101 Great Moments in Film History


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Originally, I had posted the following list of 101 Great Moments in Movie History on Film Grotto, as a means of introducing myself. I felt that such a list would be a much more informative tool when it came to conveying exactly where my cinematic tastes lie, certainly better than simply posting a top-10 list.

As the weeks progressed, however, I found myself wishing I had remembered this film or that, or kicked myself because I had left off one of my all-time favorites.

Instead of updating this list on my own, what I’d like to do is open it up here on Row Three, inviting everyone to contribute their own favorite film moments. I can tell from both the articles and comments I’ve read on Row Three thus far that many of you have seen films I’ve yet to experience, which I’m sure influenced your taste in movies the way the following moments influenced mine. I’d certainly like to know about them.

It’s my hope that, by the time the smoke clears, we’ll have doubled, maybe even tripled this list, forming as complete a collection of classic cinematic moments as could possibly exist.

The only rule I’ll put forward is that each film can only be listed once. Other that that, please feel free to add as many moments as you’d like…let’s see how big we can make it!

Here’s where the list stands now:

1. Chief Will Sampson hurling that water fountain through the window in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

2. Warren Beatty riding his horse against a driving wind in the opening moments of McCabe & Mrs. Miller

3. Every single musical number in Singin’ in the Rain

4. The unforgettable gaze of a mortally wounded Slim Pickens as he locks eyes with distraught wife Katy Jurado, in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

5. Each and every scene of The Godfather, and The Godfather Part II

6. The awe-inspiring opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which caused me to fall in love with movies in the first place

7. George C. Scott leading his driver off the beaten path to visit an ancient North African battlefield, in Patton

8. Every moment Orson Welles appears on-screen in The Third Man

9. Klaus Kinski losing control in Aguirre, Wrath of God

10. Gangster Ben Kingsley marching through an airport in the South of Spain, on his way to make Ray Winstone’s life a living hell in Sexy Beast

11. The magnificent adrenaline rush of the chariot race in Ben-Hur

12. The sharp sound of a Polaroid camera snapping a picture in the dark, the bright light of the flash revealing a scene of absolute terror, in Tobe Hooper’s low-budget horror masterpiece, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

13. The awesome spectacle of Peter O’Toole’s ride through the desert in Lawrence of Arabia

14. Liam Neeson’s ultimate change of heart in Schindler’s List

15. Max Von Sydow’s chess game with Death in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal

16. Vincent Price, in pretty much any movie he ever made, but especially in House on Haunted Hill and The Last Man on Earth

17. Marlon Brando screaming up the stairs to Kim Hunter in A Streetcar Named Desire

18. Petty thief Kevin Spacey telling detective Chazz Palmienterri about the greatest trick the devil ever pulled, in The Usual Suspects

19. John Travolta telling Samuel L. Jackson what Big Macs are called in France, in Pulp Fiction

20. Frances McDormand asking Peter Stormare what all the killing was about in the closing moments of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo

21. Russell Streiner’s now-famous line, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara”, uttered in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead

22. The kinetic energy that pulsates throughout the entirety of Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express

23. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson serenading each other at a late-night Tokyo Karaoke bar in Lost in Translation

24. Clint Eastwood surrendering to his true nature as he confronts Gene Hackman in Unforgiven

25. Fred Williamson and Thalmus Rasulala, once the closest of friends, scrapping with each other in a winner-take-all fistfight that closes out Arthur Marks’ underrated 1975 action film, Bucktown

26. Kate Winslet ‘flying’ as she hangs off the bow of Titanic

27. John Wayne standing just outside, framed in the doorway, as he comes to terms with the inevitable loneliness of his life in The Searchers

28. Robert DeNiro arguing with himself in the mirror in Taxi Driver

29. Gene Hackman tearing up the town with his two young grandsons in The Royal Tenenbaums

30. Frank Sinatra helping Laurence Harvey break out of his hypnosis in one of the final scenes of 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate

31. The showdown between Charles Bronson and the three gunmen sent to kill him in Once Upon a Time in the West

32. Learning that Darth Vader was Luke’s father in The Empire Strikes Back

33. Every animated movie Hayao Miyazaki ever made, but especially Spirited Away

34. Pam Greir taking charge in Coffy, and Foxy Brown, and Friday Foster, and Jackie Brown

35. Henry Gibson in the studio recording a patriotic song, in the opening scene of Nashville

36. Audrey Hepburn cocking her head to one side as she peers through the window of Tiffany’s department store early one morning, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

