20 Great Movie Moments From 2012

Bane The Dark Knight Rises tom hardy 31663680 960 640 20 Great Movie Moments From 2012

I have spent the last two weeks reminiscing on the best and worst of 2012 in film, starting with my Top 10 Films of 2012 and Runner-Up lists, continuing with the Top 10 Film Scores of 2012, going in another direction with the 10 Worst Films of 2012, and sharing, over on my personal blog, The Top 10 TV Shows of 2012.

That’s a lot of lists, but this was a good year for entertainment, so before we bid 2012 a fond farewell, it is time for one more retrospective. This time, instead of looking at films as a whole, I thought it would be a nice idea to look back at some of the great movie moments from 2012, the scenes and sequences that stand out most from the year in film. I have compiled 20 of my favorite moments – arranged alphabetically by film title – and I would ask, as always, that you remember these choices reflect only on personal tastes. If you feel I left something off, I would love to hear about it in the comments; there were many great scenes this year, and 20 picks barely scratches the surface.

As always, clicking on the title of each movie will bring you to my original review, and some links will take you to my personal blog, where I wrote before joining the staff of We Got This Covered.

And before getting to the official list, we start things off with one important honorable mention…

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Honorable Mention:

“I’m a Human Being, and you’re a f***ing robot”

from Prometheus

 noomi rapace prometheus 20 Great Movie Moments From 2012

Oh, Prometheus. How I hate you. Though this sci-fi aberration caused me great pain, it also gave – and continues to give – me one moment of pure, blissful joy – it just so happens that the moment does not appear in the actual film. If one purchases Prometheus on home video, one will find a large collection of Deleted Scenes. Most of them would have improved the movie if included, but one in particular – the final scene, actually – features a legitimately awesome bit of dialogue that I have gleefully repeated to myself ever since I first watched the scene.

During Elizabeth Shaw’s final exchange with android David’s severed head, he asks her how she continues to ‘believe’ – a good question, given that Shaw has absolutely no reason to believe in anything at this point – and in the theatrical cut, she simply states “I guess that’s because I’m a human being, and you’re a robot.” It doesn’t mean much, but it’s serviceable. In the deleted scene, however, she responds much more tersely – like an action hero delivering a kiss-off one liner – with “I’m a human being, and you’re a f***ing robot.” And it. Is. Awesome. For one glorious moment, Shaw is an interesting character with an actual personality and attitude, and for that moment, I laugh raucously and feel the urge to give whoever wrote the line, be it Damon Lindelof or John Spaihts, an enthusiastic high five. It may not have been in the actual movie, but this is definitely one of the more memorable cinematic moments of 2012.

And now that we are done with that, on to the actual list…

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The Revolutionary Guards are Enchanted by Movies

from Argo

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Ben Affleck’s Iranian hostage crisis drama speaks in many ways to the universal power of movies, but never more clearly than in this crucial moment, when CIA operative Tony Mendez and the six hostages he is trying to get out of the country are detained by the Revolutionary Guard at the airport. Mendez sticks to the cover story – that they are filmmakers on a location scout – and shares the storyboards, script, and Variety ads he had made up for the fake motion picture. The Guards are transfixed by this behind the scenes peek, and happy when Mendez offers to let them keep the storyboards. It a beautiful little exchange between enemies, one wherein espionage alone does not save the day, but the two sides’ mutual love for film creates a common ground.

Avengers Assemble

from The Avengers

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Is it cheating to label the entire third act of a film as a single ‘moment?’ Probably, but then again, it would be doing The Avengers a major disservice to pick apart its epic action climax and discuss only bits and pieces, for this film features one of the most intense and satisfying third acts in blockbuster history. Joss Whedon’s direction is simply marvelous, finding clever and creative ways to put the entire superpowered team to good use while establishing space and time as well as Akira Kurosawa did in the final act of Seven Samurai. Action simply does not get any better than this.

