Great movies are built on great ideas, or amazing performances, or the perfect script. Maybe they're best remembered as a completed whole, a piece of art which doesn't come together until every single frame has unspooled on screen. But more often than not, it's the moments we remember most; those special, singular places in time where everything comes together on screen for a few brief seconds or minutes to create something so indelible, so perfect, you'll carry it with you for the rest of your life.
Maybe the rest of the movie doesn't really work or maybe you're in the middle of watching one of the year's best films. Whatever the movie, in that moment, for those seconds, you're carried away by unstoppable laughter, soaring on waves of emotion, or left sinking into the pits of sadness and despair. For a few specific seconds some films are able to capture lightning in a bottle. 2010 had more than its share of those unforgettable, lightning in a bottle moments on film. These are the ones we'll remember most.
SPOILER WARNING: The following discussion contains major spoilers from each of the films involved. If you haven't seen the movie, skip it and go on to the next one.
Craig Robinson Covers "Let's Get It Started" in Hot Tub Time Machine
Hot Tub Time Machine contains at least three pretty unforgettable moments. You'd expect no less than that from a movie about guys traveling through time using beer and a faulty plumbing. But none of those other moments actually spawned an impromptu sing-a-long. Stuck back in the 80s and pushed up on stage to perform, Craig Robinson decides to pull a Marty McFly and bring a little modern music to the table. When he leans into the mic and croons "let's get it started... in here..." something magic happens and before you know it your head's bopping along to the beat as the music starts working its way out of your mouth.
In the packed theater I saw it in, suddenly, as if we were in some sort of musical, at that moment every person in a completely random audience, young or old, started singing right along. No one asked us to sing, no one gave us a cue, the scene simply demanded that we join in and be a part of it. Maybe it's the effortless charm of Craig Robinson or maybe it's just The Black Eyed Peas are that good. You be the judge. Sing along as you watch it embedded below.
And the bass keeps runnin runnin and runnin runnin...
Nic has always been the responsible one, a doctor and the main breadwinner in her family, the mom who reminds the kids to write thank-you notes and worries about their choices in friends. It's a tough job but one she's always embraced, though lately it's become trickier, as her partner Jules seems to grow distant and Paul, the sperm donor who made it possible for both her kids to exist, seems to have magnetically drawn both of her children away from her. Making one last stab at getting along with Paul, Nic agrees to a family dinner at his place, and it's going great-- she's drinking less wine, admiring Jules's landscaping work on Paul's yard , and best of all bonding with Paul over his Joni Mitchell album collection.
Things are about to go wrong again, as she'll realize Jules has been having an affair with Paul in just a few minutes, but as Nic sings Joni Mitchell's "All I Want" at the dinner table, she's suddenly able to tap back into the younger, carefree person she once was, amazing both her family and the man who's both an interloper and the reason her family exists. All of us have versions of ourselves we want to become again, and for one short moment, Nic merges past and present to unite her family-- her entire family-- for the first time.
Revisit Anette Bening's zone out moment after she sings and everything starts going wrong, embedded below:
End Of Line Club in Tron: Legacy
There's no shortage of spectacle in Tron: Legacy but when Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) walks into the End of Line club looking for Zeus, everything electrifies. Instead of a friend Sam finds a fight, and as the minions of Clu descend on the club, house DJ's Daft Punk change the mood to boom out pulse pounding beats which give rhythm to what would have otherwise been chaos. Instead it seems only right that Michael Sheen's Castor would stand high above the club firing lasers out of his cane while below him, programs are ripped to shreds. Everything about the scene hits a tremendous groove found nowhere else in the movie, it's a perfect synchronization of music and visual lightning that doesn't stop until Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) shows up and literally absorbs all the light right out of the room. Daft Punk kicks in a different beat then as Flynn makes his escape and the movie recaptures that rhythm again, even if only for another moment or two. Say what you want about Tron: Legacy but this scene soars.
You'll never get the full impact of the moment watching it on a computer, but as a reminder here's a little taste of what happened in the End of Line club. Crank up your speakers and consider seeing Tron: Legacy all over again in the only proper environment: Center row in a movie theater.
Andy's Toys Face A Fiery Death during Toy Story 3
It's been called one of the most purely human moments ever captured on film, only somehow Pixar pulls it off using animated toys. When Buzz, Woody, Jesse, and all the rest of the toys from Andy's room get lost in a junkyard and fall into a trash incinerator, they fight with every inch of their being to get out. But as the camera pulls back we see they're trapped in something far beyond their ability to escape much less comprehend.
