There’s nothing in the world quite like it...
The feeling of watching a film in a hushed auditorium when a spectacular scene ups the ante and everyone feels the same surge of adrenaline.
But some moments in film folklore take audience awe to the next level.
Here are 10 scenes you must see on the big screen – unforgettable movie moments brimming with the joy of cinema.
The Battle of New York
The Avengers’ jaw-dropping Battle of New York wasn’t just the fist-pumping climax of the film, it was the culmination of five films-worth of solo Avengers adventures and some now-signature MCU long-game storytelling that first introduced Loki then cued him up to be the first decade’s first big baddie.
But all of that aside, the Battle of New York sequence is an extraordinarily well-choreographed and paced bit of edge-of-the-seat action – a Big Apple-wide tag team event that sees the Avengers acting as a world-saving supergroup for the very first time. Thrilling, funny and dizzyingly kinetic, it offers the kind of glorious sensory overload the cinema was made for.
It’s also a fantastic reminder of just how exciting it’s going to be to usher in the MCU’s multi-film, Phase 4 follow up to the Infinity Saga with the release of Black Widow on 9 July 2021.
“Ripley vs Alien Queen”
First things first: if you’ve not yet seen James Cameron’s action-heavy sequel to Ridley Scott’s original sci-fi horror classic Alien (1979) you absolutely must. It’s no accident it appears twice in our 90 Best Films poll along with its predecessor. The film has aged phenomenally well, and everything leads to this heroic moment. Up until now Ellen Ripley’s temporary new friends – a bunch of cocky Space Marines – have been comprehensively outsmarted and out-hunted by a nest of vicious acid-for-blood xenomorphs responsible for infesting a terraforming colony on a distant moon.
Finally, Ripley and a few survivors (including a young colony survivor, Newt) make it back to the Marines’ orbiting spaceship only to find that the Alien Queen has hitched a lift. With the hulking mamma Alien bearing down on Newt, Ripley goes full-protective-mother-mode, donning an equally hulking powerlifter exoskeleton and suggesting that the Alien Queen pick on someone her own size. The following scrap is edge-of-the-seat thrilling, but that initial hero shot of Ripley in her ass-kicking mechanical suit is the stuff of cinema ovations.
The bathtub scene
With every stray sound made by the Abbott family inviting a swift and ugly death at the hands of vicious extraterrestrials, it’s fair to say you could hear a nacho drop in ODEON cinemas when A Quiet Place was on general release. And, every time you thought this incredibly tense horror from superstar marrieds John Krasinski and Emily Blunt couldn’t have you gripping your armrests any tighter, it pulled it off.
This searingly memorable scene takes the biscuit, though, with Evelyn Abbott (Blunt), face contorted with pain, giving birth to baby Abbott in the bathtub without an epidural in sight and one of the grotesque alien hunters crawling ever closer. When Marcus Abbott (Noah Jupe) finally sets off a barrage of fireworks to draw the monster away and Evelyn is finally free to cry out, the release of tension is incredible.
Talking of which, if you’ve been waiting for A Quiet Place Part II to be released, it’s almost time. Why not catch up with the story so far and then book A Quiet Place 2 tickets so you can experience it as it was meant to be seen?
Harry’s first Quidditch match as Seeker
By the time Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit the big screen, fans of the novels – i.e. EVERYONE – had been imagining and replaying Quidditch matches in their minds for four years. Happily, director Chris Columbus and his crew nailed the excitement and occasion of the wizarding world’s favourite spectator sport.
The majesty of the packed Hogwarts Quidditch arena, the aerial acrobatics and dirty tricks, and some top-flight Gryffindor passing play with Bludger near misses and perfectly lobbed Quaffles – it’s all here along with Harry’s insanely gutsy broom-balance manoeuvre and subsequent swallowing of the Golden Snitch to snag a victory for Gryffindor. It remains an exhilarating high point in a film that brilliantly set the stage for the cinematic Potterverse and every Harry Potter film to follow.
