15 Thrilling Moments at the Cinema

15 Thrilling Moments at the Cinema

(warning: contains spoilers, as many scenes are in the climax)

Flying in Spiderman

I’ve never flown through New York City on a spiderweb. But I feel like I have. I don’t know how Tobey Maguire managed all those leaps and flips and turns and jumps, but he really did a phenomenal job.

To capture the effect, an entire new camera system called the Spydercam was made. It could drop 50 stories and could shoot six frames/second to convey speed, and because of the agility and speed needed, CGI were used as opposed to stuntwork. The results are thrilling.

The Joker’s One Phonecall in The Dark Knight

The pencil trick. The stealing-a-man-from- a-highrise trick. The civilian-boat-bombers trick. The hospital escapade. There are so many thrilling scenes in The Dark Knight. But the one that truly cut me to the core was when the Joker finally gets his one phone call and you realize what the fat man in the cell was moaning about. Turns out it wasn’t just a bad enchilada. It’s a truly thrilling escape for the master of chaos.

Moulin Rouge Elephant Love Medley

When a man gets all shiny eyed and pigeon toed at the sight of a girl, there’s something absolutely thrilling when he then bursts into song (note: this really only works in the movies). This medley not only taps into Christian and Satine’s love song, but also U2, Dolly Parton, The Beatles, KISS, Phil Colins, David Bowie, and others. It transfers every emotion you feel hearing those classics to one moment. It’s an exhilarating display of romance.

Road Warrior Transporting the Tanker pursued by Humangus


There comes a time in most action movies when you think, “Oh no! They are going to die.” But in your heart of hearts you know they’ve hidden a bomb somewhere along the way and they’ll get out of the hole they’re in. Not so in this scene. I knew Mad Max was about to meet his maker. No way he could get out of that one. Which absolutely rivets you to the screen, wondering how on earth he is going to pull it off.

Jaws Final Charge


The fin. That terrible fin. Getting closer! The boat is sinking! Brody clambers up the mast just as Jaws attacks and he stabs that ugly grey nose with a harpoon over and over until Jaws is fed up and unarms Brody with one bite. And then Jaws disappears, preparing himself for another charge. Brody’s in for it now! He mutters to himself, muttering over and over again about how he never should have become and policeman.  And then he shoots in Jaws in the mouth. He misses like 3 or 4 times (geez the shark’s as big as a house how can he miss?) Then finally he hits true and the barrel explodes (nice to have exploding barrels) and a tsunami of blood pours over Brody. It’s perfectly thrilling.

Psycho Basement

The shower scene was beautifully done, her screams resound in your ears long after it’s over. But the most thrilling scene of all was when brave sister Lila goes downstairs (no! no! no! Are you stupid? Don’t go down in the basement!) and meets Mother face to face.

Silence of the Lambs- Hannibal’s Escape

You’ve heard of his horrendous acts. You’ve heard his silky voice and cultured conversation. But you don’t really feel the thrill of how phenomenal of a villain Hannibal Lector is until his escape. And then you see what he can do to others. And what he’s willing to do to himself. Maybe chilling is the right word.

The Box in Seven

Speaking of serial killers, who can forget the package delivered to Detective Dave Mills in that lonely field? It’s just a box, after all. Boxes carry books, maple syrup, potted plants, plushy Star Trek characters, and new computers. At least, they’re supposed to. They are not supposed to unhinge even the most seasoned of moviegoers.

The 6th Sense Twist

The twist really does as it claims. It twists the entire movie, making you see every scene differently at the second viewing. And just like all good mysteries, you think, “why didn’t I realize it from the beginning?”

First 15 minute of Memento

The moment you realize that the movie is backwards is thrilling.  You have to change the way you watch a movie, think through everything he does, and without even trying you’re completely immersed in the story. It’s also a gentle and slow realization, which makes it all the more spectacular.

First 15 minutes of Predators

When Adrien Brody wakes up in a free fall, you think he’s in a dream. But he’s not. It gets stranger when he lands in the jungle, with 8 strangers. And the climax of the beginning, when they realize they’re not on earth, is truly thrilling. That was enough awesomeness to get you through the rest of the movie.

The long-shot climax in Children of Men

It’s hard to breath during this scene. Or blink. And this scene is long, too! It’s like holding your breath underwater for a very long time. Probably because there is no break in the shot. It follows the battle and chase seamlessly (they actually created a camera rig to rotate inside the car.)  Until finally, they reach the end, and you can breath and put eye drops in.

Jurassic Park door turning scene.

