The 50 Greatest
Movie Moments

(of all-time)

by TV Guide

Part 2

TV Guide Magazine (March 24-30, 2001 issue) offered their list of cinematic greatness - the greatest movie moments "that make you drop the remote." "De Niro's menace. Hitchcock's malice. Meg's rapture. Maybe a line of dialogue you love or an image you can't shake...The scenes might run just a few seconds or stretch well beyond...Some are from the classiest of classics, some are from popcorn movies." The authors (Hilary De Vries, David Hiltbrand, Damian Holbrook, Michael Scheinfeld and Ray Stackhouse) apologized in advance for neglecting foreign-films.

For purposes of comparison, the TV Guide list includes almost all of the greatest movie moments published previously on the "Greatest Films" website, at Greatest Moments and Scenes, and at the 100 Greatest Film Scenes (in 10 parts).


(Ranked in Reverse Order)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

37. The Graduate (1967) - SEDUCED
No cinematic moment captured the 1960s generation gap better than the seduction of Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock by Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. Hoffman became an overnight sensation as the emotionally paralyzed college grad carrying on with the lecherous, lonely Mrs. R. (No matter that, in real life, the 36 year-old Bancroft was a mere six years older than Hoffman.) After Benjamin sputters, "Mrs. Robinson you're trying to seduce me," the desperate tawdriness of the situation becomes all too clear in Bancroft's dirty chuckle, her stockinged leg so memorably framing the graduate, trapping Benjamin in his own future.
36. The Public Enemy (1931) - THE GRAPEFRUIT
James Cagney's cocky performance as a ruthless racketeer catapulted him to superstardom in this brutally realistic gangster classic. William Wellman's gritty direction evokes a seedy, amoral atmosphere in several powerful sequences, but one scene stands out: Cagney's hood ending a breakfast argument with his moll (Mae Clarke) by shoving a grapefruit into her kisser. The look of shock and embarrassment on Clarke's face was reportedly real, as she wasn't sure what Cagney was going to do until they actually shot the scene. Cagney later said that for years, whenever he would dine out, some wise guy would invariably have the waiter send over a grapefruit. Who could resist?

