Freeze Frame: The Most Paused Movie Moments
Any great scene in a movie demands to be watched again and again, right? Plus, watching movies at home gives you the chance to catch all the details you may have missed in the theater.
Whether it’s a racy scene with your screen crush, a blooper you missed or a funny Easter egg in a frame jam-packed with visuals, some scenes deserve repeated viewing. Curated by hardcore film fans, this list features some of the most popular paused movie moments in pop-culture history.
Star Wars: Stormtrooper Head Bump
It’s the most famous blooper in the original Star Wars: A New Hope. As Luke and Han are out trying to rescue Leia, C-3PO and R2D2 lock themselves inside a room. Suddenly, stormtroopers arrive to investigate.
Keep in mind, in 1977, the stormtroopers hadn’t yet earned a reputation as the bumbling gang that could never seem to shoot straight. As the supposedly scary villains enter the shot, one bangs his head on the low archway. Lucky for fans, George Lucas never “fixed” this funny gaffe in the Special Edition.
Deadpool 2: The Not So Invisible Man
In Deadpool 2, Deadpool goes to great lengths to recruit mutants (and Peter) for his intrepid X-Force. Their first mission was to parachute into harm’s way on a rescue mission. It couldn’t have failed more spectacularly, with almost every member of the team dying in unlikely mishap after mishap.
The “invisible man” mutant gets blown by high winds into a power line, electrocuting him. The electricity coursing through his body makes him visible, and for a few short seconds, we see…it’s Brad Pitt! One of the best cameos ever!
Ready Player One: Every Car You Remember from Childhood
In Ready Player One, the entire movie is a virtual love letter to everything from ’80’s and ’90’s pop culture. One scene pops out early in the film — when all the race cars are gathered for the racing challenge.
At the starting line and throughout the race, you see virtually every car from Generation X’s childhood. A partial list includes the Batmobile from the live-action Batman series, the van from the A-Team, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, Mad Max’s Interceptor, Stephen King’s Christine and the Mach 5 from Speed Racer. Vroom!
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Who Cast the Patronus?
There are many pause-worthy moments in the Harry Potter film series. One of them is the epic “Silver Stag” scene in the Prisoner of Azkaban. As the “Chosen One” is clinging to life, someone casts a stag Patronus to save him from the soul-sucking dementors. Who is the hero behind the spell?
All audiences could see was a dark figure across the lake. Some fans thought it was Professor Severus Snape, but his Patronus is actually a doe. Potter believed the “figure” was his own dad. Spoiler alert: Fans learned that it was truly Harry Potter himself. Cue the mind-blowing explosions.
Basic Instinct: “That” Scene
Paul Verhoeven, the director of Basic Instinct, was already no stranger to controversy, but his choices in this movie seemed to be deliberately engineered to shock unsuspecting audiences. In “that” scene — you know the one — the suspected killer, Catherine Tramell, is questioned by the cops.
Instead of being intimidated, she seems entertained and taunts them by crossing and uncrossing her legs, flashing them unexpectedly in the process. This flummoxes the cops, who aren’t sure whether she’s mocking them or flirting with them. Detective Nick Curran risks a torrid romance with her, even though it could end with an ice pick in his chest.
The Cabin in the Woods: The Whiteboard of Death
The Cabin in the Woods is a genius deconstruction of horror films — and a great horror film itself. The workers in the underground office have a strange job (spoiler alert): engineer horror scenarios to kill innocent teens in human sacrifices to prevent the end of the world. It all starts with a cabin in the woods, but the scenario is different every time.
What’s it gonna be this time? Redneck zombies? Dismemberment goblins? An angry molesting tree? (Yep, that’s on there.) In this scene, they keep track on a whiteboard and place grisly bets.
Three Men and a Baby: Spooky Boy
For the longest time, an urban legend claimed the ghost of a young boy was unexpectedly caught on film peeking from behind the curtains in a scene in Three Men and a Baby. The truth was something far less spooky. It was actually a standee prop of Ted Danson.
His character is an actor in the story, so it was supposed to be a leftover cardboard “standee” cutout from a commercial job he worked on. The prop was accidentally left in the scene, and the weird legend was born.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: They Go Way Back
When it comes to making films, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are a partnership made in heaven, as evidenced by the incredible Raiders of the Lost Ark. As a gag, they often put hidden Easter eggs in shots that reference each other’s work.
