While my Top Ten Favorite Films list provides more of a challenge (and it’s also exciting and fun to put together), assembling a list of favorite movie moments is a different yet still very entertaining undertaking. Narrowing it down is difficult, as even some average movies have terrific moments. Still, a lot of good comes from spotlighting individual parts of any film that truly stuck out. For 2022, I fittingly narrowed it down to 22 memorable scenes. This list represents many fun or crucial bits ranging from action set pieces to musical numbers to terrific monologues. Enjoy! (Note: There are spoilers for some films.)
Favorite Scenes Presented in Alphabetical Order by Film:
After Yang – Monthly Family Dance-Off
I have to say right off the bat that so many of these films have multiple moments I would be happy to highlight. After Yang is a lovely film largely focused and deliberately paced in its exploration of memory and the soul. And yes, listening to Colin Farrell’s Werner Herzog impression as he explains his appreciation for tea is something special in itself. However, what a wild way this film opens up with an explosion of music and dance, as the opening credits role. It’s the best start to a movie I’ve seen in some time, and getting an early hint of the cast before we even recognize their role in the film is an intriguing choice. Not to mention seeing the little quirks separating the families on display, making it that much more human, a fitting touch, all things considered. Now, get ready for combat and collect the TNT!
Ambulance – “Sailing”
Michael Bay’s absurd yet gleefully entertaining Ambulance is what one could expect from a lower-scale project from the man who creates Bayhem in his films. With that in mind, it’s a compelling thriller serving as a tribute to emergency service workers and a chance for Bay to go nuts with wild shots by LightCraft drones. At the film’s core, however, is a story of two brothers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who have their differences but also love each other. The key scene being noted here is a moment of release. Following a fight between them (y’know, while speeding in an Ambulance with the cops in pursuit), the two ease the tension and prepare for next steps by listening to “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. Is it silly? Sure, and Bay knows it. That’s why he cuts to the guys singing the lyrics, minus being able to hear the music. It’s also kind of perfect for the moment.
Avatar: The Way of Water – Lo’ak & Payakan Go For A Swim
I have plenty of praise for James Cameron’s return to Pandora. Obviously, the film does not come up lacking in any way when considering its stellar visual effects. Beyond just looking impressive, it’s seeing how Cameron can use that technology to craft something special rooted in the characters and narrative. While I could highlight any number of action sequences (a sequence that results in one man losing an arm comes to mind), the introduction of Payakan truly resonates. Following a harrowing escape from a predator, it is revealed Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), the troublesome young brother (or knucklehead, as his father, Jake Sully, refers to him), was saved by this outcast Tulkun (aka space whale). Lo’ak returns the favor by removing a spear from one of its fins. The two then bond, going on a swim together and forming a friendship that will affect the rest of the film. Thanks to moments like these during the film’s middle hour, Avatar: The Way of Water builds up so much goodwill in why we should continue to care about Pandora.
The Banshees of Inisherin – “Well, There Goes That Dream”
Whether operating through levity or tragedy, director/writer Martin McDonagh has a way with words. In addition to being his best-directed film yet (just look at those visuals!), The Banshees of Inisherin has so much going for it, thanks to its concentration on its characters. Yes, there’s plenty of deserved praise for Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, whose feud we watch play out. However, the supporting work from Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan is as impressive as it is essential. A scene solidifying this notion is when Keoghan’s Dominic decides to share his feelings for Condon’s Siobhán. She rebuffs him, but the scene plays it so skillfully. While previously annoyed by Dominic, seeing Siobhán being as tender as possible makes it that much more affecting. At the same time, Keoghan, already a very expressive individual, allows us to see his heart breaking while he still holds a certain level of confidence as he proceeds to go over to do whatever that thing over there was he was going to do.
