For most of my life, I’ve always thought of myself as a film lover. I can’t think of a time where I wasn’t huge into film, and it’s become such a part of my identity that other people often associate me with film knowledge and opinions. All of my part time jobs have revolved around film in some way, from movie theatres to DVD stores. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly I went from casual movie-goer to self appointed movie lover and critic, but there are definitely a number of specific moments in films that helped make that transition. I’ve done my best to compile a list of my top ten movie moments, not in terms of objectivity, but based on how they’ve shaped this sincere and personal love I have for moving pictures.
PLEASE NOTE: All the youtube clips are going to have spoilers, often major ones. Proceed at your own risk.
10. Seven – What’s in the Box?
I refuse to spell it ‘Se7en’ because then it’s SeSevenen which makes no sense. Crazy marketing people. Anyway, this was a film I saw long before I even knew much about movies. I remember watching it in my father’s basement alone, and I was extremely tired when watching it. By the end of the film, I was wide awake and stared in awe as the credits rolled. The movie itself is still one that I love, I think it’s a great example of a detective/mystery film, well-paced and unique cinematography. But what really got me on first viewing was the ‘twist’ ending (which nowadays is used to describe almost any ending) because I honestly didn’t expect it and it wasn’t something I anticipated would happen. The fact that they didn’t ever SHOW what was in the box made it even more powerful. It’s one of the earliest memories I have of being truly amazed by a film’s climax.
9. Fight Club – Who is Tyler Durden?
Another example of a great ‘twist’ ending before it was trendy to do so, the difference here is this is the first movie I saw whose ending completely changed the way you saw the rest of the film. I remember really enjoying the style and performances throughout this film, and all of a sudden, this ending comes up and blows my mind. It’s hard to think that there was a time when nobody knew the ending to this film already, but the same could be said about The Empire Strikes Back. In the end, this film also got me into Chuck Palahniuk, and in turn made me start to love reading again. I owe a lot to Brad Pitt, it seems. The actual twist occurs a while before the end of the film, and I can’t locate the clip so instead the link is to the final scene which is also really awesome.
8. Mulholland Drive – Club Silencio
This is a movie that more or less defined my opinion on what a film should be. I remember watching it the first time and loving it, but unsure why. The movie itself follows a pretty simple plot at first, which transforms and turns itself on its head once the main characters head to Club Silencio. After a surreal theatre experience, things get crazy. And I loved it. Perhaps it’s because I was bored with the usual plot structure films usually have, and this is one of the first times I was able to view the film medium as more than just entertainment, but as art. Since seeing this film I’ve loved it when writers/directors screw with conventions and do their own thing.
7. Shawshank Redemption – The Rain
For a long period of time, this movie was the one I’d name as my favorite of all time. Another one I saw early on, I was so taken into this world and the story behind Andy Dufresne that I loved. It’s interesting, because by the time the film hits its stride you almost forget that these characters are supposed to be ‘bad guy criminals.’ The character development and Morgan Freeman’s soothing narration makes the criminals the good guys and the guards the bad guys. Arguably, it’s pretty much true anyway, but it’s still a brilliant film with incredible direction by Frank Darabont. The scene detailing the escape of Andy and his cleansing bask in the rain is probably the most powerful moment in a film with many powerful moments.
6. Punch Drunk Love – Barry Calls the Mattress Man
This film almost solidified my position against the majority of filmgoers, not because I was trying to separate myself but because I found out I generally didn’t agree with other people’s opinions on a lot of movies. I worked at a movie rental store around the time this movie was out on DVD, and was interested in seeing it as I loved PTA’s other films. But everyone I talked to who saw it, and the customers who returned it, talked about how shitty it was. I gave it a shot anyway, something I normally wouldn’t have done. In doing so I was treated to one of the most emotional and surprising movie experiences I’ve ever had, and ended up being my favorite movie of the year. While the majority of the scenes involving Lena and Barry are wonderful, this scene involving Barry calling the man in charge of the sex line that tried to steal from him is so fantastic I couldn’t keep my eyes off the screen. Adam Sandler faces off against Philip Seymour Hoffman and holds his own. Who would have thought?
