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Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
In the sequel the surprise box office hit, the second Poltergeist follows Carol Anne (Heather O’Rouke), a year after the first story as she and her family have moved to Phoenix and try to move on from the horrific events of the haunting in their first home. Here, a deceased reverend named Henry Kane (Julian Beck) has returned from the dead and sets his sites on the young girl. Needing to be invited in, he arrives at the family homestead on a rainy day and lingers behind the screen door, preaching to Carol Anne’s father (Craig T. Nelson) that he must open the door to let him in. Already creepy beyond description, in a fury, Kane shouts his warning: “You’re all gonna die in there.” We’re packing our bags right now.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
A white man raised as a Mohican Native American named Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), along with his adoptive father and brother, swears to protect the two daughters of a British colonel in the middle of the French and Indian War. As the fort they are held up in is overrun, Hawkeye and the others escape into the wilderness as enemy soldiers and Huron trackers pursue. Impossible to outrun them, their guns and powder soaked, Hawkeye realizes their only hope is for the women to be taken and for the men to escape and plan a rescue. Hawkeye and Cora (Madeleine Stowe) are in love and to part is terrifying, but he assures her that she must submit to others, but to stay alive no matter how long it takes. He adds: “I will find you!” Gulp.
The Matrix (1999)
When Thomas “Neo” Anderson (Keanu Reeves), a computer hacker, learns that everything in his life is not real but instead a part of an advanced simulation, it comes as a bit of a surprise. He’s introduced to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), a free man who believes Neo is The One who can end the tyranny of the machines who have turned people into a power source. He unplugs Mr. Anderson from the Matrix, a complex, highly-organized program that gives people the illusion of an existence. Laying on a slab with wires attempting to rejuvenate atrophied limbs, Neo asks why his eyes hurt. Morpheus, understands the question and with a ton of philosophical weight lays down the classic line: “You’ve never used them before.” Gut punch.
The Hunt For Red October (1990)
In this film adaptation of Tom Clancy‘s popular novel, a Russian submarine commander Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) decides to defect to the United States. To make it work, he needs a clever man on the other side to understand his intentions. That man is Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin), a CIA analyst. He suspects Ramius has a plan and makes his way out to meet him. He ends up on the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise where he meets fleet commander R. Adm. Josh Painter (Fred Dalton Thompson) who is tangled up in the politics of the two military powers. Understanding Ryan’s plan to secretly get aboard the Russian submarine, he is skeptical but helpful, Meanwhile, a jet tries to land and crashes on the deck. Ryan and Painter are on the scene and Painter, recognizing the accident as a metaphor of the current crises says: “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.” Can’t argue with that.
2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)
The long-awaited follow-up to the mind-bending sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey saw a new crew of astronauts from the United States and the Soviet Union join forces to learn what happened on the failed first mission. Political tensions on Earth cause the mission to be troubled, but worse, the enormous black monolith, similar to the once seen in the original, is replicating with exponential growth. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), the scientist blamed for the first mission’s failure, is on board and encounters Dave Bowen (Keir Dullea), the last surviving member of the previous flight who is presumed dead. He appears in three different forms and warns Floyd that they have two days to leave because something is going to happen. When Floyd asks what, Bowen smiles and delivers the inspiring line: “Something wonderful.” We agree.
In the jungles of South America, an alien hunter is on the prowl, its sites set on a small squad of soldiers sent on a rescue mission. Led by Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the six-man team discovers a cloaking, humanoid-like creature that is skinning men alive, taking their skulls and spines as trophies. Early in the attacks, the men start to put together that their enemy is invisible. Mac Eliot (Bill Duke) is already a twitchy soldier, but when he actually sees the camouflaged creature with it thermal imaging eyes, he flips over the edge and takes after it. Sneaking in the underbrush, he hides and waiting patiently, catches sight of it on the tree limb. George Dillon (Carl Weather) is with him, and in the deep shadows of the forest, Mac whispers with great menace toward the predator: “I see you.” Shivers.
