It’s tough when a movie ends up not being as good as you’d hoped, but it can always get worse. Sometimes, you’ll be watching a crappy or boring film, and a scene will come up that gives you a glimpse of what the project might have been. And while it’s nice to discover those little bits of quality in the underwhelming whole, it’s still pretty frustrating that the rest of it was so shrug-worthy.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy the good parts. Here are 15 scenes that were way better than the movies in which they appear.
15. Opening credits – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
We have yet to meet someone who thought that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is anything but a mess. It shoehorns in too many characters, it made a sad misuse of Gambit, and it completely screwed up Deadpool. But it did have a redeeming quality or two, and its opening credits sequence was definitely one of them.
After we see history’s deadliest Canadian awkwardly sprout his claws for the first time, the movie switches to an action montage showing Logan and Sabretooth fighting in pretty much every armed conflict of note. We see them as literal cannon fodder in the American Civil War, fighting in the trenches in World War I, storming the beach in Normandy, and getting up to some questionable stuff in Vietnam, for which the Army stands them up in front of a firing squad.
Not only is this sequence cool-looking thanks to some great action, but it also tells a story. As time goes on, you see Logan and his brother diverging as the latter gets more vicious and sadistic. It sets up the eventual wedge between them and provides actual context for some of the decisions that Wolverine makes throughout the rest of the movie. And it does all of that in roughly three and a half minutes.
14. ‘In the Air Tonight’ – Miami Vice
Director Michael Mann produced the original TV show on which his 2006 film, Miami Vice, is based, so you could almost argue that it was his thing to ruin. And while the movie isn’t the worst one we’ve ever seen (see above), it’s hardly Heat. But to be fair, few things are.
We did manage to wake up near the end of Miami Vice, however, and it had everything to do with the climactic drug deal — and ensuing shootout — set underneath a heavy-metal cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” The whole sequence has fantastic pacing and tension, and it also has one of the single largest simulated gunshots we can think of. It feels like it came straight out of a way more interesting movie.
We also have a soft spot for this part because it reminds us of the similarly impressive sequence from the show’s pilot, which also includes that song.
13. Plane rescue – Superman Returns
It was a tough call deciding which scene to use from X-Men: Apocalypse director Bryan Singer’s underwhelming Superman Returns because that part where a henchman flattens a bullet on the Man of Steel’s eyeball is pretty great.
But we’re going to have to go with the sequence that marks the big guy’s return to the world, in which he rescues a planeload of reporters during a doomed test flight. It’s the most Superman moment in a film that is frustratingly light on Supermanning, complete with the Last Son of Krypton managing to bring the plane down safely in the middle of a baseball stadium — because America.
Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice have presented a gloomy version of Superman who basically acts like saving people is a huge inconvenience, so it’s nice to look back and remember that movies still exist in which the alien Boy Scout inspires hope.
12. The interview – The Interview
It’s likely people will remember the controversy surrounding The Interview for longer than the movie itself, but that would probably be true of any work that threatens to start a war by its very existence. The film’s distributor, Sony, canceled its wide release after hacker groups threatened to attack theaters that screened the comedy, which centers around — and ends with — the assassination of North Korean president Kim Jong-un (Randal Park).
And really, The Interview isn’t a bad movie; it just couldn’t have possibly lived up to the unintended hype. But the high point is definitely the eponymous scene, which manages to be simultaneously inspiring and stupidly hilarious. It even has some suspense going into it because you don’t know if gossip-TV host Dave Skylark (James Franco) is actually going to ask the hard questions after the dictator butters him up with the gift of an adorable puppy.
But he pulls it together with a series of hard-hitting inquiries about the North Korean food supply and Kim’s father. And then he destroys the leader by singing his favorite song: Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
11. The final scene – Burn After Reading
Writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s Burn After Reading isn’t nearly on the same level as their much funnier and weirder works like The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona, but its closing scene repairs a lot of the damage.
The film is about a couple of gym employees (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) who blackmail a former CIA analyst (John Malkovich) over what they believe are state secrets but are, in fact, the angry ramblings of an alcoholic. It’s an alright movie, but most of the mistaken-identity and miscommunication scenarios fell flat for us. We can’t point to anything as being completely bad, but it all just felt a little shruggish until the closing moments.
At the end, two CIA superiors (David Rasche and J.K. Simmons) wrap up the entire strange situation while trying to understand what exactly happened. They don’t have any more luck than the rest of us, but Simmons’ frustration and confusion while trying to just get rid of the whole mess is easily the funniest bit in the whole movie.
