Best of 2018: Top 10 Movie Scenes

In stark contrast to yesterday, here’s a list where my options seemed to overflow. 2018 had some pretty neat and creative cinematic sequences worth singling out.

In the age of the Marvel super-blockbuster, we have not just one but two post-credits scenes on here, but also two clever and unique opening scenes to go nicely with them. The overall balance this year is more in favour of uplifting, funny and/or cool over stressful or scary – I don’t know how much of that can be attributed to my taste and how much is related to the kinds of movies that came out this year with hype or interest around them. Anyway, here’s the (spoiler-filled) list.

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VR BEST OF 2018 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 odd, but let’s have a beer. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

Big spoilers ahead!

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10. Opening Titles – Upgrade

It’s been a while since I was genuinely struck by the opening title sequence of a movie enough to remember the sequence itself. Before even beginning to get into its own wonderful groove, Upgrade made me do just that. We see one faded, scan-line-obscured logo, followed by the Blumhouse mark, then cut to a black screen. A small blip of light widens to fill the frame, then the line splits and contorts to become a waveform matching the disembodied, cold female voice filling the speakers. With just a hint of oh-so-foreshadowing superiority to her words, the obvious AI says “OTL Releasing Presents”. Now the waveform fills the whole screen and gains a third dimension as the camera pans away slightly, in time for her to continue, “A BH Production…” It’s then that it becomes obvious – She is reading out what every other movie simply places onscreen or just avoids. As the waveform gains more and more complexity, it splits and falls away in the middle so the camera can enter the resulting chasm, just as the AI says – tauntingly – “Upgrade”.


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9. Double Detroit Smash – My Hero Academia: Two Heroes

So I watched some anime in 2018. Not a whole bunch, but enough to get really into My Hero Academia and enough to know that I had to see the movie while it was in cinemas. But it wasn’t exactly clear why it needed to exist. The movie is set rather confusingly almost a whole season before the point the show was at when My Hero Academia: Two Heroes dropped. But eventually that very purpose became clear: To pull off one particular set piece that the show’s current status quo made impossible. Studious protagonist Deku even acquires a gauntlet that might as well have “I will break before the end of this movie” etched all over it. That’s right – It’s high time for that Double Detroit Smash – Number 1-ranked hero All Might using his signature move with his protege Deku enacting the highest form of flattery right next to him. The giant biomechanical monstrosity that necessitates this ridiculous super move is a sight to behold with all the extra cinematic animation budget, and the fact that said baddie arrives on the back of a ridiculous gambit pileup makes the refreshingly simple shonen solution all the more satisfying. And spectacular.

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8. Lobsters – Venom

Tom Hardy is becoming a really fun actor to watch. Not that he wasn’t before – but increasingly nowadays it seems like he’s up for just about anything. The extremely cheesy (and surprisingly successful) Venom hinges on Hardy’s ability to sell a character possessed by a parasitic space alien vying for control of his body, which he does in ‘serious’ scenes one moment and with Chaplin-esque physical comedy the next. The latter is often more fun, as showcased when, bereft of CG assistance, Hardy’s Eddie Brock is overcome with the hunger for raw meat and rampages half-apologetically through a fancy restaurant where his girlfriend is eating. He goes full crazy-eyes as he leaps into a tank full of lobsters, treating it like both a bath and a buffet. It’s an absolute riot.

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7. Pointing – Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

The manic Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse has so many memorable sequences that it seems ridiculous to single one out, but lucklily just as I was trying to organise my thoughts during the credits the movie gave me an easy solution. In such a brief moment it’s hard to fathom how much referential goodness the Spiderverse team throws at you. Starting with a shot from the perspective of Miguel O’Hara aka Spider-Man 2099 – voiced by none other than Oscar Isaac – the thrill of seeing yet another incarnation of Spider-Man is quickly overtaken by the wholesome hilarity of his inter-dimensional leap into one of the most famous Spidey stills of recent years – the ‘Double Identity’ pointing Spider-Men from the 1967 animated series. This scene has it all – personality, style, humour – It’s a doozy.

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6. Growing Up in the 2000s – Searching

It’s starting to feel like every time I see a movie opening that uses a montage to sum up a character backstory, it ends up on this list. Searching has one of those, only it makes quite efficient use of it’s time to give the audience the backstory of three different characters at once. It also does so with the help of a handful of visual elements that provoke nostalgia in a very unique way that quite possibly hasn’t been put to screen before. Framed inside just one monitor screen, we follow the birth, early milestones and growth of a child, the decline in health of her mother and the cataloguing acumen of her father – all of which will be important to the story – set against the backdrop of the iconic Windows XP default background, MSN Messenger, the beginning of Facebook and so on. It’s a while lot of emotions to feel in the first five minutes of a film.

