Doors in film are pretty much unmemorable, as they are just a prop device that is often unnoticeable, which is the point. But every so often a door plays a bigger role in a scene and contributes thematically to the moment. For this list, the rules are:
- The door cannot be the focus of the story or used as a continuing plot device, so films such as Being John Malkovich, Coraline, Backdraft, Monster’s Inc., etc. are out.
- The door can be any door as long as it is part of a structure, so vehicle doors are out.
- The door must be used in the scene, either opened or closed or both, or passed through it. No standing in the background. Or floating and not letting Jack on it and letting him freeze and drown.
Here are 14 Movie Moments when a door helped make the difference. Of course, SPOILERS are in effect.
Film Summary: Serpico is an undercover cop who uncovers a network of corruption in the NYPD and struggles to bring it to light.
The Door Moment: On a drug bust with two other cops, who are on the take, he is pinned in a doorway and shot in the face. This is both the opening and closing of the film as it sets up the entire story, told in flashback. The moment is terrifying as his body is jammed in frame and can see the gun leveling up to him. (Skip to 4:22 for scene)
Film Summary: After successful sports agent Jerry Maguire is fired for taking the moral high ground, he opens his own agency with the one girl from his old job that follows him, and the two, well, complete each other.
The Door Moment: On their first real date, Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) and Jerry (Tom Cruise) end up back at her place (or rather her sister’s house where she lives). She is nervous but eager, and when she opens the bedroom door where Jerry is waiting, he is ready, standing, smoldering. But for fun. Charming and a little self aware, the moment pokes some fun at the genre it is part of. (Scene starts at 1:13)
Film Summary: Through a botched robbery and impromptu movie audition, Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) ends up in Hollywood embroiled with a murder mystery that involves a childhood friend and a gay private detective. A great mix of comedy and drama.
The Door Moment: Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) is an old friend of Harry’s and mistakenly thinks he is a detective. He’s also slept with her best friend. Angry with him when he comes to talk with her about something very important about her sister’s murder, she slams the door in his face. And on his finger.
Film Summary: Dinosaurs are brought back from extinction on a tiny island by scientists hoping to open a theme park. On the trial run, things go terribly, bitingly wrong.
The Door Moment: Youngsters and siblings Lex (Ariana Richards) Timmy (Joseph Mazzello) are on the run from a few aggressive Raptors who are hunting them in the park’s visitor center. The children hide in the kitchen where they are surely safe. After all, dinosaurs can’t open doors. Right? Wrong. The door marks the start of what is famously considered the scariest part of the movie.
Film Summary: Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) is a pet detective on the trail of the kidnapped dolphin mascot of the Miami Dolphins football team and the murder of Head of Operations Roger Podacter (Troy Evans).
The Door Moment: When police detectives arrive to investigate the death of Podacter, they are convinced it is a suicide but Ace is on the case and puts the eye witness testimony to good use, showing that there was no way for the anyone to hear the man’s scream if he was out on the balcony, demonstrating in the most hilarious way possible.
Film Summary: A band of humans, elves, dwarves and hobbits join together to bring a ring of power back to the hallows of Mt. Doom in Mordor to put an end to the growing reign of terror an evil force is spreading through Middle Earth.
The Door Moment: As Gandolf the Grey, a powerful wizard, leads the fellowship, their journey brings them to the Walls of Mori, a massive dwarf mine that has a secret door with an elvish password. Thy mighty wizard is flummoxed by the secret, but a brave Hobbit is not.
Film Summary: Truman Burbank is the subject and star of a 24-hour a day reality show that has chronicled his entire life from birth to adult but he doesn’t know it. Living in a small, carefully controlled environment that is not as controlled as the show’s creator would like, things are getting strange and Truman is getting a little too curious.
The Door Moment: When Truman makes a difficult decision to find a way out, he risks his life and sails to sea only to be stopped by a sky colored wall . . . and a single door.
Film Summary: A group of teenagers are being murdered while they sleep as a psycho killer haunts them in their dreams.
