Friday, March 22, 2013

Top 10 Scenes of People Receiving the Best News of Their Lives


Yesterday, we admired movie characters at their absolute worst, and today, we marvel at their very best. Perhaps more than yesterday’s list, the amount of scenes that could occupy a spot here is boundless. So do feel free to share some of your favorites. Enjoy!

Charlie Chaplin – City Lights (1931)
My introduction to Charlie Chaplin was an interesting one. I went for several of my movie-freaked years without ever seeing a Chaplin film. I had heard of their impact, of course, but never actually sat down to watch one. Finally, I bought a massive box set and set aside a weekend to crush out as many as possible. City Lights was my first, and for most of the film, I just didn’t get it. I appreciated the work, but it just wasn’t for me.

That is until its final scene, which left me stunned, immobile and speechless for several minutes. That was Chaplin’s power. The final scene of City Lights is, without a doubt, one of the best moments ever captured on film. Watch the scene here.

Shirley MacLaine – The Apartment (1960)
Ditching the New Year’s party, sprinting through the streets, assuming the champagne popping is something worse, coming in, smiling.

“Shut up and deal.”

That’s about as close to perfect as you can get. Watch the scene here.

Henry Thomas – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
E.T. was a childhood favorite of mine, and the scene in which Elliot says goodbye to his recently deceased friend ripped me apart every time. Every. Time. And as Elliot closes E.T.’s makeshift coffin… well, tell me I’m not the only one who yelled (uhh…yells) at the screen, begging Elliot to notice E.T.’s glowing heart.

He notices, John Williams’ score cues up, a young boy is overcome with adulation, and our hearts melt effortlessly. Watch the scene here.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. – Jerry Maguire (1996)
A handful of scenes from Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire could occupy a place on this list. But the one I’m most emotionally drawn to is Rod Tidwell being told he has a very heafty football contract ready to be signed. The way Gooding’s chin quivers before he exhales dramatically… the way he stammers to remember the person he needs to thank most… the way Tom Cruise looks of, fighting back tears as his friend sings his praises… given his competition, I’m still not sure Gooding deserved his Oscar for this role, but damn if this scene doesn’t make a strong case for it. Watch the scene here.

Al Pacino – Any Given Sunday (1999)
I’ve limited The Winning Sports Moment to just two slots on this list (because the options are never ending), with my favorite being Pacino’s overwhelmed reaction to his playoff-qualifying win. The final football scene in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday is, in my opinion, the finest football sequence ever filmed. It’s authentic, absurd, engaging and utterly gripping. You don’t have to be a fan of the sport to appreciate this scene, which is concluded flawlessly with Pacino falling to his knees, praying his thanks to the football gods above. He really did fight for that inch. Watch the scene here.

Denzel Washington – The Hurricane (1999)
It took Rubin “Hurricane” Carter more than 20 years to be exonerated of a triple murder he had nothing to do with, and director Norman Jewison captures the moment of freedom wondrously. As Rod Steiger reads his judge’s ruling with perfect impartiality, the camera slowly pushes in on Washington, as he sits calmly but in fear. The way Washington reacts to the word “released” is so comforting – it’s an inaudible sigh of release that lifts an insurmountable weight off his shoulders. Decades led to this moment, and oh how fittingly it is played. Watch the scene here.

Jean Darie (The Blind Man) – Amélie (2001)
Inspirational filmmaking doesn’t get much better than this. I’m mean really, how can your heart not fill with joy as Amélie Poulain walks a blind man down a crowded street, describing aloud everything she sees? And instead of describing the “big” things, she sticks to the tiny details. The free slices of melon, the price of meat, the ugly clothes – the mundane aspects of everyday life that a person with vision may ignore. And the look on Darie’s face says that for 40 whole seconds, he once was blind, but now can see. Watch the scene here.

Ethan Hawke – Before Sunset (2004)
“Baby, you are gonna Miss. That. Plane.”

“I know.”

And he couldn’t be happier. Watch the scene here.

