The Deer Hunter (1978)
"We gotta play with more bullets"
In cinema there is no more an immediate scene dealing in death than this one, the sight of Robert DeNiro and his army buddies John Savage and Christopher Walken having to play Russian Roulette with a loaded pistol to entertain their North Vietnamese captors truly harrowing. Each is plucked out of a cage in the snake and bug infested river like fresh lobster and forced to spin the barrel and then aim the pistol at their own heads and pull the trigger, slapped very hard by their guards if they didn't (the slapping in the film genuine for authenticity). But the winner doesn't go free but gets to do it again until all the prisoners are dead. Incredibly, during some of the Russian Roulette scenes, a live round was put into the gun to heighten the actors' tension. This was DeNiros suggestion. Obviously it was checked to make sure the bullet was not in the chamber before the trigger was pulled but explains the incredible tension in the seen. The rest of the movie is pretty flabby and over-rated but for that scene alone it earns classic status for many. Its visceral strength is the fact it was the first film on the Vietnam War that actually tackled the true horrors, opening the flood gates for many more movies on the same war only just playing out at the time.
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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Head Bull Haig: Dufresne? Get your ass out here, boy! You're holding up the show!
Head Bull Haig: Don't make me come down there now! I'll thump your skull for you!
[Still no answer. Glaring, Haig stalks down the tier, clipboard in hand. His men fall in behind]
Head Bull Haig: Dufresne, dammit, you're putting me behind! You better be sick or dead in there, I sh*t you not!
[They arrive at bars. Their faces go slack. Stunned. Softly]
Head Bull Haig: Oh my Holy God.
This is pretty much everyone's favourite film and topping all the likewise lists out there, usurping the over-rated Godfather at the top of the IMDB 250, two of only three films to have nine-out-of-ten rankings in that list, and so many fabulous scenes in the movie. The one that stands out is that brilliant twist, one I certainly didn't see coming and skilfully won't be revealing here. I'm sure there are some young ones out there that have yet to see this almost perfect movie and so I won't be denying you that treat.
It's the moment when the prisons tough warden (Bob Gunton) goes in to Andy Dufrenses (Tim Robbins) cell and all that leads up to that moment. It finally clicks in that there's been meaning to all Dufrenses restrained and phlegmatic actions throughout the first 90 minutes of this beautiful and superbly written Darrabont screenplay (from Stephen Kings book) and the viewer is rewarded with the ending he waited patiently and longed for, a film all about hope and patience. Ok Robbins doesn't age much in those twenty years hard labour and keeps the same cell for all that time but why fault a masterpiece for a couple of bad brush strokes. You then rewind the film up until that point and it all fits nicely. But just as it was Robbins movie for that moment, the film for me was more about Morgan Freeman's startling performance, he, like the viewing audience, enjoying the same surprise at that moment in the film in the context of his character.
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It's obvious that the best scenes will come from the best movies and this is my all time favourite movie. Henry, Ray liottas astounding performance, if you consider what he's done since, is a character accepted by the mob but never really one of them, not insane enough if the truth be told. Tommy, played by the psycho Joe Pesci, reminds Henry just that in this scene as the guys enjoy a lavish meal in a swanky restaurant, no charge of course. Tommy taunts Henry about that friendship and subtly reminds him what will happen if he never forgets the dynamic of the group.
Henry Hill: You're a pistol, you're really funny. You're really funny.
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean I'm funny?
Henry Hill: It's funny, you know. It's a good story, it's funny, you're a funny guy.
Tommy DeVito: what do you mean; you mean the way I talk? What?
Henry Hill: It's just, you know. You're just funny, it's... funny, the way you tell the story and everything.
Tommy DeVito: [it becomes quiet] Funny how? What's funny about it?
Anthony Stabile: Tommy no, you got it all wrong.
Tommy DeVito: Oh, oh, Anthony. He's a big boy, he knows what he said. What did ya say? Funny how?
Henry Hill: Jus...
Tommy DeVito: What?
Henry Hill: Just... ya know... you're funny.
Tommy DeVito: You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it's me, I'm a little f**ked up maybe, but I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to fu**in' amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?
Henry Hill: Just... you know, how you tell the story, what?
Tommy DeVito: No, no, I don't know, you said it. How do I know? You said I'm funny. How the f*ck am I funny, what the f*ck is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what's funny!
Henry Hill: [long pause] Get the f*ck out of here, Tommy!
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Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
"Come with me if you want to live"
As far as action movies go pretty much every scene in this movie is fabulous. Even though you know the threatened end of the world scenario won't happen in this franchise the foreboding is always there, especially when Arnie shows up. Here, of course, the familiar Terminator has been reprogrammed to help humans to stop the coming Armageddon, the same relentless Cyberdine Systems human killing machine from film one becoming cool and flipping sides, a brilliant twist around by director James Cameron.
The Cyborg once wanted to kill Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) so she couldn't have little John Conner (Edward Furlong), who would grow up to be a resistance leader in the future against the robots. Sarah is locked up in a secure unit for repeating her story about the robot from the future, so when Arnie strolls into the mental facility fully armed and the doctors get to see the nightmare is real, that foreboding music pounding away, we then know the affect that will have on everyone concerned, including us the audience, brilliantly captured in the scene as he strides purposely down the pristine clean corridor in shades and leather jacket.
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Star Wars (1977)
'Imperial Star Cruiser'
I was lucky enough to go to the British Premier of George Lucas's groundbreaking sci-fi spectacular at Leicester Square (the cinema still as grotty today) in 1977, just a wee slip of a lad in a cute tuxedo with a bowtie near the front, apparently seated behind Leslie Crowther and Nicholas Parsons no less. The bit I recall most was sitting in great anticipation as those iconic credits cleared into the blackness and then the enormous mothership growled over our heads. It just encapsulated cinemas great shared escapist experience as everyone gasped as this extraordinary special effect from Lucas slid across the screen, his newly installed hi-tech sound system at the cinema adding to the pure size and vibration of it. I think this is where my love affair with films began, and, ironically, that affair nearly ended with the dreadful Phantom Menace, yours truly attending one of the very first showings in New York. All these idiots and students had queued up for three days with Darth Vader masks on all the way down Times Square and Broadway and British backpackers being British backpackers, we went around the back of the cinema and walked straight in through the kitchens for nothing by chatting up the waitress. Hilarious! As I say though she had the last laugh as the film was dire. The Stars Wars franchise would go on to make $4.3 million dollars and still rising, only Bond and Harry Potter making more money to date.
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Saving Private Ryan (1998)
I think the first half-hour of this movie was quite simply unwatchable because it was so frighteningly graphic and realistic. Spielberg's intent was only that and said it was a tribute to those brave troops on Omaha Beach who lost 2000 on the first day alone. Tom Hanks Captain Millers character has taken heavy losses in his platoon and is tied down at the beach head whilst the slaughters continue literally all around him, and as the crossfire is so intense there's few hiding places from the hail of bullets and aerial shelling. Although a movie it was really like that so say those who were there, probably worse, every angle seeing death coming at those young lads who gave everything to defend Britain. We should never forget what the Yanks did for us back then which makes the modern wars in Afghanistan all rather absurd and pointless.
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'You're going to need a bigger boat'
'Jaws' is a fab movie if just because of its roar clarity and the way its made on such beautifully simple premise, embracing nature and the open water ( when your toes cant tough the floor) against terrafirma. The shark is our greatest fear in the ocean, that we will agree, but what we don't realise is the shark fears us more, never the twain shall meet. But the Great White shark who holidays at Amity Island is aware of our fear and makes the most of it, munching his way through the holiday makers.
The best scene for me is the one when the no nonsense shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) joins marine biologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Chief Brody (Roy Schneider) on his boat, a tug that is clearly not up to the job on offer when they-and we-first glimpse the killer shark. They have already fired two barrels into it and its still diving deep with that extra ballast, which we later discover is the shark working out how to defeat the boat and Quints crew. Listening to Spielberg's audio commentary on the 25th anniversary disc it was clear this part of the movie where the shark surfaces and opens its jaws was the toughest part of the shoot to make it look as realistic as it was.
Considering it's the 1970s this film looks fabulous and has a genuine horror element to it. The scene is at its most raw when the boat phobic Chief Brody is chucking buckets of blood and guts in the lazy ocean swell to tempt the shark over to the boat, which it gleefully does, rearing up and gulping it down, the chiefs face a picture, resulting in that wonderful line I'm quoting when Quint spots his enemy in his final battle. Remember Spielberg had only done one film before this-the Sugarland Express- and had to try and film for three days with a three ton mechanical shark in sizeable swells in the middle of the sea.
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Good Will Hunting (1997)
I would put this film in my top ten, not only because I love it but because it taught me some lessons in life. It didn't tell me I could well be a math genius, as is Mat Damon's character central here (still his best role yet), but sometimes being a little bit brighter than people around you can be intimidating. As Robin Williams professor character tells Damon near the end of the movie that you are cynical because you can see better than others what's going to happen five years down the road and so no wonder you don't give certain things and people time of day, perhaps something lots of dooyooers can relate to, Damon afraid to take that responsibility in the movie of the extreme intelligence he has be been born with.
There are so many great scenes in this film as Damon's, Boston janitor character in one of Americas top universities spends all day correcting math theorem the professors cant deal with, they knowing their careers are now stuffed because of this cocky blue-collar genius. I think my fave piece of dialogue is when his potential has been realised and the professors try to get him a top job, the CIA very interested in his possible code breaking skills, here woed by America's intelligence service. You really need to read this passage...
Will: Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from the rust belt takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and f*ckin' play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's got to walk to the fu**in' job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass. And meanwhile he's starving', 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure f*ck it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president!
