Movie: Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns
The violence in this moment near the end of Steven Spielberg's gamechanging WWII picture isn't as violent as the opening. The storming of the beaches at Normandy set a new standard for the war movie, and, to this day, it knocks the wind from the viewer as a total sensory attack, something to be endured.
If you want to talk about hard-to-watch moments, though, you have to fix your attention on the film's climax, where one of the American soldiers (Pvt. Stanley Mellish, played by Adam Goldberg) engages in hand-to-hand combat with a German solider. They fight over a knife. The German soldier pins down Mellish and begins to lower a knife into his chest. Mellish fights back, tries to keep the knife from connecting, but he can't. The slow drop, coupled with the fact that one of Mellish's compatriots is hanging back, too afraid to help, makes the viewer irate. It's the kind of scene that makes you want to get up and pace, shouting at the screen through half-closed eyes. —RS