What do you think of when you hear the words “Classic Movie Moment?” The final line of Gone with the Wind? “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” scene from Fantasia? Neo’s bullet-bend in The Matrix? I’ll bet if I say “That scene” from When Harry Met Sally, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.
These are the moments in movies that stick with us forever, the ones that are remembered for generations to come. You don’t even have to see these movies to know what everyone is talking about. Heck, I just saw When Harry Met Sally for the first time LAST NIGHT and I already knew about the diner scene.
But that movie got me thinking: do we have any moments you can really dub as future classic moments in modern movies? Well, after a short search, I came up with a resounding yes.
Below are 10 movies with moments that had/have everybody talking. This is not a complete list! I haven’t seen every movie from this era and I’m sure there are plenty I’m just forgetting. If you know some more, let me know! They may even make it to a future list!
Here are the rules: Only movies from the years 2000 to 2010, only movies I have personally seen, and only one per franchise. So, let’s take a look!
10. Taken (2008)–I Will Find You
In one of my all-time favorite action movies, Liam Neeson is an ex government agent who made bad people eat their own throats. While on the phone with his daughter in France, he hears her getting kidnapped. It’s a very tense and terrifying scene as you watch a man listening to his daughter being taken and Neeson acts superbly.
But then he hears breathing on the other line. One of the kidnappers has picked up the phone. Neeson very calmly speaks to the kidnapper and delivers the simplest, quietest, silkiest threats ever spoken.
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money…but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career; skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it; I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t…I will look for you…I will find you…and I will kill you.”
This awesome threat is only maximized when he finally meets the kidnapper and says with a small, cool smile, “I told you I’d find you.”
9. Saw (2004)–Hello, Zepp
This is a franchise that quickly went the road of Freddy and Jason. They’re nothing but gore fests devoid of any real story.
But in the beginning, there was a very grizzly gem of genius. All through the movie, the two captured protagonists have endured psychological and sometimes physical torture at the hands of Jigsaw, who only communicates through creepy recorded messages. Eventually, they deduce the killer’s identity: a man named Zepp. Eventually, they are able to kill him, but one man has already cut off a limb to escape. The remaining man fishes through the killers pockets looking for the keys to his chain, but instead finds a tape recorder. He pushes play.
With those two words, you know it’s not over. The killer was someone else entirely. The music starts and swells and grows into a very epic piece entitled, appropriately, “Hello, Zepp.” So you find out who the killer is, but who is he? Where has he been?
And then the dead body on the floor starts to rise.
It’s a common trick to have the killer right in the midst of the heroes, but you never suspect the dead guy whose head is blown off. It was a fantastic twist that sent chills up the spines of thousands.
This is one of the greatest superhero movies of all time because it’s not quite a superhero story. It’s a drama, a very dark and powerful one with a long,twisting story that weaves together beautifully. The crowning glory of this movie is the character V, the vigilante who was tortured and maimed by the corrupt government and seeks for revenge, not only for himself, but for the entire world.
When we first meet V, he saves the main character, Evey (Natalie Portman) from three corrupt cops. When she asks who he is, he gives a rather epic response.
“Voila! In view, a humble, vaudevillian veteran cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguading vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition!” He carves a “V” into a sign, then continues. “The only verdict is vengeance, a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and voracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me…V.”
And Sally sells seashells by the seashore.
I mentioned The Matrix in the beginning, but that was in 1999, so I can’t use it here. Unfortunately, all the 2000’s had of that franchise were the philosophical ramblings of two over-CGI’d sequels. However, the second movie at least had some awesome action scenes and there was one that stood out high above them all.
Smith walks onto the scene, as cool as only Hugo Weaving can be. How cool is he? This is the second time he’s on this list (see number 8), and he was also in the number 1 movie, too! Somehow, though the plot and dialogue have both taken a hit, Smith retains his villain coolness as he chats with Neo about…something, I don’t know. All I remember is the sudden pitch of strings as Neo looks around and sees not one, not two, but dozens of Smiths surrounding him, each as calm and cool as the last.
And then it begins. Now, this fight scene is diluted when you see the overuse of CGI and the fact that Smith only uses his fists, despite having two perfectly good kicking feet. But it’s still a mind-boggling action sequence of a dozen souped-up agents all taking on our lone hero.
This sequence was played in all the trailers as it is one of the most visually impressive, blending CGI, stunt doubles, and a whole lot of Matrix-style fighting. The most memorable part? Neo plants his staff vertically on the ground, then runs in a horizontal circle around it, run-kicking on the Smiths that surround him. Fanboy logic? Yes, but AWESOME fanboy logic!