As the trash around them spirals down into the fiery hell of an incinerator, pulling the toys towards a horrifying death, they start to realize the scale of what they're up against too. One by one, the toys of Andy's room stop struggling and decide to face their fate the best they can. Woody is the last to stop fighting for life, the responsibility of caring for his friends weighing heavily on his shoulders, but eventually even he realizes that this time there is no hope. The toys reach out to each other and hold hands, determined to face their now certain end as they've always faced everything else in life: Together.
Hold hands and watch it all over again below.
Andy Gives His Toys Away in Toy Story 3
As Toy Story 3 draws to a close Woody, Buzz and the gang have escaped the clutches of Lotso and found their way back to Andy's room, a place they're not even sure they belong anymore. As Andy leaves for college he decides the friends he loved are better off in the hands of someone who will love them as much as he has, then packed away in some attic. He gives his toys away and, for a few beautiful moments gives them all exactly what they've craved so long, spending an endless afternoon playing with his friends before getting in his car and driving away.
It's the final sacrifice of Woody that'll really get to you. Andy had intended to take Woody with him to college, unable to part with his best pal, but when he sees the look on that little girl's face, he gives up something he loves to let it be loved by someone else. This scene embodies everything that's beautiful about the Toy Story movies and, for that matter, just about everything Pixar does.
Get teary-eyed all over again by watching just a few seconds of the scene embedded below. Then make it a point to run out and buy Toy Story 3 to see everything, all over again.
Rotating Hallway Fight in Inception
Inception contains at least a dozen completely unforgettable moments but ask anyone about the scene they loved most and you'll invariably get this one: Arthur's fight in the rotating hallway. As the van he's riding in, in the dream level above, goes spinning down a hill, all sense of up and down inside the dream world where Arthur's (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt) consciousness is vanishes... and it's right in the middle of an attack by the dreamer's security team. Arthur goes bouncing through a hotel hallway punching and kicking at his assailants, running across the celing and walls as everything goes topsy turvy.
The scene is utterly seamless, much of it is accomplished in a single shot, and it's the complete believability of it all that really makes it special. That sequence is really just the beginning of a whole series of completely eye-popping anti-gravity antics from Arthur, including a merry chase around a staircase to nowhere.
Here's where it all started. Watch the hallway start spinning as Arthur takes on his assailants in Inception:
Aron Ralston Smiles in 127 Hours
The most unforgettable moment in 127 Hours isn't the now infamous five minutes James Franco's Aron Ralston spends cutting off his own arm, it's what he does afterward. Trapped for days with his appendage wedged between a boulder and a narrow canyon wall, Aron has had little to hope for except a quick and painless death. Dehydrated and hopeless, he finally begins tearing at his own flesh. It seems clear that when he starts he never hoped to actually survive but suddenly after hacking and tearing and suffering, suddenly he's free.
Aron stumbles back against the canyon wall and stops, almost surprised to be moving under his own power, and when he stumbles backwards he looks back at the spot where he'd been imprisoned, he looks back and the remains of his severed limb... and smiles. It's that moment, more than any other in 127 Hours which you'll never get. It's the smile of pure freedom, it's the smile of someone who suddenly has a chance at life. For that one second, he doesn't feel the pain of his missing arm or the stiffness in his water-deprived muscles. There is only freedom.
Unfortunately that particular scene from 127 Hours isn't available to view online. Check out a different clip below instead, as a reminder of the circumstances from which Ralston freed himself.
Obliviate in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows
We've never really seen much of Hermione's home life in the Harry Potter movies. All we've been told is that her parents are, well, normal. In a few brief seconds at the start of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 though, we learn all there is to know about the Grangers. They are normal, very normal and judging from the pictures on their mantle they deeply love their daughter.
But they're in danger and to keep them safe, Hermione erases their memory of her. As she raises her wand behind unsuspecting parents, the pictures on their mantle filled with happy times spent doing things with their daughter fade away. Her parents hunch over on the couch, as if all the happiness has just been sucked out of their lives. Hermione will remember their life with her, but they won't.
Watch Hermione sacrifice her past to keep the people she loves safe, with a small part of the obliviate scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 embedded below.
