Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments



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About Schmidt (2002)

In director Alexander Payne's existential character study and nihilistic black comedy:

  • the character of 66 year-old Warren Schmidt (Oscar-nominated Jack Nicholson) as a recently-retired Omaha, Nebraska insurance actuary who views his entire life as disappointing - with the opening shot of Schmidt in his barren, packed-up Woodmen Insurance office waiting on his last day for 5 PM to approach before his farewell retirement dinner
  • his correspondence with his "Childreach" adoptee (delivered in voice-over soliloquies "Dear Ndugu...") - an uncomprehending Tanzanian six year-old orphan named Ndugu Umbo, sharing his feelings about his lack of accomplishments ("...When I was a kid, I used to think that maybe I was special, that somehow Destiny would tap me to be a great man..."), and his suppressed anger about his long-time supportive, but homely and overweight wife Helen (June Squibb) after 42 years of marriage ("Who is this old woman who lives in my house?")
  • his loathing for his prospective future son-in-law - "nincompoop" waterbed salesman Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney) ("This guy’s just not up to snuff, if you ask me. I mean, not for my little girl...")
  • the scene in which Warren discovers his wife dead in the kitchen due to a stroke, and his ensuing road trip in an oversized Adventurer R.V. to Denver to visit his only child - mousy daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis)
  • Warren's regretful prayer atop his RV - lit by candles - on a starry night to his deceased wife ("Helen? What did you really think of me, deep in your heart? Was I really the man you wanted to be with? Was I? Or were you disappointed and too nice to show it?")
  • the character of uninhibited, earthy flirtatious divorcee (and the mother of the groom-to-be) Roberta Hertzel (Oscar-nominated Kathy Bates) - and her infamous nude hot-tub scene with the unwilling Schmidt, who hops out of the tub when she proposes: ("Here we are, a divorcee and a widower. Sounds like a perfect match to me")
  • the brilliant wedding reception scene in which Warren delivers a speech and finds some self-healing and consolation
  • his despairing last letter to Ndugu after returning home from the Denver wedding ("I know we're all pretty small in the big scheme of things and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference. But what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?...I am weak and I am a failure. There's just no getting around it. Relatively soon, I will die. Maybe in twenty years, maybe tomorrow. It doesn't matter. Once I am dead and everyone who knew me dies, too, it will be as though I never even existed. What difference has my life made to anyone? None that I can think of. None at all")
  • and the climactic catharsis when Warren receives his first letter back from Ndugu's missionary mother superior at the orphanage with a drawing of Warren and Ndugu holding hands, and the closing close-up shot of a teary-eyed, elated Warren




The Abyss (1989)

In James Cameron's landmark science-fiction film:

  • the startling, opening credit-less title sequence in which "THE ABYSS" emerges from the dark, with the camera descending down the "Y" into the ocean
  • the frighteningly realistic nuclear submarine drowning scene, and later the scene of divers surveying the drowned corpses that mock death
  • the many computer-generated images of the watery aliens, including the revelatory emergence of a glowing purple/pink ship in front of Lindsay Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) -- and her later description of it to estranged husband Virgil "Bud" Brigman's (Ed Harris) ("It... it was like a dance of light!") -- and the amazing "pseudopod" sequence featuring a CGI water-based tentacle that morphs into the faces of Linsday and Bud
  • the scene-stealing, paranoid character of Lt. Coffey (Michael Biehn) -- driven insane by pressure sickness, and his two major tense, action sequences in which he knife-fights with Bud and the "chase" scene with two submersibles which culminates in Bud and Lindsay being stranded in a leaking submersible with only one aqualung
  • the subsequent drowning of Lindsey, and Bud's frantic resuscitation scene ("Goddamn it, you bitch, you never backed away from anything in your life! Now fight!"), paralleled by Lindsay's speech to Bud when he descends into the 2.5 mile deep Abyssal Trench to defuse a nuclear bomb ("I'm with you. I'll always be with you")
  • Bud's encounter with the angelic-looking NTI's (Non-Terrestrial Intelligences) and his being taken to their awe-inspiring underwater city in a 2001-ish sequence
  • the astonishing deleted "tidal wave" scenes (restored in the director's cut), and the final kiss between Bud and Lindsay ("Hello, Brigman," "Hello, Mrs. Brigman")





