Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments



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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions
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Performance (1970, UK)

In directors Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's avante-garde psychological drama:

  • the shared menage-a-trois bath scene between reclusive ex-rock star Turner (Mick Jagger), his poly-sexual blonde junky girlfriend Pherber (Anita Pallenberg), and her young, androgynous French lover Lucy (Michelle Breton)
  • in the scene of shifting sexual identities, Turner and Pherber dressed macho gangster Chas Devlin (James Fox) up in effeminate clothing (and an androgynous curly blonde wig) to give him a "female feel"; Pherber then mirror-reflected one of her breasts onto Chas' chest
  • the dramatic bullet's-eye zoom shot as Chas Devlin shot rock star Turner and the fatal bullet tunneled into his brain


The Perils of Pauline (1914)

In the most famous suspense serial in film history (presented in 20 episodes):

  • the character of playful heiress Pauline Marvin (Pearl White) always in perilous situations as a 'damsel in distress' - i.e., tied to the railroad tracks on top of a trestle while a speeding train was rapidly approaching, abducted, or caught in a runaway hot-air balloon

Persona (1966, Swe.)

In Ingmar Bergman's psychological, dramatic thriller, a film-within-a-film about illness, insanity, and death:

  • the strange and abstract opening sequence (montage) of very brief projected images: a split-second shot of an erect penis, excerpts from a silent film reel, a tarantula, the blood-letting slaughter of a sheep, nailed pounded into hands during a crucifixion, a close-up of a wooden fence, a forest scene (with snow), an iron spiked gate, a series of extreme close-ups of faces, feet and hands, and then an image of a boy who woke up next to corpses in a hospital and then read Michail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time, and caressed large blurry images of the two main characters
  • the increasingly harmful relationship and merging identification between young nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) and well-known stage actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann), her mute and semi-catatonic patient, who was cared for in a seaside cottage
  • the repeated scene: ("What are you hiding under your hand?...It's the picture of your little boy. The one you tore up"); with the camera on Elisabet's face as she listened to Alma narrating Elisabet's life story back to her - and then the same scene repeated, with the camera on Alma's face
  • a frustrated Alma's accosting and denunciation of Elisabet's feigned illness: ("You are inaccessible. They said you were mentally healthy, but your madness is the worst. You're acting healthy. You do it so well everyone believes you. Everyone except me, because I know how rotten you are")
  • at the conclusion of the repeated scene, the striking image of their two faces juxtaposed (or spliced together) to appear as one face (one half of Alma's and Elisabet's visages put together), and Alma's fear that they had become too identified with one another: ("I'm not like you. I don't feel like you. I'm Sister Alma, I'm just here to help you. I'm not Elisabet Vogler. You are Elisabet Vogler")

 






Personal Best (1982)

In director/screenwriter Robert Towne's debut film about two female athletes training for the 1980 Olympics:

  • the physicality of the athletic, well-toned women
  • their frank dialogue in the locker room and steam room scenes
  • the honestly-depicted lesbian relationship between track star hurdler Chris Cahill (Mariel Hemingway) and older pentathlete Tory Skinner (Patrice Donnelly), as Chris noted during intimacy: ("I've never had this done before")


The Petrified Forest (1936)

In director Archie Mayo's romantic crime drama:

  • the sad death scene at the finale when idealistic and disillusioned writer/world traveler Alan Squier (Leslie Howard) died in culturally-starved waitress Gabrielle (Gabby) Maple's (Bette Davis) arms after being shot by ruthless fugitive gangster Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) in a run-down Arizona desert cafe; she recited "...this is the end for which we twain are met"

Peyton Place (1957)

In director Mark Robson's sanitized, soap-opera adaptation of Grace Metalious' best-selling scandalous novel about small-town repression, incest, suicide, rape, homosexuality, adultery, abortion, and murder:

  • the opening credits and sequence with picture-postcard views of a New England town
  • the scene of aspiring writer Allison MacKenzie (Diane Varsi) - the teenaged, coming-of-age daughter of blonde and prudish single mother Constance MacKenzie (Oscar-nominated Lana Turner) - delivering her first kiss (in her 'secret place') to nerdy, shy and virginal Norman Page (Russ Tamblyn) on a large boulder on the hillside overlooking town
  • the scene of tormented, wrong-side-of-the-tracks Selena (Hope Lange) fighting off the advances of her drunken stepfather Lucas Cross (Arthur Kennedy) in their tarpaper shack and views of her straining hands holding onto the bedframe before the rape
  • the big Labor Day picnic sequence
  • the scene of Constance's revelation to her shocked daughter Allison that she was born out of wedlock
  • the climactic murder courtroom trial of Selena including Dr. Matthew Swain's (Lloyd Nolan) harsh and unapologetic confession-testimony as a witness for the defense: ("I assisted her (Selena) in a miscarriage - a miscarriage of Lucas Cross' baby")





