Best of 2015: Top 10 Movie Scenes

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Even in a year when my free time was spent on more games than movies, this still remains my favourite list to write. 2015 delivered some genuinely amazing movie scenes that stayed long in my memory, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. From short-and-sweet bursts of stunning cinematography to long, drawn-out stretches of nerve-shredding cinema, this past year brought us plenty of moments worth talking about.

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VR BEST OF 2015 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s weird. Cool, but definitely weird. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

SPOILERS DEFINITELY FOLLOW.
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10. Day of the Dead – Spectre

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An entertaining opening action sequence in a James Bond movie is hardly unusual, even in the less popular movies from the franchise. The one that kicks off Spectre sticks with the trend, presenting the illusion of a single tracking shot that follows Bond and his local companion through the streets of Mexico City. Only diegetic sounds and a simple, steady percussion track score the build-up as Bond moves into a hotel room and out of his disguise, triggering a gloriously over-the-top sequence of explosions, falling buildings, an intense hand-to-hand battle inside an airborne helicopter, and a ludicrous moment involving a well-placed couch that sets the stage for the kind of 007 movie in store.

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9. Busting Moves – Ex Machina

If you’ve been following Oscar Isaac’s career even loosely, you might be familiar with the actor’s penchant for the odd burst of musical theatre-style extravagance. It pops up again in Ex Machina when his superb character, the eccentric genius Nathan, confronts the sole other male character in the movie about an unsettling discovery and proceeds to break out into spontaneous disco fever dance moves with his perfectly synchronised assistant, complete with flashing lights and funky music. The whole thing is bizarre and kind of amazing to watch, but more impressive is how the scene comes at just the right time – at the peak of the story’s intrigue and tension – to somehow both relieve and increase said tension.
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8. Fixing the Falcon – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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I could have picked several scenes from The Force Awakens, because it got a lot of its beats right. From the brilliant opening scene showcasing the brutality of the new villainous First Order, to the easter egg-rich lightsaber vision, to that moment on the Starkiller catwalk, the highlights are plentiful. But I have to go with the hijinks on board the Millenium Falcon after Rey and Finn steal it from a Jakku trader. The scene is laced with nostalgia and references to the original trilogy, but for me its the fast-flying dialogue and slapstick humour that defines what makes the whole movie so successful.
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7. Life is Better – Inside Out

You know that part at the end of a family movie where there’s always a montage showing how well all the main characters are doing, having overcome their challenges and hurdles on their way to a better future? Well that’s normally all good and fun, but Inside Out‘s take on the trope goes much further than the standard. The sequential line-up of scenes straight after the film’s tear-jerking emotional climax is by far the densest in the whole movie when it comes to jokes, and they come thick and fast, stretching into the credits themselves. It’s not like the rest of the movie doesn’t have its amusing moments, but these jokes truly feel earned and they are side-splittingly funny.
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6. Exploding Heads – Kingsman: The Secret Service

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One of Matthew Vaughn’s hallmarks as a director is his tendency towards stylised ultraviolence, and there is plenty of that all throughout Kingsman: The Secret Service. Yet rarely in the madcap Briton’s career has the violence been as colourful as it is at the climax of the popular spy spoof film. When our gallant, suave heroes manage to turn the evil masterwork of the film’s antagonist against him and his people, the result is visually both disgusting and beautiful – like a fungal fireworks show in slow motion – as scores of heads combust all Scanners-like. What an exclamation mark to put on an action movie.
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5. Revels – Avengers: Age of Ultron

A huge part – nay, the biggest part – of Joss Whedon’s success with the first Avengers movie was the amount of comedic banter he injected into the script. It made for an incredibly entertaining movie with wide appeal, and while this year’s sequel has plenty of similar zingers, the context around them is considerably darker in tone, limiting their impact somewhat. Yet there is one glorious scene that feels ripped straight from the first film: Tony Stark’s sky-high party right before all the real trouble goes down. The scene is just wall-to-wall dialogue highlights culminating in that now-iconic contest for bragging rights around Thor’s hammer. Vintage Whedon.
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4. The Sewers – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

As the crucial finale of a four-year movie adaptation to a beloved book series, Mockingjay Part 2 bore a lot of pressure to get certain pivotal scene translations right. Depending on who you ask, it succeeded with some of these and failed with others, but there is one scene that I think actually exceeded its corresponding impact in the book. As Katniss leads her depleted rebel team through an underground Capitol tunnel, the audience is informed that the group will soon be visited by nightmarish creatures. But you don’t see them for several minutes, and there’s no music. Cue an increasingly tense passage of time marked by distant echoes and dim flashlights. It’s a straight horror sequence smuggled into a YA fiction action movie, and it’s fantastic. When it eventually explodes into a well-choreographed fiery battle, it gets even better.
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3. The Highway – Sicario

Speaking of tension, how about that Sicario? You can cut the air with a knife pretty much the whole way through the movie, and never is it more palpable than when the story’s central police group is caught in traffic on a Mexican highway. As a group of secretly armed gang members notice the police crew and vice versa, the dead-still carpark of a road takes on the feeling of an inescapable trap, and the sideways glances turn into pointed glares. Everything moves in slow motion until it all comes to a head with a brutal flourish and a hail of gunfire. If your attention isn’t well and truly grabbed by the time the scene rolls around, Director Dennis Villeneuve ensures that will change by the time the maze of cars is left behind.
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2. Fat Amy’s Serenade – Pitch Perfect 2

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If Fat Amy is the comedic star of Pitch Perfect and its sequel, this scene is her biggest moment in the spotlight, and surely her funniest moment. After realising her true feelings for a former rival, the frequently blunt Australian acapella artist makes a grand declaration of love by paddling across a gigantic lake towards him while belting out Pat Benetar’s We Belong, encountering a bevy of potentially mood-ruining obstacles on the way. The whole ridiculous thing juxtaposes the theatrical and the mundane to great effect, culminating in an altercation with a car that riffs on Dustin Hoffman’s iconic line from Midnight Cowboy. Great stuff.
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1. The Final Battle – Jurassic World

Now this is how you do catharsis. And fan service. Perhaps even more than The Force Awakens – which is really saying something – Jurassic World is all about leveraging the nostalgia of its audience with a nod and a wink, to often insane results. How else do you justify a man that possesses a gang of trained velociraptors, or a hyper-intelligent super dinosaur that essentially has the power of mind control? Suspension of disbelief is a required action from the first minute, which is what makes the movie’s almost operatic finale so amazing. Raptors with changing allegiances, the impeccably-timed entry of the iconic T-Rex, and a powerful use of Chekhov’s, um, dinosaur all add up to a real good time.

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Honorable Mentions
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Scrap in the Sand – Mad Max: Fury Road
The moment when the downright feral, muzzled Max meets the group he will eventually learn to trust and fights them is frenetic and fantastic, especially since up to that point most of the action in the film has taken place in and around insanely modified vehicles.

Alone – Unfriended
It’s hard to nominate a single scene from Unfriended given the unbroken single shot set-up of the movie, but its final moments are still its scariest. It’s creepy seeing the protagonist one-one-one with a ghost from her own direct perspective, but it’s even creepier as a deep dive into the psyche of human beings protected by anonymity.

Scalextric Showdown – Ant-Man
The climactic toy-themed battle of 2015’s best superhero movie is quite simply the most creative, visually spectacular action scene of this past year. Packed with badass moments, it’s also really funny.

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