37. Bill Nunn walking down the street, Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” blaring from his radio, in Do the Right Thing

38. Orson Welles muttering the now-immortal “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane

39. Joe Pesci losing control time and again until fate catches up with him in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas

40. Joe Pesci losing control time and again until fate catches up with him in Oliver Stone’s JFK

41. The story of how it came to pass, which opens Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy

42. Marcello Mastroianni’s dream sequence in Federico Fellini’s 8 ½

43. Kier Dullea’s showdown with the HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey

44. John Malkovich entering the portal into his own mind in Being John Malkovich

45. Humphrey Bogart lying to Ingrid Bergman to get her on that plane in Casablanca

46. Helicopters flying into battle to the tune of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in Apocalypse Now

47. Maria Falconetti’s eyes in the silent masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc

48. The opening sequence of Touch of Evil, as well as the immediate aftermath

49. James Stewart trying to transform Kim Novak into the girl she once was, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo

50. The nearly four hour version of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America

51. Willem Dafoe returning from his meditation in the desert to begin his divine mission, in The Last Temptation of Christ

52. The non-intrusive directing style of Yasujiro Ozu in Tokyo Story, Floating Weeds, and many others.

53. Every line of dialogue that passes between Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter

54. The bank robbery that spirals into a chilling realization of violence in Bonnie and Clyde

55. The pre-title sequence of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, which gets my vote as the best pre-title sequence in movie history

56. The quiet irony in the moment Jane Wyman realizes her children have moved on with their lives, in All That Heaven Allows

57. Fred Williamson dropping a severed ear onto a plate of spaghetti in Black Caesar

58. The closing moments of Local Hero, where a phone can be heard ringing in the distance.

59. The first time we set eyes on the monstrous Max Schreck in the scariest vampire movie ever made, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu

60. The roller skate routine that Charlie Chaplin performs with perfect timing and grace in Modern Times

61. Jon Voight leaving Texas behind to the tune of Nillson’s “Everybody’s Talkin” in Midnight Cowboy

62. Lillian and Dorothy Gish acting together in Orphans of the Storm

63. Kirk Douglas telling Adolphe Menjou to go to hell in Paths of Glory

64. Dustin Hoffman performing Lenny Bruce’s material, in Lenny

65. The moment William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates and Ben Johnson realize they can simply walk away after shooting Rebel General Emelio Fernandez in The Wild Bunch, but decide to stick around anyway to finish the job

66. Watching Mia Kirshner dance for Bruce Greenwood in director Atom Egoyan’s Exotica

67. The shot of the Bridge at sunrise in Woody Allen’s Manhattan

68. Roy Scheider telling Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw that they need a bigger boat, in Jaws

69. The way Malcolm McDowell delivers his dialogue in A Clockwork Orange

70. Boris Karloff rising to life in the original Frankenstein

71. The battle of wits between Harpo Marx and Edgar Kennedy in Duck Soup

72. The beauty of the images in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev

73. Slim Pickens being interrogated by Toshiro Mifune aboard a Japanese Submarine in Steven Spielberg’s criminally underappreciated WWII comedy, 1941

74. Anthony Perkins in drag, in Psycho

75. The dark, desolate ship that lends the perfect atmosphere to the terror that is Alien

76. All three of Peter Sellers’ roles in Dr. Strangelove, but especially his President Merkin Muffley

77. The closing shot of Easy Rider, bringing the perfect irony to Peter Fonda’s earlier line, “We blew it”

78. The brilliance of Buster Keaton’s physical humor in The General

79. Lionel Barrymore standing up to boss Wallace Beery in the lounge of the Grand Hotel

80. The climactic highway scene in Ron Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects

81. Jim Carrey getting trapped in his own mind, in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

82. The first time Ewan McGregor pays a visit to the Moulin Rouge in Baz Luhrmann’s fast-paced musical drama

83. The first time Rodney Dangerfield strolls into Bushwood Country Club in Caddyshack

84. Peter Finch getting everyone in New York City to shout out their windows in Network

85. The beauty, and horrors, of the Australian Outback as seen in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout

86. Watching Bruce Lee do his thing in Enter the Dragon

87. Debating with myself back and forth as to which is the best film whenever I watch Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy

88. The house of ice in Dr. Zhivago

89. Topol trying to hold on to tradition whenever his daughters want to marry, in Fiddler on the Roof

90. Franka Potente running her heart out in Run Lola Run

91. The innovative genius that went into making The Matrix

92. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, in almost any horror movie they made for Hammer studios