10. The elevator – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
We spent most of the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot questioning the filmmakers’ creative decisions, especially the one that made the heroes look like terrifying monsters. But it definitely has its moments.
The best one comes just before the Turtles head up to the roof of a very tall building to fight Shredder near the end. And like us, they know that long elevator rides can get kind of awkward if everyone’s just standing there silently, so Michelangelo tries to break the tension with some off-the-cuff beatboxing.
This scene is a journey. You start out wondering why we’re watching four computer-generated characters standing in an elevator, and then the youngest-acting Turtle starts knocking his nunchucks together and laying down a fat beat that includes the phrase “MC Mikey,” and you start to cringe. But then his brothers slowly join in until they have this whole thing going on, and it circles around to funny and endearing. We like to imagine that they prep for all important, rooftop battles like this, but we can’t imagine that the Turtles ride elevators very often.
9. Achilles vs. Hector – Troy
Even if you’ve read the Iliad and know who wins this fight (spoiler: It’s the invincible guy. He wins), the epic showdown between Greek and Trojan champions in director Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy is a great moment in a movie as full of questionable accents as it is devoid of people fighting rivers.
It helps that both characters have clear and understandable motivations: Hector (Eric Bana) is trying to protect his home and people, and Achilles (Brad Pitt) wants to avenge his friend. It’s hard to take one side over the other. It’s also great that it doesn’t fall into the shaky-cam trap of so many other fight sequences; people took time to choreograph, act, and shoot this scene, and we appreciate being able to see all of that work. And the music stays out of the way, avoiding an obvious fast, pulsing orchestral number in favor of a simple, repeating percussion rhythm that only adds to the tension. It only comes back up to punctuate the end of the skirmish, and it all works exceptionally well.
8. Airplane Crash – Knowing
Right in the middle of this head-scratcher, we get a well-done scene that has hero John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) at the scene of a horrific plane crash that, unfortunately, didn’t have Superman around to prevent it. The initial disaster is impressive-looking enough, but then we follow Koestler in a single, long shot as he rushes through the wreckage trying to save anyone he can. It’s intense and scary, and somehow it’s more effective than the part later on where everyone on Earth dies. And that might be because that sequence, we aren’t even kidding, contains one man repeatedly hitting another in the shoes with a garbage-can lid.
7. Robot Fight – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Movies based on video games can be pretty hit-and-miss, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is both of those things simultaneously. It has its good and bad moments, but it just about peaks during its opening sequence, which has the title character fighting a killbot in her mansion’s equivalent of the X-Men’s Danger Room.
It’s a pretty great sequence, and it’s also the most Lara Croft thing that Lara Croft does in the whole movie. She’s wearing her iconic black costume from the games, firing her dual pistols, and flipping around like crazy. The only way this could be more Tomb Raider is if she were fighting a T-Rex instead of a training robot. But that would be silly. How would it even fit into her mansion?
Unfortunately, all that super-effective Crofting has a downside when you realize that a 10-foot-tall combat drone would have come in pretty handy during the villains’ attack on the mansion later on. Good one Lara.
6. Nightclub – Blade
We spent half of the first Blade trying to figure out what we were looking at and the other half wondering if it was supposed to be funny or if that was an unintended side effect of building the entire climax of a movie around the villain erupting into a mass of blood bubbles — save one leg — and then exploding. It sounds cooler than it looks because CGI just wasn’t there yet.
But the movie starts out with one of the best action sequences of the whole trilogy, when the titular Daywalker raids a nightclub containing vampires and terrible ’90s techno music in equal measure. But it builds up a bit, following one poor human as he slowly realizes that he may not be getting lucky tonight. Well, he does insofar as Blade shows up shortly after the ceiling sprinklers start spraying blood everywhere but before the vampire rave can descend upon him, but that’s probably not what he was hoping for.
And then, Blade starts straight-up murdering the undead club kids because no court in the land would convict him. This is a strong, exciting opening to a movie that never manages to match it, which is too bad, but at least we still got one cool sequence out of it.
5. Car Chase – Death Proof
We’ve never met anyone who loves both parts of directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s cinematic experiment Grindhouse equally. We preferred the more lighthearted pseudo-zombie segment, Planet Terror to Tarantino’s overlong and mostly tedious carsploitation flick Death Proof, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the chase that ends the story.
The film tells the story of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a serial killer who uses his suped-up movie stunt car to kill women for fun. He’s a lovely guy.