The Accidental Tourist (1988)

In director Lawrence Kasdan's quirky, award-winning romantic drama:

  • the character of fastidious, withdrawn travel guide writer Macon Leary (William Hurt) who was emotionally numbed by the violent shooting death of his son Ethan (Seth Granger) in a fast-food restaurant robbery - including his subsequent divorce from wife Sarah (Kathleen Turner)
  • his painful flashback in which he identified his son's body with a flat, drained confirmation: "Yes, that is my son"
  • also the many forward attempts of wacky dog trainer and flirtatious single mother Muriel Pritchett (Best Supporting Actress winner Geena Davis) (who was tending Macon's spunky Corgi named Edward) to date the oblivious Macon, offering more than dog training (Muriel: "Or just call for no reason. Call and talk." Macon: "Talk?" Muriel: "Sure! Talk about Edward, his problems. Talk about anything. Just pick up the phone and talk. Don't you ever get the urge to do that?" Macon: "Not really")
  • the moving scene in which he attempted to break off a dinner date with Muriel by a written note - and then when he tried, awkwardly in person, to explain his loss and his reasons for not wanting to get close ("I can't go to dinner with people, I can't. I can't talk to their little boys. You have to stop asking me. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I'm just not up to this"), and her comforting hug followed by a non-sexual invitation to go upstairs to her bed to sleep - and her response of "I'm bashful" when he asked her to remove her gown next to him
  • and then later, the tearjerking finale in Paris when Macon (on his way to DeGaulle airport) after breaking up once and for all with Sarah and telling her that he was returning to Muriel ("I tried but I can't make this work...I'm beginning to think it's not just how much you love someone. Maybe what matters is who you are when you're with them")
  • after he was helped into a taxi by a blonde French-speaking boy (Gregory Gouyer) who strongly resembled Ethan, he spotted Muriel leaving the hotel (whom he'd repeatedly spurned while in Paris)
  • the film ended with their mutual shocked reactions (Muriel's delighted and smiling reaction and Macon's teary-eyed look and half-smile) when she saw him in the back seat of the taxi that he had ordered stopped by her




Ace in the Hole (1951) (aka The Big Carnival)

In director/co-writer Billy Wilder's uncompromising, scathing and harsh noirish commentary on the sensationalizing media:

