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In response to The Vern’s 20 favorite scenes, (and his response to A Fistful Of Films call for favorite moments) here are 20 of my growing list of favs, which will surely be modified, altered, rearranged, organized, added too, and more in the coming years. Since this kind of thing is actually the entire premise of my website, it is a question most often asked. But creating a list of one’s favorite moments in film is like choosing your favorite foods. It depends on so many things, such as who you are with, where you are, and why you are experiencing it. Sometimes it’s a solitary thing though, where only you are feeling that something special and it’s beyond explanation. But probably no one is reading this part and has skipped straight to the list anyway, so let’s join them. Thanks though, Vern, for the inspiration.
Blade Runner (1982): Tears in Rain
My all-time favorite movie, this scene still gives me chills. A haunting reflection on life and death, the moment is as pure and perfect as any moment in cinema history. Read my review of it here.
The Kid (1921): The Tramp Rescues The Kid
In a life made of comedy, Chaplin shows a remarkable moment of high drama and creates one of the most enduring and lovely scenes ever put to film. Nothing more to say. Make sure you have a tissue. My full review here.
The Abyss (1989): Lindsey Drowns
Probably all of us have made a short list with friend over a beer as to what would be the worst death. Drowning most assuredly make the list. In The Abyss, the moment Lindsey drowns is one of the more harrowing moments I have ever seen, and remains difficult but endlessly watchable. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is a wonder here, so convincing as she is dealt an impossible hand, her courage and fear so powerful, it takes my breath away. It feels like this is really happening and the frantic decisions made by the couple are heartbreaking at best. Followed by the film’s memorable revival scene, these two sequences are the very heart of this amazing movie. My full review here.
Punch Drunk Love (2002): Barry Comes Back
Punch Drunk Love is an almost flawless piece of art, more so because it is none other than Adam Sandler in the lead, creating a character so deeply moving and affecting, it is like something out of a dream. While there is much about the movie that should be on this list, the scene when Barry comes back to Lena is remarkable on so many levels. The nervousness, the inner sorrow and fear, the understanding between the two, and the embrace at the end are the very definition of movie magic. My full review here.
Platoon (1986): Elias Dies
Saw this in theaters as a very young man and it has lingered in my mind ever since as the most tragic death in film. Sure, other deaths have more impact (even some on this list) but the tragedy of Elias and his betrayal from Barnes is so hard to carry as a viewer. That single tormenting second when we see Barnes look out the helicopter is almost as hard to watch as Elias’ death. And is there any more dramatic solider death than this? Elias and his outstretched arms falling forward. It was in this very sequence where I am sure part of the innocence of my youth died right along side Elias.
Dancer in the Dark (2000): Selma’s Fate
Perhaps the most decisive movie on my list, this film is a mentally exhausting film, but very rewarding. Bjork is simply mesmerizing in her only film appearance, and absolutely heartbreaking in the final scene. Brutal, honest, frightening, and gripping, Selma’s fate has stayed with me through the years.
Jaws (1975): The Fate of the Indianapolis
It’s the sign of a master storyteller who makes the most gripping scene in a thriller/horror/monster movie be one where it’s just a guy sitting at a table talking. Yet that is exactly what happens in this classic scene where Quint tells Brody and Hooper about the downing of the Indianapolis. Our imaginations take over as Robert Shaw pulls us into his story. We’re gonna need a bigger pair of underdrawers.
Fury (2014): Tiger versus Sherman
An uncommon war movie, Fury keeps war almost entirely around the body of a single tank. The story of five men of wildly different personalities and backgrounds, they are a unit in harmony in battle. None more so than when they face off against a German Tiger tank. As the Allied forces are steadily beaten back, Pitt and his crew brave on and out maneuver the enemy. It’s savage and yet somehow majestic as the crew work as one, viciously moving forward with absolute determination. One of the best movie tank battles.
House of Flying Daggers (2005): Bamboo Forest Battle
When the sound of the very weapons used in the fight are also the soundtrack for the scene, you know you have something special. At the heart of the wire-work fighting craze of the previous decade, House of Flying Daggers brought the wow in a big way. More like a dance than a fight, this battle of Jin and Xiao Mei against the tree-bound attackers is breathtaking to watch. Seamlessly leaping and diving as singing bamboo spears just miss their marks, the choreography alone is enough to keep one interested, add to that the touching romance and powerful story and this is one that should be on any tops list.
