2018 was a hell of a year for movies. There were moments of triumph, hilarity, despair, or just unadulterated fun. There were moments of joy, of sorrow, or moments that simply kicked serious ass. 2018 was a year of extreme upheaval, and the movies of the year showed how easily life can zig and zag and change in completely unexpected ways. Whether they were from good movies or bad movies, these are the movie scenes of 2018 that left a lasting impression. Spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned.
The HALO Jump – Mission: Impossible – Fallout
The sixth installment in the Mission Impossible franchise had no shortage of insane, practical stunts, and none were more impressive than the HALO jump that takes place near the beginning of the film. The camera follows Tom Cruise, who performed 106 total jumps for the scene, as he free-falls behind Henry Cavill as the two drop into Paris in the middle of a lightning storm. It’s, for lack of a better description, absolutely incredible to watch. The camera never cuts, jumping after Cruise and staying with him as he falls and attempts to reattach Cavill’s oxygen to wake him up in time before hitting the ground. The simple fact is that these maniacs actually jumped out of a damn plane and filmed it, and it’s one of, if not the most impressive stunt ever put onscreen.
Takeoff – First Man
First Man dedicates itself to being as realistic as possible for its sequences of flights into space, and each one is a claustrophobic, dizzying nightmare that refuses to let you catch your breath. The astronauts prepping for the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon are stuck inside such a small, confined space that never looks safe enough. As they hurl through the atmosphere, the crafts rattle back and forth and the men are violently shaken with no relief in sight. The gimmick sadly wears itself out by the third time around, but the first couple of scenes portraying attempts at space travel in what is basically a tin can are riveting, and will make you rethink what it means and takes to be an astronaut.
The Casino Fight / Car Chase – Black Panther
Black Panther has a wild variety of aesthetics and genres that it pulls from, including Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and even Shakespeare. But it’s when it pays homage to spy films like the James Bond series that director Ryan Coogler has the most fun – the casino fight, with its sleek set and costumes and single take brawl taking place down at the tables and up and around the balcony, is a reminder of what great, practical action can be. The ensuing car chase through the streets of Busan is the icing on the cake.
Showdown on Titan – Avengers: Infinity War
Infinity War had a lot to live up to. As the first part of the culmination of ten years of films, fans were ready to see every single Marvel hero introduced thus far team up to stop the all-powerful Thanos from wiping out half of the universe. The Russo Brothers turn up the action and excitement to 11, and no action scene in the film is as thrilling as the battle against Thanos on the planet Titan. The stakes are the highest they’ve ever been, and heavy hitters like Iron Man and Doctor Strange are given the chance to truly give it their all. The Titan fight is an extraordinarily impressive display of seamless and polished CGI mayhem, with huge displays of magic that allow the MCU go full-anime, and heroes and villains exchanging bombastic blows with each other.
Welcome to France – Overlord
Overlord is a frenzied, B-movie inspired WWII action thriller with a few zombies tossed in for some extra insanity. It’s a lot of fun, but no other scene in it quite matches the opening. Jovan Adepo’s Boyce, a fresh recruit to the war effort among plenty of other young men, is being deployed into France via air. Just as his commanding officer is relaying instructions, anti-aircraft fire suddenly rips through the plane, ripping the young men aboard to shreds before Boyce’s eyes. The plane begins to spiral out of control, and we’re shown everything unfold from Boyce’s perspective – the scene becomes a long take of the young man desperately avoiding bullets and fire as he struggles to escape the plane and deploy his parachute. Bodies are flung every which way, men are shrieking and crying, and Boyce’s descent down to the ground is a brutal, dizzying ride as Hell opens up above and around him.
The Nightmare Bear – Annihilation
Annihilation was an early release that was met with great critical reception but little interest from modern audiences. It’s a shame, because the film is one of the more interesting pieces of art released this year. While mostly a science fiction tale, Annihilation is also packed with some of the most terrifying horror moments in recent memory. None compare to the film’s halfway point, where the group of women are attacked by a massive bear with a half skeleton snout and whose noises are the screams of its victims. It’s a master class in terror, tension, and effects.
The Mahjong Game – Crazy Rich Asians
Rather than leading to a big dramatic fight or emotional breakdown, Crazy Rich Asians culminates in a game of Mahjong against Rachel and her potential mother-in-law, Eleanor. The scene provides one of the many wonderful glimpses into Chinese culture, and the performances from the two women as they fiercely play against each other tell you all you need to know about what’s going on in the scene, even if you have no idea how the game is played. Rachel, treated like dirt by Eleanor and her family throughout the entire film, knows that she will never be accepted by them, and thus tells Eleanor that she will reject her son’s marriage proposal. While that gives Eleanor the victory she’s been hoping for, it’s Rachel who still holds all the power, gripping the winning tile and then tossing in onto the table rather than play it and win the game. It’s an immensely satisfying moment in one of the best surprise hits of the year.
