Name Your Ten Gripping Scenes in Film

My favorite films tend to have a gripping scene that won’t let me go. Excluding horror movies, because I don’t watch them anymore, I started thinking about those films that had my heart pumping and my emotions on the edge. This is, naturally, a subjective list. I probably left out your favorite as well as a few of my own. Can you guess the film and which ones did I forget? 



What scene from which films had you white-knuckled and heart pumping?
  1. The Deer Hunter 
  2. Contact
  3. Inception
  4. Whiplash
  5. Apocolypse Now 
  6. Clockwork Orange
  7. The Wild Bunch 
  8. The Hustler 
  9. Rear Window
  10. The Third Man 

50 thoughts on “Name Your Ten Gripping Scenes in Film

Add yours

  1. Not looking at any comments or clues, here goes.
    1) The Deer Hunter
    2) Contact
    3) No idea, probably not seen this one
    4) I recognise it as Whiplash from clips, but still haven’t seen it.
    5) Apocalypse Now
    6) A Clockwork Orange
    7) The Wild Bunch
    8) The Hustler
    9) Rear Window
    10) The Third man

    Now I checked and 3 was Inception, which I have recorded but not yet watched.
    I am going to have to think about films that had my heart pumping, and let you know. It’s been a while. 🙂

    Her are some.
    1) When the Zulus attacked Rourke’s Drift in ‘Zulu’, that had me going. But I was only 12.
    2) The car chase in ‘Bullitt’. Works for me every time.
    3) The D-Day landing in the opening scenes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Best bit of the film.
    4) The fight between Deckard and Roy Batty, near the end of ‘Blade Runner’.
    5) When the comet hits the sea, in ‘Deep Impact’. That impressed me at the time.
    Just five for now, I will continue to ponder. 🙂

    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Pete, five is plenty, although I’m curious what other five you’d come up with. I like all your choices although I haven’t seen Zulu. Good call with Bullitt and Blade Runner. Not surprised you mentioned that one! Thanks for playing along.

      1. When the Zulus attack, they make an unusual noise. Sent chills up my spine. And they also chant and bang their shields. It is very impressive, and made me imagine the terror of facing their huge army.
        If I think of any more, I will update. 🙂 x

      2. I just thought of another great scene. The big final battle in ‘Spartacus’. As we watch the Roman Army begin to assemble, and form into sections, you just knew that the slave army was doomed. My heart sank in the cinema.

    1. I didn’t see it, but the earth opening up and threatening to claim anyone at random would tap into a lot of fears, I imagine! My favorite disaster film is still ‘Poisiden Adventure’. I saw it as a young teenager and remember holding my breath as the small band of survivors had to swim underwater. Especially Shelley Winters!

  2. I agree that Deer Hunter, Apocalypse, Clockwork, are gripping, but too depressing for me to watch them. Now #’s 7 through 10 are among my all time favorites with Third Man topping my list, Never saw the others.
    There are so many gripping scenes in any of the Hitchcock thrillers, but nothing tops Psycho from the shower scene on. First time I saw it just after it was released, I somehow brushed my eye and popped out a contact lens during the Martin Balsam on the stairs scene. My soon to be wife actually found it in the dark theater.
    There’s the rolling boulder chasing Indiana Jones in the first movie. And the opening of Once Upon A Time In the West, waiting at the train station. And there’s a scene in Heaven Knows, Mr Allision, where Kerr and Mitchum are lying very still in the rafters with Japanese soldiers below them – and a rat walks over them.
    Fun topic, Cindy.

    1. Don, great contributions! Nice call on ‘Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison’. Glad to here you like 3rd Man–yes, the chestnut films I listed from the past are depressing. Somehow when I was younger, I didn’t mind watching depressing films. Now I don’t want to be sad. Not a good thing if one claims to love the movies. As far as Hitchcock, his A films are that because of gripping scenes. The plane attack in North by Northwest, the crows on the playground set, of course, Psycho, as you mentioned…

  3. First, Pete’s “Blade Runner” moment, with the classic line “wake up, time to die” has been stolen by my wife and I – we now say “wake up, time to dine…” before going to dinner. As for memorable scenes, you “Wild Bunch” finale is certainly one, in fact all of the choices are topnotch – if anyone hasn’t yet seen the brilliant “Oldboy” – the original NOT Spike Lee’s disastrous remake – the opening scene in the police station is just the first of many incredible moments.

