14 Gut-Wrenching Moments Where Characters Are Powerless To Intervene

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Vote up the moments where characters are so powerless, it hurts to watch.

Heroes are meant to overcome the greatest challenges and hurdles before them, but what happens when they’re helpless and powerless - only being able to watch as a painful and utterly devastating moment occurs? Nothing puts an audience in a character's shoes more effectively than having to watch as Princess Leia sees the Death Star destroy Alderaan or Scarlet Witch watches Thanos bring Vision back from the dead to rip the Mind Stone out of his forehead.

These are but a few heartbreaking and unshakable gut-wrenching moments that stick with both the protagonists and the audience long after the credits roll. So grab the tissues because things are about to get heavy from here on out.

  • When presented with a moment to save millions or a loved one, what would someone do? That’s the question Bryan Cranston's Joe Brody has to answer in 2014’s Godzilla. It isn’t the kaiju that forces him to make a decision that will alter his life forever, but rather the threat of radiation.

    In the opening of the film, Joe’s wife Sandra heads off with her team into the reactor of a nuclear power plant to explore unusual activity. After an earth-shaking tremor sets off the reactor, Sandra and her team need to make a hasty exit. Joe pleads for his colleagues to keep the door open and get her out. As it appears Sandra will make the great escape, she stops to help a fallen teammate, dooming her to the toxic radioactive cloud. Overcome with emotion, Joe struggles to close the door until the last second. His grief boils over as he observes her final moments through the window.

    1,765 votes

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    1,679 VOTES

    When Thor Watches Thanos Annihilate His People, Pummel Hulk, And Choke The Life Out Of Loki In 'Avengers: Infinity War'

    Infinity War sets a tragic tone off from the opening moments. While so many MCU movies focus on optimistic, feel-good vibes, this entry makes its sense of doom all too clear by forcing Thor to face someone who is more powerful than him and the Hulk.

    When Thanos and his followers drop into Thor's spaceship, the God of Thunder and his fellow Asgardians are shown to be no match for Mad Titan Incorporated. Instead, Thor watches on as Thanos beats the green off of the Hulk and tosses him to the side as if he’s a ragdoll. The Asgardian tries to put up more resistance, but he is halted once again. The final nail in Thor’s emotional coffin is hammered in as he witnesses Thanos collapse his brother Loki's throat. Despite being the God of Thunder, his strength and power mean little as he watches Loki perish in front of him.

    1,679 votes
  • The Crow is both a tale about the power of love and the possibility of vengeance from beyond the grave. While much is written about the supernatural feats of film, the heart of the story begins with a tragedy on Devil’s Night.

    The lives of Eric Draven and his fiancée, Shelly Webster, change forever after T-Bird and his street gang break into their home. Eric is brutally beaten as the crew takes hold of Shelly. They taunt the helpless and injured Eric, as they commit despicable and heinous offenses on Shelly. Once they're done, they throw Eric out of a window. Eric can do nothing but hope Shelly will be okay as he lies dying on the sidewalk. It's an event so traumatizing, it brings Eric back to life to exact revenge on those who wiped out their happiness.

    1,279 votes

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  • In The Dark Knight, the Joker turns Gotham City into his own funhouse, as he pits the citizens against each other in a sick game to prove everyone has a breaking point in their sanity. Batman isn’t spared from the Clown Prince of Crime’s devious games, especially after he realizes Gotham’s protector holds deep feelings for Rachel Dawes.

    The Joker creates the ultimate lose-lose scenario for Batman by putting Rachel and Gotham’s district attorney, Harvey Dent, in different buildings that are wired to go boom. Batman only has time to get to one of them, so naturally, he chooses Rachel. What he doesn’t bank on, however, is that the Joker intentionally confused their locations and fed the incorrect information to the Dark Knight. When Batman arrives and has no choice but to save Harvey, his stoic demeanor betrays his emotions. They can do nothing more but escape while listening to Rachel’s last words over the radio. It's something that rattles Bruce Wayne to the core.

    1,361 votes

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  • Avengers: Infinity War puts most of the Avengers through an emotional meat-grinder with Thanos mercilessly cranking away. The Mad Titan holds nothing back as he executes his methodical plan to gain all the Infinity Stones, complete his Gauntlet, and snap half of all life from existence. While every hero experiences a loss in the film, Wanda Maximoff gets to relive her pain twice in the space of about a minute.

    To prevent Thanos from acquiring the Mind Stone planted in his head, Vision convinces the love of his life, Wanda, to destroy him and the stone before it’s too late. The Avengers do everything they can to try and save the Vision, but Wanda ultimately has to do the unthinkable and take her lover's life. However, Wanda doesn’t even have the chance to wipe her tears, as Thanos uses the Time Stone to reverse the event, grab the stone, and destroy Vision all over again. Despite her rushing to stop the Mad Titan, he simply swats her away as if she’s an annoying gnat.

    1,424 votes

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  • When Katniss Watches Cinna Get Attacked In 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
    Photo: Lionsgate

    With a title like The Hunger Games, it’s expected that the characters will suffer. Katniss doesn’t receive a moment of respite as the blows keep on rolling in throughout the series. In the second installment, Catching Fire, one of her greatest allies finds himself in danger, but she can do nothing to save him.

    Katniss has few friends and even fewer people she can trust. Her stylist, Cinna, is the exception. Even though verbal expressions of their affection are rare, there’s a silent understanding between the two. Cinna even helps Katniss send a message that the resistance is alive and well through the use of her Mockingjay outfit. For his actions, though, he receives a harsh beatdown from the Peacekeepers moments before she enters the Quarter Quell, while Katniss is on the opposite side of the glass and made to watch in agony. It’s the last time she ever gets to see her confidant since Cinna is eliminated by the Capitol sometime after the chaotic end of the Quarter Quell.

    1,212 votes

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