By Asha Bakhai and Bhiramah Rammanohar

What makes a good scene great? Is it the performance quality, the writing, the cinematography, the fearlessness of the themes, the boldness of the film making or is it how directly it grapples with the human condition? On the other end of the spectrum we will also explore the five worst scenes in history. Here is our compilation of some of the best and worst movie scenes of all time including all genres of world cinema. Of course, it is just a glimpse and completely subjective but we hope you enjoy.

5 greatest movie scenes:

1. The Dark Knight 2008 – Joker Interrogation

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This is an incredible, intense scene which incorporates two of the most iconic characters of all time. The lights suddenly flick on and we see Batman standing ominously behind the Joker, consequently slamming his head down onto table. What then follows is an improvised psychological battle between the two icons which is enhanced by the stark contrast of the Joker’s wild face and Batman’s perfect angular mask. Heath Ledger's incredible acting as the Joker has become iconic. His method acting and immersion into the character has become infamous, especially in the wake of his tragic death. Batman’s (Christian Bale) explosive bursts of anger shocked us and brought the tension in this scene to life.

2. Good Will Hunting 1997 – It’s Not Your Fault

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This is a pivotal moment in this heart wrenching movie where Matt Damon’s character breaks down his own walls of defence he had built up because of his own troubled childhood and opens up to Robin Williams’ character. Damon’s sudden transition from a bottled-up kid to a vulnerable teen crying on Williams’ shoulder along with William’s constant repetition of the phrase “It’s not your fault” makes this one on the most powerful and emotional scenes in cinematic history.

3. Persona 1966 - The Repeated Scene

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This is a gut-wrenching scene from an Ingmar Bergman, Swedish, black and white film, about a strange emotional convergence between a nurse and her patient. This scene initially seemed simple where the patient, Bibi Andersson, tells the truth about herself. However, I was shocked as the scene repeats itself and instead focuses solely on the character of the nurse which allows a completely new perspective and changes the meaning of the scene completely giving it great depth and dramatic impact. 

4.  Schindler's List 1993 - The Girl in Red

Apart from the Shabbat candles, this is the only other use of colour in the main body of the film, so it is clear why this scene is so poignant. She represents the innocence of the Jews being slaughtered and as the camera pans to show the deep pain on Schindler’s face who is played by the great Liam Neeson. The innocent, red girl walks through the carnage as if completely unaware. This contrast’s dramatically to when the camera pans over to a dark, sombre image of a group of Jews being shot dead.

5.  Unbroken 2014 - If He Drops It, Shoot Him

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This slightly less well-known scene struck the greatest chord within us. Not only does it encapsulate the whole film in one scene but it also symbolises that one man’s strength can empower and reach thousands. The movie tracks the life of the famous Olympian Louis Zamperini played by Jack O'Connell and his hardships in the war especially when he is captured by the Japanese Navy. The determination and strength in Zamperini’s blue eyes and O’Connell interpretation of the character makes this scene incredibly special.


5 worst movie scenes:

1.  JAWS 3-D (1983) - Shark Incoming Scene

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In this thriller film based on a Sea-World catastrophe, this scene involves the shark coming into sight of the search submarine. What makes this scene so horrifyingly atrocious is the poor care taken with the special effects - the stable background against the shark's image (which grows to seem like it is approaching) is poorly constructed. Unfortunately, there is more to this scene that makes it even worse. The special effect of the submarine glass shattering is so comic that this essential climax in the film cannot be taken seriously in any way. This is infamous for being the worst digitally produced film.

2.  Teen Witch (1989) - The Rap Battle Scene

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This comedy fantasy film involves a teenage girl who has been enlightened with her reincarnated powers. While having these powers at her disposal, she is eager to help her friend out with someone whom she fancies. However, the way in which the directors decided to go about this spoiled the whole dynamic of the film. The scene begins with the guys rapping over a beat and it is a sight only worthy for cringe. Just when you think it cannot get any worse, it does. The teen witch hypnotises her friend and she joins in on the battle. While this does add a comedic element, in one of her lyrics she mouths over presumably a curse word, which may evidently be inappropriate for the younger viewing audiences.

3. Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) - Confrontation scene

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This action thriller film features one of the most irrelevant and illogical scenes possible to existence.  Beginning with the protagonist and his companion on the beach, this scene they encounter the secret double agent. While this is a major climax in the film, the serious nature is just washed away by the mere silliness of the scene. When I explain, you may question whether this is the same action film. The two agents, opposite each other initially play a game of Frisbee. Then he chucks the Frisbee away for his companion to collect. Then Rowdy (the main character) uses a Frisbee with blades to kill the double agent. From the massive plot hole of the double agent not realising that there is a killer Frisbee coming at him to the poor stunt effects of the blood spurting out everywhere, this scene has no sense of direction and is just unnecessary to have in a pure hardcore thriller film.

4. Anaconda (1997) - Major Chase Scene

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Starring Jennifer Lopez, this film has the perfect scare factor for Ophidiophobes but unfortunately the directing of this film does not do the plot any justice. Being a horror adventure film, it needs to have the imminent silent suspense, yet this is hugely interrupted by unnecessary comic elements. In this chase scene between the huge snake monster and Jennifer Lopez, to everyone's disgust this menacing monster pukes out one of the already eaten crew members. However, the tense atmosphere was immediately interrupted when that spewed out body gives a wink to Jennifer Lopez. While the intention of this was to seem more creepy and possessive, the lack of special effects made it more comic and ridiculous. Now this film is just renowned for that one scene.

5. No Retreat No Surrender (1986) - Training Montage

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This American martial arts film has the main protagonist train in the karate spirit of Bruce Lee in order to protect his dojo. This classic concept of student becoming master is just ridiculed due to the amusing nature of this scene. First, Jason (the protagonist) performs the silliest exercises to "get in shape" -  merely resembling a fish flailing after it has been caught. Then the music lacks the energy to keep the hardcore training session going. What makes this scene more memorable and even worse is that the penultimate training episode involves a very comedic position which is purposefully done to add a bit of comic relief. Due to the lack of energy in the atmosphere, this montage could not be taken seriously at all.