The Monster Assault

from The Cabin in the Woods

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The first two acts of The Cabin in the Woods are clever, insightful, and subversive enough to make the movie great, but once the third act arrives and a horde of horror movie monsters is let loose, one can really sense Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon going for broke. The amount of creativity on display in the film’s climactic gore-fest is simply staggering; the rampaging Unicorn and delightfully disgusting Mer-Man may be the most memorable highlights, but there are plenty of other classic movie moments embedded against all the blood-soaked mayhem. The sequence is so surreal, awesome, and utterly crazy that, even after watching the movie several times, I can scarcely believe I actually saw it. 

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Bane Breaks the Bat

from The Dark Knight Rises

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For those familiar with Batman lore, there is a certain perverse joy in watching this scene unfold, gradually realizing that Christopher Nolan and company aren’t just paying homage to a classic scene from Knightfall, but actually going for it, all of it, full throttle. This fight is brutal, both physically and emotionally; the entire first act builds beautifully to this one critical brawl, where the savage beating Bruce Wayne receives is as much a product of his own ego as it is Bane’s ruthlessness. This is one of Tom Hardy’s best scenes in the entire movie, as his hauntingly perceptive taunting just makes the violence that much more intense. Viewed in IMAX, it is also one of 2012’s greatest pieces of cinematography, especially in Nolan’s full-frame recreation of one of the most iconic – and unsettling – comic panels of all time. 

General Aladeen Explains the Benefits of Dictatorship

from The Dictator

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I very much enjoyed The Dictator from start to finish, but the best part about Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedy is the way the entire film essentially builds to one spectacularly audacious, disturbingly honest joke about American hypocrisy, one that, when I first saw the film, made the audience in my theatre visibly and audibly uncomfortable. It comes near the end, when General Aladeen, after reclaiming his identity and preventing the signing of a democratic constitution for his country, tries to convince the Americans assembled that Dictatorship is vastly superior to democracy. He begins rattling off a list of reasons, like the ability to fill prisons primarily with people of one ethnicity, or the power to create massive economic inequality, or to suppress the rights of certain groups for religious reasons. Each of his disgusting statements is horrifyingly familiar, because each occurs, in spades, in the democratic United States of America. It is a wonderfully subversive, absolutely fearless bit of satire, a firm and powerful punch that hits its target dead on and had me nearly falling out of my chair with laughter. This may be the funniest movie scene of 2012 and, I wager, one of the most insightful.

Django Goes Wild

from Django Unchained

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As the film has still not arrived in theatres, I will avoid spoilers in discussing this amazing action sequence. Suffice it to say that the second act of Django Unchained ends in bloody good style as, after a period of dialogue-driven drama, protagonist Django finally takes up arms and starts delivering vengeance, one redneck slaver at a time. You will know the moment when you see it, or even hear it, for the delightfully over-the-top James Brown/2Pac mash-up makes the action so much sweeter. Tarantino has always been a great director of action – the House of Blue Leaves sequence in Kill Bill is my personal favorite action scene of all time – and his skills unsurprisingly translate quite well to spaghetti-western-style violence and mayhem. More important is the way the story builds so eloquently to this moment, to the point where the violence itself has meaning. It isn’t just viscerally satisfying, but emotionally and intellectually impactful as well, and though Django Unchained features several such sequences, this one is the best of the bunch.

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The Plane Crash

from Flight

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This is actually one of two great plane crash sequences this year; The Grey also featured a phenomenal crash scene, but where that moment focused on the point-of-view of being in a crash, Robert Zemeckis’ Flight is all about the process of operating a failing aircraft, and trying desperately to prevent loss of life. The sequence is immaculately detailed and paced, equal parts exciting and fascinating, and though it is brought to life by spectacular effects and taut, sharp direction, it is Denzel Washington’s exquisite performance that grounds the sequence and propels it to greatness. Between Flight and Cast Away, it may just be Zemeckis’ mission in life to scare us all away from air travel, a career goal I am perfectly fine with so long as he keeps up the amazing work.