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Paul Haggis, he of the Bourne Movies, directs what he calls a 'passion piece', a movie finally attempting to tackle modern America's racial tensions from all sides with intelligence and structure. The opening scene really throws you off balance where Anthony, played by rapper Ludicrous, and Peter (Laurenz Tate), black friends from childhood, are walking through a rich area of Los Angeles full of white people. A punchy narration to camera by the two young guys suggest we, the predominately white audience, have already made up our minds they are muggers, which confirms our closet racism. But low and behold they car jack someone, resorting to their stereotype, the audience nodding their heads with a told you so but amazed this scene is in an American movie. Haggis does cop out a little by making it a professional black couple they rob but that is for latter narrative reasons.
This, for me, was the first film to dare to deal with the reality that most muggers are now not white in America and most cops are racist because of that tension of dealing with ethnic Americans all day long in their jobs. Middle-class black Americans will cry racism when the cops shake them down in their nice cars thinking they have stolen them, as they do in the movie, but yet the same black Americans will be the ones that will steal those cars and mug them at the cash point. The film takes that extra step to say white people's paranoia may even be justified because the likeable and articulate black criminal pairing in the film openly admit to not robbing black folks. When I saw that scene I thought finally some balance on the subject of ethnic crime, and the three Oscars this bagged suggested it was a relief for the predominantly white Academy too.
Anthony seems very vocal about the racist and stereotypical views others hold to blacks but conforms to these stereotypes throughout, perhaps hinting that he feels comfortable in those stereotypes, as does Matt Dillons racist white cop to grow 'team spirit'. We have all seen the films that tackle white specific crime and the audience are in full agreement, white or black, as they are castigated on screen. But we had never really seen anything as confessional and honest as this on both sides of the coin.
'Put him down Rock!'
To be a world champ in most sports in the 70s you worked all week in your normal job and then trained before and after work, no elite Olympic funding for Rock. Balboa was up at 5 am, fed the turtles (which were his in real life, as was his dog 'Budkiss'), gulped down the roar eggs and then out for a five mile job in his tatty old grey tracker around Philadelphia.
The winning formula of 'Rocky' is not only the superb streetwise 'Philli' script (which Stallone wrote) and Slys likeable dumb bell boxing bum but the music in their too, all three coming together as he heads out for that jog the week before the big fight, finishing up with that iconic run up the city hall steps that lead to the Liberty Bell building, the birthplace of America. Its just so right for the film and what the city means that they eventually built a statue of Rocky at the top of the steps doing his little dance of victory there. It's ironic that a city known for its freedom and justice is now known more for the boxing movie that plays tribute to that.
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Life of Brian (1979)
Life of Brian is the funniest film of all time because the timing of it was so perfect. No one had ridiculed religion with such intelligence before in a movie. I bet in this insane politically correct world this wouldn't have been made today. It doesn't ever disrespect religion but highlights the absurdity of the followers, who will do as their profit tells them, come what may, except any preposterous reason why things are because a book says so, just to increase control of its subjects.
Of a film stuffed with genius the scene where the profit eulogises from the top of the hill so some people are too far away to hear what the profit is saying, so misinterpreted it some, sums up religion. It can mean anything to anyone. And there lies the problem with religious scripture, it can be interpreted buy charismatic mortal men to feeble minds as and how he wants it to be. But for me the best scene is the simplest, the women going to the stoning dressed as men to see someone stoned to death for merely speaking the profits name, Jehovah, which the mob duly do, and anyone else who says Jehovah, which is pretty much everyone there, and so also stoned to death. The absurdity of religion is summed up there and then, the films only point.
Matthias: Look, I don't think it should be a sin, just for saying "Jehovah".
Jewish Official: You're only making it worse for yourself!
Matthias: Making it worse? How can it be worse? Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!
Jewish Official: I'm warning you! If you say "Jehovah" one more time (gets hit with rock) RIGHT! Who did that? Come on, who did it?
Stoners: She did! She did! (suddenly speaking as men) He! He did! He!
Jewish Official: Was it you?
Jewish Official: Right...
Stoner: Well you did say "Jehovah."
[Crowd throws rocks at the stoner]
Jewish Official: STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW! STOP IT! All right, no one is to stone _anyone_ until I blow this whistle. Even... and I want to make this absolutely clear... even if they do say, "Jehovah."
[Crowd stones the Jewish Official to death]
Another good compilation that got my film buff juices flowing. There are hundreds of great scenes and it is very difficult to pick a top ten, but here goes (in no particular order!):
1. The Godfather - The opening scene is brilliant. Don Corleone is in his home's dark office, regally and ruthlessly carrying on business during his daughter Connie's (Talia Shire) wedding reception. It is the custom of the father of the bride to grant favors to all petitioners and those who pay homage. He listens to supplicants' requests for extra-legal help and determines how to make offers that people can't refuse. Branod is truly excellent in this scene, that I think sets the tone for the movie.
2. The Exorcist - Head spinning? No problem! But for me, the best scene in this film is also the grossest scene of the film, as Father Karras (Jason Miller) approaches closer, Regan lurches forward on the bed and spews bilious, pea-green soup vomit from her mouth in a single projectile stream directly into his face. The thick green slime sticks to his face and clothing. Vomit also dribbles down onto Regan's nightgown.
3. Taxi Driver - This scene made it into my top ten quotes too! Wehn Travis Bickle has finally lost it. Projecting his anger, bare-chested Travis has attached guns to himself (first one - and then two shoulder holsters and a third gun from behind) in his squalid apartment. He practices drawing the guns in front of a mirror. Turning more alienated and violent and harnessing his puritanical energy, he manufactures a custom-made fast-draw, gliding mechanism that he attaches to his forearm, and another concealed knife-holder for a horrible-looking combat knife on his ankle. Start the 'you talking to me?' sequence. Classic.
4. Apocalypse Now - So many brilliant scenes to choose from, but there is one obvious that stands out for me. The armada of choppers glide silently through the breaking light like a harmless flock of birds - it is one of the film's most impressive, memorable sequences. The crazed Kilgore has ordered the music: "We'll come in low out of the rising sun, and about a mile out, we'll put on the music...Yeah, use Wagner. Scares the hell out of the slopes. My boys love it." Seeing the helicopters flying in with Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries blasting is an iconic scene, leading to the iconic "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning" speech.
5. The Crying Game - the scene that sends shivers down every mans back, when Dil pulls down her/his tights and reveals that there is abit more down there than Stephen Rea had assumed! It was very shocking and came totally out of left field!
6. Matrix - Ok, so not the greatest film of all time, but without doubt a cult classic and the scene that set the tone for the entire trilogy had to be the lobby shoot 'em up. Ok, so the bend over and avoid bullets bit has oft been repeated, but for me, this was the best scene. It involves cartwheels, high kicks, semi-automatic carnage, super slow motion and a cracking use of the Propellerheads dance track. Brilliant. Pure adrenalin.
7. Big - This movie has made me want to play a big piano ever since. Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia make a great stab at playing chopsticks on the floor keyboard in the toy super store FAO Schwarz, which is just a big feel good scene.
8. American History X - this film was for a long time my favourite ever movie, but not so much now. However the scene from the start still lives long as brilliance. A neo-Nazi (Edward Norton) places a man's open mouth on the edge of a curb and then stomps on his head, breaking his neck. The acting in this scene is stupendous and it drives the action for much of the rest of the film, so I almost can't fault it for its graphic content.
9. Casablanca - one for the romantic in me. The final airport scene in casablanca is a classic. A tough guy, a beautiful woman, an evil force, the nazis, and the usual racial counterpoint of the pianist. Typical Hollywood of the time. Brilliant final scene though.
10. Saving Private Ryan - this would probably be my number 1, as the opening gambit is truly unbelievable, firstly for the sheer attention to detail (dying the sea red) and also for the utter horror of it all. The graphic depiction of the Omaha beach D-Day landing shocked audiences and even induced flashbacks in Normandy veterans. The shaky, hand held cameras, the desaturated color and the unflinching portrayal of the near-suicidal assault all add up to a sickening sense of realism that remains unmatched in war films
These are the movie scenes that either made me laugh, made me jump or took my breath away. They're the scenes that first come to mind when I remember these films. If you haven't seen these films, they may contain spoilers.
1. Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid (1969). Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) are on a ridge. They see Pinkerton's men still pursuing them and Butch says, "Who are those guys?" Well, I think it's Butch, it might have been Sundance, so please correct me if I'm wrong. It was the sheer amazement in his voice that was so funny.
2. Independence Day (1996). Captain Hiller (Will Smith) has brought down an alien craft. Seriously ticked off with the alien, he punches it on the face. Just so unexpected!
3. The Shining (1980). You probably think I'm going to choose the 'Here's Johnny' moment from this, where Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) puts his head through the door. Well, it is an iconic moment, but for me the creepiest moment is where Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) finds the 'novel' he has been writing. Every line says 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.' That says soooo much!
4. Star Wars (1977). Luke Skywalker walks into the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine, and it's full of all different kinds of aliens calmly having a drink. It's so unexpected! It's a scene that's been copied in Hellboy 2, and Harry Potter's Diagon Alley, but never with quite the same impact.
5. Blade Runner (1982). The Tannhauser Gate speech from the dying Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). That was so powerful, and really expresses the sadness and humanity of the doomed replicants.
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977 ). The moment where the alien ship opens and we finally get to see what's inside. Breathtaking.
7. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is threatened by a sword wielding Arab in a Cairo bazaar. He pulls out his gun and shoots him. It doesn't sound all that funny written down, but it was such a surprise it was hilarious.
8. Final Destination (2000). The bit one of the students is standing in the road, and a bus comes... It's such a shocker! Everyone in the cinema jumped. It's become quite a cliché now and has been repeated so many times since in various movies that it's lost its impact.