The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

In director Rupert Julian's gothic costumed horror film:

  • the image of the phantom (Lon Chaney) - "the man of a thousand faces," with a mask covering his acid-scarred face
  • his spooky haunting of the Paris Opera House
  • the scene of the dropping of a giant chandelier on the opera's audience
  • the Phantom's sudden Red Death appearance among the guests at the two-color Technicolor Bal Masque
  • the shocking scene of the Phantom's unmasking by abducted opera singer Christine Dace (Mary Philbin) who snuck up behind him and revealed the Phantom's skull-like, disfigured monster face

The Phenix City Story (1955)

In Phil Karlson's documentary-styled, taut and graphically-violent film noir - a muckracking crime docu-drama, based upon real-life events leading to the National Guard's martial law takeover of an organized crime-ridden Southern town in 1954:

  • the opening almost 15-minute newsreel preface of interviews by real-life reporter Clete Roberts of the actual principal characters, including Ed Strickland of the Birmingham News, other locals, and widow Mrs. Albert Patterson; reporter Roberts concluded his interviews, calling the fact-based story "an infamous and sordid chapter in American city politics"
  • the setting: Alabama's evil 'sin city' of Phenix City, centering on "The Poppy Club" known for corrupt card games, rigged gambling and slot machines, prostitution, murder, and other vices catering to soldiers from the nearby Fort Benning Army Base
  • the character of boss Rhett Tanner (Edward Andrews) and his brutish henchmen (e.g., Clem Wilson (John Larch)), seen in one revealing scene in the steam baths of the Phenix City Athletic Club
  • the sequence of the first murder - African-American Zeke Ward's (James Edwards) daughter was kidnapped on a bridge, and her body was thrown from a moving car headfirst (it was obviously a stiff, doll-like dummy) onto the front lawn of reforming State Attorney General nominee Albert L. Patterson (John McIntire) and his returning veteran-son John Patterson (Richard Kiley); a threatening note was pinned to her dress: "THIS WILL HAPPEN TO YOUR KIDS TOO" - causing hysteria among the family; the police dispatcher matter-of-factly reported: "Somebody just threw a dead nigger kid out on Patterson's lawn. Go out and have a look"
  • the violence came to a climax after a young newspaper boy on his bicycle was deliberately hit, some beatings of local opponents, the murder of Fred Gage (Biff McGuire), and the gunning-down assassination of martyred crusader Albert Patterson in his car outside his law office (lethally wounded, he stumbled from the car and fell down on the street outside a store window with mannequins)
  • crusading lawyer John Patterson took up the courageous torch of justice, speaking to a gathered, frenzied crowd on the streets of Phenix City, and stepping in for his murdered father - he delivered a stirring motivational speech: "I'm glad to see some of you had the guts to come out here tonight and listen to me...Now I chose this place because I wanted you to face the cesspool that has given your city the name of Sin Town, U.S.A. I wanted you to smell the stench of it. On more than one election day, you could have cleaned it up by voting against the candidates that were sponsored by the mob. But you wouldn't take the trouble to vote. So now you can blame yourselves for gambling, prostitution, dope peddling, rape. Men, women and children murdered. Offices burned and homes bombed. And where does this happen? In some dictatorship across the sea? No. It's right here, in your town. In our Alabama, our America. Did I say your town? Well, that's a laugh. Phenix City is owned, body and soul by Tanner, Jenkins, Drew, and the rest of the mob. They hold the power of life and death over you and your families. Many of 'em are here tonight. There's Rhett Tanner, the big boss, right there. There's Jenkins, Clem Wilson and Rupe. They're here to find out who's against them. So now's your chance to speak out. And let them know where you stand. Or are we gonna wait till all of us are blown sky high?...Tell them. Tell them now. Tell them where you stand" - the mobsters glared at him and then turned away from a jeering, rabble-rousing crowd
  • in the film's ending, John Patterson was narrowly elected (by only a thousand votes) as the state's new Attorney General - and it was thought that after he would be sworn in, in January: "there will be so many indictments flying around, we'll think it's snowing"; after his victory, and with a bloodied, sweaty face and again speaking to a frenzied mob, Patterson announced that the militia was being sent in to establish martial law, occupy the town, and dismantle and destroy the Poppy Club's gambling equipment; he declared in the film's final lines: "The people of Alabama elected me attorney general in my father's place with two sacred duties to perform: To seek out and bring to justice the murderers of my father, and to keep the gambling hells of Phenix City firmly closed forever. With God's help, I shall not fail"