MacGruber Blows Up Heroes in MacGruber
The best Saturday Night Live movie since Wayne's World may have been slandered by critics and underappreciated by fans, but it's still responsible for one of the better misdirection scenes in comedy history. After tracking down and reassembling his imposing gang of professional wrestlers, MacGruber takes pause to ridicule Ryan Phillippe, as half a dozen or so American heroes with over one hundred years of combined combat experience chant "fuck the brass" from inside their specially-equipped van. And then it explodes, taking all their brotherhood and expertise with it.
As MacGruber frantically checks the wreckage for survivors and screams for someone to call 911, viewers finally get a taste of what they might be in for. It's surprising and strangely brilliant and far more clever than most people give it credit for. What can you really expect out of the jackass that just blew up his entire support network? An hour and a half of unconventional, foul-mouthed hilarity. Don't bother disagreeing. MacGruber will just head butt you in the face until you reconsider.
Watch MacGruber blow up his own team embedded below:
Albert's Penguin Story in The King's Speech
Before he becomes embroiled in matters of state, we first meet Albert as a family man who never really expected to take the reigns of power. He loves his children yet because of his stammer finds himself often utterly unable to communicate with them. In what is without a doubt the film's most moving, human moment Albert comes in to kiss his daughters before bed. They beg him to tell them a bed time story, and the sadness in Albert's eyes at that moment is so great, that it threatens to take on a life of its own.
Knowing he's unable to tell a proper story Albert attempts to compensate and, wearing the tuxedo he'll need for his late night engagement, gets down on his hands and knees to imitate a penguin for his daughters, while stuttering out a penguin story. The story is simple and his delivery is halting and unsteady, but Albert loves his daughters and attempts to compensate by flopping around the room, without hesitation or embarrassment. They love him for it.
The King's Speech is only recently in theaters, so this scene isn't available to watch online. Do yourself a favor and whether or not you've already seen it, buy a ticket for The King's Speech right now.
Nina Dances The Black Swan in Black Swan
Unable to find the darkness inside herself necessary to dance the dance of the Black Swan for her performance in Swan Lake, Natalie Portman's Nina spends most of the film slowly driving herself mad in pursuit of perfection. Backstage between dances, she slowly gives in to the madness and it gives her power on stage, the power to pull off the greatest performance of her career. Nina steps on stage to dance the black swan and while the audience simply sees an amazing dance, in Nina's mind she's slowly beginning to transform into a bird as the darkness she's had bottled up in her is suddenly released.
Director Darren Aronofsky shoots the entire thing beautifully and Portman, who worked tirelessly to transform her body for the role, actually performs a lot of the moves herself. The result is perhaps one of the best ballet sequences ever captured on screen.
Here's the first part of Nina's dance of the black swan, embedded below. It gets weirder and goes further, shortly after this clip ends.
Allen Gets His Wooden Gun Back in The Other Guys
In The Other Guys Will Ferrell's loser cop Allen is so incompetent that he's given a wooden gun. Except he can't even hold on to that, and it's soon taken from him by the movie's bad guys. Allen and his partner (Mark Wahlberg) are called into the Captain's office to be chewed out for their actions where the Captain informs them that in a move of ninja-like humiliation their attackers have returned Will Ferrell's wooden gun and we learn, for some reason, have also improved it by staining the wood and rubbed it down with linseed oil. Allen is impressed by the attention to detail. It's a scene so ridiculous that it probably couldn't have happened in a proper movie, but that's just how The Other Guys rolls. The plot may not work at all, but the sheer absurdity of what's going on makes this moment, along with a lot of the others in this film, one of the funniest of the year.
Will Ferrell's admiration of his gun's new finish isn't available online, but here's what happens later when he loses his gun again:
Henley Sequence in The Social Network
For those who row crew, there are few events more hotly anticipated than the Henley Royal Regatta on the River Thames. Rowers from around the world go every year and future Olympians Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are no exceptions. Standing 6'5” and weighing in at 220 pounds, the twins work year round to try and bring home the top prize for their beloved Harvard University.