9. The War of the Worlds (1953). Everyone stands staring in awe at the alien ship - and then it opens fire! The effects are so good for the time it was made. I wish I could have seen this in the cinema when it first came out. It must have been so powerful.
10. The Matrix (1999). Neo (Keanu Reeves) has taken the red pill and wakes inside a pod to find himself part of a massive power plant. This is such a revelation! It would have been easy to choose the bullet time sequence for this, an incredible shot were the camera rotates around Neo as he dodges bullets in slow motion. Yes, technically it was a fantastic scene using cutting edge technology, but I thought the red pill scene was more powerful.
They're not in any particular order, but they're all great films that I've enjoyed watching more than once.
My own Top Ten Movie Scenes are very much from the past, as for me cinema lost its glory in about the early 1980s. Maybe it's me who has got old, but I find most more modern films either stupid, or quite shallow. That's just my personal view though. I do have lots and lots of brilliant movie moments in my head, and it's been hard to narrow it down to ten, but here goes......in no order of preference.....
1. The "carousel scene" on the Hitchcock film, "Strangers On A Train". At a funfair, the police are trying to catch the "bad guy" who is riding round on a carousel, holding a little boy as ransom. A shot fired at him by police misses its target, and hits the operator of the ride in the chest - he falls down dead. Consequently the ride is not being operated, and accelerates in speed. An elderly fairground worker volunteers to crawl on his stomach underneath the base of the ride, to reach the operating handle and switch it off. Tension mounts as the ride continues to get faster, and the man is crawling very slowly and carefully underneath. Eventually he reaches the handle which will stop the ride, but he pulls it down too fast - the ride crunches to a massively abrupt halt and collapses.....people and horses are flying off into the air, and the roof caves in.
2. At the end of the film "Carrie", we are taken inside the dream of one of the girls who had taunted Carrie at school, but who since Carrie's death feels riddled with guilt at the way she'd treated her. She dreams she is putting flowers on Carrie's grave, when suddenly and abruptly an arm thrusts up from the grave and grab's the girl's arm.
3. On Monty Python's "Life Of Brian", Brian manages to find himself a girlfriend and spends the night with her, presumably having rampant sex. The next morning, he wakes up, feeling at one with the world, and walks to the shutters at the window to open them. He flings them open wide, and to his horror a huge crowd of his "followers" are standing outside......he is stark naked.
4. In the film "The Deerhunter", Robert De Niro travels back to Vietnam to collect Christopher Walken, only to find him very traumatised and in full time work playing Russian Roulette to entertain Vietnamese businessmen. Christopher Walken requests one more go at his Russian Roulette game, then he'll go back to America....but, he catches the bullet.
5. In the film "Paris, Texas", where Travis (played by Harry Dean-Stanton) encounters a madman shouting on a bridge across a motorway. Travis fondly touches the madman on the arm as he walks closely past him......the madman doesn't even realise Travis is there or has done this.
6. That wonderful scene from "Midnight Cowboy" where Rico (Ratso) Rizzo is crossing the road, and hurls that classic curse "I'm walking here, I'm walking here" at a yellow cab driver.
7. In the film "The Prince Of Tides", where "Coach" (played by Nick Nolte) is invited to psychiatrist "Lowenstein's" (Barbra Streisand's) for a dinner party. He finds Lowenstein's famous violin-player husband totally obnoxious, and the great scene is....the one where Coach threatens to throw Mr Lowenstein's priceless Stradivarius violin over the balcony.
8. That incredibly well-acted and well-produced/directed scene on the film "That'll Be The Day" when virgin wannabee rock & roll star Jim McLaine (played by David Essex) has sex for the first time, with a girl in his holiday camp chalet.
9. During Mike Leigh's superb film "Life Is Sweet", "Aubrey" (played by Timothy Spall), treats to a fantastic scene of moronic drunkeness after drowning his sorrows when the opening night of his restaurant falls completely flat.
10. The whole of the final graveyard scene in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Who can fail to marvel at that impressive level of tension which builds up? I won't go into detail, in case someone reads this who hasn't seen the film and wants to - it'd give away the ending if I elaborated.
Hope that all makes sense :-)
In chronological order
ORPHÉE (Jean Cocteau) 1950
This is Jean Cocteau's beautiful atmospheric masterpiece packed with mythological symbology and his acute surrealist imagination. Jean Cocteau was a poet and this film is pure cinematic poetry. There are many magical scenes from beginning to end but the dreamlike sequence where Orphée (Jean Marais) passes through a mirror and enters the underworld is truly hypnotic. Sting copied the technique in a video for the song "We'll Be Together" in 1987.
LA DOLCE VITA (Federico Fellini) 1960
I often think Fellini's film gets a little too much praise and is not quite the masterpiece that some make out. There are however a lot of memorable images and scenes from this film that have become iconic over the decades: such as Ekberg in the Fontana di Trevi and the opening scene with the statue of Christ flying over Rome, but these more memorable episodes are interspersed with long monotonous sequences. Apart from the leading roles there is also a lot of bad acting and stilted script.
I love the final scene on the beach. After the all night party Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) and some friends come across a strange unrecognisable sea creature that has been washed up on the shore. Shortly afterwards as the others walk away, Marcello catches sight of a young girl whom he recognises from an earlier meeting in a café. They are separated by a large tidal pool and are unable to approach each other. The girl waves and tries to say something but Marcello listens in vain as the sea breeze carries her voice away. Marcello reluctantly waves goodbye at the smiling girl. Just when Marcello's futile meaningless life seems as if it's about to be rescued the film ends.
MIDNIGHT COWBOY (John Schlesinger)1969
Schlesinger's masterpiece of the broken American dream with Joe Buck (Jon Voight) and Enrico 'Ratso' Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). Much of the filming was shot on the streets of New York with real pedestrians in the background. There is one famous scene where Ratso Rizzo crosses the street and bangs on the bonnet of a taxi-cab hood that almost hits him shouting out his famous line, "I'm walking here! I'm walking here!" Apparently Hoffman improvised this line to a real cab driver who'd driven into the shot. Probably my favourite scene though is when winter arrives. They're still both holed up in Ratso's squalid freezing cold squat dancing around trying to keep warm and trying to cook some frozen food. Hilarious but poignant.
KES (Ken Loach) 1970
If anyone want to know why the England football team never wins anything then the evidence is contained in this classic film by Ken Loach about northern school kid Billy who tames and masters a wild kestrel. The school football match during a game's lesson is still an acclaimed scene of international cinema. The mud, the cold and the sadistic PE teacher, wonderfully and comically played by Brian Glover no doubt evoke many an unhappy memory. Although things might have improved a bit since then, too many school kids still play football on oversized pitches, with oversized goal posts and often in thick mud.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM (Woody Allen) 1972
I am a great fan of Woody Allen films, especially his early stuff, and there are so many scenes in so many films that I could have chosen. Play It Again, Sam is one of Woody Allen's finest films although he did not actually direct it but merely adapted it from his own stage play. The film focuses around Woody's character and his friends Dick and Linda (Tony Roberts and Diane Keaton), who try to help him get a date. Woody is also a big fan of Humphrey Bogart and looks towards an imaginary figure of Bogie that guides him in his hilarious attempts to seduce the opposite sex. The one funny scene that I've chosen could have appeared in any of the Woody Allen films of this period (Annie Hall, Manhattan). It takes place in an art gallery where Allen tries to chat up a woman who is looking at a painting:
Allan: That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollack, isn't it?
Museum Girl: Yes, it is.
Allan: What does it say to you?
Museum Girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
Allan: What are you doing Saturday night?
Museum Girl: Committing suicide.
Allan: What about Friday night?
TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese) 1976
This film probably contains Robert De Nero's most often repeated quote: "You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else...You talkin' to me?" My favourite scene though is when Travis Bickle meets Betsy (Cybil Shepard) in a café for coffee and he starts an extensive monologue in which he tries to explain his feelings to Betsy and his opinion of the bloke she works with in the office:
"I would say he has quite a few problems. His energy seems to go in the wrong places. When I walked in and I saw you two sitting there, I could just tell by the way you were both relating that there was no connection whatsoever. And I felt when I walked in that there was something between us. There was an impulse that we were both following. So that gave me the right to come in and talk to you. Otherwise I never would have felt that I had the right to talk to you or say anything to you. I never would have had the courage to talk to you. And with him I felt there was nothing and I could sense it. When I walked in, I knew I was right. Did you feel that way?"
Up to this point Travis hasn't spoken that much and it's with Betsy in the café that we first get a glimpse of what's going on inside is head. It would be interesting to know how much is scripted and if anything was improvised. The scene is at that point in the film where you first begin to question if Travis Bickle really does have a screw loose, and Betsy is probably thinking the same.
ERASERHEAD (David Lynch) 1977
There are so many memorable and iconic scenes from this weird post-apocalyptic David Lynch film: the Lady in the Radiator singing about finding happiness in heaven, the crying mutant baby, the eraser factory, but the one that I remember with affection is the scene with the chickens at he dinner table. Henry Spencer (Eraserhead) has been invited round to dinner by his girlfriend, Mary X. The scene at the table when the little roast chickens on plates are brought out of the oven to be served had me in stitches, especially when one of the chickens starts moving as Henry starts poking it with his fork and rnarks: "So I just, uh... I just cut them up like regular chickens?"
