As 2010 comes to an end, most sites are busy compiling top 10 lists ranking the best films of the year. While I always appreciate a good top 10 movie list, I’ve slowly come around to the opinion that at year’s end, it’s not just the discussion of entire films that dominates the talk around my holiday dinner table, but also the best scenes and/or moments that stuck in moviegoers’ minds.
So, following in the tradition started by our list of the best movie moments of 2009, I’d once again like to submit to you, the readers, Screen Rant’s top 10 movie moments of 2010.
This was an odd year in cinema. 2010 started off with moviegoers still caught up in the phenomenon of James Cameron’s Avatar; people were wondering just how prolific the implementation of 3D would be in upcoming films, and Avatar’s financial success had some questioning the future direction of cinema as a whole. The addition of murky-colored, pop-up book post-converted 3D to the mix (Alice In Wonderland, Clash of the Titans) may have fattened Hollywood’s wallet, but did little to impress moviegoers.
There were some highly-anticipated films on the calender, but if you are a real movie geek, 2010 was truthfully more of a rest stop between 2009 and the years 2011-2012, which will be a time of geek Nirvana thanks to the biggest rollout of sci-fi and/or comic book movies ever (see: Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America, The Dark Knight Rises, Superman: Man of Steel, Cowboys & Aliens, etc., etc., etc…).
Yet, 2010 also offered us some truly entertaining movies as well. Whether they were original works (Inception, Black Swan), adaptations (The Social Network, True Grit), 3D event films (TRON: Legacy, How to Train Your Dragon) or even sequels (Toy Story 3), 2010 had some truly great moments worth remembering.
There are parts of some films from the 2010 lineup that deserve mention, but not necessarily a spot on our list. This is primarily due to the fact that the items in question are general aspects of a film that impressed, rather than specific moments. Here are the aspects of certain movies that impressed us enough to warrant recognition:
The fight scenes in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Edgar Wright’s adaptation of this comic book cult fave was refreshingly inventive and visually stunning, as evidenced by the wild and epic fight scenes between Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) and the evil exes of his geek-chic love-crush, Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). We couldn’t pick a particular favorite out of the six-round battle royal (was it Lucas Lee, Matthew Patel, Todd Ingram, Roxy, Gideon Graves or the Katayanagi twins?) so instead, the battles of Scott Pilgrim top our honorable mention list.
The Grid battles of TRON: Legacy – The script was absolutely ridiculous and most of the movie involved characters sitting around spewing exposition that made no sense at all (ISOs? Identity disks? Clu is after what exactly?). However, TRON: Legacy did entertain whenever young Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) followed in his father Kevin’s (Jeff Bridges) footsteps by competing in the gladiatorial games of The Grid, a digital world inside of a computer (…that’s apparently not hooked up to the Internet). The disc wars and lightcycle battles were a thrill for aging nerds everywhere, who could finally see the Tron universe they knew and (sort of) loved given a sleek modern-day 3D makeover. But once the wore off, TRON: Legacy had little else to offer.
The total discomfort of Black Swan – Thanks to Darren Aronofsky, cinephiles now have a new game to play: Approach a friend and ask the question, “Wanna be really uncomfortable for about two hours?” and should they say yes (why wouldn’t they?), simply pop in Black Swan and press play. Dancing, stretching, massages, nail clipping, finger peeling, seduction, masturbation, – all the things you love to do in life are transformed into cringe-worthy experiences thanks to the (genius?) of Aronofsky’s vision. Consider our dreams of being ballet stars officially over.
The Winklevoss Twins - While we have an actual moment from The Social Network rated on our list, who didn’t love a double-dose of actor Armie Hammer as snide aristocrats the Winklevoss Twins? In a year where CGI doubles continued to infiltrate cinema (see: TRON: Legacy) the Winklevi truly were a technical achievement – and wonderfully hilarious character(s), to boot.
Top 10 Movie Moments of 2010
10. John Malkovich vs. a Rocket Propelled Grenade
Judging by the title of this entry I’m sure you can already agree that this scene from RED belongs on our list. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that any time you hear the words “John Malkovich” and “Rocket Propelled Grenade” in the same sentence, you should probably just go ahead and agree – sight unseen – that the subject in question is awesome. Just saying.
