In alphabetical order, these are the moments in film in 2012 that moved me greatly. Here are a few words about them.

There are SPOILERS — fair warning.  


I can’t really remember a more powerful or memorable moment in a film than Jean-Louis Trintignant finding a pigeon in his apartment. With his beloved, dying wife all but gone, the pigeon signifies letting go. It is the thing about life we can’t keep to ourselves because it is always meant for another place. A pigeon must fly and people, sad to say, must eventually die. What Amour means to me is nothing less than the true meaning of life. It is all in who we cling to and what we get out of our time here. Maybe that in itself is selfish. Maybe we owe it to everyone else in our lives and to life itself to hang on to the bitter end, no matter how miserable we may become. Those aren’t easy questions to answer and Amour doesn’t try to answer them. It simply shows the story of a life in decay. All good things must, sooner or later, fly away.


Beasts of the Southern Wild 

Hushpuppy has seen a lot such a short time but not everything she sees is meant to be taken literally, as so many critics decided to do. The film is full of breathtaking dazzlers, like when we see the mother for the first time and just walking by the stove sets the burners aflame. But the strongest moment of the film the one that literally took the breath out of my chest when I saw it in Cannes was the end, when the beasts bowed down to Hushpuppy and declared her queen. This was the true spirit of Where the Wild Things Are, the true spirit of a child’s imagination, the freedom of storytelling, the glorious, heart-stopping beauty of artistic courage. How do you color the magic of a place? How to capture who people are? How do you make a movie that really wants to be poetry? You do it by letting go of what other people might think. And so we bow down to Hushpuppy and to all other things that command the spirit of the wild.


Cloud Atlas
This is a beautifully rendered, underappreciated, deeply moving story about souls cascading through the ages, and soulmates reaching to rejoin with each other and all of the obstacles they encounter along the way. It’s about human bondage and repression. It’s about love. The moments that still stagger in memory are those that are intertwined with the lovely score, but specifically the “all boundaries are conventions” scenes where the film’s most romantic couple, James D’Arcy and Ben Wishaw throw the plates in the air and we watch them shatter. This scene transitions through to the other romantic sequence of Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae, their own trajectory as memorable. When Doona Bae is at last executed and separated from her true love, you are either a soggy wreck or it doesn’t phase you at all. Either way, it is a moment for all time. Thinking of it now brings tears to my cynical old eyes. The film mercifully cuts back to the two of them living out a different life together and we know they will be paired for all time but still, watching them separate in death, it’s devastating. In fact, even if it is imperfect, the film is full of these pockets of richness.


The Dark Knight Rises
Anne Hathaway as Catwoman is still the best thing about The Dark Knight Rises but more than that, Nolan’s film is given over to women. The men come off as near-blunderers, chasing around after them. Sure, this isn’t going to serve your target demo that well — they prefer women who have their little moment of toughness but leaving the dirty work to the men. But Nolan upended that paradigm and made the woman the mastermind. Her nemesis is Batman but it should have been Catwoman because, frankly, Catwoman is a bigger threat. Hathaway’s performance is magnificent because she takes victimization as just another mask. In truth, no one can really get the best of her. She uses whatever mask she needs to accomplish the task at hand, be that her charm, sex appeal or smarts. My favorite moment in the film is when Catwoman is first discovered by Bruce Wayne. When she says “oops” it turns the whole thing around. What a thrill to watch someone so in command of herself.


Django UnChained
There are so many great moments in this film it is hard to single out just one. From the opening scene to the Klan ambush — Django is chock full of riches. The most thrilling moment in the film for me is what Tarantino himself described as kind of a film within a film, when Django and Broomhilda are escaping from their slaveowner, running free, together. Their desire for that is really what drives Django and in fact, many slaves did try to escape, continually, which is why there was an economy around slave hunters. But the blending of music and imagery there really set my imagination aflame. Tarantino said that when he met with Bruce Dern, who has a small part in the film, he went into two hours of talk about Dern’s role in the film and indeed, it is a movie onto itself, Django’s backstory. Tarantino thinks that way, in these long, strange continuous jaunts through history, imaginary and very real. Django Unchained, controversial, no doubt, but full of life in every dazzling frame.


One of the better moments in Flight in a film full of them is when Denzel Washington is put in the hotel room for his deposition. His testimony is supposed to get him off and get the airline off and protect anyone who is supposed to take responsibility for the deaths. When all of the alcohol is removed from his suite he ends up next door where there is a whole mini-fridge full of drink. He takes a little bottle out, sets it on the top of the fridge, then he leaves. Robert Zemeckis has us sit with that image, the little bottle that seems so harmless. We wait, and wait … and then a hand grabs it off the fridge. The next scene is utter mayhem. To put Humpty Dumpty back together again they call the fixer, in this case, John Goodman who returns to the hotel room, gives Washington coke as an upper, and a hair of the dog. Pretty soon, Whip is back in shape and ready to testify. It’s a great sequence in the film, such is the power of a great director and team of actors collaborating.


