Random Pop Culture Top Ten List
Top 10 Edge of Your Seat Sequences in Film
Random Pop Culture Top 10 List is a (fairly self-explanatory) weekly list in which the writers at Review to Be Named take stock of the realm of pop culture, and come up with their Top Ten in a specific category.

The suspense film (alternatively known as the thriller) has been around as long as cinema itself, and many entries in the genre boast scenes that put viewers "on the edge of their seat." The best among these are not being metaphorical with that contention"”some sequences are actually intense enough to keep audiences literally leaning out of their seats, ready to rocket towards the screen, or in some cases, to flee very quickly away from it. The best of these scenes allow you to forget for their duration that you are even watching a film as you get fully caught up in the struggles of the characters and in the impossibly tense situation in which they find themselves. The following is a list of ten of the most intense sequences in cinematic history. Try to stay in your seat long enough to reach number one.

10. L.A. Confidential

As the film's three central cops (Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, and Guy Pearce) inch ever closer to solving the Nite Owl slayings at the film's center, they are caught up in a web of corruption, deceit, and betrayal. The film's climax occurs during a pulse pounding shoot out in an abandoned motel, as Crowe and Pearce are attacked from all sides by crooked cops and discover just how high up the chain the corruption goes.

9. Funny Games

Michael Haneke's bleak, brutal examination of violence in society, and particularly in cinema Funny Games (which must for clarity be separated from every other bleak, brutal examination of violence in society and cinema that Haneke has made over the course of his career) has a simple set up: two men approach the vacation home of a husband, his wife, and their young son, and set about terrorizing the couple, forcing them to engage in "games" for the amusement of the killers and, more importantly, for the entertainment of the audience, whom one of the killers addresses throughout the film, ensuring that Haneke gets across his message that those who view the film are complicit in the acts that occur in it, and often take a visceral pleasure in them. After the first member of the family is dispatched (I will refrain from revealing the identity of the victim for those who have not seen the film, though it is arguably inconsequential), the killers leave the house, stranding the survivors in the room with their grief, and giving them the chance to attempt a daring escape. The shot that begins this sequence lasts an astonishing ten minutes as the survivors grieve, suffer, and begin to collect themselves to develop a plan for escape. The emotional honesty of the sequence is enough to be exhausting, yet layered on that is the audience's innate knowledge that at some point, the assailants will return to continue their game, and that every wasted second brings the remaining members of the family one second closer to an unimaginable fate we as the audience will be forced to bear witness to.

8. Memento

As Leonard (Guy Pearce) searches for his wife's killer in Memento, Christopher Nolan's high concept thriller that plays out in reverse to mimic Leonard's own memory deficiencies (he has short term memory loss and can only remember the last five minutes) he comes into contact with Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) who initially appears to be an ally. Yet it is gradually revealed that Natalie's motives may not be entirely pure, a fact that is confirmed when Natalie confronts Leonard with her manipulations, explaining all of the evil things she has done to him over the course of their relationship. She then walks out of her house, leaving Leonard with less than five minutes to find a pen and write down her treachery before he forgets it and is left subject to her machinations. Knowing the stakes of Leonard's situation, and feeling the vitriol that he holds towards Natalie make his race against time all the more intense and all the more suspenseful.

7. Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds opens with a 25 minute long sequence in which Hans "Jew Hunter" Landa (and Oscar-winning Christoph Waltz) interrogates a French farmer he suspects of harboring a family of Jews who have gone missing. The audience knows from the first that this family is hiding beneath the floorboards, and yet it seems that Landa also possesses this knowledge. His confident, polite demeanor and skill for subtle intimidation allow him to slowly, methodically cross-examine the farmer, playing a game of verbal and intellectual cat and mouse that slowly ratchets up the tension as this figure of titanic intelligence wields his authority to exert ever more telling details from the farmer, all while the family waits in quiet terror right beneath their feet.


6. Children of Men

The question of whether Children of Men should appear on this list had an obvious answer; the real challenge was determining which of the film's many intense sequences was the most suspenseful. While the car chase sequence and Theo's (Clive Owen) mad dash through the war-torn refugee encampment both come close, the darkly comic and deeply suspenseful escape from the Fishes raises the tension higher than the others by just a bit. After learning that the rebellious group he has unintentionally fallen in with intends to kill him and exploit the miraculously pregnant Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) as soon as the sun comes up, Theo wakes Kee and her caretaker (Pam Ferris) and the three attempt to quietly escape. After disabling the other cars parked at the farm, Theo attempts to start the car they plan to escape in. Attention is drawn to them as the car fails to start, and Theo is forced to push it down a hill while being chased by a group desperate to kill him and capture Kee [Note: So much of this movie could go on the list, let's just watch the trailer!].


5. The Shining

Stanley Kubrick's atmospheric, nightmarish thriller is pretty tense throughout, and the sense of dread is ratcheted higher and higher as the film goes on. By the time Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is released from the storeroom on the condition that he dispose of his wife and child, all hell breaks loose in The Overlook Hotel, both literally and figuratively. As Jack stalks his family, axe in hand and mania in full force, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) is drawn fully into the horrors the hotel harbors. The final act in its entirety could make this list, but the most intense sequence comes at the very end, as Jack trails Danny through the maze outside the hotel.

4. Mulholland Drive

Partway through David Lynch's Mulholland Drive we leave the central storyline behind for an interlude in which two men discuss one's recurring nightmare in the Winky's chain restaurant where the nightmare takes place. As the man recounts his nightmare, the other helps him to play it out, and they decide to investigate the area behind the Winky's where "there's a man [...] he's the one whose doing it." The closer they get to the place where he believes the man behind the Winky's lies in wait, the more you should feel desperately that its time to turn the movie off. If you manage to keep watching, the scene only gets more and more tense [Note: Sorry for the terrible quality of the clip, but the full scene is necessary to get the point across].

3. Rear Window

Throughout the film, LB "Jeff" Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is thought crazy by everyone around him as he obsessively investigates Thorwald (Raymond Burr), a man across the courtyard from Jeff who he believes has murdered his wife. When the wheelchair bound Jeff is left alone after his love interest Lisa (Grace Kelly) is arrested for breaking into Thorwald's apartment and his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) has gone to get her out, Thorwald comes a-calling and the helpless Jeff has to face off against a man he knows has committed cold blooded murder [Note: Oddly, the top three clips on this list made someone else's list on youtube, though in a different order. Anyway, thanks to "Bobbert 23" for making my job easier!].

2. No Country for Old Men

Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem, in an Oscar winning role)has already proved himself to be a cold, calculating, unstoppable killing machine by the time he tracks Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) to a motel. Brolin knows he is coming and prepares to get the jump on him. From the moment Chigurh's footsteps can be heard in the hallway things get terrifyingly tense, and that is just the beginning of the epically suspenseful struggle that is about to unfold.

1. The Silence of the Lambs

Perhaps the most suspenseful sequence in film history comes at the end of The Silence of the Lambs when rookie FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Oscar Winner Jodi Foster) accidentally finds herself in the presence of the notorious serial killer Buffalo Bill (ted Levine), whom she has been hunting the whole movie. With no hope for back-up and no desire to let the monster escape, Clarice descends into the byzantine basement the killer has constructed. As if hunting a notorious serial murderer on his own turf wasn't terrifying enough, it isn't long before Bill cuts the power on our girl Starling and leaves her blinded in darkness while he stalks in night vision goggles.

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