Barbarian – Tape Measure
It was a joy seeing this clever horror flick become a decent hit. Being a very solid year for the genre in general, what could have been a streaming release was instead allowed to be a theatrical release perfect for audience reactions. Barbarian certainly has its share of shocks and surprises for viewers. One of the most notable is a shift in the point of view coming midway through the film. In doing this, we are introduced to Justin Long’s character, AJ, and we slowly understand what kind of person he really is. That said, Long is a very funny actor, and he can sell some scenes that wouldn’t do many favors to actors less aware of how to make AJ work as he does. The best example is when AJ is looking to put a home on the market, only to realize there’s a lot more to it than he realized. His reaction – break out the tape measure and start logging all the square footage. It’s a brilliant bit of comedy that arrives just before the tension comes back in full force, and AJ is introduced to another character hiding in the dark.
The Batman — “Highway To The Anger Zone”
Blame composer Michael Giacchino for the pun and not me. Regardless, this reimagining of the Dark Knight from director Matt Reeves comes packed with new takes on Batman iconography. This includes an inspired depiction of the Batmobile, which receives a whole sequence to show off what it can do. In pursuit of the Penguin (played by Colin Farrell, his third film on this list), Robert Pattinson’s Batman uses this slick muscle car-like vehicle to give chase. It results in all sorts of destructive chaos that can be argued as inessential (to which I say, lighten up, it’s a comic book movie), but also very cool. By the end of this whole chase, however, the film achieves one terrific little bit. The Penguin is convinced he’s gotten rid of the Bat, only for the Batmobile to rip out of some flames and knock Oswald’s car over multiple times. Thanks to cinematographer Greig Fraser and the Giacchino score, this upside-down POV shot of Batman arrives, fully landing this interpretation of the famed vigilante.
Decision to Leave — Exquisite Sushi Dinner at the Station
Early in Park Chan-wook’s brilliant Hitchcockian mystery-romance, Detective Jang Hae-jun (Park Hai-il) brings widow Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei) into the station for questioning. The detective has plenty of reasons to believe Seo-rae is a murder suspect. However, he can’t also help but be intrigued by her aloof nature. There’s a mutual attraction taking place, which is seen early on during interrogation when the two break for lunch. Hae-Jun opts to treat himself and his suspect to a very expensive sushi meal. Having a gift for balancing tones, director Park captures so many little details in this scene, ranging from humorous to suggestive, and the characters barely interact with each other directly while eating. It results in one of the film’s many highlights, doing plenty to inform us about these characters. It also makes any viewer very hungry for sushi.
Everything Everywhere All At Once – “Just Be A Rock”
Given how it’s constructed, The Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All At Once is a blender of memorable moments that have combined to make something both exciting and emotional. With that in mind, for all the elaborate sequences involving multiverse hopping, well-choreographed fights, and odes to the films of Pixar and Wong Kar-wai, there’s also the rock scene. For a period in this absurdist film, everything slows down as much as it possibly can as we watch Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and Joy (Stephanie Hsu), mother and daughter, in the form of rocks, and take a second to breathe, relate to each other, talk about existence, and find time to laugh. There’s still more to it than that, but that’s for the viewer to discover, as so many fans of the film have found their own unique connection to it. All that being said, this scene rocks!
The Fabelmans – ‘Senior Ditch Day’ Premiere
Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) is a great filmmaker. We are made aware of this early on in Steven Spielberg’s wonderful semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story. The real conflict comes from how his abilities reflect his motivations for the rest of his life. Late in the movie, Sam debuts his Senior Ditch Day film in front of the whole school during prom. It’s a hit with the class and makes a notable choice to spotlight Sam’s bully Logan (Sam Rechner) as a golden god (ironically in a style fitting of Leni Riefenstahl). The result is brilliant, as Logan stares at the footage looking uncomfortable, only to confront Sam in a hallway to gain some understanding. Sam snaps back that he also doesn’t know why he did what he did. There’s the art and what made sense for his movie, or maybe it was reaching for something deeper. It’s another collision of feelings Sam was told about by his granduncle Boris (Judd Hirsch), which will inform how the young filmmaker must deal with his abilities.