Smarter Than You

The dinosaurs are more advanced physically than us in every way, except for the fact that they don’t have opposable thumbs. Also, they can’t think as well as we can. Or that’s what we tell ourselves when we’re on the edge of our seats, hoping against hope that the children, Lex and Tim, will get to continue eating their much deserved feast in the banquet hall. But no. The raptors find them. They escape to the kitchen where they’re safe for sure because dinos don’t have opposable thumbs to open the door because that’s humanity’s only chance. Right? WRONG. When the raptors open the door you know all is lost. It’s a thrilling scene.

Halloween closet scene

“You can’t kill the boogeyman,” Little Tommy says. He’s right. Because HE’S STANDING RIGHT THERE. To the closets, everyone! At first you think it’s just Jamie Lee Curtis breathing heavily and whimpering, and then you realize it’s you. As Myers breaks the door down, you decide you’ll put reinforced locks on all your closets.

Pelennor Fields in Return of the King

Pelennor fields is one of the best battles in all of cinema, but it really starts to get good when the horses arrive. And they face the oliphants (note: I think that’s where the word elephant comes from). And Eowyn and Merry are scared and King Theoden calls out, “Forth, and fear no darkness! Arise! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day . . . a red day . . . ere the sun rises!” and then the camera scopes out and they charge down the hill yelling, “Death!” and the oliphants are crashing towards them and the earth is shaking and then they’re on top of each other and Eomer, Eowyn, and Theoden are hamstringing oliphants left and right and the Witch King notices and breaks King Theoden and then Eowyn steps up to him and he’s like, “No mortal man can kill me,” and she’s like, “I am no man, sucka!” And she stuffs her sword in his face. And then King Theoden dies and Merry “dies” and music swells and hope is dying, too, and then Aragorn trots up and is like, “sup? I got the cursed ghost soldiers,” and then the cursed ghost soldiers eat the bad guy’s souls and Legolas takes down an Oliphant while snowboarding over it and you suddenly find that you’re standing on the couch, raising a spatula, yelling, “Forth Eorlingas!”

What Are The Most Thrilling Scenes To You?

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  1. OMG! OMG! SO many of my favorites! Let me see: Children of Men has two breath-taking long shots: the nearly impossible one on the car chase (the extras had a make-of featurette) and the one near the end (when he goes from building to building).
    Seven, The Sixth Sense, Memento all have huge, bone-chilling “What?!” scenes.
    I need to watch “Predators”.
    The tanker scene in “Road Warrior” was my favorite actions scene ever, until I watched the 30-minute highway scene in “The Matrix Reloaded”.
    Great selection, Ellie!

    • EllieAnn

       /  June 11, 2012

      I haven’t seen The Matrix Reloaded. Looks like I need to for a good thrill!

  2. You mentioned several of mine, but I’ll include the opening battle in “Gladiator” and the Death Star attack scenes from “A New Hope.”

    • EllieAnn

       /  June 11, 2012

      Yes! The beginning of Gladiator is a thrilling opening! I like A New Hope, and it’s truly a thrill when Han shoots down Vader and is like “Whooo-eee!” =)

  3. You’ve just done the impossible: Convinced me to go back and watch Predators.

    Great list! (Did you know they’re making a new Mad Max flick? I’m not optimistic.)

    • EllieAnn

       /  June 11, 2012

      Yes!! Now if you hate PREDATORS at least you’ll have someone to blame, haha. Except you probably won’t. At least, not the first 15 minutes.
      I had no idea there was a new Mad Max. That sounds like a terrible idea. As if the producers couldn’t find an original idea in the 10,000 scripts they’re sitting on. Grrrr.

      • I’m usually a sucker for punching aliens, so it’s actually sort of surprising that I haven’t seen Predators yet. I’ll be sure to (let you know what I thought/blame you) once I’ve watched it.

        The new Mad Max is ridiculously unnecessary. Tom Hardy is apparently going to be Max, with Charlize Theron as the love interest. I feel like Hollywood has moved into a weird fanfic phase.

  4. Children of Men was such a good film. Good choice! I still haven’t seen Jurassic Park AND Jaws (I know that’s ridic), so I skipped those spoilers and went to Netflix to add them to my queue.

    • EllieAnn

       /  June 11, 2012

      Jurassic Park is A MUST SEE! Where have you been all your life? ;)

      • Haha. I know! For some reason, I just missed a lot of good movies because I was all about watching movies from the 70s, which happens to my fav decade in cinema.

        • EllieAnn

           /  June 11, 2012

          That has to be a post, Blaria. I must hear about your favorite 70s movies.

