bruce Willis’ Dr. Crowe is an absolutely heart-breaking shock. There will of course be people that claim they knew Willis was dead the whole time…and those people are lying
Alien - Chestburster
Ridley Scott’s Alien is one of the greatest sci-fi and/or horror films of all time and features one of the most shocking scenes in cinema history. Kane thought his troubles were over when the alien that attached itself to his face abruptly dropped off. But then suddenly a tiny monster comes bursting through his chest. Alien may have been set in space, but you could definitely hear the audience screaming.
Deliverance - Bad Day in the Woods
Deliverance stars Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty as two men on a rafting trip who run afoul of some especially unpleasant hillbillies with a warped idea of fun in the forest. The “squeal like a piggy” scene is one cinema’s most disturbing and uncomfortable moments. In addition to making banjo music a herald of doom, Deliverance succeeded in making me want to avoid canoeing forever.
The Empire Strikes Back - Your Father
The original Star Wars trilogy has graduated beyond the realm of film and into pop culture cannon. It’s hard to imagine that many of the film’s plot points and lines of dialogue, now so indelible to American cinema, were once new revelations. But audiences in theaters to see The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 found their jaws on the floor when Vader uttered to Luke, “I am your father.”
Eyes Without a Face - Transplant
Eyes Without a Face is a French horror film released the same year as Psycho. The story revolves around a surgeon whose daughter has her face mangled in an accident. In a desperate attempt to heal her suffering, he kills young girls and removes their faces to give to her. The surgery scene in the film was so shocking to 1960s audiences that people actually fainted in the theater.
Planet of the Apes - It Was Earth
You have to feel bad for Col. Taylor. First he crash lands on a mysterious planet, then he gets separated from his crew, then he finds out that this planet is dominated by a race of highly-evolved apes. But even that shock can’t compare to the moment when he discovers the fragmented remains of the Statue of Liberty lying on the beach; revealing that this mysterious planet is actually Earth. Talk about a bad day.
The Crying Game - She's a Man, Baby
Dating is tough, and films like Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game don’t make it much easier. When IRA volunteer freedom fighter Fergus flees to London after the kidnapping of a British solider in which he was involved goes terribly wrong, he finds himself falling for the soldier’s lover Dil. As their relationship becomes more and more intense, Dil reveals something very personal about herself…she’s actually a man! If only Fergus had checked her Match.com profile.
The Departed - Shootout
Taking part in undercover police work is incredibly dangerous, but then so is playing a character in a Martin Scorsese film. The Departed features one of the most explosive finales I’ve ever seen. Just when you think Leonardo DiCaprio, the film’s hero, has won the day, he is suddenly shot in the head. What follows is a string of shocking shootings that leaves almost the entire cast dead. So much for that sequel.
The Thing - Defibrillator
John Carpenter’s The Thing is a terrifying tale of paranoia and assimilation. It’s also about spectacular creature effects thanks to the legendary Rob Bottin. In one particularly shocking monster surprise, an unconscious man’s chest opens up to reveal a set of teeth that bite off the arms of the doctor trying to defibrillate him. As if that weren’t enough, that unconscious man’s head then detaches, grows legs, and crawls away. Yikes!
The Usual Suspects - Poof, He's Gone
Before Bryan Singer dabbled in superhero fare, he gave us the phenomenal thriller The Usual Suspects. The plot of this film is one massive setup for its shocking twist ending. When we watch Verbal, the wormy milquetoast with whom we’ve spent the whole film, suddenly stop limping just as Agent Kujan figures out his whole story was fabricated. The identity of the shadowy criminal mastermind Keyser Söze becomes strikingly clear.
Last House on the Left - "It's Only a Movie..."
Wes Craven became a household name with 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. But earlier in his career he dabbled in even darker material by adapting Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring into an exploitation cult classic. The rape and murder of the young girls in this film was so shocking, it worked its way into the marketing; the trailer insisting audiences keep repeating to themselves, "it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie."
The Human Centipede - 'Nuff Said
The Human Centipede has been hailed as one of the sickest movies ever made. Whether you agree with this dubious distinction or not, The Human Centipede’s entire identity is wrapped up in shock value. The moment wherein the evil Dr. Heiter’s scheme, i.e. the central conceit of the film, is revealed is hard to wash out of your brain. Three people sewn together end-to-end? That’s a new one for the nightmare bank, thanks.
Straw Dogs - Revenge of the Nerd
We can’t create a list of shocking moments in cinema inspired by the Straw Dogs remake without mentioning the original. Dustin Hoffman plays a man pushed to the edge of sanity by a group of evil men with designs on his beautiful wife. The entire finale of this film amounts to one nonstop shocking scene in which Hoffman’s regular Joe character goes on a rampage of unrelenting violence; defending the sanctity of marriage…with a shotgun.
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