Philadelphia (1993)

In Hollywood's first major, big-budget feature film about AIDS - a landmark film by Jonathan Demme:

  • the characters of likeable, kind, forgiving, and non-threatening lawyer Andrew Beckett (Best Actor-winning Tom Hanks) who was afflicted with AIDS and became increasingly emaciated as the disease progressed, and his homophobic and judgmental ambulance-chasing lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington)
  • Miller's initial rejection of Beckett, and then his decision to represent him in a wrongful termination lawsuit against his prestigious ex-law firm (senior partner Charles Wheeler (Jason Robards) who had yelled out: "He brought AIDS into our offices - into our men's room!") after seeing how he was shunned in the New York Public Library (nervous librarian (Tracey Walter): "Sir, wouldn't you be more comfortable in a study room?" "No. Would it make you more comfortable?")
  • the scene of dying AIDS patient Andrew's powerfully transcendental, impassioned interpretation/translation of a Maria Callas opera aria "La Momma Morta" to Joe while speaking over the music and pulling his IV with him and ending with the words: "I am Love! I am Love!"
  • the scene in the beginning of the courtroom case when Joe presented an opening speech: ("Forget everything you've seen on television. There's not going to be any surprise, last minute witnesses..."), his forceful questioning of one of the law firm partners when he asked whether he was homosexual: "Are you a homo? Are you a queer? Are you a faggot? Are you a fruit? Are you gay, sir?"
  • and later, when the law firm's defense lawyer Belinda Conine (Mary Steenburgen) - after resorting to low-blow tactics -- muttered under her breath her distaste for the fraudulent case: "I hate this case" to her black partner
  • the hospital scene of Beckett with his long-term male lover Miguel Alvarez (Antonio Banderas) after first bidding farewell to family and friends (Andrew's supportive mother Sarah (Joanne Woodward) whispered: "Goodnight, my angel, my sweet boy"), then alone when he turned down the lights, told Miguel: "Miguel, I'm ready," and then removed his own oxygen mask
  • the final scene during the reception held in the Beckett home following the funeral, mourners watched home movies of Andrew's younger days, to the tune of Neil Young's Philadelphia
  • the effective use of Bruce Springsteen's tear-jerking Oscar-winning song Streets of Philadelphia






The Philadelphia Story (1940)

In director George Cukor's sophisticated romantic comedy based on Philip Barry's Broadway play - a true classic!:

  • the very funny, extended opening argument prologue scene (without dialogue) in which ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) grabbed and palmed heiress and socialite Tracy Lord's (Katharine Hepburn) face and forcefully pushed her backwards into the doorway of a grand estate and to the floor (out of the frame), after she had broken one of his golf clubs into two pieces, and tossed him out of their home
  • the film's witty dialogue: ("The prettiest sight in this fine pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges")
  • tabloid reporter-journalist Macaulay "Mike" Connor's (Oscar-winning James Stewart) drunk scene with Dexter, when Mike asserted: "Are you still in love with her?...I don't know, I-I can't understand how you can have been married to her and still know so little about her?...But when a girl is like Tracy, she's one in a million"
  • the champagne drinking and moonlight poolside swimming rendezvous scene between tipsy heiress/bride-to-be Tracy and Mike when he made a marriage proposal to her: "There's a magnificence in you, Tracy...A magnificence that comes out of your eyes and your voice and the way you stand there and the way you walk. You're lit from within, Tracy. You've got fires banked down in you. Hearth fires and holocausts...No, you're made out of flesh and blood. That's the blank, unholy surprise of it. Why, you're the golden girl, Tracy, full of life and warmth and delight. Well, what goes on? You've got tears in your eyes") - and then after some unexpected and melodramatic kissing, she exclaimed softly: "Golly", then took a breath and kissed him a second time - she stood in his arms, her cheek against his chest, overwhelmed and amazed at herself and starting to shake: "Golly Moses"
  • the surprise wedding finale when Tracy married former husband Dexter at the last minute - and the freeze-framed last image




The Piano (1993, NZ/Australia/Fr.)

