The 99 Most Jaw-Dropping Movie Moments

Cinema's greatest shocks and show-stoppers

 

One of the greatest gifts cinema can give us is the jaw-drop.

We love those movie moments that make us feel like we've been swiftly punched in the gut. The shocking scenes that give us goosebumps and gasps at the same time.

Because we love those shock & awe bits so much, we've compiled our 99 favourites, counting down to the all-time greatest moment of movie jaw-dropness.

Take a look and leave a suggestion for Number 100 in the Comments... We'll feature the best shouts soon...

 

99. Planet Of The Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner. 1968)
Future shock

Behind the iconoclasm of the familiar Statue of Liberty reveal there's utter desolation – there's no escape, no home to go to, just apes and apocalypse.

 

98. The Sixth Sense (M Night Shyamalan, 1998)
Sorry I'm late

The kind of twist that fuels a blockbuster all summer long. The moment itself is a brilliantly dizzying rug-puller, but the reason this one lingers is because, as a second watch through will tell you, the signs that Brucey himself was a stiff are all there – from the opening shooting, to the unspoken relationship problems, to the (in hindsight very odd) constant hovering. Smartly done.

Next: 97 - 92[page-break]

 

97. Primal Fear (Gregory Hoblit, 1996)
Such a nice boy

A real knife-twist moment as Ed Norton's supposedly feeble and falsely-accused youngster shows his true colours.

 

96. Stepford Wives (Bryan Forbes, 1974)
Et tu, Bobbie?

The moment Katherine Ross’ last wife standing Joanna puts her suspicions about the Stepford wives to the test by stabbing her altered best friend Bobbie, to eerily little reaction. Video from 01.14.

 

95. The Bourne Supremacy (Paul Greengrass, 2004)
Dead end

The thumping end to Supremacy’s climactic spy-versus-spy car chase, with Matt Damon’s Bourne spinning Karl Urban’s Russian killer Krill and t-boning him into a brick road divider. Boom.

 

94. Straw Dogs (Sam Peckinpah, 1971)
Rape?

The extraordinarily ambiguous and unpleasant double-rape of Susan George’s Cornish housewife – the first by old boyfriend Charlie, which she grows to apparently enjoy, the second by Charlie’s friend, which she doesn’t. So that’s…OK? Video spread through the following clip.

 

93. Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)
Wake up lazybones

They'd all been corpses so far. In their search for a sin-obsessed serial slasher, the detectives of Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman had until this shrieking surprise found only elaborately staged stiffs. Which is why our guard is totally down when their SWAT team storms the apartment to find a rotting tangle of sinew and skin on the bed, and tangle which then heaves into terrifying, agonised life.

 

92. The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007)
Is she cool?

It's the lightning strike that punctuates the moody storm. And scares the k nitting Jesus out of you. In a break from the heavy, brooding atmosphere of Bayona's haunting chiller, a run-in with one of the titular orphanage's old nanny's leads to a shock car crash and, in a moment the tone of the film leaves you utterly unprepared for, a close-up of her stoved and gurgling face.

Next: 91 - 86[page-break]

 

91. Scanners (David Cronenberg, 1981)
It's me!

Having spunked his special effects load at the very start of the film with that meat-melon explosion, there's not really much more that Cronenberg could do in the way of telepath scraps other than having two men looking at each other while concentrating really hard. Which is why it's the aftermath here that's more shocking, the disjunction of our hero's voice coming from the scarred face of his defeated enemy, Daryl Revok.

 

90. The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005)
Swing it, sister

As effective as they were, the slimey monster things in Marshall's spelunking nasty are only the third scariest thing in the film, behind a) the unbearable claustrophobia of the cave-crawling, and b) the people they're chasing, full of determination and, as this moment of icey, murderous resolve shows, killer vengeance.

 

89. Requiem For A Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)
Montage of ruin

The final descent of Aronofsky’s doomed and drug-addled characters, spiralling through their final humiliations and defeat: prostitution, amputation, and insanity.

