The Most Paused Movie Scenes in Cinema

By: Calla Conway | Last updated: Jul 25, 2021

Everyone has a favorite movie moment. Whether it tugged at our hearts, gave us tears of laughter or outright dazzled us with spectacle, the greatest moments in movies are something we can all appreciate.

Plenty of times, we do that by pausing the movie to really absorb everything happening. Sometimes they come too fast. Other times there’s too much happening on screen to truly enjoy in the moment. Regardless, these are the scenes that are paused more than any other.

1. Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace

Some people love the Star Wars prequels. Others were less amused. Regardless of your own feelings, the movies were certainly sensational and a major part of pop culture for a while. They were also absolutely packed with visual stimulation.


Source: The Phantom Menace, 20th Century Fox

There’s a little Easter egg that appears during a scene in the Galactic Senate. George Lucas gives a clever nod to his friend Steven Spielberg. One group of aliens looks quite familiar and straight out of a beloved 80s movie.


2. Basic Instinct

Considering it came out in 1992, it’s fair to say that many people today haven’t seen Basic Instinct. Despite that, it has one of the most well-known pause moments of all time. Before we set the scene, it’s important to note that this is one of a few moments on the list that is not exactly safe for work.


Source: Basic Instinct, Tri-Star Pictures

In the famous scene, Sharon Stone’s character gives a flash of skin to a room full of investigators while they’re asking about her sex life. It’s a steamy moment to be sure.

3. Psycho

Psycho is a matter of film legend. It’s probably the best-known horror film of all time, and there are more than a few iconic scenes throughout the film. In the midst of all of it, there is one particular point where movie buffs have to pause to be sure of what they saw.


Source: Psycho, Paramount Pictures

At the end of the movie, when Norman Bates is in police custody, there is a close-up of his face. If you pause at the right time, you can see a skull superimposed over him. It certainly adds another dimension of creepiness to the character.

4. Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods is beloved by horror movie buffs. It’s a satirical take on classic horror movie tropes, sprinkled with some pretty heavy social commentary. Throughout the film, masterminds are orchestrating the scary events plaguing the protagonists.


Source: Cabin in the Woods, Lionsgate

At one point, there’s a quick scan of a whiteboard that lists all of the available ways for the characters to die. It goes too quickly for you to read it all in the moment, so fans of the movie have all paused to see everything on the list. There are some fun ones, and surprisingly, most of them show up at some point in the movie.

5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

The ’80s was the decade of irreverent coming-of-age movies. Fast Times may not have been the most popular, but it certainly earned its place in the annals of movie history.

Source: Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Universal Pictures

Among the many rowdy and raunchy scenes in the movie, one stands above the rest. For those in the know, that scene happens when Linda is going for a swim and gets out of the pool. The scene is certainly not safe for work and full of crude humor. It’s easy to see why it has been paused countless times over the decades.


6. Back to the Future

Back to the Future is a classic movie trilogy involving time travel. Even if more modern movies like to accuse the film of misunderstanding “real” time travel, this is the movie that originally set all of the rules.

Source: Back to the Future, Universal Pictures

The movie pays very close attention to continuity, and as such, every action taken by Marty McFly in the past seems to have consequences in his present. There are a few moments that will require you to rewind or pause to fully appreciate. For instance, after Marty crashes into a tree in the past, the mall in his own time changes its name from “Twin Pines” to “Lone Pine.” There are plenty of other changes you can find if you hunt.


7. Bohemian Rhapsody

The not-so-historical film about Freddy Mercury’s life is full of fun references, amazing moments and cameos. There’s one cameo that really stands out above the rest, and we’re not talking about Mike Myers.

Source: Bohemian Rhapsody, 20th Century Fox

The best cameo goes to the truck driver who tempts Freddy to stray from his heterosexual ways while on tour. The makeup is excellent, so you might not realize that the driver is played by Adam Lambert — who happens to be the fill-in for Freddy on modern Queen tours.


8. Passengers

Passengers was directed by Morten Tyldum, and it turns out that he loves Stanley Kubrick. Passengers was full of Easter eggs that refer to Kubrick films. You can scour the movie to find them all.

Source: Passengers, Columbia Pictures

Perhaps the best reference comes in the form of the mechanical bartender. He’s dressed directly like the bartender from The Shining. A side-by-side comparison makes it unmistakable.


9. The Rescuers

For some reason, Disney animated hits often make it to this list. It seems there were some Disney animators who reveled in hiding things in the animations that were not exactly family-friendly.

Source: The Rescuers, Walt Disney Productions

The famous scene in The Rescuers is easy to miss. As the mice are speeding down a road, the houses in the background hold a naughty image. You won’t see it unless you pause, but then you’ll wonder how it remained all these years.


