I figured it was about time to write a post, in honor of Roger Ebert (for whose speedy recovery I pray), listing what I consider to be the greatest 50 film scenes. Mr. Ebert compiled exactly such a list a few years back – the “scenes” on his list consisted of a “scene” as short as a single shot, and as long as an elaborate set piece. He described the scenes as having a commonality: he could not bear the thought of never being able to view the scenes again.
So, Roger, this is for you. My list (which doesn’t necessarily describe exactly what transpired in a scene – in the hopes that maybe you can have the pleasure of discovering the scene anew, or for the first time; the list also does not necessarily pick the “obvious” great scenes of the films listed – in large part because many of those scenes are overrated, or have so become part of the common culture that it is hard to analyze them with a clear head), like Roger’s, is in no particular order (it is simply alphabetical):
A.I. (2001): The Blue Fairy’s gentle call: “Daaaaaavid…”
Aliens (1986): Ripley’s dispatch of the “bitch” out the shuttle hatch (appx. 3 minutes)
All About Eve(1950): Margo Channing’s final line to Eve Harrington
Almost Famous(2000): “Tiny Dancer” scene
Amistad (1997): oral argument adet the Supreme Court
Anatomy of a Murder(1959): “Oh, and as to why I didn’t pay you…. I had an irresistible impulse.”
Annie Hall(1977): The Marshall McLuhan scene
Another Woman(1988): The scene where Gena Rowlands’ character realizes that her office’s ventilator serves a dual function as an eavesdropping device
Apollo 13 (1995): The scene where Jim Lovell’s mother, in a nursing home, cannot find any television station covering her son’s mission
As Good as It Gets (1997): “Everyone wants that, dear. It…. doesn’t exist.”
Babe (1995): The scene where Farmer Hoggett guesses what Babe’s weight is, only to be forced to guess again after Babe….. suddenly loses a few ounces.
Babe (1998): Pig in the City (one of the most underrated movies ever made): the animals’ trek through the childrens’ hospital; the raid for food. This movie is a must-see.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967): the getaway gone wrong
Casablanca(1942): Every other line in the final scene between Rick and Ilsa
Chinatown(1974): “I own everything in this town. I own her, too.”
Clockers:(1995):The revelation of the identity of the murderer, and his explanation for his crime
Clockwork Orange, A(1971):”I was cured, all right.” (one of the most ambiguous closing lines in movie history).
Close Encounters of the Third Kind(1977):The alien ship’s musical signal
Color Purple, The (1985): Oprah Winfrey telling Dana Ivey to go to hell
Do the Right Thing(1989): The last ten minutes. It brought Roger to tears, and he’s cried at the movies only three times.
E.T.(1982): The “death” scene where Elliott’s brother runs out of the room, visibly anguished.
Fargo (1996): The second visit by Marge to William H. Macy’s auto dealership. We realize, as this scene unfolds, why the seemingly pointless scene that preceded it (between Marge and the Asian man at the buffet) was absolutely instrumental to the plot. The way the film laid out Marge’s thinking and translated it into action for us was done with incalculable subtlety).
Full Metal Jacket(1987): “I was trying to make a statement about the duality of man.”
Gone With the Wind(1939) (so many to choose from):”War, war, war. It’s all anyone ever talks about.”
Graduate, The(1967): Dustin Hoffman slowly traveling along the airport “moving sidewalk.”
Hoop Dreams(1994): Arthur Agee’s mother finding out she’s received her nursing degree
Hours, The(2002): “Surely even the lowliest patient has some say in the matter of her own prescription.”
Incredibles, The (2004): The helpful insurance advice scene.
Jaws(1975):”Don’t give me any of that working class hero crap!”
Kill Bill I(2003):The crowd clearing out of the Tokyo restaurant to make room for the crazy 88.
Kill Bill II(2004): Darryl Hannah loses her eye
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring(2001): The 6-minute-or-so sequence that in effect summarized the entire length of The Hobbit.
Mr. Holland’s Opus(1995): The surprise for Mr. Holland at the end of the film; Mr. Holland’s line to the football coach: “It’ll be a cold day in hell before they cut the football team’s budget!”
Mulholland Drive(2001): “I’ve Told Every Little Star” audition.
Mystic River(2003):Dave’s mother shutting the light off (this film, like a few others on the list, could make up its own list).
Network(1976): Let’s just say there’s a reason that Beatrice Straight won the Oscar for six minutes of screen time.
Ordinary People(1980): Mary Tyler Moore’s reaction when her son (Timothy Hutton) kisses her.
Quiz Show(1994): “Your name IS my name.”
Remains of the Day(1993):”It’s just a sentimental old love story….”
Shining, The(1980):Chef Halloran’s description of the meals available to Jack Nicholson and his family during their stay at the Overlook
Star Trek II(1982): “I’m laughing…. at the SUPERIOR intellect.”
State and Main(2000): “Don’t flinch while you’re talking to me, you speed-trap scheigits!”
2001: A Space Odyssey(1968):HAL’s dispatch of Gary Lockwood into space
Unforgiven(1992): Little Bill Daggett working on his house
Verdict, The(1982): Scene where James Mason spits out names of cases and citations from memory immediately upon request.
Wizard of Oz, The (1939): “Here, Scarecrow, wanna play BALL?”
X-Men III(2006): The Final Stand: “Not you, too!!”
Young Frankenstein(1974): Scene with Gene Hackman
Zelig(1983): The movie is only 83 minutes, is one of Woody Allen’s best, and allows me to have at least one movie for each letter of the alphabet (not that this was my goal). Therefore, the whole film qualifies as a great scene. (???)
The list will be supplemented as I think of more great scenes.