THE SACRIFICE (Andrei Tarkovsky) 1986
I like Tarkovsky's films because of the way with limited budgets he always managed to create powerful indelible images. Like no other director he demonstrates how you don't need expensive special effects in order to make a dramatic impact in a movie. The Sacrifice was Tarkovsky's last film and the last film of his that I saw earlier this year. The film focuses on Alexander, a journalist and retired actor. There are very few shots in the film and a lot of philosophical dialogue about the lack of spirituality in the modern world, but the story is set against the background of an imminent nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the USA. The memorable scene is when he and his family are gathered with friends at his remote cottage to celebrate his birthday. In the midst of the social occasion war breaks out and this is signalled by the roar of nuclear bombers soaring overhead on their way to America. The conversation about some family intrigue is momentarily interrupted as everyone waits for the low-flying planes to pass by. We never see the planes or the bombs, all we hear is the roar of the engines and the windows rattling as the planes pass by and everyone in the cottage stands still in silence. The impact is truly powerful one.
THE THIN RED LINE (Terrence Malick) 1998
A controversial war film that split the critics and viewers: some loathe it; some love it. On first viewing I was totally absorbed by this film. The title refers to the thin line that separates sanity from insanity in extreme circumstances. The film explores and effectively contrasts themes of triumph and despair, good and evil. Director Terrence Malick is perhaps most of all attempting to portray how, in the midst of horror and extreme trauma, the individual is still able to focus on the beautiful and retain some sense of human values. The island is a paradise but this is irrelevant to the military strategies of the opposing armies that are about to slaughter one another. The one scene that sums this up more than any other is the part where the American soldiers have landed on the island and are marching towards the interior of the island where the enemy are hidden. All are nervous of confronting the Japanese enemy when suddenly a figure appears out of the long grass. However, it is only a native tribesman who walks casually by the soldiers in the opposite direction. He is oblivious of the war and, like the other tribes people and the wildlife on the island, seems to exist outside the time that the invading armies inhabit.
AUDITION (Takashi Miike) 1999
A Japanese film about a middle aged widower who uses a novel idea to find a new wife. There is of course the unforgettable scene at the end, but my favourite is the first time we see the seemingly shy and innocent 21 year-old 'auditioned' bride-to-be Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) waiting on the floor for that phone call in her threadbare apartment. And there's something else in the room with her... it had me spooked out of my skin.
TOP 10 MOVIE ENDINGS
When it comes to those films that remain in the public consciousness to be remembered for all time, there's usually an astute and well-observed reason for such an incidence. Of course, the film is likely to be good - well better than good. Phenomenal even! Made up of a fine cast, assured direction, a pitch perfect musical score, sublime script and masterfully paced plotting, it would be understandable to think that these are the stated obvious reasons. If anything, they certainly contribute into making memorable movie sequences that transcend the film to live an eternal life of their own on various Channel 4 Top 100 programmes. No. What really makes for a highly memorable movie is the way in which it ends. A quality film with a limp final third is often spectacularly disappointing, no matter what has gone before - witness the dire ending of Gladiator for example, or the "just bloody end will you" quips that undermined the finale of Return of the King. A quality film with either a 1) poignant 2) adrenaline pumping, or 3) reveal/twist ending is what turns a quality film into a quality film that packs a punch and leaves the audience with a big beaming grin on their chops. Erm, unless it's Brazil of course - fantastic ending, but how bloody depressing? So, with the best movie endings in mind, here are ten of the finest most memorable and perfected endings cinema screens have ever witnessed.
***SPOILER WARNING - ENDINGS ARE REVEALED, AVERT YOUR EYES IF THEY BEGIN TO BLEED***
It is a truism of the movie world that horror flicks often end with a major cop-out, usually along the lines of the killer isn't really dead, which completely undermines everything that has gone before. Not in Ravenous though. Having eaten (in order to steal the power of their souls) most of Captain Boyd's (Guy Pearce) men based at the desolate frontier fort he is stationed, along with forcing Boyd to become a cannibal just like him, Colonel Ives (Robert Carlyle) doesn't expect Boyd to suddenly become brave and exact brutal retribution on him in the knife fight to end all knife fights. With sound effects to make you wince each time a blade cuts deep, both men go hammer and tong in an attempt to stab each other into submission. Fortunately a man-trap intervenes and ensnares both in a superb scene, where, embraced together between the jaws of the trap, Ives chillingly whispers to Boyd "If you die first, I am definitely going to eat you, but the question is, if I die, what are you going to do?" And, quite bizarrely, this is all blended together superbly by a mesmerising plinky-plonky score contributed by one-time Blur front-man Damon Albarn. If I was going to make one of the finest low budget movies of recent years, I'd end it with a man-trap inspired finale. A fitting way to conclude a brilliant mix of cannibalism, gore by the bucketload, sly black humour and redemptive quasi-philosophy!
9. The Matrix
During pre-production the Wachowski Brothers decided that a finale consisting of a rather brief 10 minutes of frantic action was "for pussies" (probably) and rather than wimping out like a couple of big girls blouses (despite one of them liking big girls blouses a little too much) pulled out all the stops to create the most perfectly orchestrated, action packed, and serenely beautiful final third of a movie ever composed for the screen. Obviously the prior slow build up of characterisation and plotting, along with the magnificent dojo fight which hints at what is to come, continually winds up the intrigue until the pivotal moment where the film just... lets... go.
The moment Neo asks for "guns, lots of guns" the film goes into spectacular overdrive. One amazing set-piece after another, from an unbelievable lobby shoot-out, to the obligatory mini-gun set-piece (is it just me or if a mini-gun features in any film it will be unbelievably good - see Predator and Terminator 2 for more) to a fantastically crafted and composed explosion (featuring a helicopter crashing into a building) and a final subway face-off between Neo and Agent Smith, each beautifully and adoringly composed (bullet-time, a rousing score, seamless CGI, high kicking Kung-Fu, fantastic stunt-work) climaxing in an exquisitely paced race against time... woah!
It's quite simply the greatest final forty-five minutes of the most exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping action you're ever likely to see (until you see what's at number one, that is). And after all has been said and done, it delivers with a grand pay-off as well. Neo comes to know his own mind, stops bullets, scares the bejesus out of the formerly sinister agents then talks down the phone to The Matrix as if it were his bitch. Most triumphant! As much as I enjoyed the similar styled Equilibrium, it's very much Matrix-lite. A final five minutes of gun-kata (if that) means someone is simply taking a dump in your cereals!
Regeneration's inclusion here is simply down to the wonderful use of a beautifully empowered Wilfred Owen poem as a closing anti-war denouement to the young men sent to their deaths by the Governments of the day during The Great War. Having recovered from his shell-shock at Craiglockhart Hospital, Owen, along with fellow poet and mentor Siegfried Sassoon (James Wilby) return to the frontlines where, a few days before the armistice, Owen is killed. A letter from Sassoon is forwarded to Dr Rivers (Jonathan Pryce), the man who helped Owen recover his sanity in humane fashion whilst at the hospital, to inform of his death and with it a poem by Owen's hand which hits home the waste of doomed youth. The juxtaposition of Pryce's marvellous emotional response and subsequent breakdown (brilliant, brilliant acting) to Owen's The Parable of the Old Man and the Young, provided via a voice-over in Wiby's sultry tones is gut-wrenchingly marvellous:
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one... by... one...
7. The Wild Bunch
The end of the Wild Bunch is not only up there as one of the greatest endings to a film but is possibly also one of the greatest shoot-outs you're ever likely to see, courtesy of lots of Mexicans and a machine gun. In finishing the tale of outlaws out of time and place (industry and technology having replaced the old-West as they once knew it) Pike's suggestion of "Let's go" to save comrade Angel is merely a reflection that their time is at an end. As the four anti-heroes of the gang tool-up and go for a lengthy stroll along the village to the camp leaders holding Angel (exquisitely paced) we all know they are about to go out in a blaze of glory. But what a blaze of glory! One swift cut of Angel's neck, what seems like an eternity of silence and then... BANG! Pike, Dutch, Lyle and Tector all get a turn on the machine gun, blowing away Mexicans like there's no tomorrow, while being gunned down in a hail of bullets and full blooded claret themselves. Outstanding! No one does a good full-scale bloodbath, with poignancy, like Peckinpah.
Okay, so how about we add a little bit of tragedy to the stirring pot and see how this combined with an adrenaline shot up the arse will make you boo like a little baby! Glory has, without a doubt, a rather rousing last five minutes or so. First, courageous Colonel Shaw (Matthew Broderick) gets shot leading his men on a charge up the banks of Fort Wagner. Denzil then picks up the division's flag in open ground and, subsequently, also gets shot. You should be a little teary by now. If not, then the emotional "rrrragggghhhh's" from the rest of the 54th (the first black regiment in the American Civil War) as they charge up the banks of the Fort should have you blubbing and punching the air with joy at the same time. And by gosh, the music kicks in and the 54th look to be kicking an unbelievable amount of arse, as more characters we've come to love get stabbed in the back by a bayonet or kicked inappropriately in the bollocks (that doesn't happen). It looks like Morgan Freeman and Cary Ewles are going to lead the troops to victory with the music building to an almighty crescendo. Brilliant - but, alas, no! They all get blown to bits by a big sodding canon. And no matter how many times you shout "duck you fools" as they turn the corner, not once does it happen. With the exhilarating finale played out, a final scene of Broderick and Denzil being chucked into a grave in solidarity provides a pitch-perfect closing denouement to what we've just seen. And now we can breath again. Marvellous stuff.
5. Star Wars
"All wings report in." "Lock S-foils into position." "Look at the size of that thing." "Cover me Porkins." "Stabilize your rear deflectors... watch for enemy fighters." "Stay on target." "Just like Beggar's Canyon back home." "Hmm, the force is strong in this one." "You're all clear, kid, now let's blow this thing and go home."
What more needs to be said about the attack on the Death Star and the culminating Trench Run bombing that hasn't already been said? Take the template for The Dam Busters, add X-Wing and Tie-Fighters to the mix, some superb model work that to this day needs no air-brushing, fantastically tense action sequences and one stand out shot (each time the fighters begin their trench run and the swooping camera that swoops down into the trench) and you've pretty much got a finale that very, very little can beat. And people say that Lord of the Rings is the better trilogy - fools!
