WMD: Gut-punching movies

This week over on Geek Bits, the ‘Weapon of Mass Discussion’ topic was quite an interesting one. “What movie or movies have left you feeling like you’d been punched in the gut?” Since this was one of my topic suggestions I emailed to the boys a while back, and since I am experiencing a bit of a writer’s block at the moment, I’m going to steal it.

For a movie to leave me feeling “punched in the gut,” it doesn’t have to be a sad movie. It has to leave me feeling like I’d just experienced something amazing, special, awe-inspiring. The Geek Bits boys had several good examples. This is my list.

Haley Joel Osment may have seen dead people, but I totally did not see the end of this movie coming.

1. The Sixth Sense

This is the movie that inspired this topic in the first place. I did not see The Sixth Sense in the theater. I did not rent it straight away when it came out. Somehow, I managed to stay completely in the dark about the ending between the time it came out and the time I eventually rented it. Because I totally did not see that ending coming. Normally I can predict how a movie will end. The Prestige? Totally saw that one coming. The Village? I’d read the book M. Night Shyamalan stole his idea from. But The Sixth Sense? At the big reveal, I was literally left gasping at the plot twist. No other movie has ever surprised me like that. Sure, I may have been a little bit drunk while watching it for the first time, but that was really the first time I had felt a movie had really packed a punch.

2. The Matrix

The combination of the amazing special effects and the idea that the world around us isn’t real but rather a virtual reality really blew me away. Of course, the special effects pioneered by The Matrix are old hat now, but at the time I was awe-struck by the time-freezing technique used in the movie. I remember leaving the theater and standing in the parking lot, looking around at the world and wondering if it were really real. It left me hungering for more. Too bad the sequels sucked.

3. Sliding Doors

Though this movie predates The Sixth Sense, I didn’t see it until years later, renting it on DVD. If you’ve never seen this movie, you should. It’s an amazing concept. Two sides of the same story are shown almost simultaneously — parallel views of a woman’s life depending on whether or not she caught the train. In one reality, her life is seemingly perfect. In the other, not so much. But being happy doesn’t always lead to a happy ending. It’s a feel-good movie with a twist, and one that was exceedingly well done.

4. The Reaping

This is a gut-punching movie for two reasons. And it’s kind of hard to explain why without giving away the plot. The story revolves around a small town where the 10 biblical plagues are destroying the town and the people in it. The cause appears to be a young girl, a child of the devil. The twist at the end would have made this a great movie if it had ended right before the last scene, and the second twist. I had been really enjoying the movie — to which I was dragged to see — up to that point, and when the second twist occurred, I wanted to throw popcorn at the screen in protest. No other movie has made me change my mind about it that quickly before. (Though I still wish the second twist hadn’t happened.)

5. Transformers

I’ve said it before. When I saw the first Transformers movie for the first time, I cried when Optimus Prime spoke for the first time. That voice was a sweet, fun memory from childhood. And the visual effects of the transforming vehicles were so stunning, I almost expected the cars in the parking lot to transform when I left the theater. It was a remake of a childhood favorite done right, which turned it into one of my favorite movies of all time.

6. Star Trek

I was really doubtful when I heard they were making a Star Trek prequel. I wasn’t sure if it would be any good, though I was pleased that Zachary Quinto was picked to play Spock. But the hype around the movie was huge and the trailers looked pretty good. And since I was a huge Star Trek fan, I decided to give it a shot. I left the theater in a daze. That’s when I realized J.J. Abrams was a true cinematic genius. And that he had some serious BALLS to turn the whole of Trek history on its head and not piss off the Star Trek crowd. Bravo, Mr. Abrams. Bravo.

There have been other movies over the years that have left an emotional impact — The Boy Who Could Fly, Star Wars, Labyrinth, The Little Mermaid — but none of these ever really surprised me or left me feeling that the world was just a little bit different now that I had seen them.

So now I pose the question to you. Which movies have you seen over the years that have left you feeling as though you had been punched in the gut?

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