I love doing top 10s, 20s, 30s, and even top 100s. So when I sat down and actually started my list, the ideas kept on coming. And coming. And coming. And coming. I knew I had to cap it off so I figured, fuck it, I'm going to dance on the edge of gaudiness and list 100. As you will find out, some descriptions are shorter than others. That is because some scenes just speak for themselves. Another reason is that a bunch of these moments I plan on elaborating on more fully later on. Note: If I had the money, I would have used editing software to create a montage of these scenes.
When I think of the movies I have watched over the course of my life, I inevitably come to a specific moment in a certain movie that sticks out. These moments come to mind all the time whether I'm typing out something movie related or just going about my life. They are apart of me. If movies were made to generate empathy and for us, then I would say some of the best moments in my life involved watching a movie that helped me through a difficult time or just made me laugh when things were down.
There are moments on this list that have repulsed me, made me eyes fill with tears, made me excited to live, made me afraid, lifted me up. Others that I have no pleasure in watching them unfold on screen because of the brutal context. They are ingrained in my subconscious.
I should warn you that there is graphic content ahead as well as some spoilers for movies. These are listed in no particular order.
So without further ado, let's get crackin'.
1. The Save Me sequence from Magnolia. And the prologue. And the ending. Don't make me choose.
2. Described to by Walter Murch as "a strange nightmare which blended reality and fiction", the opening of Apocalypse Now is hallucinatory. As is the rest of the movie.
4. The boats in the fog scene in Ugetsu. Thick, mysterious atmosphere like this is seldom used this well.
5. The shower scene in Psycho.
6. Jake La Motta Vs. Sugar Ray Robinson in Raging Bull. I mention both because after hearing that Scorsese modeled the editing of this scene after Psycho, it taught me how the language of cinema allows people to take their influence to another place entirely. Yes, the cutting is great. Approaches cubism in a way. But just look at the difference in the story each film is trying to tell. Both are moments that affect me greatly and are sequences I often go back to not just for technical reasons but to get lost in their power.
7. If I had to choose a movie for the award "Most Haunting Film In Cinema" Sunset Boulevard would easily win. The audacity to have the opening narration coming from a corpse is astonishing and genius.
8. Saving Private Ryan: The D-Day scene alone disspells any notion that Spielberg isn't a great filmmaker. Kaminski's photography, the sound design, cutting, movement, the sense of geography the scene brings are all remarkable. Beyond just technical shit, this FEELS like you are on Omaha beach. This is just a prelude to the extraordinary picture that follows.
10. The blood test in The Thing. Carpenter is as brilliant as any arthouse filmmaker out there and this movie is proof of that. Just watch the mathematically precise shots he uses. Rob Bottin's work here is still unmatched.
11. Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Closing. Fuck you, that's my name! 2nd prize gets a set of steak knives. Like a great album, I could listen to the dialogue in this film all day. Here is my favorite song:
12. The first 15 minutes of Suspiria. Italian horror is a genre I am very fond of. I prefer Argento to Fulci and if there were any arguments to be made as to why, I would have to show them this scene.
13. Crossing the bridge in Sorcerer. The ending scene of the film as well. More to come on this one.
14. The "through the looking glass" scene from JFK. A monumental feat of editing.
16. "Mein fuhrer. I can walk!" Thank God they didn't opt for the pie fight. Of all of Kubrick's qualities, one of my favorite was his use of satire. That is best conveyed in this ending.
17. The dinner scene in Alien. The film as a whole brilliantly conveys fear and isolation. But the dinner scene with Kane is able to cut to right to the core of it all. The convulsions and the sounds that John Hurt makes are horrifying to watch and hear.
18. Anwar Congo reacting to the re-enactments of the Indonesian genocide atrocities. From The Act of Killing. We are watching a character more fascinating than anything coming out of Hollywood in years.
19. The prologue of Persona. Bergman stretched the bounds of film language as far as it could go with this opening.
20. The transformation scene in American Werewolf In London. It has yet to be topped as far as visualizing the pain and terror of becoming a werewolf for the first time.
21. Sister Ruth's descent into madness in Black Narcissus. We already have one of the most gorgeous films ever made with this masterpiece from Powell and Pressburger. Underneath it all is a brewing madness that pours over into its final moments.
