Did not have the chance to see, but I heard about some scenes: The Raid 2 (Chase scene, Baseball Boy/Hammer Girl, prison yard fight), Guardians of the Galaxy (Dancing Groot, others), X-Men: Days of Future Past (Quicksilver), Nymphomaniac, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Elevator scene), The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Frank (I Love You All), Godzilla, Noah, Ida, Obvious Child
Honorable mentions: Edmund Pettus Bridge (Selma), The reveal of the man upstairs (The Lego Movie), The football player (Two Days, One Night), The beach scene (Calvary), The ending (A Most Wanted Man), Amelia vs. The Babadook (The Babadook), The attack (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Tom Cruise dies a lot (Edge of Tomorrow), The chase scene (A Most Violent Year), The avalanche (Force Majeure), Listening to Dwight’s voice message (Blue Ruin), “Trapped By a Thing Called Love” dance scene (Only Lovers Left Alive)
Note: These are unranked. It’s too difficult to rank these.
The Final Scene, “Whiplash”: I know this list isn’t ranked, but this would probably end up in the #1 spot if I did rank the scenes. The entire movie was tense and thrilling, and this was as spectacular a finale as you will ever see in cinema; it was a dazzling display of editing, directing, and acting, and it had one of the best smash cuts to black that I’ve ever seen. A masterful sequence that left me applauding its brilliance.
23 Years, “Interstellar”: Interstellar revolved around pure emotion, and this scene was the high point of both the human story and the movie as a whole (I could also make an argument for the docking scene, which was awesome). This was also Matthew McConaughey’s finest moment in the movie, and as Cooper watched his children grow up through 23 years of videos, it was difficult not to be moved.
Rehearsing the lines, “Birdman”: There were so many scenes from this movie that I could’ve chosen–Emma Stone monologue, Riggan running through Times Square, etc.–but I ultimately went with one of the beginning moments: Riggan and Shiner rehearsing their lines. The dialogue was snappy, the dynamic between the two was established nicely, and it was as great of an introduction for Edward Norton’s character as we could’ve hoped for.
The flashback, “Inherent Vice”: This was one of the most beautiful movie moments of the year, and it was my favorite scene in a movie full of great scenes. Set to Neil Young’s wonderful “Journey Through the Past”, we watched a flashback to a happier time for Doc and Shasta, a time when they ended up laughing and cuddling in the rain; it was a gorgeous scene. Others to note from this movie: Shasta’s return, Martin Short’s scene, Bigfoot and Doc’s last scene.
The Classroom, “Snowpiercer”: In a movie filled to the brim with creativity, I didn’t know what to expect when Allison Pill showed up as a school teacher in one of the train cars. What resulted was one of the most delightfully insane sequences I’ve ever seen, and it was entertaining, darkly hilarious, and chilling all at once. Also, Pill knocked it out of the park. Another scene of note: The axe battle tunnel.
Olivia says goodbye, “Boyhood”: Patricia Arquette gave a great performance throughout the movie, and this scene was her crowning achievement. In a wonderfully written and acted monologue, she ended up breaking down, realizing that she hadn’t–and never would–accomplish everything in her life that she wanted to accomplish.
The credits, “22 Jump Street”: 22 Jump Street was one of the more entertaining movies of the year, and aside from the “Schmidt fucked the Captain’s daughter” scene, the end credits was arguably the funniest part of the movie. We were taken through a lifetime’s worth of potential 22 Jump Street sequels, and it was a glorious ride.
Chinese restaurant+Chase, “Nightcrawler”: What an impressive sequence this was. From the intensity of the Chinese restaurant shootout to the thrillingly directed car chase, Nightcrawler delivered a finale (the actual ending shot was a bit weak, I’ll admit) that cemented it as one of the best movies of the year. Other notable scenes: the dinner scene, Lou’s “What if my problem is that I don’t like people?” monologue.
The Beach, “Under the Skin”: This was an incredibly disturbing sequence, but it was so well done. The baby’s cries, the rough water, the rock, the score, Johansson’s acting…it all came together here in arguably the most chilling movie scene of the year.
The nightclub, “John Wick”: Action movies are becoming more and more generic these days, but John Wick delivered something fresh and exciting, even as it used a fairly simple plot. The Red Circle nightclub scene was the best of the movie, and it featured the directing, choreography, and cinematography at the tops of their games. We could actually see the action because of the lack of shaky cam, and the dance-like choreography was a marvel to behold.
Dave Schultz Interview, “Foxcatcher”: I thought Foxcatcher was a good–not great–movie, but I definitely appreciated the always fantastic work from Mark Ruffalo. My favorite scene of his was the one in which he was interviewed about John du Pont for an upcoming documentary, yet couldn’t find the words to praise the coach. Dave had to swallow his pride, and we could see his thought process play out in his expressions alone; masterful work by Ruffalo there.
Two worlds, “The Immigrant”: This was the best shot of 2014. Shot by director James Gray and amazing cinematographer Darius Khondji, this sublimely framed final image was all about moving both forward and backward. It perfectly captured the duality of the characters’ lives and encapsulated the themes of the movie, and it left us with something to think about.
What the hell?, “Enemy”: Whereas The Immigrant‘s final scene was poetic and beautiful, Enemy‘s final scene was weird and legitimately frightening. I don’t think anyone watching this movie could’ve predicted that final image, and what made it so brilliant was not only its sheer unpredictability, but also its thematic tie-ins.
The prison break, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”: I could’ve put any number of scenes from this movie here: the shootout, the punching, the museum chase, etc. I went with the prison break because for me, it was simply the most fun I had during the entire movie. An expertly crafted piece of entertainment this was.
Ouch, “Gone Girl”: Blood. Lots of it. In the best box cutter scene since that one time Gus Fring used one, Amy Dunne slashed Neil Patrick Harris’s throat and pretty much just bathed in his blood. Amy did quite a few things throughout the movie, but none were as shocking or as visceral as this, and Rosamund Pike truly threw herself into her performance in this amazing scene. Another notable scene: the Cool Girl monologue.
The final installment in my 2014 Year End List series will drop Wednesday night/Thursday morning.