Disney movies, especially of the Disney Animated Canon or Pixar variety, tend to have a considerable amount of this. Pixar, especially in recent years, and are able to pull it off well, more importantly. Case in Point: Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3
Examples from Toy Story 3 include Lotso going from friendly to vicious upon Buzz calling himself and his friends a family, or Lotso throwing all the toys in their cells, or as referenced by the page quotation, the talking telephone describing the nature of Sunnyside.
Up has a cutesy musical montage showing Carl and Ellie after their marriage, with the two doing heartwarming activities together, like building their house out of the abandoned one they met in and saving up to travel to Paradise Falls, but during this montage, we also see Ellie crying at the doctor's because she cannot have children, followed by some happy re-bonding, but then her growing ill and Carl standing alone at her funeral.
Then, for further whiplash, right after this tragic image fades away, we see another, purely comedic musical montage set to "Habanera" from Carmen of Carl getting up in the morning, complete with an Overly Long Gag involving a stairlift.
Also, there's another scene that begins with Carl and Russel having dinner with Charles Muntz, Carl's childhood hero, that was prepared by his dogs, who also eat the food they prepared off of Russel's plate when his back is turned. It ends with Carl and Russel running for their lives from said dogs after Muntz showed them the helmets of his last visitors. Also, all of this is in a kids' movie.
Similar to the Up example above (extremely similar, actually) is the opening sequence of Finding Nemo. Marlin and Coral exchange in excited new-parent banter before Coral comes face to face with a barracuda, leading to one of Pixar's nastiest Tear Jerkers.
In-universe is the scene in which Dory and Marlin are totally, blissfully happy in the presence of a strange glowing light, which Marlin even lampshades as being odd for him. They then realize that the light is attached to a really, incredibly terrifying angler fish. Again lampshaded: "Good feelings gone."
In Ratatouille, Collette and Linguini have a sweet Falling in Love Montage, during which Remy falls in the middle of the street and is nearly killed some half a dozen times.
Bambi. The movie goes from Bambi finding out his mom is dead in the winter to SINGING BIRDS AND UPBEAT MUSIC IN THE SPRING!
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? contains what must be a pitch-perfect parody; all throughout the movie, Eddie Valiant has been haunted by what happened to him and his brother in Toontown, and towards the end he has to return there for the first time in years. He has to work up his courage and engage in a long, tense drive through a seemingly never-ending tunnel, with the music and moment increasingly tense, as if there was something very, very sinister waiting at the other end... only for a curtain to lift at the end of the tunnel with a brightly coloured cartoon paradise on the other side with hundreds of happy cartoon animals cheerfully singing "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!" and cartoon bluebirds flying around his head chirping "Hiya Eddie!"
Oliver & Company has a wide variety of Mood Whiplash moments, but it's especially noteworthy that even in the first few minutes of the movie, it goes from a pleasant scene involving a bunch of cats being adopted from a box during daytime, to Oliver being all alone in said box at night, while the rain is washing it away and he is left out in the rain, trying to make his way around and being chased by vicious dogs. What's interesting about this transition is that the same song, "Once Upon A Time In New York City" is playing throughout said intro sequence, and sounds pleasant in the former part and unpleasant in the latter part, without a significant change in melody.
The Little Mermaid: The music track "Destruction of the Grotto" starts out all lively and cheerful as Ariel admires her Prince Eric statue. When Triton shows up, the music does a total 180. Damn, that Menken knows how to write music.
The Festival of Fools scene is probably Disney's most guilty example of this, if not the most guilty example of all time. First, it starts off comical and whimsical. Then it becomes potentially sad, but then back to comical- then suddenly it turns horrific and tearjerking, but then it goes to heartwarming and pure, then to kind of actiony, then back to comical, and then finally to relentlessly depressing. All in one goddamned scene.
Mulan goes from a happy go lucky Disney Song to the devastation of war in less than one second. The mood literally changes mid-verse, to emphasize that the soldiers were being somewhat shallow and thoughtless at the time.
Lilo: (to Stitch, bitterly) You ruined everything.
(Stitch exposes his antennae, spikes, and extra arms)
Lilo: You're one of them? (shoves Stitch into the ground) Get outta here, Stitch.
Another example occurs earlier on when a short struggle between Stitch, Jumba and Pleakely ends with Pleakely and Jumba bouncing away on the ocean like a skipping stone. A few seconds beforehand, Stitch had almost dragged Lilo to the bottom of the ocean with him, and when we cut back to Lilo, Nani, David and Bubbles, they're all just about as happy as you'd expect.
After the lovely duet between Flynn and Rapunzel in Tangled where they had their Almost Kiss, Flynn sees the Stabbington brothers and the atmosphere visibly darkens.
In-story, after Rapunzel has left the tower for the first time, she continually switches from being happy to depressed. "I'm free!"/"Mother is going to kill me..."/"This is the best day of my life!"/"I'm the worst daughter ever! I am going back!"/"I'm never going back!"
In the scene where Rapunzel first asks Mother Gothel to take her to see the lanterns, the conversation goes abruptly between relatively playful banter and deeply disturbing emotional manipulation on Mother Gothel's part.