Life of Pi
Why is Life of Pi in 3-D? Even the raindrops look like miracles.  In keeping with some of the themes in this year’s best films, the meaning of life is something to consider while watching this film, if you are attuned to such notions.  The idea that it’s all around us all of the time, the magic and the beauty of the natural world, is told wonderfully well by director Ang Lee and screenwriter Scott McGhee.  Pi is about storytelling, the power of it, the varying ways we interpret our personal truths.  Through a difficult journey, Life of Pi ends at a point where it is no longer possible for many of us to hold back the tears.  Sure, some will have given up by film’s end, and decided that there wasn’t anything worth knowing in this playful meditation on religion and reality.  But when it’s time to sum things up, Irrfan Kahn says the thing that bothered him the most was Richard Parker’s not saying goodbye and how much he wanted to thank him for all that he’d done.  And in that instant, doesn’t it just break your heart? Isn’t that just like life.  We never really get that chance. Most of the time, we are caught by surprise and our gratitude then must linger.  What a memorable moment from one of the best films of the year.


Most people haven’t read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals and if you never read the book you probably would never know the details Tony Kushner, Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis get so right. One of the details was Lincoln’s son Tad who could really only be calmed down by his father. Tad is seen in the film fluttering around President Lincoln like a bumblebee, never still. But what Tad would do was fall asleep with his father still working and Abe would pick up the sleeping Tad and hoist him over his shoulder. In the film we see this play out. The never make direct reference to Tad’s learning disabilities or his desperate need for his father’s comfort but that scene is so beautifully played as Tad is being carried out of the room he asks where his dead brother is and Lincoln says, “he’s gone.” The camera focuses on a pair of slippers in the half-light. It is one of the many focused and pointed moments in the film where these brilliant collaborators had a single task in mind: to tell this story with loving, intricate detail. The lighting, the cinematography, the music, the acting, the writing, the directing all in perfect harmony. It is yet more heartbreaking when Tad has no one to comfort him after his father’s assassination. It was one of Mary Todd Lincoln’s enduring torments. I never thought Spielberg had it in him to be this restrained but it was clear to me that making this movie right and doing its subject justice was his primary concern.


Syd, one of the more interesting characters in film this year, flares up when he gets scared and especially when anyone tries to hurt his mother (Emily Blunt). Towards the end of Looper her life is threatened, Syd’s shot through the cheek and the full force of his power explodes on screen. The characters are lifted in the air and held there, hovering. Syd can go farther but his mother’s voice calls him back, “It’s okay honey.” Slowly, his focus shifts to her face and in an instant he’s just a little boy again, crying, and needing his mommy’s comfort. It is literally a tribute to the power of a mother’s love and it’s the best scene in the film and one of the most memorable of the year. Looper is such a dedicated noir, we know the lead character isn’t going to have a happy ending. Still, in a way, it does, or it might. Syd’s future is unknown. Such is the mystery and beauty of Looper.


The Master
Paul Thomas Anderson’s swan dive into faith, love, and sex is maybe a film out of its own time. It doesn’t appear to have captured the zeitgeist the way it might have done in a different era than the one we’re living through. That doesn’t diminish its beauty, even if its beauty is in its obscurity. For me the most memorable moment is the escape scene on motorbike when Freddie has finally had enough, or is questioning how he’s been spending his time, being the errand boy for a meglomaniac. There are many ways to interpret The Master, obviously, but one way is that it is a film about the battle between our need for control in our lives and our need for utter abandonment of the rules. So Freddie just keeps going, out of sight and gone from his master’s grasp. It is maybe one of the most visually stirring scenes in the film but also is the moment in the story that has the most people debating what it means.

Middle of Nowhere
One of the most satisfying surprises about Middle of Nowhere is writer/director Ava DuVernay’s visual sense — this is uncommon in female directors perhaps because we aren’t spacial learners in the same way male directors are. Women tend to be more interested in conversation and meaning, but purely visual female directors are few and far between. DuVernay is one and examples come unexpectedly in Middle of Nowhere, a film you expect to be just another female relationship saga. But she plays with light and depth of field in seductive, haunting ways. The moment that really stands out for me is the one when her main character, the beautiful Imayazti Corinialdi is lying in bed and imagining her lover is with her. DuVernay gets so right the agony of missing someone you desire so strongly but she captures it here. Her lover is, of course, still in prison but his presence is felt, emerging from the light almost. The film is moody throughout, and the work of a gifted director.


Zero Dark Thirty
It’s difficult now to flat out love Zero Dark Thirty because that love, for me anyway, now comes with a conditional element. You have to stop and think about what loving that film means, where you stand on the issue and whether you think making a film about it was worth the trouble. Nonetheless, from a purely cinematic standpoint, Kathryn Bigelow is one of my favorite directors because her sense of the frame is compelling. There isn’t a scene in Zero Dark Thirty that can match the scene in The Hurt Locker where the soldier must clean the blood off the bullets before he can fire again but one that comes close is the Bin Laden raid, maybe the best fifteen minutes of filmmaking all year. It is the combination of factors that makes it such a pivotal moment in the film — the juxtaposition of our high tech arsenal (the most adept military in the world) against the all-powerful Osama bin Laden’s mostly broken down old palace is as depressing as it is inescapable; we can’t let Bin Laden get away because he wants to keep killing us and yet what we’re confronted with on camera is a house full of scared women and children and a very frail old man. Listening to screenwriter Mark Boal talk about the satisfaction he had in writing a female character who takes down a misogynistic leader leads me to believe that the intent wasn’t, perhaps, as ambiguous as Bigelow makes it. Nonetheless, whether that was the intent or not, the end result is the same. We are shamed by the disproportion between us and them.