4. The Last of the Mohicans
Has there ever been a finer musical score to accompany the action on screen as at the end of The Last of the Mohicans? No, there hasn't. With Promentory blaring out as a rousing strings number, you can't help but tap your fingers away before the heart-breaking tragedy that plays out in a wonderful last minute chase sequence to rescue Jodhi May. Indeed, it's mostly great stuff because the named star of the film, Daniel Day Lewis, actually takes a back seat in events, other than shooting Steve Waddington to stop him squealing like a piggy thus avoiding fiery death by, erm, fire. Instead the chase up a beautifully filmed gorge (with that great score still playing) is mostly undertaken by Chingachgook and Uncas and, like Glory previously, the additional leverage of tragedy immortalises the end sequence (well after the score, of course). First Uncas is felled by the evil Magua and sent to his doom in the treetops below. Eyes welling up, as seriously, it shouldn't be playing out like this, Jodhi then decides to take a flying leap after her loved one. Cue, Madaline Stowe howling like a banshee and there's unlikely to be a dry eye in the room. So how do you top this? With hardcore, kick arse vengeance! Chingachgook and Hawkeye continue after Magua and company, until Chingachgook unleashes all hell on Magua with a blade you've been waiting to see him use for the wholel film. Kick arse! And then he goes and tells us with his son dead, he's the last of the Mohicans!! Bloody hell, someone pass me a tissue - I'm balling my eyes out here.
Perhaps Michael Mann's finest moment. Certainly much better than the over-rated meeting of Pacino and De Niro in a coffee shop. By the way did I mention the rousing score?
3. Blade Runner
Rutger Hauer supposedly came up with the closing monologue for Roy Batty himself. Not bad for someone who's also appeared in Salute of the Jagger and Wedlock (stop sniggering at the back), especially when said monologue is absolute perfection within the context of the film. Having lost the fight to increase the longevity of his four year life-span, the Nexus-6 replicant Batty saves his Blade Runner pursuer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) from falling to his death before musing, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." In one fell swoop, Batty explains the experience of what it feels to be human; making him more than the mere replicant he was hunted down for being and questioning Deckard's own often discarded humanity in slaying those that simply want to live and feel such emotion. And, as we all know, it opens a whole can of worms regarding Deckard - is he or isn't he human? Masterful story-telling and a compelling conclusion that you can talk about down the pub for hours; no wonder Blade Runner is heralded as the greatest sci-fi film of all time.
2. The Thing
After all that has previously occurred in The Thing, including two or three stand out scenes as the titular beastie reveals itself in a stunning metamorphosis of blood drenched gore from its human or dog host, it was always going to need something extra special from John Carpenter to raise the finale above the genius that has already transpired. But in Kurt Russell (best actor ever?), Ennio Morricone's now classic score and a final unintended shot (from the shot angle of the shot you can't see Child's icy breath, which some take to imply as Child's being The Thing) that has kept film-nuts in frantic conversation about the films conclusion since its release, its not likely he would fail. Yet despite these key features that enhance the end scene, its really Carpenter himself we should be thankful to. Deciding to make the ending understated was something of a masterstroke, the essential antithesis to the rest of the film considering the gore-soaked anarchy already witnessed. So, having Childs and MacReady sitting in the middle of the slowly burning camp, drinking to their survival before the cold desolate waste of the Antarctic claims them, with either one of them still possibly The Thing is a wonderfully solemn and fitting conclusion. That it ends with the finest closing dialogue in any movie ever, followed by the finest closing line to any movie just adds to the affect. "Why don't we just wait here for a little while... see what happens..."
And my take on the ending? Neither Childs nor MacReady are The Thing. But does anyone see the beast get to Nauls?
"How can they turn off the lights, they're animals man!" whinges Kringer (erm, Hudson) to the remainder of the decimated marine platoon as everyone's favourite xenomorphs conveniently switch the lights off for the evening's disco. However, with the aid of probably the most tension building piece of equipment ever devised for cinema - the motion tracker - Hudson curiously turns into Battle Cat and goes at it with any Alien stupid enough to get within five foot of him (apart from the sneaky git under the floor-boards) blowing them into sticky paste with the mighty pulse rifle (best sounding weapon in a film... ever). And with such a sequence we have the beginning of the mad rush to get to the drop-ship Bishop is bringing down from the Sulaco on remote - a final third that can only really be rivalled by The Matrix.
In many ways the constant remainder of "17 minutes to ETA" and "in 20 minutes will see a nuclear explosion the size of some rather big place" simply fuels the adrenaline paced fury that follows. Again there's hardly any let up (although there is more than in The Matrix) as first the marines run away from Aliens in the Comms room, only to be followed through the claustrophobic air-ducts, where Gorman gets brave, Vasquez beats the crap out of an Alien one-on-one and Hicks gets splashed with Acid, before Newt acts like a spanner and needs saving from Ripley in the Alien hive. A rather large and well-developed reveal occurs when we find out what's laying the eggs, before another swift course of legging it to the drop ship and safety. No chance! After an exhaustive 40 odd minutes of non-stop tension building, barnstorming action sequences and a bombarding James Horner score, the film comes to a rousing conclusion with one of the best jumps in any film, ever, the final battle of the Mothers and the film's most famous line - "get away from her you bitch"! Can you think of anything better? No, you sodding well can't!
Some movie scenes just manage to stay with you and in some ways define the entire movie and especially my enjoyment of it so here goes my own personal top ten.
Number one has to be the scene from the Godfather which has Michael Corleone being Godfather to his sisters child and renouncing the devil and after each line that he says the action cuts away to show the assasination of one of the other crime family leaders, it has a moving prescence to it and a crhing soundtrack that tends to understate the violence unfolding on the screen.
The train station scene in The Untouchables with the slow motion descent of the babies pram whilst all around shots are being exchanged is a great piece of camera work and one I never tire of.
Keeping with the gangster theme two scenes which see the death of the hero feature next, the first is in Get Carter at the very end with the bleak scenery that shows the eventual settling of the blood score for Carter and the other is the scene where Bob Hoskins gets into his car in the Long Good Friday and the look on his face when he realises that he has lost in his fight to save his crime empire.
Next is the first comedy scene and is the one that strikes a blow for all women with Meg Ryan faking an orgasm in When Sally Met Harry, I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself.
The dance scene in Pulp Fiction between Thurman and Travolta is pure genius expecially given that the Travolta on camera is far removed from the star of Grease.
One of the best car chase scenes on film must be in the Blues Brothers as they race back to Chicago persued by the entire state police force, home guard, army and navy.
For large battle scenes I would have to go for the final instalment of the Lord of the Rings when the ghost ships land and the hordes of ghosts are let loose on the Orc army, it is an amazing special effect that left me with my mouth wide open when I saw it at the cinema.
The opening scene in Blade Runner is one of the best for creating the tempo and feel for a film, there is so much going on that you have to take in and it is truly a stunning film.
Finally one scene that is often paradied in various flms and cartoons is the scene in The Matrix where Nero dodges the bullets in slow motion by bending backwards I loved this when I saw it and more than makes up for the rubbish sequels that were to follow.
There you go that is my top ten for you.
There are scenes from certain movies that I can practically recite by heart, Im sure there are for most of us. However, there are some scenes with practically no talking at all that are still burned into my brain. Here are ten of my favourites:
- Ghost Ship
You dont even need to have seen the film to know which scene Im talking about with this one, it was included in the trailer. First time I saw it I was literally left staring speechless at the TV, and that really doesnt happen to me often. The scene goes like this camera pans in on to the deck of an old fashioned and glamorous cruise ship, its dark and theres a party in progress with a very beautiful lady singing on stage. The Captain spots a young girl travelling alone, the only youngster on board the ship, and very kindly asks her to dance. Everybody on the ship is up and dancing, or standing around the dancefloor gossiping. A whirring sounds is heard then a piece of machinery breaks free, you hear a buzzing, uncoiling kind of sound, like somebody casting a fishing line we go to the little girl to watch her clinging tight to the legs of the Captain as all around her people who were dancing only a second ago are now lifeless corpses, cut in half like ripe camembert by a wire that cut across the whole deck just like a cheese wire. She looks up to the Captain whose legs she is still clinging onto, and who is, miraculously, still standing, just in time to watch his torso slide bloodily from his legs onto the deck. Still stuns me now, even just thinking about it.
- Schindlers List
This one is more poignant than shocking, although it is far more emotional with it being based on fact rather than fiction Schindler, a man made wealthy by the war, and the owner of a factory employing Jews during the Second World War, is sitting on horseback on a hill overlooking the Jewish Ghetto. Below, we see the Ghetto in black and white, apart from one bright splash of red, a little girl in a bright red coat. Later, when the Ghetto is cleared, bodies are pulled from the buildings and loaded onto carts to be taken away and, presumably, buried. Again, the scene is in black and white apart from the same splash of red on the little girls coat on the back of one of the carts.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
Now, those of you an age to remember this film can probably guess exactly which scene Im referring to, its been copied so many times over the years for adverts and spoofs that even you youngsters may recognise it Our hero, Indiana Jones, is running down a tunnel thats filled with all kinds of traps, yet we have no idea what hes running from, then it begins to catch up with him and its A giant ball of rock! The rock is rolling and tumbling at enormous speed as our hero evades trap after trap in a massive effort to escape. Will he make it? Of course he does, Indi escapes and alls well, but what an exciting beginning to a film!