While I’m laying down recommendations: don’t ever call John Malkovich an old man. He doesn’t like it and all you’re likely to do is piss him off. One CIA assassin made this mistake, thinking that her RPG launcher was big enough and bad enough to let her get away with some down and dirty trash talk. After all, Malkovich was only holding a revolver – so where was the danger?
Well, if you sweep up all the little bits of that agent off the concrete, I’m sure she’ll tell you first-hand that:
A) When you talk trash John Malkovich, nothing on Earth is going to protect you.
B) John Malkovich knows how to handle his revolver like a surgeon does a scalpel. Thanks to his character, Marvin Boggs, men of a certain age everywhere now have a new catch phrase: “Old man my ass.”
9. Eli’s Walk of Faith, Not Sight
The Book of Eli started off the year on a relatively good note, as Denzel Washington once again displayed the no-nonsense swagger of a classic leading man, this time in the Hughes Brothers’ meditation on the power of faith and/or religion in society, via a post-apocalyptic scenario involving a skilled warrior on a sacred quest (Washington), and a totalitarian intellectual (Gary Oldman) bent on controlling a small oasis of civilization.
The film was entertaining enough as your standard dystopian action flick (the fight scenes were certainly well staged), but it was the moment near the end,when it is revealed that Eli is in fact blind, and that the bible he carried was written in braille, that gave The Book of Eli a nice thought-provoking twist to set it above(?) other films of the same vein.
Don’t believe that moment had an impact? I can tell you first-hand that since The Book of Eli came out, use of the phrase “I walk by faith, not by sight,” has increased to an almost obnoxious degree. But hey, can’t blame Denzel for that – the way he said it will forever remain badass.
8. Revelations of the Shutter Island Lighthouse
Many people said they saw it coming a mile away, while others are still debating it in the comment thread of our Shutter Island Ending Explanation post. It doesn’t matter if you believe that Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) was actually Andrew Laeddis, or if you believe that the Shutter Island doctors “brainwashed” him into believing that fantasy; regardless, there is no doubt that the memory finally revealed to Teddy/Andrew in the lighthouse on Shutter Island was truly a chilling one.
I personally thought actress Michelle Williams deserved high accolades for her brief yet powerful scene as Andrew’s wife, Dolores. Williams perfectly captured the sweet and terrifying face that insanity can wear – a woman who thought she was being a good mother by drowning her three children in the lake behind her house. The scene only gets that much more chilling when Andrew arrives home and finds Dolores dripping wet, seemingly oblivious to the horror of her actions as she suggests they arrange the dead kids around the table for a family dinner. It’s almost an act of mercy as Andrew pulls out his revolver and shoots his deranged wife through the heart – an action that fully explains the complex layers of denial and fantasy Andrew created to protect his mind from the trauma (and keep us guessing for two hours).
Yes, a lot of us saw what was coming at the end of Shutter Island, but we didn’t know it was coming like that.
7. The Expendables’ Final Assault
I sat through much of The Expendables wondering (as many others did) what brand of anvil had been dropped on Sylvester Stallone’s head prior to him picking up the camera to direct this action movie throwback. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward job: get a bunch of tough guy actors together to kick ass onscreen for an hour and a half. Yet, Sly managed to turn an easy task into a film made up of half a story, terrible dialogue, CGI blood by the gallons, and some of the worst photography and digital filming I’ve seen in years.
However, when it came time for the final shootout/knife-throwing/martial arts-fighting/wrestling/MMA battle royale, The Expendables delivered exactly what it promised: ballz-to-the-wall sphincter-clenching action by the boatload.
Jason Statham and Jet Li whipping ass in that underground tunnel was martial arts poetry in motion; Sly, Steve Austin and Randy Couture throwing down in wrestling/MMA slam dancing was about as macho as it gets – and whatever ass all those other guys didn’t kick, Terry Crews cleaned up with his magical big-barreled gun that seemed to blow up everything he pointed it at (why not?).
The Expendables may have been an ugly mess of a movie overall, but man, that last battle sure was awesome. I immediately went out and pumped iron for two hours, then ate an extra rare steak.
6. Hiccup and Toothless’ First Flight
Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon proved that there is indeed another animation studio besides Disney/Pixar working at the top echelon of the CGI animated feature genre. Dragon took a classic narrative archetype – a kid and his beloved pet – and transformed it into an epic movie experience that was equally exciting, fun and moving.
When Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a scrawny Viking wannabe, finally befriends Toothless, a Night Fury dragon with an injured tail, the two don’t firmly cement their friendship until they launch into their first flight together. Hiccup’s ingenuity and inventiveness provide Toothless with a prosthetic tail flap, which allows the crippled dragon to take to the sky once more.
Beyond that touching moment of symbiotic friendship, the first flight sequence of How to Train Your Dragon firmly drew a line in the sand between those filmmakers who are using 3D right, and those who are using it as a cheap gimmick to sell more expensive tickets (Clash of the Titans, looking at you). Because the Dragon team knew how to use 3D in the immersive, captivating way James Cameron did with Avatar, Hiccup and Toothless’ flight together made us feel like we were right on board for takeoff. Movie magic to the fullest.
5. Meet Hit-Girl
Sure, young actress Chloe Moretz is a star now, but odds are a lot of you reading this didn’t really know her until she made her epic entrance into the world of Kick-Ass. As Hit-Girl, Moretz exploded onto the screen as a cute little ass-kicking, potty-mouthed, bundle of cool. For every person who was offended by seeing a little girl cut and shoot criminals while saying things that would make a sailor blush, there was another person who was totally crushing on the girl of hits.
In fact, Hit-Girl went so far as to become a cultural fixation for all of five minutes: Debate raged as to whether the character was a proud embodiment of neo-feminist expression, or simply a button-pushing caricature spawned from the raunchy mind of Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar. Either way, Hit-Girl made her mark on cinema this year and in some ways set a new standard for what child actors can do onscreen. While there are several great sequences of Moretz in action (the Big Daddy rescue, the hallway shootout), nothing dropped audience memebers’ jaws quite like her first costumed outing. where she viciously slaughtering a gang of drug dealers in the projects. But only after dropping the C-bomb, of course.
4. Mark Zuckerberg’s World-Changing Breakup
Early in 2010, people were referring to The Social Network by its more popular title, “The Facebook Movie” and the hype was… less than enthusiastic, if we’re being honest. Having Aaron Sorkin on the script was viewed as somewhat of a head-scratcher; the idea of a real-life story about Harvard kids fighting over a billion-dollar Internet idea wasn’t a popular topic in recession time; people were still referring to lead actor Jesse Eisenberg as “the other Michael Cera”; no one really knew the name Andrew Garfield yet; and Justin Timberlake? Fuggedaboutit. The only glimmer of hope for The Social Network was having David Fincher in the director’s chair.
Indeed, the film had to overcome a lot of cynicism when it hit theaters; and even if they sat down t0 watch it, viewers weren’t likely to extended a lot of patience waiting for the movie to hit some kind of stride. It was going to be an uphill battle,and apparently David Fincher and Co. knew that in advanced, because they sure came out of the gate with a bang.
The opening scenes of The Social Network did three really good things, in my opinion:
- Established that Sorkin had captured lightning in a bottle with his script. The dialogue between Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) and his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) was totally whip-smart and spot-on in its discussion of class, privilege and the pursuit of networking as a means to success in America. The following scenes of the Facebook creator’s own internal ruminations about life, love and the Internet were just as brilliant.
- Demonstrated that Jesse Eisenberg is much more than “the other Michael Cera.” Let’s be honest, that opening scene with Zuck and Albright is really more monologue than dialogue; within five minutes, most viewers knew exactly who Mark Zuckerberg was (as a character, at least) and for better or worse, most of them loved him.
- That opening scene and the following sequence of brash outcry and moral rebellion Zuckerberg launched on the Internet firmly established beyond any doubt that The Social Network was more than just “the Facebook movie.” Ten minutes in, we might not have known yet what it was, but we knew it was cool.
Flash-forward to the present, and The Social Network is the lead horse in the race for 2011 Oscar for Best Picture, with Sorkin, Fincher, and Eisenberg all likely to receive individual nominations. Nuff Said.
3. Mattie Ross: The Negotiator
There are several moments from the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit that we considered for our list – and truth be told, the scene of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) blowing off an outlaw’s head after the perpetrator cut off his partner’s fingers and stabbed him in the heart almost took the win. Almost.
However, in the end, the scene that introduced the world to a new young star is the one we have to highlight.