 

88. Misery (Rob Reiner, 1990)
He'll never tango again

A beautifully deranged piece of escalation. We knew she was bad, right? The fact she's imprisoned James Caan's rabbit-in-the-headlights author and is forcing him to write a novel at apron-point is proof of that. But this sledgehammer hobbling shows us the deadly steel behind the passive menace – in cold, unblinking style.

 

87. Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999)
The beast stirs

Before the overtly gruesome stuff kicks off, the biggest jolt Miike’s coruscating romantic horror delivers is when we’re just beginning to suspect and fear unassuming girl Asami and we see a sack in her bare apartment twitch and growl horribly.

 

86. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
Where is my mind?

Jonathan Price's blundering everyman Sam Lowry finally falls into the clutches of Brazil's Kafkaesque regime. But as he's prepped for interrogation – hurrah! - Robert De Niro's freedom fighting plumber rescues him and he races across town and finds the girl and makes an escape and this could really happen because this is a Gilliam film after all. Only it can't, and a devastating cut brings us back to Sam, broken and staring, still in the torturer's chair.

Next: 85 - 80[page-break]

 

85. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
A family affair

It's not just the revelation (that John Huston's bullying crime kingpin has raped and conceived a child with his own daughter) that gives Polanski's crime classic its most mesmerising scene. It's the style of the moment, and its horrific rhythm, with Jack Nicholson's slaps punctuating Faye Dunaway's chanted confession. “Sister/daughter/sister/daughter.”

 

84. Deathtrap (Sidney Lumet, 1982)
Real men kiss with tongues

This stagey murder mystery is packed with twists and betrayals, none of which compare with the cultural fallout from the OUTRAGEOUS scene in which it's revealed that Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve are actually lovers and have to do a kiss onscreen. A kiss which both men get stuck into with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for eating one's own faeces. Still – it's Superman snogging Alfie! OMFG!

 

83. Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973)
Back on the menu

A big echo of Planet Of The Apes here. Another Charlton Heston post-apocalypse flick, and another unholy revelation of how we've only got ourselves to blame. In an overcrowded, euthanasia-filled future, Heston's copper hero discovers the horrible truth that the new food being handed to the masses – Soylent Green – is actually made from the masses.

 

82. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
Breaking, and entering

In a film intended to shock, the obscene clowning of the rape scene stands it apart. The absurdity of the masks and the giant nose and the carnival atmosphere of the prancing gang clash brutally with the menace of the act itself, making for unbearably conflicted viewing.

 

81. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1962)
Say hello to mother...

Norman Bates' cross-dressing killer routine is now culturally ubiquitous. But even if you know the basics, the moment Hitchcock pulls back the curtain to reveal the remains of the real Mrs Bates – shrivelled and rotting, turning to face us on a swivelling chair – is a guaranteed shocker.

 

80. Friday The 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980)
Baptism of ARRRGGH

Watch horror 'classic' Friday The 13th now and it's hard to see what the fuss was about. “Is that it? A bunch of kids in short shorts being merked off-screen by an angry mum?” you'll probably say. Until the end, when you'll say “HOLYEFFINGCHRIST where did he come from?” as Jason leaps from the water to make his only appearance. A big enough bump to launch an entire franchise. Clip at 06.27.

Next: 79 - 74[page-break]

 

79. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
Cold calling

A desolate, nerve-shredding ending to a carefully constructed paranoid thriller. Earth is invaded by grown-to-order alien dopplegangers who replace their human counterparts. Just two humans are left standing after a damning purge – Donald Sutherland and his friend Veronica Cartwright. As they meet in daylight after the action he turns to her and points, mouth open, face twisted, letting out a soul-tearing screech.

 

78. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
The mothership

The extraordinary pre-Star Wars payoff, following an entire movie spent watching Richard Dreyfuss’ increasingly obsessed UFO abductee growing more and more agitated: the arriving of the enormous, luminous and wonderful alien spaceship.

 

77. LA Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)
Rolo Tomassi

James Ellroy's warped crime thrillers are full of tough guys and hard to spot doublecrosses that come at you like bullets from a fog. The biggest kicker in modern noir classic LA Confidential is the cold despatch of Kevin Spacey's smart and smooth Jack Vincennes, nailed by rotter cop boss Dudley Smith after he unwittingly spills too much info. Spacey makes the moment – charm becomes surprise, then realisation and quick, quick revenge.