Starting quietly, we hear the sound of Edvard Grieg's “In The Hall of the Mountain King” and as the camera pans around the town of Henley-on-Thames, England, the tilt shift camera work making everything look miniature. The music grows as we see the boats for the first time, slowly moving towards us from a distance. The rowers' oars move in perfect synchronicity, silent coxswains calling out orders to their teammates. Grieg's masterpiece gains volume and tempo as we get closer to the rowers as they grit their teeth, flex their arms and try to keep their breath. As the two boats get closer and closer to the finish line, staying neck in neck, the music becomes deafening and the rowers look more and more exhausted, but never give up. Finally, one boat crosses the finish line and… it's the Hollandia Roeiclub from the Netherlands that finishes first by less than a full boat length. The Dutch rowers are jubilant though bushed, and the Winklevosses appear to be near tears. From high above the race, the Winklevoss' business partner, Divya Narendra, turns away. It's yet another second place finish.
Relive one of the most brilliant moments from David Fincher's The Social Network below.
Hiccup And Toothless Touch in How To Train Your Dragon
It happens in incremental moments, this connection between a Viking boy and the dragon he's been taught to fear and kill his entire life. Of course, since it started with Hiccup shooting down Toothless in the night sky during a battle, it was obviously going to take some time for these two to warm up to each other. First Hiccup brings a fish, and Toothless coughs up a bit of the tail so Hiccup can share-- making sure he swallows, of course. At that point it's too early, though, and Toothless runs away the moment Hiccup reaches out his hand. Then Hiccup draws Toothless in the dirt with a stick, and Toothless imitates him, sketching circles in the ground around Hiccup with a giant tree branch. All the while we come to see Toothless as less fearsome dragon and more eager housecat, trying to understand and communicate with his new friend.
Finally it happens-- Hiccup reaches out his hand to Toothless's nose, eyes averted to the ground, and Toothless presses into the boy's palm. It's the beginning of a friendship that will define each of their lives as well as this lovely, adventurous movie, and it starts with a simple touch between creatures trained to kill one another above all else.
Revisit the start of the friendship between Hiccup and Toothless below:
Drinking With Terry Hoitz in The Other Guys
When Will Ferrell's Allen has trouble at home with his way too hot to be with him wife, Mark Wahlberg's Terry Hoitz has the solution: Drinking. Not just any drinking, drinking with Terry Hoitz. Drinking with Terry Hoitz, as it turns out, involves such highly entertaining antics as pouring beer on bar patrons, firing off guns in a crowd while shotgunning vodka, and peeing on pool tables. It's all told in a pretty eye-popping, single-take still image which the camera weaves through while The Black Eyed Peas “Imma Be” blares on the soundtrack providing a funky beat to their antics.
For those of you keeping count, that's the Black Eyed Peas second appearance on this list. 2010 was their year, and probably with good reason. This scene just wouldn't be as good without their vibe.
Watch Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg go drinking Terry Hoitz style, embedded below:
Big Daddy Takes Down A Warehouse in Kick-Ass
While he doesn't know it yet, Kick-Ass is screwed. Tricked by a guy he believes to be a fellow superhero, he's being driven to his doom and all he can do is sit in the passenger seat jamming out to “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. Or at least that's what Red Mist thinks as he alerts the men at the warehouse that they are on their way. Fortunately for Kick-Ass, Big Daddy beats both of them there.
Sneaking in like a ninja, the hulking former cop dressed up like Batman lays waste to every man in the building. In the background, John Murphy's “In The House In A Heartbeat” from the 28 Days Later score slowly rises as the superhero glides around. Knife slashes throat. Kick guy in the chest. Knife stabs chest. Shots fired with pistol. Use human shield. More stabbing, more shooting. Ascend the stairs, dodge the bullets. Shoot a guy, throw a grenade. Hop down, steal shotgun and fire away. In less than a minute, a warehouse filled with trained killers becomes a warehouse filled with corpses. After that, there's nothing more to do then to set it all aflame.
Watch Big Daddy bring all the baddies down in the video below:
John And Cyrus Discuss Panic Attacks in Cyrus
Mothers are like the Godfather's Luca Brasi. They're fiercely devoted, unwaveringly intense and usually the worst possible people to piss off. Cyrus and John at least agree on that. Their seething hatred for each other has evolved into open warfare, but they both know no good will come out of telling Molly, John's girlfriend and Cyrus' mom. For fear of evil eyes and more nights on the couch, they take to a spare bedroom to whisper vicious threats before the woman in their lives enters, setting the stage for a delicate, back-and-forth, overly nice verbal manipulation about the best way to handle panic attacks.
