Others Considered: Dead body (The Nice Guys), Ending (The Witch), Would That It Were So Simple (Hail, Caesar!), First encounter (Arrival), Final scene (Aquarius), Sabotage (Star Trek: Beyond), The fire (Divines), Final battle (Hardcore Henry), Horseback ride (Certain Women), Conversation (Indignation)
Honorable Mentions: The arm (Green Room), William Carlos Williams (Paterson), Diner ending (The Lobster), DMV (Zootopia), I Am Moana (Moana), Airport battle (Captain America: Civil War), Limo scene (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping), The party/Whitney Houston (Toni Erdmann)
WARNING: Potential spoilers for the films listed below, so don’t read the description if you haven’t seen the film and care about spoilers.
12. Santa Claus, “10 Cloverfield Lane”
Such a simple little scene that packs a huge wallop of tension, and that’s mainly due to John Goodman being at his absolute best here. Funny yet terrifying, this is a genius scene that milks the premise and setting for all they’re worth.
11. T-bone steak, “Hell or High Water”
Margaret Bowman for Best Supporting Actress 2016. Again, another simple scene that’s extremely memorable, except this time it’s pretty lighthearted. This waitress just isn’t tolerating anything, and it’s a blast to watch.
Shoutout: Final scene
10. Hello Stranger, “Moonlight”
This entire diner scene is incredible, but the moment in which Barbara Lewis’s “Hello Stranger” starts playing from the jukebox is the pinnacle. Such a beautiful, ethereal moment in one of the year’s best.
Shoutout: Swimming lesson
9. Highway confrontation, “Nocturnal Animals”
The fictional storyline is by far the strongest element of the film, and this harrowing sequence is an example of Tom Ford’s top-notch filmmaking ability when it comes to thrillers.
8. Basement, “Don’t Breathe”
This is the film’s premise embracing its full potential, turning the tables on our main characters as they suddenly become the blind ones. It’s the most intense sequence of the film, and it also features some stellar cinematography. The Sicario tunnel scene of 2016.
7. Final scene, “The Invitation”
Oh, how I love dark endings. Several of the characters survive only to realize that the same thing is going on everywhere else, that The Invitation’s insidious plan has spread. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it undoubtedly has a hell of a final shot.
6. Flashback/police station, “Manchester By The Sea”
The Lee-Randi reunion is going to be what most people point out, but I find myself most impressed by the flashback in the middle of the film. The entire story hinges on the believability and impact of this sequence, and Lonergan, Affleck, and Williams are certainly up to the task. The sequence masterfully intertwines past and present as we find out what occurred on that fateful night, and it ends with an absolutely brutal scene in the police station in which Lee tries to kill himself. It’s a flashback that could’ve easily failed, but it works so well.
Shoutouts: Lee-Randi reunion, Funeral, Panic attack, Hockey practice
5. Final scene, “American Honey”
Raury’s “God’s Whisper” is absolutely perfect for this scene, and it’s a gorgeous expression of community, growth, and life in general. The moment in which she pops out of the water and the music cuts out…absolutely breathtaking.
4. Drive It Like You Stole It, “Sing Street”
The most purely enjoyable scene of the year for me. Such a glorious explosion of color, dance, and infectious energy, and the song is so damn catchy. Words cannot describe how much I love synchronized clapping before final choruses.
3. Apostatize, “Silence”
This, however, is the most powerful scene of the year for me. The entire film leads up to this moment: Father Rodrigues being asked to step on his god, to turn his back on a lifetime of devotion. It’s Andrew Garfield’s career-defining scene, and the moment in which everything becomes dead silent is the most stunning film moment of the year.
2. Someone In the Crowd, “La La Land”
This scene is amazing, but putting it at #2 is slightly the result of collective recognition for all of the film’s musical sequences. Nevertheless, this scene in and of itself is wonderful to experience, and like with “Drive It Like You Stole It”, it’s an explosion of color and dance that just sweeps you right off your feet. My favorite moment of the film: Emma walking back into a slo-mo crowd, snow lightly falling and the music slowly building back up.
Shoutouts to: A Lovely Night, Planetarium, City of Stars, Audition, Epilogue
1. Final scene, “The Neon Demon”
Sometimes a scene comes along that is too ridiculous to exist, yet is somehow perfect for the film in every way imaginable. That describes this one, a scene that escalates exponentially with each passing moment and delivers everything from eyeball eating to the best lip twitch of all time. This is one of the most memorable ending scenes I have ever seen, and it’s awesome because it gets a reaction out of the audience; it doesn’t matter whether it’s positive or negative. Many of you will vehemently disagree with my opinion here. That’s why it’s #1.
Shoutouts to: Runway scene, club scene