Have you ever watched a character just completely lose it on-screen and thought, "I FEEL SEEN?" Of course you have. You're only human, after all. You can't help having feelings. Unless you're a robot reading this list, in which case, there are other lists for you to peruse. What follows is a compendium of movie characters who finally snap, typically during a climactic movie moment.
Anyway, there are innumerable instances in which someone flips out in cinematic lore. These are just a small sample of moments wherein someone loses their temper, composure and/or mind, melting down in a way that you weirdly appreciate, even if you may not ever have gone quite as insane as they do. Vote for your favorite among the listed moments! And yes, one character does appear twice on this list, because he flips out in every movie.
Vote for your favorite (and least favorite) relatable movie meltdowns below!
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
In the midst of a truly hellish Thanksgiving transit experience that is nothing less than utterly relatable, the exhausted and exasperated ad exec Neal Page (Steve Martin) finally unloads when confronted with a way-too-chipper agent at a car rental company. To be fair, the car he rented over the phone was not made available to him. After the agent (Edie McClurg) finishes up a family phone call on company time, she asks Neal how she can help him. That proves to be the tipping point for Neal. He yells:
You can start by wiping that f***ing dumb-ass smile off your rosy, f***ing, cheeks! And you can give me a fucking automobile: a f***ing Datsun, a f***ing Toyota, a f***ing Mustang, a f***ing Buick! Four f***ing wheels and a seat!
It goes on and on from there. Without a rental agreement (which Neal threw away), unfortunately, the rental agent sneers, "Oh boy... you're f***ed."
- Photo: Warner Bros.
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is certainly a man who knows his way around a good tantrum. When it comes to National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, the third of the Griswold family adventure comedies, Clark's freakout has been a long time coming. After dealing with two sets of nutty grandparents, maniacal neighbors, his least-favorite relative Cousin Eddie Johnson (Randy Quaid) and his brood, and a Christmas decoration electrocution, Clark is expecting some relief in the form of a lucrative holiday bonus from work. Upon opening the check, however, Clark is dealt a final Christmas indignity: a one-year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club ("the gift that keeps on giving the whole year," per Cousin Eddie).
An indignant Clark flips, ripping up the "gift," chugging eggnog, trashing several helpless gifts beneath the family tree, and finally launching into a ferocious monologue against his "cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, lowlife, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, over-stuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, d***less, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey s***" boss Frank Shirley.
Then, he wanders off to grab some Tylenol. What a way to wrap up a festive gathering.
- Photo: Buena Vista Pictures
Aggravated San Marino shoe company proprietor George Banks, hoping to "mellow out" ahead of his 22-year-old daughter Annie's (Kimberly Williams) quickly upcoming wedding, is sent on a grocery recon mission to pick up supplies for the evening's dinner while wearing an old wedding tux. George is frustrated both at the very prospect of his daughter's impending nuptials and at the quickly escalating cost of said nuptials.
Everything boils over at the supermarket. George is caught trying to remove eight buns from a package. "I want to buy eight hot dogs, and eight hot dog buns, but no one sells eight hot dog buns, they only sell 12 hot dog buns, so I end up paying for four buns I don't need, so I am removing the superfluous buns," he kvetches. Soon, George has fallen into a crazed, only-half-serious rant that "some big shot over at the weiner company" has colluded with "some big shot over at the bun company" to "rip off the American public."
Eventually, George is jailed. But darn it, the man had a point.
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Tough-guy LAPD cop John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has gone deep undercover to find the estranged family of notorious crook Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson). In the leafy suburb of Astoria, OR, a stomach bug afflicting his partner, Detective Phoebe O'Hara (Pamela Reed), has pressed Kimble into fulfilling her cover: a kindergarten teacher. Suddenly, the Governator is wrangling dozens of adorable pipsqueaks.
Or, at least, he's trying to. The kids are running rampant, destroying their classroom and refusing to respect his authority. Finally, understandably, the man who could hunt down killers in his sleep snaps. "SHUT UPPPPPPPPPPPPP," he yells. "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" Suddenly, all of the kids break into sobs. "No, don't start this," he begs. He flees to his car.
"Attention, this is your new class mascot." He presents the kids with his own pet ferret as emotional collateral. "Good, now we are having fun," he suggests more than observes. The yelling-then-supply-a-ferret tactic works, and suddenly he's broken through to his kiddie charges.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Put-upon Initech software programmers Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), Samir Nagheenanajar (Ajay Naidu) and Not That Michael Bolton (David Herman) have had just about enough of their redundant bosses, their TPS reports, and downsizing consultants. After Peter undergoes a way-too-successful hypnotherapy treatment, his newly apathetic attitude at the office earns him a promotion. Samir and Michael, meanwhile, get canned by the aforementioned consultants. The team plans to rip off Initech's accounting system. As a parting gesture, they abduct a loathed copy machine and treat it to a gangland-style forest curb-stomping.
It's safe to say that we've all wanted to annihilate a frustrating piece of technology before. Few of us possess the sheer chutzpah to go through with it, however.
- Photo: MGM
TBS holiday mainstay A Christmas Story (1983) remains an unforgettable classic all these years later for many memorable moments, but perhaps most satisfying of all is when little Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) finally fights back against the hurtful words of brace-toothed neighborhood bully Scut - that's how he spells it - Farkus (Zack Ward). Following Scut's latest taunt outside in the winter cold, Ralphie's future adult self (Jean Shepherd) reports over the film's soundtrack that, "Deep in the tiny recesses of my brain, a tiny red flame began to grow."
Before you can say "Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model air rifle," Ralphie has gone on the offensive, tackling Scut to the ground and wailing on him relentlessly with fists of fury. Neighborhood tykes from far and wide have gathered to witness the beatdown, and suddenly it is Scut who is sobbing in this bitter Cleveland cold.
As with Punch-Drunk Love, this bully confrontation represents a deeply satifsying resolution to a conflict that plagues most of us at some junction or another in life.