These are the scenes that make the film. Good against evil. The hero and the villain. The unstoppable force colliding with the stationary object. In some films, this leads to heart-pounding action as the two forces test each other’s strengths. In others, it’s more reserved, with the characters coming together to discuss their morals and philosophies (spot the “we’re not that different, you and me” talk).
Throughout cinematic history and across a wide range of genres, these scenes have created some of cinema’s greatest moments for their dramatic tension and iconic visuals. From galaxies far, far away, to the sodden streets of neo-noir crime thrillers, these scenes saw our heroes and their nemeses finally come face to face.
“She wouldn’t want me to. It’s the only reason you’re alive” – Bourne supremacy
It’s hard to think what the appropriate response is to being framed for a murder you didn’t commit, to being stalked by the man who framed you who, in an attempt to kill you, accidentally killed your lover instead, then continues his pursuit with waves of relentless assassins. What Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) proposes to put Ward Abbott (Brian Cox) in its place is quite appropriate.
Where killing Abbott would not have been so rewarding, Bourne instead pulls a confession from the CIA section chief to reveal that he was taped. The scene may be brief, but Paul GreenGrassbacks away from its frenetic editing and fast-paced storytelling to allow the satisfying moment to unfold.
“Come down” – Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator 2: Judgment Day has become such an iconic film – even surpassing its predecessor – that it’s easy to forget Arnold SchwarzeneggerThe T-800 was considered the likely villain at first. In this spirit, see the young John Connor (Edward Furlong) running towards the terminator as he pulls out a shotgun was intense to say the least.
With one shot of said shotgun though, the T-800 was able to subvert expectations as it floored the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). In doing so, he also kicked off one of the greatest chase scenes in movie history.
“I want you to look at me when I kill you, I want to see the light leave your eyes” – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Although they had had brief altercations before, it wasn’t until the climax of the fourth Harry Potter movie that “The Boy Who Lived” and “The-Most-Not-To-Be-Named” finally went head-to-head on equal terms. After the Triwizard Tournament Final Challenge Trophy is revealed to be a trap set for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), the young wizard is confronted by Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and Death Eaters.
By Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) unceremoniously performing to see the Dark Lord in the flesh for the very first time, the scene is one of the franchise’s most memorable. After four iconic movies, Fiennes made sure Voldemort was the terrifying evil he was meant to be while the scene set a much darker tone for the movies to come.
“Mom was very bad” – celestial fall
Of all the Bond villains to grace the screen, Javier Bardem‘s Raoul Silva is one of the greats, and it’s not just recency bias. Captivating from the start, Bardem delivers a thrilling monologue on the extermination of rats and the values of MI6.
Loaded with Silva’s charisma and blind sexual tension, the scene presents the vengeful villain in a way that ensures he’s as polarizing as he is menacing. Himself a former MI6 agent, he takes pleasure in exposing the M’s (Judi Dench) lies and reveals that he and James Bond (Daniel Craig) are basically not so different.
“You think darkness is your ally” – The dark knight rises
The brutal physique and striking voice of Tom Hardy‘s Bane saw the character take root in pop culture, and there hasn’t been a scene that showcased him in all his glory like this. Having been betrayed by Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), Batman (Christian Bale) is lured into a trap and must face Bane head-on.
The scene spawned a number of Bane’s greatest quotes and set the film on an exciting trajectory while also providing one of the most impactful fight scenes in the trilogy. Christopher NolanThe decision to have no music throughout the scene leaves the audience holding their breath as Bane’s stinging assault destroys Batman before our eyes.
“I ate his liver with beans and a good chianti” – Thesilenceofthelambs
Thesilenceofthelambs has two great examples where Clarice (Jodie Foster) comes face to face with serial killers. While his decisive meeting with Buffalo Bill (Ted Levin) is sheer exhilarating terror, this is his first encounter with Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) which is truly iconic.
Also serving as an introduction to the unforgettable villain, the scene maintains a thrilling intensity as the two try to get the better of each other. An epic encounter Jonathan DemeThe direction of is matched only by the performances of Hopkins and Foster to create one of the most famous horror movie scenes of all time.
“Hi how are you?” – die hard
It should surprise no one that one of cinema’s greatest action films contains one of the best scenes where hero and villain collide. This may not be the first time that John McClane (Bruce Willis) and Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) chatted — who could forget the glorious walkie-talkie feuds — but it was a nugget of cinematic magic when the two finally met face to face.
Turning into a battle of wits, Gruber puts on an American accent, posing as an escaped hostage. McClane isn’t a minion and doesn’t fall for it, but the brief encounter, the tricks employed by the two, and the ensuing shootout is blockbuster entertainment at its finest.
“DETECTIVE! You’re looking for me” – Seven
While not one of the most shocking plot twists in movie history (or this movie in particular), the scene where John Doe (Kevin Spacey) surrenders is one of the most oddly confusing. The music swells as the cold calm of a blood-soaked deer mingles with that of Mills (brad pitt) the searing rage presented a disconcerting power dynamic that made our hearts race.
David FincherThe feat of creating tension is nothing new to fans of the crime genre, but this scene hits the audience with so many unsettling questions that we don’t know if we can bear to watch. In a film where the seven deadly sins play a vital role, it’s a damn effective introduction to the devil.
“Brother, you’re coming down” – Heat
After two decades of dominating the film industry – and in particular the detective genre – as leading players, Michael Mannit is Heat was the movie that finally brought Al Pacino and robert deniro together to share the screen. Their long-awaited appearance together was one of the most high-profile movie moments of the ’90s, and despite the film being a fast-paced crime drama, their first interaction was simply a conversation in a restaurant.
While that sounds disappointing, the scene was filled with scintillating drama and character reveals that upped the ante for the film’s second half. Credit to Mann’s ability behind the camera and the talents of the two actors in front of her is that the scene is remembered by many as one of the most rewarding scenes in movie history.
“No… I’m your father” – Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
It’s only fitting that, in what is considered the greatest movie franchise of all time, we get the greatest coming together of heroes and villains. After fleeting moments that threatened to bring Luke Skywalker (Marc Hamil) and Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) together in A new hopeVader may have loomed over the sequel – particularly the Luke Skywalker story – as an unavoidable threat.
From the jaw-dropping visual spectacle to, of course, that big reveal of Luke’s lineage, the iconic fight left fans speechless and set the stage for what would be an epic ending to the trilogy. Exposing Luke, as if he had been warned, that he was not ready yet, the scene is phenomenally constructed by the director Irvin Kershnerto deliver heart-pounding tension and remains one of the greatest lightsaber duels in the saga.
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