The Usual Suspects – “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled…”
As surprised as I was to find out Kaiser Sose’s identity, it was the way the reveal was handled that puts it on this list. This is more than a “gotcha” moment; it is an amazing sequence that was perfectly executed by Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri and Brian Singer, and I am sure a lot of others. The movie would still be good if this sequence was something less, but the scene makes this movie a classic and makes this moment one of my favourites.
Gladiator – Battle of Carthage
This battle is not the film’s climactic one but it is the turning point in this movie. For Russell Crowe’s Maximus, it is his rebirth. For his fellow gladiators, it is when they find their leader. And for Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus, it is when he realizes his days are numbered. It is such a fantastic battle that is so well filmed, has such high stakes, and perfectly captures that underdog victory feeling.
E.T. – Flying Bicycles!
This was the first moment that Jay and I came up with for this list, and at the same time, I think that says a lot. Of all the moments ever filmed, this one comes to mind because it is so magical and unexpected, because it really shows you that anything is possible and there are no limits at all – if you can dream it, you can do it. That is the essence of movies and that feeling is what we hope to see captured in some new way every time we see something new.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – “I am your father”
I had to put this one on here. It’s part of my childhood. This was the moment I realized that things are not just black and white. There isn’t just good and evil. It took me a while to understand how this was possible but when I figured it out I loved what it said about the world (though I was a little scared by it too). By the way, Darth Vader’s life before these movies was much better in my head than it was when put up on-screen in Episodes 1-3. And it always is, isn’t it? Some things are better left to your imagination.
Big – The Big Piano
How perfect is this moment? So perfect that when I went to New York for the first time only a few years ago, seeing this piano made me feel like a big kid. Exactly the way I like to think Robert Loggia is made to feel by Tom Hanks’ Josh in this scene. It’s hard to keep touch with that feeling in the abstract, sometimes we need help. This scene gives me that help every time and that is a powerful thing.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – Swordfight
This swordfight is not much of a fight at all. It is totally one-sided and that is what makes it so brilliant. Indiana Jones’ reaction here sums up the character perfectly – there are no rules, this is not about being a hero, there is just a goal that he is going to accomplish and no one will stand in his way. Steven Spielberg has such a gift at doing that, at distilling things into a five second wordless sequence that others would have to spend dialogue and time on. It’s so much better this way.
Rocky – Gonna Fly Now
Rocky has gone through a lot at this point. He hasn’t had an easy life and he has been trying to become more than a punched-out shell. Not many believe in him, possibly including a lot in the audience. This scene is where it turns around, for Rocky anyway. After this it doesn’t matter what happens, he’s already won.
Singing in the Rain – Singing in the Rain!
For a movie that has been around more than 50 years, it took me a while to get to it. I shouldn’t have waited that long! Singing in the Rain is amazing all the way through but the title song is really something special and stands out above all else. It is simply magical and no one else does it like Gene Kelly does. Brilliant!
Days of Thunder – “He always goes to the outside”
Cole Trickle plays the long game in this movie. He spends an hour of screen time setting up Russ Wheeler for this moment, and we all see it coming but Russ himself. I like that we see it coming. It makes it that much better when Cole slingshots past Russ, and the best part is that Cole still takes the time to smash Russ into the wall. Of course he did. That’s Cole Trickle.
Amelie – Walking with a Blind Man
This one gets me every time. It is so joyous and so magical with so much energy. Again it feels like the movie leads up to this point. The music adds so much and it’s another moment where director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is not constrained by the rules of our world. If a blind man is happy why shouldn’t he glow? It just makes sense.