- Awkward movie scenes can break the immersion and make the viewer just too uncomfortable.
- Some movie scenes, like the awkward sex scene in Her, can be too much and detract from the overall experience of the film.
- Awkward moments in movies, such as the Christmas dinner scene in The Family Stone, can be intentional, which doesn’t mean they will always work.
Movies have the power to transport viewers to different worlds and introduce new ideas, but some scenes are so awkward, out of place, or just plain bad, that there is a sudden jolt back into reality. The silver screen, usually a window into diverse lives and far-off places, can break that illusion with cringe-inducing moments. Striking the right balance between relatable discomfort and scenes that overwhelm is crucial, especially in an era where cringe comedy is all the rage in mainstream entertainment, like the quirky characters of The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Whether it’s awkward small talk or tense meetings with in-laws, real-life awkwardness is universally uncomfortable. But in movies, these moments become oddly enjoyable when done right. The times when it fails can make or break a movie immediately. There are a handful of awkward movie scenes that go beyond the usual discomfort, though, resulting in moments that essentially break the immersion and should not be part of the film at all.
10 Mickey Rooney Doing Yellowface
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
- Release Date
- October 5, 1961
- Blake Edwards
- Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard
A well-known classic in the world of cinema, Breakfast At Tiffany’s gets awkward and extremely offensive at some point. Following Audrey Hepburn’s rendition of “Moon River,” the atmosphere takes an uncomfortable turn. A prominent white actor, Mickey Rooney, enters the scene with a racist portrayal that remains intensely cringe-worthy. Rooney’s Mr. Yunioshi is a compilation of offensive Japanese stereotypes with an exaggerated accent. In retrospect, the scene is a reminder of societal progress, acknowledging that what was once incorrectly deemed acceptable is now rightfully regarded as uncomfortable and offensive.
9 Theodore and Samantha’s Awkward Sex Scene
- Release Date
- December 18, 2013
- Spike Jonze
- Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson
An awkward moment that lingered far too long is the intimate moment shared between Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and his computer, Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Johansson revealed during her appearance on the Armchair Expert podcast that the scene was even awkward for the film’s star, Phoenix, who had already filmed his physical part. “I was fine. Joaquin was not. He was so upset about it. He left the studio.” This revelation adds another layer of discomfort to a film known for its poignant exploration of modern dating, and while Her was meant to be uncomfortable during certain moments, this scene was just too much.
8 The Relentlessly Awkward Christmas Dinner
The Family Stone (2013)
In The Family Stone, an uncomfortable and cringe-inducing scene unfolds during a Christmas dinner, which tends to happen in most families, but this is just a bit too much. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Meredith, takes center stage, persistently injecting offensive remarks into a conversation about adoption plans involving Everett’s gay brother and his partner. Meredith’s awkward attempt at engaging in the discussion takes a turn for the worse as she unconsciously continues to express her homophobic opinions. Despite multiple requests to drop the subject, Meredith remains stubborn and confrontational, making everyone at the table, and those watching, incredibly uncomfortable.
7 An Impromptu Dance Battle Where No One Wins
Bring It On: All or Nothing (2006)
Hayden Panettiere’s character in Bring It On: All or Nothing attempts to learn krumping. As an outsider trying to fit in at her new high school, Britney stumbles upon the edgy dance style during a Crenshaw Heights Warriors practice. Provoked into trying it herself, Britney engages in a dance battle with male cheerleaders Tyson and Jesse. The awkwardness peaks not only in the questionable persuading to attempt the dance but also in the uncoordinated execution of the dance itself. This scene gives off the worst second-hand embarrassment that it’s difficult to finish the film with any sort of seriousness.
