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1. When a character says or does something and the camera cuts away to another character to show them react in some way. Used in every sort of show around. In interviews, the reaction shot will simply show the interviewer nodding wisely (so that the audio could be edited - Charlie Brooker did a take on this). In a Sitcom, the other character is often doing an Eye Take.
See also: Double Take, Eye Take, Loud Gulp, Shrug Take, Spit Take, Split-Screen Reaction. An extreme form of this, usually reserved for Sequential Art with all but the most physical of comedians, is the Face Fault.
2. When a character (or characters) are shown reacting to something 'off camera.' Either precedes or precludes a Reveal Shot. In the latter case it becomes a Take Our Word for It. Can be used for laughs as the characters describe what they're seeing. One of the more clever forms of censorship (if you can't show something unspeakable, show people reacting to it and let the audience picture it for themselves!) Head-Tiltingly Kinky is an example. The effect can give the offscreen event more impact than a direct depiction.
- About half of the anime Serial Experiments Lain seems to be reaction shots (both kinds). When it isn't setting up a Reveal Shot, it's usually a reaction shot chain -- Lain reacts to a friend, the friend reacts to Lain's reaction, Lain reacts to the reaction to the reaction, and so on.
- Rock Lees Springtime of Youth: Tenten, being the Only Sane Man, gets these a lot.
- The final moments of the 1971 TV movie They Might Be Giants (yes, from which the band took its name). George C. Scott (playing a man who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes) and Joanne Woodward (as his psychiatrist, Dr. Mildred Watson) are about to come face-to-face with what may or may not be a very real Professor Moriarty; the film ends with a Reaction Shot from them as they apparently see Moriarty for the first time.
- The director of Once has said that although the film is meant to be focused on the two main characters, it's helpful for the audience to occasionally show the reactions of other people to their music.
Live Action TV
- The last shot of Dallas (as a regular series) with Patrick Duffy saying "Oh my god".
- In an episode of Are You Being Served, the employees pass around a box containing a birthday present, each in turn reacting and saying what a wonderful gift it is. Mr. Humphreys finally steps through the fourth wall and admits, "We're not going to show you what it is."
- Saturday Night Live based a well-known sketch around this, as Steve Martin led a group of yokels staring in befuddled awe at an unseen something. Each in turn tries to guess at what it is, eventually falling back to "What the heck is that?"
- In the fourth season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander's dream sequence involves heavily tarted-up versions of Willow and Tara kissing... but because girl-on-girl kissing couldn't be shown, we only see Xander's expression, as he's unsure of whether he's more disgusted with himself for looking or turned on by the show, in a very, very long reaction shot with smoochy noises playing on the soundtrack.
- When the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew reviewed the trailers for Jurassic Park: The Lost World they made the claim that the reaction shot is Spielberg's trademark. They showed all the reaction shots together; the sheer volume was a compelling argument.
- Higher Ground 's Crowning Moment of Funny, when Peter and the Cliffhanger girls attempt to make Sophie a birthday cake without a recipe. The cake isn't shown when they first take it out of the oven.
Kat: Oh dear lord.
- Occurs occasionally on Jeopardy!, most notably on the episode where Nancy Zerg defeated Ken Jennings, who at that point had won an unprecedented 74 games in a row and the camera cut instantly to her surprised reaction. This reaction shot is dubbed the "Zerg Cam" both by fans and by the show itself.
- In Doctor Who, after Jack reveals his old nickname, Martha's and the Doctor's faces slowly change from grinning to "No freaking way" at the exact same time.
- Martin Freeman's John Watson is the king of these.
- That's because he's the king of them in real life as well.
- The online viral video of the prairie dog turning dramatically to the camera is an example of this, complete with fitting music.
- Parodied in darksideincorprorated's Yu-Gi-Oh GX the Abridged Series. One of their running gags is saying "Reaction Shot!" whilst doing said reaction shot.
- Half the point of the web series Reaction & Review.
- Most of the, uh, fun of shock sites comes from watching YouTube videos of people's squicked-out reactions.
- The Weekenders, "Pru": Pru shows the main characters a room for popular kids. We only see them peering into the room, but also hear them say that there's a tennis court and waterfall in there.
- This type of shot may be used to hide "unsuitable" content: in WB's short-lived Road Rovers, many episodes featured shots of the Rovers reacting to Muzzle sicking some villains.
- Alternatively used to hide the other kind of "unsuitable" content. Often a Toplessness From the Back shot is seen in the foreground.
- In one episode of Re Boot, a game character is faced by a Binome in a trenchcoat. The Binome flashes the player (seen from over the Binome's shoulder), and a second after he opens the coat there's a wet, meaty thump of something hitting the ground. The player's eyes bulge in horror, he screams and runs away, and the Binome looks over his shoulder to wink at the camera.
- The Simpsons Movie, after the woodland creatures help Marge and Homer undress. Although nothing is heard or seen, the aghast expressions on their faces tell us more about the Simpsons' love life than we needed to know.
- Including the young deer's father shielding his child's eyes as a Crowning Moment of Funny.
- The second type occurs in Total Drama Action. In order to try on a special boot, Lindsay takes off her shoes and the camera immediately cuts to the other characters looking horrified, followed by dozens of big feet jokes, and Chris saying that the shoe only fits on one toe.
- The first type occurred in the first few Aftermaths. Often it cut to a shot of the non-participating contestants giving an Eye Take or responding nonverbally (ie: crying at Trent's love song or laughing at Owen) to whatever was happening onstage.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, this combines with three different kinds of Discretion Shot to show us how Zuko got his scar. We see Iroh looking horrified, Zhao looking Smug, and Azula looking oddly triumphant.