Honorable mentions

Argo – there are so many great lines and funny moments in Argo. From “Argo fuck yourself,” to “This is the best bad idea we have.” My favorite moment, though, I think is when Ben Affleck and Alan Arkin have to talk an agent into selling the bad screenplay for Argo. “Go fuck yourself. With all due respect.”

Les Mis – as many complaints as I have against Les Miserables none of them have to do with the performances, which were delivered 100%. But I have to admit that I was more moved by Hathaway’s singing than just about any other singular performance this year (except maybe Daniel Day-Lewis). Yes, it’s melodramatic, yes the film is, at times, unbearable but that performance by Hathaway is one for the record books. I get chills now just remembering it.

Moonrise Kingdom – when the two tweens kiss for the first time. It’s so funny and awkward, so unplanned and clumsy — it is sort of how we all remember those sticky, tedious fumblings. In a film full of wonderful little beats, that one resonates.

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  • It’ll take me a while to pick my own. But I like yours. The ones that I could look at anyway. And I agreee with the pick from FLIGHT. The groan that went up in my theater when he swiped that bottle.

    but, I’m gonna mention an OT sidenote that you just reminded me of with TDKR. It occurred to me recently that Anne Hathaway might not have just been playing Catwoman. If you look at the outfit and remember that she was never called Catwoman outright, her waffling between good and bad made me think she was just as much Batgirl as Catwoman. Huh? Huh? 🙂

  • Robbie

    Terrific, as usual, Sasha. My favorite moment in Django might be the montage set to Jim Croce’s “I got a name”: Waltz and Foxx on horseback journeying through the wintery landscape. Beautiful stuff, surprisingly lacking any irony. Also, you actually picked my favorite moment from Lincoln, as well.

    Great list.

  • Free

    Worst part of Lincoln (for me): the assassination. It’s almost treated as an afterthought, like, “Oh, by the way, he’s dead.”

    Points for mentioning MOONRISE KINGDOM’s scene. So poignant. So beautifully realized.

  • Great post!


    Phoenix in “The Master”, on motorbike is as unforgattable as Nicholson and MacLaine at car, on a beach too, in “Terms of Endearment”.

    One of the greats scenes in this year.

    The scenes from “Amour” is great too.

    But, “Beasts of the Southern Wild? That bad copy of the beauty “Wwhere the Wild Things Are”? Aaargghhhhh! This movie is a total hoax, a travesty.

    Anyway, I missed “The Impossible”, when great Watts hears from great Holland that her other kids are dead! And Naomi eyes after this… What a scene! This is a powerful scene…

  • I have a question OFF POST.

    How can I put my photo beside?

    Does anibody help me? 🙂

  • SallyinChicago

    Sasha: Question about the mother in Beasts….do you think the woman on the floating brothel was HER MOTHER….I thought that for a few moments, I wondered if that was her mother, but then I said nah…she’s a “mother figure”….how did you surmise that was Hushpuppy’s mother?

  • SallyinChicago

    (where’s that damn edit button?)
    Oh yeh, the hand and the refrigerator in Flight…what a surprise…what a great moment on film….I remember sitting there shaking my head praying, no no no don’t do it and bam! he did.

  • Robles

    Nice list.. And I did too love Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, but I just wish she was used a little bit more.

    My favorite moments this year, with some spoilers:
    1. Seeing Oscar’s “family” in his last appointment in Holy Motors
    2. The speech in which Tommy Lee Jones “compromises his values” in Lincoln. He will win the Oscar.
    3. Not enjoyable per se, but… Natasha Gershon and some KFC in Killer Joe
    4. Joaquin Phoenix’s processing montage in The Master
    5. Home Alone-style boobie-trapping of James Bond childhood mansion with Judi Dench (as the real Bond girl of the movie) and a surprise Albert Finney in Skyall.

    And still no Zero Dark Thirty in my town and I don’t think Middle of Nowhere reached me at all.

  • I second the scenes you singled out in Beasts and The Master. I’d add these, too:

    Take This Waltz – the Scrambler scene
    The Master – the first processing scene
    Les Miserables – “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”
    Django – Dr. King Schultz telling the Brunhilde legend
    Holy Motors – The Beauty and the Beast segment + “Who Were We”
    The Hobbit – Riddles in the Dark
    Magic Mike – Dallas performs
    Killer Joe – the fried chicken scene
    Liberal Arts – the book club meeting about Twilight

  • Robles

    @Free. I was actually okay with downplaying the assassination in the movie to not take away about the accomplishment of passing the amendment as the major climax of the movie.

  • Jesse Crall

    Thoughtful list per usual, Sasha. My top 5 would be:


    2. “Now fucking pay me.”