What’s an example? In one scene, viewers can make out C-3PO and R2D2 in the hieroglyphics on the left pillar (right above the eye). Spielberg also placed a costumed Yoda in E.T., and Lucas returned the favor by including aliens from E.T.’s race in The Phantom Menace.
Avengers Endgame: All Hands on Duck
As far as superhero movies go, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying scene than when the cavalry arrives to fight Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. Just as Thor, Iron Man and Captain America imagine they are beaten, Dr. Strange’s portals appear, and every single Marvel hero from the last 20 movies comes pouring in.
This includes all the Asgardians, all the warriors from Wakanda and heroes that just got snapped back to life. It also includes, of all things, Howard the Duck! Howard arrives packing a gun and ready to party.
TRON: Pac-Man Has Entered the Grid
TRON was the first movie that used mostly computer-generated graphics, a technique that later became standard fare for special effects. In a movie about a genius hacker sucked into a computer world to play video games in first person gladiatorial style combat, it seemed appropriate that some reference to popular video games of the era would pop up.
In this scene, big bad Sark examines the “game grid” to try and corner the heroes. Fans immediately spotted Pac-Man, who was still hugely popular at the time, on the grid.
Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan Is Dr. Mantastic
Watchmen was adapted from a graphic novel that imagined an alternate 1985, where superheroes actually existed and had real human problems. Among those heroes was Dr. Manhattan, a being of such immense power that he was practically a god.
Dr. Manhattan was once a human scientist who gained his abilities as part of a horrible lab accident. Once superpowered, his perspective changed, and he no longer cared about things like emotions or clothes. Thus, the first full-frontal nude male superhero was born, walking around “au naturel” for most of the film.
Aliens: It’s Game Over Man
It’s a tense moment in the movie Aliens when the remaining heroes, led by Hicks and Ripley, are holed up in a room deep within the facility. Their motion detector tells them the aliens are closing in — so close they should be inside the room — but they can’t see them. It finally dawns on them to check the crawl space above.
Hicks takes a look, and through his eyes, the audience gets the first clear shot of a group of aliens advancing together at the same time. From that point, it’s guns blazing until the end.
The Usual Suspects: The Bulletin Board of Lies
The Usual Suspects has one of the best climaxes in any thriller from the ’90s. It’s that beautiful moment when Detective Kujan stares at the bulletin board and realizes that Verbal Kint has been snowing him for the last hour and a half.
The barbershop quartet in Skokie, Illinois? Redfoot? Picking beans in Guatemala? The lawyer Kobayashi? All made up from gazing at the papers on his bulletin board and the bottom of his coffee cup. A stupefied Kujan realizes he had Keyser Soze right in front of him all along.
Dangerous Liaisons: Up Close and Personal
Uma Thurman was already an established actress with great credits under her belt, but it wasn’t until Pulp Fiction that her fame was launched into the stratosphere. New fans who didn’t know her past work fell in love with her watching Dangerous Liaisons (1988), the film with her first topless scene.
Thurman plays Cécile, a naive young woman who gets seduced by Valmont as part of a larger plot to seduce two other people. In a brazen move, he sneaks into her room in the middle of the night and talks her into sleeping with him.
Star Trek: Where No Astromech Droid Has Gone Before
J.J. Abrams’ winning pitch for the reboot of Star Trek was to make it more like Star Wars. That meant more high-octane action, explosions and lens flares than anyone had ever seen in a Star Trek movie before.
In the scene where the Enterprise comes out of warp speed into a field of starship wreckage, Captain Pike initiates emergency maneuvers to avoid the debris. As he’s banking the ship, eagle-eyed fans noticed R2-D2 floating by, surrounded by other bits of space junk. It wasn’t logical, but fans loved it.
Fight Club: I Am Jack’s Coffee Cup
Fight Club was a breakthrough film on many levels, and many people have written about the layers of meaning in the film. One of the coolest details that has been overlooked, even by the most intense fans, is the prevalence of Starbucks coffee cups throughout the film.
Director David Fincher put a Starbucks coffee cup or logo in almost every shot in the film. Some speculate it was done to reinforce that we’re all under corporate control, following corporate rules and addicted to corporate products. It’s a symbol of the world Fight Club wants to destroy.
Deadpool: Credit Where Credit Is Due
Ryan Reynolds spent years trying to get the Deadpool movie made, and when it was finally released, it proved to be worth the wait. The movie starts its irreverent R-rated poke at the superhero genre right from the opening credits, which themselves are a spoof. In case you didn’t notice, it stars “a perfect idiot,” “a hot chick” and “a CGI character” and is produced by “a**hats.”