The Lobster Tank Scene – Venom
Venom is not a good movie. The story is nonsensical, the interpretation of Venom and where he’s from and what he does are confusing, the final battle is incoherent and visually ugly, and it has very little value outside of dumb popcorn entertainment. And yet, despite it being pretty terrible, audiences seemed to love it, to the tune of over $800 million earnings at the box office. Perhaps all of this is due to Tom Hardy’s absolutely insane performance as the alien-possessed Eddie Brock. His mannerisms and choices are so ridiculous in this film that you can’t help but love it, it’s as if Jim Carrey inhabited Hardy’s body for a couple of hours. In the most bizarre scene out of this bizarre movie, Hardy is losing his mind and his body is overheating due to having an alien parasite within him, so he leaps straight into a lobster tank at a fancy restaurant to cool off. He also decides that he’s starving, so he violently grabs some of the lobsters inside and chows down on them. It’s so strange and manic that it has a certain kind of charm to it.
The Cover is Not the Book – Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Poppins Returns is a fun and cheerful musical romp through the streets of London that maintains the sense of whimsy that the first one held, and “The Cover is Not the Book” number has the most fun with it. The entire scene takes place in a classically animated 2-D world, and it’s a lovely look back at the kind of magic that made Disney so beloved in the first place.
Train Chase – Incredibles 2
Incredibles 2 proved to be worth the wait, delivering an experience nearly as great as the original. Elastigirl takes the center stage this time around, and the runaway train sequence gets to show off the capabilities of her powers to the fullest extent. It’s proof that Brad Bird has never lost his touch for exciting action scenes – every movement serves a purpose and leads into the next.
Shallows – A Star is Born
Despite being the center of all the trailers for this film, A Star is Born still managed to make this moment count. Ally steps onstage with Jackson Maine for the first time, overcoming all doubts and insecurities for a wonderful and powerful cathartic moment of pure bliss and emotion. It’s what the entire film has been leading up to at this point, and it’s so triumphant that you can’t help but get goosebumps. The rest of the film is all downhill from here, emotionally speaking, but for one incredible moment, life was exactly what it was supposed to be for the two doomed lovers.
Bathroom Brawl – Mission: Impossible – Fallout
The Mission Impossible franchise is known for its outrageous and giant stunts, but Fallout’s most iconic moment comes in the form of a simple fist fight that goes down in a casino bathroom. Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill team up to take down a nameless bad guy goon, but this goon packs a bit of a bigger punch than they bargained for. The tussle drags on with no end in sight, and each combatant shows signs of fatigue as they continue duking it out with one another. The fight choreography is astounding, the choice to cut the score the entirety of the fight allows for every grunt and punch to echo off the bathroom walls, only adding to the brutality of it. You’ll be sitting there, mouth-agape through the whole thing. And it gave us the iconic shot of Cavill reloading his biceps, so, yeah.
Thor Arrives – Avengers: Infinity War
While its ending is tragic, Infinity War still brought plenty of cheer-worthy moments comic book movie fans have come to love. At the climax of the Battle of Wakanda, where all seems lost and our heroes outnumbered and outmatched, the God of Thunder and his two new pals arrive on the scene to change the tide. Alan Silvestri’s triumphant Avengers theme blares as loudly as it’s ever been, and our heroes rally as victory is back in sight. It’s easily the most satisfying and glorious movie moment of any action movie this year, and fans are still going wild over it months later.
Assault on the House – Assassination Nation
Assassination Nation is probably the most underrated movies of the year. It’s a stylized, part techno, part revenge thriller about a small town that slowly descends into madness when everyone’s secrets are exposed through social media. At the culmination of the film’s second act, a group of murderous, misogynistic men surround the home of one of the main characters. Settle in for a long sequence with zero cuts (I’m talking about 15 solid minutes), a very impressive feat for a movie this small, and watch as the men sneak into the house (whose size is massive) and try to murder the high school girls inside. It’s an entirely possible nightmare come to life, and the scale of it, with its huge set and numerous characters to move around in it, is a true wonder.
The Eruption – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Fallen Kingdom is not a very good film, and most of the blame can be put on Colin Trevorrow’s lackluster script. Trevorrow wrote and directed the first Jurassic World, and his weaknesses as a screenwriter are glaring in the follow up. However, he did hand directing duties over to J.A. Bayona, who’s far more talented and is able to salvage a few good moments from the dinosaur franchise. Surprise, it’s another long take! The volcano on the island erupts and humans and dinosaurs alike are sent scurrying for the hills, with Claire and Franklin seeking shelter in one of the park’s gyrospheres as Owen books it on foot. It’s crazy, intense, and seat-gripping action as the camera goes from the hills to the cliff side all the way down into the ocean waters, and it’s the one great moment in an overall disappointing blockbuster.
Live Aid – Bohemian Rhapsody
Bohemian Rhapsody throws in every single musical biopic cliche you can think of, hoping that some will stick. It’s a very by-the-numbers movie, but audiences seemed to love it, making it one of the most successful biopics of all time. The film decides to completely abandon the concept of a third act, opting instead to just show a half hour concert of the hits. It’s Rami Malek’s electrifying performance that saves the day, and every single detail in his showmanship is matched perfectly to the actual historical concert the scene is based on. Maybe this would have been a better film if it was an hour and a half of just this.