  5. Love this list. I’ve only seen half (the old ones – before I had kids). Sigh.

    • EllieAnn

       /  June 11, 2012

      Then you could make a “15 Thrilling Scenes in Kid’s Movies.” hehe.

  6. Oh man, SO. MANY. GOOD. MOVIES. Jaws! Jurassic Park! I think I’d add the very beginning of the Battle of Hogwarts in, from the 2nd half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The bit when all of the teachers and parents create the enchantment to shield the school *always* makes me cry. And I agree with Heather above — the opening to Gladiator is absolutely thrilling, and gets me every time.

    I was squealing throughout this entire post, but I think I let out a full-scale shrieky thing at the mention of Pelennor Fields. There are so many things to love about that part of the movie, but I particularly love it because it provides such a fitting end to Theoden’s character arc. For all his self-doubt in The Two Towers, and all his moments of weakness, he really reaches heroic status here. (Now I think I’m going to have to have another LOTR marathon!)

  7. Ooh, great post and list, Ellie Ann. I felt my stomach lift a couple of times while reading it. ;)

    Many films have had that effect on me. A few that come to mind: Shattered Glass, The Sixth Sense and The Perfect Host. All three of these movies have crazy “OMG” twists that thrill me like nothing else. I highly, highly recommend all of ‘em.

    • EllieAnn

       /  June 11, 2012

      Shattered Glass is an exceptional movie! Totally riveting. It’s highly underrated.

  8. I’ve seen all of these except Mad Max. I better get on that right away.

  9. I’ve seen a lot of these, but not all of them (mostly the scarier ones like Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and Halloween). You listed some of my absolute favorite movie moments though. When I watched Sixth Sense for the first time and reached the twist, I immediately wanted to go back and watch the movie a second time to see it again through the new lens. And that moment in Jurassic park with the kids in the kitchen was brilliant.

  10. Pelennor Fields gets me every time. Such an incredible scene, and not just because of the effects. The acting is wonderful, too. Agree on the Jurassic Park moment – that scene with the door handle still gives me chills. My favorite of all has to be Lecter’s, though. To this day, it’s still hard for me to watch, but it’s incredible. Great post!

  11. Okay, Ellie. First of all, I want to be flying through NY like Spiderman.

    Second, I unfortunately have not seen some of these movies due to being a sissy. I just can’t seem to watch anything too thrilling, chilling, or scary. Have never seen Freddy or Chucky.

    I might add the Usual Suspects. It’s not quite as on your seat, but the ending is fantastic. Have you seen it?

    Great post. I felt like I had seen the ones I hadn’t after your descriptions and clips.

  12. joker phone call, seven, children of men, and the oliphants lotr scenes were most epic to me…

  13. Hi, Ellie. Great post! Love the memories!
    I love Moulin Rouge now, but was ill-prepared when my wife took me to see it when we couldn’t get into another film. He started singing and I went, “Wait! I know that song. What?” Too funny. For The Sixth Sense I have another story. I never had to go to the bathroom so bad in my life during that film. It was near the end but I wasn’t leaving my seat because I was so much smarter than everyone else and was going to figure out the surprise ending. Such an idiot! As you rightly point out, we all missed it in those first few minutes. Lol!
    Jaws, The Silence of the Lambs and Seven; great stuff. Lastly, you are so right about Children of Men. My teenager was so jazzed about that film. He just had to show it to me. Those (lack of) edits are worth the price of admission.


  14. Ohmygod, I’m dying over here from your revised script of Lord of the Rings! ‘Sup? that was brilliant! And Eowyn was like, sucka!

    I’ll admit, I read through the scary movie bits, but I haven’t seen the movies because I’m a total movie wimp. Yes, I admit it, I am. I won’t go see Prometheus because the trailer give me nightmares. I might have a list of the 15 most sparkly moments in movie history…

    I’m a bit sad that they are making a new Mad Max film, too. I love Charlize, but come ON! When I first saw Mad Max – at a drive in, no less! It was an event. We knew something special had just happened. You cannot recreate the special factor by recycling the same idea with new actors. Just. Won’t. Happen.

  15. I love all these scenes, but I have a special place in my heart for Jurassic Park movies. I’m so happy they made your list!

  16. Thrilling choices. Now I’m really glad I haven’t seen Halloween. Inception had some gripping moments too when you feared whether they would get into the deeper dream level in time. And the ending image. Oh my, made you to wonder about the whole movie like the Sixth Sense twist.

  17. I’ve seen 10 of them!

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