Jackass Forever – The Silence of the Lambs
I’ve always admired how the Jackass films have provided not only big laughs but also a very curious form of performance art. This is what makes “Silence of the Lambs” my favorite sketch of the hilarious fourth film in the series. Johnny Knoxville is already known for how he can switch up a prank on his unwitting company, but the elaborateness of this one is quite brilliant. Tricking various groups to go into a room with a deadly snake, the lights are then shut off, and the door is locked, allowing Knoxville and others (with night vision goggles) to torture those not in the know by throwing around fake snakes and spiders, hitting them with stun guns and mousetraps, and scaring them with loud noises. And as we watch the poor souls match fear with attempts to escape, the final brilliant touch is Chris Pontius pulling a Buffalo Bill and dancing amid the chaos.
Jurassic Park Dominion – Malta Dino Chase
Look, I don’t know what kind of revolutionary film people expected with Jurassic Park Dominion, a franchise made up of one great film and many decent-at-best sequels. For my money, if I’m walking into Dino Theme Park 6, it only needs to deliver a series of wacky set pieces involving dinosaurs. There were a couple in the running for this film, but watching Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) attempting to outrun multiple raptors on the streets of Malta with the help of motorbikes and trucks is my kind of thing. It’s a fast-paced scene that manages to pause and let us watch a guy on a scooter get devoured. Plus, the whole thing ends with a chase on a runway and Owen and a raptor boarding a plane via a lowered ramp, only for the liftoff to force the raptor to fall back into the sea below. If that’s not the sort of nonsense people want to see in their dinosaur movies, I don’t know what we’re doing here.
Kimi – “Kimi, Play Sabotage!”
It is established right away that Kimi is set during the pandemic. Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) already has agoraphobia, which has only been exacerbated by Covid. She does everything from her loft apartment in Seattle with help from her smart speaker, Kimi. Late in the film, during an intense situation, Angela will need to act fast and smart if she wants to get the upper hand on those who plan to hurt her. With some quick instructions to her smart device, Angela is able to turn off the lights, blast music at full volume, and sneak away into a crawlspace, where she arms herself with a tool deadly enough to counter those who threaten her. It’s a thrilling bit of business, handled with a sort of dark humor entirely within the capabilities of what director Steven Soderbergh can pull off. The punchline of someone arriving at the door just as Angela is ready to call the authorities keeps us aware of the fun we should be having with all of this.
Nope – Jean Jacket Claims Jupiter’s Claim
Thanks to the brilliant cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema, featuring the use of IMAX cameras, there are a lot of great visual examples to pull when looking at Jordan Peele’s Nope. Mine comes from one of the more haunting and abstract scenes. The movie has been directly addressing the nature of wild animals attempting to be controlled by man in several instances up to a certain point. It builds toward a flashback to the terrifying “Gordy’s Home” sequence involving a chimp going feral. Unfortunately, Steven Yeun’s Ricky “Jupe” Park has taken away the wrong lessons from that experience as a boy, now believing he has enough wherewithal to handle an alien. He does not, and during a demonstration featuring a packed audience (including Jupe’s family and many others), the UAP dubbed “Jean Jacket” arrives to suck up everyone in sight. And if that wasn’t enough, we get a narrow view of what it is to be digested by this thing in the sky that is otherworldly, to say the least. Reliant on an incredible use of sound, editing, and visual effects, this is a brilliant sequence in an excellent film.
Official Competition – Industrial Shredder
Much of the comedy from the very funny Official Competition relies on the clashes of three personalities. Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz) is an eccentric director, Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez) is an acclaimed method actor from the stage, and Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) is an A-list star who sees no point in going deep for roles. The three are making a film together, and for Lola, that means stripping away all artifice to get to the core of the characters during the rehearsal process. One ingeniously devious session involves tying Iván and Félix to chairs and forcing them to watch Lola toss their various awards into an industrial shredder. It’s a brutal bit of comedy that plays entirely into the satirical take on the lives of performers and what certain people can reveal about what they value.