In Jane Campion's haunting drama:

  • the exotic image of mute, stubborn, pale-skinned 19th century Scottish woman Ada McGrath (Oscar-winning Holly Hunter) playing her beloved piano on a New Zealand beach (brought there as part of her belongings, for an arranged marriage with farmer Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill)) as her daughter Fiona (Anna Paquin) danced and tattooed estate-manager George Baines (Harvey Keitel) watched
  • and later, erotic, intimate scenes of piano lessons (and bargained love-making) in Baines' house after he had bought her piano
  • and the climactic scene in which the piano plunged into the sea and the drowning Ada - her leg ensnared by the piano's rope, decided against suicide (while envisioning her own death) and chose to live (although she possibly expired and her rebirth was only a fantasy)





Pickup on South Street (1953)

In Sam Fuller's great action-packed, raw, hard-boiled crime-noir thriller:

  • the opening scene on a crowded New York subway during rush-hour, where tough-minded ex-con pickpocket Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) edged flirtatiously close to femme fatale prostitute Candy (Jean Peters) to make her his latest petty-theft robbery victim - he stole/fingered (symbolically filmed like a violating rape) sensitive government microfilm in an envelope (bound for Communist spies with her as the unsuspecting courier) from her purse as two other FBI agents conducting surveillance looked on helplessly - he didn't realize he had inadvertently obtained stolen US microfilm to be smuggled out of the country by Communist spies
  • after McCoy realized he had stolen microfilm, he hid it (knowing it would be worth alot in exchange) and then professed his innocence to the authorities who pressured him with patriotic appeals: "If you refuse to cooperate, you'll be as guilty as the traitors that gave Stalin the A-bomb"; he retorted: "Are you wavin' the flag at me?"
  • the sequence at Skip's run-down waterfront shack hideout where he found Candy searching his possessions; he punched her unconscious and then stole her money before reviving her; they developed a sweaty, rough and tumble, sado-masochistic love relationship when she offered herself for the prized microfilm; he described his first kiss with her: "You look for oil, sometimes you hit a gusher"
  • the character of embittered, elderly, world-weary, necktie-seller and information street peddler Moe Williams (Oscar-nominated Thelma Ritter), a stool-pigeon police informant, who had always wanted to make enough money to avoid being buried in Potter's Field; in her dingy rooming house, she told her Commie hitman-killer Joey (Richard Kiley), Candy's ex-shady boyfriend, that she wouldn't reveal Skip's whereabouts, and would face the consequences: "So I don't get to have the fancy funeral after all. Anyway, I tried. Look, Mister, I'm so tired you'd be doin' me a big favor if you'd blow my head off"; the camera panned to the left and a gunshot was heard - with the final image of her bedside Victrola's needle reaching the end of the 78 rpm record (the popular French tune "Mam'zelle")
  • in the subsequent scene, Skip reclaimed Moe's body from a tugboat (taking her in coffin # 11 to potter's field) in order to give her a proper burial ("I'm gonna bury her") - fulfilling her sole wish in life
  • the remarkable scene in which Candy (wearing a white robe with a hood) was brutally knocked around her apartment by Joey for not telling him Skip's address - breaking lamps, picture frames and tables - before she was shot and seriously wounded
  • the scene of Skip's hospital visit to see the bruised Candy, when he saw that Candy really loved him because she wouldn't tell Joey where he lived, and she also admitted: "I'm sorry I spoiled your big score. I know it sounds corny to you, but I'd rather have a live pickpocket than a dead traitor"
  • the thrillingly violent subway chase scene, when Skip retaliated against Joey - beat him mercilessly in the subway, then turned him over to authorities, and . resumed his relationship with Candy






Picnic (1955)

In Joshua Logan's widescreen version of William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning play:

  • the Kansas town's Labor Day picnic sequence
  • the incredible circling camera work (by James Wong Howe) during the sensual slow "mating" dance of sexy drifter Hal Carter (William Holden) and Madge Owens (Kim Novak) to "Moonglow" under colorful Japanese lanterns on a boat dock landing at night
  • the scene of aging schoolteacher Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) on the porch pathetically on her knees begging an overwhelmed Howard (Oscar-nominated Arthur O'Connell): "Please marry me, Howard"
  • the final scene of Carter kissing Madge goodbye as he professed his love ("Listen, baby. You're the only real thing I ever wanted. Ever! You're mine. I've gotta claim what's mine or I'll be nothin' as long as I live...You love me, you know it, you love me, you love me") and then jumped onto a passing freight train
  • the amazing helicopter shot of Madge's bus following Hal's freight train - both going in the same direction at the same speed

