10 Most Intense Moments In Movie History

By Rick Gonzales | Published

Most Intense Moments In Movie History

There is nothing more thrilling than sitting in a movie theater and being drawn into what filmmakers have expertly crafted. When a movie can have you perched at the edge of your seat in suspense, fingers dug into the armrests with anticipation, it is a job well done. There are plenty of films that have these intense moments, where the set-up is paid off in fine fashion.

Here are the 10 most intense moments in film. As you will see, they can be from any genre and any generation of moviemaking. What makes these sequences so riveting is how they build with anticipation. Some even shock you right out of the gate. See if you agree.

10. The "No, I am your father" reveal in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Even if you were not a fan of the prequel and sequel Star Wars trilogy, the one thing we can all agree upon is that throughout the nine films, there was action aplenty. Throughout this action, though, there was one moment in particular that was not only action-packed but jammed with an emotional weight that changed what we knew of Star Wars.

Of course, we are talking about Darth Vader’s shocking revelation to Luke after a short, but intense, lightsaber battle that saw Vader lop off Luke’s hand. It was one of the most intense and pivotal moments in the Skywalker Saga.

9. The "Mistaken Identity" scene in North by Northwest (1959)

Alfred Hitchcock was well-known for being the master of suspense and he did not fail in his 1959 film, North by Northwest. The film starred Cary Grant in a case of mistaken identity and Hitch really nailed the intense moment with the chase that had Grant running for his life, literally. The crop-dusting scene and the chase that followed created a suspenseful and intense moment that was classic Hitchcock.

8. “Jack’s Escape” scene in Room (2015)

This award-winning film tells the story of Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) being held in captivity and locked in a small shed. Finally, trying to make their escape, Joy tells their captor that Jack died from an illness and wraps the child in a carpet, having him play dead. The intense moment becomes even more so when the captor loads the carpet in the back of his truck, presumably to get rid of the body. Watching Jack wriggle his way to freedom is as intense as it gets.

7. The hallway fight scene in Oldboy (2003)

Oldboy is a 2003 South Korean action thriller that stars Choi Min-sik as a man who has been imprisoned for 15 years in a prison built to look much like a hotel room. He has no idea who his captor is or why he is being held, but freedom is his only goal.

In one intense moment (and a scene filmed in one continuous take), our hero fights for his freedom against all odds. It is a continuous brutal fight sequence that shows the desperation of the man and what he will endure in his quest for freedom.

6. The reveal of Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects (1995)

Some of the most intense moments on film can actually be quite subtle. They don’t have to be in your face action. Take for instance The Usual Suspects, a film that follows five criminals who pull one last job for an unknown crime lord. When we finally get to the climactic twist ending that reveals the true identity of Keyser Söze, it is jaw-dropping, intense, and one of the best reveals ever.

5. The interrogation scene in The Dark Knight (2008)

Any scene in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight that includes Heath Ledger’s amazing performance as the Joker can be considered gold. But when Nolan put Ledger and Christian Bale’s Batman into the interrogation room together, it became so much more. This intense moment, which was the highlight of the film, was buoyed by Ledger’s unhinged Joker poking the Batman bear.

4. The climax of Whiplash (2014)

The student and the teacher. The tension between the two, jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) and jazz instructor Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) is immediate in this psychological drama. While the two have their many ups and downs throughout the film, it is the climax of the film, which has virtually zero dialogue, that pulls everything together. In it, the student lays it all on the line with an intense drumming performance where he finally gains a bit of respect.

3. The “Russian Roulette” scene in The Deer Hunter (1979)

The aftermath of the Vietnam War comes home to a small town in Pennsylvania in a film that stars screen heavyweights Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep. The most intense moment in the film, and one of the most intense in the history of film, comes when Walken and De Niro square off playing Russian Roulette against each other. It is brutal and unflinching that puts a cap on the horrors of war.

2. The chest-bursting scene in Alien (1979)

Alien tells the story of the crew of the salvage spaceship Nostromo squaring off with an alien entity that has made its way onboard the ship via a crew member. After the crew member, Kane, finally awakens from his tangle with the alien, what started off as tame had audiences gasping in horror. The crew is enjoying a meal together when Kane begins to cough. The scene goes from subdued to intense in no time as the alien inside Kane wants out.

opening scenes

1. The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Literally one of the most intense moments ever is the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. Director Steven Spielberg’s gut-wrenching and blood-soaked intense moment left a lasting impact as he showed the brutality and horror that American soldiers faced as they landed on Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion. You will be hard-pressed to find a more intense moment on film.