Up is easily one of Pixar’s greatest movies. Sure, there are greater movies from them in my opinion (The Incredibles, Wall-E), but this movie was the one that had everyone talking about one particular sequence: the opening.
It starts off showing the main character, Carl, as a young fellow, meeting Ellie, the love of his life. But what follows is truly fantastic. It’s a montage of their life, one that shows better character development, story arcing, and emotional pull in 3 minutes than most movies do in their entire run time. It’s impossible to say just what makes it work; it’s Pixar magic at its finest.
In order to really feel the weight and depth of the main character, Carl, you have to know his back story, well, Pixar gives us that entire back story in just a couple of minutes! We see them get married, build their house, plan their dreams, sacrifice those dreams as life hits them over and over again, the pain of infertility, the yearning to finally take that vacation they always wanted, and the tragic loss that marks the beginning of the movie. In that short of a time, we are thrilled, enamored, and weeping. The movie has touched our hearts and it’s only getting started.
That’s how you hook an audience.
I’m sort of cheating here. It’s hard to think of any one moment that especially resonated with audiences. However, the entire movie so SO DARN QUOTABLE! It’s been repeated in every situation of life and 60% of the time, it works EVERY TIME!
“I’m in a glass case of emotion!”
“Wow…that escalated quickly!”
“Oh, I IMMEDIATELY regret this decision!”
Now, if I had to pick one particular moment that stuck with everyone, I’d pick the News Fight. News teams from across the city gather in a back alley to duke it out. That’s where the second quote comes from. There are brass knuckles, swords, people being dragged by nets, a man on fire, and Brick not only walks around with a grenade, but hits kills a guy on a horse with a trident.
It’s all so stupid and funny that it stuck with everyone and years later, they’re talking about an Anchorman sequel, which we will ALL GO SEE!
This is a simple and sweet maneuver that became the picture of the new Spider-Man. Spiderman hangs upside down and Mary Jane gives him the kiss of a lifetime.
There’s nothing to really say about it; one picture says it all.
3. The Dark Knight (2008)–The Joker
This one wasn’t so much of a moment as it was a character. Heath Ledger’s Joker will probably go down in history as one of the greatest movie performances of all time. The entire movie is still hailed as the greatest superhero movie ever and rightly so, but it’s the Joker that everyone remembers.
Good grief, where to start? From the Joker’s shaky home video to “Why so serious?”, from Batman’s interrogation to the Joker’s final lines, this character embodied chaos like no other. Even when he wasn’t on screen, he was impacting the film in some way.
Once again, I’m forced to pick a single moment that encompassed the greatness of the film. One could be the Joker’s initial reveal during a bank robbery that only he could plan. Another is Alfred’s immortal summation of the Joker: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
But the biggest, strongest moment that audiences remember is summed up in two words: Pencil trick.
300 was a visually striking movie. Bloody to be sure, but it really introduced the speed-up, slow-down ramping effect that a lot of modern action movies have utilized. It’s a movie about men at their most feral, fighting for their home with nothing but pure, raw manliness. And shields.
But you don’t have to know about any of that to know the scene we’re talking about here. All together, now!
“THIS! IS! SPARTAAA!”
One of the biggest and best movie franchises of all time, and a highlight of the 2000s. Peter Jackson took the word “epic” to a whole new level by fully realizing the world of Middle Earth. All three movies were spectacular, but twist my arm and I’d say the first was my favorite. Maybe it’s having the whole fellowship together on one powerful journey that makes this movie so strong.
Return of the King is a strong movie, too, but I can’t think of any particularly powerful moment. I know they WANTED the Witch King’s death to be like that, but yeah, it was stupid. The arrival of the Rohan fighters was awesome, but not quite the best part of the franchise.
The Two Towers had some good moments, like the battle for Helm’s Deep, or the incredible split-personality scene with Smeagol/Gollum.
But I was looking for a moment that everyone instantly remembers. Something powerful, something oft-quoted, and the best example came in The Fellowship of the Ring. After an intense fight with orcs and a troll, the fellowship finds itself running from a Balrog, a demonic monster straight from your nightmares. As the reach the final bridge, Gandalf stays behind to face the monster himself.
It’s a powerful moment, one tiny wizard, the true champion of the movie, standing tall and strong, not only standing against a flaming monster twenty times his size, but threatening it! And when the Balrog ignores his warnings, Gandalf screams the line that will echo in cinema history for ages to come.
It was watching the greatest warrior stand up to the greatest enemy. No fear, no trepidation, only scandalous courage in the face of certain death. The moment was perfect, and we’ll remember it forever.
So that’s my list, but like I said, it’s incomplete. I’m sure I’ll do more like this in the future, and if you have a moment you think should be here, let me know!