    1. I have not seen the original “Oldboy”. Bladerunner intense for me hits hard during the dripping wet warehouse scene. I’ve had reoccurring nightmares for years about Daryl Hannah’s mannequin acrobatic bends only it’s a hundred Daryl’s come to life–and I’m in a wheelchair. 😦

  4. Great post, Cindy. There are so many to choose from but off the top of my head I’d mention…
    1: The interrogation scene in The Master.
    2: Hopper and Walken in True Romance.
    3: The opening heist scene of Drive
    4: The ending Tears in Rain from Blade Runner
    5: Full Metal Jacket’s boot camp opening.
    6: DeNiro and Keitel’s early exchange in Mean Streets
    7: The shootout in Heat
    8: The tipping scene in Reservoir Dogs
    9: D-Day landing of Saving Private Ryan
    10: Nicholson’s handle the truth from A Few Good Men.

    I could go on forever here 😉

    1. All great choices, Mark. Especially Full Metal Jacket. I forgot Pulp Fiction the adreneline scene with John Travolta.
      And don’t you think Transpotting, the entire movie would work?

      1. It’s Pulp Fiction’s sexual implications of a foot massage that stands out to me and Trainspotting best scene for me, is the lead up to Begbie throwing the pint glass over his shoulder. I love the story behind that scene.

  5. We’ve obviously got similar taste because I managed to answer 8 out of 10 in your poser, I was only beaten by Concept and Inception. Joe Pesci’s “I’m funny how?” scene in Goodfellas is one that always grips me. Others that spring to mind are the heist in Rififi and Anton Chighur’s coin tosses in No Country for Old Men. “Calll it.”

        1. I could offer up some foreign film scenes. In Kurosawa’s ‘Throne of Blood’, the scene where ‘Lady Macbeth’ see the blood is memorable. In ‘Come and See’, the scene when the boy finds the bodies of all his family and the villagers and almost loses his mind is surreal. The car chase around the streets of Paris in ‘Ronin’ (not strictly foreign) is exciting too.
          I am also reminded of the scene in ‘Don’t Look Now’, when the face of the killer in the red raincoat is revealed. I could go on, but won’t 😉 x

      1. although Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is my favorite movie, Rio Bravo is my favorite western. The opening scene is very suspenseful. The climax of Fort Apache is amazing, with Henry Fonda ordering hudreds of men to their deaths. a scen that had be panting as an eight year old boy was the one in Man of the West in which Julie London was ordered by the bad guy to take off her clothes. A couple years later, there was a similar scene with Lee Remick in Experiment in Terror. The robbery of The Train in The Wild Bunch is extremely suspenseful, far more so than the bloody climax, which is more catharsis than suspense.

      2. OK .. I’ve been thinking about this.
        1. The hanging scene in “The Jayhawkers”(?) I was a kid – first time I’d ever seen something like that.
        2. The bullwhip scene in One Eyed Jacks. It’s still a brutal depiction.
        3. The torture scene in ‘Missing’. We didn’t witness anything but the screaming. But see him hanging there afterward. Truly gut wrenching.
        4. ‘Missing’ again. When the witch doctor blinds that poor fellow.
        5. The initiation ceremony in ‘A Man called Horse’ is pretty tough to watch.
        6. The massive blood letting in ‘The Wild Bunch’ seems almost tame by to today’s standards. Is that a good thing?
        7. Anything by Tarantino is usually hard to deal with.
        8. ‘The Man from Laramie’ where Stewart is shot through the hand. Very powerful scene.
        9. The scene where ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ races back to his cabin and finds his wife and son have been murdered.
        10. ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ – death of the Native son and the young girl.

