The concept of a WTF movie scene is an interesting one. I think it has to be something completely shocking and out of nowhere, and that is something that can be either a good or bad thing for the film it is in. Now obviously there are many films out there with weird moments that stay with you, but given their context in the film as whole it isn’t necessarily that surprising. Take the baby scene in mother! or countless moments from Mulholland Drive, and I don’t think they can qualify for this list. Instead these WTF moments will be something that either completely changed the direction of a film, was so out of keeping with what had come before, or so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but say WTF. This is also going to be based on what has hit me, and the nature of older films means I’m likely to have heard about most WTF moments before actually seeing the film, so this list will favour more modern films. I also didn’t want to make this list all twists, so will be trying to add some different kind of scenes. There will also be some spoilers ahead as I am talking about twists or surprising moments, so you have been warned.
10) Split – Unbreakable Sequel – I remember when it got released all the talk around Split was some big twist that no one wanted to spoil. It turns out that was something that had zero impact on the film as a whole, and was actually to do with the final scene of the film. We see some people in a diner watching a news report on the events of the film when suddenly Bruce Willis leans into shot and references Mr. Glass the villain from Unbreakable, a film from 16 years earlier. Of all the things I was expecting to be the twist in Split, a surprise sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s best film was not one of them. A really WTF moment for those who were big fans of Unbreakable and for those who aren’t they were probably just confused as to what Bruce Willis was doing there.
9) Spider-Man 3 – Emo Spider-Man – Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was a really solid superhero film that helped establish the genre. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is still held up as one of the great superhero films, particularly for Alfred Molina’s performance. When you think of Spider-Man 3 the only scene that jumps into your mind in the emo Spider-Man scene. We’d come to expect a certain campy tone in Raimi’s films, and for Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker to be a bit whiny, and in my opinion annoying. However when the alien symbiote attaches itself to him I don’t think any of us expected him to become a massively annoying arse. It’s so out of keeping with the entirety of the franchise because Maguire’s acting choices are just wild, but its the only thing in film anyone can remember these days.
8) Deep Blue Sea – Franklin’s Speech – It’s a movie speech and death that has become iconic. Not because Deep Blue Sea is a good film, or because it’s particularly well executed. But because it is the last thing you expect to happen at that particular moment. Samuel L. Jackson of course does a great job with the big speech, because he’s Samuel L. Jackson, but the WTF moment comes as he is then immediately eaten by a terrible CGI shark jumping out of the small pool of water right behind him. The first time you see this it’s preposterous, and twists the genre conventions perfectly to create that level of shock.
7) The Post – Watergate – The Post was a just a solidly made political drama following the true story of the Washington Post’s attempts to publish the ‘Pentagon Papers’ in 1971. But it is the very final scene of The Post that left me saying WTF as a guard or police officer discovers a break in at the Watergate Complex and calls it in. It felt like the set up for another film, almost like Spielberg was trying to tie The Post into All The President’s Men or something. It is the kind of moment you wouldn’t bat your eyes at in a franchise blockbuster movie that was actively tying into the rest of a franchise. But in a conventional drama that was trying to get Oscar buzz it was just bizarre. They may have felt like it tied in with the film thematically, but as an audience member I couldn’t help but find it ridiculous.
6) Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! – Pikachu Talks – I’m assuming most people didn’t go and watch the 20th Pokémon movie like I did, but near the end of this full reboot of the franchise comes a moment no one expected. There are some videos out there of a crowd watching this film, and their reaction alone will tell you everything you need to know. It might not be a moment that actually happens in the real world of the film, rather some kind of strange dream like moment between Ash and Pikachu, but it is still strange enough to draw such a strong reaction from the audience, myself included.
5) Holmes and Watson – Billy Zane – Holmes and Watson was an utterly garbage movie. As a comedy it fails on every level, and on reaching the final scene I hadn’t laughed once, and I can’t really remember anyone else laughing in the cinema. And then suddenly, as the two love interest characters are leaving, on the Titanic no less, Will Ferrell suddenly points off screen and excitedly announces that he’s seen Billy Zane. It was so utterly out of nowhere and idiotic that I have to admit this was the one moment the film made me laugh as well as loudly proclaiming WTF.
4) Sorry To Bother You – The Twist – Sorry To Bother You was already a weird film, so the big twist half way to two thirds through almost didn’t count for this list. However it is so out there, and takes the film in such a different direction that it earned its place on this list. Up until the twist the film had been an odd but biting satire about capitalism and its exploitation of working class people, particularly people of colour, and then suddenly we have a bomb dropped on us. Half-horse half-human hybrids. It is so wild and out of nowhere and yet completely fits with what Sorry To Bother You is doing. If it didn’t leave you asking “WTF?” then nothing will phase you.
3) Parasite – Basement – I remember watching Parasite for the second time with a fairly large group and sitting there thinking all my friends and family had no idea what was coming. During the first half Parasite just seems like a brilliantly made crime thriller that examines class differences in Korean society. And then the rug gets pulled out from under us and a whole new element is added when a secret basement in the Park family house is revealed. It’s a brilliant twist that sets up the whole second act and propels the film forward just as you thought you had a handle on it. Incredible filmmaking from Bong Joon-ho.
2) Serenity – The Twist – Firstly, this is not the Firefly sequel film, this is the 2019 Matthew McConaughey mystery thriller. Secondly before reading just how stupid this twist is please go and watch Serenity to experience if for yourself. Done? If you watched the first half of this film and came to the conclusion that McConaughey’s world was all a video game then congratulations you are Steven Knight, the writer and director of Serenity, and I just want to let you know that I love Peaky Blinders and Locke. For everyone else there is no way you could have seen that twist coming. The fact that you can be told there is a massive twist in Serenity and still never be able to see it coming is wild, and truly testament to one of the greatest WTF moments ever in one of the absolute worst films of the 2010s.
1) Hereditary – Telephone Pole – Violent deaths in horror movies aren’t so shocking, but the way the fate that befalls Charlie is truly shocking, I don’t know anyone who wasn’t taken aback by her death. The tension has been ratcheting up for the entire film, and Charlie has been creepy with her strange behaviour and clicking noises. But when she goes into anaphylactic shock from consuming nuts I don’t think anyone would have foreseen her being decapitated by a telephone pole. The reaction of everyone in the cinema was just like Peter’s in the film with a stunned silence falling over everyone. This is a WTF moment at its very best.