Ottway’s Shouting Match With God

from The Grey

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I believe Joe Carnahan’s The Grey to be one of 2012’s very best films, and much of that is due to the film’s fearless exploration of faith – or, more accurately, the illusion of faith. I do not believe in God, and I feel this way for the same reasons Ottway, the main character played by Liam Neeson, eventually comes to over the course of his terrible, harrowing journey. After experiencing so much suffering and such tremendous isolation, Ottway, near the end of the film, finally looks up to the heavens and asks for God’s help in 2012’s most stirring moment of dialogue and delivery:

“Do something! Come on, prove it! F*** faith; earn it! Show me something real! I need it now, not later! NOW! Show me and I’ll believe in you until the day I die! I swear. I’m calling on you! I’m calling on you!”

But there is, of course, no answer. This is such a powerfully raw, genuine, and honest moment, a plea that many will understand and relate to intensely. Most American movies are simply petrified of dealing with a moment such as this, but The Grey attacks the idea full force, with clear and powerful execution.

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Riddles in the Dark

from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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I may not feel Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit film succeeded on every level, but I cannot imagine anyone quibbling with the director’s handling of this pivotal scene. Based on what is often considered the best chapter in all of Tolkien’s Middle Earth books, Bilbo’s intellectual standoff with Gollum is arguably even more thrilling on film than it was on page, as Jackson captures and enhances every nuance of this wonderful sequence. The production design, cinematography, and music are all fantastic, but the scene soars due to Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis’ tremendous performances, each playing off the other to perfection. The scene is so damn good that one struggles to believe it was the first thing Jackson and company shot for the trilogy; they certainly got off on the best foot possible.

The Entr’acte

from Holy Motors

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I found Leos Carax’s Holy Motors to be an invigoratingly creative and spectacularly produced movie that ultimately left me kind of cold, which is why I cannot say I ‘love’ the film in the same way other critics have. But I certainly adored many individual moments in the film, and none more than the infectiously fun, exhilarating musical Entr’acte, wherein protagonist Oscar, in the middle of his long day of appointments, wordlessly takes a break to grab his accordion and lead a bunch of musicians through an abandoned building playing a rousing, impromptu piece. I cannot tell you what the scene means, if it means anything at all, but I can tell you it filled me with absolute joy from head to foot, engaging me as much as any other movie moment of 2012.

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I Dreamed a Dream

from Les Miserables

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Possibly my single favorite movie moment of 2012, this could also be the best movie musical scene of all time, as it manages to meld the mediums of cinema and stage musical more naturally, forcefully, and powerfully than most adaptations ever dream of. This is not a stage performance Anne Hathaway gives, nor even a conventional musical singing performance, but a true piece of cinematic acting, where the lyrics seem to stem naturally from her character and disposition. “I Dreamed a Dream” is obviously a beautifully written song, but it does not sound written or rehearsed when sung by Hathaway. Like good dialogue, the words seem to flow instinctually from Fantine, an extension of the despair she feels in the moment, feelings that could not be expressed any other way.

Most importantly, Hathaway allows herself to truly act through the singing; at times, it appears that Fantine can barely get the words out, each lyric harder to come up with than the last. There is a constant sense of improvisation, of searching for each lyric and finding the perfect words just when they are needed, while the facial expressions Hathaway delivers – arguably even more important than the singing – illustrates Fantine as a broken soul just moments from shaking apart, barely able to hold it together. One of the most powerful moments comes near the end, when Hathaway breaks from singing and begins hyperventilating, just barely squeezing out the next line as if she is on the verge of passing out from the stress. It is such a natural and immediate reaction, a gesture I find absolutely, unrelentingly haunting.

“I Dreamed a Dream” is so famous and beloved that people forget its dark context, but Hathaway reestablishes the piece as a tremendously depressing antithesis of hope, and leaves a major impression in her wake. Tom Hooper, of course, deserves credit for the way he shoots the scene, all in one long take with Hathaway dynamically positioned in the frame. It is a gorgeous piece of composition, one that allows Hathaway to not just steal the show, but run away with it wholesale.

