By Alex

This is a list of the top 11 movie scenes I can think of from the past decade. I often watch movies simply for their aesthetic charm, and a number of these scenes make the cut for that reason alone. Others feature phenomenal acting and directing. I’m sure I missed a number of excellent scenes, so let me know what you think.

1. Atonement – Dunkirk Beach scene

I’m a sucker for uncut tracking scenes, and though this 5 ½ minute scene might have jumped away from the filming style of the rest of the film, it was definitely the scene that struck me most in the Aughts. The constant turmoil taking place throughout the intricate set was awe-inspiring and technically impressive. Furthermore, the graphic results of war were evident and compelling, augmenting the strong sense of despair the film seeks to provide.

2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Prologue

This film is probably the most beautifully photographed movie I’ve ever seen, but the opening narrated scene sets the tone by humanizing the 17-time murderer and serial robber allowing the viewer to empathize with the criminal that leaves said viewer feeling slightly uncomfortable. The musical score is excellent and somehow the strange tunneling lens distortions seem right.

3. No Country For Old Men – Coin Toss at Gas Station

Video here

This scene probably made me feel more uncomfortable than any other scene in recent memory. Chigurh’s dialog with the gas station clerk is chilling, pushed to the limit, and hard to watch, which is exactly why I love so much to watch it.

4. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Petty Theives and Rubes/Blue Cut Robbery

Originally I had five or six scenes from this movie on this list, but I decided I shouldn’t include more than two. This scene, makes it in for exactly the same reasons the Prologue Portrait does, beautiful cinematography and a fantastic musical score (honorable mention for Imagining Himself/April 3, 1882 near the end of the film).

5. There Will Be Blood – Final Scene

Video here

Daniel Day-Lewis is such a fantastic actor, he had to make this list somewhere… There are probably a number of scenes in this movie or Gangs of New York that deserve consideration. But it is this scene’s successful culmination of the undoing of both Day-Lewis’ and Paul Dano’s characters in a disturbingly brilliant movie that place it here.

6. V for Vendetta – V’s Turn/Gift of Love/All of Us

First of all, the matrix-style fight scene is great, but when Torentino-esque graphic blood is introduced it makes it all the more exciting. Then, the parliament detonation is set to music; it’s like the ultimate firework display, and who doesn’t like fireworks?

7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – The Belafonte

Exposing the fourth wall, this short scene gives us a tour of the boat by panning from room to room in the large set. It is fun and strikingly Wes Anderson-esque, and who doesn’t love Wes Anderson?

8. The Dark Knight – Pencil Trick/Opening Robbery

Video here

The opening scene of this film gives us an early glimpse of the Joker’s diabolical genius and sets the tone for an excellent movie, but then the pencil trick is just great—funny and surprising while forcing the viewer to cringe at the same time—and it exposes the acting genius of the late Heath Ledger.

9. Punch  Drunk Love – 99 Cent Store

Video here

I just love the reference to the Andreas Gursky photo, and the film as a whole is very well shot too.

10. Children of Men – Last Battle

There are a number of technologically innovative scenes in Children of Men, but I was most impressed by the long tracking scene near the end in which the camera follows the protagonist through the war-torn city, in and out of buildings while gunshots blaze by and blood splatters everything including the camera.

11. Kill Bill Vol. 1 – The Bride vs the Crazy 88

One of my flaws is that I’ve only seen the first installment of the Kill Bill movies, and wasn’t even paying attention for most of it. However, this fight scene still sticks out to me as one of the more impressive fights I’ve seen in my lifetime. Though borderline gimmicky, Tarantino’s token over-the-top gore and excellent choreography were impressive enough to stick out when I started this list.

Honorable mention: Fantastic Mr. Fox – battle scene, American Psycho – exchanging business cards, Up – opening montage