  • the powerful character of Charles 'Chuck' Tatum (Kirk Douglas): a belligerent, self-obsessed, unscrupulous big-city newspaper reporter working for the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin (with its hand-embroidered motto "Tell the Truth") - with his contemptuous rant about how he misses New York after being stuck in New Mexico for a year: ("...Too much outdoors. Give me those eight spindly trees in front of Rockefeller Center any day. That's enough outdoors for me...)
  • his stage-managing of an "ace in the hole" media-frenzied story - an orchestrated rescue operation of a good-hearted trading post owner named Leo Minosa trapped by a cave-in of rocks 250 feet inside an ancient, haunted Indian cliff dwelling (Mountain of the Seven Vultures) while looting it of artifacts in the remote town of Escudero
  • also, his sleazy scheming with Leo's long-suffering, jaded, and unhappy femme fatale wife Lorraine (Jan Sterling) after five years of unfilfilled marriage to both hustle the situation, who first considered running off - (Tatum: "Got a little jump on him this time, huh? Can't run after ya, not lyin' there with those rocks on his legs." Lorraine: "Look who's talkin'! Much you care about Leo. I'm on to you. You're workin' for a newspaper. All you want is something you can print. Honey, you like those rocks just as much as I do"), but later reconsidered after Tatum suggested that there would be monetary rewards for staying and pretending to be a grieving wife: ("There's gonna be real dough in that cash register by tonight. When they bleached your hair, they must have bleached your brains too") - she is easily persuaded by the promise of revenue from gathering throngs to remain with her ailing husband - the Trailways bus pulls away to reveal Lorraine walking back inside
  • the scene of Tatum siding with local corrupt Sheriff Gus Kretzer (Ray Teal) up for re-election: "What did ya have? A pair of deuces. This is better. Here we've got an ace in the hole?"
  • the frenzied, scenes at the rescue site - looking like a drive-in theatre with tourists, a literal circus (S & M) amusement park and carnival, a camp ground, rising admission prices, etc.
  • the shocking scene of Lorraine stabbing Tatum in the lower waist with a pair of scissors as he strangles her with a cheap mink stole (Leo's present to her for their 5th anniversary)
  • the scene of last rites being administered by a priest to pneumonia-stricken Leo after 6 days of being unnecessarily trapped in the cave-in, and Tatum's speech to the crowds to go home after Leo's death: ("Leo Minosa is dead. He died a quarter of an hour ago...with the drill just 10 feet away. There's nothing we can do anymore. There's nothing anybody can do. He's dead. Do you hear me? Now go on home, all of you! The circus is over")
  • the sight of Leo's forlorn Papa Minosa (John Berkes) looking at the "Rescue Fund" sign after everyone's departure - with litter blowing in the wind
  • and the final low-angled shot of bleeding, defeated journalist Tatum collapsing at the feet of his editor Mr. Boot (Porter Hall): ("How'd you like to make yourself a thousand dollars a day, Mr. Boot? I'm a thousand-dollar-a-day newspaperman. You can have me for nothing")









Adam's Rib (1949)

In director George Cukor's battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedy:

  • the scene of the attempted assault/murder of her philandering husband by wife Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) after reading an instruction manual about how to use a gun
  • the stellar performances of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as dueling lawyers and as husband/wife Amanda and Adam Bonner -- prefaced by Adam's first learning of his wife's role as defense attorney: "I'm going to defend her" - (he topples a tray of drinks)
  • also the scene of the Bonner's confrontation on a massage table at home when he slaps her behind hard ("What are you - sore about a little slap?" and her reply: "I know a slap from a slug")
  • the scene of Doris' speech in court to defend herself
  • and the closing dialogue including Adam's phrase: "Vive la difference!"




Adaptation (2002)

In Spike Jonz' brilliant but often bewildering, twisting and turning comedy/drama:

  • the opening monologue of the main character in voice-over during the film's credits displayed on a black screen (with white typewriter text)
  • the sped-up scene of the evolutionary creation of the cosmos, life and man from Hollywood (from Four Billion And Forty Years Earlier) to the present concluding with the close-up of a childbirth
  • the scene of writer-blocked screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) seated at his typewriter and speaking about rewarding himself with coffee and a muffin: ("I'm hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin...Maybe a banana nut. That's a good muffin")
  • the many scenes of alter-ego/twin screenwriter Donald Kaufman (Cage in a dual role) with his brother Charlie, including when he asks about "a cool way to kill people" for his script, and receives the reply: "The killer's a literature professor. He cuts off little chunks from his victim's bodies until they die. He calls himself 'The Deconstructionist'"
  • Charlie's self-doubt, introspective neuroticism, and fear about adapting a New Yorker article ("The Orchid Thief") by writer Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) and his statement: "The only thing I'm actually qualified to write about is myself..." followed by his dictation into a hand-held tape recorder about himself ("Fat, bald Kaufman") while pursuing the elusive story - with Donald then entering the room with his crassly-commercial script titled The 3 - a successful thriller about a psycho serial killer with multiple-personality disorder who employs a slightly-modified killing technique: "Now the killer cuts off body pieces and makes his victims eat them" - forcing the distraught Charlie to believe himself insane for self-indulgently writing himself into his own screenplay
  • the advice of on-stage lecturer Robert McKee (Brian Cox) about not using voice-overs in scripts - and his astounding reply to struggling screenwriter Charlie's question during the 3-day seminar about how to "write a story where nothing much happens...more a reflection of the real world" ("...Are you out of your f--king mind? People are murdered every day. There's genocide, war, corruption. Every f--king day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save somebody else...") - and his later prophetic advice at a bar about how to end a movie script: ("Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. Find an ending, but don't cheat, and don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change and the change must come from them")
  • the scene of writer Susan snorting mind-altering, ghost-orchid flower extract and getting high (while brushing her teeth) - and combining her voice in a phone dial-tone duet with orchid thief John Laroche (Chris Cooper)
  • the thriller-ending of Charlie/Donald being pursued in the Florida Everglades swamp by the adulterous Susan and lover Laroche and Donald's profound words to Charlie while they hid behind a stump: "You are what you love, not what loves you"
  • the scene of Charlie openly admitting his feelings for pretty ex-dating partner Amelia Kavan (Cara Seymour) and kissing her (with her own confession: "I love you, too, you know") - while simultaneously discovering how to finally end his script, with the upbeat playing of the Turtles' song "Happy Together" - and a sped-up time lapse photograph of flowers and an LA street over a period of several days