Quite pleased with themselves, the writers grace themselves with “written by the real heroes here” in the pictured shot. The popular gag was repeated in the opening credits for the sequel.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Another Old Fossil
Spielberg continues paying homage to Lucas’ Star Wars characters in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. As Indiana Jones makes his daring escape from the club in Shanghai, we see the name of the club on the marquee: OBIWAN.
It’s irony at its best. In Star Wars, Harrison Ford’s Han Solo asks Luke where he “dug up that old fossil” in reference to Obi-Wan when they’re trying to escape the Death Star. In Temple of Doom, Ford’s Indiana Jones digs up old fossils and tries to escape death at club Obiwan.
Scanners: Killer Headache
The movie Scanners has a shocking head explosion that is still infamous among horror fans. Back in 1981, there was no such thing as CGI in movies, so everything had to be done with practical effects. Pulling off a believable head explosion was no small feat.
In this scene, a presenter from the ConSec corporation attempts to showcase his telepathic abilities on a volunteer, Darryl Revok, who he doesn’t know is also telepathic. When he attempts to scan Revok, Revok pushes back, and the presenter’s head explodes in spectacular fashion.
The Exorcist: The Demon’s Face
The Exorcist was a surprise hit for its time, and it’s widely considered to be one of the most terrifying stories ever filmed to this day. The demon itself is mostly unseen and only demonstrated indirectly through the suffering of Regan.
In one super creepy moment in the film, Regan’s mother, Chris, investigates the dark attic where she thinks she heard a strange noise. She takes a candle for light, and for a split second, she sees the face of the demon in the darkness before her candle flares into a torch.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Naughty Students
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was hailed as one of the best movies in the series, initiating a stylistic departure and a darker turn than the previous films. One of the magical tools in the film is the Marauder’s Map, which shows every room in Hogwarts and every person’s live location by name.
Respective locations of people were marked by little footprints that moved around. In the end credits, two pairs of footprints were intimately placed in the corner, indicating two students were “getting it on.”
The Departed: X Marks the Shot
Scorsese is a masterful director who made another hit film with The Departed. In it, he plays a fun visual trick that makes the movie worth rewatching. Every time a character is about to die, a prominent “X” is seen somewhere in the scene. Sometimes, it’s a pattern on the floor or tape marks; sometimes, it’s crosshatched beams or something on a wall.
This foreshadowing was intended to pay homage to classic director Howard Hawks. He used the same technique in the original Scarface released in 1936.
The Rescuers: The Banned Scene
Somehow, a photographic image of a topless woman appeared in a few frames of Disney’s The Rescuers, prompting Disney to recall the home video version of the movie in 1999 in order to get ahead of a potential scandal. About 38 minutes into the movie when Bianca and Bernard take a steep dive on the albatross, the woman can be seen in the background through a window.
It’s too fast to be seen unless you pause the film (and it’s not included in this image). Disney later maintained someone deliberately inserted the image onto the theatrical print in post-production.
Interstellar: Through the Wormhole
There’s a lot of buildup in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. At the center of the plot is a wormhole in space, a sort of warping of space-time that can allow anything that travels through it to shortcut instantly across great distances — in this case, 10 billion light-years.
Special effects artists put in a lot of research to get the visuals of wormhole travel right, using real scientists as consultants. The effect captured on film is a dazzling visual experience worth watching a few times just to savor the grandeur of it.
Frozen: It’s a Small World
Many Disney fans have speculated about how the different Disney princesses might be connected. In Frozen, Disney spells it out directly with a fun cameo. Near the beginning of the film, after the castle has been opened to throw a giant party and Anna is singing “For the First Time in Forever,” she passes by Rapunzel and her boyfriend, Eugene.
It’s easy to miss because Rapunzel is still sporting her brown, shorn locks from the end of Tangled. This may have been a low-key way of announcing that all Disney princesses share the same universe.
Return of the Jedi: Ill-Fated Dancer
In Return of the Jedi, everyone in Jabba’s palace knows about the trap door in the floor that leads to the savage, hungry Rancor beneath. Oola, the Twi’lek slave dancer, infuriates Jabba by refusing his advances, so he sends her falling through the floor into the dungeon.
In the original, Oola wears a revealing outfit and suffers a wardrobe malfunction, briefly exposing her chest before falling. For the Special Edition, Lucas changed her wardrobe, replaced the band and reshot the entire sequence, correcting the “error.” Most thought the changes were unnecessary.
