Buttery popcorn, reclining seats, and the big screen keep us trekking back to movie theaters but watching a movie at home has advantages. Namely, the ability to hit pause whenever you want. And, boy, are there some scenes worth pausing for.
Inside jokes, Easter eggs, marketing ploys, conspiracy theories, fanservice, and silly mistakes all make us wanna take a second look.
We’re gonna see what makes people hit pause and take the “moving” out of moving picture, without further ado, let’s investigate ten movie scenes that get paused the most.
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10. Dead Munchkins or Living Birds?
At number 10, L. Frank Baum’s classic “The Wizard of Oz” has inspired a number of darker spinoffs and conspiracy theories. So it’s hardly surprising that this iconic movie has a much-paused and hotly debated scene.
It takes place as Dorothy and her friends leave Munchkinland. Urban legend states that in the forest background, a shadowy figure swings from a rope. Did a technician die while filming? Or was a suicidal Munchkin always intended for the story’s background?
Early VHS versions show that it’s a living bird, not a dead Munchkin. So the shadowy figure on the rope is a hoax. But given the Wicked Witch’s depressing reign, maybe a suicidal Munchkin makes for a deeper story.
9. Sex and the Simba
At number 9, Disney movies are not just for kids. Plenty of sexy adult extras find their way into these magical animations.
In the original “Lion King,” Simba falls to the ground and stirs up some dust, which floats into the sky and sparkles like a constellation. Rumors abound that in a certain frame, the starry dust spells out the word SEX.
Tom Sito, a Disney animator, agrees that the dust forms letters–but not the ones you’re thinking of. He insists the letters are actually S F X, a tribute to the special effects team.
Apparently Disney got sick of all the controversy, so it looks like they actually cut the dusty letters out of later releases. However, we can repause and debate all we want about the original VHS. It only takes one line to turn an F into an E. In this case, it’s a world of difference.
8. Head Banging
At number 8, “The Lion King”s most-paused scene honors its special effects department. But Star Wars Episode IV’s most paused scene might have given its team extra work.
In this scene, a Stormtrooper bangs his head on a closing door. You can even see him rubbing the sore spot as he continues marching. Supposedly this was a mistake in the original cut. But George Lucas liked it so much that he not only kept the head banging, he added a sound effect in the remastered version to emphasize it.
7. Han Shot First
At number 7, Of course, not all of George Lucas’ remastering decisions went over well. Everyone knows that Han Solo kills fellow bounty hunter Greedo. The controversy is: Who shot first?
In the original theatrical release and early VHS’s, Han shoots first in a cloud of gun smoke. In the remastered version, red blaster marks show that Greedo shoots first and misses. George Lucas thought this would make Han Solo more honorable.
Most fans and Star Wars actors insist that the original is correct. We love Han best when he’s quick on the draw.
6. Avengers Not Yet Assembled
At number 6, With Marvel movies dominating theaters, it’s hard to remember that at one time, the idea of an MCU was rather audacious. When Iron Man first came out, most audiences didn’t anticipate the sheer number of Marvel movies that would follow.
That’s probably why this Iron Man scene now gets paused so often. As Pepper Potts visits Tony’s lab, we can glimpse a prototype of Captain America’s shield. The scene remains special because it was one of the first real hints that many more Marvel characters and movies would follow. And no one can keep track of all the Easter Eggs that Marvel’s laid since then. This was just one of the first.
5. Last Minute Fly
At number 5, Of course, not all pausable moments are clever or preplanned. Some of them were mistakes. Or so we hope.
Shortly before the credits roll for “Teen Wolf,” an extra can be seen zipping up their jeans. They’re holding a jacket in one hand and their fly is only barely in the camera frame. So you’d think they could have done it more discreetly. Well, their face isn’t showing, so we’ll never learn their name, much less their thought process.
4. Don’t Talk About Brad Pitt
At number 4, By contrast, getting into a character’s head leads us to a series of pausable moments in “Fight Club.” These were definitely planned to subconsciously tell us that Edward Norton’s character is insane.
Before Brad Pitt’s character is formally introduced, he appears in a couple of blink-and-you-miss it frames. And we mean that literally–if you don’t hit pause, you’ll see nothing but a flash of red. He also appears longer, but even more subtly, as an extra in a TV commercial that Edward Norton’s watching. These appearances foreshadow that Brad Pitt isn’t real–he’s always been a presence in Edward Norton’s head.
3. The Ghost and the Baby
At number 3, Equally creepy but less intentional, “Three Men and a Baby”’s most pausable moment is less about character psychology and more about lazy set direction.
As the landlady happily takes the baby girl, we can see a creepy image of a boy standing in the window. Theories about his identity range from peeping Tom to ghost. In reality, it was a cardboard cutout and had no business being on set for an eighties comedy. Whoops. At least the baby girl has one less thing to worry about.
2. Sharon Stone T-shirts
At number 2, Everybody knows that sex sells. It’s not Earth-shattering news that scenes of women exposing themselves get paused frequently. But “Basic Instinct” takes this to a whole new level.
Sharon Stone’s character famously distracts her interrogators by uncrossing her legs. It works equally well on audience members. This remains the single most-paused scene in movie history.
We have to give Sharon Stone credit. She’s able to joke about how iconic the scene has become. She even stated that while traveling in Israel, she ran into a boy who happened to be wearing a T-shirt of the scene. Stone thought it was so funny that she took a picture with him and shared it on a Conon O’Brien interview. “Basic Instinct” was a thriller, but she enjoys laughing it.
1. Horrifying List
At number 1, Speaking of comedy, up next is “Cabin in the Woods.” The movie makes fun of horror tropes while still giving the audience a good scare.
This blend of horror and humor stands out in the whiteboard scene. The board lists every terrifying monster the scientists can unleash. Pausing to actually read the list of nightmares reveals some questionable choices. In addition to witches, werewolves, and zombies, the list includes merman, Sugar Plum Fairy, Snowman, and angry molesting tree. What?
As you can see, reasons for pausing movie scenes vary as much as the movies themselves. And as technology evolves, even the pausing itself becomes a different game. Depending on whether you pause the VHS, Netflix, pirated stream, or DVD, you may see a different image and thus a different story. How does that make you feel about movies? Or video in general?
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