The Courtship ceremony from Dinosaur (which involves lemurs participating in a merrymaking ritual so they can find mates) ends with a meteorite hitting Earth.
Just when Alice decides she's had enough of Wonderland, she spots a path that might take her home. She happily runs down it, the music brightens up, and it looks like she'll make it home in time for tea...but then a dog sweeps away the rest of the path before her eyes. Alice then sits on a rock and sings a song about how often she fails to heed "very good advice", which climaxes into her and the surrounding animals breaking into tears.
In The Lion King, just after the horrific Tear Jerker of Mufasa's death, Simba flees for his life with the hyenas in hot pursuit. The harrowing chase sequence ends with Banzai falling into a thorn patch, then cartoonishly jumping 15 feet into the air clutching his soon-to-be titled "cactus butt".
Comedy to pathos in the principal's office, where this occurs:
Bobby(holding large blob of cheese): Hey, look, Max! It's the leaning tower of cheesa! (eats the blob)
PJ(walking hesitantly, face petrified, monotone voice): My dad is going to squash me like a bug.
Flipping between comedy and peril when Bigfoot is around, alternately threatening them and randomly messing with their stuff.
A heartwarming bonding moment to peril when Max and Goofy are finally talking to each other while about to fall off the waterfall.
In Wreck It Ralph, we watch Vanellope's Training Montage, in which Ralph gets several Amusing Injuries. She and Ralph are about to head off to the race, and both are quite excited. The entire scene is lighthearted and comedic - right up until the point at which King Candy shows up, explaining to Ralph how Vanellope's participation in the races would doom the entire Sugar Rush game - and therefore condemn Vanellope to a painful death.
During their initial theatrical releases in Japan, the Studio Ghibli films My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies were shown together as a double feature. With the former being a warm-hearted, whimsical tale, and the latter being a devastating look at the horrors of war, this naturally caused some discord within audiences. Not surprising when you consider, the double feature was marketed at parents and their children.
Joseph King Of Dreams goes from Joesph singing on top of a hill about his general awesomeness, to being locked in a cell with a tree for company.
The Land Before Time goes from the death of Little Foot's mother to a scene in which a bunch of baby flying pterosaurs (including Petrie) fight over a cherry, complete with catchy music in the background. Of course it goes back to Little Foot and his sorrow soon enough, but still.
Pretty much most Don Bluth movies are like this. Take An American Tail for example. Heck, the "No Cats in America" song actually switches moods within the verses. Repeatedly.
9 example: the Fabrication Machine's factory has just exploded violently, the dolls are rejoicing, the twins are playing a recording of Over the Rainbow—and then the Machine rises up from the wreckage and kills a screaming 5while Over the Rainbow continues to play.
One scene in All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 features David, a runaway boy with a knack for magic tricks, with Charlie, Itchy and Sasha (Charlie's love interest) singing a bright cheerful song about life on "Easy Street" at a center filled with other performers. However, when David screws up at one point and falls into the fountain, the other folks leave, and then song almost instantly changes to a Tear Jerker. (Not to mention that scene starts out bright and sunny and next thing you know it's pouring with rain).
The entire film of The Secret of Kells qualifies as this, such as going from scenes of happy forest antics to a scene filled with horror in a matter of minutes - and sometimes even seconds.
The Prince Of Egypt at one point went from all the firstborns being dead to Moses' sister singing "When You Believe". Dude! all the firstborns are dead, can we cut the showtunes? *sniff*.
...But the Hebrews have just been released from generations of bondage, so you can't blame them for wanting to celebrate their newfound freedom a little, and the "When You Believe" is hardly the peppy musical number the above point makes it seem to be.
Kung Fu Panda and its sequel have made an art form out of this. At any point in either movie, you could be laughing, crying, cheering, or any combination of the three.
In the 2007 film TMNT, there's a rather amusing fight in a diner between Raphael (in his Nightwatcher gear) and a tiny monster. This is promptly followed by Leonardo confronting Raphael and learning that his brother is the Nightwatcher, the two falling out and fighting, Raph almost killing Leo, and topping it all off, Leo getting captured by the Stone Generals.
The film version of Horton Hears a Who! has a couple examples of this in one scene. The feeling of relief from having escaped Vlad in a previous scene vanishes when he shows up again, this time even more detemined to destroy the clover. The following chase scene is pretty tense, but it still manages to fit in a couple of gags, such as Horton plowing through a snowcapped mountain and expelling the snow like a steam train, and complaining about "brainfreeze" afterwards. About a minute after this happens, Vlad drops the clover off an enormous cliff. Things get more than a little sad after that, a mood that persists for several minutes before another joke-heavy scene.
Also near the climax when the Kangaroo is about to have Horton caged and the clover boiled, he gives a rather heartfelt speech to hr and the crowd. She finds it touching...then demands Horton caged.
Films — Live-Action
Something Wild, and HOW. The first half of Jonathan Demme's film is a kooky sexcapade, but when raven-haired Lulu turns into golden-haired Audrey, that's when the tone changes - enter Ray Liotta.
Don't forget the soldiers telling funny stories before the final battle.