    3. The Shanghai sequence in Skyfall.

    4. The scene from Flight Sasha mentions.

    5. The very last scene from Zero Dark Thirty.

  • Marija

    I literally cannot take my eyes off Jessica Chastain’s picture

  • steve50

    (Fabinho –

    Well, the two films that provided image after memorable image to me were Life of Pi and Cloud Atlas, both of which you mentioned, Sasha. Rather than just supply pretty pictures, there was always two sides to what you were seeing, which magnified their effect.

    In Life of Pi, the sight of the whale breaching, cloaked on phosphorescent algae, is a wonder until we realize its all-destructive power. Life isn’t the same afterward, but it was glorious in the moment. Similarly, when Pi decides to tend to the extremely dangerous creature with whom he is sharing the boat, the first time he touches Richard Parker kills me, even thinking about it now.

    Conversely, the emotionally spent Frobisher’s agonizing minutes in the bathtub with the pistol is logically offset by his words stating, “we’ll be together” in another world. By now, we know that because of the film’s premise, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of what happens.

    Best individual scene – you already mentioned it – the ecstasy of those wonderful flying ceramics. As new pieces enter the “cloud”, others crash to the floor. Brilliant.

    Two others I can’t forget are overall visual opposites: the insanity of Holy Motors and the breezy sublimity of Tabu.

  • Mel

    Interesting. Why does where you stand on ZDT “now” come with conditions? Are you saying you did love it, but then the debate and bullshit has made you question that? Movies are always just what they mean to you, that’s all they ever are and ever should be to anyone. I’ll be damned if I ever let reviews or controversy color my own opinions or make me doubt myself and what moved me or what I loved.

  • Excellent list, particularly singling out the scene in Lincoln with Tad. I also loved the scene where he talks with the telegraph operators, where he sets down that iconic hat and it echoes in the nearly empty room. It was a quick moment to convey the immense weight of meaning so much to so many.

  • Ryan Booms

    SPOILER: In my view, Pi is not bothered by the fact that Richard Parker did not say goodbye. Remember, the boy and the tiger in a boat is an allegory… to me, the tiger represents science (biology in particular) and nature. Thus, Pi is so bothered by the violent nature of humans he encountered on the lifeboat, especially how he himself became a savage beast when he murdered the cook. After the ordeal, Pi lands on the beach, and as a boy of religion and the supernatural, he can not come to terms with the savagery he experienced in the ocean… so he invents a story with animals to comfort him… I imagine that the first animal he concocts is a tiger vanishing into the jungle, nonchalantly of course, for nature does not explain itself, just as Pi can not explain his act of violence. It’s a cathartic moment for Pi, when he is able to shed that side of him–the side of brute nature. The film ends with this shot for a reason; it reminds us that storytelling can help us heal even after the most devastating moments of human savagery.

  • Bball_Jake

    The most memorable moments in film this year are in The Dark Knight Rises. the opening plane scene introducing bane, and every Hathaway scene are the best scenes ive ever seen.

  • steve50

    I almost agree with you, Ryan Booms, but he does, in fact, say how much it bothers him that Richard Parker simply wandered off into the jungle without so much as a look.

    Pi’s grateful that he’s gone, but feels a bond has not been acknowledged. Nature is efficient, but not sentimental: allegorically, when there’s no need for Richard Parker, he saunters off (perhaps to return if he’s ever needed again).

  • Sasha Stone

    Jesse, where’s my beautiful sister! Hahaha. I like the one with Don Johnson too. I really loved (gross to say) the dogs scene but only because of how creepy it is. I don’t know if Tarantino has really gotten this dark since Reservoir Dogs.

  • Sasha Stone

    Sally, I think nothing is literal in Beasts and all symbolic but within that context yes it was her imaginary symbolic mother.

  • Jesse Crall

    The dog scene WAS terrific and I’m glad it was in there because it gave Django some major weight and raised the overall stakes big time. And Johnson was funny as hell.

    For me, the quieter scenes in Lincoln were the best, just D-Day telling a little joke or, as MikeS mentions, the one with the telegraph operators. To make Lincoln SO human was an incredible accomplishment by everyone involved.

  • Jack

    The Master- processing scene, the naked dancing
    Magic mike- Ladies of Tampa
    21 Jump Street- Drug Freakout
    Silver Linings Playbook- the dance routine
    Django Unchained- the shootout
    Dark Knight Rises- Bruce emerging from the pit
    Cabin in the woods- all the mosters attacking, being let loose
    Skyfall- Bardem’s entrance
    Argo- getting through the the gates
    Flight- Goodman giving Denzel the coke
    The Avengers- the epic smashing through downtown all in 1 shot
    Klown- the final picture montage
    Lincoln- lincoln walking off

  • VVS

    Sasha, you have got to quit with this Anne Hathaway/TDKR thing. Nobody is buying this myth youre trying to sell. Tom Hardy stole every single scene, and is the only thing people still remember about the film. His performance was revolutionary in the scope of film acting. Much more truthful than anybody else in the cast. With improvised intonations, menacing nuanced physicality that recalled a military dictatorship, and complexity of voice that was only matched by Daniel Day Lewis’ Lincoln.

  • Yogsss

    Life of Pi screenwriter is David Magee.

    Lincoln and Argo both represent my favorite dialogs scenes of the year.

