The Greatest Movie Scenes That Shaped Us
When I was 7 years old, a film about dark and light forever changed my path in the universe. I became a scoundrel in love with a space princess with cinnamon buns on her head. I was piloting a wrecked space cargo ship with a giant walking dog as my best friend and a disgruntled and irritable Jedi with mom issues had me freezing in carbonite.
To make a list of just 7 of the greatest movie scenes that have influenced me, I had to start with over 100 and cross off a few great cinematic moments from the list. If my head was in a better place, it could have been a very different list – but this was not the same year.
Over the past five decades, I have subjected myself to almost 5700 films and with a film collection of nearly 3,700 titles, I have devoted much of my life to cinema. When I wasn’t shooting the creases and pretending to be Ken Dryden, I sneaked out of the classroom and walked down Eglinton Avenue in Toronto to Eglinton Theater enjoy hundreds of movies in childhood and adolescence.
Recently in Toronto, I had the good fortune to run past the former movie palace, which is now the venue for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and corporate events, and just seeing the building for the first time in years brought a lot of emotions.
What makes a great movie scene? Its popularity as a part of pop culture is certainly an important criterion, but that does not mean that it resonates with me in any significant way.
Tom Cruise slides across the living room floor in his underwear risky business lip-syncing with Bob Seeger was an unforgettable scene because I was doing the same thing at the time; I just didn’t have the guts to do it with my father’s McIntosh system because he could tell when someone touched it 1000 miles away while on vacation with my mother. It was a funny scene, but I don’t think about it almost 35 years later.
Please write your comments in the comments section, but these scenes have a special meaning to me.
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Mark Spitz never gave me swimming lessons at Forest Valley Day Camp, so when my father threw me into the water off Cape Cod in July 1976, my body immediately panicked. The water was only 2-3 feet deep, but my brain still couldn’t get over the idea of being eaten by a great white shark after watching. Jaws year before. I watch a movie once a year and I still stand on the beach just a few blocks from my home on the Jersey Shore, watching the surf and wondering. Available on Amazon.
Lawrence of Arabia
Having crossed the Sinai and stood on the banks of Aqaba, gazing at Eilat at lunch with Israeli and Jordanian colleagues, I appreciate the epic story of David Lean at 52 in a very different way; I first saw the movie as a kid on a 28″ Zenith which really didn’t match the movie. When the movie was restored and released in a limited edition, I took my date with me to watch it. She hated it. I barely noticed that she was there. Barbaric and cruel. Available on Amazon.
Nearly 78 years have passed, and there are few films that can rival the brilliant screenplay of this gem of Billy Wilder. Dialogue is everything, and Hollywood seems to have forgotten that a movie has to be great. Barbara Stanwyck could charm (or scare) anyone, and her fiery performance in this noir classic is matched only by the brilliant performances of Edward J. Robinson and Fred MacMurray. It’s somewhat appalling that an entire generation of moviegoers probably never saw this cinematic hell that broke all the rules and changed American cinema forever. Available on Amazon.
It must have been the wind. Elaine May was both beautiful and hysterical in this long-forgotten Karl Reiner film. If you’ve ever performed live, this is the worst case of stage fright in cinematic history. Reni Santoni had a pretty successful career post, but his performance in the opening night scene makes this one of the funniest moments on screen. Goodbye Angela. Thanks Harriet.
William Holden finally gets the recognition he deserves at Stalag 17, and Sefton barely survives the final confrontation and escape. This film has inspired countless dramas about escapes during World War II. Heroes of Hogan which preserved the film’s memory for the next generation. My favorite movie of all time and an ending scene that has few rivals in terms of tension and dialogue quality. Available on Amazon.
Indiana has become popular again as a setting very strange things but my movie memory brings me back to smaller films like Hoosers And coming off who defended the loser; The footage of the championship game and the winning basket is certainly an emotional high, but the final moments of the race, when the Cutters win the famous hometown bike race against rich Indiana University snobs, are a real moment of triumph for working-class kids. Dennis Quaid and Paul Dooley are especially strong in the film and it never lost its charm. Available on Amazon.
Dr. Strangelove: or how I learned to worry and love the bomb
The most important anti-war film outside paths of glory, and another masterpiece from Kubrick, who directed both films. An all-star cast keeps this darkly funny and scary film relevant no matter when you were born, and it’s hard not to admire the performances of Sterling Hayden and Peter Sellers as they turn one great scene into another. There is an intelligence and edginess to the dialogue that makes the film even more resonant as Russia, Ukraine and NATO engage in a pointless conflict overseas. A surprisingly bad idea, to say the least. Available on Amazon.