6 Emo Peter Parker Takes On The Jazz Club
Spider-Man 3 (2003)
- Release Date
- May 4, 2007
- Sam Raimi
- Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Kirsten Dunst, Rosemary Harris, J. K. Simmons, Thomas Haden Church, James Cromwell
In the less-than-stellar Spider-Man 3, a cringe-inducing legacy will forever be tied to the infamous jazz club scene. Amid the film’s various shortcomings, this scene stands out as Peter Parker, under the influence of the symbiote, transforms into the notorious “emo Peter Parker,“ Playing the piano and attempting to exude coolness, Tobey Maguire’s portrayal falls flat. Whether it’s a deliberate attempt or a misstep in direction, Peter’s awkward demeanor in the jazz club only leaves feelings of bewilderment. Despite the clubgoers treating him as the epitome of cool, the scene becomes a memorable cringe moment.
5 The Awkward Answering Machine
Swingers delivers one of the most excruciatingly awkward scenes featuring Jon Favreau’s character, Mike, attempting to leave an answering machine message for a woman he just met. Mike’s anxiety fuels a series of disastrous attempts, with his nervous rambling causing him to fumble his phone number. Each successive call to correct the mistake only exacerbates his neurosis. Lasting three agonizing minutes, the scene taps into the universally relatable experience of overthinking, making it both brilliantly written and acted. However, the raw realism of watching Mike sabotage his romantic chance makes it uncomfortable and painful on repeated viewings.
4 The Futterwacken Dance
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Tim Burton’s rotten-scored Alice in Wonderland wraps up with a perplexing and uncomfortable scene that promptly jolts viewers back to reality, disrupting the enchanting fantasy that the film offers in abundance. The much-anticipated Futterwacken dance by the Mad Hatter turns into a nightmarish 20-second spectacle of limb contortions and digitally spinning heads, accompanied by cringe-worthy funky music. This randomly inserted and seemingly out-of-place dance not only fails to live up to the hype but encapsulates everything problematic about Burton’s rendition. The scene is a garish overload of VFX movements, marked by Johnny Depp’s peculiar antics for the sake of peculiarity.
3 Talking Dinosaurs
Jurassic Park III (2001)
Jurassic Park 3
- Release Date
- July 18, 2001
- Joe Johnston
- Sam Neill, Laura Dern
Jurassic Park 3 takes an unexpected turn into absurdity with an early, out-of-place scene. Dr. Alan Grant, portrayed by Sam Neill, experiences a surreal “nightmare” during a flight to Isla Sorna. In this dream, the plane appears empty, and a raptor speaks to him, mouthing the word “Alan.” The absurdity peaks when Grant awakens, realizing the voice belongs to his assistant, Billy. While the scene elicits laughter, its comedic nature clashes with the film’s attempt at portraying life-or-death moments. This misplaced and humorous interlude becomes a jarring misstep, creating an awkward moment that undermines the movie’s intended tone and should have been left on the cutting room floor.
2 The September 11th Plot Twist
Remember Me (2010)
Remember Me concludes with not only an awkward moment but a tasteless twist that diverges from the typical resolution of a romantic drama. The film, starring Robert Pattinson, follows the familiar formula of two troubled young people falling in love despite emotional baggage. However, the unexpected ending takes an egregious turn as Pattinson’s character dies in the September 11th terrorist attacks. The twist is particularly tasteless, and unnecessary and immediately invalidates the story that had just taken place, given the gravity of the real-life tragedy. The film introduces an element of shock that seems out of place, as a different, less sensitive event could have served as the twist.
1 Ray’s Random Ghostly Pleasure
- Release Date
- June 8, 1984
- Ivan Reitman
- Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis
Ghostbusters unexpectedly veers into awkward territory with a peculiar and out-of-place scene involving Dan Aykroyd’s character, Ray Stantz. Amidst the memorable moments of Mr. Stay Puft and the iconic theme song, there’s an odd sequence where Ray receives oral sex from a ghost for no apparent reason. Originally intended to be part of a larger story arc involving Ray’s love interest being of the supernatural variety, most of the narrative was cut, leaving an inexplicable and uncomfortable sex scene. While it was repackaged as a dream sequence for the movie, the inclusion of an oral encounter in a family-friendly movie remains an awkward and questionable decision.
Sources: Armchair Expert