5. Synecdoche, New York – Finale
Okay. This is a more recent film, so you may be asking why I’ve included it here, as I’ve had a self-described love of film looong before this movie was released. But like Mulholland Drive before it, this movie reinvigorated my love of film rather than creating it. I had never seen such an honest, heartfelt film that wasn’t afraid to be it’s own creature rather than succumb to the ‘structure’ and ‘formula’ of most hollywood movies. I’ve discussed at length my thoughts on the film itself in my review, which you can read on this site if you like. But the finale of the film is quite possibly the best part, and therefore I’ve included it here. The score by Jon Brion, the performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Dianne Wiest, the set design and everything about this moment is just beautiful.
4. Adaptation. – McKee’s Seminar
I’ve been interested in writing for a long period of my life, since I wrote short stories in my grade 5 english class. At the time I thought they were fantastic, turns out they weren’t very good. But give me a break, I was 11. It wasn’t until I saw Adaptation that I really felt an urge to eventually write something beautiful. This moment, where Charlie Kaufman, the real life screenwriter of the film played in the film by Nicholas Cage, visits a screenwriting seminar really made me appreciate this film’s writing, but also writing in general. There are so many books and websites and people who will tell you the right way to write a movie, or a novel, or whatever. But I see this seminar as very tongue in cheek. Basically Charlie Kaufman’s way of saying these kinds of things are bullshit…but not completely. There is some truth to having structure to a screenplay. But if you really want to create something unique, clearly you need to use it as a guideline, more than a road map. Or a guide map. Or a road line…alright, I’m bad at analogies.
3. Amélie – The Kiss
This is hands down the most beautiful kiss ever recorded on film. Amélie is one of my favorite movie characters ever, and this is such a fitting end to her story.
2. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou – Jaguar Shark
Wes Anderson has always been touted as making some of the greatest movie soundtracks ever. This movie is no exception. The majority of the soundtrack is David Bowie songs in Portuguese, which is brilliant in itself, but my favorite part of the soundtrack is the use of Sigur Ros when Steve finally encounters what he’s been after the entire movie – the Jaguar Shark. Originally wanting to kill the shark for revenge, Steve has a change of heart among seeing it. The line ‘I wonder if he remembers me’ makes me tear up like nobodies business. The beautiful visuals of this moment coupled with the haunting music is one of the most touching things I’ve seen on film. It’s the moment that made me realize how powerful the right song can be when placed at the right time.
1. Magnolia – Claudia’s Smile
It’s hard to imagine the first time I saw this film. It’s my go-to favorite movie of all time when I need to give an answer. From the cold open with Ricky Jay’s narration, to the musical character introduction set to Aimee Mann, and right up to the divisive and controversial climax, I was absolutely enthralled. I have never had so many emotions go through me as I did when I watched this movie. But there is a single moment at the very end of the movie that has not yet been topped in emotional resonance by any other film. Hell, the entirety of the movie up to that point didn’t affect me as much as this moment. The final scene of the film deals with two characters of the ensemble cast, Claudia and Jim. Jim is talking to Claudia about their relationship, and the camera is focusing solely on Claudia’s face. At the end of Jim’s speech (which by the way, isn’t fully audible because of the music playing, but you can find out what he says with captions) Claudia casts a single, heart warming smile before a quick cut to black. IT’s the first time she has smiled in the whole 190 minute running time, and it honestly gives me goosebumps every time.
I’ve always been an advocate of the ‘movies are subjective’ bandwagon. I don’t think there are any specific things that make a ‘good movie’ or a ‘bad movie,’ and it all comes down to what you feel and experience while watching it. I do however think it’s important to understand what the purpose of a film is, and if they are successful. That’s perhaps the only way to judge a movie intellectually. All I can say is that both subjectively, and objectively, Magnolia has succeeded to me in so many ways, and this final, closing shot is the moment I realized I needed to pursue my love of films. Who knows where it will bring me, maybe a career in film is where I’ll end up. But for now, the fact that you’ve read this simple article about my personal favorite movie moments makes me feel like I’ve done some good.
I’m not including a youtube link, because I think it’s a moment that needs to be watched after seeing the rest of the film. It will mean nothing without it. That, and I couldn’t find a good one.