 

76. High Noon (Fred Zinneman, 1952)
Out of time

The climax of Zinneman’s deadline-driven one-man-stand Western, with Gary Cooper’s solitary Marshall running out of time and friends as he prepares to face an old enemy.

 

75. Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1993)
Video nasties

Within earshot of a mother and her young daughter, rental store clerk Randal puts in a phone order for a lengthy list of depraved-sounding porno films (‘Put It Where it Doesn’t Belong…’).

 

74. Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lynne, 1989)
Hell hath no fury

No matter how many times villains will find that extra bit of life-spark with which to launch themselves climatically at the hero, it can still be a real jolter. Especially when they've been thoroughly put to bed already (ker-ching) like Glenn Close's gastro-stalker Alex, who pulls a Rasputin in Adrian Lyne's erotic chiller.

Next: 73 - 68[page-break]

 

73. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
The last stand

Holed up in a small Bolivian village, on-the-run charmers Butch and Sundance finally run our of places to run, with a small army of gunman covering the only exit of the shack they're hiding in. The only solution? Go out blazing.

 

72. The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
Snap, wrestle and pop

Buzzing unnaturally from the first test of his teleportation device, scientist Martin Brundle ditches his sensible girlfriend and heads out to find trouble. He find it in an arm-wrestling content, snapping bone through skin on his way to winning a night with a floozy.

 

71. Saw (James Wan, 2004)
Standing ovation

Gasp! Jigsaw stands up. The final reveal of the terminal trickster's mazey masterplan – he was on the floor of the room containing his trapped and now dead victims all along.

 

70. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
Best show ever, man

The dizzyingly orchestrated end of Anderson's high school classic, with all loose ends tied together before The Faces' magical Ooh La La kicks in for a slo-mo finale.

 

69. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
Women in love

The cosy mystery strand of Lynch's fractured Hollywood satire swerves from gee-whizz amateur detecting to dark, dangerous lesbian erotica without missing a beat.

 

68. Les Yeux Sans Visage (Georges Franju, 1960)
Saving face

“No, don't show us that – wait, no, don't cut her there, what are you doing? What's that for OH JESUS THEY'VE PULLED HER BLOODY FACE OFF.”

Next: 67 - 61[page-break]

 

67. Oldboy (Park-Chan Wook, 2003)
Psyche!

The cruellest defeat-snatched-from-jaws-of-expected-victory moment OF ALL TIME, with Dae-su falsely imprisoned, tricked into incest and voluntarily scissoring his own tongue in savage humiliation.

 

66. The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)
The price

Nolan's drama of showmanship and magic has its own moment of awed revelation, as we discover the true price of Hugh Jackman's success: he dies a death with every performance.

 

65. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)
Love is hell

For all-out offensiveness it’s tough to top the bitch-and-butch relationship of then still-in-power Saddam Hussein and Satan, Hussein’s squawking dom patronising the sensitive dark prince in order to keep him sweet for sex.

 

64. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
Rock 'n' roll

The blowaway opening to Lucas and Spielberg's adventure masterpiece, complete with giant spiders, booby-traps, a giant rolling ball and a last-gasp plane getaway. Incredible.

 

63. Shallow Grave (Danny Boyle, 1995)
Getting hammered

Greed gets the better of Kerry Fox’s Juliet as she turns on stricken housemate Ewan Mcgregor – not pulling the knife out of his shoulder but hammering it in, through the floorboards. A shocker – but the last laugh's on her...

 

62.Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)
Carrie on living

The kick-to-the-guts pretend ending, which sees surviving schoolgirl Sue visit the site of Carrie’s collapses house – only for the apparently still not dead Carrie’s hand to shoot through the ground and grab her arm. From 05.02.

 

61. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
The sad demise of Billy Batts

A recently sprung made man pays the price for showing no respect to Joe Pesci's firebrand button man Tommy DeVito, taken out in a brutal three-way shivving and beatdown.