10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

There are a few reasons to pause a movie. Sometimes, you miss information and want to look at it more closely. When it comes to Marvel movies, this is often the reason for the pause, and that holds true in the second Captain America movie.

Source: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios

In a key scene, Steve Rogers adds a line to a pocket notebook that he is carrying. The notebook is full of things that he supposedly missed while frozen. Fans of the movie have poured over the list in detail, and they have even noted how it changes depending on the region where the movie was marketed.


11. The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is one of the most well-known movies in cinematic history. Originally released in 1939, it has entertained multiple generations, and it helped pave the way for blockbuster cinema as we know it.

Source: The Wizard of Oz, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Having been viewed so many times, it’s no wonder that there are legends and hidden secrets within the film. The most notorious of these can be seen in a paused moment as Dorothy sets off down the yellow brick road. A strange shadow hangs in the background, and legends say that it is the tragic end of a disgruntled munchkin.


12. Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf might not have been the movie that launched Michael J. Fox’s career, but it certainly didn’t hurt. The silly take on the classic werewolf tale was fun, and Michael J. Fox killed in his role.

Source: Teen Wolf, Atlantic Releasing Corporation

The movie has plenty of scenes of teenagers being inappropriate, but one really requires you to use the pause feature to see it. At the end of the last basketball game, everyone is celebrating, and one extra seems to be doing so without as much clothing as the rest.


13. Fight Club

Fight Club took viewers on a wild ride. The movie is full of witty dialogue, crucifying social commentary and surprising twists. By the end of the film, you might have to question some of what you saw.

Source: Fight Club, 20th Century Fox

That’s because one of the characters explains how you can hide an image in a film by changing a single frame. The image will flash so quickly that viewers can’t be sure of what they saw, and this is actually how the movie introduces Brad Pitt’s character. There are other images hidden throughout the movie that require a perfectly-timed pause to view as well. Then again, you might not want to find all of them.


14. Star Wars

Star Wars is one of the most beloved films of all time. Enthusiastic fans have scoured the film frame by frame, and in so doing, they have unlocked every minutia of detail within George Lucas’s fabulous world.

Source: Star Wars, Lucasfilm Ltd.

Fans have also found silly mistakes, Easter eggs and plenty of other hidden messages. The one that really requires you to pause takes place when the characters are making their escape on the Death Star. One of the Storm Troopers seems to bonk his head on a door. It seems kind of silly, but it also adds unexpected humanity to the Empire’s often overlooked henchmen.


15. The Lion King

One of Disney’s most successful animated features of all time, The Lion King is the beloved story of a young lion coming of age and stepping out of the shadow of his impressive father. It has countless memorable scenes, but one became notorious after the movie had been out for a while.

Source: The Lion King, Walt Disney Pictures

There’s a scene where adult Simba sighs and falls onto a bunch of flowers. The petals and dust get caught on a breeze and are carried away, and as that happens, they seem to spell a certain word amid the starry night.


16. Iron Man

Iron Man is the movie that truly kicked off the entire Marvel cinematic universe. It was a surprisingly successful hit for all of those involved, but it didn’t stop the film crew from packing the movie full of little nods to the source material. Long-time Marvel fans were thrilled to find as many Easter eggs as they could.

Source: Iron Man, Marvel Studios

One that really stands out from this movie takes place when Tony Stark is struggling to remove the suit in his shop. In the background, you can see what looks like an unfinished shield with a single star on it.


17. Jurassic World

Love it or hate it, Jurassic World was a smash hit. It made a ton of money, and it brought a whole new generation to the world of Stephen Spielberg’s dinosaur park (even if he wasn’t involved with this particular film).

Source: Jurassic World, Universal Pictures

The movie made tons of sly references to the real world and really tried to capture how modern people would react to a park with real dinosaurs. Perhaps the most perfect example of this took place when loose pterodactyls are terrorizing the guests. A quick shot shows Jimmy Buffet grabbing his drinks before trying to make his escape. It’s a quick moment, but you can enjoy it longer by pausing the film.


18. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Some would call the original Indiana Jones movie a perfect film. It tells an amazing story, takes viewers on an awesome journey, and features truly inspired acting. In fact, there’s a specific scene that really is a testament to the acting chops of the cast.

Source: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lucasfilm Ltd.

There’s a moment where the film’s villain is delivering impassioned lines. Fans of the movie eventually realized that when you pause at just the right moment, you can see that a fly was crawling into his mouth during filming. It didn’t deter actor Raul Freeman’s delivery one bit.


19. Finding Dory

We’ve made it back to animated films again. Finding Dory is a sweet story about a forgetful fish, and fans of the Nemo franchise quite enjoyed it.

Source: Finding Dory, Pixar Animation Studios

Considering the source, there were bound to be references to Finding Nemo, and fans with a quick pause reflex were able to find exactly that. A fast background shot shows a picture of Darla from the original movie. It was a fun surprise for anyone who was paying especially close attention.


