Iconic Film Scenes: Volume 3
6) The Church Scene (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
The cult status of this iconic church massacre scene makes it easy to forget just how effectively it utilised the element of surprise on first viewing. Not only does the mission seem like routine reconnaissance but the choice of romantic/dramatic actor Colin Firth as ultimate badass Harry Hart throws the audience off scent. With Samuel L. Jackson’s villain using cell phones to bring out man’s most violent instincts, Firth is left in a fight to the death at a Westboro Baptist Church equivalent. Firth takes out the entire congregation in an incredible three-and-a-half-minute salvo utilising knives, lighters, electrocutions, pitchforks and even a bible all to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s brilliant guitar solo from Free Bird. What makes this so great is the continuity and clarity of the camerawork allowing the audience to follow the exhilarating action every step of the way. Intense and utterly insane, Matthew Vaughn’s expertly crafted scene will live long in the memory.
5) Bohemian Rhapsody (Wayne’s World)
“I think we’ll go with a little Bohemian Rhapsody, gentlemen” says Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and so begins the greatest comedy scene (and movie) of all time. Every frame is gold as the boys sing along to the Queen classic with highlights including a drunk Phil being picked up by Wayne (‘Let me go!’), the legendary headbanging, Wayne’s pitstop to ogle a guitar and Garth (Dava Carvey) hilariously forgetting the words. With the song in relative obscurity in the early 1990s Myers made its inclusion (at the expense of a Guns N Roses track) a non-negotiable term of his involvement and the rest is history. A hysterical introduction to these characters and their humour – Wayne, Garth and the gang’s rendition of this vintage track will never cease to be very, very funny.
4) The Perfect Shot (Nightcrawler)
The difficulty of a villain succeeding in a movie is the ending; how does the director subtly capture the idea that their reign of terror will go on without leaning towards the melodramatic? Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) walks out of the police station a free man – a glimpse at his watch (which may be a hint of an earlier murder) and a sly smile as he hears a police radio tee up his terrifying final monologue. Having allowed his previous employee to die for the sake of good footage, Bloom now has three new unpaid recruits plus a second van and looks set to dominate the city. His calm demeanour and description of the job are chilling for the audience who have seen his morally void ways, with his closing remark “I will never ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself” feeling more like a threat than reassurance. As they get ready to work, we see a perfect shot of night-time Los Angeles and as we look back on the film, we realise it is no longer a city. Lou Bloom has made LA his set. And he has made himself writer, producer and director.
3) When Clarice met Hannibal
Perhaps best remembered for Lecter’s hissing and unusual choice of sides to accompany human liver; this scene is a masterclass in dialogue and acting. As the FBI’s Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) makes the long walk to Hannibal Lecter’s (Anthony Hopkins) cell the tension is almost unbearable. When she arrives, Lecter is standing and asserts complete dominance over the conversation. Hopkins is outstanding – his unrelenting stare and abrupt but calmly delivered words make him an impossible read for Clarice. Her attempt to make him fill out a survey is swiftly rejected and instead Lecter startles our hero and the audience with his deeply perceptive observations about the young FBI Agent. Left utterly exposed she is heading ‘back to school’ with Lecter’s ‘fly, fly, fly’ ringing in her ears when one prisoner’s disgusting antics cause Hannibal to give her chance. Hopkins cannot be praised enough but Foster is equally incredible in her portrayal of a vulnerable yet courageous woman, brave enough to challenge Hannibal to turn his lens on himself and engage in the game of cat and mouse initiated by this stunning sequence.
2) “A silent guardian, a watchful protector…” (The Dark Knight)
So many scenes in The Dark Knight could have made the list but I chose this extraordinary ending because every time I watch it, it chills me to my core. After Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face and kills five, Batman decides to protect Dent’s reputation and the people of Gotham’s hope by taking the blame for the murders. The scene’s attention to detail elevates it – with Batman turning Dent’s face to his good side whilst deciding to take the blame, Alfred burning Rachel’s letter whilst Bruce muses the truth is not always enough and Luscious being able to destroy the sonar tech as our hero notes that people deserve to have their faith rewarded. These small moments build to Commissioner Gordon’s compelling speech – having hailed Dent as the ‘White Knight’ in public he privately explains the reasons behind chasing Batman in a speech that has become ingrained in our popular culture. As the Dark Knight rides into the darkness he has become more than a hero and the acting of Christian Bale and Gary Oldman, Christopher Nolan’s direction and Hans Zimmer’s incredible score make this feel like more than a scene. Without a doubt, this is one of film’s greatest moments.
1) Father and Son (About Time)
Of all the movies I have ever seen, Richard Curtis’ beautifully written time-travelling rom-com is the only one to make me cry. For me, this scene is not acting. It is deeply, heartbreakingly real and that is testament to the incredible talent of Domnhall Gleeson and Bill Nighy. When the birth of his third child means he will no longer be able to travel back in time to see his dead father, Tim (Gleeson) makes one final journey to say goodbye to his dad (Nighy). After Tim lets his dad take a rare victory at table-tennis and offers him a kiss as a reward, he releases his time is up. With nothing left to say, these two men deliver the simplest yet most stunning dialogue imaginable. Tim will always be “My Son.” His father will always be “My Dad.” Nighy’s last request is to journey backwards to relive a perfect day on the beach with his son. Together on the gorgeous sand, looking at the perfect sea, the pair enjoy their precious final moments together. When the day comes to its close, Tim thanks his father and the pair walk away. Watching this with my family was one of the most moving experiences of my life and the thought of watching this with my own children in the future is a poignant reminder of the ability of filmmaking to transcend the screen and enter the heart.