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What Happens: Innocent Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) knows he’s not a smart man. Growing up in Greenbow, Alabama, he had many chance encounters with famous people, sometimes even guiding future events, but no matter all of that, it is Jenny (Robin Wright) who remains most important to him. She is the girl who was nice to him on the bus and stayed his friend where ever they ended up. When he’s drafted into the Army to fight in Vietnam, he goes to visit her at her college dorm to say goodbye. Drenched from the rain, they undress to their underclothes and sitting on the bed, Jenny asks if he’s ever “been with” a girl. The question’s meaning is lost on Forrest. But then: Jenny undoes the strap on the back of her bra and lets it slip away, exposing and inviting herself to her longtime friend.
Why It’s Shocking: Forrest has been slowly experiencing much in life and is about to see man at their worst in war. Jenny has traveled a different path, scarred by a tragic upbringing. She knows about the horrors of war and is prepared to believe that this might be the last time they meet. He is innocent of the complexities of romance and physical love and her offer to him surprised not only Forrest, but the viewer. It’s a shocking but emotional moment.
What Happens: On the fateful maiden voyage of the “unsinkable” Titanic, the mighty ship hits an iceberg and begins to sink. With not enough boats to save all the passengers, and a panicked crew that locks many of the gates, preventing lower Class travelers to reach the deck, most are doomed. But that still doesn’t mean everyone got out. Many of the very rich stayed behind. We see scenes of people running and screaming. But then: Very briefly and suddenly, this old couple appears and share one last kiss as the waters quickly rise in their room.
Why It’s Shocking: The real faces of death in large-scale tragedies such as this are rarely effective as bodies plummet or fall away, nameless and forgotten. We don’t know them, we don’t care about them. But this 10-second glimpse at this couple’s final moment is powerful. In that short time, we conjure a long story of a life spent and lost together. It perfectly encapsulates the rest of the tragedy on the sinking ship and gives humanity to the victims we never get to know (It’s followed immediately by a mother tucking in her two very young children who are probably unaware of what is coming).
*Trivia Note: The couple, though not identified in the film represent Isidor and Ida Straus, co-owners of Macy’s Department Store who chose to ignore taking a lifeboat. They were last seen by survivors sitting in deck chairs as the ship emptied its boats.
What Happens: Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is an unhappy guy who hates his job, has an overly-ambitious wife, a detached teenage daughter who loathes the both of them, and he has sexual fantasies about one her cheerleader friends, a flirty, nubile girl named Angela (Mena Suvari). The film is loaded with odd moments and quirky situations, basking in high art and multiple interpretations. One evening in bed, the Burnhams are sleeping together but like normal, having no sex. All well and good. But then: Obsessed with Angela and visions of her nude in a tub filled with red rose petals, Lester decides to take matters into his own hands, so to speak.
Why It’s Shocking: The indifference. Lester simply doesn’t care and while he’s sort of clung to the idea that this is life in suburbia, here he just gives up. Not much else can go wrong, he supposes, and even if he wasn’t expecting to get caught, the blatant, decidedly non-private execution practically begged for a reaction. Just what he was looking for. Shocking.
What Happens: At a remote resort closed for the winter, a couple and their young son act as caretakers, initially unaware that it is haunted by a powerful force. Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) is wife to Jack (Jack Nickolson) who is slowing going insane. In the huge hotel, she is being hunted by her deranged husband, but that’s not the only problem. She is having visions and hearing strange sounds. Blood pours from an elevator at the top of the stairs. All very scary. But then: She looks down the length of a hall to an open door. Inside, a man in a dog costume, its rear flap open, is performing oral sex on a man in a tuxedo on a bed.
Why It’s Shocking: There’s nothing normal about The Shining and the surprises are many. Creepy and steeped in mystery and interpretation, there are lots of moments that demand further consideration. As Wendy faintly wonders about the hotel, weakly wielding a knife, this sudden sight of two men is confounding and wildly out of place, or so it seems. A troubling and disturbing moment.
What Happens: When Pazuzu, an angry, vengeful Babylonian demon inhabits the body of pre-teen Regan (Linda Blair), causing her to murder, it’s up to the police and priest/psychiatrist Father Damien Karras (Max von Sydow) to try and exorcize the demon out. The poor girl, fully possessed, undergoes a brutal ordeal as the demon rages on, fighting against the efforts of the religious man. At one point, as the priest howls at the demon to leave the girl. It’s raw and emotional. But then: She (it) sits upright and suddenly spin her head a full 360 degrees.
Why It’s Shocking: Lots of door slamming, cracking walls, lights flickering and a tirade of profanity-laced insults have been the standard so far, but then, out of nowhere, the head spin. The demon has incredible powers and is able to not only completely rotate the girl’s head but keep her alive. It’s disturbing to see and had audiences talking long afterward.
What Happens: Amy (Rosamund Pike) is a bit on the scary side, having planned, plotted and carried out an elaborate and devious scheme to frame her cheating husband (Ben Affleck) for her murder. Everything is going exactly according to plan until she gets robbed and has to rethink her way out of new mess. She hits upon an old lover (Neil Patrick Harris) who is still obsessed over her. He is very wealthy and has the perfect setting for a new story, one where she still gets her happy ending. She just needs him to follow her lead. Seducing him in the bedroom, she’s already set into motion a series of events that make him look like a kidnapping rapist. She’s strips and pull him to her and they fall to the bed in lust. He is overcome with passion. But then: She pulls a box cutter from under the pillow and swings.
Why It’s Shocking: We know she’s up to something. We’re not sure what, but we suspect something clever and dark. She’s shown herself to be exceedingly organized but not deadly. When the strike comes, in a bit of homage to Basic Instinct (coming up), it’s truly shocking. Throat slashing, blood gushing horror.