    Skyfall has Silva’s introduction which is as great acted as scary.

  • Some of mine off the top of my head. Being vague to avoid spoilers.

    1. When Alfred sees Bruce in the cafe
    2. “I Can’t Fight this Feeling” scene
    3. the Sam Jones sequence
    4. “Is that your dick?”
    5. Old Seth’s body distinegrating before our eyes
    6. The kitchen scene in SAVAGES
    7. Van Damme vs. Stallone; the big shoot-out in EXPENDABLES 2
    8. the last shoot-out in LAWLESS
    9. the shoot-out in SKYFALL (LOL)
    10. the oldies escaping from the home

    Given time I could probably come up with 50 at least.

  • m1

    Wow, so many great moments in film this year! Just like with Sasha’s, I have SPOILERS as well:

    1. “The Hunger Games”-When Jennifer Lawrence says goodbye to her sister and Liam Hemsworth before going into the games. It’s the best scene in this flawed but entertaining movie, and signaled to me that Lawrence is here to stay. With this and SLP, she’s taking risks that very few young actors are taking these days. I’ve enjoyed the campy fun of Twilight, but this franchise is far superior.

    2. “Silver Linings Playbook”-When Lawrence tells Bradley Cooper about the night her husband died. An unbelievably emotional moment in a mostly lighthearted, funny movie.

    3. “Les Miserables”-When Hathaway sings “I Dreamed a Dream” and when Redmayne sings “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. Amazing, emotional moments. Half the theater was in tears. I enjoyed the movie more than most people. I thought Hooper did a really good job. I couldn’t believe this was directed by the same person who did the exceptional The King’s Speech.

    4. “Moonrise Kingdom”-When the boy’s painting of the camp they set up by the beach is shown at the end. A scene (and movie) that truly understands what childhood is (and should be) like. What a great screenplay.

    5. “Magic Mike”-When Cody Horn finds Alex Pettyfer unconscious in the bedroom. There is no question McConaughey and Tatum give the best performances in the movie, but Horn shines in this scene. Eventually, her character understands that she can’t hold her brother’s hand every time he falls and that she must guide her own life. A pretty good performance from another promising actress.

    6. “Lincoln”-When Joseph Gordon-Levitt tells Daniel Day-Lewis that he wants to enlist in the army. Very powerful scene.

    7. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”-When Tom Wilkinson meets his old lover for the last time. Most touching scene in the whole movie.

    8. “Skyfall”-When Daniel Craig clutches Judi Dench as she is dying. A scene with emotional power so unusual for an action movie. The best action movie of the year by far.

    9. “Hope Springs”-When Streep and Jones are renewing their vows during the end credits. Sweet scene in a movie I surprisingly enjoyed.

    10. “The Avengers”-When all the superheroes unite to defeat Loki. Fantastic action sequence in a movie that actually calls for character development.

    And many more. I’m excited about the quality of movies this year, and that’s saying something considering I haven’t even seen the major contenders.

  • Steve50, Thanks, you´re so nice. 🙂

  • phantom

    THE AVENGERS – Natasha meets Bruce Banner.
    THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – Alfred sees Bruce in Florence.
    THE HUNGER GAMES – Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place.
    SKYFALL – The great Judi Dench’s last line as M (“the one thing”).
    BRAVE – Merida reconciles with her mother.
    THE HOBBIT – ‘I was never more wrong in my life.’
    YOUR SISTER’S SISTER – ‘I think I’m in love with him.’
    21 JUMP STREET – ‘Fuck Glee!’
    PROMETHEUS – David…period
    ARGO – The phone rings and rings and rings…
    FLIGHT – ‘I am drunk right now. I am an alcoholic’
    LIFE OF PI – Pi cries over Richard Parker.
    AMOUR – The story before the ‘pillow’.
    LOOPER – Old Joe’s life montage
    HOPE SPRINGS – The Movie Theater Blowjob
    THE WOMAN IN BLACK – Whenever the great Janet McTeer loses it.
    PITCH PERFECT – Whenever Fat Amy opens her mouth.
    LES MISÉRABLES – Fantine says goodbye.
    END OF WATCH – ‘He was my brother.’
    LAWLESS – Maggie surprises Forrest in the middle of the night.
    CLOUD ATLAS – Robert Frobisher’s last morning.
    THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER – ‘I didn’t think anybody noticed me.’
    ANNA KARENINA – The humiliation at the Opera.
    SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD – ‘I’m in love with you.’
    BACHELORETTE – ‘Fuck everyone!’
    SMASHED – The relapse scene.
    THE IMPOSSIBLE – The tsunami scene.
    A ROYAL AFFAIR – The crazy scene-stealing king.
    RUST AND BONE – The swimming and subsequent sunbathing.

    (I will see Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Quartet, Lincoln, Django Unchained, The Master, The Sessions in the next two weeks.)

  • phantom

    I forgot one, Maggie Smith’s character telling her life story in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. I consider that scene one of the year’s most memorable, as well.

  • superkk

    Perks: *punches guy in the face* “dont fuck with my friends” best line ever. <3

  • Jacob B

    Coming from someone who altogether didn’t really like THE MASTER very much, the most moving scene of any film for me this past year was the first “processing” scene that takes place on the boat. I was surprised that it wasn’t on this list, because it’s extraordinary.