93. Spencer Tracy and Fredric March going back and forth in the courtroom in Inherit the Wind

94. Uma Thurman as the Bride in Kill Bill, both volumes

95. Edward Norton cursing everyone he knows while staring into a men’s room mirror in Spike Lee’s 25TH Hour

96. The crucifixion scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian

97. Dustin Hoffman banging on the church window when he thinks he’s too late, only to discover he isn’t, in The Graduate

98. Jim Carrey slowly realizing the truth in The Truman Show

99. George Romero actually topping himself in the genre he perfected with 1978’s Dawn of the Dead

100. Michael McKean and Christopher Guest trying to sound philosophical in This is Spinal Tap

101. Mob boss Bob Hoskins’ downward spiral in The Long Good Friday

17 comments

  1. Sorry; it should be one higher, I forgot it was 101 and NOT 100. Here it is again (aka ignore that first post):

    (Correct me if I do this wrong)

    102. The teeth torture scene in Oldboy.

    103. Jesse James' assassination in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

    104. Robert De Niro's breakdown in the jail cell in Raging Bull.

    105. The final quote from Roman Polanski's Chinatown

    106. Henry Fonda's first 1 to 11 defiant vote in 12 Angry Men.

  2. Salieri's "My plan was so simple, it terrified me" scene in Amadeus.

    Vergerus' "Mig slippar du inte for" in Fanny Och Alexander.

    Mel Gibson explaining who's looking out for us in Signs.

    (and this one is kind of cheating but it's worth mentioning)

    Henry's Band of Brothers speach in Henry V.

  3. Dave Becker

    Amazing…both of you touched on movies (Amadeus and Chinatown) that I was kicking myself over missing the first time around!

    Thanks for your input…great choices.

  4. colleeny

    Alec Guinness' face when he finaly grasps the full implications of what is about to happen in "then bridge over the river kwai"

    Bruce Campbell laughing as he's about to cut his own arm off with a chainsaw (evil dead II)

    The smashing of the printer in office space

    Shaun and Ed deciding which LP to throw at the approaching zombies (Shuan of the dead)

    Charleton Heston collapsing in front of what was left of the statue of liberty (planet of the apes)

  5. Nice call on the Office Space one there, colleeny:)

  6. Two closing shots for me… could do a whole post on closing shots…

    1) the freeze-frame of Antoine Doinel on the beach in 400 Blows

    2) The bustling crowd around the downtrodden Bicycle Thief.

  7. Roy Power

    "I AM SPARTACUS!" in Spartacus

    George's wink to Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life

    Deborah leaving Noodles in Once Upon a Time in America (though you just listed the whole movie, which is even better)

  8. Wow. What a great idea for a post. Off the top of my head, I'd say:

    1. Carl Boehm's "photo shoot" with Moira Shearer in Peeping Tom.

    2. Every single moment of The Seven Samurai.

    3. The climax of King Kong.

    4. Jack Lemmon's final confrontation with Fred MacMurray in The Apartment.

    5. The "Alter Ego" sequence of Cover Girl in which Gene Kelly dances with himself.

    6. The climax of The Bride of Frankenstein

    7. David Hemming realising he may have evidence of a murder in Blowup.

    8. When Tyler list the rules in Fight Club

    9. Every scene in The Wizard of Oz

    10. Arthur's final battle with Mordred in Excalibur.

    11. The Time Warp in Rocky Horror Picture Show

    12. Steve McQueen on the motorcycle in The Great Escape

  9. Marina Antunes

    Oooo. I love me this post. Here are a few that come to mind:

    Joe Pesci losing control time and again until fate catches up with him in Casino

    The moment when Scarlett O'Hara decides to change her fate and rips down the drapes to make one of the best looking home-made dresses I've ever seen

    The first time Lestat utters the line "I'm going to give you the choice I never had" in Interview with a Vampire

    Every confrontation between Lizzie and Mr. Darcy in Joe Wright's "Pride & Prejudice"

    The lobby shootout scene in "The Matrix"

  10. Israelidude

    the baby carriage rolling down the stairs to be stopped by andy garcia in "the untouchables".

    every single dialogue line in "rozenkrantz and gildenstern are dead".

    although it's a mini series, the very intense suicide scene at the end of "on the beach".

  11. Kurt Halfyard

    "the baby carriage rolling down the stairs to be stopped by andy garcia in “the untouchables”."

    Wouldn't that require then, THE ODESSA STEPS scene in BATTLESHIP POTEMPKIN?