Next: 60 - 56[page-break]

 

60.Torn Curtain (Alfred Hitchcock, 1966)
Domestic incident

Hitch cranks the tension to near-breaking point throughout his cold-war thriller, and never more so than during this clumsy, fraught and interminable kitchen scrap to the death.

 

59. Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)
The Mystery Man

Looped lives intersect and spin out of control in Lynch's twisted moebius strip drama, all connected to Robert Blake's unnerving metaphysical oddball. “I'm in your apartment” he asserts impossibly to Bill Pullman's terrified musician during a party. “I'm there right now.”

 

58. Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)
Roharrim charge

Of all the eye-poppingly scaled battle scenes in Jackon’s ripping fantasy trilogy, this is the brutal standout: a bloody, desperate night-time siege ended when Viggo Mortensen and his fellow heroes ride out into the attacking army at the stoke of dawn.

 

57. Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
Stuck in the middle

Jaws drop gradually through the deranged Mr Blonde's escalating and entirely pointless torture of a captive cop, before falling fully open as Blonde is mercifully shot, from offscreen, by Tim Roth's half-dead undercover dick. Watch it here.

 

56. Miller's Crossing (Joel Coen, 1990)
What heart?

Gabriel Byrne's smart-mouth gangster Tom risked his own life rather than murder squirming middle-man Bernie Bernbaum (“Look into your heart”), so this decisive trigger pull is joltingly cold (“What heart?”).

Next: 55 - 50[page-break]

 

55. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
Killer carnival

Style which makes you want to stand up and applaud. Robert De Niro's up-and-coming Vito Corleone stalks the rooftops tracking current neighbourhood boss Don Fanucci through a street parade. Outstanding.

 

54. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
Mad as hell

Sick of life and work and pressure, unhinged television presenter Howard Beale loses it on camera for the first time in a raging, emotional performance from Peter Finch.

 

53. The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1925)
Famous first words

Al Jolson makes history with the first spoken words ever to feature in cinema, and he chose them very carefully – “Wait a minute! You ain’t heard nothing yet!”

 

52. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
His name is Tyler Durden

Ed Norton's unnamed narrator finally puts two and two together and comes up with HOLY SHIT as he realises his initially anti-capitalist and more recently neo-fascist terrorist mate is actually him, at night.

 

51.The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Going down

Frantic set-piece over, Leo Di Caprio's undercover good cop has Matt Damons rat on a leash and squirming, the audience breathing a big sigh of relief. But then – DING – the elevator opens to a fatal headshot.

 

50. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1975)
Head turner

A perfectly pitched moment of revulsion and the unnattural, as Linda Blairs thoroughly possessed teen twists her sneering, scarred face impossibly on her shoulders.

Next: 49 - 44[page-break]

 

49. 28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007)
No place like home

A lesser film than the original in all but this incredible opener, which is like being thrown into a ice bath. When the safe-house where Robert Carlyle's survivor and wife are stashed is invaded he gives her up in a blink, and runs ragged for life.

 

48. Bambi (David Hand, 1942)
Night of the hunter

The offscreen shooting of Bambi’s mother as the pair flee a hunter. Nothing the film could have actually shown could be as painful as the look of confusion and hope Bambi casts to the spot his Ma was last seen.

 

47. The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)
See no evil

A Hitch spectacular. The exploration of a deserted house leads to the discovery of its bird-beaten inhabitants, a one-two-THREE sequence of close-up stills shoving pecked face and empty sockets right under our noses.

 

46. The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979)
Kisses from mummy

Trust Cronenberg to not only come up with a mega-disturbing psychosomatic horror conceit (disturbed woman manifests her anger as cancerous killer offspring) but then to make us retch with image of said conceit, as the mother licks a bloody newborn clean.

 

45. There’s Something About Mary (Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, 1998)
Hair raising

Having discharged his weapon but mislaid his ordinance, Ben Stiller’s romantic shambles Ted then heads out for a date with dream girl Mary, but not before she swipes his gel to keep her hair in check.

 

44. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
Funny guy

Showstopping menace and intensity from Joe Pesci as crackers mob soldier Tommy DeVito, busting the balls of his friend Henry Hill.