- The Italian Job (1969 Version)
Charlie Croker has planned an elaborate bank job to steal huge amounts of gold and make his escape by bringing the Italian city of Turin to a standstill. This, in my opinion, is the daddy of all car chases Three minis, one red, one white and one blue (by total coincidence, Im sure) race through the streets of Turin whilst all of the traffic lights are changed in their favour but when the streets get clogged, the minis take to the pavements and shoot through buildings, up and down stairs and even sewers to get away from the scene of the crime. This car chase is one that really has to be seen to be believed, Im certainly no expert but its the chase that sticks in my memory more than any other, and did wonders for the image of Mini.
- Dirty Dancing (one)
This is one of my favourite movies of all time (yes, I am very sad, I know) so just one scene from this movie would never be enough for me. Heres the first one Baby has offered her services to stand in for Penny as dance partner for Johnny at a local hotel, theres just one problem, she cant dance. This scene is more like a huge chunk of the film to be honest, but it begins with Johnny stating that Baby cant learn the dance in time and carries on as he teaches her how to dance. We see Johnny teaching her in an old loft, then when they nearly have an accident and begin to lose patience with each other he takes her out into the nearby countryside to teach her how to balance on an overturned tree. They then go on to learn lifts in the lake, cue much squelching, dripping, clothes clinging and all round adolescent hormonery, as Johnny and Baby get much closer in the water. Yes, even I know its all a bit over the top and obvious, but I still love it.
- Dirty Dancing (two)
Well, I did warn you thered be more than one. This time Baby and Johnny are dancing together in the dance studio to Love is Strange by Sylvia and Mickey. Baby is mocking Johnny for doing everything that hed been criticizing her for earlier in the film. Then, they start actually doing actions along with the music, with Baby ducking behind a convenient screen, only to poke her head out and give Johnny a come hither signal as the music goes come in, loverboy. The scene ends as Johnny and Baby begin to look like theyre going to get a little fruity on the dancefloor and theyre interrupted by Neil coming up the stairs. Yes, I know, its cheese on a stick, but it makes me happy.
- Dirty Dancing (three, but this is the last one, I promise)
This time, Johnny has been fired for doing the dirty (and were not talking about dancing here) with Baby, so instead of finishing the Kellerman final show with a dance, it is ending with a rather bizarre and frightening song, instead. Then Johnny storms into the room and utters the immortal line Nobody puts Baby in a corner. He reaches out a hand and pulls Baby to her feet, practically dragging her up onto the stage, where everybody else (including the owner of the Hotel) just melts away to leave the stage free for them. Johnnys cousin puts on Ive Had the Time of my Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. Johnny looks deep into Babys eyes, and they begin to dance the final dance of the season. Sigh, makes me wish I hadnt married a Computer Programmer.
- The Shining
Youve guessed already? Then I wont muck about too much Jack Torrance has gone a little odd whilst living in a huge Hotel in the middle of nowhere of which hes the out of Season caretaker. Its whilst hes running wild around the corridors and rooms of the Hotel trying to kill his family that he comes across his wife, who promptly locks herself in the bathroom. Oh no, what on earth can Jack do? Bash in the door with an axe is what, and as he peers in through the gash in the door, the stuff of Nightmares is made Heres Johnny! Scared the pants off of me.
I wan only a youngster the first time I saw this film, and I thought I was coping really well with watching a horror film, this really wasnt so bad, theyd had first contact with an alien, it had dropped onto the face of John Hurt and they couldnt remove it, but then it fell off on its own so no problem there, right? I could handle this things go on as normal on the spaceship until suddenly John Hurts character, Kane, gets violent stomach pains. In agony he writhes onto his back, then BLAM an Alien bursts right out of his stomach, theres blood and guts everywhere as this thing sits there half in, half out of Kanes bloody remains spitting and snarling at the rest of the crew. Tell me it didnt scare the living daylights out of you! I wont believe you, but tell me anyway.
Another classic film that I loved from the first moment I saw it, and I couldve picked so many top scenes from this one. But this one is my utmost fave Theyve harpooned the shark, but they cant catch him and nights falling, so they may aswell have a little drink, right? The three men are drunkenly comparing war-wounds, and things are starting to get a little merry. The conversation turns a little rowdy and they all start singing show me the way to go home and hammering with fists and metal cups on the table. The camera suddenly switches to a view of the boat from the outside, at water level, in the dark. We go back inside the boat with the singing reaching fever pitch, only to have it all stop in an instant when something hard bumps into the bottom of the boat the fish is hunting them! Love it, gets my heart going every single time.
So, thats my ten, and now that Im really thinking about it, three scenes from Dirty Dancing was really pretty self indulgent when I think of all those great scenes Ive left out instead. I couldve had the scene from Trainspotting where Begbie throws an empty pint classes over the balcony and it lands on the head of a girl beneath. Or the orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally, or when Thelma and Louise drove off the side of the cliff, or the scene from Rocky when he starts training and the Eye of the Tiger comes in Cant I do my favourite 20?
I seem to be a little short of time and inspiration to put something new up on here these days but when I saw this topic, it put some mental WD40 on the rusty cogs of my mind and lo and behold... I'm back! Did you miss me?
My problem with a topic such as this is that I am such a movie buff, I just don't know how on earth I'm supposed to limit my favourite movie scenes down to a mere ten. My initial thoughts on this were that I would put ten but then follow them with fifty that narrowly missed the first ten...
I'm not sure that it's not going to be quite that bad - but after having looked at my DVD collection alone for inspiration, I short listed more than ten - that's for sure... So - if I overshoot, then I apologise in advance and thank those of you who will stick with me through this one too.
I'll try not to ramble on (too late!!!) and as I don't want to get hanged, drawn and quartered by Hogsflesh, I certainly won't go into too much detail on the scenes - particularly if they would be spoilers in any shape, way or form... as I hate spoilers as much as the next person.
Anyway... if you guys haven't already fallen asleep, then sit back and try to enjoy my movie-related shenanigans!!!
P.S. The following are not in any order of preference - though some may appear in almost alphabetical order as I took notes of some of the titles in my DVD collection and I have to confess to being sad enough to have them on my shelves in alphabetical order...
STAR WARS: EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977)
I thought I'd kick-start my list with the scene that kick-started the Star Wars franchise way back in 1977...
After the Fox fanfare, Star Wars logo and the now infamous yellow scrawl tilting upwards into the stars, the camera pans down from the star field where we see the planet of Tatooine edge onto the screen.
A few seconds later, we hear a sound coming from behind and a spacecraft (referred to as either a blockade runner or a Corellian Corvette if my memory serves me correctly) races over the top of the camera... "Oooooooh", we all think... but we then see that this spacecraft is being fired upon with a barrage of laser blasts and we begin to hear the roar of the pursuing spacecraft from behind and then it too passes over the camera and into our line of sight...
The mother of all spacecraft that seems to go on forever as it passes into our view. The gigantic ship (an enormous Imperial Star Destroyer) absolutely dwarfs the smaller craft that it is chasing down... and eventually the large craft passes over us in its entirety - it's thruster engines burning bright blue... and at this point...
A generation of Star Wars fans is born.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Contact was always touted as a "thinking man's sci-fi". It certainly wasn't the usual style of sci-fi - concentrating less on visual thrills and spills à la Lucas and focusing more on a slower paced, more thought-provoking approach to Sci-fi.
The opening sequence of the film starts as it means to go on with a shot of the Earth from space which starts abruptly with quite loud sound. As the camera pulls back, we quickly hear that the sound is that of radio and television signals that have been beamed from the Earth into space.
As the camera races away from the Earth and passes over other planets in our solar system, the radio and television transmissions get older - showing that we are passing into very deep space.
As we cross into the tail end of our solar system, we hear echoes of the first radio transmissions made which then fade out to complete and utter silence which lasts for several minutes.
In this eerie silence, our solar system is left behind at great speed until we leave the confines of our own galaxy. Moments later we are pulling back through clouds of nebulae and then through so many hundreds - if not thousands of galaxies.
This is truly haunting and thought-provoking. It's not very often a scene in a movie can have you sitting there in silent awe wondering about the enormity and infinity of space.
E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)
Some true Spielberg magic here in one of the most famous scenes from the movies... ever.
When Elliot sneaks off to the forest with E.T. in the front basket of his BMX to assemble a machine to send a distress signal to E.T.'s alien shipmates who accidentally left him behind on earth.
Fearing that they cannot reach their destination as there is a steep drop ahead of them, Elliot tells E.T. they can't reach it.
E.T. has other plans - and uses his other-worldly powers to launch the bike over the edge - but instead of plummeting to the ground, the bike takes to the air.
Whooping with joy, Elliot (still pedalling like crazy for some reason - does he really have to?) and E.T. cycle in front of a massive full moon - silhouetting them in what is easily one of the most recognisable images from a movie.
The image is used by Steven Spielberg as the logo to his Amblin Entertainment company.
THE ITALIAN JOB (1969)
Any film that stars Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill has got to be worth a look.
Another bank holiday favourite, I only got round to seeing this original version of The Italian Job a few years ago - and although it has aged and dated fairly badly in some ways, in other ways it's still as fresh and entertaining as it would have been upon its release back in 1969.
It's still a thrilling movie despite looking its age. The story revolves around Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) who upon being released from prison finds out that someone he knows has attempted to steal from the Italian Mafia and has paid with his life.
Charlie hatches a plot to avenge his fallen comrade and steal $4,000,000 worth of gold from the Italian authorities. The way they plan to do this is to create the worst traffic jam in the history of Turin - thereby grinding all traffic - including the convoy carrying the gold bullion to a catastrophic standstill.
I won't say whether or not Croker and the gang manage to steal the gold from right under the noses of the authorities and pull of the heist... but I will cut to the chase with the scene that made me include this film in my list...
All I will say is that it is quite literally THE best cliff hanger ending in movie history in my humble opinion.
DIE HARD (1988)
This 1988 action film launched Bruce Willis into Superstardom and it's no wonder. It checks all the boxes for the ultimate actioner.
