Say what you want about Hollywood, but even a true movie skeptic must admit that there are moments in film which take our breath away. These key moments make us laugh or cry, they remind us of the past, of precious memories, and make us forget that what we’re watching isn’t real. They tap into something so heart-wrenchingly perfect that reality just slips away for a little while.
These moments are what keep bringing me back to the same movies over and over again. I wear out my favorite DVDs the same way I wear out a paperback, sneaking a quick look or a reminder of what good writing and acting looks like.
Below I’ve compiled a list of a few of these Memorable Moments. There are plenty more, some of which come from television shows instead of big screen blockbusters, but for now a few will do.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Just after Harry kisses Cho under the mistletoe he recounts the experience to Hermione and Ron in the Gryffindor common room. They’re sitting around the fire and Hermione explains why Cho spends about half her time crying. “One person couldn’t possibly feel all that,” says Ron. “They’d explode.” And Hermione famously replies, “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon!” But what I love about this scene isn’t just the line, although it is brilliant. I love the short pause followed by Emma Watson’s laugh. I love it because in that moment you know it isn’t Hermione laughing – its Emma laughing at Rupert Grint.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)
There’s a lot of sad moments in this series finale. It’s a movie filled with death, destruction, and goodbyes. But the one that guts me – absolutely guts me – is Fred’s death. The entire Weasley family is standing around his body lying on the floor of the Great Hall, some of them crying and some of them silent. And then there’s this moment in the scene where if you pause it just right, you can freeze the image on Percy and George Weasley’s faces. In that moment, if you look into their eyes, it’s like seeing two different worlds. Oliver Phelps (George) channeled so much emotion in that moment, imagining the death of his real life twin James, that it overwhelmed him. Percy, by comparison, just looks disapproving. In DH Part 2 you see so much death: Tonks, Lupin, Dobby, and so many others. But its Fred’s that guts me because of this one moment, this freeze framed image of Oliver Phelps’ face.
Professor Xavior is out cold back at the Institute while the X-Men team has just entered the Statue of Liberty. They’re trying to save Rogue and keep Magneto from killing the United Nations representatives meeting on Elis Island. Jean, Scott, and Storm pass through the metal detector; Wolverine sets it off. He shreds the thing to silence the alarm, but Scott glares at him. He gives him the middle claw back. Without fail, this moment always makes me laugh. It’s so indicative of Wolverine as a character that I just can’t help but smile. Of all the words and the wit tossed around in this script, it’s that one gesture which solidifies Wolverine’s personality, a perfectly memorable moment.
The Avengers (2013)
There are actually two moments that I love about this movie, and both of them involve Iron Man. Tony Stark is an egocentric loud mouth, which makes him not quite Avengers material to SHIELD, but indispensable to the comic relief. Like word vomit, he can’t help but point things out when he’s right or talk people into having things go his way – it’s just a part of who he is. When he first gets on the SHIELD hovercraft, he spots a man in the control room. “That man is playing Galaga,” he loudly announces. “Thought we wouldn’t notice, but we did.” It’s a subtle line, tossed in there to break up tension, and many people overlook it. But its golden for those who catch it. Then later, Stark repeatedly brings up the desire to eat shwarma. The Avengers are in the middle of a life or death battle and Tony Stark is fixated on his stomach so he doesn’t have to admit that maybe he’s the tiniest bit unsure if they’ll make it out alive. They do, of course, and so the credit cookie takes us back, in that final moment, to the six of them eating shwarma in an otherwise completely deserted, but miraculously still open restaurant. There’s nothing more Tony Stark than that, nothing more reaffirming than to see his belief in shwarma come full circle.