In 1994, a young David O. Russell directed a movie, Spanking the Monkey, that attempted to probe the darker sides of a few issues, namely lust and guilt. In it, a bright-but-confused student named Raymond has to forego a big-deal medical internship he'd fought hard to get in order to take care of his mother, who has broken her leg and is largely immobile. His days are filled with mundane tasks, lots of booze, a sexy teenage neighbor who sends his hormones into overdrive, and an overbearing mother who leans way too heavy and entirely too close on her son for physical and emotional support. Eventually, the mother and son give into their "Oedipal urges," as one IMDb user puts it, and begin an incestuous relationship.
And you just know, without a doubt, some poor sap somewhere didn't know what he was getting into and watched that damn thing with his mom. Because, at some point, we all see a movie with our parents we wish we hadn't, one that makes us shrink into the couch or cineplex seat. It only takes one scene, after all, to spoil the cinematic experience with mom and pop—one second of Leo DiCaprio doing coke off a hooker's ass in Wolf of Wall Street or Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman bumping uglies in Black Swan.
With that in mind, I asked my friends and co-workers about the most embarrassing movie moment they ever had with the 'rents. Here are the most cringe-worthy stories they came back with:
When I was maybe 13, my family went on vacation with another family to this little town in middle-of-nowhere Texas that had this small wood-shack video place, and we picked up a bunch of movies from new releases. Some adult must have picked up Boogie Nights, read the back briefly and... I guess assumed it was some sort of tribute to the 70s? They probably figured, "You know what kids love? Lapels!" and rented it.
So these two families sat down in the living room of this old cabin and threw the VHS tape in with six or seven kids present—I was the oldest, the youngest was probably eight? It's a little racy from the get-go. Early on Mark Wahlberg has a conversation with his girlfriend when they're in bed, and she says "You've got a real gift there," clearly talking about his dick. It already felt weird that my parents were in the room.
The awkwardness builds when Heather Graham blows Mark Wahlberg in a broom closet, but again, it's just implied, we haven't seen anything yet. The moment that trips the "we can't watch this movie anymore" switch was when Wahlberg goes over to the home of a sleazy producer, played by Burt Reynolds, and sits on the couch. Graham whips off her dress, is completely naked save for some roller skates, and she and Marky Mark start going at it. My dad literally dove for the television. The last thing I heard before he managed to turn it off was Reynolds saying, "Aim for her tits!" –Matt, 32
It wasn't like anyone said, "Hey, this would be a cool movie to watch together as a family!" I just happened to have no way to privately watch movies for most of my teens—the desktop computer, TV, and DVD player were all in the family den. (This also made porn a struggle.) I miscalculated how late my dad was going to be awake the night I decided to watch Kids for the first time as a 16-year-old. So he kind of just walked in and caught the last ten minutes, neither of us knowing that we were about to watch young Chloë Sevigny get drugged and raped by a teen degenerate who doesn't know she's just tested positive for HIV. (Do you need spoiler alerts for movies that are 20 years old?) Had I known, I think I probably would have said something? Or thrown the TV out the window, or just killed myself. Point is: Don't watch Kids with your kids. –Sam, 30
'When Harry Met Sally'
This was shortly after my mom died, so I was probably 11, and my dad and I were watching When Harry Met Sally on TV. The diner scene came on, and I was confused, so I remember asking my dad, "What's an orgasm?" He said, "It's why people have sex," and I immediately knew not to ask any further questions. That was the only birds-and-bees talk we ever had. Thanks, Meg Ryan! –Stephanie, 34
'Y Tu Mamá Tambien'
My mom and I are weird about movies—I've seen some pretty inappropriate movies with her over the years and thought we were hardened to the awkwardness. Once we watched Kinsey together. She worked at the Kinsey Institute back in the 60s as a secretary, so most of the sex stuff was ignored, drowned out by my mom's personal opinions on all the major characters: "That actor looks nothing like him. He was a total creep, we all thought so."