There is all the action and thrills you could ask for in this film, some humour weaved through it to so it's sometimes a little tongue in cheek. The question is: with so many great scenes in Die Hard, which one do I choose... and can I choose only one?!?
The answer to the last part of that question would seem to be... no.
*** ROOFTOP SHOOTOUT ***
Upon being cornered on the rooftop of the Nakatomi Plaza building, John McClane (Willis) has taken the walkie-talkie of a terrorist he has killed and is trying to raise the emergency services to the fact that the building is under siege.
Police Supervisor: "Attention, whoever you are. This channel is reserved for emergency calls only..."
John McClane: "No f*cking sh*t, lady! Do I sound like I'm ordering a pizza?!?"
The conversation is cut short when a volley of bullets ricochet near McClane, forcing the Police Supervisor to pull her ear piece away from her ear.
*** "SHOOT THE GLASS!" ***
Having gotten himself cornered again, (the daft arse!) McClane is being pinned down by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman on top form) and his psycho cohort, Karl - who is already plenty pissed at McClane for killing his brother earlier in the film.
Gruber has already had a run-in with McClane and noticed that he has been forced to run around, avoiding the terrorists wearing only trousers and a nifty white vest (well... it STARTED out white!) and most of all, that he was barefoot.
Gruber instructs Karl to shoot the glass... forcing McClane to either stay put where he is and die or run barefoot across the shards of shattered glass that have been sent everywhere after being shot to pieces...
In a moment of utter desperation, McClane chooses the latter option.
JURASSIC PARK (1993)
This dinosaur packed thrill ride from Spielberg was unlike anything cinema audiences had ever seen before upon its release in 1993.
The story goes into full-throttle when the power is cut at Jurassic Park - due to sabotage. The problem is that there is a small group of people there to witness the miracle of Jurassic Park... and to endorse it before it opens to the public.
After lots of disappointing no-shows from the inhabitants of Jurassic Park, the tension rises when the two electric jeeps lose their power outside the T-Rex paddock. "What's the problem?" I hear you ask? Well... a vicious storm has started to batter the island where the park is situated so being in torrential rain on a stormy night is bad enough - but outside of the T-Rex paddock? Oh... and the high voltage electric fences designed to keep the dangerous dinosaurs confined have also lost their power - allowing the T-Rex to tear the fence apart and step out between the two jeeps.
The T-Rex is quite a sight to behold in all her terrifying glory as she makes her entrance. With the perfect blend of incredible CGI imagery and incredibly life-like and life-size puppetry, you'll never doubt that this is a living, breathing creature with 65 million years of pent up rage driving her...
Just... Don't... Move...
Yes I know. Yet another Spielberg film! I see the pattern emerging here! Can I help it if the man has directed some of my favourite films EVER? No I think not!
I know Spielbergs films are surely not to everyones liking - perhaps viewing them as light entertainment but I think Spielberg has made a few darker movies that arent all bright and sunny.
For some odd reason that I just cant explain, I have simply always loved Jaws. Its one of my all time favourite movies that I could watch over and over again and just not get tired of it. I have watched it so many times that I probably know all, if not most of the movie dialogue by heart.
The question is: Why?
The answer? Who knows? The characters are all so believable:
Police Chief, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) who has moved from New York to a small island community who is somewhat alienated due to the two different environments yet trying desperately to make a change to the people within the community whilst supporting his family.
Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) - a young marine biologist who is rich due to his family background yet does what he does for a living - not for the money but for his love of it.
Quint (Robert Shaw) - a grizzled shark hunter who has had more than his fair share of close calls with his prey and as a result has grown reckless in his ways and may prove to be a danger not only to himself but others.
These three totally different characters are brought together when a great white shark terrorises the small island community of Amity. They eventually join forces to try to hunt down and destroy the predator before it kills more of the bathers and destroys their income from tourists - leaving everyone on Welfare and facing a harsh, bleak winter.
The thing that has always blown me away with Jaws is just how successful the movie is to me simply because not only do you care aboard Quints boat - The Orca - but you actually fear for them. There arent all that many films that can boast this - but Jaws does it effortlessly.
Anyway What scene would I pick as a stand-out moment from this great, great movie? I think Im going to have to highlight a few without going into massive detail so that I dont ruin this for those who havent seen Jaws yet (Is there anyone who hasnt seen this? If so hang your heads in shame! What planet have you been living on?!?)
*** THE FIRST VICTIM ***
The film opens with a twilight beach party with mobs of teenagers playing music, drinking beer and smoking joints etc. A young girl entices a young man away from the party - giggling and stripping off in the dusk as she heads to the sea. The young man is so drunk he can barely catch up with her.
As she runs naked into the sea, he passes out on the sand whilst attempting to strip off too - and is therefore oblivious to what follows.
As the girl is swimming around, she gets pulled under the water with tremendous force by the as yet unseen shark. Screaming for help, she manages to cling onto a nearby buoy but is dragged away from it by the shark before being pulled under whilst in mid-scream.
The film grabs your attention in such a surprising but violent way that you feel inclined to watch this story unfold right to its heart-stopping climax.
Other great scenes that I had to at least mention because they are classic are:
*** ALEX KINTNER ON THE RAFT & THE PULL ZOOM CAMERA SHOT ***
*** THE DISCOVERY OF BEN GARDNERS BOAT ***
*** THE USS INDIANAPOLIS SPEECH ***
*** YOURE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT ***
*** SMILE, YOU SON OF A BITCH! ***
If youve seen and love Jaws, you probably know what I mean with the above lines - if youve not, you should really check out this masterpiece. Ive spared ruining any of this classic for you and I utterly recommend you check it out given a chance!
Now, I must start off this section by saying that I absolutely love Ridley Scotts ALIEN. I think it is an undisputed classic of the sci-fi genre. Its a tremendous example of how well a mix of sci-fi, heart-pounding suspense and horror can merge seamlessly together
That said, I have always found James Camerons 1986 sequel, ALIENS to be better then the original ALIEN in some ways and in my opinion is one of Camerons best movies (there are so many James Cameron movies that I find to be so much better than his multi-Oscar winning Epic, Titanic - though before anyone who loves Titanic kicks up merry hell and hunts me down, let me say that I think Titanic is an incredibly well-made movie a very good movie - but just not a great Cameron movie as well as ALIENS, I have always found THE TERMINATOR, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY and THE ABYSS to be incredible films).
Infinitely watchable and possibly one of the most quotable movies ever, ALIENS is the nigh on perfect mix of humour, suspense, horror and possibly elements of a war movie that add up to another one of those rarities - a movie where you not only give a damn about the characters who are placed in this unbelievable lose-lose situation - facing not just one of the Aliens from the first movie but hundreds upon hundreds of them - and the Alien Queen who is laying eggs and increasing the already huge numbers of these nightmare creatures.
Sadly, there isnt really a single scene I can pick out of this amazing film as there are so many great scenes, I can only recommend the movie in its entirety Even I never expected that! I thought I would have been able to pick out a few scenes but NOPE!!!
If youve seen ALIENS before, isnt it about time you watched it again? If you havent seen it you know what Im going to say - dont you? BLOODY WELL SEE IT!!!
NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)
When it comes to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, it would have been so easy to put PSYCHO in this list but I feel in some ways, it would have also been something of a cop-out.
Whether people have seen PSYCHO before or not, they all know about its most famous scene - where Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is brutally murdered in the shower (despite the fact that the film was shot entirely in black and white, most people tend to remember the red of the blood in colour - though if it had been shot in colour, Hitchcock wouldnt have been able to use chocolate syrup as the fake blood!).
Anyway back to NORTH BY NORTHWEST
This film revolves around the character of Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) who is the victim of mistaken identity by a group of spies who think he is a Government Agent named George Kaplan.
He is pursued across the USA by the spies and the Government themselves as he tries to stay one step ahead of the villains and stay alive.
The scene that has to be mentioned in this list is the classic scene that is also very well known and is (unsurprisingly) on the cover of the DVD etc.
Having been advised that he is to meet the real Kaplan at a desolate point of flat, desert crossroads, having been dropped off from a bus in the middle of nowhere. In the distance, a crop duster plane is seen dusting on the far horizon.
Soon, the only other soul there is a man who is dropped off by car before waiting at a bus stop. The paranoia is ramped as the two men stand silently, eyeing each other up suspiciously from opposite sides of the road.
Slowly, Thornhill crosses the road and attempts to make small talk with the other man who it turns out is not Kaplan or indeed anything to do with Thornhills predicament. Just another great Hitchcock red-herring. Before the other man boards the bus when it arrives, he says something that will be a pre-cursor to what will follow.
That's funny, that plane's dustin' crops where there ain't no crops.
When the bus is disappearing into the distance, the crop duster plane changes course and heads straight for Thornhill. The result is a thrilling and frightening game of cat and mouse amongst the parched corn stalks in a nearby field as Thornhill attempts to hide from the plane that flies perilously close overhead.
Classic Hitchcock. Classic scene. Classic film.
WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)
Sorry all - but another Spielberg flick - but this is one of his darker films of recent years.
Another sci-fi story, this sees Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) looking after his two children - Robbie and Rachel while his ex-wife is out of town with the man in her life (I honestly dont know if shes actually married to him or not) who is now almost more of a father-figure to the children than Ray himself is. Its clear early on that Ray has neglected a lot of family responsibilities - though probably not intentionally. The result is that Rachel is a little distant from him - and Robbie has absolutely no respect for him whatsoever.
After an altercation with Robbie, Ray storms off to his bedroom to sleep as he has newly returned from his work at the docks. Upon waking up again, Ray finds Rachel sitting in the living room but Robbie is nowhere to be seen. When Ray asks her where Robbie is, she shrugs and says he has gone out and has taken Rays car. The look that crosses Rays face is both funny and yet deadly serious at the same time, as we know that the car is Rays pride and joy.