The story of a firehouse with two brothers in the ranks, one the seasoned yet heroic older Lt. Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey (Kurt Russell) and Brian (William Baldwin), a rookie who’s been directionless most of his life. There’s been a sting of big arson fire in the city lately and the team has been busy putting out some devastating blazes who seem to be targeting specific people of authority. The crew are close, despite some competition between the brothers, and their mantra is You Go We Go as a sign of unity, but when John “Axe” Adcox (Scott Glenn) finds himself in a warehouse that is engulfed in furious fire, he slips and nearly falls while Bull holds on to him with one hands. Dangling over certain death, he begs Bull to let him to save his own life. Bull won’t hear of it: “You go. We Go.” Lump. In. Throat.
Apollo 13 (1995)
Sure, sure, everyone remembers the classic, ‘Houston, we have a problem’, but for pure emotional impact, there’s one better. The story of the doomed Apollo 13 mission to the Moon is a well-know historical fact, and director Ron Howard brings it to the big screen with Tom Hanks portraying the commander of that flight, Jim Lovell. After their space craft has a malfunction that prevents them from reaching the mission objective, it becomes a rescue operation to bring them back alive. With Lovell are Jack Swigert (Keven Bacon) and Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), attempting to return to Earth, all facing a do-or-die situation that has a number of uncontrollable variables, including their crumbling ship and a hurricane on the surface. As they all must let go and let it happen, Lovell pauses and considers their ordeal and what they’ve accomplished. Then says: “Gentlemen, it’s been a privilege flying with you.” Darn you, Tom Hanks. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t cry.
Independence Day (1996)
When aliens arrive and align their massive ships around the world in a strange pattern, no one knows what it means, until David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), an MIT-educated computer expert figures out they are coordinating an attack. A full-scale world-wide war breaks out with their only hope resting on the ability to infect the mother ship orbiting the moon to stop the assault. Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) is a widowed, alcoholic crop duster who was once abducted by aliens long before, even though no one believes him. A former Vietnam War pilot, he joins the fight, and in this one classic moment, when all other attempts to take down a ship have failed and his missile firing mechanism malfunctions, he pilots his fighter jet right up the bottom of the flying saucer (in a nod to the ‘probing’ trope) and shouts: “Hello, boys. I’m back!” Goosebumps.
In the sequel to the terrifying alien monster movie that introduced us the acid-blooded, double jawed, face-rapey beasts, the tone goes more for action as Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the lone survivor of the original mission finds herself back in the fight. When a terraforming colony on the planet where the first alien eggs were found has gone silent, a space marine crew is dispatched to clean things up, bringing Ripley along as an advisor. Once there, they discover the place is devoid of people but filled with monsters, except one small child named Newt (Carrie Henn), a little girl who has managed to survive on her own. She explains how the creatures come at night and took everyone. In a safe room, Ripley attempts to appease the frightened child, telling her it’s okay now, the marines are here to protect her. They are soldiers. Newts reply: “It won’t make any difference.” Yikes.
The Dark Knight (2008)
This sequel to Batman Begins (2005) sees the Dark Knight (Christian Bale) take on his latest villain, the sociopathic Joker (Heath Ledger). As the Joker begins a reign of terror in Gotham and the new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) starts his own campaign to end crime in the city, Batman faces an uphill battle against the ruthless evil that doesn’t care about money or power, only destruction. At one point, as an explosive chase spills out onto the streets, Batman is able to flip an entire tractor trailer and crash Joker’s getaway vehicle. Driving a specially-designed batcycle, Batman speeds toward Joker, who stands in the street encouraging his nemesis to come closer, spraying machine gunfire about the street in enticement. The closer Batman gets, the more the Jokers begins to cackle that he not only wants Batman to come nearer, but also, surprisingly to: “Hit me!” We’ve discussed this before.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
In the sequel to the groundbreaking sci-fi epic of the same name, this spins things around by having the killer robot we feared most in the first become the good guy and try to save the girl instead of kill her. Meanwhile, a new more advanced assassin machine is after her son, trying to stop him from being the savior of mankind. Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) her son John (Edward Furlong) and The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) think the best way to stop the machines from bringing armageddon is to stop the man who helped build Skynet, Miles Bennett Dyson (Joe Morton), a Cyberdyne Systems engineer. With some rather convincing methods for showing Dyson what his invention will produce, he agrees to shut the whole thing down via massive explosives. At the building, while setting up the charges, Dyson is shot but able to keep hold of the triggering mechanism. Sitting on the floor in the middle of the bomb, he struggles to keep his last breath long enough to warn advancing police to escape. When a team reaches him, he gasps his last words while hovering a weighted hand over the button: “I don’t know how much longer I can hold this.” Time to run.
