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Favorite Movie Moments Part 1

Updated on September 20, 2013

Movies really can stir up a plethora of emotions. They can make us laugh, make us cry, make us scared, make us cheer. So today, I am going to list off some of my favorite moments from movies. It is no exaggeration when I say I had to make some executive decisions. In fact, some of my favorite movies did not make the cut. Also, I find it hard to rank these, so like my list of favorite TV moments, this will be alphabetical.


Back to the Future – Marty goes back to the future – For me, it was not a question of including a moment from my favorite franchise, the question is which moment. In fact, the real choice was how do I pick just one? As a matter of fact, how do I pick just one from the first film? You have the introduction of the DeLorean. You have Marty performing “Johnny B. Goode.” So why not go for the most iconic scene in the franchise? There is a lot going on in this scene, and a lot of the skill in this scene can observed in the editing. First, there’s the actual lack of editing when Doc is just pacing back and forth, saying “damn” over and over. As Marty drives the Delorean trying to accelerate to 88 miles per hour, Doc is also trying to ensure the wires are connected. However, careful editing intertwines these two events which actually builds the tension. Once Marty starts driving, there is little dialogue – just Doc and Marty’s reactions. We also can not overlook Alan Silverstri’s classic score which goes from tension-building to triumphant. I remember as a kid, I watched this movie a lot, and despite knowing the outcome I was always on the edge of my seat. But when that lightning strikes and Doc starts celebrating in the street, it truly feels like victory.

Bonus scene: I would also like to take a moment and talk about Marty being duped by the fake shark in Part II. Because it is such a short moment, I do not have a ton to say about it other than it is really funny. And it is my favorite bit from Part II.


Batman (1989) – The Museum Scene: Over the years, this has become of those love it or hate it scenes. Since it is on a list of favorite movie scenes, figuring out my stance should not be too hard. When the Joker becomes infatuated with Vicki Vale, he sets up a meeting. Being the Joker, he won’t just call her and meet with flowers. Instead, he pretends he is Bruce Wayne and sets up a meeting at a museum. Sound like a typical sitcom setup? Once again, this is the Joker we’re talking about. He gives Vicki a gas mask so he can kill everybody in the museum but her so they can be alone. But he’s not just going to walk in. He bursts in with his gang and invites them to “broaden their minds.” With an original Prince song, the Joker and his gang lay waste to the museum, splattering paint on paintings, smashing statues – except Figure with Meat. Joker “kind of likes that one.” After he and his men are done, Vicki has her first meeting with the Joker. This is where she learns what a truly disturbing individual he is as he shows off his scarred mistress and tries to do the same with Vicki. Even when flaunting the Joker’s insanity, there are still some truly funny lines here (“What do you want?” “My face on the one dollar bill.”) Of course, Batman saves the day, prompting the Joker to ask “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” The sequence continues from there with a fight between Batman and the Jokers’ goons as well as an intense and completely silent moment between Batman and Vale, but I have to stop talking somewhere.

Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey – Bill and Ted battle Death – There are so many things to love about this scene. First of all, it is a parody of The Seventh Seal. Bill and Ted spoofs Igmar Bergman. Chew that over. I watched this movie a lot as a kid, but suffice to say, I did not understand the reference as a kid. Movies like The Seventh Seal were not exactly high on my priorities list (even though it was also spoofed on Animaniacs). Now that I understand the parody, the reference is that much better. It is also a good lesson on parody. The filmmakers did not just recreate the original scenes and call it day. They put a spin on it. Instead of chess, Death plays Battleship, Clue, tabletop football and Twister. Going back to what I said about not understanding the reference as a kid, it is easy to see why I liked this even back then. Even without the reference, this scene is hilarious: Specifically because of what a poor sportsman the Grim Reaper is.


Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Meeting the Aliens: Not counting any of the Indiana Jones movies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is my favorite Spielberg film. In many ways, it summarizes everything I admire about the man and his work. He knows how to create truly spectacular and, yes, magical moments. The whole movie was building up to this moment, and even when the aliens arrive, Spielberg knows how to keep us waiting as the scientists attempt to communicate with the aliens using that famous five-note tone. As the scene progresses, the dialogue becomes scarcer and scarcer. What little dialogue there is certainly is not expository dialogue as the heavy emotions and important scenes are expressed through actions and characters’ faces – you know like an, a-hem, visual medium. Of course, I can not forget about John Williams’s score during this scene. There is a reason Williams and Spielberg have been joined at the hip for most of Spielberg’s career. Overall, this epitomizes why this is one of my favorite moments in one of my favorite movies: It captures the excitement of what can be done with a visual medium.


The Dark Knight – Batman Meets the Joker – Up to this point in the movie, Batman and the Joker only had very fleeting meetings together. The police are trying to interrogate The Joker, but when Jim Gordon leaves, it is just down to Batman and the Joker. Even if their animosity had been contained to the one film (as far as the Nolan films’ continuity goes), but most fans know about the Joker and Batman’s eternal rivalry. The two could not be more opposite: Batman is dark, sullen and keeps to a strict vow of not murdering people. The Joker is bright, has a morbid sense of humor, and delights in killing just for the fun of it. And the two’s conflicting philosophies come out here. Though they also have a unique dichotomy in battle: The Joker cannot match Batman physically. However, he absolutely refuses to bend as he wants to push Batman to his mental limits. Batman continuously pummels The Joker and each punch is just met with laughter. In many ways, The Dark Knight has become a modern classic, and this is one of the true classic confrontations.


