The 15 Most Intense Movie Moments
From Freaks to Taxi Driver, Bambi to Trainspotting -- we pick some of the most intense moments in movies.
Everyone's sure to have their own idea about what's the most "intense" movie experience: for some it's speed, for others action; it could be white-knuckle-terror, fear or good old-fashioned disbelief at what's happening before their eyes. Still, just as many intense movie moments have come from high-wire suspense, high-stakes drama, or emotional tugs on the heartstrings. Here are 15 of our most memorable.
Martin Scorsese's a master of intensity and picking a single scene above others is a tough call. Joe Pesci's funny guy turn in GoodFellas? Any given headshot in The Departed? Nic Cage pinballing through the city in Bringing Out the Dead? All great but it's 1976's Taxi Driver that haunts most. In his signature role, Robert De Niro creeps us out with his tough-guy mirror talk and when he first appears with his mohawk haircut. The porno theater date's pretty uncomfortable, too. But this is all prelude to the tendon-tightening finale, which starts when he gut-shoots Harvey Keitel and heads into the hotel on a homicidal rampage.
Danny Boyle's 1996 kinetic adaptation of Irvine Welsh's book about Scottish drug addicts is filled with intense moments, starting with the joyous anarchy of its opening sequence in which junkies flee the filth to Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life." But the bit that's close to unwatchable has anti-hero Renton withdrawing from heroin and hallucinating the reanimation of his dead mate's baby. Drugs? Just say no... thanks, maaaannn.
It's no understatement to say that all of Tod Browning's 1932 masterpiece is intense. His gallery of real-life freaks have never been equaled in cinematic history. Nor are they likely to. Unless John Waters somehow gets his hand on radioactive material and a human cloning kit. Anyway, the conclusion to Freaks, in which the deformed and the diminutive take grisly revenge on a truly ugly beauty, remains shocking today. It's a tarring and feathering to leave even hardened viewers' guts shaken and stirred.
Quentin Tarantino's films present a similar problem to Scorcese's in that they reliably turn the intensity up to 11. The cinematic inferno of Inglourious Basterds? John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson blasting away at Brett in Pulp Fiction? The Bride slashing her way through the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol. 1? Muscle car meets girl head in Death Proof? All strong contenders but we're going with 1992's Reservoir Dogs' three-way shoot-out between Mr. White, Nice Guy Eddie and Joe. After a film-long build up of tension, things end with multiple bangs -- and an audience blown through the back of the cinema.
Next year marks the 40th anniversary of Bernardo Bertolucci's ground-breaking erotic film in which Marlon Brando tangles with young Maria Schneider in an affair predicated on anonymous sex. The most intense moment comes when anal rape made its art house debut, abetted by a stick of butter. Even in the porn-saturated present day, it's still uncomfortable viewing. Schneider, who died earlier this year, certainly didn't get over it. "That scene wasn't in the original script," she said in 2007. "The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea. I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can't force someone to do some thing that isn't in the script. I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated and, to be honest, I felt a little raped. Thankfully, there was just one take. I never use butter to cook anymore -- only olive oil."