As Ray steps out of the house, a crowd of people are gathered outside looking awe-struck and gaping up at the sky. Ray turns to see an incredibly threatening looking storm cloud over his neighbourhood. Moments later, the town in which they live is suddenly hit by a mysterious lightning storm. Strike after strike of lightning hits the earth in a localised area - and strangely there is no thunder to be heard. Then as suddenly as it started, the lightning stops.
Ray goes out to see what has happened and to try to find Robbie, he tells a scared Rachel to stay in the house. He quickly finds Robbie, who he sends home to look after Rachel - while he goes to the spot where the lightning hit.
A massive crowd has gathered at the spot where the lightning has struck - leaving a small hole in the middle of the road. A deep rumbling sound emanates from beneath them and people scatter as the ground heaves in what initially seems to be an earthquake. The road and pavements split open and the crack continue up the sides of nearby buildings. Windows shatter violently on shops, apartment blocks and a nearby church is split in two as the ground on which it is built moves apart - causing the spire to topple onto the street.
Suddenly the point of impact rises up into a raised mound before falling back in on itself. As people look on in horror, a massive machine rises up slowly from the pit. This is an alien tripod that pulls itself up to full height above the street and stands quietly for a few moments - as if surveying the terrified people scattered about below it.
A loud trumpeting sound is emitted from the tripod - booming out above the people on the streets - causing large numbers of them to cover their ears. Two strange arm-like appendages are revealed at the sides of the tripod and begin to glow a bright blue. The tripod then lets rip with a deadly heat ray weapon that instantly disintegrates people on contact to clouds of ash and dust - whilst the remainder of their clothing blows into the air like burnt paper. Ray manages to weave miraculously unharmed through the crowds of fleeing people while people are blown to atoms around him.
I know some people have found this scene very B-Movie-esque and somewhat cheesy but it scared the absolute hell out of me the first time I saw it in the cinema - and still causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end upon repeat viewings. This is the magic of Spielberg to make the fantastic - no matter how unbelievable - believable.
If only the film had a finale that was as amazing and powerful as the way it all starts, it would practically be a perfect movie as it stands, its very good with a naff but faithful ending.
Okay, everyone Youll be delighted to know that this long-winded top ten is now winding down to a long-overdue close!
To be honest, there are so many more movies I love that feature so many great scenes that I havent written about here simply because you can see how much bumph Ive written about a mere ten can you imagine if there were more additions here?!?
I so wanted to add some of the following - and more:
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (and the other Indiana Jones movies)
The BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy
Among many others Maybe one day, I will expand on this list or I might just get a life!!!
Many thanks for reading this.
Movies are great arent they? A whole story captured in an hour and a half in which you can watch with a beer in one hand and your nachos in the other. They certainly save having to plough through a whole book! I adore movies on the whole and probably watch one most days. I like to think Im fairly eclectic in my tastes although, perhaps the horror and fantasy genre spike my interest the most. To actually pin down 10 top scenes within movies themselves seems to be an interesting challenge so hear goes!
In no particular order:
One of my favourite war movies is the Steven Spielberg directed Empire of the Sun released in 1987. Based on the book written by J.G.Ballard, Christian Bale loses his parents in the evacuation of Shanghai during the 2nd World War. Eventually ending up in a Japanese prisoner of War camp, Bales character Jamie Graham befriends the wonderful John Malkovich playing the American opportunist, Basie. The movie itself is so brilliantly imagined with some of the best cinematography Ive ever seen but the particular scene that sticks in my mind is the one where Bale wanders over to a Japanese fighter plane being repaired. As he looks on, the sparks from the tool being used to repair the plane light the sky up set against a sunset backdrop and the silhouetted fighter pilot looks every bit the hero even though hes actually the enemy in the context of the war. With a fabulous, choral soundtrack to add effect, its also the fact this movie actually humanizes what we would deem to be the opposition making it truly inspired and the film deservedly won a string of Oscars.
Joe Dantes Gremlins from 1984 is choc full of great scenes. To pick any particular one seems sacrosanct. I mean, theres Mrs. Deagle flying through the roof when her stair lift gets sabotaged by the gremlins, theres the plough being driven right through the Futtermans house but the scene that always stands out for me is the one in which all of the gremlins have congregated in the cinema and are sitting in the theatre watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. As the camera pans across, the viewer gets to see a panoramic sweep of the little blighters cackling away, flicking popcorn at the screen and generally laughing at the movie. Its pure gold in a movie vault of lots of pure gold, certainly in terms of this seminal movie. Unusually, Gremlins was followed by an equally strong sequel with some great scenes in that too!
I loved the Hellraiser movies, well at least, one and two. For me, the first movie was groundbreaking although Hellraiser 2 was better visually. With Kenneth Cranham on top form as the crazed Dr Channard, the curious doctor eventually opens the puzzle box and becomes one of Hells demons himself. Its the depiction of Hell that stands out in my mind. A labyrinth of cold corridors and Hellish sets are topped off by the rotating trapezoid at the very heart of Hell. Its the incredible visual awakening of what Hell might look like that makes this scene stand out as various parties stand in awe at the rotating figure that seems to be emanating power and hate. Of course, the movie franchise is best known for the Cenobite creatures and, in particular, Pinhead, making the Hellraiser movies some of the most visually arresting of all time.
James Camerons Titanic released in 1997 was a significant movie in my life. From that moment on, my son became hooked on the legend of the 1912 disaster in which so many people lost their lives. As the second half of the movie unfolds and the tension is cranked to hysteria as the liner finally sinks, its actually the scene where Jack and Rose are standing at the bow of the ship, Jack holding Rose, Rose with her arms outstretched pretending to fly as the liner powers through the waves, that captured my imagination from the first half of the film. Celine Dion's haunting "My Heart Will Go On" cements that Celtic power to the love story entwined within the disaster movie itself and it's a heady fusion of tragedy and romance that made the film so compelling. It doesnt work quite so well now that I know that the scene was shot using blue screen but, nevertheless, the concept of flying, tied in with the ships beauty and power is a wonderful allegory for the story as a whole.
One of the most frustrating things for me when I was 14-years-old was not being able to get into the cinema to see Ridley Scotts Alien in 1979. Combining horror and science fiction, I had to make do with reading a paperback version of the story so when I eventually got to see the film on video; I sat there enthralled for the whole 117 minute run time. The scene that I love the most is where John Hurt is on the alien planet and is walking through the pods, surrounded by mist. As he peers into one, it breaks open and the alien of the movies title explodes into his space helmet. That whole scene is so eerie, chilling and filled with tension and only potentially upstaged later on in the movie when it explodes out of Hurts chest having successfully gestated.
I do like Tim Burton as a director and I adore Jack Nicholson as an actor so when the two combined in 1989 to make the gothic Batman, it became a must-see movie for me. Filled with dark, brooding street sets, the film was a visual triumph but the scene that stands as is where Nicholsons Joker turns up at the art gallery, boombox perched on Nicholsons shoulder with Prince blaring out as he meets up with Kim Basingers Vicki Vale. Nicholson is truly awesome playing the deranged, villainous Joker but theres always an underlining, laconic irony that is the trademark of so many of Nicholsons characters.
I loved the recent Peter Jackson version of King Kong but, in terms of watershed movies, the 1933 black and white movie is hard to beat. I remember seeing this as a kid with a tear in my eye as the closing scenes played out. Having become emotionally attached to the giant gorilla of the movies title, he fights for his noble life at the top of the Empire State Building in New York as bi-planes from that era reign bullets down on him. Those scenes did more for New York tourism than anything else and the technical skill in delivering that standard of scene was simply staggering for movies from the 1930s.
Ridley Scott features again through the 1982 sci-fi noir movie Blade Runner. Harrison Ford is superb in the lead role as the android hunter Rick Deckard. The film is typical of Philip Dicks profound theorizing over the relationship between reality and our own perception of whats real and whats imagined but the scene where Rutger Hauers android finally succumbs to its lifespan is staggeringly well shot. As the android Batty dies, the whole scene slows as Hauer utters the immortal line I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die. With that, white doves fly into the air and you realise that his lethal pursuit of Deckard has ended in failure and the android has expired. Fabulous stuff.
War films generally arent my thing but I do like Michael Caine. Hes so charismatic and has made so many good movies over the years. One of his finest hours of many fine hours is in the 1964 film "Zulu. Based on the Battle of Rourkes Drift, the stiff-upper-lipped British army is facing overwhelming odds as the Zulu army bears down on the garrison. Its the scene with the soldiers all propped and ready to engage the enemy that stands out for me as the vast might of the Zulu warrior force amasses at the brow of the hill. Caine as Lt. Gonville Bromhead can only watch in awe as the Zulu legions bang their shields and ready themselves for the forthcoming battle.
Last but not least (if you made it this far!) would be another Spielberg classic Close Encounters of the Third Time Released in 1977, the film created quite a stir because, apart from the fact its a fine movie, it tried to imagine what it would be like if a alien ship ever landed on Earth. Of course, the brilliant Michael Rennie inspired The Day the Earth Stood Still had examined this concept before, back in 1951, but it was the creative imagining behind Spielbergs movie that set it apart in its genre. The closing shots of the UFO landing in a blaze of light, watched by the gathered reception committee was seminal in its day and another visual triumph for the audience to gape in awe at.
Oh well, there you have it and Ill probably think of loads more as soon as Ive posted this one. For pure escapism, endeavor, imagination and emotion, you simply cant beat the movies and the next time you are feeling low, try escaping into the wonderful world of movies along with me and the millions of others that do just that, whenever we can.
Thanks for reading