Making a movie is by no means an easy process. In any given production, meticulous directors and conscientious actors want the final product to be as good as it can possibly be – and that can often result in some scenes taking tens or even hundreds of takes to perfect.
Actors can mess up their lines, the lighting might not be right, something could go wrong with a stunt and all manner of other problems can arise – especially when filming a particularly complex scene.
However, sometimes, even the most difficult-to-film and most memorable of scenes can be successfully performed in a single attempt – and that’s what this video is all about. Here are ten amazing movie scenes that were nailed on the first take.
The Dark Knight
The late Heath Ledger famously won a posthumous Oscar for his role as The Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight – and this particular scene epitomises exactly why. It’s the scene in which the villain blows up Gotham City hospital – and Ledger totally nailed it first time, in spite of the fact that he encountered difficulties during the filming of it. Ledger was holding a device to activate the explosives that were to blow the building up, but they didn’t go off as planned at first. So, while remaining in character, he fiddled with the device for a while until the explosives detonated – and that’s the scene that made it into the final movie.
Alien: Resurrection was pretty terrible. The fourth installment in the Alien franchise had very little going for it, but one particular scene was extremely memorable. It was the scene in which Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley Clone 8 was able to score a basketball whilst facing away from the hoop – a shot with a success rate of about one in six – and she did it in just one take. She’d trained with a pro basketball coach for two weeks prior to the shot, but director Jean-Pierre Jeunet still wanted to cheat by dropping the ball in the hoop from out of shot. However, Weaver believed she could pull it off and that’s exactly what she did – and even Ron Perlman’s genuinely shocked and out-of-character look couldn’t stop the scene from making it in to the final movie.
The conclusion of 1982’s classic horror movie Poltergeist saw the Freeling family’s home implode and get sucked into a portal that had opened in one of the bedrooms. In order to produce this scene, a six-foot model scale of the home was constructed, which took four months of hard work. After brainstorming numerous methods of putting the shot into practise, the special effects team decided that the best way to do it was by threading thick cables through the model and to simply pull it into a funnel attached to a high powered vacuum – they pulled it off in a single take. After the model destruction shot was completed, it then took two months of additional special effects work to perfect the final shot.
The brilliant Boogie Nights tells the stories of a number of characters and the film’s opening shot goes straight from the opening title of the film to introducing several of them. It follows characters like Julianne Moore’s Maggie, Burt Reynold’s Jack Horner and Luis Guzman’s Maurice Rodriguez into a lively and popular nightclub, circling and meandering through it seamlessly whilst introducing the rest of the main cast. The framing, lighting and timing had to be extremely precise – and it was – and, astonishingly, it was nailed perfectly at the first attempt. Director Paul Thomas Anderson loves this kind of shot – and this is arguably his greatest example.
Danny Boyle’s masterful 127 Hours tells the true story of Aron Ralston – played by James Franco in the movie – who managed to get his arm trapped underneath a boulder at the bottom a remote canyon in Utah while he was out hiking alone. After more than five days of being stuck, Ralston was forced to amputate his own arm using a blunt knife in order to escape and avoid an inevitable early death. It was the most memorable and excruciating scene in the entire movie – and Franco pulled it off in a single take. The actor cut through a realistic prosthetic arm in the scene, which was expected to take around a day and half – but it actually only took him twenty minutes.