Beyond The Cringe: 10 Most Embarrassing Movie Moments

Our ’10 Best’ lists, be they about horror, sci-fi or final bows, have proved very popular with Picturenose visitors of late – whether this one will live up to expectations is another matter entirely, however, as Colin and James present their ‘bottom’ five movie moments, namely key sections of certain films that make you turn your eyes away and place a fist as far into your mouth as it will go. We have a feeling that this selection will generate some excellent discussion and, where possible, we have even provided links to the ‘magic moments’ in question – come on chaps, this should be just the beginning. We need your cinematic nadirs, and we need them now!

Colin’s Choices

Special mention: Kiera Knightley

It doesn’t really matter what she’s in. From Bend it Like Beckham (2002) to any of the Pirates… movies, the formula is the same. I can only imagine that English is not her first language. If a director was to say to me “look sexy”, I would give it my best shot (hardly need to do anything, right ladies?) were I being paid thousands of whatever an hour.

For our Keira, however, it is magically translated into: “Stand with your legs slightly akimbo, pull back your shoulders and stick out your chest so you look like a photo-finish in a fried egg race.” And for God’s sake, woman – shut your mouth occasionally.

5. Anything Sean Connery ‘shaysh’ in Highlander (1986) Dir. Russell Mulcahy

I’m not going to start disrespectin’ big Sean. He’s done a lot of good things and – if I am honest – I didn’t dislike Highlander. It’s a jolly romp with little to worry about and a lot of people get their heads chopped off – what’s not to like?

The big stumbling block for me is Connery’s accent. His co-star, Christophe Lambert, plays Connor MacLeod who is meant to be a Scot (he is, of course, French) and sounds like an eastern European who learned his language from wolves. In his defence, he hadn’t been speaking English for more than a year or so. Connery, however, had been speaking an approximation of English for knocking on 50 years at that point. The only real Scot among the main characters, he was charged with playing an Egyptian called – somewhat bizarrely – Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez. OK, so, Egyptian and over 2,000 years old, with a distinctly Spanish name, you could be forgiven for expecting a flamboyant and idiosyncratic accent. Well, the second part is true, because he “shpeaksh every shentenshe jusht like Shean Connery” would.

We can all forgive the likes of Connery and Michael Caine the occasional duff role. Hey, those castles and private jets don’t pay for themselves – but Connery also went on to do Highlander 2 (1991), which is listed by several human-rights organizations as a crime against humanity.

4. The final showdown with the shark in Jaws (1975) Dir. Steven Spielberg

Now don’t get me wrong here, Jaws was a great movie in many ways and pretty much set the bar for other 70s movies to aspire to, but the big showdown between the remaining heroes and the Great White was marred only slightly by the fact that the shark looked like it was made out of styrofoam by not particularly gifted kids.

I really feel bad about this, as when I was a boy, the thing was über-scary – such stuff as nightmares are made of. Of course, the old Ray Harryhausen models were a bit dodgy too, in retrospect, but they seem to retain a sort of old-world charm. The shark (‘Bruce’) in Jaws – when it leaps out of the water on to the boat to eat Brody (Roy Scheider) has all the menace of a blancmange and reminds me of the sad spectacle of Bela Lugosi thrashing around with a rubberized tentacle or two to make the audience believe he’s wrestling a Kraken.

We all know nostalgia and SFX are poor bedfellows at times but trust me and watch it again. Two hours of suspense, a fine story and some top set-pieces all rubbed out by one vulcanized fish. In its defence, the animatronics were new and needed some work but there can be no excuse for the model-making in the inevitable sequels, in which an intern shaking a dead halibut by the tail would have been scarier. James doesn ‘t agree with Colin on this one – bite me. :-)

3. The ‘still raining’ scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) Dir. Mike Newell

Written by Richard Curtis who, at the time, could do no wrong, Four Weddings… is actually a lot of fun. Hell, I would go so far as to say I really enjoyed most of it. Good characterizations, some genuinely funny gags and a whole bunch of big names combined to make something I never expected – a watchable rom-com.

Watchable, that is, until that scene. Right at the end, when one could reasonably expect the guy (Hugh Grant, foppishly burbling) and the gal (Andie MacDowell, playing herself as usual) would get together, resolve their issues and ride off into a rose-tinted sunset. Well, that all happens, but in the big reconciliation scene, Grant mumbles and stutters something about it raining and MacDowell manages to make the schmaltziest bit of script ever written that little bit more sick-making by deadpanning her line: “Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.” Utterly wrong, poorly delivered and genuinely made me say “seriously?” out loud to nobody in particular. Just plain bloody awful. Click here, if you absolutely must.