“Welcome to Jurassic Park…”
What a perfect cinematic reveal: beaming like biotech-tinkering Santa Claus, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) blows his guests’ minds by showing off his homemade dinos in the wild for the very first time. Considering Jurassic Park’s (then state-of-the-art) CGI is now almost 30 years old, the dinosaurs remain impressively authentic up close.
But if the visual effects are good, the actors’ reactions to Hammond’s dinotopia are extraordinary giving the audience full permission to believe. Doctors Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) all express their wide-eyed wonder in subtly different ways but the cumulative effect of their slack-jawed amazement (along with Hammond’s beaming pride) is irresistible.
Experienced on a Brontosaurus-sized cinema screen it takes on a triumphant majesty that can still take your breath away. No wonder it helped to hatch an extraordinarily successful franchise of Jurassic Park and, since 2015, Jurassic World films, the latest of which – Jurassic World: Dominion is due in cinemas 10 June 2022.
The Polecats attack
To be perfectly honest, there are precious few moments in director George Miller’s (Mad Max, Babe: Pig in the City) stupendously exhilarating and easy-on-the-eye Mad Max reboot that don’t warrant experiencing on a screen the size of a careering, post-apocalyptic truck. Still, this scene is particularly EPIC. In it, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his army of War Boys step up their pursuit of Max (Tom Hardy), Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Joe’s liberated wives with warriors on vehicle-mounted poles that flex, enabling them to board the fleeing big rig.
Chaotic, kinetic but masterfully edited throughout, the headlong chase is a swirling sandstorm of dust, heat-haze, brutal hand-to-hand combat, End Days circus skills and an increasingly white-knuckle succession of near misses and stakes-raising character development. If you have the opportunity to see Mad Max: Fury Road on the big screen, make like one of Immortan Joe’s Polecats and swing into action.
The Star Wars fanfare and opening crawl
You don’t have to be a diehard fan to know exactly how every film in the epic Star Wars Skywalker Saga begins. A black screen in silence; the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” appear briefly in blue; then the triumphant opening fanfare of John Williams’ Main Theme blasts the iconic Star Wars logo towards a vanishing point as the familiar yolk-yellow ‘crawl’ intro text begins to scroll up and away towards the infinite cosmos.
That’s a literal description, but it doesn’t come close to evoking the surge of excitement and adrenaline you feel experiencing it on the big screen. Only in cinemas do you feel that brass fanfare in your chest, and the excitement all around you as the crawl sets the scene.
Above all, the Star Wars fanfare and opening crawl offer a timeless invitation to be transported by the joy of cinema. When Episode VII was released in 2015, it had been an excruciating decade since the disappointing prequel trilogy had ended. With the mighty Disney calling the shots, Force-sensitives of all ages were so ready to believe again. And, as that iconic orchestral wall of sound filled auditoriums, they not only embarked on the final trilogy of the Skywalker Saga but found themselves on the threshold of a dazzling new era of TV series and thrilling new Star Wars films.
Lobby shootout (saving Morpheus)
Keanu Reeves’ “Guns. Lots of guns.” line is one of the most quoted in sci-fi film history, but there’s a consequence to his request for all those racks of weapons and this awesome scene is it. Soundtracked to Propellerheads’ propulsive big-beat masterpiece, Spybreak, Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) begin their mission to rescue mentor/leader Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) by brazenly (and inevitably) failing to take a metric ton of guns and ammo through a metal detector.
Accompanied by lashings of delicious slo-mo, the pair then proceed to lay waste to the small army of tooled-up security guards and much of the fancy marble panelling lining the lobby. Many firearms are emptied and discarded, and skull-cracking gun-fu is deployed with abandon. It’s loud, it’s insanely cool, and – on the biggest screen possible – it still stands as one of the most awesome action sequences you’re ever likely to see. What’s more, it offers the perfect way to jack into the exhilaration of the entire brain-bending Matrix trilogy ahead of Neo and Trinity’s return to cinemas in The Matrix 4 on 22 December 2021.
