It’s a rare thing, but sometimes you’re watching a movie and a particular scene hooks you. Maybe it’s the writing, the performances; maybe you’re smitten by the production design, the way it’s shot and edited. Maybe it’s just the context - how and where it sits within the film, informs the narrative. Whatever the case, there’s no improving on it. It’s… perfect.
Of course, perfection, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s subjective - nothing is flawless if you’re willing to look for the smallest of holes - but that doesn’t mean that the ideal isn’t real.
Everyone reading this has such a scene in mind now: something that, at the time they watched it, elevated the film they were watching, stuck with them for hours, even days afterwards. These are twenty such movie moments, some pivotal, some transcendent, from all kind of movies over the last few decades of cinema.
Naturally, this means there will be spoilers - and an effort has been made to avoid many of the more obvious examples of ‘classic’ cinema scenes to make things more interesting.
Consider this a jumping off point, though. Why not give us your top five in the comments?
20. 28 Weeks Later (2007) - Run For Your Life
There are few opening scenes to any horror movie that set the table for the meal to come as convincingly as 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to Danny Boyle’s ‘zombie’ apocalypse slowburner of 2002.
Set at the same time as the events of 28 Days Later, at the initial outbreak of the Rage virus that has half the UK foaming at the mouth and eating people, 28 Weeks Later sees Don and Alice, hiding out in a barricaded farmhouse with four strangers. Accidentally attracting the attention of the Infected hordes roaming outside, the ragtag group are subject to the most horrific home invasion ever seen.
There’s the grating shift from still, claustrophobic compositions to juddering steadicam; the ravening butchery of the murders; Don’s desperate abandonment of his wife as she stands, framed in horror at the window before being snatched away impossibly fast.
But then he escapes the grounds of the farm, bursting out into a madcap sprint towards the river… and the camera follows him, gradually revealing dozens of roaring Infected tearing after him from every direction, as the apocalyptic swell of John Murphy’s Godspeed-influenced score reaches a crescendo. It’s brilliant, a masterclass in terror.