Most chilling when Mellish, a Jew, is handed a Hitler Youth knife. He cracks a joke that it is now a Shabbat Challah cutter (for cutting the bread in the Jewish observance of Shabbat), and then immediately breaks down in tears.
Or when, in the middle of the final battle, there is a rather hilarious fight between a German and an American, in which both of their guns jam, and they instead throw their helmets at each other before pulling out their sidearms. The American shoots first, but gets hit by machine gun fire and begins dancing around, cursing and throwing his sidearm at the dead German.
Hancock started out comedically with the superhero John Hancock being an alcoholic crimefighter who causes mass amounts of destruction through his bad habits. The film begins to get more and more serious as it continues, culminating in Hancock being hospitalized after a store robbery and then being violently assaulted, alongside his immortal love interest, by criminals he helped imprison earlier. Thankfully, the mood shifts back to bittersweet as the film ends.
The 1960 movie Where the Boys Are starts out as a frothy Annette Funicello-style beach comedy and climaxes with the rape and attempted suicide of one of the leads.
The Great Escape starts off as a cheerful, fun escape romp. Until the part when Ives commits suicide. Then it leads to having the entire cast except Charles Bronson and two other guys recaptured or killed off. Yikes.
On top of that, Steve McQueen's escape goes from exciting and action packed, to very sad when he is eventually recaptured, and then goes into a weird state of hopeful optimism at the very end despite being in prison.
Little Shop Of Horrors is considered a "hothouse of laughs" by Gene Siskel. True, the movie is pretty funny at times, from Seymour's interview at a radio station to Orin dealing with the only patient that can withstand the pain. However, once Orin inadvertently kills himself with nitrous oxide and Seymour feeds his body to Audrey II, we're treated to more serious parts of the story, starting with a heartwarming/tearjerking musical number where Seymour comforts Audrey over Orin's "disappearance".
And this is even WITH a last-minute Focus Group Ending slapped on. Had it been made as intended, both of the main charaters would have been killed in extensive, dramatic scenes, followed by a half upbeat half dirge song about the end of the world.
Superman Returns is similar — in the middle of a relatively light-hearted movie, there's the truly uncomfortable scene where Lex Luthor and his goons kick the crap out of Superman. And to top it off, Lex stabs Supes in the back with a Kryptonite shiv. Compared to the rest of the movie, it's unsettlingly brutal. Don't forget the unsettling scene where a thug with a skull tattoo on the back of his head plays a duet with Lois's son on the piano before assaulting and preparing to kill Lois in front of him. Lois's son kills the thug with the piano.
Kung Fu Hustle. The scene that starts the whole Axe Gang versus the Tenants debacle begins with Sing getting his ass handed to him by the tenants and the landlady, accidentally attracting the attention of the Axe Gang with a misplaced flare ("Who threw that firecracker?"), and the Landlady comically fleeing at what got Sing's ass handed to him (calling the Landlady fat). There is a brutal fight scene, interspersed with Brother Sum hitting his Assistant comedically. A Looney Tunes tribute ends with a dramatic/funny scene of Sing (with his lips swollen from snake bites) in a fit of rage.
Shaolin Soccer also contains a lot of silly slapstick comedy. One scene, however, dwells on a scrawny soccer player bursting into tears as maudlin music swells in the background.
Done brilliantly in the film adaptation of A Prairie Home Companion when during the titular radio show a heartbreaking duet "Goodbye to my Mama" is followed up immediately by a pair of goofy cowboys singing "Bad Jokes", 4 1/2 minutes of pure, unadulterated comedy.
The Serbian epic The Underground mixes a comic farce with the horrors of World War II and the tragedy of Balkanization.
Most Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian movies fall into this trope, since it is what happens when you combine the joival humor of the region and it's tragic past.
The Last American Virgin starts off as a teen comedy with situations on par with American Pie. In the last third of the movie, the main character's best friend gets a girl pregnant and breaks up with her over the news. The main gets into a fight with his former best friend over this, and because the girl is his love interest, he helps her "take care" of the baby over Spring Break at great expense to him. The movie ends with a party after Spring Break where the main character sees his old friends after staying behind for the vacation. He walks into the party and sees his former best friend got back together with the girl even after everything that happened. Considering the type of movie most thought it was, it had quite the Downer Ending in the form of a Kick the Dog Moment.
Shaun of the Dead uses this trope, flipping between a mad-cap comedy and an earnest disaster movie with plenty of high tragedy played straight.
Perfect example: After it has been set up that Shaun's stepfather is a stodgy old man who despises rock, metal, and rap, Shaun's father becomes a zombie. The resulting, rather tense scene where Shaun attempts to explain to his mother that "there's nothing left of your husband in there" is punctuated by the old man promptly crawling into the front seat and turning off the metal playing on the radio, the exact same thing he would have done in life.
Even Better Example: In the previous Tear Jerker as Shaun 's stepfather passes away just after giving his last words to Shaun - to the effect that "I've always loved you... look after your mother, Shaun..." - Shaun tearfully begs for Ed to stop the car. Ed obliges... by swerving off the road to ram (comedically) into a zombie, and then pulling a racing-car slide-stop. Shaun calls him out on this though.
