“Although I didn’t find Paranormal Activity to be the scariest movie ever (as some people labeled it), I still found it to be effectively terrifying in all the right places, with more jump-scare moments than I can count.
The highlight scare of the film – and the one I’ve chosen as my most memorable audience moment – was the point at which our tormented main character, Katie, gets suddenly pulled out of her bed and dragged down the hall. We obviously don’t see anyone pull her, yet her leg is lifted up and she goes flying.
The atmosphere during the packed screening I was in was already tense and creepy, with everyone waiting in silence for the next thing to jump out at you (if anyone had coughed or sneezed I think there would’ve been some medical assistance needed!). But when that dragged-out-of-bed moment occurred there was collective gasps and loud screams followed by the obligatory nervous laughter. The latter – for the guys in the audience at least (myself included) – was an attempt to mask the fact that people were scared out of their wits.
It’s a memorable moment in a horror genre that these days rarely effects audiences as it should.”
“One of the best audience moments I remember was that of the surprise death of a main character in the third act of Serenity.
The premature cancellation of Joss Whedon’s sci-fi/western TV show Firefly back in 2002 still infuriates fans to this day. Fox did little to nothing to promote it; the first season was aired entirely out of order and the show was canceled after only 14 episodes were complete.
I attended one of the pre-release screenings of Serenity, which was crammed with devoted Firefly fans just itching to see their favorite characters back in action. The film wasn’t even finished at that point (a fair chunk of the visual and audio FX were incomplete) and yet the audience was completely engaged in everything that happened onscreen.
Then the third act came around. The final battle of the film had just begun when one of the main characters was abruptly killed. NOBODY saw it coming – I’ve never see a room become so deadly silent so fast. Even worse than that was how the movie barely took time to pause before moving on. No farewell monologue from the character, no time to mourn them – the climax was just beginning to get underway. The audience literally had NO time to come to terms with the death at that point.
Seeing Serenity for the first time remains one of my most memorable movie-going experiences – if only for that utterly shocking moment.”
“While Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is loaded with memorable moments, the one that was hands-down the most fun for me to experience with an audience came during the mob meeting where we get our first good look at the Joker.
Every single person in that theater was aware of the buzz surrounding Heath Ledger’s performance and the second that sardonic, understated laughter filled the room he had our complete attention.
When the first images of Ledger’s Joker came out, a lot of fanboys voiced their concern over a look and tone that suggested Nolan’s version of the character was going to deviate severely from the source material. All of that concern disappeared with five words:
“How about a magic trick?”
The way The Joker makes that pencil disappear made the audience gasp in horror and then erupt into laughter. It was everything the Joker should be – funny, scary, shocking – condensed into a single moment that assured even the most skeptical fanboy that Nolan and Ledger had nailed the character.”
“One of the best audience moments in recent memory for me came during 2008’s Tropic Thunder. Early in the movie, there’s a scene where Steve Coogan’s character takes the cast of his film out into the jungles to give them a taste of the ‘real Vietnam experience.’
By this point in the movie, we’ve already seen how crazy his cast is — from the drug-addicted Jack Black to the half-crazy and egocentric Robert Downey Jr. — and it’s hilarious to watch Coogan vainly attempt to assert himself as a director.
The scene only gets more hilarious when Coogan, at the very end of his triumphant speech to his cast, accidentally steps on a long-buried French landmine and literally explodes.
The moment was so unexpected that the entire audience gasped in unison and moments later began laughing ecstatically. From that point on, I knew that Tropic Thunder would hold a solid place on my list of all-time favorite comedies.
“My best audience moment was Star Wars: Episode I in 1999 when “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” hit the screen.
There was applause, cheers and tears from me and the multitudes of Star Wars fans around me. In my experience in the UK there have been few moments when the audience participated as a group – this was one of those times. Watching it three days after the premiere in the Odeon Leicester Square (an event I was at, although not in) was a pleasure to behold.
Say what you like about the movie – and I know that many of you will – that moment in 1999 was a memory and a moment that I will never forget.”
You, The Readers
What are your favorite shared audience moments in a theater? Tell us about the scenes that made you become one with the people sitting next to you. Tell us about the scenes that turned 200 strangers into one unit of laughter or tears and screams. Share with us in the comments section below.