1) Opening Sequence ("Gangs of New York," Dir. Martin Scorsese)
There are so many things I love about the first 15 minutes of Scorsese's epic "Gangs of New York": the opening scene between a boy and his father (Liam Neeson as "Priest" Vallon); the music, from the primal pipes and drum beat to the '80s-esque rock music that scores the brutal but decidedly awesome battle between the Natives and various Five Points gangs. Daniel Day-Lewis playing Bill "The Butcher" Cutting actually shines more later in the film, but the taste you get of him in this sequence is so terrifying yet absolutely mesmerizing that you can't wait for the next time you see him. And remember: "The blood stays on the blade."
2) Rhett and Scarlett's Nightcap ("Gone With the Wind," Dir. Victor Fleming)
Considering that this classic Civil War epic is by far my favorite movie of all time, you'd think I would pick a scene a little bit grander. But that, my dear friend, is one of the reasons I love it so much: Amidst a sea of forever-memorable moments lies an intense and dark scene between a very drunk and jealous husband and his stubborn and antagonistic wife. Rhett sweeping Scarlett up the stairs is just a bonus.
3) "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" ("Moulin Rouge," Dir. Baz Luhrmann)
Take a Marilyn Monroe song, add Nicole Kidman, fabulous costumes and some witty dialogue, place it all in Luhrmann's capable hands, and you've got a breathtaking musical number that would have made Vincente Minnelli weep with joy.
4) Mad Tea Party ("Alice In Wonderland" , Prod., Walt Disney)
This was a scene that tickled me greatly as a child. But now, as an adult, I get the true hilarity, and grasp just how dangerous the Mad Hatter and March Hare could really be to anyone around them. Poor Alice thought she had just stumbled upon a nice (if abnormal) tea party, but little did she know... Now, I have an excellent idea: Let's change the subject!
5) Ice Dance ("Edward Scissorhands," Dir. Tim Burton)
Let me start this by saying that I adore everything Burton has ever done (with the exception of "Planet of the Apes," naturally). But as much as I love everything that followed, to me, "Edward Scissorhands" remains Burton's finest film. Danny Elfman's haunting and memorable score does such wonders for this movie (and all of Burton's films, really) that I don't think it would have been nearly as touching without it. At this point, I may actually even love the score more than the movie itself, and especially the piece that accompanies Winona Ryder as she twirls in the soft fall of "snowflakes" created by Edward (Johnny Depp in his breakout role).
6) Ship's Mast ("Death Proof," Dir. Quentin Tarantino)
I don't understand why I am often having to defend Tarantino's thrilling, chicky gearhead flick. We've got a bunch of hot chicks being all badass, with great, funny dialogue -- and a psychotic yet awesome Kurt Russell to top things off. (And, as a girl, I do have to say that I found the dialogue between the female characters to be totally believable.) When Zoe Bell is on the hood of that car, flying down the road at speeds way beyond 100mph, the inner warrior -woman in me screams out for some crazy road action. Then I have to remind myself that I get nervous when merging. Even when I'm not driving.
7) First Encounter ("Jurassic Park," Dir. Steven Spielberg)
I know what you're thinking: Out of all of Spielberg's works, I gotta go and pick something from "Jurassic Park." But that feeling of awe I had when first watching paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neil) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) have their initial encounter with the dinosaurs on the island has rarely been equaled. The scene never loses its sense of majesty not matter how many times I see it.
8) "Hey, Paul!" ("American Psycho," Dir. Mary Harron)
When handled respectfully, Christian Bale is an acting genius. And when speaking of The Bale, I can't help but always bring up this scene. While making final preparations for the murder of his oblivious guest, Paul Allen (Jared Leto), Bale dons a raincoat and does a little dance while carrying an axe and waxing poetic about Huey Lewis and the News. Then Bale does what he does best: explodes, lets it all out, and finally reigns it back in. (I wonder if that poor fellow who was the target of Bale's rage in the now-infamous audio rant had this scene flash through his mind at any point. Oh, how I love me some Bale...)
9) "Get thee to a nunnery!" ("Hamlet," Dir. Kenneth Branagh)
I firmly believe that Branagh will one day reclaim the glory that was once his. I just don't think "Thor" is gonna be the project that does it for him. So until that day comes, I will gladly continue to re-watch many of his finer films as often as the whim may hit me. And since it was finally released on DVD in 2007, I make a point of watching "Hamlet" at least annually. To me, it is his masterpiece, and the central scene between him and the fair Ophelia (Kate Winslet) is one of the most heartbreakingly lovely scenes in cinema.
10) O-Ren's Last Stand ("Kill Bill," Dir. Quentin Tarantino)
I almost wanted to include The Bride's (Uma Thurman) whole throw-down with the Crazy 88, but after some reflection, I decided that it's the beautifully shot showdown between The Bride and the tiny but deadly O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) that I admire most. As per usual, Tarantino pairs the sequence with awesome, very fitting music: a remix of Santa Esmeralda's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." As the scene progresses, you really want Thurman to spare our darling O-Ren, and you get the feeling that she kind of wants to as well, but...well....yea. You know, hell hath no fury and all.
