It's been there for centuries, as part of many art forms, to keep pushing the boundaries of what creators can do and what audiences are prepared to take.
In film, this isn't even genre exclusive. We have of course seen it in horror movies, but also in dramas, comedies and even children's flicks, setting the buzz alight for films and grabbing headlines along the way.
To celebrate the release of The Paperboy (in UK cinemas March 15th), we take a look at some of the most shocking moments in cinematic history.
BORAT (2006) – Wrestling Scene
For all its cringe-worthiness, if we had to pick one standout moment from Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy/mockumentary, it would have to be the naked fight between Borat and his producer Azamat (brilliantly portrayed by Ken Davitian).
Cue in plenty of unpleasant body sights, all wrapped up in enough layers of body hair to make a grizzly bear a worthy cast option for a Gillette advert.
MY GIRL (1991) – Death By Bees
Macaulay Culkin a.k.a the biggest child start of the early 1990s (thanks in part to that role in Home Alone, exactly a year before My Girl hit the screens).
For the most part this film is a coming-of-age comedy for kids, right? At least you would be right to think so until director Howard Zieff decides to kill the leading actor in not quite the most subtle of ways... being stung to death by bees while his horrified summer holiday sweetheart Vada watches on in sheer horror. In a kids movie! Take that for shock.
PSYCHO (1960) – Shower Scene
Alfred Hitchcock's most memorable scene has been imitated, replicated and parodied to no end throughout the years in countless films and TV shows.
The 1960 original is, however, still the best and by a very wide margin. Shot over a staggering 7 days and with 70 camera positions. The flawless cinematography and flow of the scene, and those violins, were only one side of it.
Talk about going into story telling without a safety net... killing off the protagonist (or at least who we thought was it) less than 30 minutes into the film, Hitchcock successfully created a formula that hasn't really been replicated to the same effect since.
THE EXORCIST (1973) – Crucifix Abuse
William Friedkin's 1973 horror masterpiece set the bar incredibly high for the genre in particular, but also for cinema at large in terms of what you can do to shock an audience.
Quite understandably, when you think that you have a 12-year-old victim of a demonic possession cursing throughout the entire film and, in this particular scene, masturbating and stabbing her own genitals with a crucifix before that infamous 360-degree head turn.
It was banned in the UK for some 15 years or so, while in other parts of the world there were cinemas that even offered sick bags to spectators.
THE PAPERBOY (2013) – Nicole Kidman's Wee Scene
Nicole Kidman recently tried to play it down, citing that there are moments in new film The Paperboy (out at UK cinemas March 15th) which she deems more shocking, but the truth is that this is the scene in the film that got everyone talking!
After Jack Jansen (played by Zac Efron) is violently attacked by jellyfish, Charlotte Bless (Kidman) does the right thing for the poor sod... and proceeds to urinate on him.
You can count on this scene not being as screen friendly as that awkward moment between Rachel and Joey in you know which "Friends" episode.
But there is one other scene which we think Nicole is referring to that we might almost say is more shocking that her pee dripping all over Zac. You'll have to watch the flick to find out!
The Paperboy is out in UK cinemas on 15 March 2013.
Do you have any other shocking moments to add to the list?
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