Kurt Russell – Miracle (2004)
Fans of this blog might be surprised that, given my penchant for serious, painful, heavy-handed dramas, I do indeed have a soft spot for seemingly obvious winning sports moments. If done right (and, honestly, few are) then I can fall to pieces watching such a scene. Which is certainly the case for the Disney film, Miracle, which depicts America’s 1980 Olympics hockey win over Russia. Once the clock reads zero, we’re privy to a handful of moments that simply make my heart drop. First is when admittedly reserved head coach Herb Brooks (Russell) attempts to shake the hand of his assistant coach (Noah Emmerich). Emmerich ignores the hand and embraces Russell in a hug of sheer joy. Moments later, Russell locks eyes with the Russian coach, and offers a kind nod of appreciation. He then finds his wife in the crowd and gives her a fitting look of, “Holy shit, I did it,” before retreating to the hallway to cry in private.

Leave it to director Gavin O’Connor (who would later direct Warrior to excellence) to get such a clichéd, sentimental sports moment just right. Watch the scene here.

Will Smith – The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
The thing I love most about Chris Gardner being offered his dream job is how accurately the moment plays out. In my experience, when you’re dealing with a very large organization like the firm Chris is working for, meetings of hiring or firing are as quick and painless as possible. There’s no reasoning, no long conversation – the brass tells you what’s what, and you accept it. Get in, get out, move on. I mention this because I’ve heard a few people say they wish this moment in The Pursuit of Happyness played out a little longer, but I couldn’t disagree more. It’s brief because it needs to be brief. Gardner is seconds away from completely breaking down, which he would consider unprofessional. So, for a number of reasons, the conclusion to this film works, and works damn well. Watch the scene here.

49 comments:

  1. Aww adorable list. Love City Lights, The Apartment, Amelie and Before Sunset.

    I can't actually think of anything except Harry Potter, but I don't think you're a fan :P

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    1. Thanks :)

      Aww I don't hate on Potter... they're just not for me is all! (But which scene are you referring to?)

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  2. Another wonderful list! I think The Pursuit of Happyness was the first time I cried in a movie because I was happy. I just wanted him to get that job badly.

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    1. Thanks! That Happyness scene is simply perfection. I saw that flick in a packed theater and people lost it during that scene. I mean crying, LOUD. It was perfect.

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  3. Another great list, I need to rewatch Before Sunset soon before the next one comes out.

    I don't know why, but the first one that came to life for me was an animated one which may not show as well cause it's animated, but I think it can be heard well in the voice acting or Robin Williams, and that's at the end of Aladdin when the genie is set free much to his surprise.

    Also, I know it's short but in Hugo when Ben Kinglsey sees the robot again and realizes that his life has not been such a waste that he thought.

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    1. Thanks dude! I legit considered that Aladdin scene - it truly is a great piece of voice acting. You can just hear how thankful and stunned he is. Another good call there.

      The Hugo moment is priceless as well. Everyone in that scene played it excellently.

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    2. I'm actually disappointed in myself for not thinking of this earlier. The scene in Jurassic Park were Sattler, Grant and Malcolm first see the Brachiasaurus. It works so well especially because for the first two, they've dedicated their lives to the study of dinosaurs. It may also be the only happy memory left for them in a lifetime surely filled with nightmares. It's probably my second favorite movie scene of all time.

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    3. Ohhh shit, you've nailed it right there. That is a perfect Spielbergian moment. The tone, the music, the acting - very blissful. Really good call.

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  4. Awww...City Lights. I know I just said Awwww but seriously, every time I as much as think about that scene I melt like a butter on hot pan. That is just perfect.
    And The Apartment. They just don't make it like that anymore, do they?

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    1. Hey man, the usage of "Awwww" is always perfectly acceptable when discussing City Lights. So you get a pass.

      The Apartment - no, they certainly don't make 'em like that anymore.

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  5. Happy to see you include the Miracle moment. I totally agree with you that most winning moments in sports movies are saturated with cliche emotion. But the part when Brooks goes into the hallway works pretty darn well. Surprising, given that its a Disney sports movie.

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    1. I'm so glad you agree with me there. I had to be literally dragged to that movie when it came out (had no interest in it), and I was really blown away by it. Great, great moment.

      Thanks so much for stopping by man, always good to hear from you!