2. The impossible interface from Independence Day (1996) Dir. Roland Emmerich

To all those regulars who seem to have a problem with my deep hatred of this film, here’s a warning; yep, I’m going to whine on about it again. To be fair, this is not about the usual nauseating, puffy-breasted braggadocio I particularly despise but the ‘technology’. As a techie of many years’ standing, this really stands out as cringeworthy so badly it makes CSI: Miami look accurate.

Simply, Jeff Goldblum goes to the alien ship, uploads a virus and – as our American cousins so succinctly put it – shit blows up. First, he used an Apple Powerbook. Apple don’t like to interface with anyone but Apple and can make it difficult to do so. Hell, if you don’t pony up $99 for the operating system ‘upgrade’ it likely won’t talk to another Mac either. To get a virus into the alien system, you’d need to be able to get to the ship. For me, the only reason the ships were near the Earth is so that Jeff and the boys could get to them. They clearly have the technology to wipe out the entire population from several galaxies away, but no – they hover over America saying “you can’t catch us – nyah nyah”.

“But, but – they had an alien ship at Roswell for years,” I hear you bleat. “They could have studied it.” Nope. These ships were apparently designed for use by many generations of aliens on very long-haul flights. Look at the progress of computing in the past 40 years and tell me you could interface between an old valve-based computer and your Xbox360 with only a cable and a bit of software based on outdated tech. I would say it ruined the film for me, but by that point I was already considering sticking fountain pens into my eyes to make it stop.

And Colin’s ‘Winner’ Is…

1. The whole damn thing that is Batman & Robin (1997) Dir. Joel Schumacher

My number-one choice and, as I can’t pick a specific scene in what appears to be an ocean of mistimed, badly cast and poorly acted dross, I’m going to go right ahead and nominate the whole thing. Why? If you’d ever seen it, you would never need to ask that question. For those of you who haven’t – and I urge you to keep this situation unchanged – here’s a few pointers.

Schumacher has done some really quite good work including the sublime and often underrated Falling Down (1993) and the creepy and well-paced 8mm (1999), but his handling of Batman & Robin would have made the legendary Ed Wood rethink his career. Wood at least knew he wasn’t very good, but I think Schumacher had a bad day and woke up thinking he could improve on Batman Forever (1995). The fact that he couldn’t even pull this off is testament to just how piss-poor B&R really is.

Overacted by everyone, including George Clooney, the movie stumbles from wooden set piece to wooden set piece, looks like it was directed by one of those dancing traffic cops in the Philippines (albeit with none of the flair) and contains enough stomach-churning dialogue as to make you regret buying the popcorn. The villains are risible, and those clichés pulled off so well by Adam West in the original TV series suck something fierce. Sample dialogue? OK, but only one in case my own hands try to choke me as I type:

Robin: I want a car, chicks dig the car.
Batman: This is why Superman works alone.

Three words for anyone wanting to see this film – even if it’s to find out why it’s bad; avoid, avoid, avoid.

James’s Choices

5. Sir Alec Guinness as Godbole in A Passage to India (1984) Dir. David Lean

What, in the name of all that is holy, inspired one of the greatest actors of his generation to ‘black up’ (well, very nearly), for this hugely overrated ‘masterpiece’ by David Lean? Too many cringeworthy parts to mention – a pity that Guinness didn’t try out for a revival of The Black and White Minstrel Show, don’t you think?

4. The ending of Pretty Woman (1990) Dir. Garry Marshall

‘She rescues him right back.’ Pleeease. Don’t get me wrong, even I managed to enjoy most of Garry Marshall’s mega chick-flick with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, but this mush-fest that passes for a denouement made me nauseous, pure and simple. ‘Enjoy’ it here.

3. Sir Roger Moore’s Barbara Woodhouse impression in Octopussy (1983) Dir. John Glen

Not the nadir of James Bond, but certainly Moore’s lowest point in playing him – Sir Roger, how *could* you?

2. We Got Annie in Annie (1982) Dir. John Huston

Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that (i) I do like a good musical and (ii) I am definitely not gay. However, this number from Huston’s execrable mess is without doubt the most irritating and silly song-and-dance routine ever committed to film. Particular joys are the conspiratorial tones adopted by the (admittedly very graceful) lead as she prances around, confiding to anyone who cares that, ahem, ‘We got Annie’, and the unbelievably stupid and irritating dance that the ‘wallah’ performs when he too hears the good news. Here it is for your delectation and, for this reviewer, it is topped only by one ‘magic moment’ in the movies.