The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

In writer/director Terry Gilliam's absurdist and imaginative "fantasy to end all fantasies" - a story-within-a-story:

  • the fabulous and fanciful misadventures (illustrated with expensive special effects) of a legendary late-17th century European aristocrat (John Neville) who was a reputed chronic liar -- to the moon in a hot-air balloon created with inflated ladies' underwear along with a stowaway girl Sally Salt (Sarah Polley) to meet the King of the Moon (uncredited Robin Williams) who could detach his head from his body while making love to the Queen of the Moon (Valentina Cortese), to the interior of a fiery volcano and into the presence of the Roman god Vulcan (Oliver Reed) where the goddess Venus (Uma Thurman) made a spectacular entrance from a giant clamshell - and then the Baron experienced a lyrical spinning airborne dance with her
  • the group's entrance into the belly of a whale-sized sea monster where he was reunited with his white horse Bucephalus and used his snuff to 'sneeze' their way out through the whale's blowhole
  • the scene of the Baron's own shooting "death" or assassination by city official "The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson" (Jonathan Pryce) during a victory parade when his life's soul was taken by the Grim Reaper 'doctor' - as the Baron's body was lowered into a grave, he suddenly appeared on stage and told the audience: "And that was only one of the many occasions on which I met my death, an experience which I don't hesitate strongly to recommend!"
  • also the finale in which the Baron strode through the city's opened gates, rode off onto a faraway hillside, saluted the town, and then cryptically disappeared
  • and the characterizations of the Baron's friends, including fast-running Berthold (Eric Idle), Adolphus (Charles McKeown) with miraculous sight for sharp-shooting, wind-blowing Gustavus (Jack Purvis) and super-strong Albrecht (Winston Dennis)






The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

In director Michael Curtiz' classic adventure film:

  • Peter Pan-like Robin Hood's (Errol Flynn) greeting to an ambushed Norman caravan including Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) - when he appears in the trees, swings down on a vine, and says: "Welcome to Sherwood, my lady!"
  • the quarterstaff battle between Robin and Little John (Alan Hale, Sr.)
  • the "piggy-back" episode between Robin and Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette)
  • the romantic scenes between Robin and Maid Marian
  • the exciting archery contest (accompanied by Erich Korngold's music)
  • the "classic," climactic, vigorous and exciting sword duel between Robin and Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) on a winding stone staircase in the finale



An Affair to Remember (1957)

In director Leo McCarey's romantic melodrama:

