Mariana’s Top 20 Movie Scenes

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(so far)

1. Opening Credits — Drive

This scene perfectly captures the atmosphere of the movie, from Kavinsky’s “Nightcall”playing in the background, to the city lights flashing by Ryan Gosling’s stoic features. It has a timeless feel to it, like this could be happening in the 80s as well as today, and it does a brilliant job of introducing the character of Drive.

2. End scene — Fight Club

A truly explosive ending to an explosive film (pun intended.) This scene is the perfect wrap up to Fight Club, not only because of the realisation of Tyler Durden’s mayhem plans, but also because The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” playing in the background is the anthem to the Narrator’s life at that moment. And the last line of the film, “you met me at a very strange time in my life” sums it up perfectly.

3. Opening scene — The Social Network

What’s the perfect way to begin the story of a intellectual asshole? Take it back to the roots and make it about a girl. This opening, in a crowded bar, with just Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara talking for five straight minutes, is a wonderful way to show you what you’re in for right at the very start. This is going to be about dialogue and characters, more so than the plot itself. This is the tipping point for the rest of the story, the reason why everything happens, the catalyst. It’s also a technically brilliant scene, because it has Eisenberg and Mara in top shape, and Fincher bringing his A-game to shoot this scene in an actual crowded bar, which gives it a much more realistic feel.

4. Dance scene — Moonrise Kingdom 

This is a great scene because it has all the best Wes Anderson has to offer. Nostalgia, symmetry, romance, endearment. These kids are living on the beach, dancing in their underwear, and are perfectly happy. François Hardy’s tune in the background just adds to the nostalgia of the scene and slight awkwardness with which the characters move is a really sweet expression of young love. The composition of the shots is also really beautiful, full of pastel blues and yellows, storybook-like.

5. Robert’s letter — Cloud Atlas 

Frobisher’s storyline is perhaps the most heartbreaking of the film, and with this final letter to Sixsmith, he beautifully lets out his last feelings and also in a way brings all of the other timelines together. Due to his Sextet (and his stolen waistcoat as well, I suppose), Frobisher is the character who maintains the bonds of the timelines, and his demise is heartbreaking, especially since we carry on with his timeline with Sixsmith who never gets over his love for him. And I must add that as a resident of Edinburgh, it’s very painful walking by the Scott Monument every day and think about their missed chance on top of it.

6. Breakfast montage — Citizen Kane

What an amazing way of showing the character development! In this short montage, Welles takes us through years of Kane’s life, showing how this young optimist becomes the bitter old tycoon whose last words were “Rosebud.” The make-up is stunning, and the costumes are fantastic, especially with regards to Mrs Kane, showing the changes of the fashion. And both actors portray the bitterness and disdainfulness of their characters really well.

7. Spock’s death — Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan 

One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the history of cinema, Spock’s death scene is still moving even after having seen it a dozen times. Spock is an amazing character, who grows through his friendship with Kirk, and whose love for Kirk makes him grow as well. Their bond is so strong, and that is particularly well highlighted in this scene when Spock gives his speech to Kirk as he is about to die of radiation poisoning. Kirk’s reaction (“KHAAAAAAAN!!!”) makes this scene truly legendary, and it has gone down in history as one of the most memorable moments in cinema history.

8. Forest chase sequence — Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

One of the coolest entries on this list, this scene is where Guy Richie’s amazing directorial eye comes to play. It is a straightforward chase scene in the woods made extraordinary by the camera work alone. From jump cuts to slow-motion and also bullet-time. The attention to detail, from the sound design to the set, are mesmerising, and make this scene perhaps one of the best of the film, which is already far superior than the first one.

9. Black Room  — Under the Skin

Under the Skin is an uncomfortable scene to watch, and this scene where Scarlett Johansson brings an unsuspecting horny man into the Black Room to be absorbed as nutrients is perhaps one of the most unsettling parts of the film. It’s all due to the music, something drummy and slightly electronic, and all too quiet, as they shed their clothes walking further into the room. We see the vulnerable man, erection pointing upwards, be dragged under the goo without being any the wiser, and Johansson is completely impassive the whole time. Truly an unsettling scene, and masterfully handled by Jonathan Glazer.

10. Library dance — The Breakfast Club

The most iconic scene of one of the most iconic movies. The Breakfast Club is an ’80s classic, and this scene, where the Princess, Athlete, Criminal, Basket Case and Brain have fun together, dancing and just being kids without the prejudices of high school cliques is truly wonderful. It highlights the bond they’ve formed during detention and it shows that when kids are allowed to just be kids, they can have fun regardless of their clique affiliations.

Also the dances are pretty cool. Emilio Estevez has some serious moves!

11. Final hospital scene — A Clockwork Orange

The ending Alex DeLarge deserves. He is the ultimate evil protagonist, an anti-hero who loves ultraviolence and the old in-out-in-out. Throughout the film we see him reach his peak and then his downfall, then his redemption, and downfall again. By the time we reach the end of this story, we are rooting for him, because everyone else seems to be even worse, so when in these final moments we realise that his “cure” has been cured, we are surprisingly relieved. Alex’s life will be completely different from now on, he is no longer just a delinquent teen, but rather someone who holds power over authorities and will probably use it to his advantage, because he is no idiot. This scene is the ultimate punchline for the whole film, and it is brilliant.