Next: 43 - 38[page-break]

 

43. The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2008)
Wrong move

Like being kicked in the balls by God: after two hours of horrendously tense survival amid mist and monsters, Thomas Jane’s heroic father ends his sons life rather than let him be taken. Then the cavalry show up...

 

42. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
The Bonnie Situation

Played for open-mouthed laughs, the moment when John Travolta’s clumsy trigger-fingered Vince Vega turns Marvin’s head to meaty paste is a hilarious jolt.

 

41. Bad Lieutenant (Abel Ferrara, 1992)
Car assault

Because no matter how many gritty police dramas you see, the sight of a cop forcing two sisters to masturbate and mime oral sex while he rubs one out by their car window and cries sin-salted tears is always shocking.

 

40. Toy Story (John Lassester, 1995)
Falling with style

A moment of triumph that comes together so perfectly it makes you feel as though you’re about to take off along with heroes Woody and Buzz as they soar into the air and glide back to their beloved Andy.

 

39. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Charles Reisner, 1928)
Crashing around our ears

Buster Keaton’s meticulous wowser of a stunt, potentially fatal and measured to perfection, a narrow window falling perfectly around the silent star as the side of a house teeters over. A heart-stopper.

 

38. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
Free

Jean-Pierre Léaud’s Antoine bursts free of the detention camp his adolescent misdeeds have landed him in and makes a break for the sea, running for what seems an eternity before splashing into the water and turning sharply to face the camera, as if he knew we were here all along.

Next: 37 - 32[page-break]

 

37. The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
Russian roulette

Incredible tension as Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken are forced by their Vietnamese captors to play Russian roulette, De Niro making a desperate gamble for freedom by volunteering to play with three bullets – enough ammo to escape…

 

36. Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1989)
A lifetime of kisses

Just try not crying through this: grown up Salvatore is left a mysterious reel of film by passed-away mentor Aldredo, which turns out to be a montage of the kissing scenes censored in his boyhood cinema – an entire lifetime of love.

 

35. Pinocchio (Hamilton Luske andBen Sharpsteen, 1940)
Don’t be an ass

A thick stew of fairytale morality and all-out metaphysical terror. You can almost taste the beer and cigar ash as Pinocchio cuts loose on Pleasure Island, and touch the rising panic as he starts his unexplained transformation into a donkey.

 

34. JFK (Oliver Stone, 1991)
Back, and to the left

The incendiary moment when Kevin Costner’s crusading lawyer Jim Garrison presents his video evidence of the Kennedy assassination to a court, repeating the kill shot over and over until we’re numb with horror.

 

33. When Harry Met Sally (Rob Reiner, 1989)
Faking it

The throbbing, coffee cup-shaking public performance staged by Meg Ryan’s Sally to prove that Billy Crystal’s Harry doesn’t always know when a woman’s faking it.

 

32. The Phantom Of The Opera (Rupert Julian, 1925)
Phantom unmasked

Star Lon Chaney famously created his own makeup for his role as the disfigured Phantom, and this brilliantly staged reveal scene showcases its grizzly effectiveness, the wide-eyed monster staring straight to camera as his mask is ripped away.

Next: 31 - 26[page-break]

 

31. Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)
That’s torn it

The real marvel of Cameron’s galactically expensive mega-epic wasn’t that the production built a 90% scale replica of the Titanic, but that it then broke it to bits so magnificently.

 

30. Léon (Luc Besson, 1994)
Bring me everyone

Cranked up tension for the final assault on the apartment of Jean Reno’s deadly assassin Léon, with waves of heavily armed SWAT troopers facing off against his cunning and precision.

 

29. Braindead (Peter Jackson, 1994)
Crunchy pudding

Gleeful disgust from Jackson’s brilliant zombie flick, as hero Lionel’s on-the-turn mum falls aparts – literally – during dinner with friends, her ear sliding into the custard only to be scooped up and munched.

 

28. Public Enemy (William A. Wellman, 1931)
Grapefruit, dear?

This production code-testing gangster flick pushed back the limits of acceptable screen violence in a way that still resonates – James Cagney’s screwed-up snarl as he shoves a grapefruit into the face of delicate moll Jean Harlow still has a keen edge.

