The Canarsie Theatre on Avenue L. Brooklyn, New York.
In the summer of 1998, my cousin snuck me into a showing of Steven Spielberg’s newly released Saving Private Ryan.
I was eight.
Set during the invasion of Normandy during World War II, Saving Private Ryan opens with the storming of Omaha Beach. During one part, a soldier looks for his severed arm, finds it, and then picks it up and runs off screen – carrying it like a quarter he’d just found on the street … Oh, there’s also a guy screaming while he burns to death.
I was eight.
It was one of the most intense things I had ever seen and even though I was young, I knew that I had just seen something special.
Just like the Storming of Omaha Beach, there have been a ton of scenes that have stuck with me throughout the years. I wanted to collect a few of my favorite ones and talk about them.
I’m going to embed them all, so if the quality’s not great, I’m sorry. Also, there will be spoilers. Please excuse any “YouTube Intros / Watermarks” some of the videos might have. Kids these days. Of course, these aren’t all of my favorites scenes, but it’s a good starting point.
Heat – The Final Scene
Part One: The Shoot Out
Part Two: Saying Goodbye
There are so many great scenes from Michael Mann’s 1995 American crime epic, Heat. The Bank Heist / Shootout scene, the diner scene, “Look At Me”, but my absolute favorite is the finale between Hanna and McCauley.
First up is the shoot out. I love the tension that having the duel take place by the LAX Freight Terminal leads to. The area is dark until a plane lands, then — for the briefest of moments, it’s illuminated by spectacular lights … then, back to darkness. It’s a riveting scene of cat-and-mouse.
After that comes the finale. Agent Hanna bests McCauley and mortally wounds him. Over the last three hours, we’ve grown to know the type of man McCauley was and have grown to somewhat feel for him. Near death,McCauley offers his hand to Hanna, who takes it, and reverently watches his adversary die. It’s a beautiful scene made even better by Moby’s “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters.”
Rocky – “Down, Down, Stay Down”
While there’s so many incredible moments throughout the course of the Rocky franchise, this is my all-time favorite. It’s like someone took an Earth sized sphere of emotions and crammed them into two minutes. The look on Apollo Creed’s face when Rocky gets up and tells Creed to come get him is still one of my favorite movie moments. I even made a GIF for y’all.
That, Adrian coming to see him fight, Mic caring about Rocky and telling him to just “stay down.” Oh, and Bill Conti’s spine-tingling “Going the Distance”. It’s probably the “simplest” scene on the list, but one that speaks volumes.
Blade Runner – Tears in Rain
Sci-fi Shakespeare. That’s how I describe the dialogue that Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty speaks throughout Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. In the film, Harrison Ford is employed as a Blade Runner, which is essentially a cop who pursues and tries to terminate four replicants (Androids – virtually identical to adult humans that have superior strength, speed, and smarts) who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator.
“Tears in Rain” is perhaps the most moving death soliloquy in all of cinema. There’s even an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to it. The scene is beautifully shot and as Batty begins discussing his life, the viewer again asks themselves, “what makes us human?” Just because Roy didn’t have a heart, does that make him less of a man? He was “born,” he’s been in love, he’s experienced death — all moments — moments that you and I have all had. Moments that, like ours, will be lost … like tears in rain.
The Raid 2: Berandal – The Kitchen Scene
Look, The Raid and The Raid 2: Berandal are simply #NotOptional. Growing up in Brooklyn, my best friend was Cantonese. Along with the amazing food that his Pau Pau would make, or the awesome laundromat that his Gung Gung ran, we watched a lot of foreign martial arts cinema. And I was so glad that we did. Some of the greatest fight scenes came from films like: Enter The Dragon, IP Man, Ong-Bak, The Protector, Drunken Master, Fearless, Once Upon A Time In China, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and more!
The Raid 2 takes it to another level. While the majority of the set-piece moments in that film are incredible, the Kitchen Scene is NEXT LEVEL. The scene is so intense, I lose 2-3 pounds from sweat whenever I watch it. It’s a moment that the entire 2 1/2 hours leads up to and it delivers.
The Kitchen Scene is a like a Three-Act play. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. What’s great is even the most casual of viewer can infer where those Acts begin and end. Just like the beautiful ballet, the Kitchen Scene is a beautifully choreographed dance of death.
Training Day – “King Kong Ain’t Got Shit on Me”
Some people call it “the scene that won Denzel an Oscar.” The final scene between Jake and Alonzo is amazing. Knowing his time is very well coming to an end, Alonzo is a desperate man. He needs that money. Antoine Fuqua is an amazing director, and handles dialogue with such ease. That’s why the scene is probably my most quoted out of all of the scenes in this article. I mean:
“Play the player, pimp the pimp. I don’t think you’ll shoot me, nigga.”
“You know what they give you for that? The gas chamber.You know what the gas chamber smells like? Pine oil. That’s where you’re headed, boy. To pine-oil heaven.”
“Grrrrr, son of a bitch. You shot me in the ass!”
“I wanna go home, Jake. Come on. Gimme the money, let me go home.”
“Aw, you motherfuckers. Haha, OK. Alright, I’m putting cases on all you bitches.”
“You motherfuckers will be playing basketball in Pelican Bay when I get finished with you. SHU program, nigga! Twenty-three-hour lockdown! I’m the man up in this piece! You’ll never see the light of day!”
“Who the fuck you think you’re fucking with!? I’m the police! I run shit here! You just live here!”
“Yeah, that’s right! You better walk away! Go on walk away cuz I’ma burn this motherfucker down!”
“King Kong ain’t got shit on me!”
“Aw, shit. Ah, what a day. What a motherfucking day.”
Children of Men – Car Scene
Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 Fantasy/Sci-fi film, Children of Men includes a number of long takes and tracking shots. What is a long take? Simply put, it’s a longer than usual scene that doesn’t involve any “cuts.” Often a tracking shot is involved. Tracking shots involved a camera mounted to a track, sliding along as it films the scene.
One of my very favorites is from mid-way through the film. Remember, a long take means that all of this has to happen correctly, in a single attempt, or the shot needs to be redone. Imagine counting to 100 and forgetting where you were at 97. You’d have to got back to the beginning. There’s so many moving parts in this scene, it’s astonishing.
12 Angry Men – Not Guilty
12 Angry Men is my favorite film of all-time and oh boy, is this scene incredible. Now, it probably won’t mean a lot to those who haven’t seen the film before, but the first time Lee J Cobb’s character uttered “Not Guilty,” chills rolled down my spine.
The scene includes some of the finest acting from Cobb. When Fonda’s character says “You’re alone,” it refers to so many things, including Cobb’s estrangement from his son. When he rips up the photo and immediately regrets his action, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. It’s compounded even more in the final shot when Cobb wearily walks down the courthouse steps.
In life, everyone has a story. Everyone carries prejudices with them. It’s up to us to know what they are and to try and overcome them when the time comes. One of my favorite scenes from my favorite film.
Saving Private Ryan – Storming Omaha Beach
I was eight.
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