Whether it is for the shock, the confusion, the brief nudity, or whatever, we’ve all been there: picking up the remote and rewinding or pausing a movie to see if we could confirm what we just saw, or if our mind was simply playing tricks on us. It happens in an instant, and it can often be very frustrating to try and pause at the precise moment, but that’s half the fun.
Many directors want to see how well their audiences are paying attention, so they insert these subtle blips and shots to keep people on their toes. Other times, quick moments are left in a movie, unintended, because no one spotted them. Well, you can be sure that the people who watched these films caught the fleeting moments, and many times these are what makes a film famous.
Other times the scenes are kept in for their raciness, or because directors know what their viewers want to see. Here are 15 of the most rewound and paused movie moments in cinematic history.
15 The Whiteboard in The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s hugely popular meta-horror film brought together some of the most memorable and scary fairy tales and monsters into one movie. With over 70 individual genres of monsters used in the film, it's little wonder that the scene with the masterminds' whiteboard in the background had people clamoring for the remote to rewind and see all the Easter eggs that Goddard and Whedon had implemented on the list. And viewers weren't disappointed; the board reads like a guide to every monster man's imagination has created.
One name on the list, the Angry Molesting Tree, is a hilarious homage to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead film. The Reanimated is another entry that’s clearly inspired by the reanimated corpses of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. The Dismemberment Goblins are an amusingly named pair of creatures who appear in the background of the movie, ripping people to pieces.
14 The Flashing Alien in Total Recall (1990)
Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi action movie Total Recall is remembered for its wild pacing, extreme violence, and stinging humor, and is considered one of the best action movies of the ‘90s by many critics. The scene most often paused and rewound, however, is when Arnold Schwarzenegger is approached and exposed to the three breasts of a mutant prostitute from Mars named Mary. The genetic mutation saw teenagers worldwide hit the pause button to get a closer look at the actress’ assets, declaring once and for all that three-of-a-kind is better than a pair. The effect and the scene has since been spoofed by numerous comedies.
13 Suzie and Kelly Make-Out Poolside in Wild Things (1998)
John McNaughton’s erotic thriller, Wild Things, stars Matt Dillon as a sleazy teacher and Kevin Bacon as the detective who’s on his trail. But it's not remembered for its particularly intriguing plot; rather, it was one particular scene between actresses Neve Campbell and Denise Richards that stole the show.
Campbell plays a sexy teenage junkie named Suzie and Richards plays a bisexual woman named Kelly who's out to get Suzie’s money. Through all the deceptions and betrayal, it is the infamous pool scene, where Kelly and Suzie begin to make out (to the bewilderment of a watching, shocked Kevin Bacon), that is certainly the most rewound moment in the film. Both women gingerly kiss, and then strip off each other’s bikini tops before disappearing below the water’s surface.
12 Superimposed Skull in Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological-horror film, Psycho, is widely considered one of the most iconic horrors of all time. The pivotal ‘shower scene’ is one of the best-known moments in all of cinematic history, as a shadowy Norman Bates stabs Janet Leigh’s character - who is showering - to death. The film set a new level of acceptability for violence and deviant behavior in American films, and it is considered one of Hitchcock’s best.
It's not the shower scene that has people rewinding, however. Rather, it is the final scene, when Norman Bates - relegated to a mental institution and having taken on his mother’s persona entirely - has his face superimposed by a skull. The whole moment is very quick, and back when VHS was the only medium, viewers went crazy trying to capture the moment at just the right time.
11 The Cardboard Ghost in Three Men and a Baby (1987)
This lighthearted comedy directed by Leonard Nimoy stars three bachelors who try to adapt their lives to fatherhood after the arrival of one of the men’s love child.
In the most rewound scene, Ted Danson walks by the cameras, and in the background is the shadowy figure of a person which is seemingly out of place. People went back over the moment again and again to ascertain what was showing up in the background. A myth arose that the movie was filmed in a house where a little boy committed suicide, leading to the belief that the comedy's set was haunted and the figure seen in the background was a real ghost, bringing an eerie touch to the cheesy comedy.
Years after the movie's release the myth was debunked: The movie was filmed on a soundstage, and the ‘ghost’ is simply a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson that someone accidentally left on set.
10 Phoebe Cates Leaving The Pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Many teenage boys rewound and paused Fast Times at Ridgemont High for one reason, and one reason alone (alright, maybe “two” reasons), and it's another pool scene. The scene is considered one of the most famous nude scenes in a teen film, and it occurs when Judge Reinhold has a dream-sequence that shows a bikini-clad Phoebe Cates emerging from a pool in all of her seductive glory.
She then walks towards the camera, unclasps her bikini top, and shows the world her goods. Although it is a fantasy sequence and certainly wasn't necessary for the plot of the movie, the storyline was the last thing any male was thinking about when that scene came around.
9 Mark Wahlberg’s Prosthetic Goods in Boogie Nights (1997)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 classic, Boogie Nights, was nominated for three Oscars and catapulted Mark Wahlberg to stardom. The story revolves around a nightclub dishwasher who finds himself a star in the adult entertainment industry of late ‘70s California. It was based on the life of John Holmes, one of the most successful porn actors during those years.