Cyrus claims he's been having them and needs to move back home. John invents a bullshit, heart-wrenching story about how overcoming his fight with them in college without help turned him into the man he is today. And on and on it goes, a brilliant one-up battle of back-and-forth fabrications before Cyrus turns up the heat and shyly asks John if he isn't allowed back. Internally weighing the pros and cons, John decides to give up the battle to continue the war. The whole thing is ridiculous, yet it's still strangely authentic. Where lesser films would have devolved into over-the-top improv, Cyrus treads lightly, letting the humor come from the men's conniving dislike rather than the absurdity of individual phrases. To paraphrase David Merrick, it's not enough to win if your enemies don't lose.
This scene isn't online yet, but the movie's on Blu-ray and DVD. Run out and pick it up now.
Black Widow's Fight in Iron Man 2
Until Iron Man 2 no one had ever really thought of Scarlett Johansson as an action star, but in a little under two-minutes of battle her character, the Black Widow, delivers a series of roundhouse punches and mace to the face with such ferocity that it's not only easily the best scene in Iron Man 2 but one of the best straight up action sequences of the year.
While Tony Stark is off fighting more metal robots, Black Widow aka Natalie Romanov goes with Stark's driver Happy (Jon Favreau) to break into a secure facility and shut down the metal monsters demolishing the city. To get in she'll have to strip down and slide into a slinky catsuit, then demolish a veritable army of security guards while Happy stands around getting his ass kicked by one dude. Favreau's sense of humor about himself in the scene is a lot of fun, but not as much fun as watching Scarlett go nuts on a bunch of henchman.
Revisit Black Widow's fighting skills below:
Banksy Visits Disneyland in Exit Through The Gift Shop
There are two stars of Exit Through the Gift Shop depending on you ask. The subject, technically, is Thierry Guetta, an enthusiastic puppy of a man who finds himself befriending all the major players in the mid-decade flourish of the street art movement, recording their work and their stunts with his ever-present video camera and eventually taking on an art career himself. The real subject, though, might be the director himself Banksy, the street art legend whom Thierry set out to make a documentary about but who took over the reins himself to make Exit Through The Gift Shop. It's obviously that Thierry and Banksy's fates are linked by the end of the film, but that's never more clear than when the two team up to execute one of Banksy's stunts within the hallowed confines of Disneyland, with Thierry filming every step of the way.
It's hilarious to see the two men, one with a thick French accent and the other spouting British slang, buy their tickets to the Magic Kingdom, and then thrilling to watch them execute the stunt, staging a blow-up doll dressed like a Guantanamo prisoner, on his knees next to the Splash Mountain ride. Then it all morphs into some kind of awful, ridiculous satire of Disney and its faux happiness, as Banksy rides Pirates of the Caribbean, unaware that Thierry is in the process of being interrogated by Disney cops. Banksy and Thierry narrate the incident separately over the footage that Thierry managed to sneak away from the Disney fuzz, and through a single incident they reveal both the absurdity and the strange bravery in this outside-the-law art, all in a sequence that feels more like a heist film than a documentary.
Watch what happened when Banksy went to Disneyland embedded below:
I've Got A Dream in Tangled
Though he likes breaking femurs, you can count Brad Garrett's hook-handed thug amongst the dreamers. The same goes for all the other Barbarians Rapunzel meets in the scariest saloon this side of Dodge City. They may not have clean consciences (or hands), but below the gruff exteriors, they're just grown-up kids with unfulfilled aspirations. For almost a century, Disney has thrived on littering its films with these goofy, idealistic side characters and perhaps none have ever been given a better musical tribute than Tangled offers its ragtag band of loveable miscreants.
A lesser film would have laughed at these Philistines, but directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard eschew mean-spirited finger pointing in favor of well-deserved giggles. Anyone can laugh at the fish out of water or the Barbarian out of key, but Rapunzel gleefully joins in, seeing the Brutes as partners rather than enemies. Her decision serves her well later, as it does the audience. “I Can See The Light” may be the film's emotional center, but “I've Got A Dream” is far and away its most charming. Walt Disney would be proud.
Sing along with the first part of “I've Got A Dream” from Tangled in the video below.
Tell us about your favorite movie moments of 2010 in the comments below.
To get more of Cinema Blend's Best Of 2010, click here.