Hailee Steinfeld hadn’t acted in a feature film prior to her casting as Mattie Ross in True Grit, playing a vengeful little girl hell-bent on finding her father’s killer. Steinfeld had appeared in a few TV episodes and short films, but as far as Hollywood was concerned, she was still a fresh face. Now, she could possibly walk away with an Oscar.
Anybody who saw the film knows that True Grit owes its title not only to Jeff Bridges’ brass-balled lawman, but also to Mattie Ross, who in some ways displays the truest grit of all in her pursuit of the murderer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). As the film opens, it is apparent from the first frame that Mattie is a girl with smarts and moxie well beyond her years, but that point is firmly hammered home in the scene where the young girl takes on a hapless shopkeeper (Dakin Matthews) in a chess-like negotiation for the property and funds rightfully owed (or not) to her late father’s estate.
It takes deft skill for a child actor to carry themselves with an adult swagger without appearing pretentious. Not only did Steinfeld accomplish that tightrope walk, by the time that negotiation scene was over, we were loving both Mattie and the young – clearly talented – actress playing her. A star was born.
2. Topsy-Turvey Hotel Hallway Fight
By fall of 2010, if you uttered the phrase “Hallway Fight,” “Hotel Fight” or some combination thereof, 9 out of 10 people likely knew exactly what you were talking about: the epic gravity-bending sequence from Chris Nolan’s Inception.
Like many of Nolan’s greatest sequences, the rotating hotel hallway fight between Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a subconsciously projected thug (or something) was an intricate bit of movie wizardry made to look effortless. Our own Mike Eisenberg is still in awe of the fact Gordon-Levitt actually tied on a harness and literally jumped head-first into Nolan’s crazy scale-model hallway, which was specially built to rotate according to the director’s command in order to mimic the effect one dream level had on the physics of another (or something). Talk about dedication to the craft: the sequence turned out awesome and Gordon-Levitt had the bumps and bruises to prove why.
In fact, our #2 moment had such an impact that we can actually trace its effects back to 2009 when the very first Inception teaser trailer hit the web. That trailer was mostly a collection of random shots from the film, accented with booming music that made them seem o so important (BAUM!!!) – but nothing really grabbed your attention until the very end of the teaser, when strange men in suits started running on ceilings and walls, diving at each other as if gravity didn’t exist. If you weren’t paying attention to Inception before that moment, you certainly were afterward.
Best of all: unlike so many other promises made by cleverly cut movie trailers, the full-length hotel fight sequence in Inception was actually better than advertised. An instant classic.
1. Woody & Andy’s Bittersweet Farewell
Pixar is king when it comes to delivering CGI animated features that are at once fun, gorgeous, and moving enough to draw out even our most carefully guarded tears. Sure, at this point the news that a Pixar movie made us cry is hardly “news” at all – but hearing that one Pixar franchise got us all choked up on three different occasions, over a span of fifteen years, is definitely worth acknowledging. And so we give the end of Toy Story 3 the top spot on our list.
There’s an old saying about the inevitable arrival of a time in which childish things must be put away, and the film wizards at Pixar clearly had this saying in mind when they conceived the story for their third Toy Story film. Despite the whole subplot daycare that mirrored The Great Escape, the real narrative drive of Toy Story 3 was Woody’s (Tom Hanks) struggle to reconcile the changes that were taking place as a result of his owner, Andy, growing into adulthood and leaving for college. After all the harrowing obstacles Woody had to conquer to be reunited with Andy (three times no less!), in the end the hardest challenge Woody faced was a solemn goodbye to the child he helped grow, as Andy’s car drove off one last time, with Woody and the other toys left in the caring hands of their new owner.
I don’t even need to write anymore. If you ever loved a single toy you owned growing up, you already know exactly what this bittersweet sendoff meant: the end of an era in film that echoes the end of era for every child-turned-adult who has ever lived.
What do I define as great cinema? The ability to connect us with, and highlight that which is, or was, significant in our lives. Toy Story 3 most certainly accomplished that.
That’s it for our top 10 Movie Moments of 2010. I’m sure there will be plenty of grievances that will need to be aired regarding our choices – and God willing, we’ll be able to debate them all together in 2011.
Happy New Year from us here at Screen Rant!