Movie scenes where the characters are as freaked out as you would be?
February 12, 2021 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by a recent discussion here; I love the scene in Primer where the character goes "Look, I just want you to understand that what's next is not a prank, okay?" He knows this is insane instead of acting like a cool movie guy. Another similar short scene is in Signs when the alien walks by at the birthday party. They're just as freaked out in the movie universe as we would be in the same situation. Any other examples? I know this is random - thanks!
posted by ftm to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Not a movie, but I was impressed with Gillian Anderson's portrayal of 'The X-File's' Scully in s06e06 'Ghosts of Christmas Past.'

Scully is a skeptic and normally very level headed and a cool customer, but Anderson absolutely nails Scully being scared witless in one particular scene.
posted by porpoise at 2:06 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]

I liked a lot of Jennifer Lawrence's acting in Hunger Games. When she's sucked up into the tribute tube in the first movie? Realistically numb with terror. When she's crumpling into snot ridden lumps of PTSD in later movies? Finally a character in a war who actually acts like she's seen horrible things. When she's choked by emotionally weaponized Peeta? She actually looks like a person who got choked near to death.
posted by phunniemee at 2:18 PM on February 12 [14 favorites]

I get what you mean. I found the characters in the movie "Green Room" to be acting very rationally and behaving very realistically in their state of panic. It's a stressful and disturbing movie but subverts a lot of suspense/thriller tropes in the sense that the protagonists weren't doing much differently than I would be doing.

"Blue Ruin" by the same director is similarly "real" feeling, basically a revenge thriller where the lead is just a normal guy trying his best and doing a pretty sloppy job/kind of fucking up a lot along the way. And it is ultra violent and not particularly funny to watch. Recalling one scene where a character is talking to another one about how he should go about killing a man and says something along the lines of "no big speeches, no talking to them - just point and shoot the gun."

They are both lower budget and have a similar aesthetic to "Primer" in terms of their tone, dialogue, exposition.
Characters are definitely just like, "oh fuck oh fuck this is so fucked up" and not cool tough guys or heroes.
posted by windbox at 2:29 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]

Also I found Hereditary to be a super disturbing horror film mostly because characters were very realistically grieving, horrified, angry, etc. It didn't feel like a "fun thrill ride" horror movie, just very upsetting and horrific situations making people very upset in a way that you don't see much of in horror movies.

I love this thread!
posted by windbox at 2:34 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]

The Endless
A Perfect Getaway
posted by Crystalinne at 2:36 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]

This clip from the movie "Kingsman" where someone is being scared out of their wits to test their loyalty came right to mind. I don't know if I would have talked, but I sure would have been as scared or more.
posted by forthright at 2:41 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]

It's been at least 20 years since I've seen it, but there's a moment in The Man Who Fell to Earth where the alien's girlfriend (wife?) sees him as an alien for the first time (without his human disguise) and freezes in terror, literally pissing herself.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 2:45 PM on February 12

Jonah Hill's dorky little phone celebration in Moneyball is something I personally find myself doing often, and I've always loved it. It's not "freaked out" but it's believable and human.
posted by phunniemee at 2:55 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]

Sorry for the self-answer here but I also really like the scene in Deep Impact when they hand Leelee Sobieski the baby and she goes "nononononono....". It's a really human scene. Amazing suggestions so far, thank you.
posted by ftm at 3:00 PM on February 12

Silence of the Lambs. That scene with Jodie Foster in the dark cellar with her hands shaking so badly has stuck with me for years.
posted by BoscosMom at 3:01 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]

The intro scene from 28 Weeks Later, which subverts the expected self-sacrificing heroics for cowardly, fleeing panic

Noomi Rapace's desperately pleading delivery of "there won't be any home to go back to" in Prometheus has stuck with me since the trailer

A lot of the scenes from War of the Worlds had a very raw, traumatic, post-9/11 kind of feel

And for my money one of the most powerful scenes in modern film (in a *happy* freakout way), the scene in Children of Men where the crying of the first baby born in decades is so gobsmacking that it stops a military battle in its tracks.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:52 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]

What immediately came to mind for me was Denzel Washington telling the flight attendant to tell her son she loves him so it will be recorded in the black box in Flight.
posted by saladin at 4:03 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]

The Tom Hanks rescue scene from Captain Phillips comes to mind.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:17 PM on February 12 [10 favorites]

Harrison Ford starred in a movie, K-19: The Widowmaker. An otherwise unremarkable movie, it includes an amazing scene of a lieutenant realizing just how dangerous the nuclear reactor accident is. That was a young Peter Sarsgaard and although I saw that movie over 15 years ago the performance has stuck with me.
posted by bq at 4:21 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]

Revisiting "Fatal Attraction" (and I can understand why people would not want to), it's interesting to watch how Michael Douglas's character is quietly (and unconsciously) hellbent on self-destruction and by extension that of his family.

The penultimate 15 minutes opens with Douglas in the kitchen, heating up water for tea for his wife, who's just come back from the hospital due to a near-fatal car crash caused by Glenn Close's character Alex. It should be clear as hell to anyone by that time that Alex is out for murder.