K vs Luv at the seawall
If you’ve not yet delved into the films of writer/director Denis Villeneuve, you’re in for a treat. From Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015) to Arrival (2016) and his upcoming – and highly anticipated – new version of Frank Herbert’s Dune (out 1 October 2021), Villeneuve has demonstrated a rare gift for blending captivating storytelling with once-in-a-generation levels of creative filmmaking flair. From start to finish, Villeneuve’s Blade Runner sequel is a sensational example of style and substance working as one. And the waterlogged fight to the death between the replicants K (Ryan Gosling) and Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) at the seawall is an absolute highlight.
Lit sparingly and surrounded by darkness and an almost impenetrable mist of sea spray, the sequence begins with two distinct locations – the sealed and brightly lit prisoner transport and the howling, watery exterior – before Luv commands the door to be opened, after which the elements and K breach the boundary with sudden and unpredictable violence. Lit to perfection and with every new shot a framable moment in its own right, the fight is a brilliantly paced visual treat. Having watched the first trailer in slack-jawed amazement, we can’t wait to see what Villeneuve does with Dune and the desert world of Arrakis…
D-Day beach assault
The harrowing and humbling 24-minute D-Day landing sequence from this extraordinary war epic - and one of Spielberg’s best films - is not an easy watch and it’s not meant to be. Intended to be an authentic glimpse of the horror of war, it’s a sequence to be endured rather than enjoyed, as Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and comrades from the 2nd Ranger Battalion exit their landing craft onto a grey Normandy beach and into a terrifying killzone.
We won’t go into all the gruesome details Miller witnesses as he tries to survive and help his men reach (relative) safety inland, but it’s worth noting that the visual bedlam unfolding before his frightened eyes is only one compelling reason to see this sequence on the big screen. Add the state-of-the-art surround sound you’ll experience in a cinema auditorium and the experience is taken to the next level of sensory immersion. Bullets whiz and thwip past your ears, explosions rock you and, by the time Miller makes it to safety, you’ll have a better understanding of and greater respect for the sacrifices made on 6 June 1944.
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”
Bruce, Steven Spielberg’s animatronic shark was an infamously difficult co-star. After a succession of salt-water induced breakdowns, Bruce ended up with only four minutes of screen time in the finished – and now justly regarded as classic – aquatic thriller.
But boy, does Brucie make those few minutes of fame count, as this brilliant jump scare - and the shark’s first proper close-up one hour and 21 minutes into the film demonstrates. It’s actually the shark’s first proper close-up, and scares the deck shoes off not only Roy Scheider’s Brody but, thanks to a bit of sneaky musical misdirection, the audience, too.
Up until this moment, the Great White’s presence has been prefaced by John Williams’ iconic duuuuuh, duh, duuuuuh, duh theme, leading the audience to feel confident they’ll always have fair warning before Jaws makes a cameo. And so, with Brody distractedly moaning at Quint, and no orchestral cue to give the game away, everyone relaxes… and walks right into Spielberg’s trap. Both by its use and omission, John Williams’ score heightens the big-screen experience brilliantly. And it’s no fluke. John Williams’ soundtracks grace five of the films in the Top 10 alone! No wonder, then, that his score for The Empire Strikes Back kicks off our 10 Greatest Soundtracks of All Time…
Beyond the infinite
Otherwise known as the ‘really trippy section at the end’, this sequence is where Stanley Kubrick’s genre-defining sci-fi epic finally completes humanity's journey from bone-wielding ape to cosmic traveller and enters a psychedelic dimension that hints at our next stage of evolution. If that sounds a bit complicated, it’s actually a lot more illuminating and enjoyable to experience than it is to describe – a headlong, first-person trajectory between shifting walls of colour and shape that leads to a front-row seat at the big bang and the formation of the universe.
Soundtracked to mind-expanding perfection by composer Ligeti’s wailing and surging orchestral/choral track Atmosphères, this – along with the rest of 2001 – demands to be experienced with the largest screen possible filling your vision. It will change you. You will love it. It’s what the best big-screen movies are all about.
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