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Euclidian Political Reasoning

from Lincoln

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A simple yet emotionally impactful moment, this is the scene where President Lincoln sits down to dictate a telegram, and winds up relating the basis of his political philosophy to two young men. The brilliance of the moment – besides Daniel Day-Lewis’ enthralling performance – is how loose and unrehearsed it feels, as if Lincoln sat down without having his mind made up, and merely used his knowledge of philosophy and reasoned mind to come at the only rational conclusion: That all sides, being equal, must be equal always, or all is thrown out of balance.

The Path of Joe’s Life

from Looper

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After a pivotal moment in the story, Rian Johnson’s Looper flashes back to examine what protagonist Joe’s life would have been like if he really did kill his future self. In montage format, we see Joe age from Joseph Gordon-Levitt into Bruce Willis across the years, at first living a life of luxury, partying, and drugs before eventually falling on harder times and returning to crime. Eventually, old Joe finds love, just in time for it to be stripped away from him. The scene is dazzling, an important swath of exposition presented as an insightful chronicle of life itself, illustrated with amazing visuals and great work from Gordon-Levitt and especially Willis. Looper is one of the year’s best films for a variety of reasons, but this moment is one of the most powerful and memorable. 

Freddie and Lancaster Say Goodbye

from The Master

The Master 20 Great Movie Moments From 2012

If The Master is not a great film overall, it is still filled with several tremendous moments, and the best comes at the very end, as protagonist Freddie parts ways for the last time with cult leader Lancaster Dodd. My main complaint with the film is how one-note deceptive Lancaster’s character is for much of the run-time, but where we can rarely believe a single one of the words that come out of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s mouth, this final goodbye is a moment of genuine emotion for the man, as the platonic love he feels for Freddie is very real indeed. Joaquin Phoenix and Hoffman play the scene beautifully; so much so, in fact, that it is easy to forgive the film’s missteps when it builds to such a perfect dénouement.

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Hans’ Final Message

from Seven Psychopaths

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One of the main reasons I adore Martin McDonagh’s metatextual comedy is Christopher Walken’s wonderfully touching and funny performance, and in the film’s final minutes, it is Walken who gets the bets moment of the movie (spoilers follow). After Walken’s character, Hans, is mistakenly shot down by police, protagonist Marty (Colin Farrell) finds a handheld tape recorder on his friend’s corpse. The tape contains a suggestion for Marty’s script that Hans recorded before dying. The message – and visual dramatization of it – is amazingly poignant, even as its actual content is completely nonsensical, and gives Marty the perfect ending for his screenplay. In a film built around the strange and dynamic nature of storytelling, this is the defining moment, a scene that is both riotously funny and kind of heartbreaking.

The Dance Competition Finale

from Silver Linings Playbook

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I love Silver Linings Playbook for many, many reasons, but I especially adore David O. Russell’s audacity in building the entire story to something as simple and frivolous as an amateur dance competition. This is not a moment that should mean anything in most stories, but because this performance means so much to our characters, and we love the characters so much, watching Pat and Tiffany execute their long-rehearsed dance routine is as riveting and, ultimately, satisfying as any other movie moment of 2012. I first saw Silver Linings Playbook at the closing night of the Starz Denver Film Festival, and in that giant crowd of cinephiles, one could sense the communal energy growing and growing as the dance grew increasingly ambitious (and embarrassing), and a little slice of movie history being made. The long minute of non-stop applause the audience burst into after Pat and Tiffany got their 5 (out of 10) says it better than words ever could.                                                                    

Raoul Silva’s Entrance

from Skyfall 

skyfall7 20 Great Movie Moments From 2012

Casting Javier Bardem as a James Bond villain always seemed like a slam dunk, but it was not until his character, Raoul Silva, actually walked on screen and delivered a creepy, memorable speech that the full potential of Bardem’s casting became apparent. I love the way Sam Mendes shot this scene, all in one long take as Bardem walks from the elevator towards Bond (and the camera), with rows and rows of computer servers creating boundaries on each side of the frame. It is an amazing image, and only make Bardem’s performance all the more haunting. Silva’s story about the “last rat standing” also, of course, sets up the perfect one-liner for Bond later on in the movie – what more could we ask for?

