Christopher Nolan’s Inception has been the topic of discussion for over three weeks now. Many are talking about the torturous ending that left audience members gasping and trying to retrace their steps. In hindsight of that awesome moment, I’ve rounded up the troops here at Screen Rant and asked each writer to describe their favorite shared audience movie theater moment.
[This Next Part Contains Inception Ending SPOILERS]
I’ve never experienced a shared moment in the movie theater quite like that last frame of Inception. The entire film captured everybody’s attention, keeping them on the edge of their seats eager for more. The last few minutes gave Inception its emotional core, after an extended action set piece that put most other summer films to shame.
However, when that top started spinning with subtle shakes and shimmers, everybody went dead silent. Mind you, this happened at all five showings I’ve attended – it wasn’t just the midnight crowd all hopped up on adrenaline and caffeine. As that spinning top made its last effort to stay firm, the screen cut to black and Christopher Nolan prompted worldwide gasps and moans.
[End of Inception Ending SPOILERS]
Some of my Screen Rant colleagues share other favorite moments of mine, but one that didn’t make the list was the silence during The Dark Knight‘s truck flip. That was my favorite shared moment until Inception took the cake and chucked it against the window. The ending to Inception was a truly great shared audience moment.
Now, let’s get to my fellow Screen Rant writers’ favorite shared movie moments – Just one note, some of these recollections are going to contain SPOILERS, albeit for movies that have been out for awhile…
Vic Holtreman – Owner/Editor-in-Chief
“One of the best audience moments I remember experiencing is also one of my earliest: The ‘sword vs. gun’ scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, I’m old enough to have seen it when it was originally released in theaters. Not only that, but I watched it on opening night, not having any idea what it was about or what I was in for.
Actually, during that screening, the movie was FILLED with one “best audience moment” after another, but the sword vs. gun scene had to be the standout one (doubly so, in retrospect, because it was improvised by Harrison Ford after growing tired of so many takes of “whip vs sword”). When Indy gave that über-confident swordsman a weary look and just reached for his gun and shot the guy, the audience went nuts.
To this day that screening of Raiders remains one of the best movie viewing experiences of my entire life, and was key to sparking my lifelong love of movies.”
Kofi Outlaw – Senior Editor
“One of the best audience moments I’ve ever had was during the climatic scene in Gore Verbinski’s American remake of the J-horror classic, The Ring.
When The Ring came out in 2002, American audiences were just being introduced to “J-horror,” Japan’s unique sub-genre of hauntingly creepy ghost story movies. The Ring made a star of Naomi Watts, who played a journalist who encounters a haunted video tape that houses a vengeful ghost girl named Samara, who kills anyone who dares watch the tape one week after viewing it.
The Ring had a not-so-subtle theme woven into its subtext about the disproportionate role media and television play in our society. That message was hammered home by a bone-chilling third act twist that sent theater audiences everywhere into frenzies of terror.
I happened to be at the Pittsburgh Waterfront Loews Theater at the time, and made the mistake of going to see The Ring by myself. The theater was a packed house, and my only neighbor happened to be a girl who was about my age. When it was ultimately revealed how Samara was slaughtering her victims, I’m not ashamed to say I was cringing – cringing right into my neighbor’s shoulder as she buried her face in my chest, adding her voice to the chorus of screams that filled the theater.
Say whatever you want about it, The Ring was a horror movie that made strangers embrace one another in fear and moviegoers everywhere scream at the top of their lungs. That’s pretty impressive.”
Robert Keyes – Editor
“Definitely not one of the best movies I’ve seen, but providing one of the best audience moments was Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea.
With its tagline “Bigger. Smarter. Faster. Meaner.” referencing to movie’s villains, giant sharks, Deep Blue Sea was a slightly over-the-top sci-thriller that came out back in 1999. Its cast included Thomas Jane, Saffron Burros LL Cool J, Michael Rapapart, Stellan Skarsgård and who we thought was the star of the movie, Samuel L. Jackson.
We were wrong.
When the group of scientists working away on their isolated research facility, experimenting on shark brains to find a cure of Alzheimer’s disease, quickly became highly-desired food for the big nasty sharks, Samuel J. Jackon’s character gave a touching speech to inspire confidence in the survivors. Before he could finish his moment of leadership and wisdom, a monstrous shark jumped through the tank behind him and pulled him into the deep blue sea.
The packed audience I watched the film with immediatelely let out cries of shock and awe, combined with laughter and was one of the few times up until that moment that moviegoers were shown something completely unexpected in a movie starring such a high-calibre actor. The only reaction more extreme was the overacted responses of the characters on screen.”
Ben Kendrick – Editor
“J.J. Abrams’ foray into the Star Trek franchise could have been an absolute disaster. Instead, Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike were treated to one of the most entertaining films of 2009.
While the film featured a number of crowd-pleasing moments, none of them compared to the climactic scene when Spock (Zachary Quinto) pilots Ambassador Spock’s vessel directly into a collision course with Nero’s ship, the Narada. Realizing that Spock intends to destroy the Narada by dispersing the red matter into the heart of the Romulan vessel, Nero (Eric Bana) unloads a barrage of missile fire toward Spock’s ship.
J.J. Abrams keeps the frame wide, so the audience can see the empty space around the two ships. Michael Giacchino’s score punctuates the seconds that pass as the massive assault of weapon-fire speeds towards Spock’s dwarfed vessel. The camera cuts to Nero’s excited face, ready to watch his nemesis destroyed before his own eyes – until another Romulan shouts, “Captain, I’ve picked up another ship!”
The music soars, and the Enterprise drops out of warp, guns blazing, cutting down each and every one of the incoming missiles – clearing the way for Spock. It wasn’t the last thrilling moment of the film, but it was certainly the most exciting – and it definitely had my sold-out IMAX crowd bouncing in their seats.”
“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.