  • the scene at the end of an ocean cruise before their ship Constitution docked in New York when wealthy playboyish bachelor Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) and former singer Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) decided to reunite six months later (on July 1st at 5:00 pm) at the top (102nd floor) of the Empire State Building, as Terry added: "Oh yes, that's perfect. It's the nearest thing to heaven we have in New York"
  • the scene six months later when Nickie waited at their rendezvous point (a clock chimed 5 times), but Terry didn't appear (she was injured in an awful car accident (off-screen) on a busy NYC street on her way rushing to meet him) and there were ambulances heard blaring at 10 minutes after five
  • and then in the conclusion of this romantic, tearjerker tale of star-crossed lovers, the revelation scene six months later regarding the devastating, terrible secret of why she couldn't keep her fateful appointment: his accusatory and scolding conversation with her as she was supine on a couch (covered with a shawl from his now-deceased Grandmother Janou (Cathleen Nesbitt)) and his ultimate discovery that she had acquired his painting (visible in the mirror reflection in her bedroom) and kept her accident a secret ("Why didn't you tell me? If it had to happen to one of us, why did it have to be you?") - leading to their tearful reunion, her explanation ("I was looking up - it was the nearest thing to heaven. You were there"), and their kiss in the conclusion of the romantic, tearjerker tale of star-crossed lovers, when she told him: "Don't worry, darling...if you can paint, I can walk. Anything can happen"

    [This film was a remake of the original shipboard romance classic Love Affair (1939) by writer/director Leo McCarey, starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne - and was referenced in director Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and in Love Affair (1994) with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.]





The African Queen (1951)

In this classic John Huston adventure film:

  • the extraordinary performances, chemistry and unlikely pairing of gin-swilling river rat Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) and a prim missionary's sister Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) ("...you crazy, psalm-singing, skinny old maid")
  • Rose's draining of Charlie's drink bottle
  • their roller-coaster, down-river encounters with Germans and the treacherous rapids
  • Charlie's mimicking of Rose's "What an absurd idea!" after he has rejected her idea to go down river and blow up a German warship
  • their struggle against swarms of mosquitos
  • the scene of Charlie pulling leeches off his body after pulling the boat through the tangle of reeds and muck, and his reluctant return to the water
  • Charlie's mimicking of the look and sounds of submerged hippos and scratching baboons on shore as they float along and his words to his sweetheart: "Pinch me, Rosie. Here we are, going down the river like Anthony and Cleopatra on that barge!"
  • the stunning crane shot that pulls up and away from their stuck boat and discloses how close they are to the lake
  • their sighting of the German gunboat Louisa and their plotting to blow it up
  • and the finale in which they find themselves wedded and alive


Airplane! (1980)

In this anarchic comedy by the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams:

  • the opening views of a plane's wing-tip cutting through the clouds to the accompaniment of the theme from Jaws
  • the spoof of the disco-era Saturday Night Fever (1978) in the flashback scene when ex-Air Force pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays) and stewardess girlfriend Elaine (Julie Hagerty) are obliviously dancing to "Stayin' Alive" in the place where they first met - a Casablanca-style bar in Drambuie off the Barbary Coast
  • the scene of air stewardess Randy (Lorna Patterson) singing River of Jordan while knocking out the IV drip for transplant patient (Jill Whelan) who desperately struggles during the song (a spoof of the earlier film Airport 1975 (1974))
  • the gross image of feces being splattered by a fan
  • Elaine's in-flight announcement: "By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?"
  • the bit about "Vector Victor" and "Roger Roger"
  • the inflatable auto-pilot Otto (humorously credited as HIMSELF)
  • McCroskey's (Lloyd Bridges) running "Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit smoking / drinking /amphetamines / sniffing glue" gag
  • the infamous hysterical passenger (Lee Bryant) gag (the passengers get in line to slap her with various implements)
  • the scene paying homage to From Here to Eternity's beach-embrace
  • the post-credits comment by a long-suffering cabbie (Howard Jarvis) still waiting for Striker ("Well, I'll give him another 15 minutes, but that's it")
  • and other non-stop one-liners (including the running gag of flamboyantly gay Johnny Hinshaw (Stephen Stucker)) and the Captain's (Peter Graves) question: "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"), sight and verbal gags throughout this manic movie - entirely a spoof of Zero Hour! (1957) and later "Airport" films




Akira (1988, Jp.)