20. The Exorcist

The Exorcist changed the very concept of horror, and many today still consider it to be one of the scariest movies ever made. The story is classic. The effects are practical. The concept is chilling.

Source: The Exorcist, Warner Bros.

It’s no wonder that fans of the movie have combed through every scene. In their search, they found a sinister surprise waiting for them. There is a single, brief moment in the movie where the demon possessing Regan is visible. You have to pause just right to get a good look. It seems in line with the general themes of horror present throughout the movie.


21. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Arguably Will Ferrell’s biggest and best comedy, Anchorman is packed to the absolute brim with jokes. While many fans of the movie like to remark on the quick escalation of whacky moments in the film, there are plenty of jokes that are easy to miss.

Source: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Apatow Productions

One of the best is written in Spanish on a sign in the movie. You have to pause to get a good look, and for those who aren’t so good with Latin languages, here’s a translation of what you’ll find, “We spit in your food.” Yes, the sign is for a Mexican restaurant.


22. Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park is one of the all-time classic films on any list. It’s one of Spielberg’s greatest adventure stories, and it captured the hearts and minds of the whole world at one point. There are plenty of scenes to revisit and appreciate.

Source: Jurassic Park, Universal Pictures

The one on this list isn’t exactly a single pausable moment. Instead, it’s pointing out an homage that most people never really knew was in the film. The character Dennis Nedry’s appearance repeatedly references characters from The Goonies — another Speilberg classic.


23. The Matrix

The Matrix is a movie that warped minds and took the world by storm. Innovative filming techniques reshaped the action genre forevermore, and fans of the franchise invested countless hours exploring the nooks and crannies of the original film.

Source: The Matrix, Warner Bros. Pictures

In that exploration, they found something peculiar. When Neo is going to meet the Oracle, there is a really cool shot that shows him in the reflection of the doorknob. If you pause the movie and look closely, you’ll see that the filmmakers had to hide the camera in the shot with some clever trickery.


24. Zootopia

More animated movies! Zootopia is a pretty cute story about a bunny trying to make it as a police officer. It hits important themes about how people can better live together, and in all, it’s quite wholesome.

Source: Zootopia, Walt Disney Animation Studios

This movie didn’t make the list because of naughty hidden secrets. Instead, it has a couple of pausable moments that are full of great puns. The main character has a playlist, and every song on the list is a pun. The artists are also puns. So, if you want to enjoy the dad jokes, you’ll probably have to pause.


25. Deadpool 2

Considering the phenomenon that is Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, no one is surprised to learn that there are pausable secrets in his movies. Deadpool 2 features a whole new crew of supporting characters who help the “hero” on his latest quest. Tragically, most of them die immediately.

Source: Deadpool 2, 20th Century Fox

One death really stands out in the crazy scene. When an invisible character lands on a power line and is electrocuted, you can briefly see him, and he turns out to be a major cameo in the movie. It’s so fast that you can only really appreciate the cameo with a properly timed pause.


26. The Crying Game

For those of you who are familiar with this movie, you already know what’s coming. For anyone who hasn’t heard of The Crying Game before, it’s a thriller that is set in Northern Ireland during the peak of The Troubles. In the story, an IRA member falls in love with a woman who dated a British soldier.

Source: The Crying Game, Palace Pictures

There’s a major twist in the movie, and it shocks viewers just as much as it did the main characters. The moment is not safe for work, but it’s such a brilliant twist that many viewers have paused and rewatched it just to wrap their minds around everything.


27. Total Recall

Sometimes, you pause a movie to get more information. Other times, it’s just to fully appreciate the visual spectacle. Total Recall is an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie from the 90s, and it absolutely has one of these moments.

Source: Total Recall, Tri-Star Pictures

While the main character is trying to unravel secrets on Mars, he comes across a woman with abnormal anatomy. It’s a moment of pure shock value, and many viewers had to pause to be sure of what they just saw.


28. Scanners

Scanners is one of those movies that has a cult following strong enough to overcome its lack of fame. It’s actually the movie that launched David Cronenberg’s career, and if you know anything about him, you can rightly assume that there are intense visuals in this movie.

Source: Scanners, AVCO Embassy Pictures

Without spoiling a truly impactful moment in cinematic history, the paused moment comes when a character is suddenly subjected to some Cronenberg-style violence.


29. The Little Mermaid

Taking a hard left turn from Cronenberg movies, Disney’s The Little Mermaid has a pause-worthy moment of its own. As you might expect from an animated feature of this film, the moment in question is not entirely kid-friendly.

Source: The Little Mermaid, Walt Disney Pictures

If you remember the story, Ariel is transformed from mermaid to human, and hijinks ensue. When she first comes ashore, she hasn’t yet learned about pants. Needless to say, she was animated in a bit more detail than you might expect for a kid’s movie.


