There have always been scenes that are awkward to watch, especially when your parents are sitting next to you; those are obvious and there are too many to list. But there are movies, or more specifically, there are scenes that have been able to create such an enormous amount of tension in the audience, that, even if you’re alone, eating cheesy poofs all to yourself on the couch, are difficult to watch. The scenes on this list are from that category. They are awkward for different reasons, whether they make us feel weird or dirty because the scene is so wrong or so ridiculous, or they make us squirm because we get a brief nightmarish glimpse of it happening to ourselves. The only way to get through these gems is to squint, cringe, shift or stop breathing, but the most effective way is simply to look away.
Since the first films, awkward tension between two or more characters has been a major device in screenwriting. The moments from this list are some of the best examples of how to use that awkward tension to make an impact on the audience. I’ll describe the scenes as best I can, but you may need to watch them yourself to relive all of the agony yourself. Most of the scenes herein are from very memorable and recognizable movies, so they should instantly trigger those big ol’ brains of yours. Plus, most of these scenarios are awkward enough, even without seeing the movies or knowing the characters, so, if you haven’t seen them or don’t remember, you can still join in our fun. We wouldn’t leave you out. There are also some scenes that have been done similarly by other movies. In those cases, I chose the scenes that I felt did it better and eliminated the duplicate to keep it fresh. Here are 15 movie scenes that are so awkward you had to look away.
15. Puppet Love – Team America: World Police
The one minute and forty-five second puppets doing it scene in Team America: World Police began as a trick to distract the MPAA from the other content in the film. However, as the writers starting crafting it, it took on a life of its own, making each sequence raunchier as it goes on. For the viewers, the scene starts off funny and ridiculous then spirals into absurdity as the two puppets take their many positions to the very extremes. By the end, there may be scattered chuckles from the viewers but mostly just awkwardness and silence. In terms of awkward scenes to watch with your parents, this goes on the list of never ever, I can’t even imagine it. The entire thing is just the silliest thing, but watching two naked puppets do obscene things to each other still feels weird.
14. Quality Family Time – American Pie
As the film opens, we see Jim (Jason Biggs) watching scrambled adult content in his room. His mom walking into the room, asking for a kiss (which situationally is the grossest thing ever) and questioning the reception of the TV starts off the festivities. With his sock visibly dangling between his legs, his mom starts to realize what’s on the TV as his dad walks in. His dad, trying to fix the channel, grabs the remote and, accidentally, the pillow on Jim’s lap covering his sock and his… situation. Now that everything is out in the open, both his parents have seen his sock and have come to terms with what was going on. Jim just resigns to his fate of being caught in possibly the most awkward family outing you could ever have.
13. Trouble With Laxatives – Dumb and Dumber
When Harry needs to use Mary’s washroom on their date because Lloyd gave him enough laxatives to drain an elephant, we know things aren’t going to end well, if only because it’s Dumb and Dumber. As Harry disgustingly explodes on the toiler while Mary asks if he’s ok, the tension starts to build. Either by sound or smell, Mary is going to find out what’s going on in there and no date deserves that early on. Eventually his issues cool down as he fans the smell out of the window, all the while Mary still wondering what on Earth he’s doing. The awkwardness reaches its worst when Mary finally reveals that the toilet is broken in there and hopes he isn’t using it. In a panic, Harry tries to fix the toilet, but then, like a true gentleman, he resorts to dumping it out the window as Mary leaves in a rush. This is one of those movies where several scenes could have been picked, but this one takes the cake.
12. Prom Night Zipper – There’s Something About Mary
When Ben Stiller zips himself, a lot of himself, into his zipper in There’s Something About Mary, almost everyone who could get involved does, and the whole scene becomes unbearably awkward for the audience. At first, Mary’s father comes in to help, then he calls in Mary’s mother because she’s a dental hygienist and may be able to help… When it is revealed that Stiller has amazingly caught both his franks and beans in the zipper, Mary’s brother then joins in, yelling “franks and beans.” Soon after, the party increases in size, and a policeman, a fireman and the ambulance all come by as they try to unravel what he’s done, turning him into “a bleeder.” All of this had to happen on prom night, of course.
11. The Kiss – Boogie Nights
In Boogie Nights, when Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sad sack character Scotty talks to Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg‘s character), it is almost always sure to be awkward. It’s so painfully obvious that Scotty is in love with Diggler that he might as well just shout it out. But when he tries to kiss Diggler after showing off the new sports car, things quickly go from simply awkward to absolutely disastrous. After they finally make up and hug it out, it actually gets a little worse (if you can believe it), as Scotty climbs into the car and turns into a blubbering mess, calling himself an idiot, over and over again.
10. Rex Kwon Do – Napoleon Dynamite
You could really pick any scene in this movie and put it on the list because it’s just chock full of awkwardness. Almost every character is a study on the lack of social graces. From Napoleon’s dance to everything Uncle Ricky says, it’s all bad and all hard to watch. But when Kip and Napoleon go to a Rex Kwon Do class, the worst happens because there is no uplifting moment afterwards. Kip volunteers to go up and participate in the Rex Kwon Do demonstration only to get slapped around by Rex and told to sit back down. Kip, in his usual demeanor, does everything with his head down, mumbling small remarks and sounds after each strike. It’s actually hilarious when I think about it. All you can do is shake your head when it comes on.
9. Poker Buddies – 40-Year Old Virgin
Steve Carell’s character in 40 Year Old Virgin, is a virgin (if you didn’t know). Well, before his friends knew the truth, Carell describes his previous sex encounters during some poker talk. The problem with his stories is that, not only are they lies, but they seem to be based on nothing more than a child-like image of s*x and the female anatomy. Unfortunately for Carell, his buddies insist on hearing the most specific of details, which leads Carell into describing that a breast feels like a bag of sand, a classic mistake, but one that catches his friends off-guard nonetheless. Watching this 40-year old virgin squirm his way through this conversation is not for the faint of heart.