11) "I Want Candy" ("Marie Antoinette," Dir. Sofia Coppola)
Fun fact: Scarlett O'Hara has a portrait of Marie Antoinette beside her bed in "Gone With The Wind." Explains a lot, doesn't it? To me, "Marie Antoinette" is in some stylistic way a "Gone With the Wind" for our time, with the girlish fantasy element amped up even more. This montage contains all the things a little girl dreams about when imagining what it's like to be a princess. And while I could go on about all the reasons why this montage is very important to the film on many different levels, I really just have to admit that it probably comes down to shoes. Seriously, have you seen those light blue ones with the pink bows and rhinestone buckle? Absolutely to die for. (Oops... Too soon?)
12) "Stuck in the Middle" ("Reservoir Dogs," Dir. Quentin Tarantino)
There has to be something very wrong about finding this scene so damn entertaining, right? I mean, Michael Madsen's Mr. Blonde is absolutely psychotic, dancing around to Steeler's Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle" while brandishing a straight-razor at the cop he took hostage. It should be appalling and stomach-churning, but somehow Tarantino managed to have the most messed-up scene in the movie also emerge as the coolest.
13) Henry's Origins ("Goodfellas," Dir. Martin Scorsese)
"As far back as I could remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." Those are the words that, for me and probably an innumerable amount of people in my age bracket, started a curious obsession with the gangster world. Scorsese has the incredible ability to make the gangster world enticing and repelling at the same time. Ray Liotta's narration in this sequence is my favorite thing about it -- and not just the actual dialogue, which is awesome in itself, but Liotta's cool delivery. Really makes the whole thing.
14) Movie Night With Ghostface ("Scream," Dir. Wes Craven)
When I first watched this movie, I'd seen all the Freddy movies, and all the Jason and Michael Myers ones as well. But there was something about "Scream," and the opening sequence in particular, that got under my skin more than any of those other slasher flicks had. Sweet Drew Barrymore all alone, suddenly being tormented by menacing phone calls and an unseen predator. During subsequent viewings, the ringing of a phone gives me pause. Could it be? Maybe if I just don't answer? But inevitably, curiosity wins and I am surprisingly a tad disappointed when I don't hear a murderous psycho on the other end.
15) The Floor Show ("The Rocky Horror Picture Show," Dir. Jim Sharman)
It was difficult for me to pick from all the moments in "Rocky Horror" that I adore so much. When asked, most people would probably mention "The Time Warp," but really, this musical number -- the end result of the fabulous Dr. Frank N Furter's (Tim Curry) madness -- is the heart and soul of the movie. In a nutshell: "Don't dream it, be it."
16) "Tiny Dancer " ("Almost Famous," Dir. Cameron Crowe)
If you haven't already noticed, I have a thing for music in film, whether it's a great instrumental piece being used as the centerpiece of a fight scene, an awesome musical number, or even just someone or a group of someones singing a song they love. Case in point: the scene in "Almost Famous" where the feuding members of the band Stillwater move past their differences by singing along to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." It's one of those scenes that makes me smile -- and also makes my thankful that I have the ability to play vinyl records.
17) "This is Halloween" ("Tim Burton's ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,'" Dir. Henry Selick)
A film that defies the laws of movie physics by simultaneously being a Halloween and Christmas must-watch. And although I love nearly every second of this creepy tale, this scene is truly exceptional, with it's introduction of the myriad of kooky characters that reside in Halloweentown. I'd just love to attend any party thrown by this group. Except for the Clown With the Tearaway Face. He gets bounced at the door.
18) Shootout on the Streets of L.A. ("Heat," Dir. Michael Mann)
I don't know of any shootout sequence as cleanly and, quite frankly, as beautifully shot as when Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore, attempting to make a getaway after robbing a bank, take on what seems to be the entire Los Angeles Police Department. And when it's all over, you and Al Pacino both take a much-needed deep breath.
19) Cooking With Chu ("Eat Drink Man Woman," Dir. Ang Lee)
As directed by Lee, this opening sequence follows an aging Chinese chef as he prepares a large traditional Sunday meal for his family. This is a simple yet stunning scene, and the way that Chef Chu slices and dices is akin to a dance. (A warning for those faint of heart: a fish is killed and sliced open during this part. Ew.)
20) "Waterloo" ("Muriel's Wedding," Dir. P.J. Hogan)
There isn't necessarily anything that special about this scene. It's just two girls dancing and lip-synching to some good ol' ABBA in a talent show. The talent show itself isn't important; it's the wonderful little transformation the title character (played by then-unknown Toni Collette) goes through. She starts off dancing half-heartedly to music she knows and loves, but by the end she has broken through her awkwardness, and she does the Swedish pop group proud. From then on, something quite beautiful begins to blossom within Muriel. Plus, come on: It's ABBA!