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5. Helicopter Chase – Mission Impossible: Fallout

Regardless of which MI movie you think is best – an ongoing argument for which there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus – you’ve got to admit that every Mission Impossible movie has at least one absolutely insane practical action scene. Fallout has several, including one hell of a bathroom brawl, but there are few vehicular chase scenes in action cinema that can match up to the sheer ambition of the helicopter vs helicopter climax. Featuring typically insane camerawork and a typically insane Tom Cruise hanging from various parts of one of these helicopters, his twenty-year action icon Ethan Hunt must do aerial battle with Henry Cavill’s idealistic bad guy and double agent John Lark while trying to maintain control of the potential death machine to which he clings. The imagination on display during this chase is well worthy of the series’ legacy and when the pursuit takes the pair to a cliffside and transitions to a fistfight over an activated detonator, the tension only ratchets up further until it’s almost unbearable. This is the best kind of Hollywood action moviemaking.

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4. Anya and the Bear – Annihilation

I’ve already alluded to this scene on my character list, such is Gina Rodriguez’ domination over it. When her character Anya discovers that our baggage-toting protagonist Lena has been keeping some vital information secret about the presumed-dead soldier they have been trying to find, she goes postal and ties up everyone who hasn’t already been picked off by the effects of the mysterious “shimmer”. Alternating between calm, taunting rationality, violent anger and hair-wringing tears, she proceeds to summarise everyone’s unspoken fears about their environment and their inability to fully trust one another. Before she can do any real damage, however, she is interrupted by a terrifying mutated bear with more bone than flesh on its face and the deeply-chilling ability to mimic the screams of its human victims. The scene then transforms into a straight-up horror sequence. By the time it was over I genuinely realised I had forgotten to breathe.

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3. The Wedding -Crazy Rich Asians

Much like its characters, the memorable scenes in Crazy Rich Asians are plentiful. The posh dinner table discussion marking the introduction of Ken Jeong into the movie is one such example, as is the delicious final confrontation between our heroine and her would-be mother-in-law over a game of mahjong. Both are slight twists on well-worn romantic comedy tropes (the former on exposition dumps and the latter on the application of a ‘Chekhov’s skill’), but what the movie does with its big wedding set piece just ticks so many boxes at once. With hot-swapping subplots, power plays between characters both accidental and deliberate, funny and heartfelt dialogue exchanges and a drop-dead gorgeous pairing of great music and fantastic set design for the money shot, this extended sequence captures what is so magical and emotionally resonant about a great wedding even though it only unites two minor characters. And it makes such a feat look effortless.

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2. Live Aid Set – Bohemian Rhapsody

The movie hypes it up in its opening flash-forward scene, but I still wasn’t ready for just how hard the grandstand finale of Bohemian Rhapsody would hit me. Whether you were on board with the dramatic Hollywood sentimentality infused onto the bones of Freddie Mercury’s true story (that Mike Myers cameo though) or found it to be lacking bite and authenticity, it’s hard to argue that Rami Malek does not do a phenomenal job in the lead role and that he doesn’t absolutely work that stage during the extremely faithful recreation of one of the greatest rock and roll performances of all time. From the set list to the exact note variations to the rebuilt original stage to the positioning of the Pepsi cups on the piano, this is attention to detail that you rarely see in a biopic. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt like I was there in the stadium and I was singing every song under my breath in the cinema. Wow.

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1. Righting Some Wrongs – Deadpool 2

In a lot of ways, this gem of a post-credits scene is the one Ryan Reynolds was destined to put on screen, and judging from the glee with which he acts throughout, he’s been wanting to do so for a very long time. After using his connections to repair Cable’s time travel device, Deadpool fixes all the problems his character has in this movie and then goes a step further. Using repurposed footage from the famously awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine to get around having to actually drag Hugh Jackman on set, Reynolds/Deadpool (It can get difficult to separate the meta levels here) arrives to shoot his past self – repeatedly – to death while he is playing that movie’s wild interpretation of Deadpool. He then proceeds to shoot the real Ryan Reynolds (?) in the head for daring to say yes to the Green Lantern script. This is probably the greatest post-credits scene of all time.

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Honorable Mentions
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Mega Kaiju – Pacific Rim: Uprising

What’s better than one kaiju? Three kaiju. What’s better than three kaiju? Three kaiju with the ability to use nanobat-esque technology to fuse together into one extremely powerful, extremely cool monstrosity. Though the rest of the Pacific Rim sequel doesn’t quite capture what made the first one so good, this moment almost makes up for any other deficiencies.

Life as a Celine Dion Video – The Breaker Upperers

This one is really hard to explain and it’s probably better if you don’t know the context going in, but suffice to say there’s a dreamlike sequence in this movie that plays out like a really loose allegory for the central relationship of the plot, and it’s shot and costumed like a 1980s Celine Dion video. It has to be seen to be believed.

A Shining Tribute – Ready Player One

Who else but Steven Spielberg would have the audacity – not to mention the ability – to throw an elaborate, completely un-advertised and scarily accurate recreation of sets from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining into a movie like this, just to fulfil one simple plot requirement? You just don’t get surprises like this all that much anymore.

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