More often than not, my favourite part of a movie is where reality dawns on either the characters, the audience or both. This involves a complete shift in tone, an emotional interlude or a reminder of just how things are in their world. When done well, they perfectly blend both story and character development. Here are five great examples.
Robin Hood (1973) – The Sheriff vs The Friar
Some say that Disney’s Robin Hood is not a great movie. They are wrong. The lack of a beautiful and lavish production is overshadowed by the great characters, hilarious screenplay and an excellent cast. It’s a jolly affair but there is one moment which is surprisingly effective and plays with your emotions in a way only Disney movies can. Prince John has just Tripled the taxes of Nottingham and the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham comes to collect. Not even the charitable Friar Tuck is off limits.
The Expendables (2010) – What Was Left Of My Soul
This scene confounded everyone. Oscar calibur acting in an homage to the big, dumb and noisy action movies of the 80’s and 90’s is not what people expected. this outstandingly dramatic and sensitive moment features genuinely excellent acting. When our hero Sylvester Stallone expresses his mixed feelings about his last mission we are treated to an astonishing monologue by Mickey Rourke. Recalling a traumatising experience in Bosnia, the heart wrenching tale of the importance of saving someone strikes a chord with not only our hero but to the audience as well.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) – Two Selfless Martyrs
This is my favourite moment in any Indiana Jones movie. Not the chase scene or the spectacular stunts but the conversation between Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford)and his father, Henry (Sean Connery). After escaping from the Nazis they argue over the best way to go next. Not only does this scene tell us why the two maguffins are important (the grail and the diary) but it also finds the time to develop the characters through interaction and back story. No exposition, no melodrama, just good, honest storytelling. It starts about the 5:10 mark if you want to cut to the end of the chase.
The Incredibles (2004) – The Most Valuable Possession
If this ended right after Helen leaves the cave it still would have been a decent scene. The tender moment between her and Violet afterwards turns it into a the best part of the movie. Unlike her brother Dash, Violet wants to be normal and rarely if ever uses her powers. Now she is being told that she needs her powers in order to survive. The whole thing is too much for poor Violet but Helen reassures her that she is strong enough to do what’s right. It’s a remarkably powerful moment and a perfect example of why Pixar movies are held to such a high standard.
Ghostbusters (1984) – Judgement Day
Yes. My favourite scene in Ghostbusters features no jokes and no special effects. Up until now there has been an underlying threat of apocalyptic proportions but none of the Ghostbusters have been aware of it. Then this beautiful little moment happens which changes everything. Coming right before the third act, newcomer Winston Zedmore (Ernie Hudson) points out to Ray Stanz (Dan Ackroyd)that there must be a reason why there is so much paranormal activity going on. It’s a fantastic piece of both writing and acting and still gives me goosebumps. Plus it’s probably the best ever scene involving an outsider pointing out the obvious to an expert.