When it comes to making audiences laugh, there are few tools in the filmmaker’s arsenal as efficient as embarrassment. Putting characters into situations where they are utterly humiliated obviously speaks to some deeply sadistic part of the human psyche, as it’s been a staple of comedy for many years. Some go beyond this, though: some movie scenes are just so awkward that they actually make the audience feel uncomfortable.
Making a viewer feel uncomfortable by putting characters in particularly awkward movie scenes is something of an art. Their humiliation needs to be absolute, their situation both dire and entirely relatable. It’s a delicate and somewhat distressing tightrope, but some movies walk it perfectly.
We’ve collected some of the most memorably awkward and uncomfortable movie scenes in history. Some are rooted in our protagonist’s poor luck, while others are more a cast of deliberate humiliation. One thing’s for certain though: all of the following scenes make us cringe with every viewing.
7. (Fancy Dress) Party – Legally Blonde (2001)
There are few movie protagonists as lovable and endearing as Elle Woods, Legally Blonde‘s deceptively intelligent law student. However, her fellow students don’t seem to agree, because they’re out to prove she doesn’t belong at Harvard. Unfortunately for them, they’re wrong, so they instead just try to humiliate her enough to scare her off.
When Elle gets invited to a campus party, she’s told it’s fancy dress. She dons her best, pinkest, and most revealing bunny costume, and struts into the party with her characteristic confidence. Then she sees that no one else is dressed up. Awkward.
This scene ranks below the others for one simple reason: it barely fazes Elle. Like the total badass she is, she shrugs it off and enjoys the party anyway. However, this particular scenario is one that haunts our nightmares, because we’re certain we wouldn’t pull it off as well as Elle Woods. We just aren’t that cool.