    I agree with the scene from FLIGHT completely. As long as we’re excluding the plane crash scene as being too obvious. Because I didn’t breathe for a good five minutes while he was landing that plane. Unbelievable.

    The scene in LINCOLN where he is telling the two young men about the mathematics principle he read and connecting it to slavery is the one that I found most compelling.

    In LES MISERABLES, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was the showstopper for me, actually, and not Hathaway. But Hathaway was great. “Master of the House” and “A Heart Full of Love” were both great as well.

    Every scene in 21 JUMP STREET was hysterical, and I don’t give a damn about standards, that was one of the best films of this year. If there were less incredible contenders this year I think it should’ve been at least considered in the screenplay race.

    “Can we get some girls up in here?”
    “Be careful what you wish for.” – Catwoman
    She was indeed the best part of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

    This one is a bit random, but I think Jennifer Lawrence putting the burn treatment on her leg in the tree in THE HUNGER GAMES was her best moment in the film. It was just a close up on her face, and the pain she expressed was just so realistic.

    When her dad puts her on the bus and Hushpuppy runs off and goes back to him and he tells her he’s dying and she has to say goodbye in BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, I cried. I’m a fifteen year old boy. It was a weak moment.

    When Alan Arkin is convincing the producer to fund the fake movie in ARGO.
    When the Underground train comes through the hole in the ceiling and almost crushes Bond in SKYFALL.
    Anytime Fat Amy or the little Asian girl talk in PITCH PERFECT.
    When Bradley Cooper is freaking out trying to find his wedding video in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and they wake up the whole neighborhood.

  • PJ

    Avengers – the tracking shot with all the heroes in a group
    TDKR – stadium collapse and batman + bane’s first fight
    Django Unchained – ‘say goodbye to ms candy for me.’ and when Stephen first meets Django in front of the house and calvin’s 3 dimples speech
    Safety Not Guaranteed – final scene where we realize that yes, he does indeed time travel
    Silver Linings Playbook – the whole final dance sequence
    Master – first processing scene
    Lincoln – Tommy Lee Jones compromise speech
    Skyfall – Bardem’s first monologue
    Flight – the plane crash
    Ruby Sparks – when Dano tries to convince Kazan she is not real by demonstrating his control also when dano first talks to his brother about kazan and his brother deconstructs manic pixie dream girl archeotype
    Cabin in the Woods – the bloodbath by the elevators

  • Very happy and proud for all mentioons to The Hunger Games. For me, this movie could easily get noms for Screenplay, Actress to Lawrence and Supporting Actor for Hutcherson.
    And I´m talking seriously!

  • Oh, I want to include Lerman, Watson and Miller running by car into the tunnel, and being infinite, in the end of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” 🙂

  • Sasha Stone

    “Sasha, you have got to quit with this Anne Hathaway/TDKR thing. Nobody is buying this myth youre trying to sell.” I’m not trying to sell any myth, jackass. I liked her performance. A LOT.

  • James

    I’m with WS. Hardy was by far the best part of the movie and all of his scenes were more memorable.

  • André

    Agreed 100% with your “Life of Pi” moment. I got dumped earlier this year by the girl I thought was gonna be the love of my life via Facebook, and she hasn’t spoken to me since. Not a word, not a thank you for all I did for her while we were together. NOTHING. Just like Richard Parker, she just walked off into the woods without so much of a glance back at me, as if I had suddenly become a nonexistence to her. That moment made me see so clearly what I felt at the time (in fact, it was 7 months ago to the very day today). It did what I think all art should aspire to do: it made me look at myself and my life differently.

  • Beasley


    The scene where David finds the pilot room, and accesses the universal cellular structure. The beautiful lighting of galaxies and solar systems rotate over his head in a sphere shape. Then, to end the scene, he sees earth was the target that the engineers intended to destroy. Can’t believe no one mentioned this scene. It was so beautiful, intelligent and chilling in scope.

  • Free

    @superkk: Um, yes. That scene from PERKS gave me chills. Very well-done, as was the film itself.

  • Bball_Jake

    And in TDKR when Bruce makes it out of the prison, and when Alfred sees Bruce and Selina at the restaurant! In Prometheus, when she has the surgery, and when the alien is born in the very end, and many more scenes from Prometheus.

  • Binx

    My favorites:

    – In a hotel room, two agents’ sham date ends, erupting in a relentlessly brutal fight in HAYWIRE

    – An elevator dings and every evil creature ever known comes flying out in CABIN IN THE WOODS

    – A departing teacher kneels down and – unwaveringly – hugs a sad little girl in MONSIEUR LAZHAR

    – A man and his Teddy Bear finally have it out, exploding in a painful, punch-filled brawl in TED

    – In a jail cell, as Freddie erupts, Dodd waits – calmly – then verbally lashes back in THE MASTER

    – By a campfire, Billy acts out his absurd, bloody, over-the-top ending to the script in SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS

    – In a drained swimming pool, gangs of vocal nerds have a spirited singing riff-off in PITCH PERFECT

    – A blood-thirsty mob on horseback squabbles over the “cut” of their hoods in DJANGO UNCHAINED

  • kasper

    Wow @WS. Can’t a movie have more than one memorable performance? And I’m not a huge fan of the movie nor do I ever find Anne Hathaway convincing in anything, but she nailed it as Catwoman, and especially a Catwoman in this particular franchise. She brought much a needed lightness to Nolan’s universe, without being slight or compromising his vision. My favorite scene in the movie is Selena Kyle’s first encounter with Bruce when she breaks into his safe and that was all because of Anne Hathaway.

