22 December 2012

Jawdroppers and Tearjerkers

First, I'd like to announce another drawing for a SleuthSayers giveaway.  The prize this time is a copy of my second book, a hardcover collection of thirty mystery/suspense stories called MIDNIGHT.  To enter, leave a comment on today's post anytime this week and check back next Saturday (above Elizabeth Zelvin's post) to see if you're the winner.  And I hope everyone has a great holiday!

Those of you who know me know I'm a huge fan of suspense fiction---who wouldn't be?--but I'm also a certified, card-carrying movie maniac.  I absolutely love 'em.  Our three children, probably thanks to me, are almost as movie-crazy as I am.  One of them even has a media room at his house, complete with 70-inch TV and surround-sound and reclining seats that vibrate during earthquakes and shootouts and cattle stampedes.  (Our kids' toys were always as much fun for me as for them, and that hasn't changed.  What's even better now is that I'm not the one who has to pay for them.)

My wife and I were over at our younger son's home a few weeks ago for "movie night,"and I was reminded how much I've enjoyed certain scenes, over the years--mainly scenes that were either surprising (think The Sixth Sense), emotional (think Old Yeller), or visually stunning (think Lawrence of Arabia, or Avatar).  Some scenes--maybe the best ones--manage to be all three, or at least two out of three.  And I fully understand, by the way, that opinions differ a lot in this area.  I remember feeling incredibly sad during the movie Love Story, but only because I had paid good money to sit through it.

Having said that, I've put together a quick list of some of my favorite scenes, in those three categories: (1) surprising, (2) emotional, and (3) pulse-pounding.  If the first group doesn't affect you, you're smarter than I am and have figured everything out already; if the second doesn't, your heart is considerably harder than mine; and if the third doesn't . . . well, maybe you're asleep, or gone to the restroom.

Here they are.  I've forced myself to stop at a dozen each:

Jawdroppers (surprise! version)

Final scene, The Usual Suspects
Fruit-cellar scene, Psycho
"She's my sister AND my daughter" scene, Chinatown
Graveyard (final) scene, The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Final scene, Escape From New York
"Write everything exactly as I say it" scene, The Book of Eli
Butcher knife scene, The Stepford Wives (1972)
Final scene, Primal Fear
The death of Jack Vincennes, L.A. Confidential
Statue of Liberty (final) scene, Planet of the Apes (1968)
Final scene, Presumed Innocent
"Here's what really happened" scene, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


The death of John Coffey, The Green Mile
Boo Radley's appearance, To Kill a Mockingbird
Forrest talking to Jenny at her gravesite, Forrest Gump
The penny on the door, Ghost
"Did somebody save me?" (final) scene, Signs
Mother elephant singing to her baby, Dumbo
"He was smilin'" (final) scene, Cool Hand Luke
Primroses (final) scene, The Last Sunset
"Goodbye, little Joe" scene, Shane
The death of Carl's wife, Up
"O Captain, my Captain" (final) scene, Dead Poet's Society
"Goodnight, you princes of Maine" (final) scene, The Cider House Rules

Jawdroppers (edge-of-your-seat version)

Chariot race, Ben-Hur
Opening scene, Raiders of the Lost Ark
Final scene, Aliens
Car/train chase, The French Connection
Knocking out the stadium lights, The Natural
Countdown inside Fort Knox, Goldfinger
T-Rex attack, Jurassic Park
Crash of the alien spaceship, Prometheus
Final scene, Blood Simple
Buffalo hunt, Dances With Wolves
San Francisco car chase, Bullitt
Clarice and the killer in the basement, The Silence of the Lambs

I suspect a lot more of these memorable scenes are coming up in the near future--notably in films like Life of Pi, which--if it's anything like the book--will have plenty of surprises, emotion, and goosebumps.  And for action of the guilty-pleasure/Jerry Bruckheimer sort, I'm looking forward to the 2013 remake of The Lone Ranger.

Question: Which film scenes are the ones you remember most?  And don't worry--if none come readily to mind, that's probably a point in your favor.  It means you don't do as much movie-watching and/or daydreaming as I do.  (I think about that stuff all the time.)

