Best of 2017: Top 10 Movie Scenes

A movie scene isn’t just there to get you from Story Point A to Story Point B. That’s certainly one of its purposes, but using the constraints of a single setting or moment in time a scene can go far beyond mere mechanical function. It can hit the audience with a concentrated dose of adrenaline, fear or laughter that they aren’t likely to forget in a hurry, slotting into a larger narrative in a way that usually adds to a film’s quality – though occasionally it can stand out like a sore thumb from a lower-quality movie. My 2017 list is thankfully filled with scenes from the first category for the most part. I tend to be drawn towards memorable action sequences or moments of unbearable tension, so they make up the lion’s share, but there’s a bit of inspirational exposition and a song in there, too. Spoilers, obvs.



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 strange. Intriguing, but strange. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

Spoilers are in this list!



10. Wednesday – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle‘s action scenes are almost all riffs on the insane church brawl from its predecessor, Kingsman: The Secret Service. It’s crystal-clear that Matthew Vaughn really enjoyed shooting that scene, because the sequel is loaded with similarly kinetic close-up camera acrobatics. Though any scene in which Pedro Pascal’s agent Whiskey gets in on the violence is well worth an honorable mention, the best instance of this unique style is the final one, when our hero Eggsy and his resurrected former mentor Harry engage with countless goons outside a 1950s-themed villainous hideout to the tune of Elton John’s Saturday. This fight has it all – gadgets, wince-inducing Vaughn brutality, cool team-up moves – It’s my favourite straight-up action beat of the year.


9. Gaston – Beauty & the Beast

No one’s slick like Gaston, and no-one goes ham on a theatrical song performance like Josh Gad. Except, as it turns out, Luke Evans. The latter as Gaston himself and the former as his lackey and number one fan Le Fou make for a boisterous pair in the best song rearrangement in the live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. When a flesh-and-blood version of the lauded Disney animated classic was announced, there was always the potential that this tune could be the pick of the bunch, given its lack of reliance on flashy effects, single-set location and need for a large, theatre-friendly cast. But Gad and Evans are the dual trump cards, playing off one another and the lively chorus with earnest energy and lifting the song above its potential. It’s just so much fun to watch (and listen to). It might even be one of the few parts of the 2017 Beauty and the Beast that I prefer over the original.


8. Tequila – Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s penchant for editing film in a way no-one else can is well-documented by now, but never before has he matched action with music like he does in Baby Driver. The opening scene of the movie is often cited as its best, what with its impressive car chase choreography and detail-laden frames. But the warehouse shootout that ends the second act carries more classic Wright gimmickry and just as much tension. After card-carrying psychopath Bats smells a rat at an arms dealing meetup, Vinnie Maniscalco’s remix of The Champs’ Tequila kicks in and before long you’re watching rapidly cut close-ups of gunshots, deaths and explosions with sound effects synched to the beats of the track. This isn’t the only time Baby Driver feels like a bizarre musical, but it is the sequence in which Wright seems to take the most pride in that comparison.

7. “Have a beer” – Colossal 

It’s probably safe to say that Hollywood’s favourite use for awkward dialogue is to play it for laughs, but it can also be an extremely effective tool for evoking dread, which is exactly how it is used at the start of Colossal‘s best scene. It’s set in the small-town bar run by Jason Sudeikis’ Oscar, childhood friend of our troubled heroine Gloria, after business hours. Upon her return to his town and therefore life, Oscar is none too keen to let Gloria go again, and so he acts out, casually bringing up the secrets he has so clearly used to exert control over his friends while actively goading the alcoholic Gloria into having a drink. All the while Sudeikis wears a fake smile while his eyes burn with envy and the rage of a maladjusted sociopath who can feel an impending loss. It’s all so awkward, so forced, so uncomfortable, so memorable.

6. Opening – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

The gulf in quality between Valerian‘s opening few minutes and the rest of the movie isn’t the only weird thing about it – There’s also a huge difference in tone. Whereas most of the movie is deliberately pulpy and never takes itself too seriously, the aptly Bowie-backed abridged visual story of how the titular City of a Thousand Planets came to be is egalitarian, idealistically lofty and emotionally satisfying. Interspersing shots of an impressive growing mass of architectural technology with a number of first-contact inter-racial and then inter-species meetings – all with expert timing and rhythmic cuts – Luc Besson assembles a short stretch of cinema worthy of standing up to his best work. As for the rest of the movie, well, ehh. At least it has fun.


5. Thor vs Hulk Round 2 – Thor Ragnarok

It’s difficult to pick a single standout scene in a movie that delivers memorable jokes at such a constant clip and gives each character his or her own badass moment in the spotlight, so I’m going right for the headlining act – Thor’s violent reunion with Bruce Banner as the Hulk. From one perspective Banner’s memory loss after staying green under the control of the Grandmaster for two years may seem like a cheap trick to get a blockbuster Avengers rematch to happen on screen, but that hardly matters when the fight is both so cool and so funny. This is the first proper stage on which we get to see Thor’s lightning-related abilities and it’s also the longest stretch of continuous Hulk smashing in the MCU to date. But the real star of the scene is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who turns into a nervous mess once he realises the identity of the Grandmaster’s champion and gets a wonderful piece of cathartic hilarity once the big monster decides to give his royal brother the ol’ ragdoll treatment.