 

27. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
Audio confession

The final realisation waiting for Gene Hackman's professional snoop Harry Caul is the one that destroys him. His technological investigation into a conversation he's recorded – filtering, recutting, digging into the sound – becomes frantic as he begins to believe he's helped a man to be murdered. His soul hangs on a stressed syllable, and we freeze for him when the incriminating truth emerges from his tapes – “He'd kill us if he had the chance.”

 

26. Bonnie And Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)
The ambush

Hammering machine-gun fire tears through a peaceful sunny afternoon as the violent lives of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow come to an equally violent end, their ruined bodies jolting under the horribly extended rain of fire.

Next: 25 - 21[page-break]

 

25. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
Harry Lime

It’s very typical of Orson Welles to keep a film waiting until the halfway mark to turn up, and then to announce himself with a moonlight smirk and a street chase so beautifully shot which it’s become a landmark of noir cinema.

 

24. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
Bed head

The shock’s half-numbed through countless retellings and pastiches, but the wetness of this classic piece of mob ‘persuasion’ is still icky as heck: under dry, cosy sheets, there’s a slick, sick river of red.

 

23. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Do not disturb

Even if he's taken you to an isolated out of season hotel and is only communicating in terse growls, you can never be sure your husband's suffered a psychotic break until a moment like this: finding hundreds and hundreds of pages of his 'work', neatly and dedicatedly saying the same thing: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Or, “Honey, I've gone nuts and I'm totally going to murder you.”

 

22. The Matrix (The Wachowski Brothers, 1999)
The sound of inevitability

The Matrix plots an unswerving course from 'What's all this?' to 'Awesome!' and this moment is what's at the top. Right after the breathless rescue of Morpheus (the falling bullets and helicopter window-crash) Keanu Reeves' pasty messiah is cornered in a subway station, facing up to the relentless Agent Smith in modern cinema's best punch-up.

 

21. Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955)
Dead in the water

A hint of the supernatural haunts this Hitchcock-style thriller. A wife and mistress murder their shared man by drowning, but his corpse disappears. He reappears here, rising lifelessly from the bath to shock (and deliberately kill) his terrified wife – the real target of he and his mistress all along. Clip from 06.10.

Next: 20 - 16[page-break]

 

20. The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980)
I am not an animal!

Disfigured innocent John Merrick is chased through a train station by a frightened crowd until he’s cornered, with his mask removed, and heartbreakingly forced to defend himself. “I am not an animal!”

 

19. Once Upon A Time In The West (Sergio Leone, 1969)
Where everybody knows your name

The blue eyes of Henry Fonda mean something in the Old West – usually something to do with heroism or selflessness, or being the future president of the USA. Or, if you're Sergio Leone, something to do with death. Leone traded in Fonda's star image for a moment of merciless, child-killing shock, as Fonda's frontiersman Frank guns down a family without a blink of those big blue peepers.

 

18. Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)
Squeal!

The still-horrible, still-inexplicable “Oh God they can’t, they won’t, THEY ARE” moment when the river getaway of four urban businessmen turns into a humiliation of rape and squeals.

 

17. Last Tango In Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1978)
Buttering up the missus

Marlon Brando’s grieving American hits a degraded rock bottom with Maria Schneider’s sexually charged Parisian, hastily smeared butter acting as lubricant for a thrusting, obscene scene of anal sex.

 

16. The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992)
Behind every great woman...

The greatest knob gag the movies ever told. Just a total show-stopper – the wonderfully androgynous and at the time unknown Jaye Davidson made the sex-shift convincing, and the ambiguous aftermath gives it more emotional heft than a throwaway gimmick.

Next: 15 - 10[page-break]

 

15. Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987)
Suicide is painless

From climbing obstacles like old people f***, to being born again hard, the trajectory of Private Pyle looked to be heading for some kind of battlefield heroics. Instead we got this – the carved grin of the truly detached, eyes lit for killing and blood all over the drill sergeant's gleaming white floor.