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    2. I had the same experience seeing the movie. A pleasant surprise.

      [I've clearly taken some time off from the blogging. School has been kicking my ass so I put everything else on hold. Two more months and Ill be free. Good to see that you're always writing good stuff for me to return to. I got a lot of catching up to do.]

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    3. Hey man, I completely understand that school has taken precedence over most everything else. That's the way it goes. Glad you'll be free soon!

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  6. Great list again Alex. Cuba Gooding Jr. is my pick of the punch, when we find out just how Tidwell is going to be made to cry during the interview - the rpomise of the only thing he truly loves, money. William H. Macy or Ed Norton may have been more deserving of the Oscar, and probably would have put it to better use after receiving it, but I can't fault Gooding's performance, especially in that scene. Great pick.

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    1. Nice man, thanks! Glad you dig the Gooding scene, and I completely agree that Macy or Norton would've put that Oscar to better use. But still, Tidwell's a helluva role.

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  7. City Lights... oh!!! That's a great scene. I cried when I first saw that.

    The ending in Before Sunset... perfect. I'm highly anticipating Before Midnight.

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    1. Oh man, I was bawling the first time I saw City Lights.

      I cannot wait for Before Midnight...only a few more months.

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  8. Such awesome list. I love Cuba Gooding Jr scene, very real and so much in his character. Pursuit of Happyness was quite tough in such a real way, and I remembered how moving the movie was. Totally forgot about that Amelie scene, but from your description seems like a worthy point to put in this list.

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    1. Thanks! Glad you dig the picks. Ahh, that Amélie just kills me. It's what the movie is all about, in my opinion. Kindness.

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  9. Pursuit of Happyness is right there with Amelie among the most heartwarming things I've seen. There is tough shit there but the pay off is just beautiful, cannot believe some would actually want this moment to be longer, that was pure perfection. For me it's hands down best performance by Smith.

    I know you don' like LOTR but I'll remember the tears in Gandalf and Araorn's eyes when Sauron's eye falls and they realize Frodo succeeded to the day I die.

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    1. Sati - Smith really did nail that role, and that moment specifically. You just want him to get it so bad... I'm really glad they didn't cheapen the moment in any way.

      Both of you - Yep, not for me, but it's cool that you both cherish that scene!

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  10. Splendid list! I love the inclusion of that scene from Amelie. The expression on the blind man's face was absolutely unforgettable.

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    1. Thanks :)

      It IS so unforgettable, isn't it? And it's great that she leaves him as quickly as she approached him. Get in, get out.

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  11. What a random and awesome list! Love that you included The Apartment and Before Sunset -- those are two perfect endings as can be.

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    1. Thanks man! I love the hell out of both of those endings. So real, so simple, so happy.

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  12. Good to see Pursuit of Happiness in your list...It's actually the first scene that came to mind when I read the title of your post!

    And I absolutely agree with Miracle too! What a great movie, and a great scene! You can literally feel the triumph in Russel's reaction! Awesome list, man! Keep it up..

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    1. Thanks! Love that you thought of Happyness first, and it was here.

      Really digging this love for Miracle - I had no idea other people liked that one as much as me.

      Thanks so much for reading!

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  13. Alex, this is a great list with so many classic scenes. I love the moment in Jerry Maguire because it feels earned and Cuba Gooding Jr. sells it completely. The City Lights finale is wonderful, and Before Sunset also ends perfectly. I'm a little worried to find out where they've gone in Before Midnight, though I can't wait to see it.

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    1. Thanks so much, Dan! First off, I too am worried about Before Midnight, but I have a lot of cinematic trust in the three of them.

      Glad you dig the picks on the list. "Earned..." that's the perfect word to describe that Jerry Maguire moment.

