Film.com Staff December 11, 2013
Howard Hawks famously classified a good movie as any film that “has three great scenes, no bad ones.” Well, if we can extrapolate Hawks’ wisdom to the era of the needlessly distended listicle, perhaps it could be said that a good movie year has 100 great scenes, a few thousand bad ones, and an entire Adam Sandler movie comprised of the most unwatchable. By those standards, 2013 was most definitely a good movie year, and – given how little trouble we had populating this epic countdown – maybe even a great one. Individual scenes are the cinema’s flashbulb memory, and though some of the films represented on this list certainly transcend their isolated pleasures, these are the moments that ultimately defined the year in movies. Reflecting on the films of 2013, these are the bits we’ll be referencing every time we begin a sentence with “Remember that part when…”.
These are the 100 Best Movie Scenes of 2013.
100.) I GIVE IT A YEAR // “Charades”
The best British rom com that everyone ignored was Dan Mazer’s “I Give It A Year.” Its high concept is that we in the audience are in love with Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall and just want them to be happy. So we want them to see the light and get a divorce. They were meant to be friends, not lovers, and one such moment that makes this clear is an awkward night of charades with the extended family.
Oh, the yuks that come when dopey, inappropriate Spall tries to act out “Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman” using Grandma as a prop. – Jordan Hoffman
99.) 20 FEET FROM STARDOM // “The Making of ‘Gimme Shelter’”
Morgan Neville’s “20 Feet From Stardom” is one of the best documentaries of the year, an informative, interesting, and illuminating look at the world of back-up singers, talents who are often some of the best in the room, even if no one else knows their name. Among those chronicled in the film is the utterly revelatory Merry Clayton, one of the best in the biz who never quite hit as a solo star. One of Clayton’s most well known and important contributions to popular music are her soaring background notes on The Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter.” More a duet than a standard single, Clayton’s high-pitched and hauntingly rendered cries of “rape, murder, it’s just a shot away, it’s just a shot away” elevate the classic song to once-unreachable levels, and when she explains how it all happened in the film, it’s positively spine-tingling. – Kate Erbland
98.) OUT OF THE FURNACE // “Harland’s Hotdog”
A meth addict with an insatiable lust for violence takes a date to the local drive-in movie theater for a screening of “Midnight Meat Train”. What could possibly go wrong? Scott Cooper’s “Out of the Furnace” peaks with its opening sequence, which exists beyond the plot of the movie but indelibly establishes a bedrock of menace to support the film that follows. It’s Woody Harrelson unhinged, as his cartoonish but genuinely frightening villain Harland DeGroat proves just how unpredictable he is, capable of striking at any time (something the local Baze brothers, played by Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, will soon learn the hard way). After I likened the scene to the opening moments of “Jaws”, Cooper told me he began the film this way because after Harland tries to murder a woman with a hotdog, “you know, whenever that person or animal is around, that nothing good is going to come of it”. – David Ehrlich
97.) SNITCH // “Stunt Rock”
At the climax of this over-earnest anti-drug-war (or at least skeptical of the DEA) drama, director Ric Roman Waugh finally puts his background as a stuntman to use. The chase (skip to about 3:25) has very little in common with what’s come before, but it’s pretty excellent, CGI-free stuff, climaxing with an 18-wheeler jackknifing off the highway. There’s no hazy clutter hanging over the scene from hazy f/x, just real sparks and vehicles in motion as the truck (driven by Dwayne Johnson himself, Waugh claims) turns on its side. It’s the kind of once-commonplace stuntwork almost never seen anymore. – Vadim Rizov
96.) KILL YOUR DARLINGS // “Wolves in the Library”
Note: The clip above is from an earlier scene in the film, also set in the library.
