Movies, actors, directors, quotes – cinema provokes non-stop conversations amongst its fanatics in all of these areas. So often neglected though, are the scenes that makes movies what they are; those individual moments of art that fill a viewer with laughter, tears or exhilaration. As such I have compiled this list of my favourite movie scenes ever.
18) Two Hardys, One Pub (Legend)
Tom Hardy is a powerhouse in this dual performance and nowhere is that more evident than the pub fight sequence. Before the fight both men show their polar-opposite personalities, Ronnie casually pours himself a drink whilst Reggie gives us arguably the film’s funniest moment, angrily comparing their rival gangsters to Fanny Craddock whilst seeming genuinely livid he is not in a Western-style gun fight (complete with a magnificent musical interlude.) With Reggie storming off, Ronnie seems isolated but as soon as ‘a paranoid schizophrenic walks (back) into a bar’ the brothers destroy the men in brutal fashion. Part-hilarious, part-badass, Tom Hardy gives two awesome performances in this unforgettable scene.
17) Magneto’s Argentinean Adventure (X-Men: First Class)
Having established his well-crafted backstory, Magneto is in Argentina trying to track down the Nazis responsible for killing his mother. Once inside a brilliant and brooding Michael Fassbender finds some of the men and after a deceptively charming introduction informs them his parents had no name because of people like them. A genius Mexican standoff with beer replacing guns follows before Magneto seizes the upper hand and asks if the man would like to spill his ‘blood or honour?’ When he opts for the former the mutant takes down all three men with his magnetism in a spectacular sequence – which coupled with a tense score that builds to the perfect crescendo – always leaves me hitting rewind.
16) McClane V Karl (Die Hard)
In this tense and gritty scene, Bruce Willis takes on Karl (Alexander Godunov) the cold, disciplined and savage henchman of Hans Gruber. It’s such a raw and unflinching fight with both men battering the other within an inch of their lives. McClane fights like a raging maniac with a Karl a clinical killing machine for whom the fight becomes even more personal after McClane utters the immortal line ‘you should have heard your brother squeal when I broke his f*****g neck.’ By the time McClane hangs Karl and wins the fight, both men, the warehouse and the audiences’ nerves have been all but destroyed. This is the benchmark for any great action scene and the antithesis of the one-sided, shaky-cam laden affairs that plague us today.
15) The Death of Maximus (Gladiator)
Joaquin Phoenix’s chilling monologue perfectly builds the tension before the titanic fight between himself and Russell Crowe – and what a fight it is. However, the euphoria we should feel when our heavily wounded hero strikes the decisive blow is overshadowed by our despair as Maximus only has time to free his men before slumping to the ground himself. Hans Zimmer surpasses even his own high-standards with a stunning score as we see Maximus reunite with his family in the afterlife and are reminded of his earthly legacy of a truly great Rome. As his body is carried by all the people it is impossible not to be overwhelmed by the effect of his life and its tragic ending. Are you not entertained!?
14) “I Hope.” (The Shawshank Redemption)
After his release from Shawshank, Red (Morgan Freeman) must face the question at the heart of the film – will he get busy living or get busy dying? Having seen the fate of the institutionalised Brooks earlier in the movie, we empathise when we see Red’s struggle to adjust to life on the outside and applaud his decision to join Andy (Tim Robbins) in Zihuantanejo. As he travels Freeman’s silky-smooth voice gives us some of the greatest narration of all time and it’s so heartening to see this beaten down character reinvigorated with child-like enthusiasm and hope. When he arrives the picture-perfect sea and sand glisten with life as the two friends reunite. This moving, character-driving finale is a fitting conclusion for a near-perfect film.
13) “You think I’m funny?” (Goodfellas)
Joe Pesci’s darkly charismatic character brilliantly toes the line between caricature and genuine threat when he confronts Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) for complimenting his humour. First time around we see the tension created by the confrontation and are transfixed by Pesci’s erratic actions. However, on repeat viewing you see this iconic scene is layered with meaning – the forced nature of Hill’s laugh (replicated by many of the characters) and his look of complete and utter relief when he realises he has literally dodged a bullet reveals how our protagonist is far more terrified of the gangster lifestyle than he ever admits in his narration. Similarly, Pesci’s seemingly insane act was really a test of Hill’s character with his outwardly flippant remark ‘you may fold under questioning’ actually representing disturbingly accurate foreshadowing. This is Scorsese – and filmmaking – at its very best.