30. Tron

Tron might have been the first true cult classic. Fans of the movie adored it so much that they got a sequel more than 20 years after the original film was released. With such a dedicated fanbase, you can bet that they found some fun secrets in the film.

Source: Tron, Walt Disney Productions

One such moment happens when you can see a game of Pacman unexpectedly appear on one of the screens. It’s brief and hard to catch, but it’s a nice little surprise for anyone watching closely.


31. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Once again, we find ourselves contemplating surprisingly adult drawings in movies that were marketed to children. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a great fusion of animation and live-action, but few remember much about it. The movie was stolen by Roger Rabbit’s wife, Jessica.

Source: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Touchstone Pictures

During a scene that really plays into her . . . curvy design, the animators reveal quite a bit more than you might expect.


32. Man of Steel

Henry Cavill’s first turn at playing Superman was fairly successful. The movie had absolutely dazzling action and took a unique take on the classic comic book hero. Throughout the action sequences, there are countless Easter eggs and references.

Source: Man of Steel, Warner Bros. Pictures

At one moment, you see a satellite become collateral damage. If you pause the movie and tilt your head, you can see who made the satellite, and it’s a nice allusion to another famous D.C. character.


33. Signs

There was a period of time in the early 2000s where M. Night Shyamalan was the hottest director around. In his third movie, Signs, the characters face off against an alien invasion. It was a modern take on classic horror, and it had some great jump scares.

Source: Signs, Touchstone Pictures

One jump scare happens when the characters are watching the news. Nothing eventful happens in the scene, but it still elicits a good scare. It’s the first time any of the aliens can be seen in the daylight. The footage is grainy, but many viewers paused for a better look all the same.


34. Toy Story 3

When most people remember Toy Story 3, they think of the nearly tragic ending or the bittersweet finish to the film. It’s certainly a touching movie, but there’s something else that mega fans have pointed out that the rest of us can appreciate.

Source: Toy Story 3, Pixar Animation Studios

At one point in the movie, a garbage man comes to empty a can, and if you pay close attention, you can see that he was in the first movie too and is all grown up now.


35. Pulp Fiction

The film that made Quentin Tarantino a household name has many memorable moments. Whether it’s classic witty dialogue, shocking moments of gruesome violence or Uma Thurman’s dance moves, everybody has a favorite part.

Source: Pulp Fiction, Miramax Films

But, none of those are the most paused moments. That moment occurs when Bruce Willis is on the screen. He steps out of the shower in the buff, and legends say that if you pause it just right, you can see everything.


36. Beauty and the Beast

Another classic Disney film is here. What are you expecting? Well, this one is quite a bit more innocent than other moments on the list. This 90s classic has a pause-worthy moment that foreshadows the ending of the movie.

Source: Beauty and the Beast, Walt Disney Pictures

When Gaston goes to storm Beast’s castle, there’s a brief flash of his eyes. If you’ve never paused, you won’t know this, but during that flash, you can see a skull reflected in his pupils.


37. Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights is a movie about porno production. The characters make and star in X-rated films. As such, you can expect plenty of not-safe-for-work moments.

Source: Boogie Nights, New Line Cinema

There is one moment that clearly stands out above the rest. Mark Whalberg’s character is giving himself a bit of a pep talk in front of a mirror, and he happens to be showing everything — if you catch the drift. Viewers were shocked by the sheer dimensions of what they saw, but it was later revealed that the scene was filmed using a prosthetic.


38. Tarzan

Disney made the list yet again! In the Tarzan film, you’ll find subtle references to other Disney movies and classics. This was nothing new as Disney films have long been known to include such Easter eggs.

Source: Tarzan, Walt Disney Pictures

In Tarzan, there is a scene where Tarzan’s friends trash the human camp with a fun musical number ensues. If you look closely, you’ll see that the tea set is very familiar.


39. The Wolf of Wall Street

Leo DiCaprio brought the crazy life of Jordan Belfort to the big screen. The entire story is full of excess and insanity. Despite it all, it is Margot Robbie who steals everyone’s attention.

Source: The Wolf of Wallstreet, Paramount Pictures

In a rather intense and steamy scene, she teases Belfort with a bit of a reveal. It was too much for some viewers to handle. The same can be said for other characters in the movie.


40. Jaws

Finishing the list is the original blockbuster movie. Everyone knows Jaws pretty well, but there was a time when it was absolutely shocking and groundbreaking. Before everyone became familiar with the classic, fans had to pause just to process everything that was happening.

Source: Jaws, Universal Pictures

There are a few scenes that fit that description, but the one that takes the cake is the cold open. Seeing a character introduced just to be brutally killed in such a frightening fashion was new to cinema, and fans had to pause to take it all in.