  12. Dave Becker

    There are some great choices in here. I love:

    * Charlton Heston collapsing in front of what was left of the statue of liberty

    * The freeze-frame of Antoine Doinel on the beach in 400 Blows

    * The Time Warp in Rocky Horror Picture Show

    * Both Baby Carriage scenes

    These should have been on my list!

    As for Joe Pesci losing control…he's done it so many times, and always so well, that I'm sure there are a few more out there we haven;t thought of yet!

    Thanks to everyone for their help. We're up to 139 total (excluding duplicates)

  13. I suppose now is as good a time as any to throw in my top 50 eh? – these are my favorite scenes. Not necessarily what I consider "best":

    50 Superman twist ending and whips ass – Superman II

    49 Ace Ventura tries to hide in a cardboard box – Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

    48 The baseball team enters the field for the first time – Field of Dreams

    47 “I’ll hit the brakes and he’ll fly right by.” – Top Gun

    46 Sally’s fake orgasm – When Harry Met Sally

    45 Opening monkey sequence – 2001: A Space Odyssey

    44 Any Rocky victory – Rocky I, II, III, IV, V

    43 Duel in the trees – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

    42 “These go to 11.” – This is Spinal Tap

    41 The sensitive guy on the beach – Bedazzled

    40 The door warehouse chase scene – Monster’s, Inc

    39 The car chase – Ronin

    38 The Professor’s game – Rounders

    37 When Velocoraptors Attack – Jurassic Park

    36 The five-man Stand-off – Reservoir Dogs

    35 The flying rabbitt – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

    34 The buffalo hunt (all of which was real) – Dances with Wolves

    33 Ellie Arroway’s trip – Contact

    32 In the war room – Dr. Strangelove

    31 Bernie falls overboard – Weekend at Bernie’s

    30 Bicycle flies past the moon – E.T.

    29 Arrival of “the lamp” – A Christmas Story

    28 The masquerade party – Eyes Wide Shut

    27 Jack finally snaps – The Shining

    26 Any of the “Rupert” scenes – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

    25 Detective Manfredjensen (Kevin Kline) – A Fish Called Wanda

    24 “I’m gonna make Gretzky’s head bleed!” – Swingers

    23 The aliens begin their attack – Independence Day

    22 Bar fight – Desperado

    21 Franks & Beans scene – There’s Something About Mary

    20 Scarface’s last stand – Scarface

    19 Bill & Ted’s final report – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

    18 Attack of the Ewoks & Full Final Battle – Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

    17 Ed Rooney (pick your scene) – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

    16 Final minutes of the Titanic – Titanic

    15 Kaiser Soze’s identity is revealed – The Usual Suspects

    14 Fake coke deal – Boogie Nights

    13 “You work on commision right?” – Pretty Woman

    12 Alien first bursts throught the guy’s chest – Alien

    11 Doc Holliday spins cup on finger – Tombstone

    10 Yoda meets Dooku – Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

    9 Roy Hobb’s homerun – The Natural

    8 Printer gets a beat down – Office Space

    7 The chariot race – Ben-Hur

    6 Singing “Tiny Dancer” on the bus – Almost Famous

    5 Han Solo’s heroic return – Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

    4 Agent Starling’s first encounter with Hannibal – Silence of the Lambs

    3 The O.D. scene of Mia Wallace – Pulp Fiction

    2 Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman – Raiders of the Lost Ark

    1 D-Day Invasion – Saving Private Ryan

    Honorable Mention (in no particular order):

    Putting down Old Yeller – Old Yeller

    Final rumble between Riggs and [Gary Busey] – Lethal Weapon

    Primal scream in the rain – Garden State

    Boiling rabbit – Fatal Attraction

    Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia play chopsticks – Big

    “There’s no crying in baseball!” – A League of their Own

    The first girl dies in – Jaws

    Ripley finds her failed clones – Alien Resurrection

    Daniel-San wins the title – The Karate Kid

  14. Are you crazy? The top 100 film moments can all be found in JAWS. "Hooper!! Starboard ya idiot – ain't ya watchin him?"

    "Wanna pretzel?"

    "Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies…"

    "Smile you son of a … "

    "Quit playing with yourself Hooper"

    "I'll find him for 3 but I'll catch him and kill him for 10"

    Get it!

  15. How about Clint Eastwood: "Go ahead — make my day."

  16. fernando

    What do u guys think about the end of The Life of David Gale? Betsy running thru the office til she watch the video… the music is great as well… I got goose bumps!!

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