22. Do the Right Thing race rant montage. This scene is a match to the gasoline can that is this movie. Luckily, Sam Jackson tells us all to cool that shit out before the match is dropped.
23. The Russian Roulette scene(s) between DeNiro and Walken in The Deer Hunter. Harrowing stuff. One shot. Indeed.
24. I was originally going to choose a scene with Chigurh (gas station scene preferably). But when I think of No Country For Old Men and the feeling I get when the credits roll, I go to the ending. The whole film is about a cycle violence carried on from one generation to the next. Cormac McCarthy's prose are beautifully spoken through the mouth of Tommy Lee Jones off the page penned by the Coen Brothers. All amounting to the new generation devouring the old generation mentality. It truly is No Country For Old Men and Ed Tom Bell's face says it all.
25. "That's Cosmo. He's Chinese." This is where I fell in love with the movies of PT Anderson. His use of music, the editing, the pacing. It was invigorating to know that at such a young age, someone could pull a scene like this one off.
26. The Insider meltdown scene. Mann's cinema always tip toes n the edge and flirts with surrealism. This scene showed him jumping headlong into it. Every bit as necessary for the character's state of mind.
27. "I do" The baptism sequence in The Godfather has had praise showered upon it by countless people and for good reason. In a film crammed wall to wall with memorable moments, this one stands out as my favorite.
28. The opening of Kieslowski's Blue. The pacing, the cinematography. Perfect start to a perfect movie.
29. "I'll be right here." The first memory of cinema that I can recall is crying my eyes out to the ending of E.T. then rewinding it in the VHS player (what's that?) and watching it to cry all over again.
30. The ending of Whiplash. Most intense scene of 2014. Tom Cross' editing deservedly won the Oscar. Fletcher fixing the bent cymbal. Andrew mouthing "fuck you" to Fletcher after he interrupts him with his drumming. The scene is able to tell a story with all of these little moments while at the same time acting as the culmination of the two main character arcs. Great stuff.
31. "Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!" Stewart's exuberance. Capra's homeliness. This is a damn great movie for all ages. Such a glorious moment.
32. This entire sequence in GoodFellas. This is when I fell in love with editing and the possibilities of what cinema could do through editing. Scorsese and Schoonmaker throw out the rulebook for this breakneck sequence that has a kick ass montage of songs ranging from George Harrison to Muddy Waters. "You wanna see helicopters? I'll show ya helicopters."
33. Stewart seeing the wedding ring on Kelly's finger and falling in love with her at that moment in Rear Window.
34. There are countless memorable scenes in The Third Man but the ending really gets to me. Wanna learn how films are made? Go to this movie.
35. Blair Witch Project has left a scar on my subconscious ever since seeing it at the drive in in 1999. The scenes that continue to haunt my memory and I keep fresh every Halloween season deal with the voices of children in the distance during night and when the enter the house.
36. Again, several memorable moments from Network, but Beale's outcries are electricity in my veins when I watch it.
37. Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite. This may be my favorite moment in all of cinema.
38. Mulholland Dr.: A dream about Winkie's. Like Patrick Fischler, who hopes he never sees that face outside of a dream, I hope to never see that face outside a movie.
39. The car chase from The French Connection. What is pure cinema? A chase scene according to William Friedkin is pure cinema and what better than the one in his sharp edge cop drama.
40. This genius chase scene in Raising Arizona is the closest live action film has gone into emulating Looney Tunes. Any further and we would have wound up with the poorly executed Looney Tunes movies.
41. Alex Kitner, meet Jaws. This scene also contains the famous reverse zoom on Chief Brody and a creepy as fuck moment where the bloody, ripped to shreds raft floats to the shore.
42. The most terrifying scenes in The Shining have nothing to do with Jack Nicholson weilding an axe. Though that is a terrifying thought in itself. It has everything to do with the atmosphere that builds to scenes where Danny sees the twins. Or when Wendy sees this:
43. The shootout to end all shootouts in The Wild Bunch. They all know there's no way out. But you still are rooting for them. Watch the cutting of the images here. No one did slow motion like Peckinpah.