And James’s Winner Is…

1. ‘That’ bit at the end of Dirty Dancing (1987) Dir. Emile Ardolino

Even Picturenose’s Emma, when she has finished swooning over Swayze, agrees with me that this is simply the most cringeworthy ending in movie history, from ‘Nobody puts Baby in the corner’ to, well, the most jaw-droppingly awful dancing you have ever seen. Nothing more to be said, really – watch it again here, and I look forward immensely to reading the ‘defences’ with which we will doubtless soon be innundated. Are you out there, the Divine C? 😉

31 thoughts on “Beyond The Cringe: 10 Most Embarrassing Movie Moments”

  1. Hi Colin,

    “Look at the progress of computing in the past 40 years and tell me you could interface between an old valve-based computer and your Xbox360 with only a cable and a bit of software based on outdated tech.”

    What’s relevent is whether the rules running on the advanced computer and the old one are both Turing Complete. But that’s what we really mean when we say something is a computer, we mean it is a universal turing machine.

    Given that, there’s no theoretical reason at all why the two couldn’t ‘interface’. For example, there’s no theoretical reason why you can’t emulate windows vista on a ZX81, or for that matter on a valve-based computer. However small and compact the hardware gets, one thing remains always true – the most basic and primitive computer can fully simulate the most ‘sophisticated’ one.


  2. Ah, Chris, there you are!

    Theoretically, you are correct – in so far as Turing completeness goes. The assumptions are that the aliens use interoperable methods of computing, not just relevant algorithms and/or instruction sets. While it’s feasible that systems using similar logic could interface, it would be wrong to assume that we could even understand their way of doing things.

    Until we get quantum computing nailed once and for all, we’re stuck with maths that has been around since George Boole first had a pop at binary algebra for shits and giggles. I reckon that if those aliens were doing long-haul time travel, they’d have something a little more advanced.

    And yes, you can emulate anything on anything theoretically but anyone who’s tried early versions of WINE on Linux or virtual machines without expensive tools will know that the science takes years to perfect – and that’s with all our logic systems being exactly the same.

    And Apple Powerbooks are toys for girls (that may have been a little subjective). 😉

  3. But I will ask, if Goldblum had used a ZX81 *and* a 16K RAM pack, might he have been able succesfully to interface then? 😉

  4. I think I’m going with Colin on this one. Although in defence of Chris’s viewpoint (and also referring back to Colin’s original post), aliens that want to play Battle of Britain rather than just reorganize our molecules probably do use Apple Powerbooks. 😀

  5. Hi Colin/James/Nick,

    “We’re stuck with maths that has been around since George Boole first had a pop at binary algebra for shits and giggles. I reckon that if those aliens were doing long-haul time travel, they’d have something a little more advanced.”

    Well, I guess that the aliens could have better technology in some sense. But maths and logic are not invented, but discovered. They form the universal, immutable and necessary backdrop that all God’s creatures must conform to – Pi hasn’t changed since I moved to Australia. So, I think we can make some assumptions about the aliens. Would they use a binary system? Well yes, because that is the simplest manner of representing information and the least error-prone way of transmitting it. Would a byte be eight bits? A double be 2 bytes, and so on? It’s reasonable to assume that, because sizes that are powers of two make practical sense in a binary system. In other words, the system we have is something we were driven towards rather than invented out of thin air and so would the aliens have been…Martian and Earthling would gravitate towards the same system.

    Anyhow, here’s a thought…if ET can “phone home” with a toy record player, an umbrella and a tin can, I’m happy to accept Jeff Goldblum, no less, can knock out some alien scum with an Apple Mac… 😉

  6. The binary system suffers from the fact there isn’t a third option – ‘maybe’. I really shouldn’t be getting into this argument, but isn’t that true? Isn’t that the whole point about quantum computing (and possibly the human brain)?

  7. Hi Nick,

    Computers use binary encoding but nevertheless can represent any number between 0 and 1 (at least to a certain level of grain). Then, depending on how you ‘seed’ things, generate essentially random numbers, probabilities, maybes etc. You can implement a kind of ‘fuzzy logic’ that handles indeterminacy, uncertainties and so on.

    I don’t know how much ‘Quantum Computers’ would show us about the mind. I don’t think thought is algorithmic so I still think there’s a qualitative difference between any machine cooking with a set of rules (however they do it) and the brain.

    But, true, had the aliens in ID4 had QCs Jeff Goldblum would have probably have needed a Quadcore Dell to overcome them. :-)

  8. I must say, I am more than impressed at the range of knowledge on display here, seriously. Best ask Colin to explain a little more about what you are all talking about – that might be useful. 😀

  9. Hmmm. While it is entirely possible that our little green friends would use the same binary system (and I agree with all points about numbers being discovered and the differences between Quantum Computing, fuzzy logic and the brain). However, the number systems we have discovered and used so far may well not be everything. As the BBC would say: ‘Other numbering systems are available.’ When we take into account the practicalities of stuff like string theory and the associated 14-dimensional space things occupy, we can easily see how prior norms become hopelessly outdated.