In Katsuhiro Otomo's landmark, visually-spectacular animated film:

  • the Blade Runner (1982)-styled, cyberpunk, post-war dystopic view of "Neo-Tokyo" in the year 2019 following WWIII, complete with reconstructed, gigantic skyscrapers and 3-D holographic, animated advertisements on billboards
  • the opening kinetic, adrenalin-fueled sequence of two rival gangs of cyberpunks attacking each other through the streets of the futuristic metropolis, culminating in a game of chicken between teenaged, cocky delinquent hero Kaneda and the rival Clown gangleader
  • the sequence of Kaneda's anti-hero friend Tetsuo being captured when he crosses paths on his bike with a wizened, pale and psychically-powerful child named Takashi (an Esper aka Number 26, who was kidnapped by terrorists from a government lab, and now recaptured after being on the loose) - and wounded Tetsuo's victimization when he is taken away and secret psychic experiments are performed on him and a trio of Espers (to release their dormant psychic powers) by the government's scientists, directed by the Colonel
  • the mysterious title character named 'Akira' -- a legendary boy with ultimate, phenomenal powers who caused the destruction of Tokyo 31 years earlier in 1988, and whose organs are now stored in cyrogenic jars buried below the future site of the Olympic Stadium
  • the climactic confrontational ending in which an uncontrollably-powerful, mentally-unstable, godlike Tetsuo with triggered latent powers - seeking violent retribution against all authority - has his right arm shot off by the government's orbital laser weapon (which he dismantles in outer space!) and then his body swells to gigantic proportions -- leading to his demise when the three Espers together call forth an awakening Akira who causes a massive explosion and urban destruction, transforming Tetsuo into a 2001: A Space Odyssey-ish "Star Baby"
  • the end credits sequence of the creation of the universe ("I am Tetsuo")







Alexander Nevsky (1938)

In Sergei Eisenstein's film:

  • the battle scene on the ice (that starts to crack) at frozen Lake Chudskoe in 1242 between the invading barbaric Teutonic knights and the Russian army - both wielding spears and axes, accompanied by Sergei Prokofiev's score

Algiers (1938)

In director John Cromwell's romantic drama:

  • the famous romantic love scenes between fugitive jewel thief Pepe le Moko (Charles Boyer) and the beautifully seductive adventuress Gaby (Hedy Lamarr in her debut American film) in the Casbah

Alice Adams (1935)

In director George Stevens' version of Booth Tarkington's novel of the same name:

  • the scene of Alice (Katharine Hepburn) weeping at her rain-spattered bedroom window after returning home from the dance
  • the tragic-comic dinner-party scene in the summer heat to impress Alice's beau Arthur (Fred MacMurray), with Hattie McDaniel as the valiant maid
  • the couple's kiss on the front porch at the end of the film



100's of the GREATEST SCENES AND MOMENTS
(alphabetical by film title)

Intro | Quiz | A1 | A2 | A3 | A4 | B1 | B2 | B3 | B4 | B5 | B6 | B7 | C1 | C2 | C3 | C4 | C5 | D1 | D2 | D3 | D4 | E
F1 | F2 | F3 | F4 | G1 | G2 | G3 | G4 | H1 | H2 | H3 | I1 | I2 | I3 | J | K | L1 | L2 | L3 | L4 | M1 | M2 | M3
M4
| M5 | M6 | N1 | N2 | N3 | O1 | O2 | P1 | P2 | P3 | P4 | P5Q | R1 | R2 | R3 | R4
S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5 | S6 | S7 | S8 | S9 | T1 | T2 | T3 | T4 | T5 | U | V | W1 | W2 | W3 | W4 | YZ

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