Best Film Editing
Sequences of All-Time:
From the Silents to the Present

Part 6

Best Film Editing Sequences of All-Time
Film Title/ Director & Editor and Film Description

Easy Rider (1969)

d. Dennis Hopper
Film Editor: Donn Cambern

The iconographic, 'buddy' film, actually minimal in terms of its artistic merit and plot, was both memorialized as an image of the popular and historical culture of the time and a story of a contemporary but apocalyptic journey by two self-righteous, drug-fueled, anti-hero (or outlaw) bikers eastward through the American Southwest. The questing riders were:

  • "Captain America" Wyatt (Peter Fonda)
  • long-haired Billy the Kid (Dennis Hopper)

The pop cultural, mini-revolutionary film was also a reflection of the "New Hollywood," and the first blockbuster hit from a new wave of Hollywood directors (e.g., Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, and Martin Scorsese) that would break with a number of Hollywood conventions.

Easy Rider had little background or historical development of characters, a lack of typical heroes, uneven pacing, jump cuts and flash-forward (back-and-forth) transitions between scenes, an improvisational style and mood of acting and dialogue, background rock 'n' roll music to complement the narrative, and the equation of motorbikes with freedom on the road rather than with delinquent behaviors.

Before the film ended, there was a momentary, quick flash forward prophetically revealing the film's tragic ending - it was an aerial shot of a fire burning alongside a highway, the final image of the film:

Wyatt's motorcycle burning beside the road - an aerial shot floating upwards above his motorcycle.

The Wild Bunch (1969)

d. Sam Peckinpah
Film Editor: Louis Lombardo

Director/co-writer Sam Peckinpah's provocative, brilliant yet controversial Western, shocking for its graphic and elevated portrayal of violence and savagely-explicit carnage, was hailed for its truly realistic and reinterpreted vision of the dying West in the early 20th century.

The much-imitated, influential film was book-ended by two extraordinary sequences, both massacres.

The gang of desperadoes were first assaulted in the film's opening ambush following a failed bank robbery in a Texas border town. And then in the film's conclusion, they were brutally destroyed as united comrades in a selfless, redemptive act - by a savage and vindictive Mexican warlord after a double-crossing arms deal.

The two scenes included some of the bloodiest, most violent shoot-ups ever filmed. Peckinpah choreographed each of the film's two bloodbaths as a visually prolonged, beautiful ballet - a slow-motion, aesthetically breath-taking, non-gratuitous, lyrical, extreme celebration of bodies being torn apart by bullets.

With numerous, elaborate montage sequences and staccato shifts, the film set a record for more edits (3,643 shot-to-shot edits at one count) than any other Technicolor film up to its time.

The French Connection (1971)

d. William Friedkin

(Best Film Editing Winner: Gerald B. Greenberg)

The film's most incredible scene was the hair-raising sequence of unbelievable car-chasing.

New York detective "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) was driving a car at 90 mph in pursuit after a suspected drug dealer in a hijacked elevated subway train above him.

During the chase, he - among other things - half-collided with another car, dodged a mother and her baby carriage, and side-swiped a delivery van, all the while furiously honking the car's horn and frantically switching from his brake to accelerator.

The Godfather (1972)

d. Francis Ford Coppola

(Best Film Editing Nominee: William H. Reynolds, Peter Zinner)

In the final extraordinary baptism scene, probably occurring in 1955, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) acted as godfather at the christening of his sister Connie's (and Carlo's) child, his nephew and namesake. [The infant in the scene was director Coppola's daughter Sofia Coppola in an uncredited role.]

The scene brilliantly crosscut back and forth from the church to locations throughout the city as gangland murders were orchestrated. With controlled intensity, Michael engineered a cold-blooded mass killing of Barzini, Tattaglia, Greene and all other rival gangleaders of the Five Families to settle the "Family business."

While methodically committing the series of vicious and bloody counterattack murders to confirm his position as the new godfather, he was at the church altar listening to holy recitations of the priest during the baptism - in juxtaposed scenes.

The killings took place in the following order:

  • Clemenza killed Stracci and Cuneo (Rudy Bond) as they emerged from an elevator in the St. Regis Hotel
  • after Michael renounced Satan, in a massage and sun lamp room, Moe Greene was shot through the eye (through his black-rimmed glasses) by an unknown assailant - blood dripped down his face from behind the shattered lens
  • Willy Cicci (Joe Spinell) killed a guy trapped in a revolving door
  • Rocco Lampone and another man machine-gunned Philip Tattaglia and a 'whore' naked in bed
  • posing as a New York cop, Neri killed Barzini's bodyguard (with two shots), Barzini's chauffeur (with another shot), and Barzini himself (with three shots in the back as he fled up a flight of stairs)

Best Film Editing Sequences
(chronological order)
Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

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