Even better example still: Once they finally get refuge in the local pub, they are quickly besieged by zombies. The bartender comes out, but they don't have any working weapons, and the power just came back on, which turned on the jukebox. So, they use pool cues to hit him in time to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" before finally knocking him out and discovering the pub's titular Winchester is still activated and there is a box of bullets nearby. Skip forward five minutes, and Shaun's mother admits to Liz (Shaun's ex, although his mother isn't aware of the breakup) that she was bitten by a zombie earlier in the movie, dooming her to death and resurrection. She dies in Shaun's arms as he begs her not to leave him. This is followed by a genuinely tense Mexican standoff over what to do with Shaun's mother - David reckons they have to shoot her; Shaun and Ed are hysterically protective.
The 1984 Chinese movie Fantasy Mission Force, helpfully recapped here by The Agony Booth crew. The movie starts out as crazy low-brow slapstick "humor", with plot twists that make no sense, and then suddenly there are people being bloodily massacred on-screen, including most of the main characters. What? You can't blame all that on the American dub, or on some cultural humor thing. But don't take my word for it.
La Vita Ť bella (Life is Beautiful), starts out as a comedy in Mussolini's Italy, and ends up as a dramedy in a concentration camp. See also Genre Shift.
By the time the credits roll in, the viewer doesn't know whether to go "Awwwwwww !" or shoot himself in the head. It's like Real Life that way.
And don't forget the comedy Burn After Reading. We start at casual, there are some laugh-out-loud moments, some tense scenes, followed by some shockingly funny scenes or shockingly sad scenes (Like the scene where Richard Jenkins, who has the only sympathetic character is shot and has his skull split open by a crazed John Malkovich) or merely absurd scenes. After all, every single character is absurdly stupid.
The scene where Jenkins dies deserves a special mention for turning the most tragic part in the entire movie into one of the funniest in under a second with the scene change. I witnessed the entire cinema crack up in simultaneous laughter at this utterly genius transition.
Melanie in Jackie Brown taunts Lewis for not knowing where he parked the car. Lewis warns her not to say another word and the scene keeps its light-hearted atmosphere until the seemingly stable Lewis shoots her twice in the parking lot, muttering to her afterward that it was exactly where he thought it was.
Hitler Dead Or Alive, from 1942, starts off as a warped comedy about ex-cons smuggled into Nazi Germany, attempting to assassinate Hitler. They do manage to not just capture Der Fuehrer, but shave off his mustache while he cries like a girl. And then they notice several children lined up against a wall, being shot execution-style. Cue patriotic speech on Why We Fight.
Click starts off as a typical Adam Sandler flick. Fart jokes, Rob Schneider cameos, and Jerkass moments ahoy! And then, Henry Winkler dies. The whole film starts turning into a rather bleak overview on life. However, the ending was All Just a Dream, and he redeems his Jerk Ass self.
In the James Bond film Quantum Of Solace, there is a genuine, touching Tear Jerker moment between Mathis and Bond when Mathis dies. Then, several seconds later, Bond dumps his body into a dumpster and loots his wallet, pointing that "he wouldn't care". The audience wasn't sure whether to laugh or not.
And another Bond example: In For Your Eyes Only, Bond has a baddie trapped in a car slowly sliding off a cliff. Bond takes out a pin and says "You left this with Ferrara*
one of Bond's allies, who the baddie murdered and left the pin of another (eventual) ally so as to frame him
, I believe", tossing it over to the baddie. He can only stare at the pin as the car starts sliding off some more before Bond kicks the car off himself. This badass moment is immediately ruined by Bond noting "He had no head for heights...".
Serenity: "I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I *CRASH*"
In Ghosts of the Abyss, an IMAX film by James Cameron detailing his return to the Titanic, one of his two probes loses power while inside a stateroom. After almost losing the other probe in a rescue effort, Cameron's team gets both back outside the ship to the tune of "Just The Two of Us." It's the CMOH of the film. Then, as the submersibles are returning to the surface, the camera cuts to a crewman in one of the submersibles who reports the time as 6 o'clock on September 11, 2001. The crew in the submersibles find out about the attacks on the World Trade Center as soon as they get back on board their ship.
The Graduate is a satirical comedy up until the scene where Elaine discovers the truth about her mother and Ben. Things get considerably heavier then.
Being a pitch black comedy, In Bruges does this expertly with some frequency.
Tyler Perry. His most recent film, Madea Goes to Jail, is the best example of this as the plot frequently switches focus from the comical, over-the-top Madea getting into trouble in amusing ways, to a young prostitute's trials and tribulations that are handled in a dead serious manner. It's enough to give you...oh, you know.
Mrs. Doubtfire was adverted as a wacky romp, which it was, except for the scenes where Robin Williams and Sally Field were tearing each other apart, sometimes in front of their kids.
The new Star Trek movie has a killer instance of this. Kirk has to prove that Spock, in the wake of his planet's destruction (and his mother's death), is not emotionally fit to be Acting Captain, so he goads Spock by mocking his apparent emotionlessness and saying it proves he never loved his mother. Cue Spock almost beating Kirk to death before he recovers his wits and resigns. It's a tense, horrible scene that has everyone on the bridge in shock... except newly-arrived Scotty, who proclaims, "I LIKE THIS SHIP! It's exciting!"