42. The frog conquistador scene in The Holy Mountain and the fact that it exists. Seriously, what the hell is going on inside the mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky? Whatever it is, don't change. It's sequences like these that leave me in befuddlement, glee, and fascination.
43. Once Upon A Time In the West..."Keep your loving brother happy" I could have gone for the brilliant use of sound in the beginning, the operatic movement of the ending, but it's this flashback scene that stuck to my subconscious like tar.
44. The burning of the castle in Ran. As extraordinary a visual moment as any in cinema.
45. Dorothy walking into a world of color is such a transporting moment.
46. The fifth dimension scene in Interstellar. This movie had me in tears in several scenes. This scene is just one of them.
47. The growing old montage in Up. Some of the strongest scripts to come out of Hollywood are penned by the Pixar team. I just wish they got back on track.
48. The first processing scene between Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd in The Master. The whole film is a dreamlike enigma that refuses to leave my brain. I don't think people under-- oh fuck I blinked. Back to the start.
49. "Ready when you are Sgt. Pembry"
50. The ending of 25th Hour. A cathartic experience if there ever was one.
51. The tale of the goy's teeth in A Serious Man. Help me. Save me. Was Hashem trying to tell me something here?
52. "Listen now, this is Nashville! They can't do that to us in Nashville!" This movie is such a monumental middle finger to the hypocrisy of America. As Barbara Harris sings along at the movies peak moment, "It Don't Worry Me"
53. A girl. A bag. A ringing telephone. Audition is a slow burn of a horror film that rests on cruise control. This scene kicks everything into high gear.
54. Ladders, and stairwells, fire escapes, and comedians in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
55. Gene's speech in Wet Hot American Summer is one of pure inspiration.
56. Detective Toschi and Robert Graysmith reign in years of work at a diner in Zodiac.
57. This donkey scene in Pinocchio ruined me when I was a kid.
58. Zombi 2: Why hello wooden shard! My name is Ms. Eye. Pleased to meet you!
59. The opening to Day of the Dead. The money blowing in the wind on the empty streets. The alligator that is loose. "The Dead Walk" newspaper. Then this guy:
60. The ending of The Devils Rejects. Saying "Fuck it" in so many ways.
61. Cannibal Holocaust: Here's just one moment from this grueling, savage film. The Italian cannibal movies are something not for the faint of heart and of those movies, this one takes the cake.
62. The Conformist: The trees are their own character in this impeccably lit moment.
63. Don't Look Now: One of the more realistic sex scenes in cinema. Also one of the most brilliantly cut together
64. The Exorcist: the exorcism scene.
65. The friendship between McMurphy and Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It all leads to my favorite moment of the movie at the end. Transcendent.
66. The friendship between Ratso Rizzo and Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy. Another film littered with memorable moments. But for now, I'm gonna pick the apartment scene. Tomorrow it will probably be the ending. The next day, the psychedelic party scene.
67. Harry Caul listening in on things in an apartment in The Conversation. A masterclass in sound and editing, this is every bit as good as the first two Godfather films and Apocalypse Now.
68. Schindler's List is filled with haunting and sad moments but this one is at the top for me.
69. THIS scene. This. Fucking. Scene. After shooting Sport, DeNiro does something absolutely fascinating. He sits down on the stoop for about 4 seconds. then he goes about doing the scene. That moment alone is enough to warrant it a spot this list.
70. The Fisher King: Dancing in Grand Central Station.
71. The Burbs is an all time favorite for a variety of reasons. Besides being Joe Dante's best work, the cast is phenomenal. The show stealer has gotta be Bruce Dern. His antics as Rumsfeld elevate the already genius comedy to greater heights.
72. The Ballad of Maxwell Demon in Velvet Goldmine. For a movie as energetic as the music it depicts, this scene seems to encapsulate it all in the form of a music video. Todd Haynes simply doesn't care about rules.
73. Eyes Wide Shut: The password is Fidelio.
74. 8 1/2 is a film whose opening dream sequence has been copied and parodied several times. It's impossible not to be absorbed in it when watching the film.