“Kill Your Darlings” is in many ways a film about transition. It bridges the gap between the dark violence of the closet and the bright sensuality of Allen Ginsberg’s poetry, the jump from hidden queer art to open expression. This one scene is a tortured, erotic expression of this in-between. Ginsberg finds himself trying to distract a college student library volunteer, a woman who ends up responding with a bit more enthusiasm than he expected. Meanwhile his friend Lucien Carr sneaks in. As they stare at each other through a stack of books, they seem to share Ginsberg’s orgasm. It’s an old, often unfortunate pre-Stonewall metaphor: homosexuality metaphorically expressed through a conduit, two men connecting through a woman. Yet here it seems on the cusp of finally coming out. It’s a complicated moment, rich with metaphor and also pretty hot. – Daniel Walber
95.) POPULAIRE // “Typing Competition”
This charming French confection (all charming French films are required to be called “confections,” by the by) is just as light and sweet as a fresh pastry, and it goes down just as deliciously. While a period-set foreign film about professional typing competitions sound just about as boring as cinema could possibly get, Regis Roinsard‘s film is one of the year’s best little romances and it benefits from a number of typing competition scenes that make the sport of typing look, well, damn sporty and quite exciting. As a nervous young Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois) tackles her first big competition, humor abounds in the stands (yes, there are stands at typing competitions, packed with fans) and our heroine sets about tapping out winning words. She succeeds – and so does this delectable little film. – KE
94.) THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE // “Peeta’s Pregnancy Reveal”
The latest entry into the “Hunger Games” franchise is all about political machinations, though most of them initially come care of plucky Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who all but engage in a two-stepping dance on the way to bringing each other down. But Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has more up his sleeves than just puppy dog love and baked goods, he has his own plans – ones that include telling the entire world a whopper of a lie to curry both favor and pity. While it seemed that Katniss and Peeta had taken their “fake” love story to its highest level (a wedding!), Peeta cleverly unveiled the biggest lie of all – we’re having a (fake) baby, and you people are going to kill it with your (very real) games. – KE
93.) HER // “Phone Sex”
From concept to execution, Spike Jonze faced at least one seemingly insurmountable challenge with “Her”: how do you film a sex scene between a man and a computer’s disembodied voice? (It certainly helps that the voice in question belongs to Scarlett Johansson, who conjures the requisite feelings quite capably, but still.) Jonze, for his part, devised the perfect touch for the climax: rather than strain to suggest the body of a woman who doesn’t have one, “Her” employs a well-timed fade to black that levels the playing field by taking away the physicality of the leads altogether, leaving the act to our imaginations in much the same way it’s left to theirs. –CM
92.) WHITE REINDEER // “Christmas Orgy”
Note: The above clip is from an earlier scene in the film.
“White Reindeer” is a film that plays so heavily on ironic corruptions of holiday images that it threatens to sink into cynicism, yet its constant empathy for those ingrained notions of Christmas, to say nothing of the characters themselves, gives it a human streak that makes it one of the best films of the year. Case in point: a scene in which the recently, horrifically widowed Suzanne (Anna Margaret Hollyman) attends a swinger party held by a neighbor. The scene is naturally comic, with people holding small talk as they take off their clothes and start drifting between partners, but the film makes a point to stress how relaxing the seemingly uptight Suzanne finds it all, how it takes her mind off of things for just a small while. In a film stuffed with unexpectedly touching moments, this one takes the cake, an affirming glimpse of human connection that just so happens to involve leather. – Jake Cole
91.) THOR: THE DARK WORLD // “Portal Madness”
You need an advanced degree in mythology to understand what the baddies are actually up to in “Thor: The Dark World.” And by advanced degree in mythology I mean a lot of pre-teen nights reading those Marvel comics that are vaguely connected to Norse legend in the least academic manner possible. Either way, none of this detracts from the totally nutty boss fight between Thor and . . .whoever it was Thor was fighting at the end of this movie.
The nine realms, visually represented as ENORMOUS hula hoops, are all going to converge at once (at Greenwich’s Prime Meridian, which is convenient) and Malekith the Dark Elf will then release the Power of the Aether. And that would suck. Luckily, Blondie McSpacegod (Thor) and his mighty hammer (as well as his weapon Mjolnir) are ready to zip between each of the nine realms as computer generated mayhem builds. It’s basically the ending of “Monsters Inc.” Anyway, there’s a lot of action and comedy, especially when an enormous ice beast ends up getting into the action. I don’t care what level of snooty-pants you are, it’s pretty hard not to enjoy this sequence. – JH
THE COUNTDOWN CONTINUES ON PAGE 2 (SCENES #90 – #76)
About Time, August: Osage County, Best Scenes of the Year, Calum Marsh, Daniel Walber, David Ehrlich, Jake Cole, Kate Erbland, New World, Side Effects, The rock, William goss, World war z, Year in Review