- The entire premise. It portrays the cruel and heartless nature of space. Especially since it could actually happen...this movie practically runs on Nightmare Fuel.
- The catastrophe that kicks off the events of the film is called the Kessler Syndrome . It postulates that the density of objects (Satellites, Space Stations and other debris) in low Earth orbit could increase to the point where a major collision between objects could result in a chain reaction that creates a cloud of shrapnel that would pulverize anything unfortunate enough to get in its way, thus creating even more debris. Even worse, that's not made up at all, it's a real phenomenon that can occur with the right conditions. This might even happen within the next 100 years.note
- The first scenes of Ryan being flung into deep space and spinning out of control, filmed from her perspective (and her heavy, gasping breaths). Same with most of the intense scenes filmed from her perspective.
- Just the sheer level of horror that the opening disaster provides, with Ryan tumbling away from the aftermath. The situation is so hopeless that it truly feels like Ryan is about to die, and we stay with her the whole time as the terror of realizing she has no chance of rescue comes over her. Some fans even speculate that her rescue and the whole movie is a survival fantasy that plays out in her head as she drifts away to her death.
- People with extreme fears of heights, kenophobes, and/or agoraphobes, in general, will be very freaked out, to say the least.
- Especially this. The film manages to capture the true sense of scale that comes from being in orbit, made much more visceral in 3D. It makes the threats that the protagonists face much more harrowing.
- The fact that Kowalski has a while before he succumbs to hypoxia or hypothermia to think about the fact that if only he hadn't burned up all that fuel trying to set the spacewalk record, he wouldn't be dying in space and would be able to help Ryan pull through.
- The death of Shariff, who had debris go right through his head and is seen with a Fatal Family Photo floating over his corpse. Brr.
- Speaking of them, their reveal is the film's only jump scare, but goddamn is it a massive one.
- "Explorer, this is Kowalski, confirm visual contact with debris." And the shuttle can't make any motion to evade with the arm extended and the presence of the Hubble. They have to watch it come in and pray. It's not enough.
- It's easy to miss, but as the debris approaches someone can be heard reporting "Meteorological reports no-go for re-entry." Meaning that even if everyone had been on board the shuttle, even they hadn't been attached to Hubble, even if they'd been ordered to abort as soon as NASA discovered the Russian missile strike, they still wouldn't have been able to return to Earth due to bad weather. They really were doomed from the moment that first satellite exploded.
- The fire that goes off in the station. If Stone hadn't escaped, it would've spelled out a number of horrible ways to go: Depleting the oxygen out until she couldn't breathe, ripping a hole in the station that would've sucked out her or the O2, or simply burning her alive. Not to mention how close she came to being struck by that rogue gas canister or how she banged her head and nearly blacked out.
- Unleaded fuel: in reality, there wouldn't be any convenient space stations within reach. You'd just orbit helplessly until you died. (This actually makes real-life space explorers more awesome, because they know that.)
- At the end, when Ryan is gasping for air when the capsule is filling up with water. Then when she is sinking down due to the weight of the spacesuit. She must have humongous lungs!
- She probably does. As astronauts are trained underwater in order to simulate zero-gravity situations.
- The quiet sequences where Ryan is alone in space give a very scary Sealed Suit/shuttle In The Middle Of Space vibe. Nothing Is Scarier also applies since you get the idea something, anything could happen. Finally, being in a damaged shuttle or escape pod that is seemingly damaged heavily invokes... a state of inescapable limbo.
- Stone losing the race to untangle the parachute before the second wave of debris reaches her. Especially when we can see the first shards fly past in the background out of her field of vision, with the music subtly building.
- And what does Stone say in response to the incoming debris?
- The aversion of Space Is Noisy; it's pretty terrifying to see the Hubble and various stations shredded to dangerous pieces noiselessly as Stone and Kowalski are in the midst of it.
- The radio in the Soyuz craft picking up an unknown voice on Earth is almost more excruciating than dead silence; imagine drifting in a dead spacecraft hearing a person on the radio and not even being able to pass on a farewell message. The voice can't understand Ryan, doesn't know who she is, and wouldn't be able to do anything about it anyway if they did.
- Read #4 of this article Then watch Gravity again. Good luck sleeping soundly for a while...
- The cold pre-recorded Chinese voice on the Tiangong's PA. It sounds eerily calm despite the alarms and rumbling from the falling station.
Nightmare Fuel / Gravity