JCVD varies between scenes of a police chief and a doctor being forced to walk through a crowd of onlookers cheering Jean-Claude Van Damme, who they believe to be in the process of robbing their post office (it was his home town, so he was still an icon), and court room scenes of his custody battle over his daughter.
The Taiwanese horror film Re-Cycle hopscotches around moods like a meth-crazed grasshopper. Starting off as a suspense-driven horror film, about midway through the horror gives way to dark fantasy followed by Squick in the form of a cavern full of aborted fetuses and then a few genuinely touching moments, a brief return to horror, and then a Bittersweet Ending sandwiched in between TWO separate Mind Screws. Add a couple of Ass Pulls—because what else can you call the helpful figures having been her previously unmentioned aborted daughter and Grandfather??—and you're there.
The final third of North doesn't just involve the youthful hero trying to return to his parents — another kid, his conniving, power-hungry friend from back home, has sent assassins out to kill him. The film has been a light fantasy up to this point, and indeed continues to be, but the plot development is so dark that it invokes this trope nevertheless.
Incident at Loch Ness is a documentary (...but not really) about director Werner Herzog attempting to film a project about the Loch Ness monster and the nature of folk tales. Herzog has to deal with the undercutting of assistant-director Zak Penn constantly. Penn is trying to stage things for dramatic effect, such as getting an animatronic Nessie to scare the crew members, much to Herzog's consternation. Then, after Zak Penn draws a gun, the REAL Loch Ness monster attacks the crew and all hell breaks loose.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire After Harry apparates back to the grounds with Cedric's body, the marching band starts playing, everyone cheers (Cedric's dad is very enthusiastic) and the headmasters go to congratulate Harry. By the time Harry and Voldy have stopped fighting, its easy for the movie audience to have forgotten that Cedric was killed in the midst of the conflict. Suddenly Fleur lets out a shriek, the music slowly dies down, and everything come to a silence. Cedric's father then runs down to the body of his son. Cue the violin.
Let me through! LET ME THROUGH!
That's my son! That's my boy! My BOY!
There's an earlier example of this in the same film, when Mad-Eye Moody is demonstrating the Unforgiveable Curses. Making the little spidery thing dance and jump and crawl over people? Classroom is in fits of giggles. Making her jump out of the window or drown herself? Hilarity comes ot a screeching halt. See it here.
In the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince book, the scene with Ron's humorous love potion antics already has an extreme case of this, but the movie takes it a step further by having Ron comically toppling out of frame first. The audience giggles. Cut immediately to him convulsing on the floor and foaming at the mouth.
In the same film, there's the scene where Hagrid and Slughorn are singing that wizard song and reminiscing about Aragog. In a drunken stupor, complete with Hagrid passing out after Slughorn mentions he once had a fish. After Hagrid passes out, Slughorn turns to Harry and immediately explains that the fish was given to him by Harry's mother, and the fish disappeared because the magic sustaining it was dead...
The following film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 features a fairly comical line by Dobby the house elf, followed not three minutes later by his death by the hands of Bellatrix. It should also be noted that this is what the film ends on.
Jaws manages to successfully switch back and forth between comedy and horror, sometimes in the space of a single line: "Come on down and chum some of this shit!"
Spielberg admitted that in that scene, the intention was laugh - Jump Scare - nervous laugh ("You're gonna need a bigger boat"). So much that when after a preview had the one-liner being covered by screams, they re-edited so the audience could recover and properly laugh.
Minor example in the 1946 Cole Porter biopic Night and Day: at one point you get Busby Berkeley-type numbers intercut with scenes of Porter on the operating table getting major leg surgery after his riding accident.
V for Vendetta, Gordon's hysterically funny TV show and then BOOM He gets beaten with a stick and Evey gets kidnapped.
Gold Diggers of 1933 ends with a happy scene of all the lovers finally ending up together, followed by a somber Depression-themed musical number that closes the film. (Had it not been for Executive Meddling, the film would have ended with a happier song, which instead got pushed to the middle of the film.)
Zombieland. The Bill Murray scene crosses the line between funny and sad so many times it uses said line as a jump-rope.
Also, the scene where it's revealed that Woody Harrelson's character's son, not his dog, is the one who died is appallingly sad and actually made this troper get teary-eyed in a damn zombie comedy.
The whiplash at this part actually comes when said character then says 'I haven't cried this hard since Titanic!'
After which he wipes his eyes with hundred-dollar bills.
Though the use of this trope is a longtime staple in Coen brothers films (see Burn After Reading above), probably the most extreme example is in Fargo, in which hilarious deadpan comedy is interspersed with graphic killings, brutal violence, and a surprisingly haunting musical theme. The sheer extremity of the film's Mood Whiplash is personified in the character of Gaear (played by Peter Stormare), who rarely speaks except to nag Steve Buscemi's character (repeatedly) about going to "the pancakes house", tears up over TV soap operas - and is a terrifying, cold-blooded killer who murders anyone and everyone who gets in his way (including his own partner. Brutally. And feeds his body into a wood chipper.) without a moment's hesitation.