The Door Moment: It’s a calm moment and Marge is waving goodbye to Nancy (her daughter) and some friends as they go to school. But the car is suddenly possessed and then through a window in the house door, Freddy (the demon killer) thrusts an arm out and pulls Marge through. It’s a defining jump scare in the film (even if the body being dragged through is clearly fake.)
Film Summary: Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) are heavy metal loving party boys with a late night cable access show who get exploited by a TV executive and lose everything . . . not.
The Door Moment: Wayne’s (shwing) girlfriend (Tia Carrere) is a talented singer and the nefarious TV exec Benjamin (Rob Lowe) is stealing her away, so Wayne comes up with a convoluted plan to win her back that at one point involves opening a door to a room full of people training like they are in a James Bond film. It’s quirky, out of left field, and perfect in every way.
Film Summary: A 1992 crime drama about Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino), who is just released from prison and wanting to go straight finds his past catching up with him as his dirty lawyer gets him involved with real trouble.
The Door Moment: Hey, didn’t we see this before with number 14? Rekindling an old romance with Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), Carlito promises he’s going straight and won’t break her heart. When she buzzes him up one very late night, the door is locked by a chain. They flirt over the top of the chain and she seductively tells him, “If you can’t get in. Do don’t get in.” The meaning is clear. He busts the door down. At least this time he does get shot in the face. (Warning: Clips contains brief nudity)
Film Summary: In this Mel Brooks comedy, the Frankenstein monster movies get spoofed as Gene Wilder plays Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-ensteen) reanimates a dead body with a not so normal brain with hilarious results.
The Door Moment: The monster, who is a bit unstable, is locked in a room and the good doctor believes all it needs is a little compassion to calm it down. He instructs his assistants to disregard whatever cries of pain or agony they may hear once he goes inside. He will sacrifice his very life to save the creature. Or not.
Film Summary: At a remote resort closed for the winter, a couple and their young son act as caretakers, initially unaware that it is haunted by a powerful force. Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) is wife to Jack (Jack Nickolson) who is slowing going insane. (This is the second appearance of The Shining in our Movie Moments List series).
The Door Moment: Jack is a little out of his head and is very slowly hunting his wife with an axe. She’s locked herself in a second floor bathroom with a kitchen knife. That doesn’t stop him and helps to creates one of the most icon images in all of cinema.
Film Summary: The story of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) living in 19th-century American South during the American Civil War and Reconstruction, it tells of her loves and losses, heartaches and hardships as a plantation-owner’s daughter.
The Door Moment: Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Scarlett have a broken marriage, ruined by claims of scandalous affairs and the tragic death of their young daughter. It leads Rhett to leave her for good, and as he heads for the door, she pleads for him to stay to which he offers one of film history’s greatest lines.
Film Summary: This 1972 award-winning film chronicles the rise of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as the new head of the New York City crime family, from reluctant son to family boss.
The Door Moment: Pacino again. Connie (Talia Shire) accuses Michael of killing her husband, which he did but won’t admit, and tells Michael’s wife that he is responsible for all the latest killings. Kay (Diane Keaton) questions Michael and he denies his involvement, but when she leaves the room to fix them a drink, she sees the men inside kiss Michael’s hand and call him “Dom,” the head of the family. One man moves to the door and slowly closes it, shutting her out of the secrets within, and verifying that in fact, Michael lied and is the new Godfather.
Film Summary: A groups of rebels, including Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is learning the ways of the Jedi Knights, look to defeat Darth Vader and the evil Emperor from completing the Death Star, a massive moon-sized weapon that can destroy planets.
The Door Moment: Once the rebels secretly get aboard the Death Star (spoiler I guess), they split up and leave two androids, C-3PO and R2-D2 in a locked room where Stormtoopers, the bad guy soldiers, break in, hoping to catch the heroes. Problem is, the door didn’t rise all the way up and one not so spatially-aware trooper didn’t clear it as well as he expected. This blooper became so beloved, on the re-issue, creator George Lucas added a sound effect to draw further attention to this gaff. Classic.
There you have it. Do you know a movie moment that involves a door? Let us know in the comments below.