A long retired gunslinger tries to raise two young children after his wife passes on, but accepts one last job when things get tight. There’s a reward for killing the men who slashed up a prostitute and Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) asks his old friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to join up with inexperienced outlaw, The ‘Schofield Kid’ (Jaimz Woolvett), to make the hit and share the money. Problem is, there’s a tough sheriff in town named Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) who doesn’t take kindly to gunfights and troublemakers. When he captures Ned, he tortures him for answers, and while Ned keeps quiet, at one point, Little Bill leans in and warns him that when he catches the lies he’s been telling, he’s not gonna hurt the women who started it: “But I’m gonna hurt you,” he says. “And not gentle like before . . . but bad.” It’s terrifying.
The oft-told tale of Wyatt Earp (here played by Kurt Russell) sees a dramatic retelling with an all-star cast. As Earp and his two brothers settles into the titular Tombstone, they make a profit on a gambling saloon but soon run afoul of the Cowboys, a band of outlaws led by “Curly Bill” Brocious (Powers Boothe). When things worsen and the conflict escalates to the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, there seems no end to the violence. Soon enough, there are enemies on both sides and a gunslinger named Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn) wants a showdown alone with Earp. Agreeing to the private duel, Earp doesn’t realize that his good friend and master shooter ‘Doc’ Holiday (Val Kilmer), who suffers from tuberculosis and has a score to settle with Ringo, has intercepted the message and arrives at the scene first. In shadow, Ringo thinks he’s Earp, but then Holiday steps forward, taking a drag off a cigarette and calmly says: “I’m your huckleberry.” It’s all in the delivery.
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
In 18th century France, a pair of rich, scheming social climbers make a plan to ruin several people with scandalous sexual affairs. The Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) has designs to spoil her ex-lover’s new bride to be by having her partner in crime, Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) steal her virginity. Meanwhile, Valmont has his eyes on the lovely Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is famous for her virtue. A bet is made as to who can corrupt whom first, but the problem is that Valmont develops actual feelings for de Tourvel and struggles to see his part to the end. Devoted to de Merteuil as he is, he must find a way to end his relationship with the woman he loves, and coached by the icy Marquise, he meets the innocent Madame and dispatches her, saying over and over, in heartbreaking savagery: “It’s beyond my control.” Most devastating break up ever.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Part One of the epic three-part film adaptation of the hugely popular book series, this story follows a band of Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, and Men who take a journey to stop evil Dark Lord Sauron from slowly taking over Middle Earth. One of the Hobbits, a young man named Frodo (Elijah Wood), carries the One Ring, a ring that grants the wearer invisibility but will also binds the other rings and gives Sauron total control over the people. They must toss it into the fires of Mt. Doom. Along the way, the fellowship are attacked by Orcs who attempt to kidnap the Hobbits. In the fight, a Man named Boromir (Sean Bean), who was once tempted by the ring, is mortally wounded and facing death. Bleeding out, he lays upon the ground and speaks to Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), the rightful king of his people and declares: “I would have followed you, my brother . . . my captain . . . my king.” Best Sean Bean death scene ever.
What are some of your favorite gut-punch moments?