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, Australia)

In Peter Weir's mystical, intriguing, and bewildering film about sexual repression:

  • the image of young schoolgirls in their prim and constrictive white dresses and stockings - on Valentine's Day in the year 1900 during the Victorian-Edwardian-era in Australia - preparing for an ill-fated journey with strict headmistress Mrs. Appleyard (Rachel Roberts) to Hanging Rock for a picnic
  • the exploration of four girls (including pretty and popular blonde Miranda (Anne Lambert)) among the outcroppings and phallic-shaped forbidden rock crevices as they stripped away their layers of clothing before mysteriously disappearing
  • the scream of lagging-behind Edith (Christine Schuler) when she witnessed something at the moment of the three other girls' disappearance
  • after the final concluding narration - the slow-motion return to the picnic scene with Miranda waving goodbye and the freeze-frame of her turning her head away from the camera - and the film's final fade-out


The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

In writer-director Albert Lewin's black and white occult-horror fantasy drama based upon Oscar Wilde's story about a man's soul and its evil destiny:

  • the sudden and shocking final view of the hideously-aged painted portrait of Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) (occasionally shown in Technicolor) showing the ravages of sin and withered aging (while he remained young, vain and handsome)
  • in the last scene when Dorian stabbed the heart of his own image in the picture to release his awful visage, he collapsed to the floor and took on the hideous and deformed characteristics of the painting - as the painting reverted back to its original (while a swinging lamp cast ominous shadows)


Pillow Talk (1959)

In this fluffy 50's 'clean' sex comedy from director Michael Gordon (the first of three successful Day-Hudson romantic comedies):

  • the many shared party-line phone scenes, filmed with vertical and other split-screens, between carefree, philandering, bachelor playboyish neighbor and songwriter Brad Allen (Rock Hudson) (who pretended to be drawling Texan Rex Stetson to hide his real identity) and virginal interior designer career girl Jan Morrow (Oscar-nominated Doris Day)
  • their famed bathtub scene implying that they were in the same bathroom and playing footsie with each other - across screens
  • and his additional pretense, when he (as Brad) told Jan on the phone that he suspected that Rex was gay: ("Must I spell it out?...There are some men who just, uh, they're very devoted to their mothers, you know, the type that likes to collect cooking recipes or exchange bits of gossip") -- with the additional subtext of Hudson's real-life homosexuality -- but then she urged Rex to prove his manhood during their next date: ("Rex, don't you find me attractive?...Well, then, why haven't you ever?...All the times that we've been going out together, you've been a perfect gentleman...You have. And I appreciate it, really I do...But ...well, being such a perfect gentleman and all, it's not very flattering"); when he called their relationship a "friendship," she had to prove him wrong with a kiss: ("Is that all it is with us, a friendship?"); he responded: ("Ma'am, that's a direct question. l think it deserves a direct answer")


Pink Flamingos (1972)

In director John Waters' ultimate trashy/cult film ("An Exercise in Poor Taste") and homage to the Manson family:

  • the many characters in the trailer of overweight transvestite Divine/Babs Johnson (drag queen Divine or Harris Glenn Milstead) including her delinquent son Crackers (Danny Mills), her traveling companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce), and her half-dressed, mentally-ill corpulent mother Edie (Edith Massey) who sat in a playpen and ate hard-boiled eggs
  • the shocking scene of the killing of a live chicken crushed during bestiality copulation between Crackers and Cookie (Cookie Mueller), as voyeuristic Cotton looked on from a nearby trailer window
  • Babs' over-the-top birthday party scene featuring bizarre sex acts (including a gay man (anonymous, uncredited as the "Singing Asshole") who ascended onto a performance stage, laid down on his back with his legs in the air, and musically sang or 'lip-synched' to The Trashmen's "Surfing Bird" ("Mau-mau-mau") by flexing his anal sphincter!)
  • the killing and cannibalistic eating of a quartet of policemen (reminiscient of Night of the Living Dead (1968))
  • Babs' stunning "filth politics" speech to TV reporters: "Blood does more than turn me on, Mr. Vader. It makes me come. And more than the sight of it, I love the taste of it. The taste of hot, freshly killed blood...Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat s--t! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!" before she executed the bound and gagged Raymond (David Lochary) and Connie Marble (Mink Stole) in front of the press - a live homicide
  • the scatological, disgusting gross-out scene of Divine/Babs eating real fresh dog feces in a competition to become the 'World's Filthiest Person' at the film's conclusion - she gagged and then smiled at the camera in a close-up






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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