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Top 10 Agonizing Decisions in Movies

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by Nick Spake

Some decisions have no easy answers. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hardest Decisions in Movies. For this list, we’re taking a look at impossible choices characters have had to make in movies. Seeing how these decisions are all pivotal plot points, a spoiler alert is definitely in order.

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Top 10 Agonizing Decisions in Movies


Some decisions have no easy answers. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hardest Decisions in Movies.

For this list, we’re taking a look at impossible choices characters have had to make in movies. Seeing how these decisions are all pivotal plot points, a spoiler alert is definitely in order.

#10: All of the Choices
“Saw” franchise (2004-)

Although the “Saw” movies rely heavily on graphic imagery, each film also possesses a certain degree of psychological horror. The Jigsaw Killer constructs appalling games that have no true winners. In the first film, two men find themselves chained up in an unknown location. Pitted against each other, just one of them can leave this bathroom alive. Even then, the only means of escape is foot amputation. The games only get more sadistic as the series goes on, especially in the sixth film, where a man must decide which of his colleagues will die, and who will get to live to play another game. No matter what game Jigsaw is playing, we wouldn’t want to be in any of his victim’s shoes: that we know for sure.

#9: Mortal or Immortal?
“Hercules” (1997)

A god turned mortal, Hercules aspires to reunite with his parents on Mount Olympus. Before reclaiming his godhood, though, Herc must go the distance. By making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love, Wonder Boy finally earns his immortality and is welcomed home. However, returning to Mount Olympus would mean leaving his life on earth behind for eternity. Although he’s literally been to hell and back to achieve his dream, Herc discovers that his place isn’t with the gods, but with the love of his life. Mortal or immortal, there’s no denying that Hercules is a true hero.

#8: Light Side or Dark Side?
“Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” (1983)

Sometimes people dig themselves in so deep that they reach the point of no return. When Anakin Skywalker sides with Palpatine in order to save Padmé, he surrenders to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader. The misguided Jedi thus loses his humanity, killing younglings, blowing up planets, and chopping off his own son’s hand. Regardless, Luke still believes that there’s hope for his father. When Luke is at the Emperor’s mercy, Vader is left with two options: Save his boy or remain loyal to the dark side after years of dedicated service. In the end, Vader sees the light and finds redemption. Hey, it’s never too late to make amends.

#7: East Coast or West Coast?
“Superman” (1978)

In the original “Superman,” Lex Luthor launches a nuclear missile to destroy the West Coast of the United States. Just to make sure his arch nemesis doesn’t get in the way, the criminal mastermind sends another warhead to the East Coast. Superman chooses to stop the missile headed for New Jersey first. While he makes it to San Andreas to save a few lives, it’s too late for Lois Lane. Although Superman is forbidden from interfering with human history, he decides to save the woman he loves by reversing time. Huh, who knew he could do that? Granted, this is a total cop-out in terms of storytelling and makes little sense, but our hero is still presented with a genuine ethical dilemma.

#6: Rachel Dawes or Harvey Dent?
“The Dark Knight” (2008)

Where Superman can just rewind time, Batman must live with the consequences of his actions. The Joker pushes Batman to his limits when he kidnaps two of Gotham’s finest and plans to blow them up in separate locations. The Dark Knight chooses to rescue Rachel and the police race to save Harvey. Since the Joker isn’t exactly known for his honesty, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he reversed the addresses. Batman ends up saving Harvey, while the cops can’t reach Rachel in time. The Joker’s chaos continues to spread like wildfire when he rigs two ferries with explosives, and make the passengers decide which one goes boom. He certainly knows how to split people down the middle.

#5: Mary Jane or the Children?
“Spider-Man” (2002)

If you haven’t noticed, being a superhero sucks sometimes. In Sam Raimi’s 2002 blockbuster, the Green Goblin shows Spider-Man the cost of being a hero by confronting him with a dastardly choice. Clutching the woman Peter Parker loves in one hand and a tram car filled with children in another, the villain forces our hero to decide who will live and who will fall to their doom. Through some slick web slinging, though, he manages to catch Mary Jane and grab onto the cable car, too. Gobby attempts to intervene, but the people of New York actually come to Spidey’s aid for a change. While Spider-Man avoids making an impossible choice, he still must answer to his green nemesis.

#4: Life or Death?
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” (2011)

In order for Harry Potter to become the boy who lived, his parents had to lose their own lives to Voldemort. During Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, the Dark Lord offers him the chance to resurrect his mom and dad in exchange for the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry sees right through his deceit, however, and avoids temptation. Harry is faced with an even more challenging dilemma several years later, upon realizing Voldemort can only be killed if he sacrifices himself. Knowing that the Wizarding World will be doomed otherwise, Harry nobly surrenders. Our hearts all sank when Voldemort chanted, “Avada Kedavra,” but this was all fortunately part of Dumbledore’s grand plan.

#3: Nemo or Dory?
“Finding Nemo” (2003)

In an act of rebellion, clownfish Nemo swims into open water and is taken by divers. On a daring voyage to find his lost son, Marlin gains a loyal friend in the forgetful Dory. Happily, Marlin is eventually reunited with Nemo, but Dory is caught in a fishing net seconds later. Nemo quickly thinks of a plan to rescue her, but Marlin is unwilling to risk losing his son again. The overprotective father comes to realize, however, that Nemo isn’t a little boy anymore. Charging into the net, Nemo shows his fellow fish that all they need to do is just keep swimming. Marlin ultimately learns that letting go isn’t easy, but it’s an essential part of being a parent.

#2: Red Pill or Blue Pill?
“The Matrix” (1999)

Neo must make numerous difficult choices throughout “The Matrix” trilogy, including when the Architect gives him the option of saving Trinity or Zion. Yet, the most crucial decision Neo makes is whether or not to learn about the Matrix in the first place. Through clever symbolism, Morpheus gives Neo two selections. He can either take the blue pill and keep living in a false reality or take the red pill and venture further down the rabbit hole. Although he doesn’t regret facing the truth, others would argue that ignorance is bliss. If we found out the real world was overrun with machines, the blue pill honestly would’ve been tempting.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
Henry or Mark?
“The Good Son” (1994)

He Chose Poorly
“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989)

Leave with Victor or Stay with Rick?
“Casablanca” (1942)

Terrible Mother or Loving Kidnapper?
“Gone Baby Gone” (2007)

California or Boston?
“Good Will Hunting” (1997)

Sacrifice for Sister
“Frozen” (2013)

#1: Jan or Eva?
“Sophie’s Choice” (1982)

This scene is simply every parent’s worst nightmare. In a flashback, it’s revealed that Sophie was sent to Auschwitz with her son, Jan, and daughter, Eva. A Nazi informs her that one of her children can go work in a labor camp, and that the other will be murdered. As if that’s not cruel enough, Sophie must decide which one will live and which will die. Devastated beyond belief, the mother decides to save Jan, believing he’ll have a better shot at survival than Eva. What makes this even more tragic is that we never learn the fate of Sophie’s son. As any loving mother or father can imagine, this decision haunts our titular character until her dying day.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think is the hardest decision in movies? For more entertaining Top 10s published everyday, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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