Best movie moments


Chiwetel Ejiofor, center, in a scene from “12 Years a Slave.”

The Associated Press/Fox Searchlight
Published: Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.

The Top 10 movie scenes of the year, in no particular order:

Facts

AP's Top Movies

1. “12 Years a Slave”
2. “Mud”
3. “Frances Ha”
4. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
5. “The Hunt”
6. “The Great Beauty”
7. “Gravity”
8. “Blue Is the Warmest Color”
9. “This Is the End”
10. “The Spectacular Now”
— Jake Coyle,
The Associated Press

The surprise Avenger cameo in “Thor: The Dark World”: Despite having “dark” in its title, Marvel's second movie about the god of thunder is full of lighthearted moments, and none produced more laughs than this creative placement of one of Thor's fellow Avengers. It's a throwaway moment, but it shows how Marvel's experiment in inter-movie continuity keeps yielding surprising dividends.

Mike and Sully unite in “Monsters University”: Even if this prequel from Pixar wasn't as stirring as the original, the moment when monsters Mike and Sully admit their fears to one another and work together to get out of a jam is one of Pixar's all-time great scenes.

Girls go wild in “Spring Breakers”: What a bonkers movie. Sold as a candy-coated teenage T&A fest, the devious and subversive “Spring Breakers” was a shockingly of-the-moment look at the existential emptiness present in much of youth culture. The movie's ending is as dark, vibrant and weird as the rest of the movie, as our teenage heroines go on a crime spree worthy of Bonnie and Clyde — but pay none of the consequences.

Elsa lets it go in “Frozen”: 2013 marks the second year in a row that Disney Animation beat Pixar at Pixar's game, with “Frozen” topping “Monsters University” just as “Wreck-it Ralph” was better than “Brave.” The musical highlight of “Frozen” is “Let it Go,” an all-out performance from Broadway star Idina Menzel that works perfectly with the movie's female-centric themes. Come spring, the song will almost certainly take Best Original Song honors at the Academy Awards.

The ending of “Captain Phillips”: The Best Actor race this year is intense, but Tom Hanks put his stamp on the year with his terrific performance in “Captain Phillips.” Director Paul Greengrass could've ended the movie on a high note immediately after Phillips is rescued, but instead he chose to give Hanks a chance to show his character's massive psychological beating. As Phillips trembles, covered in his blood and the blood of his recently deceased captors, one thing is clear: Nobody in this story came out unscathed.

The opening shot of “Gravity”: As an exercise in pure cinematic technique, “Gravity” is unmatched this year. The movie's standout sequence is the incredibly elaborate first shot, during which the camera dips, weaves and bobs (without cutting) around a group of astronauts for minutes on end. As the camera moves, you'll find yourself absolutely enamored with the stark beauty of space and its intense feeling of isolation. That feeling is soon replaced by terror as the mission falls apart, but those first moments are unforgettable.

The hanging in “12 Years a Slave”: “12 Years a Slave” contains many horrific moments, but the hanging of main character Solomon Northup is especially cruel. As Solomon dangles from the rope for hours, standing on his toes and barely able to breathe, we see the rest of the plantation go about their lives as if he's not there; even Solomon's fellow slaves won't acknowledge what's happening. It's a powerful statement about how slavery destroys the basic decency in all of us.

Bilbo vs. Smaug in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”: The hobbit may no longer be the main character in “The Hobbit,” but Martin Freeman got the best moment of the second installment (just as he did in the first with the riddle game). The verbal banter between Bilbo and Smaug is terrific, Smaug himself is a thing of monstrous glory and director Peter Jackson gives it a great sense of scale to show just how stacked the odds against Bilbo are, which makes his triumph all the greater.

The big reveal in “Iron Man 3”: I won't spoil it, but this was the scene that showed Marvel was willing to take risks with their superhero franchises and let director Shane Black shake up the Iron Man formula. Some comics fans hated it, but to me this scene made “Iron Man 3” the best of the bunch.

The battle of Hong Kong in “Pacific Rim”: “Pacific Rim” may not be high art, but it is the best straight-up blockbuster we've had in a long time. The movie's centerpiece, a two-part showdown in Hong Kong between a giant robot and two giant sea monsters, was a master class in controlled mayhem; it contained more jaw-dropping moments than any other movie of the summer. It reminds us how good blockbusters can be when someone actually bothers to try.

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