An intentional use: the beginning of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events starts with a stop-motion animated short called "The Littlest Elf". The happy, frolicking piece is suddenly cut off with a Record Needle Scratch that turns off all of the lights:
Lemony Snicket: I'm sorry to inform you that this is not the movie you will be watching. The movie you are about to see is extremely unpleasant. If you wish to see a film about a happy little elf, then I'm sure there is still plenty of seating in theatre number two. However, if you like stories about clever and reasonably attractive orphans, suspicious fires, carnivorous leeches, Italian food and secret organizations, then stay, as I retrace each and every one of the Baudelaire children's woeful steps. My name is Lemony Snicket, and it is my sad duty to document this tale.
In Bob Fosse's film version of Cabaret, at a picnic a rather handsome German youth begins singing the patriotic song "Tomorrow Belongs To Me", and other people begin to spontaneously join him acapella. Then the camera pans back, to reveal him wearing the Swastika armband and a brownshirt.
In the same film, one scene cuts rapidly between a peppy cabaret number and Nazis brutally beating one of the characters.
The fairly good Irish indie film "WC", has a Clerks-ish vibe for the most part... then we flash back to Katya's horrible kidnapping and rape shot in a distressingly realistic way... then we go right back into the low-key comedy Clerks-ish style.
Averted in Clerks, a straight comedy that was originally going to end with the main character suddenly getting gunned down in a robbery. Kevin Smith was apparently brought to his senses.
In The Lost Battalion, the main characters are saved by their side's artillery, complete with heartwarming music and cheering. In an instant, this turns sour as the artillery has been misaimed and is falling right on top of them, killing tons of soldiers.
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is a very musical, colourful, and exciting film until it begins winding down to Mr. Magorium's death, which plunges even the titular Emporium into a deep depression. The characters are then forced to enter the "real world". Granted, one of the movie's lessons is about how to rise from tragedy and find your own place, but the shift from whimsical to bleakly serious is fairly shocking for a children's movie.
The Star Wars movies do this. Going by order of release, the first movie was a light-hearted fairy tale, the second movie was a dark and serious drama, and the third flipped back to being a child friendly light hearted action movie with even more whimsical creatures and humour. This tone carried through the fourth and fifth movies before going back to the dark drama and even more grittiness that bordered on disturbing.
The climax of The Phantom Menace was pointed out by the editor to do this, in a negative way. Due to it being made up of four different conflicts with varying tones, it jumps between sadness at the death of a hero, humour with Jar-Jar Binks, excitement in a large space battle, and nothing in a scene with Padme. This results in all the would-be emotions being negated and in a worse case scenario leaving the audience bored out of their minds. Both the following movies had much less complicated climaxes as a result.
Return of the Jedi's climax also had this problem, to a slightly lesser degree -We switch between Luke falling dangerously close to the Dark Side during his confrontation with the Emperor, the Rebel Alliance's Last Stand against the Imperial Armada... And the Ewoks, cute cuddly teddy bears comically beating up Stormtroopers with sticks and stones.
The second and third prequel movies do a better job at keeping the same general mood throughout except for the climax of Revenge of the Sith. Anakin is disfigured and has turned to the Dark Side, Padme is dead, the Jedi Order and the Republic are no more, Palpatine has taken over the galaxy,... and we get a cute little funny scene with C-3PO moments before the end credits. At least it was Black Comedy.
In Sleuth, the story jumps from funny to horrifying within a second. Some scenes you might alternate between smiling and being afraid for the characters' lives several times within one moment. You could even find yourself grinning while thinking "I think something horrible is going to happen any minute".
The party scene in Beethoven's 2nd takes a dark turn when Ryce's boyfriend attempts to rape her, then goes back to the usual hijinks when Beethoven causes the boyfriend's vacation home to collapse.
In The Good Son when Mark tells Susan that Henry may be a psychopath she slaps him and tells him never to say that again, seconds later she's crying and hugging him. Yay mood swings!
The 1989 comedy The Burbs on the surface seems to be a wacky "mistaken identity" comedy about three childish protagonists who suspect that their next-door neighbors are serial killers. Hilarity Ensues, and then the whole thing culminates in a Crowning Moment of Funny when the three men accidentally blow up the neighbors' house....or so it seems. Turns out, the suspicious neighbors really were serial killers, and the trunk of their car is filled with decomposed human remains. By the end of the adventure, the Tom Hanks character is exhausted, partially disfigured, and profoundly disillusioned about suburban life; he just wants to join his wife and son at a cabin by the lake. But then, at the very end, the mood reverts to comedy again as the teenaged Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant looks around at the chaos surrounding him and exults, "God, I love this street!"
The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's all spoofy and crazy and fun and then.... WTF!? The song "I'm Going Home" pops up and it's downhill from there.
The scholar/narrator/storyteller/whoever deserves a mention as well. He starts out giving straightlaced, nonchalant, neutral descriptions of the situation, lets himself go during the Time Warp, goes back to straightlaced, and at the end delivers a slow, deadpan commentary on humanity that sounds almost like an ill omen.
