Filmmaking is a painstaking process, one that usually takes months, sometimes years, to complete. Your average film takes two to four months to shoot, with bigger-budgeted films often taking much longer, as each and every scene usually requires multiple takes.
A talented cast and crew can make all the difference, and it’s always helpful when your stars manage to nail a scene on their very first try.
Here are Screen Rant’s 10 Incredible Movie Scenes Nailed on the First Take.
A relative unknown before his breakout role in the boxing drama, star Sylvester Stallone fought tooth and nail for his script to be adapted exactly the way he envisioned. After convincing producers to allow him to play the lead role, Stallone and the rest of the crew had to cut plenty of costs, but the actor refused to let this crucial scene be one of them. With the film running behind schedule, Stallone was allowed only one shot at Rocky’s most vulnerable moment, confessing his insecurities to his girlfriend, Adrian. Thankfully, that was all he needed, and the character’s pivotal moment was kept.
10 Things I Hate About You
This romantic comedy launched the careers of its trio of young stars: Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Julia Stiles, with the latter’s high school poem giving the movie its title. The poem could have been a little corny, but was given an added layer when the then-17 year old Stiles slowly broke down into tears on the very first take, an acting cue that was not in the film’s script. First-time director Gil Junger was so moved, he called a wrap to the shoot after that, and the scene’s only take continues to live on in ‘90s pop culture lore to this day.
The Man with the Golden Gun
Thanks to the innovations of CGI, spectacular action pieces are far easier (and less dangerous) to pull off than they used to be. Roger Moore’s second outing as James Bond featured one of the most outrageous stunts in movie history, one that reportedly had several ambulances watching from the sidelines, fearing the worst. When the angle, speed, and rotation were all calculated and built to let gravity deliver a perfect barrel roll, stunt driver Loren “Bumps” Williard not only managed to avert disaster and pull off a full corkscrew, he did so on his very first attempt. And earned a huge bonus.
Both Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman received Academy Award nominations for their work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, and with scenes like this, it’s easy to see why. Phoenix’s unhinged performance as an alcohol-addled follower of Hoffman’s character was on full display in this largely improvised scene. Phoenix goes absolutely berserk, and his first take at the scene was the one Anderson chose to use in the final cut, for obvious reasons.
Already well on his way to Hollywood’s A-List in 2003, Colin Farrell teamed with director Joel Schumacher (yes, that Joel Schumacher) to star in this psychological thriller about a man held hostage in a New York City phone booth by a sniper. The shooter, played by Kiefer Sutherland, demands that Farrell’s character come clean to his wife about his marital infidelities, resulting in an emotional scene that the actor managed to nail down on the first take. The entire film was shot in just 12 days and proved to be a sleeper hit with critics and audiences alike, thanks in no small part to Farrell’s stellar performance.
Beauty and the Beast
The climactic theme song of this Disney classic underwent several changes on its way to winning Best Original Song at the 1992 Oscars. Originally conceived as a more up-tempo rock song, it was eventually retooled into a romantic ballad to better fit the scene. Angela Lansbury, who portrayed Mrs. Potts, was initially reluctant to provide the vocals, thinking herself a poor fit for the style of song. At the directors’ request, the actress recorded one take as a backup, in case no other options were found. Lansbury reportedly brought the entire studio to tears with her performance, and audiences followed suit when the film was released a year later.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Working with animals is never an easy process, no matter how well-trained they are, but it’s probably much easier when you’re dealing with the Lord of all horses. Shadowfax was said to be capable of running faster than the wind and understanding human speech in The Lord of the Rings novels, which would help explain how he was able to nail down his majestic entrance on the first take - complete with a dramatic twist of his head when his name was spoken. It turns out the horse was more than ready for his moment in the spotlight.
Continuing the trend of cinematic classics is screen legend Orson Welles’ film debut, widely considered one of the greatest and most influential of all time. That also means its home to one of the most critically acclaimed one-take scenes, when the main character’s wife leaves him, sending the decaying mogul into a violent tirade, completely destroying her bedroom. Given the destruction Welles caused to the set, the first take of this infamous scene was, understandably, the only take. That was all the actor needed, and one of the film’s most iconic moments was born.
To Kill a Mockingbird
It’s probably the most memorable one-and-done scene in movie history. Gregory Peck’s performance as Atticus Finch earned him the title of America’s greatest movie hero of the 20th century, and the unforgettable closing statement in which Finch demanded the jury “do their duty” was originally planned to take several days. But the seasoned veteran of the stage and screen somehow managed to nail the speech in only one take – that alone was enough to guarantee Peck’s first (and only) Best Actor Oscar.
Finally, can a shot nailed on the last take be just as impressive as the first? Allow us to explain. One of the few bright spots of the fourth entry in the Alien film series was Sigourney Weaver’s infamous no-look basketball shot in the movie’s first act. After spending weeks practicing, Weaver was only hitting about a sixth of her attempts. The director preferred to just add the ball in later – which is why the shot was staged with the ball leaving the frame – but allowed Weaver six attempts to pull it off for real. With 5 misses, the actress put her last chance to good use. The cheers from her co-stars when she sunk it meant the shot had to be cut immediately, but Weaver delivered, hitting nothing but net. The rest of the movie? Not so much.
So what did you think of our list? Did we miss any of your personal one-take favorites? Let us know in the comments section, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos like this one.