Tense Movie Moments

by pere-25366 | created - 29 Aug 2016 | updated - 01 Apr 2017 | Public

Alfred Hitchcock once explained perfectly the difference between surprise and suspense. When a bomb under a table goes off, that's surprise. When we know the bomb is under the table but not when it will go off, that is suspense.

For these moments in film, we found ourselves in a state of sheer tense and anticipation, as we relentlessly bit our nails nervous of what may ensue. The culmination of the event was overshadowed by its uneasy build up to it. There are quite a few, so this list has been narrowed down mostly by having some of our users here at IMDb pick their favorites.

Which of these memorably tense moments in a film had you holding your breath the most?

After voting, you may discuss the poll here.

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1. Jaws (1975)

PG | 124 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

87 Metascore

When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it's up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Votes: 508,948 | Gross: $260.00M

Shark attack out on the beach - suggested by pere-25366

2. No Country for Old Men (2007)

R | 122 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

91 Metascore

Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen | Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson

Votes: 764,682 | Gross: $74.28M

The coin flip - suggested by pere-25366

3. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

R | 118 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

85 Metascore

A young F.B.I. cadet (Jodie Foster) must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer (Sir Anthony Hopkins) to help catch another serial killer (Ted Levine), a madman who skins his victims.

Director: Jonathan Demme | Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney, Kasi Lemmons

Votes: 1,129,152 | Gross: $130.74M

Night vision with Bill - suggested by pere-25366

4. Goodfellas (1990)

R | 146 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

89 Metascore

The story of Henry Hill and his life in the mob, covering his relationship with his wife Karen Hill and his mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito in the Italian-American crime syndicate.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco

Votes: 902,679 | Gross: $46.84M

Funny how? - suggested by pere-25366

5. The Hurt Locker (2008)

R | 131 min | Drama, Thriller, War

94 Metascore

During the Iraq War, a Sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow | Stars: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce

Votes: 391,550 | Gross: $17.02M

"There's too many locks" - suggested by pere-25366

6. Jurassic Park (1993)

PG-13 | 127 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

68 Metascore

During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough

Votes: 780,812 | Gross: $402.45M

Stuck with some reptile friends in the kitchen - suggested by pere-25366

7. Diabolique (1955)

Not Rated | 117 min | Crime, Drama, Horror

The wife and mistress of a loathed school principal hatch a plan to murder him while having the perfect alibi. They carry out the plan...but then his body disappears.

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot | Stars: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel

Votes: 56,451

Christina's heart attack - suggested by ElMaruecan82

8. Army of Shadows (1969)

Not Rated | 145 min | Drama, War

99 Metascore

An account of underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied France.

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville | Stars: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret

Votes: 17,890 | Gross: $0.74M

How to deal with a traitor (strangulation) - suggested by ElMaruecan82

9. Speed (1994)

R | 116 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

78 Metascore

A young police officer must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.

Director: Jan de Bont | Stars: Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton

Votes: 301,945 | Gross: $121.25M

High speed bus in traffic - suggested by pere-25366

10. Se7en (1995)

R | 127 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

65 Metascore

Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.

Director: David Fincher | Stars: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Andrew Kevin Walker

Votes: 1,282,565 | Gross: $100.13M

"What's in the box?" suggested by pere-25366

11. Argo (2012)

R | 120 min | Biography, Drama, Thriller

86 Metascore

Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1979.

Director: Ben Affleck | Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin

Votes: 533,608 | Gross: $136.03M

The airport escape - suggested by pere-25366

12. Carrie (1976)

R | 98 min | Horror

85 Metascore

Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.

Director: Brian De Palma | Stars: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, John Travolta

Votes: 151,269 | Gross: $33.80M

The prom prank - suggested by pere-25366

13. Alien (1979)

R | 117 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

89 Metascore

After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright

Votes: 711,422 | Gross: $78.90M

Ripley's stowaway (and final alien encounter) - suggested by pere-25366

14. Casino Royale (2006)

PG-13 | 144 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

80 Metascore

Armed with a license to kill, Secret Agent James Bond sets out on his first mission as 007, and must defeat a private banker to terrorists in a high stakes game of poker at Casino Royale, Montenegro, but things are not what they seem.

Director: Martin Campbell | Stars: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright

Votes: 538,488 | Gross: $167.45M

Moment when Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who was kidnapped, is tied up and lying on the road as Bond is barreling towards her in his Aston Martin - suggested by expectmiracles

15. The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Approved | 128 min | Action, Adventure, Western

74 Metascore

Seven gunfighters are hired by Mexican peasants to liberate their village from oppressive bandits.

Director: John Sturges | Stars: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach

Votes: 80,666 | Gross: $4.91M

When Adams (Yul Brynner) and Tanner (Steve McQueen) drive the hearse coach up the main road of town to the cemetery where hostile townspeople are waiting for them - suggested by expectmiracles

16. Rear Window (1954)

PG | 112 min | Mystery, Thriller

100 Metascore

A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter

Votes: 397,384 | Gross: $36.76M

Lisa inspecting the apartment of Thorwald while Jeff is on the lookout for his arrival - suggested by pere-25366

17. Misery (1990)

R | 107 min | Drama, Thriller

75 Metascore

After a famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels, he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.

Director: Rob Reiner | Stars: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen

Votes: 163,911 | Gross: $61.28M

The attempted breakout before Annie returns - suggested by pere-25366

18. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

R | 178 min | Western

90 Metascore

A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.