Wife is upstairs running water for a bath. Douglas, still downstairs, hears a sound, and looks up at the living room ceiling (below the bathroom). He notices a water leak.

Instead of reacting like "something is quite wrong here," HE STANDS THERE AND WATCHES THE LEAK GROW. Only when we hear the wife's screams do we see any reaction from him.

Unsurprisingly, it's the wife who finally takes care of the external threat.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:58 PM on February 12

Not a movie, but in the video game Control, the main character Jesse Faden sees a lot of weird things. Some she takes in stride, some not so much. I loved her simple reactions to meeting some of the game's weirder side bosses, because they were exactly my reactions too: "What the fuck?" and "What the fuck is that?" (Spoilers obvs)
posted by ejs at 5:28 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]

Oh, that thing in 'O Brother, Where Art Thou' towards the end where the band starts playing their hit song (they don't know it's a hit) and the audience goes crazy when they play the first chords, and all of their facial expressions are pure bewilderment?
posted by ovvl at 7:14 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]

I thought a lot of The Wailing hit this mark - people really were like "Oh jesus! What!!" when horrible things happen. That director's other movies are also good. To some extent his previous one, Yellow Sea, has this happen with the main character a couple times when some unexpected events happen - the guy is resourceful and calm, but still taken aback.

Probably the moment in Pulp Fiction where they accidentally shoot the guy in the car.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:41 PM on February 12

Oh! The opening execution scene in Army of Shadows, where it becomes quite obvious that the resistance members are just ordinary people in over their heads.
posted by praemunire at 8:07 PM on February 12

That scene from Captain Philips—I love the corpsman so much—reminded me that the opening of Season 3, episode 1 of The Fall (Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, currently available on Amazon Prime) has a great scene where multiple traumatized and badly injured people are brought to the hospital, and it felt like the most realistic portrayal of an emergency department doing their stuff that I'd ever seen. No rushing to the door yelling, "Move, people!" just a lot of very competent professionals going calmly about their business. The show overall was kind of creepier than I was fully comfortable with, but that scene really stayed with me.
posted by Orlop at 6:03 AM on February 13

Realizing mine was the opposite of the request—it's people being NOT freaked out in a very realistic way—but maybe it scratches a similar itch.
posted by Orlop at 6:09 AM on February 13

The movie Palm Springs on Hulu, scene starting around 11 minutes 30 seconds in--the movie does a hard left from the mundane into the surreal and one character is justifiably losing her shit.
posted by foxfirefey at 8:36 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]

There's a scene in the very campy Ninja Assassin in which one of the protagonists, a Europol agent played by Naomie Harris, is attacked by ninjas in a parking garage. As shuriken after shuriken embeds itself in her car windshield, instead of doing a cool movie hero quip or something, she just shrieks and shrieks in actual terror as she clumsily tries to drive away. The authenticity of her reaction is wonderful and hilarious, especially in the context of a fairly silly ninja movie.
posted by ourobouros at 9:19 AM on February 13

The scene in Vera Drake where the police arrive and interrupt the party
posted by Morpeth at 2:56 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

Jake Gyllenhaal in the basement scene in Zodiac is the perfect depiction of freaking oneself out and the physical portrayal of terror is just exactly how it feels

Also, not a single scene but on my latest annual It’s a Wonderful Life rewatch I appreciated just how much time Jimmy Stewart spends absolutely not believing the situation he’s in.
posted by kapers at 12:15 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

This may seem like an odd choice but the scene in Jurassic Park 3 where Téa Leoni finds her boyfriend's body. When his rotting corpse falls down on her and she gets tangled up against him in his parachute cords she flips the fuck out in a way that feels very human. It's comedic, but it's comedic because it's not a romanticized version of "discovering the body of the man you love."
posted by brundlefly at 3:02 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

A lot of the scenes from War of the Worlds had a very raw, traumatic, post-9/11 kind of feel

I love the scene right after the first attack where Tom Cruise's character suddenly realizes that he's covered in the ashes of people and freaks out and runs to the bathroom sink to wash himself.
posted by brundlefly at 3:11 AM on February 14

In The Truman Show, when Truman starts to realize that there is something amiss, both Truman's freak out, and Meryl's reaction to his freak out, are terrific examples of this.
posted by China Grover at 11:59 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

There’s a delightful newer movie called Save Yourselves! that’s on Hulu (and I’ve seen it listed somewhere else I can’t recall) that features a number of these kinds of freak outs. It’s really cute but I think the scene where they’re trying to get in their car to escape the alien invasion is a perfect example of this, as is their accidental baby acquisition. The entire movie I felt like I was being shown myself in the same circumstances.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 2:21 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]

Sigourney Weaver's 'Gwen' in Galaxy Quest on having to deal with.. THE CHOMPERS. "We shouldn't have to do this! It makes no logical sense - why is this HERE?" (also, her hilariously overdubbed "Well, FUCK SCREW that!")
posted by FatherDagon at 8:18 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]

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