4. Arkham Insanity – The LEGO Batman Movie

Animation usually affords more chances than live action to go a bit crazy and overload your audience with imagery to extract a certain emotion. But even by animation standards, The LEGO Batman Movie truly goes to the next level with its beyond-chaotic opening. Though the movie does have some serious and relatable points to make, in this reintroduction to Will Arnett’s dry, impetuous interpretation of Bruce Wayne, the writers and animators tear right into the DC Comics stable’s utterly ridiculous lineup of villains. The Joker, here played by Zach Galifianakis, has busted out the entirety of Arkhum Asylum’s inmate population, meaning moviegoers are treated to shots of the legendary Egghead, Crazy Quilt and Condiment King within the span of mere seconds. There has never been such a dense hit of fanservice in a Hollywood movie before and there probably won’t be for a very long time.

3. The Keys – Get Out

Rose, the girlfriend of Get Out protagonist Chris, is arguably the most straightforwardly evil character in the movie. Her brother is a little bit mad, quite fond of alcohol and even shows a hint of discontent for a brief moment earlier in the film, while her parents have been twisted by their egos and the potential of their neurological and hypnotic prowess respectively. Meanwhile, Rose is cold and calculating with little actual regard for the lives of any other human being she comes across, though her pasted-on facade suggests otherwise for most of the film. The instant this facade neatly comes down is the culmination of scene upon scene of hints that something is awry, first with her house, then her family and then with her. She maintains the illusion of wanting to help Chris until a few seconds after it’s too late, like she’s toying with him on purpose just for the fun of it. Yes, she knew where the keys Chris needs to ‘get out’ were the whole time. All the tension reaches breaking point in this one brilliant moment, setting the stage for an uncertain finale.

2. Praetorian Guards – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

In the context of the entire saga, this new Star Wars trilogy is so far a little light on saber fights. It’s a good thing, then, that the ones that do make it in each feel very different from anything seen in either the original or prequel trilogies. Less obviously choreographed and more rooted in outpourings of emotion, the desperate three-way battle at the climax of The Force Awakens was but an entree to the standout action sequence that takes place directly after one of The Last Jedi‘s biggest spanners is tossed into the giant contentious lore machine that is the Star Wars canon. As soon as Supreme Leader Snoke is killed by Kylo Ren’s emotional manipulation gambit (a triumpant moment for Ren and for those disappointed in Snoke as a character – e.g. me), his mysterious, combat-ready and variously armed guards attack both the former Darth Vader fanboy and a stunned Rey, forcing a beautifully orchestrated wide shot that kicks into a temporary team-up almost as unexpected as Snoke’s demise. Cue some of the freshest uses of lightsabers as killing tools in Star Wars history. I had goosebumps all over watching this one.

1. The Chauffeur – Spider-Man Homecoming

The ability of Spider-Man Homecoming to knock the wind out of its audience during this boiler of a scene is due in no small part to the excellent performance of Michael Keaton. Up to this point in the movie we know him only as the villainous – if a bit sympathetic – Adrian Toomes / Vulture, a man who blurs the line between greed and the dogged desire to provide for his family at all costs. So when our hero Peter nervously walks up to the house of his prom date and finds that her father is the very same man he has already faced in battle and nearly lost, it’s a bit of a shock to put it lightly. But Homecoming doesn’t stop there, as the initally oblivious Toomes offers to chaperone the couple and then proceeds to piece together the wide-eyed Parker’s identity via a probing vocal tone and a pair of piercing eyes in the rear-view mirror. It’s an absolutely nerve-shredding sequence and it’s brilliant.






Honorable Mentions


Caesar and the Colonel – War for the Planet of the Apes

In some ways War for the Planet of the Apes is the simplest movie in the franchise – The story is mostly comprised of entering, suffering and then escaping a prison compound. The overwhelming majority of the human cast is shown to be morally despicable in a very straightforward, neo-Nazi kind of way. But when Caesar, leader of the apes, finally gets a moment (almost) alone with Woody Harrelson’s leader of the radical human militia, things get real complicated. We get the true story behind why certain humans in this (and the original 1968) movie cannot speak, and we hear the heart-rending tale of a man torn between the will to survive and the love for his son. It’s devastating stuff.

–Laura’s Introduction – Logan

Five minutes after Logan is properly introduced to troubled child Laura, he attempts to leave her behind in his ramshackle desert home and gets cut off by trucks full of armed goons. She sits inside, eating cereal while watching everything go down on a security monitor. Logan is apprehended and the men come for her. Cut to exterior shot. Silence. Suddenly, screams and gunshot sounds. Laura calmly walks out of the building holding a severed head under one arm. Things did not go well for those men. She shows her claws and unleashes on the rest of them. Suddenly Logan sees a kindred spirit in an unexpected place and the audience knows this child is not one to be messed with.

Lancer vs Assassin – Fate Stay Night Heaven’s Feel 1: Presage Flower

Ufotable is a Japanese animation studio with a reputation for genre-leading action set pieces that improve with each show or movie release, but in recent years the insertion of some very jarring CG sequences into their work has hampered the potential impact of their work. In their latest effort, part one of the Fate Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel trilogy, CG visuals are used sparingly and tastefully to enhance a truly breathtaking mobile duel between the Lancer and Assassin classes down a busy highway. Moving vehicles are put to clever and eye-catching use in what is probably the highlight of the film.

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