The film is filled with drugs, nudity, and sex, but it is the final scene that had people stopping, wide-eyed. The scene involves Mark Wahlberg finally pulling out his enormous member - constantly alluded to throughout the movie - for all to see. Even though it was eventually confirmed that the penis was a prosthetic, that didn't stop it from making Wahlberg a swoon-inducing sex symbol to the ladies.
8 The Exploding Head in Scanners (1981)
David Cronenberg’s 1981 sci-fi horror film Scanners is well-remembered for one scene that is constantly rewound and re-watched by viewers. The film’s title refers to the group of characters who can read minds and have the ability to explode people’s heads, and that’s exactly the scene we’re referring to.
At one point in the film, Michael Ironside’s character causes a man’s head to explode in all its gory, realistic detail, in front of an audience of onlookers. The convincing and grotesque effect was achieved by using a wax casting of the actor’s head filled with bits of things from around the set, and the inflated head was shot from behind with a shotgun for the violent explosion.
7 Pac-Man Easter Egg in Tron (1982)
Tron is the cult-favorite and a classic sci-fi film for nerds around the world. Director Steven Lisberger decided to throw in a few Easter eggs for watchers who love a good inside joke, and most of them require the pause or rewind button. These include a drawing of Mickey Mouse that’s on a digital grid pattern, the wall-text 'Klatuu Narara Nikto’ at the beginning of the film (which references the ‘alien speak’ in the film When the Earth Stood Still), and the most paused moment Easter egg of all:
On the bridge of a battle cruiser, there is a schematic diagram full of corridors and dots, and off to the side there is a little Pac-Man drawing, making the diagram look like a level of the iconic video game.
6 Stormtrooper Hits His Head in Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
This clip is well-known to any real Star Wars fan. George Lucas famously left the clip of a Stormtrooper hitting his head on the door frame while entering the scene in the movie's final cut, to the delight of Star Wars fans everywhere.
At first you might not have noticed it, but once you've rewound clip, the head-bumping is all you’ll ever see again. In 2002's Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Lucas pays homage to the scene by having Jango Fett bump his head in a similar fashion on the clearance door of a ship, and in the 2004 re-release of the original trilogy, Lucas enhanced the scene with an obvious sound effect to draw more attention to the spoof.
5 Jessica Rabbit Goes Commando in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
The live-action/animated comedy Who Framed Roger Rabbit is important for many reasons. It was one of the first films to depict cartoon characters interacting directly with human beings (and would inspire numerous homages, such as Space Jam). It also spearheaded the Disney Renaissance, and became famous for one of the most alluring, seductive cartoon characters ever shown on screen: Jessica Rabbit.
With her sultry voice (played by Kathleen Turner), body, and style, she is one of the most sexualized cartoon characters ever to appear on film. Some viewers believe that this particular scene, shown above, proves that she doesn't wear any underwear, which led many a viewer to rewind and check the scene out again.
4 Brad Pitt Flashing On-Screen in Fight Club (1999)
David Fincher’s wildly successful film, Fight Club, is acclaimed for its shocking twist-ending, its performances by living legends Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, and its Easter eggs that the director threw around to mess with viewers.
One such Easter egg is that every scene in the film features at least one Starbucks cup. At least, so the rumours would have it. While the cup might not appear in every scene, many fans have set up online guides which show how often the iconic cup appears.
Another pause-worthy inclusion that messes with the senses comes when Brad Pitt’s character flashes onto the screen before he’s even been introduced - perhaps a first hint that Norton’s character is going crazy. First, he appears in a momentary single frame behind a doctor in a hospital, in a blink-and-miss-it shot, and then he appears even more subtly dressed as a waiter in a TV ad. All eminently rewindable moments.
3 The Dirty Dust Cloud in The Lion King (1994)
Disney animators are known to be sneaky and depraved individuals, known to throw some disturbing and even sexualised hidden messages into their animations.
One of the most well-known moments of debauchery is in The Lion King, in a scene where a discouraged Simba plops on the ground and a cloud of dust rises into the air, supposedly spelling out the word ‘SEX’ in its wake.
The official line is that the hidden message actually spells out the word ‘SFX’ to honor the special effects team, but that may well be an example of a production team trying to sweep the controversy under the rug after being caught red-handed.
2 The Hanging Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
One of the more disturbing claims (and most rewound moments of all time) appears in the first color-movie in cinematic history, The Wizard of Oz. The rumor is that, as Dorothy and friends skip down the Yellow Brick Road, in the background there is a silhouette of a munchkin who has hanged himself for real, on set. Supposedly this was to protest the way that MGM treated the munchkins on set.
The HD version of the movie came out with a giant bird taking place of the eerie silhouette, and there were supposedly no munchkins on-set when this scene was filmed, but many conspiracy theorists deny this official word and continue to cry cover-up.
1 Sharon Stone’s Leg-Cross in Basic Instinct (1992)
It should come as no surprise to anyone that this scene is the most rewound movie moment in cinematic history. Paul Verhoeven’s erotic-thriller was a decent movie, but this short scene catapulted Sharon Stone to stardom. This shot is famous because it begs viewers to ask themselves the question: “Did I just see what I think I did?” and to then rewind and watch it again, and again.
During the scene, Sharon Stone’s character tries to seduce Michael Douglas’ character by crossing her legs and then uncrossing them, briefly flashing underneath her skirt - and it looks like she goes commando. The scene has inspired many spoofs and innumerable pop culture references, and it has become Hollywood’s most sacredly rewound moment.