Unfortunately, he targets the wrong carload of ladies (Rosario Dawson, Zoë Bell, Tracie Thoms), who don’t take kindly to maniacs trying to kill them — and they’re also stunt performers capable of outdriving their attacker. And while a high-speed stunt-off sounds like it could be either amazing or terrible, what it means for the audience is that it’s the first time that Death Proof actually gets interesting. We can’t say it was worth sitting through the other 105 moments of boredom and unpleasantness, but it’s better than nothing.
4. Holodeck – Jason X
We can’t claim to have had high hopes for Jason X, since we’ve come to learn that the moment a franchise heads to space, it’s time to walk away. And while the entry that had the Friday the 13th series kicking itself free of the earth is a mostly miserable experience, it does include one scene that had us laughing out loud.
After Jason gets his weird cyborg upgrade because, hey, when in space, his would-be victims come up with a plan to keep him distracted while they escape. This involves tricking him into a holographic simulation of Camp Crystal Lake which comes complete with underage-drinking, pot-smoking, promiscuous teens (link NSFW). It’s kind of a cheap shot at the rest of the series, which is a bold move from a film that you can’t describe without using the words “cyborg upgrade,” but it’s also the only joke in the whole thing that actually lands.
We aren’t sure why the kids only programmed two stupid teenagers for Jason to kill, though that could have actually been a permanent solution to the whole Voorhees problem. Just provide the guy with infinite holograms to murder and then hang up a sign on the door telling people never to open it.
3. Garage chase – Death Sentence
The Conjuring director James Wan’s Death Sentence is based loosely on the sequel to the novel Death Wish, which itself launched an infamous movie series (one that’s currently being rebooted). And while Wan’s film doesn’t glorify vigilantism nearly as much as the Bronson films, it isn’t his best work. But like all of his work, even if you don’t enjoy the the story, he still gives you a lot of cool stuff to look at.
Death Sentence‘s best sequence has hero Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) on the run from the gang members who murdered his son. He leads them through some tight alleyways and even some buildings before they all end up in a parking garage. The rest of the chase takes place over a single, long shot that follows Hume through tight areas and even outside of the building in ways that initially seem impossible to have been filmed. And even once you know how the filmmakers did it (the camera was mounted on a frame that operators handed off to each other), it’s no less impressive to see.
The long take isn’t just a gimmick, either. Seeing Bacon actually do all the running and climbing all at once makes you feel and see his exhaustion and genuinely worry about whether or not he’s going to get away. It’s simply one of the most impressive chase scenes out there.
2. Warehouse Fight – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Fans had been waiting decades to see a movie that put the Dark Knight and Man of Steel in a room together. We didn’t even care if they fought; we just wanted them to share the screen. But when Dawn of Justice dropped this summer, it wasn’t the event that a lot of viewers had been hoping for. Instead, we got a jumbled, gloomy, miserable film seemingly propelled by a series of amazing coincidences. And even worse, the trailers gave most of the cool stuff away.
One great example of that is Batman’s showcase raid of a warehouse, which is one of the few occasions in which he takes bad guys out without actually “taking them out.” We liked the movie’s brutal fighting style for the Caped Crusader, and the editing in this sequence is tight and exciting while still keeping all of that cool choreography visible. That’s something that not even Christopher Nolan’s superior trilogy managed to do consistently, so we have to hand it to Zack Snyder this time.
The fight is so good, in fact, that stupidly inserting pro wrestler John Cena’s theme music in every time Batman makes a big hit doesn’t hurt it at all.
1. Darth Maul fight – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace was arguably the most disappointing film ever released. People had been waiting 16 years for more Star Wars after 1983’s Return of the Jedi, and the hype on the 1999 return was very real. People were actually buying tickets to movies they didn’t want to see just to check out the trailer.
But then the movie came out to a collective, “… Oh.”
It might have been the economics-driven plot, the unfunny jokes, the arguably racist characters, or the terrible acting (even from people who should know better) that ruined it for you, but we can’t deny that the fights involving Sith apprentice Darth Maul were pretty cool.
Even ignoring the inherent silliness of a double-bladed lightsaber, Maul portrayer Ray Park brought a level of grace and acrobatics to Jedi combat that we had never seen before. It was a revelation that made all of that stiff fencing from the original trilogy look — well, not bad, exactly, but certainly not as good. Add in composer John Williams’ iconic “Duel of the Fates,” the most recognizable new theme from the prequels, and these fight sequences were the only redeeming parts of a terrible, insulting movie.
Which scenes did you love in movies you didn’t so much like? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
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