        A lot of modern Westerns are pushing the gore barrier. A poor substitute for Art and quality. Have you noticed there’s a new Western genre? Western Horror. Yep. I avoid that.
        Your question, however, makes me realize that most Westerns don’t depict violence and death with much impact. Most of it is stylized action. OR have we just become desensitized to it all? I do think a real murder or death would affect most of us greatly. I would hope so.

        Not sure this answers your question?

  6. I have no idea how many movies I have seen over my lifetime, but certainly more than a few. I don’t remember which had “my heart pumping and my emotions on edge, but there are movies with scenes that remain stuck in my mind. The movies having those scenes would be Shane, Monte Walsh, The Wild Bunch, On the Beach, Bullitt, The French Connection, Apocalypse Now, Zulu, Aliens, Remains of the Day, and of course, Silence of the Lambs.

  7. I got three. I’m going to include two horror films – revelation of Bates’s mother in Psycho; and the finale of The Woman in Black – my justification is that horror films don’t normally do that to me.

  8. City Lights, final scene, when charlie recognizes that the flower girl recognizes him,
    Sunrise. the search for the wife who was lost on the lake in a storm.
    Cross of Iron. the final scenes with Stransky and Steiner, followed by the shattering montage of nazi atrocity photos underscored with a childrens song from nazi germany and the final shattering quotation from Brecht.
    Rome, Open City. Interrogation of the priest
    the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. The crucifixion.
    On the Waterfront. Terrys final walk.
    I Want to Live. The execution of an innocent woman.
    Meet John Doe. final scene atop the empire state building.
    Imitation of Life. The repentant girl at her mothers funeral,
    North by Northwest. The whole movie, from start to finish.

    1. You picked classics that I forgot all about, so I’m glad you brought them into the mix, Bill. It is fun to know some of your gripping moments in a film. On the Waterfront and North By Northwest, I certainly concur.

  9. Hi, Cindy:

    Hope you are feeling better and stronger every day.

    Excellent selections! Some of my favorites here.

    I’ll add the final shotgun blast which kills Warren Beatty’s reporter, Joe Frady in ‘The Parallax View’.

    Alfred Hitchcock’s beach side, pecked eye corpses scene in ‘The Birds’.

    Hitchcock’s final shot of Norman Bates in the last seconds of ‘Psycho’.

    The out of control Merry-Go-Round scene as Bruno tries to retrieve his lighter in ‘Strangers On A Train’.

    The Boiled Bunny and Adrian Lyne’s “Glenn Close Is Not Quite Drowned Yet Scenes” in ‘Fatal Attraction’

    Any of the brief but terrifying scenes of the Russian Nuclear Attack on Sheffield, England in the film ‘Threads’.
    And its post attack “Nuclear Winter”.

    Any “Freddy or Jason Returns From The Dead Scene(s)” in B-Movie Cinema.

    1. Hi Kevin! Oh, I’m so glad you mentioned the Merry-Go-Round scene. I was so close to putting in my ten. Love your choices, too, and thank you for contributing to the list. 🙂
      I feel fully recovered, and thank you for the well wishes. Hope you are warm and the snow melted in VA/MD.

  10. Great post 🙂 All of these films had my heart pumping. Numbers 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are all great films 🙂 Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are all very very good ones. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

      1. One of many perfect examples for me comes in William Friedkin’s Sorcerer in which this truck drives on this rickety bridge in the Central American forests/jungles. The trucks are filled with nitroglycerine as well. Their are other examples too though. I love your blog 🙂

        1. I was looking for a good classic to watch. Sorcerer looks perfect. I love Roy Scheider and I haven’t seen him in this. Looking forward to watching something William Friedkin has done.

  11. 8/10 I recognised The Wild Bunch (I hope to see it one day) but couldn’t name it and The Third Man. I’m trying to think of a film that made me tense up. There’s been a few over the years for sure. But the only one that comes to mind is this episode of Angel where Doyle had to pull apart this plug to save everyone. Made me tense up a couple of times.

      1. Netflix has a smaller library here in Australia so you have to hope you can find classics at your local library. I’m hoping to snag Get Carter and Alfie in the next couple of months. 🙂

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