Powerful Movie Scenes [SPOILER WARNING]
Submitted by bertie on Fri, 01/31/2003 - 12:48
- 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY  - The Hal 9000 computer has just murdered astronaut Frank Poole, and mission commander Dave Bowman, coldly furious, enters Hal's brain and begins shutting him down. Hal [played by voice actor Douglas Rain] pleads for his life: "Dave. Stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm afraid." Finally the computer is reduced to a kind of second infancy and sings the song Daisy.
- APOCALYPSE NOW - Major Willard [Martin Sheen] is an assassin - unofficial, of course - and he has been assigned the task of finding a renegade fellow officer and is to 'terminate his command...with extreme prejudice'. A small gunboat and its four man crew is taking Willard upriver, through Vietnam and, eventually, into Cambodia. Unfortunately, the gunboat's skipper is fiercely protective of his own position as the boat's commander and resents anything resembling an order coming from Willard. He insists on stopping and searching a sampan that looks suspicious to him. The incident suddenly turns into a masscre when one of the boat's gunners opens fire. A girl on the sampan was reaching for something that turns out to be a puppy. She is the only survivor on the sampan but is badly wounded. The gunboat's skipper intends to take her back downriver for medical help. Willard leans over and shoots the girl in the head. Problem solved. "I told you not to stop," he says. This scene shocks not least because, up to this point, we have not taken Willard seriously as a ruthless killer. Indeed, he has seemed almost playful, having stolen a surfboard from the arrogant and pompous commander of a helicopter assault force.
- BEN-HUR  - The chariot race, of course.
- THE BIRDS  - In Bodega Bay, Calif., the birds are acting strangely. Melanie Daniels [Tippi Hedrin] arrives at the local school to escort home the young sister of her new boyfriend. The children are singing a variant of the folk song Nickety, Nickety, Now, Now, Now, and Melanie must wait until they finish. She goes outside to smoke a cigarette. Behind her we can see the monkey-bars in the playground, on which a jet-black crow comes down to perch. As she impatiently waits for the interminable song to be over, a few more crows land on the bars. Soon she notices a crow flying towards her. She watches as it flies overhead and lands on the monkey-bars which are now covered with hundreds of crows. She rises to her feet with a look of amazement and fear on her face. She hurries inside to warn the teacher. I think this is one of the most effective scenes Alfred Hitchcock ever created.
- THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI  - "My God! What have I done?"
- CASABLANCA  - Final scene at the airport.
- CITIZEN KANE - We rise above a tall fence hung with Keep Out and No Trespassing signs, into the grounds of a huge estate. We are given glimpses of gardens, statuary, a zoo, and then approach a window in the gigantic mansion. The scene apparently changes to a snowbound wooden house, but we move back to see that it's really one of those miniature scenes set in glass and water that you shake to make it 'snow'. It's held in someone's hand. Then a pair of lips fill the screen and utter a single word: "Rosebud...". The miniature is dropped onto the floor, and reflected in it we see a uniformed nurse enter the room. Charles Foster Kane has died.
- CITIZEN KANE  - Various journalists, servants, and others who have been searching for the meaning of Charles Foster Kane's last utterance, "Rosebud", meet somewhere in his mansion and conclude that the meaning will probably never be known. The scene changes to a cavernous storage basement, and we are carried over literally thousands of accumulated purchases - art objects and such, many still in shipping crates - to the rear of the basement, where several workmen are occupied in feeding furnaces with various sorts of refuse, including scrap timber. Soon one man tosses a child's sled into his open furnace. As the sled burns we see it in close-up. On it is a brand name: Rosebud.
- THE DEER HUNTER - This is only incidentally a movie about the Vietnam War; it's primarily a movie about strength of character. Of three friends captured by the Vietcong and forced to play russian roulette, Michael (Robert DeNiro), the deer hunter, shows the greatest strength of character. Even though he rescues his friends in this scene by using his 'one shot' to attack his captors, his friends, especially Nick (Christopher Walken), are psychologically destroyed by their close encounter with death. Michael is changed - back home he finds he can no longer kill deer - but Nick falls into an insane compulsion to continue playing the 'game'. The first 'game' scene is truly harrowing because the acting is so intensely realistic. But it had to be in order to make the rest of the movie believable.
- FRANKENSTEIN  - The vivification of the monster.