I'll close with a line from another of my favorite scenes, one that goes along with the Christmas season: "Look, Daddy.  Teacher says, 'Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.'"

That one jerks a tear every time.


  1. John, I LOVE your lists! They always make me think, and today's includes many of my favorites. I love movies, too. Spent most of my high school days cutting school and riding the city bus to town where I'd see two movies, then ride the bus back to school to catch the school bus home. Favorite movie back then was THE SOUND AND THE FURY with Yul Brynner and Joanne Woodward. It started running at a vintage theater about a month after I read the book, and I saw it every day until it closed.

    Hope you and your family have great holidays. Ours have already started, so I'll have to work on my personal favorite movies list in January.

  2. John, I love the image of you sitting in the dark crying over Dumbo's mother's lullaby. This is movie binge season for me, and I bawled my eyes out at the last season of The Sessions both times I saw it. In the classics category, how about Little Women? I still cry when Beth dies in the book.

  3. Oh, and for edge of your seat from the crop of new movies, the flight scene in Flight. And I thought The Hobbit (rather than Life of Pi as I expected) had the best use of 3D since Avatar. See it in IMAX if you possibly can.

  4. Love the line about LOVE STORY.

    A few additions:

    DIE HARD: "Welcome to the party, pal!" (I was surprised to see that line is so iconic you can find the two seconds on Youtube - with Spakish subtitles)
    MILLER'S CROSSING: "What heart?"
    THE PROFESSIONAL: Leon's death
    LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN: Just before Bruce Willis tells the pedophile "There's more to life than just living."

    Edge of your seat:
    IN BRUGES: last scene

    THE CROSSING GUARD: last scene

    I'm sure I will think of more as soon as I post this.

  5. Uh, SpaNish subtitles. Not Spakish. "Bienvenidos a la fiesta, amigo!"

  6. John,
    I too was touched by the effect Dumbo’s Mother’s lullaby had on you. I’d forgotten how sad it made me when I viewed the film. The T-Rex in Jurassic Park terrified me too. When I was a kid I watched that movie with the T-Rex that comes out of the ocean? That’s what I remember anyway. It generated many years of night mares for me. Happy Holidays!

  7. I have one more comment...I hated LOVE STORY.

  8. John, Found the title of the T-Rex movie that terrified me as a kid- “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.” (1953)

  9. John, thanks for the memories, after travelling down the street of movies past.
    And congrats on getting your 50th mini-mystery published in Woman's World.

  10. Old Yeller - if you didn't cry at that, you were dead.
    Scariest line - "Who's hand was I holding?" from the original "The Haunting" with Julie Harris.
    Most shocking scene of violence - the Coke bottle scene in the 1973 "The Long Goodbye" with Elliott Gould (I'm serious - it's more disturbing than anything I've ever seen in any other movie)
    Most romantic scene - well, that's entirely subjective, but for me (and my husband), it's the whole opera and after scene in "Moonstruck."

  11. Edge of your seat:

    THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: The motorcycle chase. Yes, I know it was a cartoon; don't care.

    DUEL: a TV movie, the first effort by a youngster named Spielberg. I remember a buddy of mine standing ON his chair swearing at the top of his voice for most of the second half of that movie. "Holy $+&@%!"

  12. Hey gang -- I just got back from an out-of-town booksigning and checked the site, and I LOVE some of your examples of memorable scenes. Makes me want to watch some of those again--especially Lucky Number Slevin, The Long Goodbye, The Haunting, The Sound and the Fury, and Duel. And I have not yet seen The Sessions, The Hobbit, OR Flight, although I plan to.

    By the way, I thought everything about In Bruges was great.

  13. Hey, John - enjoyed your lists! I would love to see what movies you'd have on a "Biggest Laugh" list...maybe Charles Durning singing "Sidestep" in "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" would be one :o)

  14. Hey Donna! I'll have to work on a "Biggest Laughs" list--you're right, that'd be fun. And yep, Durning and that song would be on it.


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