 

14. The Life Of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
Singing on the crucifix

Religious outrage surrounded the release of the Pythons’ masterpiece, and while the film’s actually very light on anti-God stuff, it is full of outrageous imagery – like a hillside of crucified prisoners cheerily chirping out a chorus of ‘Always Look On The Bright Side.’ Deliriously wonderful.

 

13. Irréversible (Gaspar Noé, 2003)
Face cave

The nastiest scene in Noe's misanthropic time-twister comes halfway through with that notoriously prolonged rape, but within minutes of the opening this scene setter is even more of a jolt. In fact it's payback for that assault, the back-to-front plot seeing Albert Dupontel’s Pierre rushing into a nightclub and flattening the face, flesh and bone of what turns out to be the wrong man with a fire extinguisher.

 

12. Freaks (Todd Browning, 1932)
The human worm sparks up

We’re spoilt for choice with Browning’s dazzling circus show, which features a mesmerizing cast of real life performers, but the limbless Prince Randian striking a match and lighting a cigarette is perhaps the most extraordinary.

 

11. Don't Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973)
You're not my dad

The shocking, on-the-fringe-of-incomprehension conclusion to Roeg's prismatic horror tragedy. Having lost his daughter to accidental drowning – the child's bright red rain coat standing out amid the anguish – Donald Sutherland's haunted father experiences fractured premonitions, his hunt for elusive meaning cut fatally short when he's murdered by a wizened knife-wielding midget, with matching red coat.

 

10. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)
Beach landing

The film might dissolve into comfortable sentimentality, but these opening minutes changed the aesthetics of war on film forever, with a rumbling assault on the senses and an unflinching tearing of flesh.

Next: 09 - 06[page-break]

 

9. King Kong (Peter Jackson, 2005)
Mighty threeway!
Keep yer Freddie versus Jason and yer Alien versus Predator – the biggest smackdown in film, ever, features a giant monkey and two should-be-extinct T-Rexes. Jackson waves his digital wand to make the thunderous magic happen, but the key is that it never feels anything less that deeply, rippingly physical, with snapped jaws and torn muscles on all sides.

 

8. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2008)
The healing power of prayer

The vulnerability of Daniel Day Lewis' arch misanthrope Daniel Plainview is seized on by Paul Dano’s ratty pastor, who compels him to confess to mistreating his injured boy (“I have abandoned my son!”). Plainview doesn't forget...

 

7. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
Going down

We all know it’s coming, but the simplicity and unblinking earnestness of Greengrass’ shot succeed in ripping us free from received information and enable us to experience the horror and impact in the moment.

 

6. The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995)
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

A master criminal's story – and the film we've just watched – fall apart like the dreams of sweet children held together by cobwebs and hope as Special Agent Kujan scans the pinboard behind his desk and spills his coffee, the cup falling gracefully to the floor as he picks out the names and places spun into Verbal Kint’s fabulous lie.

Next: 05 - 01[page-break]

 

5. Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
I predict a riot

Director Lee’s own character Mookie kick starts the flash riot for which his sweltering racial tension classic is known, tossing a trash can through the window of Sal’s pizza joint and bringing the community’s simmering fury to destructive boiling point.

 

4. A History Of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005
Stairway sex

As Viggo Morensen’s identity as a smiling Midwestern café own is dissolving to be replaced by a dark, violent past, the tension of strangers sparks furious, desperate lovemaking with his unsure wife.

 

3. Children Of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
Warzone

Clive Owen’s grim survivor accompanies the future hope of mankind (the first pregnant woman for 20 years) through the dusty urban warfare of a militarised anti-immigration zone on the English coast, in a granstanding (if digitally-aided) single take.

 

2. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
The miracle of birth

Somehow it's worse that it should all happen at dinner. The gynecological nightmare that signalled the arrival of Hollywood's most Freudian monster has all the pain and blood you'd expect from a horror movie (broken ribs and bust chest) as well as a profoundly disturbing sexual subtext that was altogether new.

 

1. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
Who's the daddy?

Given that the most memorable thing the prequel trilogy has given us is the (admittedly awesome) internet meme 'do not want', it's hard to remember a time when George Lucas could pull something authentically shocking out of his beard. Here's proof that he once could, with a revelation that has become a cultural touchstone.

