Thrillers are among the most reliable genres for iconic scenes. Even years later, these thriller films still resonate with audiences and deliver some unforgettable scenes that will replay in their minds over and over again. Some of the credit for their memorability is owed to phenomenal acting, while others credit the execution from the director. Regardless, these particular scenes certainly left their mark on thrill-seeking viewers worldwide.
Hannibal (2001) – “This Is Really Gonna Hurt”
Hannibal, the direct sequel to the critically acclaimed, The Silence of the Lambs, starred Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling alongside Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. Without Jonathan Demme at the helm or Jodie Foster reprising her role, there was some initial scepticism as to whether or not Hannibal would overcome the high standards set by its predecessor.
Deemed inferior to Silence, the sequel was criticized for its absence of Foster’s commanding screen presence and the lack of Demme’s more nuanced approach. However, even with its flaws, Hannibal is a noteworthy thriller film that delves further into the complex relationship between Hannibal and Clarice. Following Clarice as she tackles the challenges that arise from her fast-paced career as a full-fledged FBI agent, Hannibal explores the reintroduction of Hannibal and Clarice as their paths cross once more.
The thriller film’s unforgettable scene comes after Clarice is carried unconscious to the secluded lakeside house belonging to Justice Department Official, Paul Krendler. Clarice awakens to find Hannibal preparing a cannibalistic evening dinner – with Paul’s brain as the entrée. Shortly thereafter, she confronts him; they tussle in the kitchen, but Clarice is too disoriented by morphine to compete with Lecter’s physical strength. He traps her against the fridge and while Hannibal is distracted, Clarice manages to handcuff them together.
Hannibal demands the key, but Clarice stays tight-lipped. He grabs a butcher knife and asks if she would prefer “above or below the wrist” – indicating that he intends to chop off her hand. At the last moment, he states, “This is really gonna hurt,” and spares her the physical pain by mutilating himself instead.
Parasite (2019) – “Hello, Mr. Park. You Know Me?”
Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite took the world by storm when it was released back in October 2019. It was the first South Korean film to receive Academy Award recognition after winning four separate categories. The film was considered by many critics to be the best film of 2019 and one of the best films of the 21st century. Parasite is classified as a black comedy thriller film, starring the collective talents of Song Kang-Ho, Choi Woo-shik, Lee Sun-kyun, and Park-So-dam, among others.
The Kim family is struggling to make ends meet with their temporary, low-wage jobs folding pizza boxes. Min-hyuk, a friend of Ki-woo, suggests that while he is studying abroad, Ki-woo poses as a university student in order to replace Min-hyuk as an English tutor for the daughter of the wealthy Park family, Da-hye. Ki-woo, having forged papers to support his application, is subsequently hired by the Park family.
The Kim clan schemes to get each member of the family hired by the Parks by posing as unrelated and highly qualified workers, such as a housekeeper, chauffeur, and art therapist. One by one, they frame the existing workers for different crimes and offer up a family member as a replacement.
Thriller Parasite‘s unforgettable scenes come as the pivotal moment for Geun-sae, the husband of the former housekeeper, who reveals himself from the basement – where he has been hiding from loan sharks for over four years. An assault on Geun-sae and his wife, Moon-gwang, leads to Moon-gwang dying from the aftermath of a severe concussion. Seeking revenge on the Park family, a free-for-all ensues in the backyard of the Parks, who are hosting a birthday party for their son.
Ready or Not (2019) – “I Want a Divorce”
Ready or Not was a pleasantly surprising addition to 2019’s line-up of thriller films. Although it was advertised as a comedy horror, it certainly upholds elements of classic thrillers. Ready or Not stars Samara Weaving as its main protagonist, Grace, a newlywed who partakes in a wedding night ritual that turns into a fight for her life.
Early on, it is revealed that the wedding night is used as a form of initiation. The Le Domas family owe their wealth and good fortune to their ancestor, Victor Le Domas, who made a deal with a man named “Le Bail” to build the Le Domas fortune. In exchange for the continued success of the Le Domas gaming empire, the family would observe a tradition: every new Le Domas family member draws a game card from Le Bail’s puzzle box.
