Every classic film has at least one great scene – but even lacklustre films can have moments that send you whooping or cowering or crying out of the cinema. Below, we’ve chosen the ten most memorable moments of the year, scenes that will leave their mark on you whether you want it or not...
From: How To Train Your Dragon
This almost wordless section from the first half of DreamWorks’ surprise winner this year showed that the studio is finally up on an emotional level with Pixar, showing the development of a tangible and deeply moving bond between boy and beast. Their first flight together is one of the most breathtaking things we saw onscreen this year.
Some might prefer the training sequence in Paris for sheer visual dazzle, but for a combination of trick effects and plot development the stand-out scene has got to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s fight against weaponised fragments of Cillian Murphy’s subconscious in the shifting gravity of a hotel corridor. Mostly old-school practical rather than CG effects, but utterly gripping.
From: Toy Story 3
Hands up if you didn’t cry when Andy paid tribute to his toys – particularly Woody the Cowboy – and finally said goodbye. OK, those of you with your hand up are big liars. Pixar’s final flourish was that after thrilling escapes and near-death experiences, it was the sight of a boy turning his back on his toys that properly slayed us.
Film: The Social Network
This is how you establish your credentials immediately: if your film is going to be fast-paced, talky and intimidatingly intelligent, make your opening scene all these and more. With the fastest film dialogue since His Girl Friday and absolutely no concessions to those still juggling their popcorn and drinks, this is a perfect introduction to our central character/enigma, Mark Zuckerberg.
Film: The A-Team
Winning the award for most ridiculously preposterous action scene is no mean feat when you’re up against the likes of The Expendables, and yet Joe Carnahan’s guys managed to thoroughly out-ridiculous them by dropping a tank from a plane and using it to shoot another plane out of the sky. Before slowing and directing the tank’s own descent by shooting in other directions. Physics teachers may weep, but the rest of us laughed for days.
Film: A Prophet
There have been few more upsetting things this year than the site of new prisoner Malik (Tahar Rahim) gingerly placing a naked razor blade in his mouth, preparatory to carrying out a prison assassination, but that was just one standout moment in this shocking early sequence to Jacques Audiard’s brilliant drama. The killing itself is easily one of the most disturbing scenes of the year. Speaking of which…
Film: Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire
The thing about Precious is that it hasn’t held back at any point, so when monstrous mother Mary (Mo’Nique) violently confronts her daughter (Gabourey Sidibe), and the latter has a newborn baby in the room, you are genuinely, profoundly terrified for the helpless infant. When she starts throwing heavy items, including TV, it’d be a strong person indeed who isn’t gasping in shock and horror. Utterly, utterly terrifying, disturbing, upsetting stuff – but essential viewing all the same.
Film: A Single Man
It’s difficult to pick a single moment from Colin Firth’s flawless, buttoned down performance in Tom Ford’s elegant story of grief. The dinner with Julianne Moore is more attention-grabbing, but it’s this quiet and intensely moving moment when he learns about his lover’s death that lingers longest in the memory, Firth conveying a whole world of emotional devastation with barely a twitch of a muscle.
Film: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
To many of us, vegans seem like kooky and overly strict vegetarians. But in the world of Scott Pilgrim, they wield enormous and terrifying psychic powers, leading them to lord it over the rest of us with something other than a sense of self-righteousness and a pair of hemp-rope shoes. The confrontation between our hapless hero Scott (Michael Cera) and the powerful but malign vegan Todd (Brandon Routh) therefore becomes probably the stand-out battle in Scott Pilgrim’s precious little quest for love.