What Happens: Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) is a popular kid in high school and like his girlfriend, is having some strange nightmares. There’s a killer stalking their dreams, a burn victim turned serial killer with a glove made of razor sharp knives. The kids band together to try and keep each other awake but one night, Glen, using a TV and headphones to stay distracted, dozes off. That’s all it takes. Sure, we are expecting something, the switch to a dream where he’s pursued, maybe, like the others. But then: It comes straight from the bed itself, knive-gloved arm leaping out of the mattress and grabbing the boy and dragging him into a widening pit of darkness. He’s swallowed into the bed and a moment later, a geyser of blood streaks up to the ceiling. Chilling.
Why It’s Shocking: The bed is our safety zone. As kids, the monsters are under the bed and as long as we’re on top, we’re okay. Writer/directer Wes Craven believes that too, but then wrecks the illusion as the monster comes right through the bed instead. It’s totally unexpected and kept a lot of kids wide-eyed at night for weeks after.
What Happens: Famous novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) has a car accident in a blizzard and is rescued by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who happens to be a nurse. She takes him to her home and puts him in a bed to recover. As coincidence would have it, she is also Sheldon’s “number one fan,” most especially of a series of books starring a character named Misery Chastain. When she discovers that Sheldon has killed off Misery in the latest book, she flies into a fury and tells him that she never contacted anyone to tell them Sheldon was in her home. He must stay and rewrite the book. After he tries to escape, she becomes angered. That’s fairly normal with her. But then: She brings a sledgehammer.
Why It’s Shocking: Annie is already a frightening character who always is in control until little things set her off. Calculating and vicious, when she wields the hammer and raises it high, it’s truly one of the hardest things to watch. For first time viewers, it comes out of nowhere and leaves a very sickening (but awesome) impression. Never drive alone in winter.
What Happened: Old school Detective William R. Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and young idealistic Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) are on the hunt for a sadistic serial killer who is using the seven deadly sins as a motive for murder. Having already discovered the gruesome work of Gluttony and Greed, their investigation leads them to a dingy apartment where a child molester and drug dealer lives, finding a grotesque and emaciated body under a canopy of pine-scented air fresheners. They find a pile of photographs that indicate the man has been strapped to the bed for exactly one year. Believing he is dead, they prepare to examine the horrible remains. But then: It moves.
Why It’s Shocking: To this point, we’ve already seen two horribly affected victims of the killer. Both times, the bodies were dead and it was just a matter of checking for clues among the debauchery. Director David Fincher figures we might be getting used to the abhorrent carnage and throws in a fright to keep us on our toes. It works. Oh, how it works.
What Happens: Godfather Vitto Corleone (Marlon Brando) is an Italian mobster and head of a powerful New York City crime family who can make offers no one can refuse. On the day of his daughter’s wedding, Johnny Fontane (Al Martino), a famous singer and his godson, requests help in securing a part in a new film. Vittoe sends his consigliere, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) to Hollywood to discuss it with studio head Jack Woltz (John Marley), who is adamant that Fontane will never play a part in his film. The next morning, in his lavish bedroom, with an Oscar statuette on the night table, he stirs awake, feeling something odd on his skin. Still no worries. But then: He slips a hand out from the under the golden silk sheets, only to find them covered in blood. Panicked, he throws back the covers and finds the head of his prized stallion at the foot of the bed.
Why It’s Shocking: There is no doubt that something is going to happen. After Woltz refused Hagen, it was just a matter of what. We were expecting a hail of gunfire maybe, but director Francis Ford Coppola and writer Mario Puzo are smarter than that. It’s about sending a message, and what better way than to show how Vitto can take the very thing Woltz most cherished and destroy it.
What Happens: It all starts out shocking enough, with two attractive lovers in a romantically-lit room, having very passionate sex. A fully nude woman is on top of a very pleased man, who is moaning contently. The girl’s blonde, wavy locks obscure her face as she straddles and writhes upon her lover. With him on his back, she extends the man’s arms up and out and ties his wrists to the grated headboard, and whispers delicately as he kisses her breasts. It’s highly charged and has viewers already anticipating something exciting. She grinds further and raises him nearly to climax. It’s extremely sexy. But then: She reaches beneath the sheets and pulls out an ice pick which glimmers in the orange light. She thrusts it into his neck and face then in a fury of screams and blood, repeatedly, viciously stabs him to a brutal death.
Why It’s Shocking: Sex. Nothing is more of a distraction, and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and director Paul Verhoeven use that to perfection, setting up a jump scare that had lovers all of the world checking the sheets before climbing into bed.
What Happens: Howard is a duck, and by strange circumstances, is transported to Earth where he meets Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson), whom he rescues from a couple of thugs. She befriends the alien who realizes after a time, he has to accept that he is stuck on this planet. He does his best to work and make friends but doesn’t give up hope that he could one day return to DuckWorld. Meanwhile, he develops a greater appreciation for the female version of the human anatomy and is attracted to Beverley. She laughs at him. But then: She invites him to her bed and makes like she’s going to give him what he thinks he wants (Read more about this here).
Why It’s Shocking: Howard is a duck. Again. A duck. And yes, she was only playing, but was she? When the feathers on the top of his head rise up as she touches him, there is no doubt what that implies and everything about that is just plain weird, no matter if the film is good or not.
What Happens: The boys of Ghostbusters aren’t afraid of no ghosts, and one night during some down time, Ray (Dan Aykroyd) has a visit in his dreams(?) about a beautiful, scantily clad woman who hovers over him, undoes his pants and, (unseen) performs oral sex.
Why it’s Shocking: It’s Ghostbusters. It’s a comedy. And while the film is loaded with sexual undertones, there’s no subtlety to this. Classic.