Quite a few weeks ago Filmclub conducted a poll about the "most powerful cinematic moments" and more recently the results were made public. I'm not 100% sure about the details of the poll, if there were movies pre-selected or if people came up with their own for instance--but I do know that I wouldn't necessarily dub these moments as "most powerful". Maybe it's because I never got fully attached to E.T.
or because I've never seen Rocky (I know....shoot me later). Heck, I don't think I've even ever seen Bambi because I don't really want to put myself through such low emotional blows. Whatever it is, I just keep looking at this list and saying, "Really?"
What is the definition of powerful anyways? A powerful cinematic moment can do a lot of things for the movie goer. It can make them cry, send shivers down their spine, fist punch the air, do Frank the Tank motions (sitting or standing, although for the full effect, standing is the way to go). I mean Toy Story 3 was great and all---but is it really the 2nd most powerful cinematic moment?
As we found in the Top Ten Willies experiment, and by observing the backlash at Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, lists and poll results are completely bull shit. They are individual accounts, ranking individual picks in an arbitrary order. That is why I'm not mad at the outcome of Filmclub's poll results--I just have some of my own is all, and so will you and so will everyone else. So without further ado--here are my Top 10 Most Powerful Cinematic Moments. Which by the way, I'm NOT ranking.
1. Atticus Passes
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite films of all time. I became attached to it at a young age, renting it from the library and unmistakably crying my eyes out every time Robert Duvall slunk out of the shadows. Scout's adorably innocent and accepting voice, "Well hey Boo!" never fails to get me and those damn violins know how to get me right where it hurts. But the most powerful moment in To Kill a Mockingbird isn't this heart warming moment. It's powerful of course, but the most powerful in my opinion is after Tom Robinson is found guilty.
Atticus Finch has just argued his case perfectly. The evidence was on his side, there was no physical way that Tom could have possibly strangled Mayella Ewell. And yet--the all white jury, in the mostly racist Maycomb Alabama found Tom Robinson guilty anyways. As the courtroom shuffles out, Atticus begins packing his things. Meanwhile the entire congregation of black people in the balcony have risen. Scout, naively unaware of the importance of such an act continues to sit as the Reverand forces her to rise,
"Jean Louise. Jean Louise stand up. Your father's passing."
The music seems to be just about as tired as Atticus. It's defeated but still strong. I can never quite put into words how much this scene affects me, but it does. It always does.
2. Death Star Explosion
The final life of the Death Star is always met with the same reaction no matter how many times I've seen it. I'm nervous every time that Luke's final shots will miss and my heart races relentlessly. In those last few moments, those last agonizing thoughts that this is the only chance Luke has to hit the target--I start sweating. Like physically, I get sweaty! It's quite possibly the greatest rush I have ever received from a film. That music, the fact that Han Solo swooped in only moments before when we thought he was lost forever. And then Luke shoots, there is a beat. We wait and hold our breath and then like a glorious fireworks display, the beast is gone. In one single instant.
This is one of those moments that requires a yelp of excitement from me every time I watch it. When the films were restored with special CGI and released in the theaters---my theater broke out into a rush of excited yells and whooping in that final moment. If you want powerful---the explosion of the Death Star is your man. Fist pumping action all around.
3. Shawshank Reunion
Words aren't exactly helpful when I'm trying to describe why this scene at the very end of the Shawshank Redemption moves me. It's a feeling--a rush of happiness and emotions. Maybe it's really just my unapologetic love for Morgan Freedom or the fact that the words "hope" have so much meaning. All I know is that the reunion scene between Redd and Andy moves me to tears each and every single time. It's strange too, because all we really get to see is their movement towards each other. But we don't need to know what happens next. We know--that their lives are now open ended and free.
Morgan Freeman's speech in the end of the movie is not only one that I love, but also one that I recorded to my Itunes. Make of that what you will--but let's just say, I know exactly what to play if I need to sleep better at night.
4. Killing Bill
I always get into rows with people about which is the better Kill Bill. The truth is--there is no answer. They were meant to be one film so they should be seen as one film. That answer never pleases people however so I always tell them the truth. Volume 2 is the better and more powerful part of the two parts. Volume 1 may have all the action--but Volume 2 has the soul.
Beatrix Kiddo's final confrontation with Bill is unexpectedly somber. After killing her way towards Bill, after being buried alive, after waking up from a coma--she arrives to kill Bill and finds her daughter to still be alive. Then in the final moments of Bill's life, when Beatrix takes him out boldy and quickly, Beatrix cries. Not a lot--but just enough to remind us of how much shit she went through. And she ended up here, killing someone she loves not because she necessarily wants to, but because she has to. And that my friends---is powerful.
I could watch this scene over and over again and still feel the same amount of admiration, respect and sadness for Beatrix every single time. And I love it.
5. Arise Riders of Theoden
I saw The Return of the King for the first time at a midnight showing on a school night. Maybe my tiredness was responsible for the 12 total times I cried throughout this film or maybe it really just is powerful. Sure, it's kind of unnecessarily long at points but man, it's emotionally charged. I don't usually like war scenes for the very reason that I love this scene. That was confusing I know but let me explain. Before a battle scene in a movie I get all anxious and upset. I always place myself in the position of the people that are probably going to die and I get all panicky. Here though, the riders of Theoden come to battle and it's like we can feel their stomachs plummet into their feet. They see the immense landscape of the ground literally covered with Sauron's army. The chances for survival are slim, the chance for death high.
During Theoden's speech however, I am filled with this crazy feeling of courage. Cheesy I know, but damn it, it's true. It's such a great moment that seems to fly off a lot of people's radars. There are so many elements here contributing to the emotion that all I can really do when I watch this is cry. But it's one of those proud crying moments at least.
Gosh that was an emotionally charged post. I think I'll need a break before uncovering anymore. So? What do you think? What are your choices for the most powerful cinematic moments?