Anyway, we weren't ready for Y Tu Mamá Tambien, which we saw together at a nearby arthouse theater. We'd read reviews, knew pretty much what was up, but were still not prepared. Since we were late to every movie, we walked in and sat down during that opening sex scene. After that, it's like, "Oh, well, we don't have to worry that it's going anywhere much worse." Ummm. –Nick, 32
My dad was really excited to take me to The Counselor after reading a rave review of it in the paper—it was directed by Ridley Scott, and the screenplay was written by Cormac McCarthy. What the review failed to mention was a very awkward scene in which Cameron Diaz literally has sex with a car. -Lauren, 24
This was with my grandma, actually. I was 13 or 14 and in my junior becoming-a-dirtbag phase in a small town in West Virginia. This was before the internet, and Appalachia doesn't have a lot of midnight movie theaters, so if you wanted to watch some weird stuff, you had to just buy tapes you'd heard about somewhere when you found them. So when I found a copy of Pink Flamingos at Sam Goody I paid $25 for the VHS and took the bus home.
My grandma lived with us. I was kind of excited to watch this movie, so I popped it in the VCR, and she sits in her recliner in front of the TV with me, this good old Appalachian grandma with her Bible. I figure it can't be that bad—I'd seen Serial Mom, another John Waters film, and it was a little weird but nothing grandma couldn't handle.
I made it to the part where Crackers and the woman are having sex with a chicken between them, and I just got up, like, "OK! I'm, uh, really tired! I've been, you know, walking a lot, so I'm just gonna go take a nap!" I forgot to turn off the movie, though. To this day, I still don't know if grandma just kept watching. We never talked about it. –Cooter, 35
My stepdad and I had seen Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, and we both really liked Quentin Tarantino. So we see a preview for Pulp Fiction, and we're like, "Hell yeah, we're gonna go see that!" We're in the theater, and it gets to that scene where the two pawnshop owners kidnap Ving Rhames, and a bloody Bruce Willis slowly opens the door to reveal they've got him bent over and are railing his ass. Everyone in the movie theater reacted except me and my stepdad. We both kind of tensed up. I'm around 13 years old, and I'd never seen anything like that on the big screen before—it was the first time I'd seen gay rape in a movie, or rape period. It was the first time I'd seen S&M. We definitely talked about the movie on the way home, but totally skirted that entire plot line. –Aaron, 36
'Trainspotting' / 'This Is England' / 'My Own Private Idaho'
When I was 15 years old, I desperately wanted my parents to understand me and the young genius I was growing into, so I subsequently made them watch my two favorite films: Trainspotting and This is England. These are fucking fantastic films, but this was a terrible idea, and I sat in the living room feeling less embarrassed and more "I'm truly never going to be allowed to leave the house again, am I?" For obvious reasons, my parents were mortified, and thinking back about it now, I am embarrassed. I was insufferable!
Watching fellow 15-year-old Diane in Trainspotting ride Ewan McGregor's character, who'd whipped out his dick moments prior, seemed like a cry for help, even to me. I was uncomfortably horny watching Rent Boy OD on the floor of his Edinburgh squat, and my reaction to Spud shitting the bed following a one-night stand was one of delight rather than horror. Their reaction was decidedly equal or worse than the time six-year-old me told them I wanted Steve Buscemi's character from Con Air, an escaped serial killer and possible child molester, to be my boyfriend.
Following this I forced my folks to watch This Is England's 12-year-old Shaun mourn his father's Falklands War death by joining a pack of Rudeboy-murdering skinheads and sucking on a grown woman's tit. It only made me seem all the more desperate for attention.
I made them watch My Own Private Idaho too, and I didn't even care about the beginning blowjob scene between an older man and River Phoenix as a young hustler. My parents were positive I would turn into a junkie, a skinhead, or worse—a rightwing straight-edge skinhead. The only thing I actually ironically ended up getting was narcolepsy, which Phoenix's character has in My Own Private Idaho. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't involve consistently passing out in Keanu Reeve's lap. –Anonymous