Alien≥ had a fair few examples of this, including a hilariously well-timed joke about running with scissors in-between gruesome deaths in the middle of a chase scene, Clemmens having his head lopped off less than a minute after having some light-hearted post-sex conversation with Ripley, and Morse erroneously yelling "fuck!" after a period of silence following the death of the superintendent. Plenty of other examples involving sudden cuts between scenes with vastly different levels of intensity.
The little-seen Charlie Chaplin non-Tramp movie Monsieur Verdoux is an interesting version of this: for the first two-thirds it's a merry dark comedy about a dandy who murders a succession of rich wives for their money; there are quite hilarious hijinks as he attempts to kill the most annoying one in a rowboat and also when the current wife shows up at the wedding to the next wife, etc. It then takes a not-funny dark and philosophical turn when he's actually arrested for his crimes and sentenced to death. The movie then has a very frank and stern message about the morality of the death penalty. Not so hilarious.
The little-seen movie Fierce People is really only notable for this trope. The first half is a jolly, cutesy coming of age/Fish out of Water movie. Then around the halfway mark the main character suffers a violent, brutal rape, causing him to reevaluate everything he knows. The scene where his mother discovers the... true nature of the crime is particularly brutal because Finn's character is pretty understated up until this point, where he breaks down with shame, begging her not to reveal it. Not surprisingly, the second half of the movie is like a completely different film after that.
Korean cinema and Asian movies in general tend to do this a lot. There are already a few examples here but others include:
Korean film distributor Showbox has this cute littleVanity Plate preceding all of their movies. This includes dark flicks such as Taegukgi ("Hard to believe 20 minutes after this adorable logo, you'd see the most intensive, violence war scenes ever.", says a comment in the linked video) and The Host...
...which itself flip flops from a family drama, to a comedy, to a giant monster movie, to a political thriller, and returns to all of these in a moment's notice.
The Heroic Trio - A goofy Hong Kong superhero/martial arts movie about three women kicking butt. There are scenes of pure slapstick mingled with decapitations, blood sprays, and babies being killed.
The Untold Story (aka Bun Man) - A supposedly true story about a man from Macau who kills people and cooks them in his dumplings. The film is extremely dark and disturbing except for the scenes taking place at the police station which are on an almost sitcom-level of whackiness.
The Korean movie Vampire Cop Ricky, nominally a comedy, switches repeatedly between serious cop drama and total vampire slapstick. Several serious scenes are interrupted by sudden physical comedy, while others start hilarious and end very, very badly.
Fellini's Nights of Cabiria varies in tone from comic to somewhat tragic, but with a generally positive outlook. Nothing like the end of the movie where there is a genuine sense that Cabiria's life is in danger and the absolute heartbreak that follows.
One of the best comedic moments in True Lies is probably the "Battery, Aziz" scene - the terrorist Aziz is making an angry and frightening threat video, when the camcorder runs low on battery. The cameraman lowers the camera, looks pained and apologetic, and explains "battery, Aziz!" Aziz, dumbfounded, snaps at him "then go get another one, you IDIOT!"
TRON: Legacy gives us the nightclub battle, where we see the flamboyantly and Ambiguously Gay Castor hilariously having a blast with his cane gun. Nano-seconds later, we cut to Quorra's arm getting hacked off.
Averted in Terminator 2 Judgment Day. The reason that the T-800's Un Smile was cut out of the film was because James Cameron thought it was too big of a leap to go from Arnold goofing off, to discussing Judgment Day in the very next scene.
In Barney's Version, the first two-thirds are more or less a romantic/sex comedy (albeit a dark, rather mean-spirited one), and then takes a very gloomy turn when Barney cheats on Miriam, loses her to another man, develops Alzheimer's and finally dies.
Twister has one that might be more for a character than the audience. Late in the movie, when the chasers are taking shelter from an approaching F-5 tornado, the high winds cause a hose to break and whip around near the huddling group. One of the characters manages to grab the hose, bellowing a shout of triumph as he holds his prize. A second later a hubcap flies through the air, slicing across his forehead and needless to say darkening his mood.
A Very Long Engagement alternates between the often fairly whimsical scenes set in the present and extremely grisly flashbacks to the recently ended first world war.
Dagon's slow pacing and dramatic mood is interrupted by a flashback to a surprisingly dramatic depiction of the town's corruption by inhuman forces.
Short Circuit II, like its predecessor, is a fairly light comedy. That is, till the scene where Oscar has his goons brutally smash up Johnny Five in near-slow-motion. Seeing him "limp off" afterwards doesn't help matters, right after our robot hero saves himself by using a toy plane to Ass Shove one of the goons. And then, it reaches Tear Jerker levels when Johnny Five writes "dying" on a brick wall.
The Bollywood megamovie 3 Idiots has an orbital one. Our heroes are fixing a desperate senior's flying camera, to help him to a graduation. The small chooper flies up to the window of the senior, while our heroes are singing and dancing. And then we can see on the tiny screen that the senior hanged himself.
Black Swan has several, none more jarring than the one Nina herself suffers when she finds herself masturbating with her sleeping mother right next to her.
Toward the end of Cabin Fever, the main character is passed out in jail, having a dream about himself and his girlfriend happily skipping through a flowery meadow with happy music. Which then smash-cuts to a shot of her horribly rotted face and loud screaming.