Resurrection / Pearl – Kindness and A Star
Part of the reason horror had such a strong year was the strength of several key performances in some of the more notable entries. Resurrection and Pearl had excellent turns for their lead characters, who both had standout scenes featuring unbroken monologues. For Rebecca Hall’s Margaret in Resurrection, to contextualize why she is haunted by Tim Roth’s David, she recounts a whole story involving what happened when she met this man at the age of 18. It’s creepy and full of sadness, yet entirely compelling. For Mia Goth’s Pearl, she reaches a point of confession, discussing so much of what has happened in her life, how she regards herself, and the joy she takes from causing harm. These scenes feed on how to keep the audience engaged while subtly unnerving them. And there’s the additional awkward element of both scenes featuring a person opposite the speaker, who has to find a way to appropriately respond and leave the room.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish — A Losing Duel With Death
In addition to horror, it’s also been a banner year for animation. Multiple studios delivered unique titles, with several stop-motion animated features arriving and standing out. I have many animated options to choose from. However, it seems notable that I kept setting my sights on dark and upsetting moments from them (from Mad God to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio). Enter Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, a vividly animated sequel to the 2011 spin-off feature that functions as both a fun adventure and a surprising meditation on life and death. I’ve referred to it as Antonio Banderas’ animated version of Pain & Glory. I say all that because the film provides a key sequence early on where a black-hooded wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura) encounters Puss at a local pub and duels with him. The wolf is far more skilled than Puss’ usual opponents, and now that our swashbuckling feline is aware he only has one life left to live (he’s used up his other eight), he realizes he’s no match and runs away, after taking a scratch for good measure. It’s the kind of challenge Puss has never had to deal with, allowing the film to hold onto higher stakes than expected through brilliantly realized animation choices.
RRR – “Naatu Naatu”
I’m tempted just to put “All of it” as the official moment from the spectacular Indian Telugu-language epic that is RRR, but ultimately, I can narrow it down to one scene. For all the action in this movie, a truly fantastic sequence further locks in the friendship between Bheem (N.T. Ramo Rao Jr.) and Raju (Ram Charan) and comments on the bigotry shown by the British in Delhi. While attempting to have a pleasant time with his date Jenny (Olivia Morris) at a fancy party, Bheem is accosted by a bullying arrival who tries to embarrass him on the dance floor. Fortunately, Raju arrives in time to show all the guests a thing or two about how to Naatu. Bheem joins in, and the two perform the dance to the cheers of all who are above being terrible to the non-Brits. It’s a thrilling dance, to say the least, with the energetic beat of the song “Naatu Naatu,” produced by composer M.M. Keeravani, doing so much to bring the film and the audience to a fever pitch, only for the movie to continue going with so many more exciting scenes making up the runtime.
Tár – “Apartment For Sale!”
Why is “Apartment for Sale” not up on the Best Original Song Oscar shortlist? That’s a crime, I tell you! Todd Field’s exceptional psychological drama starring Cate Blanchett does so much work to build up Lydia Tár’s accomplishments that once the other shoe drops and she begins her descent, it’s a thing of beauty. One particular scene I’m locking onto occurs in Lydia’s other apartment, where she practices her music. A neighbor has recently died, and now the family is looking to sell that unit. Knocking on Lydia’s door, she’s convinced they are fans, only to realize they just want her to keep it down while potential buyers are around. Cut to Lydia dragging out the accordion and obnoxiously blaring, “Apartment for sale!” for all to hear. For a film that pushes hard on the drama, having Blanchett let loose in this manner doesn’t make one forget her various transgressions, but this is a fun bit of defiance.