75. The 30 minute wordless bank heist in Rififi.
76. The basement scene in Inglourious Basterds. Beautiful dialogue. Tense as hell. This was also the first time I saw Michael Fassbender in a film. After this scene in particular, I knew he would be worth looking at. If someone were to ask me why I love Tarantino or what is so good about his dialogue, I would show them this scene.
77. Jacob's Ladder: Jacob being taken through the hospital and into the emergency room. The flimsy wheel on the hospital bed as it jaggedly rolls through the severed limbs on the floor is so disconcerting. Things become more and more nightmarish. When we get to the shot that is pictured below it feels like an undiscovered circle of hell. It's such a nightmarish moment from a underrated movie.
78. The carny family from Freaks chanting "One of us. One of us. We accept her." This film would never be made in Hollywood today.
79. The ending of the Elephant Man. A torrent of tears always follows this moment. John Merrick is a major inspiration on
80. The unforgettable and terrifying dinner table scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
81. Hoop Dreams: When Arthur Agee's mother is certified as a nurse. Real people's whose lives are as more interesting than anything in fiction. This is another film that is chock full of moments that it is difficult to pick just one. For now, this moment is the one.
82. Witnessing the enormous range of emotions of Dear Zachary: from the best and most noble of humanity to the worst of humanity. Of all one hundred moments that are on this list, Dear Zachary easily tops them as far as sheer breadth of emotion. Exhausting but absolutely necessary.
83. The cafe scene in Blue Is the Warmest Color. "I would pay you in flesh and blood." The way Adele's voice cracks during that delivery. The cadence, the dialogue, the setting. All of it contributes to this brutally emotional and heart breakingly honest scene.
84. These two scenes from Forrest Gump. An introduction and a goodbye.
85. Anju's despair in Sansho the Bailiff. I will never shake this scene.
86. The editing and sheer excitement of the final battle in Seven Samurai. The whole film is a film school in itself but this scene in particular really stands out.
87. Jackie Brown. I could put the whole "Switch" sequence here, but this section of it is so crisply written I had to choose it. "Louis? Louissssss." This is my favorite post- Heat DeNiro performance easily.
88. The size and scope of the burning oil derrick in There Will Be Blood. Watching this on the big screen was one of the highlights of my movie going. Johnny Greenwood's Penderecki-like score adds a whole other dimension.
89. The 3 hour of bizarre cinema that is Inland Empire and how you wander through its stream of consciousness narrative to arrive at moments like this:
90. The old monk instructing the young monk to repaint the calligraphy on the remote Buddhist temple in Spring Summer Fall Winter...and Spring.
91. Kieslowski's The Decalogue was a major turning point when I was seeking out new films outside of America. At some point you feel like you know a lot about the form and what it can do. Then you come across a set of films like these and it utterly changes you. The father knocking down the bench with the candles in church in Decalogue I is forever ingrained into my mind.
92. It's over. Stop trying to be cool. Alain Deloin in Le Samourai is simply cooler than you are. By extension and through this opening scene, so is Jean Pierre Melville.
93. This scene from Se7en never made me look at air fresheners the same way again.
94. "Son, this is what happens when you FUCK A STRANGER IN THE ASS!"
95. The tunnel scene in Possession. Isabelle Adjani's performance stands as one of the bravest and fiercest out of any performance in horror (or any genre for that matter). This film and this scene in particular terrify the shit out of me.
96. The curb scene in American History X. The sound still rings in my ears. Brutal and uncompromising look at race.
97. The dream sequences in Wild Strawberries. I recently rewatched this movie and was again blown away by Bergman's use of dreams and his portrayal of the fragility of life. It deeply resonates with me.
98. The ship sinking in Titanic. Now before I have someone start complaining, let me put you into my perspective. In 1997, Titanic was EVERYWHERE. It was the event movie where you, your kid and your grandparents could go to. Watching this mammoth ship sink and break in half on the big screen was something I will never forget. "Gentlemen, it's been a privilege playing with you tonight."
99. Of all Woody Allen's films, this his best moment. Gordon Willis' photography coupled with Mariel Hemingway's delivery of "You just have to have a little faith in people" All of this during the swelling of Rhapsody in Blue. Great filmmaking.
100. Death Proof: The car chase. The beatdown. The end.
Until next time...