35. Five Easy Pieces (1970) - THE CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH
Jack Nicholson was just beginning to blip on Hollywood's radar screen when he tried to order breakfast in Bob Rafelson's deceptively simple drama. Nicholson plays a prodigal son (en route home to see his dying father) whose bottled-up rage erupts at a diner when a waitress refuses to bring him an off-menu order of toast. "You make sandwiches, don't you?" he asks, his voice coated with contempt. He calmly orders a chicken salad sandwich on toast, hold the chicken. "You want me to hold the chicken?" repeats the rude waitress. "I want you to hold it between your knees," Nicholson snaps, then clears the table with an efficiency Stanley Kowalski would admire. In one sweep, Nicholson captures the fury of an entire generation sick of playing by the rules.
34. All About Eve (1950) - STORM WARNING
Every drag queen's favorite line, spoken by the ultimate drama queen: "Fasten your seatbelts: It's gonna be a bumpy night." Bette Davis's martini-soaked omen sets the stage not only for a party scene but also for director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's entire backstage saga. Realizing that Anne Baxter's unctuous Eve is a conniving stalker, diva Margo Channing (Davis) tosses off the warning like an old fur. In a film with more bitchy one-liners than an entire season of Sex and the City, Davis shows why she was, like Margo (as George Sanders' venomous critic Addison DeWitt put it), "a great star, a true star."
33. Glory (1989) - THE TEAR
Denzel Washington's incandescent talent blazed with his Oscar-winning turn in this fact-based Civil War drama about a Union regiment of black soldiers. As an angry runaway slave "so full of hate (he just wants) to go out and fight everybody," Washington gave the film its most powerful image: His exposed back criss-crossed with scars from countless lashings, the runaway braces himself for yet another whipping, all the while staring with disdain at his white commanding officer (Matthew Broderick). The stare continues, unflinching, through the whipping, even as a single tear rolls down Washington's right cheek.
32. Cabaret (1972) - HITLER YOUTH
Bob Fosse's ultrastylized direction and a truly star-making performance by Liza Minnelli pushed the Hollywood musical into the modern era. Filled with such wonderful numbers as the title song and the Minnelli-Joel Grey duet Money, Money, the film is never more powerful than when a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy stands up at an outdoor cafe to sing Tomorrow Belongs to Me. As the camera slowly tilts down to reveal the boy's brown uniform and a swastika armband, other fresh-faced Aryans enthusiastically join in. The dichotomy between the lovely melody and its hideous message - as well as the contrast between the Hitler Youth and a disgusted old man - is a grim reminder that life would not remain a cabaret.
31. The Birds (1963) - THE SCHOOL YARD
Alfred Hitchcock followed Psycho with this, his most technically challenging film, which required three years of preparation and used a then-remarkable 370 special-effects shots. The most memorably malevolent scene is a perfect primer for Hitch's cinematic mastery, as he teasingly intercuts an oblivious Melanie (Tippi Hedren) smoking the slowest-burning cigarette in movie history on a schoolhouse swing set while hundreds of crows gather behind her. As a singsong nursery rhyme wafts from the school, Melanie catches sight of one bird in midair. She (and the audience) watch as the crow lands on a bird-packed jungle gym. Other filmmakers of the era would have spared the kids from the ensuing onslaught. But other filmmakers were not Hitchcock.
30. Annie Hall (1977) - LOVE ON A ROOFTOP
Woody Allen has made films more ambitious (Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors) and maybe even funnier (Sleeper) but never more poignant or popular than this Oscar-winning urban love story. He found inspiration in his off-camera romance with Diane Keaton, and while everyone has a favorite scene - the lobsters! Marshall McLuhan! the cocaine sneeze! - the getting-acquainted chat between Keaton and Allen on the deck of Annie's apartment is as charming as the first flush of love. The fumbling, awkward conversation includes running subtitles ("I wonder what she looks like naked?") that peek inside the couple's minds and the brain of the comic genius at work.
29. The Lady and the Tramp (1955) - DOG FOOD
"We don't make films primarily for children," Walt Disney once said. "We try to make them for the child in all of us." Here he succeeded with what might be the most cherished in Uncle Walt's vast archive. Say "spaghetti scene," and even cat lovers go moonstruck. Tramp, the scruffy mongrel, takes Lady, the well-heeled cocker spaniel, to his favorite Italian restaurant (or, rather, its back-door alley). They share a heaping dish of pasta and meatballs to the strains of the dreamy Bella Notte. As they nibble either end of the same noodle, their lips meet in a delightful, unexpected kiss. Score one for Walt and puppy love.

28. Sunset Boulevard (1950) - THE CLOSE-UP
Leave it to a madwoman to deliver a classic line. Descending a gilt staircase, surrounded by a swarm of cops and cameramen, Gloria Swanson's faded, ferocious film star-cum-killer, Norma Desmond, delivers her final performance: "All right, Mr. DeMille. I'm ready for my close-up." Her descent into lunacy is pitiful, chilling and, like Billy Wilder's classic Hollywood tale, wonderfully over-the-top. As Norma walks down those steps and over the edge of sanity, we see the true cruelty of fame's fleeting fancy.
27. From Here to Eternity (1953) - WAVES OF LOVE
The surf, the beach, the kiss. Fred Zinnemann's account of James Jones's World War II novel about Pearl Harbor is today best remembered for its beachside tryst, and although Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr's lip lock has been mocked in everything from Airplane to Saturday Night Live, few of the screen's iconic moments so thrillingly capture sexual urgency and emotional frankness. "I never knew it could be like this," says a breathless Kerr, an actress who, until this role, had played only genteel types. Lancaster is the ideal soldier who, having found the love of his life, will give it up for his country.
26. The Phantom of the Opera (1925) - UNMASKED
Dubbed "the Man of a Thousand Faces," silent star Lon Chaney created his own makeup for everything from hunchbacks to little old ladies. His crowning achievement, though, was in Rupert Julian's classic, as the disfigured Phantom haunting the catacombs of the Paris Opera house. The instant when the abducted Christine creeps up behind him and rips off his mask still ranks as one of the most vivid in the annals of horror. The Phantom's skull-like, acid-scarred visage is a veritable death's-head, with darkened eye sockets, jagged teeth and hollowed-out nostrils. The makeup was considered so frightening that all photographs were banned before the film's release, and some weakhearted moviegoers reportedly fainted when they saw the hideous kisser. Even today's makeup experts remain transfixed.

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