Terminator 2: The Fate of the T-1000
Still considered the best Terminator movie by legions of fans, Terminator 2: Judgement Day more than holds its own as a sci-fi classic. In the climax of the film, the T-1000 and the old-school Terminator have an epic showdown inside a steel factory, with the Terminator seemingly down for the count.
Just as all seems lost, the Terminator comes back and shoots an explosive shell into the T-1000, blowing him in bits into a vat of molten metal. The T-1000 shapeshifts into every identity it has assumed in the story before it finally melts away.
An intense movie, Apocalypto isn’t for everyone. However, no matter what you might say about director Mel Gibson, you can’t say he doesn’t have a sense of humor. In one scene, where the hero Jaguar Paw is running from his enemies in a warring tribe, he stumbles into a pit of dead bodies.
In the transition where the shot cuts to his pursuers, there are a few brief frames of…Waldo. Yes, that Waldo, from the Where’s Waldo children’s books. Why? No one has the slightest clue.
Watchmen: Bruce Wayne Never Becomes Batman
In the opening credits, Watchmen clearly spells out that the heroes in its universe stopped Batman from ever existing. While it seems like a cheesy shot of an armed criminal getting punched out by the Nite Owl, a closer look says something different.
First, the couple in the background looks suspiciously like Thomas and Martha Wayne, Batman’s parents. The posters on the wall say “Fledermaus” (an opera known as Revenge of the Bat) and Batman. The imagery implies that Thomas and Martha are rescued from being murdered, eliminating the need for Bruce to become Batman.
The Cabin in the Woods: The Monster Menagerie
The Cabin in the Woods earns extra points for trying to visually include every favorite monster from horror films. Dana and stoner Marty find themselves in a weird elevator descending through a nightmarish menagerie of cubes containing every horror creature imaginable.
Monsters include a werewolf, a wraith, a Hellraiser knock-off, a monster ballerina, a giant parasitic worm, a scary clown, murderous twins, a giant insect — and the list goes on. To escape their captors, the pair violently releases all the monsters at the same time, which causes complete mayhem.
Jurassic World: The Margarita Man
Jurassic Park taught us that bringing back dinosaurs is a terrible idea. Jurassic World showed us that humans haven’t learned anything from their mistakes because they open a dinosaur theme park. To no one’s surprise, the dinos escape their cages and attack guests.
However, one character stood out the most during the attack: The man heroically saving two margaritas. As he’s running away with the drinks, he appears to take a sip out of one of them. It’s understandable because food and drinks at theme parks are expensive! The hero is really singer Jimmy Buffett, who wrote the song “Margaritaville.”
Signs: The First Time We See the Alien
Signs starred Mel Gibson, whose character lives on a remote farm with his son and daughter. The film teased audiences with large crop circles, strange clicking noises and mysterious, dark figures hiding in the cornfields. But we didn’t see the actual creatures that were tormenting the family until the middle of the film.
The evil aliens appeared for the first time in a recording of a child’s birthday party. But the moment went by so fast! Of course, viewers had to rewind and pause to get a better look at the alien invaders.
Toy Story 3: References From an Iconic Horror Film
Believe it or not, children’s film Toy Story 3 has a disturbing reference from the not so family-friendly film, The Shining. When you pause the scene of Woody rescuing Buzz from Sid’s house, take a look at the carpet. Does it look familiar?
It should. You can find the same carpet on the floors of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. The carpet isn’t the only creepy reference. In fact, there are several mentions of the infamous Room 237 throughout the Toy Story series.
Star Wars – The Phantom Menace: E.T.s Make a Cameo
Did E.T. really go home? No one knows, but audiences can clearly see him and his squad in the Star Wars prequel, Episode I – The Phantom Menace. In the scene, three E.T.s sit in a pod during one of the galactic senate meetings.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were known for hiding references in each other’s films. But fans can’t help but speculate that E.T. might be a Jedi knight. The extraterrestrial did make a bike fly. Do you believe both movies are in the same universe?
I Am Legend: The Batman v Superman Poster Was Originally a Joke
Released in 2007, I Am Legend starred Will Smith, whose lonely character lives in a post-apocalyptic time period. After he tries hunting a deer in New York’s Times Square, the scene prominently displays an old movie poster of Batman v Superman.
What’s the big deal about this poster? In 2007, Batman v Superman was only an idea. The film wasn’t created or released until 2016 (almost 10 years later). The billboard was just a joke, but its design was used for the real movie later on.