Interstellar (2014): Cooper Sees His Children Grow
While on a mission to literally save the people of earth, Cooper is separated from his family by not only miles but years and years, and in this scene, he plays a clip of video messages sent over a twenty-year span, watching his children grow before his eyes. It’s a startling moment punctuated by two outstanding performances from Matthew McConaughey and Casey Affleck. Sentimental and intensely personal, it almost feels as if we should turn away and give this distant father some time to be alone. Listen to our podcast of it here.
Clear and Present Danger (1994): You Gave Your Word
The Jack Ryan series is hit and miss, but this is the stand out film. The story, the action, the pacing, and the inspired direction of Phillip Noyce are all top notch. Not relying on heavy action, the story is complex and rich with twists. Harrison Ford is at his best here, and yet it is the brief moments with Admiral Greer, played by James Earl Jones that are some of the most memorable. In this touching scene, he reminds Ryan of his duty and even though he is near death, he finds the courage to motivate his friend. And us.
Miller’s Crossing (1990): Look Into Your Heart
First, sorry the video quality is bad. Couldn’t find a better one. Miller’s Crossing is my favorite Coen Brother’s movie and this moment, as Bernie pleads for his life, is its best. The framing of this entire sequence is the kind of art that makes me wish I had this same vision. How the camera stays over Tom’s shoulder as Bernie walks into the forest, then switches to Tom’s face, shrouded in shadow. And then how we move to a distance as Bernie drops to his knees. The scene is deeply moving and frightening as we truly don’t know what Tom will do. I watch this movie just for these few minutes.
Young Frankenstein (1974): SEDAGIVE!
In an already uproarious film, SEDAGIVE is by far the best laugh out loud moment. While his monster nearly kills him, Doctor Frankenstein pleads with Igor and Inga to give the creature a sedative but can’t speak as the monster’s hands wrap around his throat. It boils down to a game of charades and Igor hilariously misunderstanding what seems like a very basic request. I laugh like an idiot every time.
Dances With Wolves (1989): Two Socks And Dunbar
In an epic film that spans a long and diverse journey such as John Dunbar in Dances with Wolves, there are bound to be many great moments. And while there are some moments that are truly grand in scale and size, the most memorable is a simple, short, and touching moment between a man and a wolf. During the film, the animal makes several appearances and while initially afraid of the creature, Dunbar eventually comes to welcome it, and even, as this moment reveals, win its trust. It says a lot about the film and the story it is trying to tell.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004): Loud Noises
If he isn’t already, Steve Carell should be a certified national treasure and hunted for his timeless value by Nicolas Cage. Sure, this movie is a deep well of classic one liners and zany moments, but this is the one that makes me laugh the hardest, and the two words I repeat most often in a meeting.
Rocky (1976): The Final Fight
A series that is now more parodied than respected, the original entry is far and away the best and most enduring. A simple, personal tale of triumph, the final fight is the hallmark, and inspires anyone watching to run out and chase their dreams. There’s not a single one of who has seen this film and not shouted out “Adrian” at least once. Go ahead, admit it.
Blue Valentine (2010): I’ll Play A Song, You Dance
I think this is my favorite romantic movie moment ever. It’s just perfect and I wish I could have a moment just like this in my real life. That’s all there is to say.
All The Real Girls (2003): I’m Scared
Speaking of romance, the first kiss is always the most memorable and in David Gordon Green’s lovely All the Real Girls, it is one of the best ever recorded, giving it a powerfully emotional punch. Filmed with no cuts, no closeups or even movement, the two lovers are framed in an alleyway in the dark, cast under sparse light above, and they share an intimacy that resonates with anyone who has been so taken by someone else that it physical hurts to be even one second apart. Beautiful.
Lord of the Rings (2001): My Captain
In perhaps the most epic of trilogies ever made, the most memorable moment in a series packed with expansive battles and thousands of fighting warriors, is the death of a single man. As Borimor fights off hordes of enemies closing in two Hobbits, he can make it only so long before flying arrows find their mark. His final breath is saved to tell a fellow man, whom he once had no love for, that he would have followed him anywhere.
The Karate Kid (1984): Wax On
Ever have that “ah-ha!” moment when you suddenly realize that what you’ve been doing, which seemed trivial and useless actually makes sense? Well, this is it for Daniel as he finally understands that the hours of waxing Mr. Miyagi’s car, painting his fence and sanding his floor have all been training for the big karate fight. It’s a wonderful moment between teacher and student and is the highlight of the film. Check out my full review of this scene here.
What are your favorite moments in film? Link them in the comments below, or head over to Vern’s Video Vortex and add to his.
Thanks for reading.