Nothing creates tension quite like a protagonist realizing they’re well and truly screwed. Death is imminent unless another factor saves the day. Relive some of the tense moments in film where the protagonist truly believes they’re about to die.
1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
There are a few iconic moments in Invasion of the Body Snatchers where the protagonist believes they’re in danger. None are as iconic as the last scene of the movie. In it, the protagonist, Matthew Bennell played by Donald Sutherland, realizes he’s the last human in a city filled with aliens.
It’s a really chilling moment that makes the audience wonder if Bennell was able to escape or become snatched himself.
2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
There’s no question that one of the greatest crime movies made is The Silence of the Lambs. It’s iconic in so many different ways. One of the most heart-stopping moments is when Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, is interviewing someone in the Buffalo Bill case.
She doesn’t realize it’s Buffalo Bill, but the audience does. To make matters worse, it’s revealed that the FBI backup ends up going to the wrong house. Starling is on her own to take down the killer and save Catherine Martin.
3. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
While Inglourious Basterds is a fun romp full of Nazi killing, there is one moment where one of the protagonists realized they really messed up. Michael Fassbender’s character, Archie Hicox, has been training for months to blend in for a meeting with the Germans.
He accidentally messes up a hand signal which leads to an extremely tense moment. What follows is a blood bath typical of most Quentin Tarantino films.
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
When Peter Parker is able to land the date of his dreams, he heads to her house to pick her up for the homecoming dance. While Parker, played by Tom Holland, is meeting his date’s mother, he receives an unexpected shock.
Her father comes into the kitchen only for Parker to realize that he’s the Vulture. The moment is extremely tense, especially with both Parker and the audience wondering if the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton, is going to recognize Parker as Spider-Man.
5. Alien: Covenant (2017)
One of the most horrifying moments of Alien: Covenant comes right at the end. Daniels, played by Katherine Waterston, is relaxing in her cryopod after escaping a planet with dangerous aliens and a human-killing robot.
She believes her friend, Walter, played by Michael Fassbender, is helping her go into cryostasis. However, it’s revealed that Walter is actually David, also played by Michael Fassbender, the human-killing robot.
The movie ends with David taking control of the ship with a pod full of alien babies.
6. The Dark Knight (2008)
Christian Bale’s run as Bruce Wayne is one of the best portrayals for many reasons. The Dark Knight solidified Bale’s Batman as one of the all-time greats. A signature moment where even Batman felt helpless was in the attempted rescue of Rachel, his love interest.
Batman ends up going to the wrong location and Rachel dies. It’s a moment where the protagonist really feels the pain of his incorrect decision.
7. Toy Story 3 (2010)
For as light and funny as a movie as Toy Story 3 is, it sure has a dark moment. There’s a part in the film where all the toys are heading for an incinerator. They all believe they’re going to die, and so they hold each other’s hands to face it together.
Naturally, they end up rescued, but the moment is a really dark one where the heroes believed they were without hope.
8. Titanic (1997)
There are several moments throughout the movie where its various characters realize they’re doomed. Jack, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, has one that’s more dire than others. He ends up handcuffed to a pipe while the ship is sinking.
Most people have already fled the floor he’s on, leaving him to watch the rising water level on his own. Rose eventually rescues him, but a few minutes later, he’d have drowned.
9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
You could say that the protagonists in The Blair Witch Project felt doomed from the start. As soon as they realize they’re lost, the sense of doom continues to increase.
That dread and realization that they should have never entered the woods begin to kick into high gear once they lose one of their friends.
10. The Avengers: Infinity War
Fans went to the film knowing there was likely going to be one or two deaths in The Avengers: Infinity War. No one was ready for the Snap to take a lot of beloved superheroes and characters.
The superheroes realized they were not ready for the fight and ended up losing loved ones and friends in the process.
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