- THE GODFATHER  - Michael Corleone [Al Pacino] is attending the baptism of his sister's child to whom he is standing godfather. At the same time, he has arranged to have all his worst enemies rubbed out. The assassinations are intercut with Michael's vows that he has renounced Satan and all his works. On the soundtrack, J.S.Bach's organ music is punctuated by gunfire.
- THE GODFATHER, PART 2  - Havana, Cuba, December 31, 1958. Michael Corleone and his older brother Fredo are guests at President Battista's New Year's Eve Ball. What few of the guests know is that Battista is about to make a speech announcing his resignation from office. The Communist rebellion, led by Fidel Castro, is about to take power in Cuba. What Fredo Corleone doesn't know is that Michael is now sure Fredo has betrayed him to his main enemy, the Jewish gangster Hyman Roth. When the brothers meet, Michael grabs Fredo and kisses him hard on the mouth, saying, "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart." Fredo backs away. Battista makes his speech. Not slow on the uptake, Michael is among the first to head north. When Fredo emerges with the rest of the panicking guests, Michael calls to him from his car, trying to reassure him he will be forgiven, that he is "still my brother". Fredo again runs away, as Havana rapidly descends into anarchy. [Thanks to jgandcag for suggesting this scene]
- IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE  - George Bailey (James Stewart) is rescued from suicide by his guardian angel (Henry Travers) who then takes him to an alternate universe in which Bailey never existed. The most powerful scene in the long sequence in which the incredulous Bailey stumbles through town trying desperately to be recognised is that in which he passes down the main street of town. This is powerful for present-day viewers not least because the Bailyless town, dominated by corrupt and corrupting businesses that cater to the grosser appetites, is a lot like your typical present-day main street. This is a scene that becomes more and more powerfully subversive of market capitalism as the years go by. No doubt director Frank Capra intended this to some degree but was more prescient than he knew.
- MISERY  - The final scene of the movie. Popular author Paul Sheldon [James Caan], recovering from a hellish winter spent as the 'patient' of demented ex-nurse Annie Wilkes [Kathy Bates], who called herself Sheldon's "Number One Fan", is in a restaurant having lunch with his editor [Lauren Bacall]. An approaching waitress momentarily takes on the appearance of the now deceased Annie Wilkes. She asks Sheldon if he is indeed the famous author, and claims to be his "Number One Fan". Sheldon replies, "That's very sweet of you", but the look of disguised horror on his face is absolutely priceless. A brilliant performance by Caan, perhaps the best of his career.
- MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON  - The filibuster.
- A NIGHT AT THE OPERA  - The crowded cabin.
- NORTH BY NORTHWEST  - Cropduster attack.
- NOTORIOUS  - Alicia Hubermann (Ingrid Bergman) has been recruited to spy on a group of Nazis in post-war South America. She has even married one of the Nazis (Claude Rains) to better accomplish her mission. Lately she has been suffering a continuing deterioration of health. What she doesn't know is that her husband and his evil mother (Leapoldine Konstantin) have found her out and are poisoning her breakfast coffee. The breakfast scene in which Alicia comes to the realization that she is being poisoned (prompted by the over-reaction of husband and mother-in-law when a fourth party gets hold of her coffee cup) is one of director Hitchcock's most effectively chilling.
- ON THE WATERFRONT  - Terry Malloy [Marlon Brando] is minor muscle for a corrupt waterfront union boss. His brother, Charley [Rod Steiger], is the corrupt boss's right-hand-man. Terry has come to realise that he and his brother are working for a murderer, and his conscience is troubling him. He also has regrets about the way his promising career as a boxer was squandered. The following famous scene between the brothers is still very powerful: Charley Malloy - "Look, kid, I -- how much you weigh, Slick? When you weighed one hundred and sixty-eight pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast." Terry Malloy - "It wasn't him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money." Charley Malloy - "Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money." Terry Malloy - "You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley."
- THE OX-BOW INCIDENT  - The last letter of a lynched man.
- PATHS OF GLORY  - The main business of the plot is finished. Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) has done his level best to save the lives of three scapegoated French soldiers charged with cowardice in the face of the German enemy. and has failed due to the victory of politics over justice. We expect the film to quickly end now. But there is a further, very powerful scene. Hearing the noise of a rowdy crowd, Dax enters a soldiers' mess in which a captured young German girl (played by Christiane Kubrick, director Stanley Kubrick's wife) is being bullied into singing for the assembled soldiers. The distressed girl sings bravely, a song known to all present, and gradually the soldiers, who had been intent on humiliating an enemy, are reduced to an abashed silence as the common humanity of all is brought home to them. Kubrick has often been criticised for the cold detachment of his style. This very emotional scene is proof that that was not invariably the case.
- REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE  - At the planetarium.
- SHANE  - Two gunmen recognise each other.
- THE SHINING - A tipsy Jack Torrance is dancing among the ghosts in the Colorado Lounge of the Overlook Hotel when a 'steward' spills liquer on his jacket. They go into the gentlemen's bathroom so the jacket can be sponged clean. Jack recognises the steward as Grady, the former caretaker of the hotel, the one who chopped up his wife and two young daughters. The steward, maintaining an increasingly strained politeness, admits to being Grady but insists he has never been the caretaker, that Torrance has 'always been' the caretaker. This is not the most frightening scene in the movie, but, for me, it is the most chilling and downright spooky. A great scene.
- THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS  - Hannibal Lecter [Anthony Hopkins] has just heard Clarice Starling tell of a traumatic incident in her childhood in which she awoke to the sound of lambs screaming as they were about to be slaughtered. He has ordered a second dinner - lamb chops, rare - and two policemen bring the meal to his cage. He calmly submits to being handcuffed to the bars of the cage, and appears rapt in listening to J.S. Bach's "Goldberg Variations". Just as calmly, he uses a piece of metal from a pen to pick the handcuffs and launches a surprise attack on the two cops, putting the 'cuffs on one and tearing the face off the other. He then bludgeons the 'cuffed cop to death with a nightstick, and turns his concentration back again to Bach's sublime music. Almost reluctantly, he continues the business of making his escape.
- SINGIN' IN THE RAIN  - Which scene to choose from this great musical? The title song and dance scene with Gene Kelly? The exhausting-to-watch Make 'Em Laugh scene with Donald O'Connor? No, in fairness, it has to be a scene with both (this is not to belittle Debbie Reynolds' contribution, but Kelly and O'Connor are the main powerhouses of the movie). So my choice is the relatively under-appreciated Fit As A Fiddle song and dance routine performed by the two with amazing verve and athleticism. This is the most impressive such two-man scene I can rmember seeing in any musical.
- SPARTACUS  - Spartacus the gladiator [Kirk Douglas], has led a revolt of slaves against Rome. His final battle against Roman forces has been lost, and he and his surviving comrades have been taken captive. But the Roman commander, Crassus [Laurence Olivier], does not know which of his captives is Spartacus. He demands that Spartacus identify himself, suggesting that he will be lenient on the others if Spartacus stands up. As he is about to do so, one of his fellow-captives jumps up and shouts, "I am Spartacus!" Then another does the same, and another, and more and more. Soon most of them are shouting out, "I am Spartacus!". It is an intensely moving moment.
- THINGS TO COME 
- Passworthy: Oh, God, is there ever to be any age of happiness? Is there never to be any rest?
- Cabal: Rest enough for the individual man - too much, and too soon - and we call it death. But for Man, no rest and no ending. He must go on, conquest beyond conquest. First this little planet with its winds and ways, and then all the laws of mind and matter that restrain him. Then the planets about him and at last out across immensity to the stars. And when he has conquered all the deeps of space and all the mysteries of time, still he will be beginning.
- Passworthy: But...we're such little creatures. Poor humanity's so fragile, so weak. Little...little animals.
- Cabal: Little animals? If we're no more than animals, we must snatch each little scrap of happiness and live and suffer and pass, mattering no more than all the other animals do or have done. Is it this? Or that? All the universe? Or nothingness? Which shall it be, Passworthy? Which shall it be?
- UNFORGIVEN  - Will Munny [Clint Eastwood] and The Schofield Kid [Jaimz Woolvett] have just made their escape from the pursuing cowboys after The Kid has assassinated the second of the two unforgiven cowboys who cut up the whore. They are waiting outside the town of Big Whiskey for one of the whores to bring them their reward money...or Will is: during the scene he faces the town. Not so The Kid, who has already begun a rapid change from bravado to regret and horror at the enormity of what he has done. He confesses he has never killed before. It's very clear he doesn't have the taste for it he thought he did. Will says, "It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. You take away all he has, and all he's ever gonna have." The Kid clutches desperately at a straw: "I guess he had it comin'." Will's chilling reply is almost whispered: "We've all got it comin', Kid."
- WAGES OF FEAR  - Through the blast crater.
I will be adding to this list as more scenes occur to me. Suggestions are welcome but may or may not be added.