  • tonyr

    Sasha, hard to believe you’re buying into the ZDT “controversy.” Do people really believe that Bigelow and Boal are pro-torture? Stop conjuring up drama for drama’s sake. Anyone who’s seen The Hurt Locker can tell that the two of them are anti-war, and if they’re anti-war, it’s reasonable to assume they’re not pro-torture. I mean, for goddsake, since when does showing what happened = making a political statement.


    1. Lincoln – Every one of Abe’s “storytelling” scenes
    2. Perks of Being a Wallflower – Ezra Miller calls out his ex-boyfriend in the cafeteria and the ensuing fist fight
    3. Django Unchained – Leo’s “dimples” monologue and his outburst that follows
    4. Skyfall – Shanghai silhouetted fight
    5. The Hunger Games – Lawrence watches the little girl (forgot her name) die in her arms
    6. The Master – first processing scene
    7. Ted – Party sequence featuring Sam Jones, Ryan Reynolds, and a lot of coke
    8. The Hobbit – Bilbo and Gollum
    9. The Dark Knight Rises – Bruce climbs out of the pit
    10. The Dark Knight Rises – Bane’s attack/coming-out party to Gotham
    11. The Avengers – “I’m always angry”
    12. Moonrise Kingdom – Dance scene on the shore

  • Thomas

    agree with so many of them: Skyfall: the bomb goes off “I hope that wasn’t meant for me?” “No, but this is…” Cue train.
    Pitch Perfect: Deaf Jews and almost every other scene w/Fat Amy
    The Hobbit: Riddles in the Dark
    Life of Pi: Richard Parker doesn’t say goodbye
    TDKR: Hatheway is caught, Alfred sees Bruce in Florence

  • danemychal

    Have to agree with you about Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Mis. I wholeheartedly believe it should NOT win Best Picture, but there is something wrong if she doesn’t win Best Supporting Actress. She not only delivers the best performance fairly early on in the film with “I Dreamed a Dream” but her presence helps make the finale more emotional. She is a star if there ever was one, and Les Mis cements her as a star. That says a lot given the fact that it’s a supporting role. This woman needs an Oscar NOW. I want her to win BSA as badly as I want DDL to win his third BA Oscar.

  • Steandric

    There are so many great and memorable moments in ” The Impossible” that must be paid regard here instead of OMG cat woman, the best of which is the last scene when Naomi Watts’ character weeps on the plane, there are all the feelings on her face …pains, guilt, regret, heart-breaking, can’t let go….all the emotions in one mix, just brilliant!

  • Funny, I thought The Cabin in the Woods whole elevator sequence and its aftermath and the tsunami scene of The Impossible (specially when we follow Watts and Holland in their extreme fight for survival) top anything I’ve seen in the last 5 years, probably, but the pool sequence at the end of Let the Right one In. But, whatever.

    And people still championing The Dark Knight Rises, really need to check out this (a good summary of what bothered me at the only viewing I’ve done of the film)…

    I mean, game, set and match. Embarrassingly bad last third of that film, a WTF following another.

  • Dominik

    I can´t single out one specific favourite scene, but I know that this favourite scene of mine is certainly from the Greek movie “Attenberg” I saw a couple of weeks ago. If anyone has the opportunity to see this strange little brilliant film, don´t miss it. Certainly one of the best films all year.

  • Mik

    I’m a huge Tom Hardy fan, but found his Bane to be somewhat comical. The voice was crap and over the top, he didn’t act physical enough considering his face was covered and by wearing the mask he lost a lot of the nuances that makes him such a good actor, but more so he didn’t adapt to that. He was fine, but I was expecting much better and to me he was one of the biggest disappointments about the film, which is a shame because I’ve seen pretty much everything else he’s ever done. Meanwhile I wasn’t expecting too much from Hathaway’s cat woman despite liking her, but was pleasantly surprised at how well she nailed the duality of the character. Very smartly played.

  • praetor

    To me, Catwoman was the opposite of Black Widow. Black Widow is essentialy a pretty useless character who is basically eyecandy, but they actually gave her something interesting to do.

    Catwoman is a much fuller character who could actually add something to a story, but who adds little to nothing to the movie and is basically eyecandy.

  • chumsley

    One page four images of Jessica Chastain, that’s really a best moment.