Triangle of Sadness – The Captain’s Dinner
The real joy of this sequence comes from how writer/director Ruben Östlund carefully set up the pieces for it to unfold so gloriously and disgustingly. The moment involves a dinner sequence on a luxurious that goes entirely wrong as all of the passengers get sick. What led to this? Well, Woody Harrelson’s constantly drunk captain chose the one day for the dinner that would feature severe storms at sea, the crew was forced to leave the seafood out in the open and spoiling since a passenger wanted them all to have some fun outside, and the rich can’t help themselves in terms of letting their excessive behavior get the better of them. The results feature so much vomiting and more, which can become too much for some (including myself). Yet, it’s hard not to laugh at such a well-executed comedic set piece.
Top Gun: Maverick – Miracle Practice Run
Oh, it was really hard to choose between this scene and “Maverick Goes Mach 10,” but here we are. Both do involve Tom Cruise’s Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell doing precisely what his callsign suggests. With that said, while it’s one thing to see Mav pilot a hypersonic jet; it’s another to see something a bit more grounded in the form of an F/A-18 pulling off the impossible. Of course, that’s necessary, as Maverick needs to show Jon Hamm’s Cyclone and all the mission candidates that the mission in question can be accomplished. What’s wild is how there’s so much setup to the actual mission before we actually get to see it in action. It delivers that much better for that reason. With that said, it’s still incredibly cool to watch Cruise, other pilots, and whatever other visual effects wizardry was involved deliver a tense scene that subtracts all other elements and shows Maverick pulling off a run based on not thinking, just doing.
Terrifier 2 – “Drop On By The Clown Café”
Damien Leone’s partially crowd-funded slasher sequel hit has a ton of violence and gore contained within its daunting 138-minute runtime. It’s a successful follow-up to a thin but effective first film that brought Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) more into the fold as his first standalone feature. Here, I can’t say Art becomes more complicated as a character, but this demon clown certainly has more to do, which includes a gnarly home invasion sequence that goes so overboard that one has to remember you can’t take this stuff too seriously. However, more unhinged for me was a random dream sequence where Art the Clown finds himself the star of a children’s program. In it, Art performs some fun tricks, hands out prizes, oh, and slaughters the whole cast and crew using a machine gun, a flamethrower, and other instruments of terror. Add to that the haunting “Clown Café” song, and you have a real recipe for something terrifying, as the title suggests.
Weird: The Al Yankovich Story – Dr. Demento’s Pool Party
There’s a lot of goofy fun to be had in the Al Yankovic-written and approved biopic that definitely recounts the famed parody artist’s life with astonishing accuracy. With that in mind, while the film may not have reached the Walk Hard high I was hoping for, it has one spectacularly silly sequence filled to the brim with cameos, and that is Dr. Demento’s Pool Party. During this scene, Al (Daniel Radcliffe) has to prove himself to Jack Black’s Wolfman Jack by singing an impromptu spoof of “Another One Bites the Dust.” The scene also features, among others, Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol, Jorma Taccone as Pee-wee Herman, Nina West as Divine, Akiva Schaffer as Alice Cooper, Demetri Martin as Tiny Tim, Paul F. Tompkins as Gallagher, David Dastmalchian as John Deacon (of Queen), and Emo Philips as Salvador Dalí. It’s a song battle with a lot of inspired lunacy that works oh so well.
Bonus – White Noise – “New Body Rhumba”
Noah Baumbach’s White Noise only just hit Netflix, and this bizarre, funny, apocalyptic story based on the book by Don DeLillo is throwing audiences off for a good reason. That said, if you’re on the right wavelength, I think it can work well enough. That said, it contains a new song from LCD Soundsystem, “new body rhumba,” that totally rocks, and it’s matched to an elaborate end credits sequence featuring numerous dancers, long takes, and lots of quirky elements totally matching the film’s spirit. It’s a joy that I couldn’t pass up mentioning.
That’s it for my list of moments. There were many to go through, and, of course, plenty were cut from this list. What say you?