 

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Comments

    • snooochies

      Nov 24th 2009, 4:06

      Oh dear! Close Encounters is actually post-Star Wars, having been released in November of '77. Awesome list though, missing the T-1000 though or even Arnie being good from T2

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    • NDitum

      Nov 24th 2009, 9:30

      Oh man, headslapping mistake. Had 1975 in my head. Obviously. I'll see if I can have a tinker... Terminator a good shout - there is a space left!

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    • ChristoLaurent

      Nov 24th 2009, 10:55

      I'd like to nominate Ichi The Killer (...any number of scenes!) and also Gozu, the ending is pretty out there, although I love the actual "Cow head" scene too. Dead of Night (Ealing) has the great ending, especially the moment with the dummy. Although not a great film, but passable, the ending of The Entity..."Welcome Home C**t"

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    • Pokoboy

      Nov 24th 2009, 11:58

      My jaw dropped when Bill Murray played himself in Zombieland. That was a pretty special moment in a mediocre zombie comedy.

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    • chenneye

      Nov 24th 2009, 14:44

      This should have had usual suspects at no.1 and surprised that the kerb scene from American History X is missing.

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    • BlueRyan

      Nov 24th 2009, 18:48

      For that golden 100th place i believe the "I have a Milkshake" scene from There will Be blood should own it. Considering it's one of the most bizzar and subliminal pieces of film in the past decade it should rightfully take the 100th place.

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    • Agent69

      Nov 24th 2009, 21:26

      That Irreversible scene scared me for life.

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    • Pokoboy

      Nov 25th 2009, 22:49

      Is this the same Nathan Ditum thats the reviews editor for official playstation magazine? 10/10 f0r uncharted 2!!! 11/10 surely?

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    • joVceski

      Nov 26th 2009, 21:30

      You have to watch Pascal Laugier's Martyrs, I couldn't pick up my jaw from start to finish, it's so f..... up.

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    • mark912smith

      Nov 27th 2009, 12:06

      Great list and good call no. 5 on the kerb scene from American History X. I thought that the 'tree-rape' scene from the Evil Dead might have placed somewhere?!?

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    • jrod85

      Nov 27th 2009, 14:39

      Thanks Pokoboy, some people haven't seen Zombieland yet. Way to ruin the surprise. Well done, j*****s

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    • Pokoboy

      Nov 28th 2009, 7:47

      ah my bad, apologies.

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    • NDitum

      Nov 30th 2009, 0:49

      Yes, same me as from OPM :) Seen Matyrs. Kinda hated it. It's nasty like falling over. Kerb scene - we had it in the recent shocking moments feature. I guess the shock had worn off...

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    • Hadouken76

      Dec 1st 2009, 13:09

      Whys is there a complete absence of John Carpenter movies? Like the girl asking for an ice cream in Assault on Precint 13? The little boy at the the start of Halloween? The doctor losing both arms in The Thing or the head spider?

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    • starwars4life

      Dec 3rd 2009, 20:49

      Awesome list, really, and yes; everything on this list has good value to be in the 99, BUT there is one film which I would personally place at number one and it was very surprising that you didn't include it: The Machinist!!!! It has one of the most awesome twists and jaw-dropping moments EVER in the history of film! Please amend the list and get it in there, it REALLY deserves it :)

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    • starwars4life

      Dec 3rd 2009, 20:55

      Almost forgot, not nearly as important as the machinist but Lucky Number Slevin deserves a place, it really has the shock factor and I would also say the scene in 'The Phantom Menace' where Maul ignites the double-bladed saber deserves a place further down becaus; although it may not seem like much now and television adverts probably ruined it, it is obviously a big reveal as he only uses one blade earlier and it must have been epic for the ignorant star wars fan at the time!

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    • RazorbalNL

      Dec 9th 2009, 15:39

      GREAT ARTICLE!!!

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    • littlebocuk

      Jan 8th 2010, 21:39

      Some of these moments really had me but I would like to see "Terminator removing his eye" thing in this list.

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