Movie lists are on my mind, so I figured that I would do the top ten movie scenes of all-time. What marks a memorable scene? A stunning image? Great action? Big plot twist? A great speech? Memorable opening or closing? Hopefully the scenes I have chosen incorporate many of these characteristics. Looking at the list you can see that these are much more specific to me as opposed to being the most renowned in film history. For example, no Saving Private Ryan, the landing at Omaha Beach was the number one scene for TV Guide a few years back. Nothing from Citizen Kane, Casablanca, or Gone With the Wind. No Statue of Liberty from Planet of the Apes or any LOTR battles. Sorry Dan, no FREEDOM from Braveheart. Sorry Dave, no songs from Sweeney Todd. Only Urban's top ten. Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are always welcome.
9. What's in the Box? - Se7en
It seems like Fight Club gets a lot of praise, but Se7en is a far superior film from director David Fincher. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are trying to catch a sadistic serial killer who murders based on the seven deadly sins. Before his murders are complete, John Doe, an uncredited Kevin Spacey, turns himself in to the police. Why? Why does he want to be taken out to the middle of nowhere with only Pitt and Freeman? The ending is powerful and the film wraps up with a smart conclusion. Some people think they are so brilliant when they realize what is in the delivered package, but it's really quite obvious. Even though it's never shown, Gwyneth Paltrow's "pretty little head" sends shockwaves through the viewing audience.
8. USS Indianapolis Speech - Jaws
Jaws, Dave's number one movie, contains many memorable scenes, the beginning when the girls gets it, the one-eyed dead fisherman, the first view of the shark, Quint's death, etc, but for me, the most memorable scene was not of violence or gore, it was Quint's retelling of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during WWII. "Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark...he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes." 1100 men in, a little over 300 out. This is number 19 on the TV Guide list. In Steven Spielberg's first blockbuster with a lot of shock and suspense, it's a simple speech that captivates an audience.
7. The Map Room - Raiders of the Lost Ark
I think Herb and I talked about this scene during Indy week, but it's always overlooked. People mention the opening, the sword guy that Indy shoots, and the ending when deciding on the great Raiders scenes, but in my opinion the best part of the movie is when Indy descends into the Map Room with Marion's headpiece and finds the location of the Well of Souls. Look at all pieces working in place. Director Steven Spielberg, Producer George Lucas, Actor Harrison Ford, and Composer John Williams. In our generation, these men have simply been at the top of their respective crafts.
6. Horse's Head - The Godfather
Everyone talks about the Godfather and if someone hasn't seen it many people, including myself, are surprised. So when you start watching the three-hour movie, you have Connie's Wedding and get introduced to all of the major characters. When Tom Hagen flies out to California and talks to Jack Woltz, I can see how some viewers may start to get bored. But after Woltz turns down Hagen's wishes to give Johnny Fontane a prized part in an upcoming movie, he wakes up the next morning with the decapitated head of his prized horse right there in his bed. It can shock if you don't know what's coming. After the scene, the gas pedal is pushed to the floor, and the Godfather grows into one of the better movies of all-time.
5. Shower Murder - Psycho
Like the Godfather, Psycho begins as any typical movie with Janet Leigh running away with a lot of stolen money. She meets up with ultimate loner Norman Bates in a creepy hotel. The movie does have an eerie feel at the beginning, but audiences were not ready to anticipate what was about to happen when Janet Leigh took a shower. Leigh, without many clothes, is within itself pretty surprising for a 1960 movie. Was there ever a filmed shower scene in a movie prior to 1960? Leigh's murderer is assumed to be Bates' psyhcotic mother, but the stature of the figure is a little strange for an elderly woman. Did Alfred Hitchcock really kill off the main character not even half-way through his movie? #5 on the TV Guide list as well.
4. Ending - The Godfather Part II
I don't want to bury this list with all Godfather scenes, but part two is my favorite movie of all-time. A lot of credit is given to the ending of part one, and rightfully so with the crisscross of murders with the baptism. The same method is used in part two, and it's better here. Rocco kills Roth, Pentangeli commits suicide, and Neri kills Fredo, it's smoother and tighter than the original. After all of this has transpired, Coppola flashes back about 15-20 years earlier when Vito and all of the brothers are still alive. The only person to congratulate Michael on enlisting right after Pearl Harbor was Fredo, the brother who Michael had just ordered to be killed. The perfect conclusion to the perfect movie.
3. Ending - The Usual Suspects
I had the Usual Suspects number one in my top-ten movies of the 1990s, and I wrote a lot about the ending. In a lot of scenes it pays, like Frank Costanza, to go in fresh. That's especially the case for this movie. Dan and Dave don't feel too highly about it, because they knew what was about to happen going in, sucks to be them. Certain people, Leonard Maltin, complain that the ending makes the entire movie utterly pointless, not true. Certain things were factual as well as fictional, it's up to the audience to decipher and decide. If Dean Keaton would have been Keyser Soze, it would have been a solid end to a good movie, the actual reveal makes this one of the better movies of all-time in my opinion. Beyond that reveal, the ending is directed beautifully by the vastly underrated Bryan Singer. Shots and cuts of the bulletin board are are interceded by flashbacks and switches to both Chazz Palminteri and Kevin Spacey. Simply brilliant.
2. Lightsaber Duel - The Empire Strikes Back
I remember watching Empire when I was little and thinking how weird it was that Darth Vader was actually Luke's father. I can see how a lot of people think the actual scene, the big reveal, is a little cheesy, but it was very powerful at the time and remains pretty potent today. Each Star Wars movie, originals and prequels, climax with a lightsaber duel. The duel duels in Revenge of the Sith was awesome as well as Darth Maul in Phantom, but nothing beats Empire for me. The heights of Bespin was the perfect setting, and Darth Vader was close to being invincible. Luke would kick his ass in Jedi. The dialouge between Luke and Vader make people scratch their heads when they listen to the crap said in the prequels. If Luke is the center of the originals and Anakin/Vader is the center of the prequels, this extended scene is where they connect and where the entire Star Wars universe converges.
1. Michael Kills Sollozzo and McCluskey - The Godfather
3 scenes from the first two Godfather movies? Definitely. Michael Corleone is at the epicenter of the Godfather saga. How does the youthful boy in his American military outfit at Connie's Wedding turn into a ruthless murderer that has his own brother killed? It's this scene. Sollozzo needed to be killed to save Vito and McCluskey was in the way. Sonny, the psuedo Don, was capable of doing it but couldn't go out in public. Tom and Fredo were totally incapable. Sollozzo knew Michael was a civilian and thus could meet with him. It was Michael's idea, and yet everybody knew that it was the perfect plan, it had to be done. Cinematically, it makes you wonder how Francis Ford Coppola ever made a crapfest like Jack. The sounds of a distant train coupled with Sollozzo's sicilian pound in Michael's swollen face. The nervousness and anticipation is almost unbearable. The murders are pretty graphic for 1972. If this is the scene in which the character of Michael Corleone turns, its also the scene in which Al Pacino became a star. The scene arguably changed the realm of movies as well. Gone were the films of the 50s and 60s that were marked with musicals and black and white. The Godfather brought violence with the element of human tragedy. The film and the scene itself brought harsh reality to the big screen.