Duck Soup – The Mirror Scene: This is one of the most iconic scenes in film history. It has been recreated innumerable times by the likes of the Three Stooges, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. Harpo Marx even recreated this scene on an episode of I Love Lucy. It is pretty easy to see why so many people have wanted a piece of this action. The set up is so simple. Harpo disguises himself as Groucho and breaks into his house. But he breaks a mirror and since he is disguised as Groucho, why not pretend to be his reflection. This scene is just classic physical comedy as Harpo perfectly mimics Groucho’s every move. No dialogue is spoken either. That makes things like Groucho trying to piece together a plan to trick Harpo all the funnier. It keeps getting funnier as Groucho tries things that would seem to disprove it is really his reflection – such as trying to swap places. Of course, none of this deters Harpo. I have little else to say about this scene, it just needs to be seen. Although often duplicated, this original is the way to go.


Forrest Gump – Gump’s run across America – Forrest Gump is not only one of my favorite movies, but it’s a movie I discovered at a very young age… too young to truly understand half of what was going on. But for some reason, I really liked it. And even going back then, this was my favorite part of the movie. Much like the rest of the movie, I find it hard to understand why I liked this so much as a kid, but a lot easier to understand my feelings as an adult. There’s a certain appeal to the fact that it’s such a spur of the moment decision for the character. It’s also amusing how people try in vein to understand his behavior: Reporters ask him why he is doing it. People follow him because they truly think Gump is some kind of spiritual leader. There’s also humor in the sequence as Forrest helps come up with a famous catchphrase and designs a popular t-shirt (though we must forgive how implausible that actually is). The conclusion also has a pretty funny payoff as Forrest just abruptly decides to go home after running for roughly three years. Not only is Gump’s typical bluntness funny, but so is the reactions of his copious followers as they realize they have been following this guy for nothing. Whether it was intentional or not, the social commentary of people following someone to the ends of the earth without really knowing why rings truer today than it did back then. I think one of the other reasons I love this scene is because of how much I would love to do what Forrest does. I often think about just running away and seeing how far my legs can take me. Though I think I would have to walk.

The Godfather – Michael’s Hits: Admittedly, this is another scene that owes a lot of its success to the editing. In fact, having this sequence play out this way was the editor’s idea. Michael is attending the christening of his sister’s son. At the same time, the hits he placed on the other dons are being carried out. The hits are actually pretty graphic and brutal on their own. However, the way it is intertwined with the action at the church adds a whole new dimension and depth to the scene. The grizzly murders are made more effective with the contrast of the priest’s solemn rites recitals and the haunting organ music. There is also something somewhat chilling about Michael’s stoic face as these polar opposite events transpire. This classic scene truly demonstrates the transformation Michael Corleone has made, and the duality of his choices.


The Godfather Part II – Fredo’s Death: It is interesting to talk about this scene after discussing the hits scene from the previous film. Both of these scenes are effective, but in entirely different ways. Where the aforementioned scene from The Godfather was loud and boisterous, Fredo’s death is quiet and understated. Like the previous film, there are other murders used as concurrent action. However, this is the most memorable from that sequence. With relatively soft music playing, Fredo is left alone on a fishing boat with Michael’s bodyguard Neri. As Fredo is reciting a Hail Mary, Neri shoots Fredo in the back of the head. Fredo’s death is not actually shown. We only hear the gunshot and see Michael’s reaction. Without speaking one word, Michael’s reaction says so much. With a mere bow of the head, Michael signifies his disappointment at what has transpired, but acknowledges that he knows it is what had to be done. The scene is done mostly in long shots with no close-ups. This creates a hollowness and distance that makes the scene all the more solemn.


Heat – The Diner Scene: I call it the diner scene, but we all know what this scene is really about. For crying out loud, the movie was sold on this scene. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro – two of the greatest actors in the history of film – finally meet. Of course, Michael Mann was smart enough to also make a really good movie around this iconic meeting. The film is built around the cat and mouse chase between the two and when they have a chance encounter, they have coffee together. So what do they do? Does Pacino have some scenery chewing speech like in …And Justice for All? Does DeNiro give a bond villain-style manifest? No, they have coffee and shoot the breeze. What makes the scene so interesting is that it shows what an intersection the two characters are at. They live at opposite ends of the law, but actually have similar problems – specifically, how their professions are ruining their relationships. They may take a moment to have a little man-to-man chat, but they both make it clear that if the other stands in the way, he will kill the other. This scene stands as a testament to how amazing DeNiro and Pacino are. Heat is a downright epic heist film filled spectacular action sequences, and the two of them chewing the fat over coffee is still the most memorable scene.

So this is part one of the list. Stay tuned for Part 2. And in the meantime, feel free to share your favorite moments.


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