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The Hilariously Inept Car Chase

from 21 Jump Street

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One of 2012’s best comedies, 21 Jump Street has many memorable moments to choose from, but the defining scene, to my mind, is the second-act car chase. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum – the former dressed in his Peter Pan costume – move from car to car as they make greater and greater mistakes while tracking a drug crew, and though the scene is sidesplittingly hilarious, it is also surprisingly thrilling. Those thrills, of course, come back to feed the comedy, as our expectation for a big explosion is continually denied – until, of course, chickens become involved.

Ralph Finally Feels Pride

from Wreck-It Ralph

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Happy endings are a dime a dozen among Disney flicks, but few feel as completely, utterly earned as the poignant conclusion to Wreck-It Ralph, wherein the main character finally feels pride in his own existence. Not just because he has made new friends, and been accepted by the other characters in his game, but because he made a difference in the life of a lonely little girl, and can see evidence of her happiness every time he acts out his normal game routine. If you have seen the movie, you know the moment I speak of; it’s the part where you start tearing up uncontrollably.

The Bin Laden Compound Raid

from Zero Dark Thirty

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In a year filled with big-budget, special effects laden blockbusters, Kathryn Bigelow and company delivered the single best action set piece of 2012 in their depiction of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Like the rest of Zero Dark Thirty, the scene is built entirely around procedure, dramatizing every method, movement, and precaution Seal Team Six took in taking down the world’s most wanted man. It is an inconceivably riveting sequence – especially considering we all know the outcome – one overflowing with tension, detail, and, ultimately, a melancholy sense of satisfaction.

What were your favorite movie moments of 2012? Would any of these belong on your lists? Which moments do you wish I had included? Sound off in the comments! 

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  • http://viewster.com/ Viewster

    thanks, really like it

  • Faiz

    no love for any of The Raid’s fights?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Lack/100000619690152 Jonathan Lack

      Great scenes, no doubt about it. I guess they would not make the list of individual moments because there are so many good fights in The Raid, I tend to think of the whole movie as one great extended series of fights, rather than in particular scenes that stand out from one another.

      • Faiz

        fair enough, i also thought u should have picked TDKR’s opening scene instead of the back-breaking

        and the ending of Cloud Atlas was also such a strong moment…

        i

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Lack/100000619690152 Jonathan Lack

          Opening of TDKR is good, but I feel the Bane vs Batman scene has a lot more emotional/narrative heft to it, because it comes later in the movie.

          I had lots of moments from Cloud Atlas in contention for this list, but I ultimately felt the entire movie is so strong from start to finish, it wasn’t worth picking an individual scene. It’s just uniformly great.

          • Evan Bolick

            I am very glad you did not use the TDKR opening scene. You pegged, easily the best moment of TDKR (possibly the only better was Bane’s betrayal of his corporate financier). The o pening scene merits nothing as it was almost a point-for-point re-shot of the opening of Dark Knight. To me, the opening scene’s complete lack of ingenuity foreshadowedthe wholesale disappointment that was Dark Knight Rises.

  • Evan Bolick

    I know you hated Prometheus (and rightly so), but to exclude the C-section scene is simpley an oversight. It was easily the most tense horror scene I have seen in years.

  • Patrick

    I’m surprised there weren’t any scenes from life of pi on here

    • http://viewster.com/ Viewster

      exactly ..
      I am a bit disappointed

  • Homer_the_badman

    The Dictator?!?! Great trailer, completely rubbish, overblown, boring movie. That one inclusion has just ruined this whole list

  • not486

    Did you not see Killer Joe? I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but the infamous “chicken leg” scene solidified Joe as a top-tier movie villain.