Now that one year has ended and another taken its place, everyone’s coming out with their long-awaited retrospective best-of lists, which I love reading. As with last year, though, I don’t think I’m ready to make a Top Twelve list strictly for 2017 movies. I’m always behind other bloggers when it comes to new releases, and though I’ve seen more than in past years, there are plenty of films I need to check out before I feel I can compile a worthwhile list for last year.
What I can do is follow last year’s example and list my favorite scenes seen for the first time last year. It’s one thing to honor whole movies, but when a certain scene sticks out above all the others, it can make the movie that much more special and memorable. Thus, for this list, I have cherry-picked the top twelve highlights of my movie-watching year, and that goes for all films seen, not just the List-Worthy ones. Be warned that some of the videos may contain spoilers, such as #10 and #4. It was tough ranking these, and I think I had a better selection this year than for the 2016 list. Let’s walk down memory lane, shall we?
- Chain reaction – Ink (2009)
Ink is a low-budget, high-concept fantasy drama with a lot going on. It gives a glimpse of a kind of spiritual warfare between those who spread dreams and those who plant nightmares, and one group of invisible “dream warriors” must help a man reconnect with his hospitalized daughter. The manner in which they get his attention, so to speak, is a brilliantly composed illustration of how events are interconnected and perhaps more changeable than we realize. It would be a potentially silly chain of events if it were in a Final Destination movie, but Ink makes it somehow poetic. “Something’s got to stop the flow.”
- Killing the alien (twice) – Alien: Covenant (2017)
For all my issues with Alien: Covenant, it did have some marvelous visuals, and even if I didn’t like where David ended up, his alien creations were dispatched in thrilling fashion. First, Daniels splatters one in the film’s best action set piece, and then she impales one on its way out to space, since blowing aliens into space is the preferred method in these movies. Both were grand on the big screen! (Language warning for the video.)
- Ending montage – Cinema Paradiso (1988)
I won’t spoil the meaning behind the ending montage of this Italian classic, which is beautiful on its own but even more so in context. It’s simply the best possible way for the film to have ended. (Warning for two brief scenes of nudity.)
- One-shot boxing match – Creed (2015)
If you’ve read my posts for a while, you might know that I love long tracking shots that clearly take much effort on the part of the actors and filmmakers. One of the finest examples was Adonis Creed’s first official match in Creed. This clip isn’t quite the whole thing, but from exiting the tunnel to climbing into the ring all the way to the knockout and celebration, I can just imagine how much time it took to perfect this amazing shot.
- Opening car chase – Baby Driver (2017)
Well, here’s where I really draw the distinction between movies seen and scenes seen, since I haven’t actually watched all of Baby Driver. Still, I was wowed by its opening car chase, set to the obscure rock song “Bellbottoms”. The editing and action are so well polished that I’ll definitely have to check out the whole film soon.
- Entire amusement park tank battle – Girls und Panzer der Film (2015)
What do you get when you cross historically accurate tanks, high-school girls, and a ridiculous disregard for personal property and the laws of physics? Answer: Girls und Panzer, a short anime series in which tank war games are considered a girls sport. This sequel film is an utterly bonkers thrill ride once the tank warfare picks up, especially when the protagonist team uses various theme park rides to their benefit. It’s a guilty pleasure but a darn fun one, as you can see from the hilarious “reactions” in the video below.
- Normandy invasion – Saving Private Ryan (1998)
It’s not a scene to watch casually (which is why there’s no video this time), but the re-creation of the Normandy landing in Saving Private Ryan is the first intense gut punch in a movie full of them. Visceral and masterfully filmed, it’s an unforgettable sequence that helps you greater appreciate the horror those men endured for our freedom.
- Opening scene – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)
Valerian had plenty of eye-popping scenes that proved that visual effects are limited only by the director’s imagination, of which Luc Besson has plenty. The best scene, though, might be the opening, a montage of mankind’s camaraderie in reaching for the stars and turning first contact with aliens into an ever-growing collaboration. Reminiscent of Star Trek, it’s an inspiringly rosy vision of the future.
- Final Scene – A Silent Voice (2016)
Arrival was the only film to make me cry last year, but A Silent Voice brought me close with its final scene, a hope-affirming vindication for repentant bully Shoya Ishida. Building on an established visual metaphor for his feelings of isolation, the emotions and music give me chills every time.
- Opening scene – La La Land (2016)
I went in to La La Land fully expecting it to be overrated, but its very first scene bowled me over. As an entire packed freeway comes alive singing “Another Day of Sun,” the camera movements and choreography are astounding. What’s even more impressive is that it looks like all one shot!
- No Man’s Land – Wonder Woman (2017)
I knew this scene would make the list as soon as I saw it. Appalled by the cruelty and helplessness of World War I, Diana steps onto No Man’s Land to prove that “No Man” does not include her. Epic in a way most superhero movies only try for, it’s an awesome action centerpiece.
- Holdo’s hyperjump and Luke’s big moment – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Like last year, my #1 movie grabs the #1 spot here as well. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t go into too much detail (no video yet either), but I’m sure anyone who’s seen The Last Jedi knows what scenes I’m talking about. This is as epic and impactful as Star Wars has ever been, and I loved it!
And here are the alphabetical runners-up, all great scenes in their own right and all for different reasons, whether hilarious, thrilling, or traumatic. A few even have more than one.
Patsey’s whipping – 12 Years a Slave
The twist – Arrival
Kumail’s on-stage breakdown – The Big Sick
Shoot-out tracking shot – The Book of Eli
The explosion – Deepwater Horizon
“John Smith,” and Kyon’s monologue – The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Phone call with father – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Ship sinking – Dunkirk
Zombie bombers, and the flamethrower carriage – The Empire of Corpses
“Pass the Peace Pipe” dance number – Good News
“Mr. Blue Sky” opening, and Yondu’s arrow melee (see top) – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Running back to save more – Hacksaw Ridge
Meeting the parents – Hear Me
Revolving time lapse – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Kong vs. giant skullcrawler – Kong: Skull Island
Shuvi vs. Jibril – No Game No Life: Zero
The tsunami – The Red Turtle
End credits – Roller Town (seriously the hardest laugh I had all year)
The pizza man – September Morning
Washington Monument rescue – Spider-Man: Homecoming
Crossing the rope bridge, and tree explosion – Sorcerer
Alley fight – They Live
Hulk vs. Thor, and the action finale – Thor: Ragnarok
Platform collapse – The Wages of Fear
Alice Cooper cameo, and “Ballroom Blitz” (see bottom) – Wayne’s World (I love the “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene, but I’d seen it long before this year.)
Avalanche – War for the Planet of the Apes
I wish I could make a montage of all these scenes. Maybe one day… What other memorable scenes did 2017 offer you? Feel free to share your thoughts and favorites!