Killmonger Takes the Throne – Black Panther
You could probably choose any scene from Black Panther to put on this list – the groundbreaking cultural phenomenon is a triumph on all fronts. But it’s Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of the righteous and justified villain Erik Killmonger that steals the show, and the scene of him burning down the old to make way for the new, literally turning the world (and the camera) on its head, continues to stand out.
The X-Force – Deadpool 2
Deadpool 2 had no shortage of quippy, inappropriate one-liners, but it’s the extended sequence of Wade Wilson’s newly assembled X-Force team on their first mission that got the biggest laughs. The team is horribly killed one by one while dropping into town from above, and the deaths are so over the top and unexpected that it’s absolutely hilarious.
Jack Jack vs. The Raccoon – Incredibles 2
It was an idea that Brad Bird had kept in his head since working on the first Incredibles all those years ago – Jack Jack displaying all of his endless super powers while fighting against a raccoon. It’s one of the funniest scenes Pixar has ever had, and its silly slapstick delivery is reminiscent of classic Saturday morning cartoons.
Mandy Mocks Jeremiah Sand – Mandy
Mandy is a wild and violent murder spree led by Nicolas Cage that has become infamous for its over-the-top performance and acts of mayhem. There’s cocaine snorting, throat slitting, and chainsaw fights, but the most memorable scene comes from before any of that. Mandy is kidnapped by the villainous Jeremiah Sand, the leader of a homicidal sex cult, and she’s heavily drugged in order to force her to comply with his wishes. Jeremiah undoes his bath rope after an unhinged monologue about how he has become God, but instead of the subjugation he’s expecting, Mandy instead bursts out laughing. The score swells, the colors become more and more saturated, and Mandy’s laughter becomes more and more maniacal as the drugs begin to take hold and morph the world around her and the audience, but she holds firm and continues to mock Jeremiah, his God-complex, and his manhood all at once. It’s this final act of defiance that gets her killed and sets off the events of the second half of the film, and Andrea Riseborough’s performance more than matches Nic Cage’s later on.
The Dance – Annihilation
The climax of Annihilation arrives when Natalie Portman’s character reaches the origin of The Shimmer, the otherworldly, atmospheric force field that is slowly enveloping the planet. In it she finds a double of herself – a faceless, humanoid copy that matches her every move. The struggle against it only makes things more difficult, and the fight turns into what can only be described as an elaborate, violent dance. Geoff Barrow’s brilliant score reaches its peak, and this final confrontation solidifies Annihilation as something much more than it appears. It’s terrifyingly beautiful.
Surly Joe – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Coen Brother’s latest film is a deep dive into the absurdity, randomness, and unfairness of death, and no scene encapsulates those ideas better than the “Surly Joe” musical number in Buster Scruggs‘ titular story. Tim Blake Nelson’s Buster Scruggs, immediately after murdering a man, sings and dances across the bar as the patrons hoot and holler and sing along. The deceased’s brother wails and sobs over the body as the joint gleefully cheers and sings, and the juxtaposition is at once hilariously ridiculous and uncomfortably bleak. It’s the Coen’s at their best.
The Snap – Avengers: Infinity War
Unless you’re familiar with the comic books that the Marvel Cinematic Universe are based on, the ending of Infinity War is a massive shock. Right when it appears that, among all odds, our heroes have won and Thor has defeated Thanos, a simple snap of his fingers drastically changes the MCU forever. The silent death of half of the universe is a total subversion of what we expect to see at the end of a superhero film, and witnessing our favorite Avengers turn to dust before our very eyes set the mood for the somber landscape of 2018. “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good…”
Truth or Dare – Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham delivered an extremely impressive debut film – a story that pulled no punches in its honesty about adolescence and growing up during what is undoubtedly the most excruciating years of our lives. The cringe ratio is high, but no scene is more uncomfortable than the game of Truth or Dare in the backseat. Cloaked menacingly in shadow, an older boy traps Kayla in the backseat of his car and starts the game with her. Kayla, having never been in this kind of situation, is horribly uncomfortable and unsure of herself as he pressures her into telling him about how “far she’s gone” and to take her shirt off. It’s a terrifying moment of honesty about unwanted sexual advances at a young age, and Kayla getting out of it is treated as shameful and embarrassing rather than triumphant – a bleak reminder of what women face daily.
The Beach – Roma
The end of my list is, predictably, another long, singular take. This time it’s from the master of that particular technique, Alfonso Cuaron. In Roma‘s climactic scene, the family heads to the beach for some much-needed vacation time. As the camera slowly follows Cleo to the left as she dries off one of the children, we see her continuously glancing back over to the right to check on the other two kids. They’ve gone too far into the harsh water, so the emotionally-exhausted family maid goes after them, wading into the ocean herself in an attempt to save them before they drown. She’s successful, and as the family embraces one another around her on the beach, Cleo, forever quiet, stoic, and reserved, finally lets out every single emotion she’s been holding inside of her since the death of her baby, and probably even before. It’s one of the most emotionally cathartic scenes of the year.