12. Throat slashed — Gone Girl

In Gone Girl, you never know who to root for. While Nick is clearly innocent, he is also a bit of an ass, and while Amy is clearly a bit insane, she is totally awesome, so it is fitting that they end up together. But the best, most exciting scene of the film is the pièce de résistance of Amy’s makeshift plan after being robbed. You can see her cunning eyes calculating every outcome in the situation with Collings, and I’m sure that she knows from the very moment they meet at the casino that this will be the outcome. The way she manipulates him, manipulates the security cameras, the entire situation, it’s masterful, and this scene is the climax of the event (quite literally, actually,) as she slashes his throat and bathes herself in his blood. Amy Dunne is a truly cunning woman capable of anything, and it’s not until this very moment that we find that out, and it is amazing.

13. Train conversation — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Such an sweet, awkward scene of our lead characters meeting for the “first time.” The way they approach each other, Jim Carrey’s slightly shy expressions, Kate Winslet’s wonderfully endearing performance, it all comes together with the cleverly edited music. The music plays only when they are speaking and when they are silent, the music quiets as well, which only increases the awkwardness of these two people who are dragged together by fate again and again despite their efforts. This is one of my favourite movies of all time, and this particular scene is one of my favourites in the film. There’s something delicate about the way it’s shot (all Gondry I’m sure) ad the dialogue is so wonderfully realistic and strange (all Kaufman I’m sure). I love it.

14. Shark — The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

This is one of the final scenes of my favourite Wes Anderson film, where the Zissou crew & co. go underwater on the submarine to finally spot the shark. The animation of the sea creatures is exquisite, especially the stop-motion shark, and the music makes it feel all the more magical. This whole film feels like a fairy tale, and it deserved a special ending like this, where Zissou realises the shark is too beautiful to harm. It’s a final stellar performance by the whole cast, especially Bill Murray, who shines particularly bright.

15. Sibling lip sync duet — The Skeleton Twins 

(they didn’t have the clip on YouTube, so enjoy the music video of the song with Andrew McCarthy instead, it’s just as good)
I absolutely love this film. Saw it at the EIFF last year and fell in love instantly. It’s a story about twins who stop talking to each other for years and are suddenly thrust back together. They must deal with all the things they’ve done wrong and have to repair their relationship. In this scene, in an effort to cheer up Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader starts to lip sync to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship, dancing flamboyantly around the living room, goading her to join him. It’s clearly something they’ve done many times before, a sibling tradition, and Wiig and Hader have such amazing chemistry that it feels so, so natural to see them do this. When she joins us, it becomes even more special. It’s an amazing scene, not necessarily important to the plot, but definitely important for their relationship, and also very funny to watch.

16. O Captain, My Captain — Dead Poets Society

My all-time favourite movie. I know, super cliche, but I don’t care. This is one of the most classic scenes in history, entirely memorable, just like the film itself. After Neil’s death, Professor Keating is fired, and as he leaves the office, the Dead Poets stand up on their chairs, shouting Whitman’s immortal words, “o captain, my captain.” Not quite a barbaric YAWP, but moving and beautiful, especially after the look on Robin Williams’ face as he watches his students show how much they care for him. This film is both heart-warming and heartbreaking, and this scene is a tangle of both.

17. Hotel shootout — Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver is a classic every movie buff needs to see, and the ending is very similar to A Clockwork Orange, with the anti-hero becoming a sort of martyr in the eyes of the general public. In one of the final scenes of the film, Travis goes after the people who are keeping Iris as a prostitute and shoots everybody, even getting shot himself. He is a war veteran, clearly suffering from PTSD after Vietnam, and something is triggered in him when he sees Iris for the first time which makes him act this way. But he is not a bad man, his intentions are always good deep down somewhere, and in the end all he does is shoot the bad guys (even though he almost did try to assassinate the presidential candidate. It’s a great scene, bloody, violent, but not too long, just enough to get you jumping in your seat in apprehension and concern for Travis.

18. Kiss — Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain 

After an entire film of waiting and waiting for these two to find each other — rather, for Amélie to take charge of her own life and allow herself to be happy — this is the final pay-off. Amélie and Nino kissing, gently, quietly, shyly, and so so sweetly. It’s perhaps one of the most romantic movie kisses I’ve ever seen, and the run up to this moment was so full of obstacles and diversions, so when it happens, we are as relieved and happy as Raymond Dufayel watching from his window. And the silence makes it all the more powerful, all the more romantic. This is a beautiful scene.

19. Confession — Snowpiercer

As they reach the front of the train, realising it might be a dead-end, Chris Evans’ character confesses to what life was like after the boarded the Snowpiercer. The poor were forced into cannibalism to decrease their numbers, and when he says “babies taste best,” it is like a punch in the gut. His performance is so raw, so heartfelt, that you can’t help but feel for him. They did it out of necessity, because otherwise they would all die, and it works wonderfully as a metaphor to our own society. The poor are often forced into doing things that strip them of their dignity because the gap between them and the rich is so big. After all that happened during the film, all the deaths and fights and losses, and all that is to come, this scene which is calm, silent, feels foreign which makes it so powerful. It’s a shame that Snowpiercer didn’t get widely released, because it truly is a fantastic film.

20. “Marry me” — The Young Victoria

Probably the odd-one out in this list, but I don’t care. The Young Victoria is a beautiful film written by Julian Fellowes (creator of Downton Abbey), which follows Queen Victoria in the beginning of her reign and her relationship with Prince Albert. This is the proposal scene, which gives me butterflies every time. There is something so sweet and innocent about their relationship, and the happy look on their faces after she proposes is magical. Their love for each other is so clear and pure and beautiful, and I truly believe that it was like that in real life — even though they weren’t as good-looking as Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend. Still, a gorgeous scene to wrap up this list.

post by Mariana Duarte


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