8. Dinner Scene – Borat
The amazing dinner scene in Borat is one of the best examples for this list because Borat is specifically trying to make real people awkward and uncomfortable, and he does it with flying colors, both with the real people on screen and the real people watching the movie. During a dinner party in which Borat is attempting to learn proper dinner etiquette, he pulls out his best tricks to get a rise out of his unsuspecting hosts. From the oddest conversation choices, to bringing his prostitute date as a guest, to intentionally misinterpreting conversation and directions, and even bringing a bag of his own feces back to the dinner table, the entire scene is like watching a car crash, difficult to look at directly but tough to look away. The fact that his naïve hosts are so unaware as to what is happening makes this all the more unbearable; hilarious, but still unbearable.
7. Eat Your Strudel – Inglourious Basterds
As Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) orders a strudel for both him and Shoshanna, he questions her about her relationship to their, now, mutual friend. The tension in the scene comes from Landa’s interrogation tactics, a strategy we saw him employ earlier in the film when he and Shoshanna first crossed paths. Landa even says some things that give the audience the idea that he knows more about Shoshanna than he’s visibly letting on, such as ordering her milk and talking about cream (the earlier scene took place at a dairy farmer’s house). The climax of the scene comes when Landa reveals he has one more question for her and then stares intently at Shoshanna for an extended period of time. When he finally reveals that he has forgotten the question, it feels like a weight the size of a dairy cow is lifted off the audience’s shoulders.
6. In Between Two Pillows – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
When John Candy and Steve Martin wake up to each other lovingly snuggled tightly together, and after a couple of ear kisses from Candy to Martin, the awkwardness really begins. Martin asks why Candy had just kissed his ears, and Candy wonders why Martin is holding his hand. This question seems to trigger something for Martin. After he asks where Candy’s other hand is, to which Candy answered that it was between two pillows, Martin fully grasps the situation (or, better yet, Candy fully grasped it) and lets him know that those aren’t pillows. Watching two men who are unknowingly sleeping uncomfortably close wake up is one thing, but watching the following exchange between the two and realizing where certain hands were being stored is another.
5. Little Super Freak – Little Miss Sunshine
When it finally comes time for Olive’s (Abigail Breslin) performance during The Little Miss Sunshine contest, the dance that she’s been practicing all along is revealed to be something totally unexpected. As the song starts and the tune of “Superfreak” tumbles out, it’s a little awkward. When the dancing starts, full of butt slapping and hip swaying, it only gets worse. But when people start booing and walking out, and the insanely young Olive starts making her dance even more risqué, it goes full on unwatchable. Soon after, fights break out, the rest of the family joins Olive on stage, and the dancing is just some of the worst moves you’ll ever see. Awkward just doesn’t quite do this scene justice.
4. A Funny Guy – Goodfellas
Joe Pesci is a master of making others feel uncomfortable, but, in Goodfellas, his art is on full display. As he tells a funny story about an exchange that he had with another guy, the ultra-tough little man suddenly takes offense from Ray Liotta calling him “a funny guy.” The feeling grows until it becomes intensely awkward, the laughs simmer and Pesci asks Liotta to explain what he meant by “funny guy.” Liotta fumbles over his words, visibly uncomfortable as others try to mediate. To break the tension, Pesci reveals that he was only messing with Liotta, allowing the audience a second to wipe the sweat off their brows. There are several tense scenes in Goodfellas, but this one is by far the most difficult to watch.
3. The ‘Chest’ Punch – Superbad
If you haven’t seen it, Michael Cera offers to buy booze for his crush and then, for reasons only his character would understand, goes to lovingly punch her in the shoulder, gets bumped, and accidentally gets her boob. It’s not that Cera punches Martha MacIsaac’s character in the boob that’s awkward. It’s really just Cera who’s awkward. He oozes the opposite of charisma. What is that? Insipidity? Well, whatever it is, he has it in spades. He blubbers his way throughout the movie, fumbling and stumbling the entire way, but he plays it off so well that the audience can’t help but feel it. Usually, there is something endearing to Cera’s interactions, but this boob punch is inexcusable. Really, it’s best if you just look away.
2. Mike’s Messages – Swingers
When Mike attempts to leave a message on Nikki’s answering machine, it starts off simple, with the end of his message getting cut off. Trying to fix the situation and set up a date properly, he calls back and explains that his number was cut off. When resaying it, the number is cut off again. He calls back, leaves his number, but then starts rambling afterwards. Panicking that he came across poorly and desperate, he calls back and explains himself. Then, regretting that last call and the way he’s come across on the machine altogether, he calls back again to ask her to call him and let him explain in person (as if the first four messages didn’t already accomplish that), but this time the machine cuts him off hilariously early. Now freaking out, he calls back and just breaks up with her, but this time she picks up and tells him to never call again. It’s brilliant really.
1. The Fake ‘O’ – When Harry Met Sally
The faked climax that Sally lets out in the bustling restaurant when she tries to convince Harry that women can fake it is absolutely horrifying, especially for people who shy away from public embarrassment. While she screams, moans, slams the table, squirms and yelps, people look on wondering what in the world she is doing. Even though the two seem completely unbothered by the whole thing, anyone in their right mind would be hiding. Luckily for us though, the tension is immediately broken by an onlooker (director Rob Reiner‘s mom) saying, “I’ll have what she’s having,” giving us a cathartic laugh to end our misery, and ending one of the most iconic scenes in film history.