Director: Sergio Leone | Stars: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffrè

Votes: 620,922 | Gross: $6.10M

Meet and greet - suggested by pere-25366

19. Notorious (1946)

Not Rated | 102 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Romance

100 Metascore

A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them?

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Louis Calhern

Votes: 84,971 | Gross: $10.46M

Delving and Ms. Huberman are sneaking around looking for clues in the basement wine cellar all the while her husband could be coming downstairs - suggested by ur32931141

20. Out of Time (I) (2003)

PG-13 | 105 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

63 Metascore

A Florida police chief must solve a vicious double homicide before he himself falls under suspicion.

Director: Carl Franklin | Stars: Denzel Washington, Sanaa Lathan, Eva Mendes, Dean Cain

Votes: 52,762 | Gross: $40.91M

An uneasy ladder climb - suggested by pere-25366

21. The Deer Hunter (1978)

R | 183 min | Drama, War

86 Metascore

An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.

Director: Michael Cimino | Stars: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, John Savage

Votes: 283,642 | Gross: $48.98M

Russian roulette - suggested by pere-25366

22. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

R | 153 min | Adventure, Drama, War

69 Metascore

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same.

Directors: Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth | Stars: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent

Votes: 1,115,041 | Gross: $120.54M

The introductory interrogation - suggested by pere-25366

The bar scene with Lt. Hicox - suggested by pere-25366

23. Psycho (1960)

R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

97 Metascore

A Phoenix secretary embezzles forty thousand dollars from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin

Votes: 535,738 | Gross: $32.00M

The shower scene - suggested by pere-25366

The car sinking - suggested by pere-25366

24. The Dark Knight (2008)

PG-13 | 152 min | Action, Crime, Drama

84 Metascore

When the menace known as The Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham. The Dark Knight must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine

Votes: 2,058,134 | Gross: $534.86M

"I want you to do it, I want you to do it, c'mon hit me!" - suggested by pere-25366

Blowing up the cruise ships - suggested by pere-25366

25. The Shining (1980)

R | 146 min | Drama, Horror

63 Metascore

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers

Votes: 778,082 | Gross: $44.02M

Jack goes full bananas - suggested by pere-25366

26. Phone Booth (2002)

R | 81 min | Crime, Thriller

56 Metascore

Publicist Stuart Shepard finds himself trapped in a phone booth, pinned down by an extortionist's sniper rifle. Unable to leave or get help from the surrounding bystanders, Stuart negotiates with the caller that leads to a jaw-dropping climax.

Director: Joel Schumacher | Stars: Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell

Votes: 236,394 | Gross: $46.57M

Most scenes between Stu and The Caller - suggested by pere-25366

27. The Ten Commandments (1956)

G | 220 min | Adventure, Drama

The Egyptian Prince, Moses, learns of his true heritage as a Hebrew and his divine mission as the deliverer of his people.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille | Stars: Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson

Votes: 57,498 | Gross: $93.74M

The parting of the Red Sea by Moses so his people can make safe passage across the sea and the subsequent catching up of Rameses to the fleeing crowd of people with his army of chariots - suggested by expectmiracles

28. Buried (2010)

R | 95 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

65 Metascore

Paul is a U.S. truck driver working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it's a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap.

Director: Rodrigo Cortés | Stars: Ryan Reynolds, José Luis García Pérez, Robert Paterson, Stephen Tobolowsky

Votes: 139,128 | Gross: $1.03M

The final scene - suggested by pere-25366

29. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

PG-13 | 132 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

73 Metascore

The IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name.

Director: Brad Bird | Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton

Votes: 427,112 | Gross: $209.40M

Climbing the Burj Khalifa - suggested by pere-25366

30. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

R | 137 min | Drama, Horror

96 Metascore

A young couple moves in to an apartment only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to control her life.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer

Votes: 169,360

It's time, Dr. Sapirstein needs to take Rosemary's baby - suggested by expectmiracles

31. Ben-Hur (1959)

G | 212 min | Adventure, Drama, History

90 Metascore

When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.

Director: William Wyler | Stars: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet

Votes: 201,075 | Gross: $74.70M

A chariot race... with a Greek chariot! - suggested by expectmiracles

32. Tin Cup (1996)

R | 135 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

60 Metascore

A washed up golf pro working at a driving range tries to qualify for the US Open in order to win the heart of his successful rival's girlfriend.

Director: Ron Shelton | Stars: Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin

Votes: 42,941 | Gross: $53.85M

It all comes down to the 18th hole - suggested by expectmiracles

33. Thelma & Louise (1991)

R | 130 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama

88 Metascore

Two best friends set out on an adventure, but it soon turns around to a terrifying escape from being hunted by the police, as these two girls escape for the crimes they committed.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen

Votes: 121,719 | Gross: $45.36M

When trapped by the authorities, Thelma and Louise make the most cliff hanging decision of their lives - suggested by expectmiracles

34. Bullitt (1968)

M/PG | 114 min | Action, Crime, Mystery

83 Metascore

An all guts, no glory San Francisco cop becomes determined to find the underworld kingpin that killed the witness in his protection.

Director: Peter Yates | Stars: Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn, Don Gordon

Votes: 55,205 | Gross: $42.30M

Lt. Frank Bullitt's pursuit in his Ford Mustang vs. the hitmen in a Dodge Charger flying through the streets of San Francisco - suggested by expectmiracles

35. Hellfighters (1968)

G | 121 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

The story of macho oil well firefighters and their wives.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen | Stars: John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Jim Hutton, Vera Miles

Votes: 4,726

Capping oil well rig fires while under fire from guerrillas - suggested by expectmiracles



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