When Grace is asked to participate, she draws “hide-and-seek”. Unbeknownst to her, hide-and-seek is the “one bad card” and the Le Domas’ believe that they have to kill the newcomer before sunrise, otherwise the whole family will perish.
There are too many unforgettable scenes to choose from in the thriller film Ready or Not, but its outrageously ironic climax is by far the easiest to label as “iconic”. Grace survives – very nearly – until dawn, therefore the family prepares for their impending deaths. Initially, when nothing happens, the Le Domas’ jest about how foolish the tradition was and how relieved they are. In a comical and satisfying twist, the gramophone plays the “hide-and-seek” song by Headquarters Music as the Le Domas’ implode one after another.
Grace humorously laughs as Alex, her husband, pleads for his life. As stone-cold and ruthless and anyone would be, Grace says “I want a divorce” as Alex is the last one to meet his demise. All blood and guts galore in its finale, Ready or Not is ‘not one to miss.
Hush (2016) – “I Bet If I Hit The Right Spot, I Can Make You Scream”
Comparable to a modern slasher film, Hush ranks highly as an unmissable hit on this thriller film list. Directed by horror legend, Mike Flanagan, Hush tells the tale of a published author, Maddie Young (Kate Siegel), who is deaf and mute after contracting bacterial meningitis at a young age.
Maddie’s neighbour, Sarah, is targeted by a masked killer. He attacks Sarah with a crossbow and chases her to Maddie’s house, where she bangs on the glass doors but goes unnoticed by Maddie and is stabbed to death as a result. When the masked assailant deduces that Maddie is deaf, he decides to make her another victim. The events of Hush unfold as Maddie fights to survive using only her wits and perception against a killer with an unfair advantage.
As with many films, not just thrillers, the best part comes at the end. The expression “save the best for last” is hardly ever wrong. Hush‘s unforgettable scene comes at its conclusion. Maddie retreats inside after suffering an injury and is fully aware that she will either bleed to death or get caught. As such, she decides that the only path to survival is to kill him. Afterward, Maddie arms herself and hides in the bathroom, preparing to fight the intruder.
When the killer finds her, he approaches from behind and toys with her by saying “I think you’re holding out on me. I bet if I hit the right spot, I can make you scream.” He references Maddie’s mute condition, but a mocking laugh expels a breath of air and Maddie feels his presence on the nape of her neck. Ruining his element of surprise, Maddie fends him off and eventually kills him.
Get Out (2017) – “Sink Into The Floor”
Get Out is an undeniable credit to Jordan Peele’s genius. Like most thriller films, it keeps the audience guessing throughout. Making black culture and oppression its central focus, Peele’s directorial debut revolves around slavery, race, and racism. It stars Daniel Kaluuya alongside Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, and Stephen Root. It has been featured in multiple listings for the best films of the 2010s.
Chris Washington, a black photographer, shows initial apprehension when asked to meet the family of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage. Later, upon arrival at the Armitage household, Chris witnesses Rose’s family make some disconcerting comments about black people. Additionally, Chris grows suspicious of the behavior exhibited by the Armitage’s black housekeeper and groundskeeper.
As the plot progresses, Chris is plagued by some unruly thoughts about the recent events and his mother’s death – for which he feels responsible. One of Get Out‘s most thrilling and unforgettable scenes – of which there are many – comes when Missy, Rose’s mother, and a hypnotherapist, pressures him into a hypnotherapy session to cure his smoking addiction.
While in a trance, Chris expresses guilt over his mother’s death in a hit-and-run when he was a child, and sinks into a void that Missy refers to as the “Sunken Place”. Nothing is more unnerving than the clinking sound of Missy stirring her tea as she completely takes over the conscience of Chris, whom she commands to “sink into the floor”. The surreal experience that Chris undergoes (and the audience sees) afterward is one of the more disturbing moments from the entire film.