    Even with porting technologies or interpreters or emulators, coping with a computational system we are unable to even imagine would be tricky to say the least.

    Everyone compares Independence Day with War of the Worlds, and for my money, WotW‘s ending is far and away a more elegant solution. Preferable, not least of all, because I like the fact that despite trying to kick seven shades out of the Martians, all was lost until they got the sniffles. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

    PS. Chrome’s spellcheck forced me to capitalize ‘Martians’:-O

    PPS. I don’t rate ET that much either, to be honest.

    PPPS. Quadcore Dell – you kill me. :-)

  10. The more I think about the possible differences between aliens and ourselves, and the more I think about ET, that scene where the wrinkly alien touches a child’s face with his red throbbing “finger” really starts to worry me. :-)

  11. I think I’m losing the ID4 argument so, moving on… 😉

    I’m suprised that no-one has mentioned Stallone’s tortured soliloquy at the end of First Blood (1982), with Richard Crenna wincing over every syllable. That was hideous.

  12. Hey Col,

    You, Chris and Nick have already blinded me with science in this quite excellent thread – mind explaining that ‘mind-bleach’ reference to me, pretty please? 😉

  13. Mind bleach is the tonic I need now having just watched Thor (2011), candidate for blandest film ever made.

    Thor is everything that is wrong about Hollywood today; no story, boring, CGI dominated, and editing (usually of CGI) that tries to make you feel like you’re watching something when it’s just a blur of crap frames. Needless to say, I was less than impressed. :-)

  14. Well, Nick, I haven’t seen it, and definitely won’t now, but I have to enquire as to what you expected, knowing that it was directed by Kenneth Branagh? Branagh, fact fans, also directed Sleuth (2007), which gets mine and Colin’s personal nods for the worst remake of all time. He’s really made the transition well from actor to director, don’t you think? 😉

  15. Being film reviewers, James and Colin have a God-given duty to watch all potentially dreadful films in order to report back to their readership whether they are dreadful or not.

    And here is James, trying to get out of it.

    By refusing to see Thor he is disregarding a duty of care towards his audience. Shocking. :-)

  16. But Chris, I just don’t have the talent to defend utterly dreadful films like you do – I look forward to your reply, which will doubtless give me the impetus to provide a list for all the happy Picturenose readers, to detail just how bad your ‘No, I really loved that film actually’ choices have been in the past. Hey, maybe that should be Picturnose’s next list – ’10 *Really* Bad Films That Chris Really Loves, Actually’? 😉

    Of course, Independence Day will not feature, as I loved that one too, which means that it is OK to defend it, fair enough? 😉

  17. Chris,

    What do you mean “just heard”? Now that Bond is very much back in the mix, following two quite *superb* films starring Daniel Craig, they were always going to make another and, as long as the films make money, they always will, so sorry. :-) Rumour is that the new one may be based to a certain extent on one of Fleming’s remaining short stories, 007 in New York, and it would appear that just about anyone who’s anyone will be appearing in it and directing it. Bring it on, say I… 😉

  18. “…it would appear that just about anyone who’s anyone will be appearing in it”

    Ha, yeah – Timex, Mercedes Benz, Apple Mac. Everyone. I’m sure Bond will have a laser-beam gadget in his spanking new iPhone 5 that the camera will fawn over in close-up. Otherwise, it won’t be half the movie the last one was… :-)

  19. Yeah, like, ‘whatever’… 😉 Just live with it, my old friend – as Orson Welles once said of Sherlock Holmes: “He is the man who never lived, and will never die.” And product-placement has been in Bond since day one – strange that you should start objecting to it now, after nearly 50 years of the films? How so? 😉

  20. Hey Chris, Nick

    On another note, have you seen The Thing (2011) yet? It’s not out in Belgium until 2 November, but it was released worldwide, by and large, on 14 October – user reviews on IMDB thus far have been fairly glowing, professional critics less so, but it is interesting, don’t you think, that that was very much how it was with Carpenter’s version? I can’t wait to see it – would love to know your thoughts if you already have.

  21. And, to be fair Nick, I have just remembered, it is not out in the UK until early December, but I believe it has been released in Oz, is that right Chris?

  22. “I believe it has been released in Oz, is that right Chris?”

    It has just opened in Brisbane, so I might pop along next weekend. However, the remake of Footloose (1984) has also just opened. Hmmm, tricky one… 😉

    Are film buffs in Europe getting excited about Prometheus (2012)? Or are you, like me, worried that Mr. Scott will bugger it up?

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