Movies have the power to move audiences and some films can leave you feeling stunned or emotionally drained by the end. Someone on a popular online forum wondered, “What movie had you sitting in silence for 10 minutes after watching?” While most responses were about films that left the viewers emotionally impacted, some were about more thematic impacts and surprise plot twists.
1. Malcolm X (1992)
The story of Malcolm X is incredible enough, but with Spike Lee's flair for the dramatic, Denzel Washington's transcendent acting chops and a powerful, multi-layered closing sequence, only reinforces the mythology even more. Simply put, this is the type of flick that sits with you.
2. Promising Young Woman (2020)
Promising Young Woman is a tale of vengeance and the type of trauma you can't escape. It examines themes of rape and the systems that allow it to get swept under the rug, and when you're done watching it, you'll have no choice but to look at the world for how it is.
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The most agreed upon answer is Saving Private Ryan, a World War II film about a group of soldiers sent on a mission to find a low-level soldier who is to return home to his family after the combat deaths of his three brothers. One person noted that they saw it in school and many of their teachers could tell that the students who watched the film were “off” for the rest of the day.
4. Schindler's List (1993)
Another 1990s film from Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List dramatizes the story of Oskar Schindler, who rescued more than one thousand Jews from the Holocaust. It’s a devastating film, and one movie lover said they sat for 15 minutes after it ended to gather their thoughts.
5. Prisoners (2013)
Any film about child abduction and abuse is hard to watch. But Prisoners goes even further by exploring the shocking lengths parents will go to find and protect their children. It’s a taut thriller that left one viewer “frozen” in their seat.
6. Arrival (2016)
It’s a bit surprising at first to learn that Arrival is directed by the same person who made Prisoners. But where Prisoners takes a brutal look at the horrors humans can unleash on one another, Arrival is a celebration of life and love. The movie, which centers on a linguist tasked with learning to communicate with aliens, left many viewers in tears from its beautiful final moments of catharsis.
7. The Green Mile (1999)
Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, The Green Mile centers on a mysterious convict and the supernatural events that seem to surround him. Many fans agree that the film is powerful and one moviegoer said everyone in the theater was moved to tears.
8. Children of Men (2006)
Children of Men, based on the novel The Children of Men by P.D. James, takes place in a world where humans are no longer being born. It’s a dark and seemingly hopeless world, but the film’s plot is set into motion when a group recruits the protagonist to help a young woman who is pregnant. One fan said it left them “stunned.”
9. Once Were Warriors (1994)
Multiple people said the 1994 adaptation of Alan Duff’s novel We Were Warriors was one of the most affecting and underrated movies they had seen. One person noted that the film, which centers on a Māori family and their struggles in South Aukland, left them and their partner “so emotional [we] couldn’t talk to each other for about a half hour after.”
10. Ex Machina (2014)
Ex Machina was mind-bending for many moviegoers. That makes sense, as the film is about an android with artificial intelligence so developed that she may be able to pass as a human. One movie fan noted, “The ending had me completely gobsmacked.”
11. City of God (2002)
Several film fans agreed that City of God, based on the novel of the same name by Paulo Lins, left them breathless and silent for a while after finishing it. One movie lover said that the movie, which centers on several young people and their involvement with organized crime in Rio de Janeiro from the 1960s to 80s, is “one of those movies I was glad to have seen, but wished I hadn’t.”
12. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Based on Gustav Hasford’s novel The Short-Timers, Full Metal Jacket is Stanley Kubrick’s last war film and fits right in with the bleak worldview of his earlier war movies. The movie centers on a group of young recruits during their time in boot camp and in the Vietnam War, highlighting the horrors of both.
13. Saw (2004)
Saw is another film that gets mentioned because of its shocking finale more than any emotional punch it might pack. The first film in the lengthy horror series centers on two men trapped in a seemingly abandoned warehouse bathroom and the detectives trying to find the man who put them there. Its final twist is now the stuff of movie legend and still works just as well as it did twenty years ago.
14. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
It’s hard to overstate how many people thought The Blair Witch Project was an authentic document of what happened to a group of film students researching a witch in the woods outside Burkittsville, Maryland. Multiple horror fans say that when they first saw the film in 1999, they thought it was real and were floored by it.
15. Spotlight (2015)
It makes sense that the story of journalists uncovering a pattern of child abuse by clergy leaves viewers silent after it’s over. Spotlight isn’t an easy movie to watch. As one fan said, it makes an important statement: “People will be complicit in the darkest behavior before they move to disrupt the systems around them.”
16. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Most movies about violent psychopaths center either on the killers themselves or their victims, but We Need to Talk About Kevin, based on the book of the same name by Lionel Shriver, focuses on the mother of the eponymous teen murderer. It’s less a thriller than a psychological portrait of a woman attempting to come to terms with the violence her son unleashed and is all the more remarkable for that perspective.
Film and TV Critic, Pop Culture Writer
- Expertise: Horror, Animation, Queer Film
- Education: Master's Degree in Philosophy from Boston College, Dual Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston College
- Organizer of Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd
- Over 200 reviews, essays, articles, and lists across various sites
Experience: Kyle Logan has been writing about film since studying film and philosophy as an undergraduate at Boston College. Kyle began writing about film professionally in 2020 and has written for many sites including Screen Anarchy, Film Stories, and Fangoria. Kyle has also organized the Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd since 2020, highlighting the queer history of film and bringing attention to rising queer filmmakers. Kyle now works full time with Wealth of Geeks, contributing lists, reviews, and podcast appearances on topics as varied as film, travel, and Halloween candy.