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  14. Lots of possibilites, as with the other list, thankfully:
    Going with more sports film moments "Rudy... Rudy... Rudy", "The Indians win!", Moneyball Billy Beane sees Oakland winning the record setting game, Dennis Quaid getting the call in The Rookie... you're there are too many
    Star Wars "You did it kid, that shot was one in a million!"
    Ed Harris's reaction in Apollo 13, I don't know for sure if that started the whole 'everyone in the room throw your papers like confetti!' scene that is now a staple for mission accomplished.
    Ending to Fearless "I'm Alive!"
    Zero Dark Thirty "Geronimo, for God and Country..."
    Ending to John Rabe,
    and Gattaca "gonna miss your flight, Vincent"
    How about some Documentary Love?
    Waiting for Superman when one of kids gets the call,
    Heather Courtney's Where Soldiers Come from, when the boys get a hero's welcome they deserve.
    At the end of Enron: Smartest Guys in the room, we as an audience get to know these guys will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    I myself have gotten a measure of good news recently, as I have been nominated for Peace Corps service starting in the fall. So it is going to be an exciting time in my life, soon enough.





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    1. The Peace Corps?! Dude that is awesome. CONGRATS! Definitely going to be an exciting time. Where will you be stationed?

      More great picks from you here. I actually made the conscious decision to stay away from documentaries on both lists, because, I dunno, it didn’t seem fair to judge real lives against fictional ones. If that makes sense.

      The Ed Harris, Apollo 13 scene is classic Ed. A truly perfect moment there. He just collapses into that chair.

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    2. I'll be getting the invitation sometime in June, with any luck. So I'll know by then, thanks my friend for the accolades, I'm looking forward intently to the experience. I'll be leaving behind many things for two years, but I feel that it's more than worth it. I'll let you know more about as I get more information. Thanks again.

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    3. My pleasure. Really happy for you. Keep me posted on what happens!

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  15. Love this idea...I may have to steal, uh, borrow it for a post of my own (I don't think I could do the top 10 worst moments though - in my case I think they would all be parents losing their children and I would be gutted for a week...).

    The only ones coming to mind right now are "Groundhog Day" ("it was the end of a very long day...") and even "Risky Business" (Joel's stunned reaction at his father telling him the news), but I want to include "Singin' In The Rain" in there too - just not sure any of its scenes of joy are direct results of getting good news (thought about Kelly's dance in the rain, but it's more a result of him having just been with Reynolds as opposed to getting immediate news). I'll have to put my thinking cap on...

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    1. Glad you like the post Bob! Steal (err... borrow) away, my friend! Yeah, drafting the 10 worst moments was rough. Lot of devastation there.

      All of your picks are excellent, I see what you mean about Singin' in the Rain... but that's a choice nonetheless.

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  16. I watched Hustle & Flow for the first time last night and a scene in that film had me thinking about that list. When they're recording Its Hard Out Here For Pimp and Shug hears her voice on playback for the first time. And because her quality of life is so poor, the realisation that she can sing probably is the best news of her life, and Taraji Henson's reaction is just so perfect.

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    1. GREAT choice right there. Henson really killed that role, and that scene in particular. Great moment from a great film.

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  17. Another stunning list. Thank you for reminding me that scene in Amelie exists, it just made my night.

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    1. Nice! My pleasure dude, thank YOU for reading.

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  18. So many great scenes, particularly City Lights, The Apartment, E.T., Before Sunset, and The Pursuit of Happyness. A recent addition I'd mention would be the scene in Argo when they clear Iranian airspace.

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    1. That is a really good scene in Argo. Popped the champagne, sighed with relief... good call there. (Side note: I really think the movie should've ended there. I thought its real ending(s) went on for too long. Minor qualm though. What do you think?)

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    2. Yeah, it should've ended there. It would've been easy to fade out, and show a few title cards of closing information. I don't begrudge its ending(s), but it could've ended sooner.

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    3. Oh I don't DISlike its real ending either, but I'm glad we agree there.

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  19. Some really great scenes you've chosen. By far I think my #1 is Cuba Gooding Jr in Jerry Maguire. Everything with his character kinda comes down to that moment of both his and Jerry's professional reward. Also LOVE The Apartment. Nice list!

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    1. Thanks! That Gooding Jr moment really does define the character. Without that scene, Gooding wouldn't have won the Oscar. Great acting there.

      Glad you liked the list!

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  20. dat scene from happyness. willy smith brings it every damn time.

    very emotion such tears many happies lol

    (sorry. had to.)

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    1. Ha. I don't really like that movie as a whole, but I do dig the way he played that scene.

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