  • SallyinChicago

    Actually when I think over it, Flight had several mesmerizing moments and I’m not understanding why the movie, the director and the actor(s) are not talked about more for awards.
    1) the hospital scene in the stairwell between the three patients…oh my god, who was the third patient smoking? He gave a great acting performance.
    2) the air crash OMG, I could feel every bump every throttle everybody’s fear
    3) the Refrigerator and the hand
    4) John Goodman’s entrance in every scene

  • rufussondheim

    For me, the year at this point comes down to three films

    1) Oslo, August 31st. There are so many small scenes that add up to a great movie, so it’s hard to pick just one. But in the first third of the movie Anders is having a lengthy conversation with his friend (the whole 15+ minute conversation is the best long conversation on film I can recall, even though it is edited, but that’s fine since that’s part of what makes it work) but then he says something like “It’s supposed to get better. And then it doesn’t” and it really encapsulates everything he experiences that day, his look, the response, just perfect.

    2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Again, there are so many great moments, but I have to pick one that not many would. When Joan Cusack informs the parents and they return to Charlie is a quick two shot sequence that lasts maybe twenty seconds. But it’s so well directed (and performed) that I just lose it at that moment when I see the film. Of course, the 100 minutes that precede the moment set it up beautifully.

    3) Les Miserables – OK, there are fewer options to pick here, but the one standout to me is both renditions of the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” The initial version of the song was moved to the “second act” and was taken out of the hands of the student rebels and given to the masses, with it coming right after the emotional highpoint of One Day More. It suffuses the material with a weighty morality that just isn’t in the stage version. And to reprise it after the reworked death of Valjean by concentrating on the characters who have died, gives it the emotional punch to go along with the moral punch. It’s an anthem for our times as much as it could have been in 1832. It’s utterly brilliant.

    Of course, there are more, but I choose to highlight these 🙂 With a special mention to the kid throwing the rock at the prisoner in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. The brilliance of that scene takes some time to occur to the viewer, but damn it, in retrospect it’s cinematic excellence.

  • It’s a shame that when given the opportunity to list their favorite moments some people are so negative that they must tell people what they should list instead of their own choices or post snark about the films they don’t like. Celebrate and champion your own causes.

    I’m a huge Tom Hardy fan, but found his Bane to be somewhat comical.

    I’m a huge Tom Hardy fan too and I thought he intended the comedic side of it. As fans I thought we were in on the joke. *wink*

  • Harry

    10 Scenes:

    1. Django Unchained – “I Got A Name”
    2. Django Unchained – the mandingo fight/the escaped slave and the dogs. The two most uncomfortable scenes Tarantino has ever made.
    3. Django Unchained – the bag scene
    4. Les Miserables – “On My Own”
    5. Lincoln – the Euclid scene
    6. Moonrise Kingdom – the final shot
    7. Pitch Perfect – the Bellas finally get it together and sing “Just the Way You Are/Just a Dream”
    8. Pitch Perfect – the Bellas’ final performance
    9. Silver Linings Playbook – the entrance of Jennifer Lawrence
    10. Silver Linings Playbook – Tiffany watches Pat read Nikki’s letter

  • Casey

    COMPLIANCE – Ann Dowds final monologue

  • stella

    In “The Impossible” when Naomi Watts and Tom Holland (playing mother and son) had an argument about whether to look for and save the kid crying out for help from afar, that’s definitely a great and memorable moment in the film.

  • Mike

    I have many I haven’t seen yet, but here are the most memorable for me right now.

    Dance scene with Sam and Patrick’s living room routine – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    Scene in Sam’s bedroom on the night of the Christmas party – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    Scene in the tunnel – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    Song from the future – Sound of My Voice
    I Dreamed A Dream – Les Miserables
    Surgery scene – Prometheus
    Countdown to the Hunger Games with Katniss in the tube – The Hunger Games

  • Casey

    To add on:

    * Ann Dowds final monologue is compliance
    * Elevator doors opening in Cabin in the Woods
    * Ruby’s final rewrite/breakdown in Ruby Sparks
    * Pretty much every Fat Amy scene in Pitch Perfect

  • g

    Argo- the plane taking off, it was such an edge of your seat thrill ride till that point and then when the plane was wheels up I was so happy I couldn’t of been more engaged.

    Skyfall- the shanghai sequence fight was so beautiful to look at I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing.

    Life of pi- gahhhhhh! This movie was so visually stunning every scene was like an adventure for the eye. I was blown away!

    Lincoln- so many scenes in this movie brought back scenes from the book. It was such a joy to watch from beginning to end.

    Django Unchained- the hat scene, the music, Christoph waltz, wow! He just lit up the screen, he was so magnetic. His character was so alive and realized, I could of watched him for 10 hours in that movie!

    Flight- the plane crash sequence was so well done.

    Moonrise Kingdom- the visual style, the scrolling fonts, the Boy Scout troop, and social services, god I just loved it!

  • André

    Ewan McGregor ‘s phone call to his father-in-law in “The Impossible” was the first moment in a film that has come close to bringing me to tears since “The Lion King”.

    Also, no supportive comments on my getting dumped? =P

    a little off topic, but are there any gamers on here? I ask because, upon reflection, I am quite certain that the ps3 game “Journey” is my favourite artistic endeavour of 2012. Better than any film, album, or book.

  • Bethany Nanc

    Great list. I love your description of Middle of Nowhere.

  • rufussondheim

    Andre – Entertainment Weekly picked Journey as the best game of the year. Sadly, I think you have to own PS3 to play it.

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