One of Johnny's lines from The Room contains this. Granted, it's more to do with the words themselves, as Tommy Wiseau's tone is the same throughout:
Johnny: ''"I did not hit her! It's not true, it's bullshit! I did not hit her! I did not!... oh hi Mark.
Johnny's fight with Mark at the end. It's supposed to be a dramatic turning point representing the shattering of their friendship and how deeply Johnny has been betrayed...and then Johnny goes "You're just a chicken! Cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheeeeeep!
The Russian adaptation of Pippi Longstocking does this a couple of times. One second, the audience, along with half of the characters, is laughing at Pippi's antics, the next second she is asked about her parent and breaks into a total Tear Jerker song, revealing that her mother is dead and her father is missing. And then, "Lets play Hide-and-Seek!"
Another Russian film, City of Craftsmen has bloody fight between city inhabitants and invaders, with a very serious scene where both the leader of the invaders and the Rebel Leader die as a climax. Then the Rebel Leader is Back from the Dead and we are treated to total slapstick as the rebels fight the invaders with large spoons, brooms, frying pans and the like, and drive them out without single drop of blood.
In a German Film Stahlnetz: PSI a little girl is kidnapped, locked up and left to die and the police struggles to find her in time. The the help of Power of Friendship, and some supernatural thing they do and then her best friend meets her:
- I missed you so much.
- I still owe you the solution for those Math questions...
Pretty much every Shane Meadows film ever made features one of these. A notable example is This Is England: Shaun is having a great time with his new friends, but when Combo returns from prison, things start to get ugly. A particularly devastating use of this trope is when Milky, stoned with Combo, shares pleasant stories about his family, which cause Combo to get increasingly agitated, racist and then beat the crap out of him.
50/50, in spades. It's a comedy about cancer, which should clue you in. Sequences include: Joseph Gordon-Levitt walking down a hallway filled with empathetic cancer patients, being offered weed by older patients followed by a highly amusing trip down a hallway, and then waking up in the middle of the night and vomiting violently. In that order.
In How to Deal, we see a high school boy score a soccer goal and dance around happily, while his teammates crowd around him and his girlfriend cheers from the stands. Suddenly he drops to the ground, and seconds later we learn he died of a heart defect. It's so ridiculously abrupt as to almost cause laughter.
The Israeli film Distortion starts like a romantic comedy, with a couple meeting in person for the first time in a cafe. Moments later, the cafe blows up.
The Seven Little Foys gives you Bob Hope and One-Scene WonderJames Cagney trading jokes and tap dancing together for a good five minutes. In the very next scene, Hope's character finds out that his wife died while he was away.
The elevator scene in Drive is a rather notable example transitioning from romantic music and a lit backdrop over the kiss to the Driver brutally killing the other in the elevator by stomping his head into a bloody pulp.
Two deleted scenes (restored in international cuts) of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery have the death of mooks being mourned: one (crushed by a steamroller) was happily married with a kid and another, who was about to get married...
Mook's friend (Rob Lowe): Yes, I have a friend named John Smith. That's right, he's in Dr. Evil's private army. What? He's dead? Decapitated by mutated ill-tempered sea bass? Oh my God! OK, thank you.
Coraline is famous for transitioning from fantasy to horror at the halfway point, when the true intentions of the Other Mother are revealed.
Avere vent'anni begins as what appears to be a typical sexploitation comedy, but ends with the two female leads being brutally raped and murdered.
A Ma Soeur was not exactly light and fluffy before, but the ending, in which the lead character is raped after her family is axed to death in their car, is still a total shock.
Likewise for Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which ends with the main character being raped and killed by a man she picked up in a bar, made all the more tragic by the fact that she was finally beginning to turn her life around.
Red Dawn 1984 keeps switching between dark, serious scenes and patriotic Narm so thick it's a wonder the characters don't spontaneously transform into mom's apple pies.
The comedic 1958 Japanese film The Rickshaw Man for 85% of its running time is funny, charming, good old-fashioned family fun. In the last 10 or 15 minutes, Toshiro Mifune suddenly becomes debilitatingly sad and then dies in a drunk stupor. What the hell, movie?
When Thor is adjusting to Earth, the whiplash borders on a Genre Shift from epic fantasy to fish out of water comedy, although the film's In Media Res opening lets us know it's coming and softens the impact a bit.
Peter Jackson's movie The Frighteners is a perfect example of this trope. For the first half of the movie it is a relatively light-hearted horror-comedy which appears to be making fun of more serious, scary horror movies. Then in the second half of the movie all comedy elements of the movie are completely abandoned and it becaomes a fully fledged horror movie.
The 1967 feature The President's Analyst is loaded with this: pop-culture snark and cheerful caricature are interspersed with moments like Godfrey Cambridge's devastating monologue on the day he started kindergarten and learned "what a nigger was". At one point the titular analyst, Sidney Schafer, has a paranoid nightmare that everyone is spying on him, even his beloved girlfriend Nan. Awakening in a panic, he telephones her for reassurance and then hangs up, in sudden comic suspicion that his telephone might be bugged. His paranoia is played as comedically preposterous ... until Nan is seen, with tears in her eyes, playing back his recorded phone call for her CEA handlers.