WARNING: THERE BE SPOILERS BELOW
10. Little Children
Why: The football scene in Little Children sticks out because it’s the one moment of true fun and wackiness in a movie focusing primarily on pedophilia, infidelity and general “what the hell am I doing?” thoughts. Brad Adamson’s epic athletic triumph is so out of place in a movie like Little Children that it deserves recognition. Plus, the scene perfectly parodies both inspirational sports movies (really, a guy named Mason “The Line” Dixon is the only thing missing to make this a spot-on spoof of how I envision Rocky Balboa turning out) and those NFL Film shows where some gravel-voiced announcer narrates a game while music more suitable for an epic nautical battle blares in the background.
9. The Break-Up
Why: And the award for “Movie I thought would suck but turned out OK” goes to…this. At first glance, The Break-Up looks like another mindless romantic comedy, but ends up being a surprisingly decent War of the Roses-like flick with a very un-romantic comedy ending (the finale actually caught me off guard). This scene sums up what the movie does best: tension. As the dinner drags on and each family just weighs on the others nerves, Vaughn and Aniston slowly and subtly start digging at one another. Pretty surprising, given an actor best known for being one of the friends on Friends and an actor best know for being the asshole in Wedding Crashers. The scene ends with a pretty realistic yelling match between the two, one that made me cringe remembering personal family brawls like “Thanksgiving ‘96” and “Taco Dinner 2000.”
Oh, did I mention you get to see Jennifer Aniston’s rear end for a couple of seconds in the movie? Yeah, great film.
The Scene: Larry imagines what it would be like to solve the big case. His fantasy includes fishing, scantily clad women and Kid Rock.
Why: If you didn’t immediately close your browser window upon seeing the words “Larry the Cable Guy,” you are probably wondering what the hell I’m thinking including a film that makes Showgirls look like Citizen Kane. Don’t think I’m an uncultured yokel who owns every season of Blue Collar TV; I could barely get through this movie. There were about a billion laugh-less moments where I thought I would turn the DVD player off if Larry said “britches” one more time. But I persevered. And I was rewarded with one of the funniest scenes to ever grace a god-awful movie.
In this particular moment, Larry dreams about what it would be like to solve the big food poisoning case which makes up the, uh, “plot” of the flick. Maybe it’s because it caught me off guard, maybe it’s because I was about to completely give up on this movie, or maybe it’s because I was willing to laugh at anything not wearing flannel, but this scene made me laugh for a nice long time. What makes this scene go from “more funny than 99 percent of the rest of the movie” to “legitimately funny” is Kid Rock’s cameo. Having the washed-up white-trash rocker call another man “gay” for wanting to go fishing with him instead of scoring with his girlfriend made me burst out laughing. Or maybe I was delusional and would have chuckled at a jar of mayonnaise at that point. Regardless, this scene made me finish the movie, which was an impressive feet given the film features a scene where Larry spends five straight minutes farting.
The Scene: England’s House of Parliament explodes.
Why: I was originally going to go with the scene slightly earlier where V and Natalie Portman’s character slow dance to an indie-approved Antony and the Johnson’s song, but nothing blew up in that scene, so this won by default. Really, anytime a major landmark goes BOOM in cinema, I just sit in awe. This is why Independence Day would be my favorite movie of the 1990’s.
The Scene: The family has a very dysfunctional dinner.
Why: There’s a lot of scenes from this charming little picture I considered (chief among them, the corpse-stealing scene and the final dance number), but this part early in the movie shines brightest. Whereas the above-mentioned scene from The Break-Up stood out by showing tension, this clip succeeds thanks to pure family chaos. This family makes the Osbournes look like the Cleavers. You have the perfectionist dad, the overwhelmed mom, the Nihilistic vow-of-silence taking son, the coked up grandpa and the gay, suicidal uncle. The one character not eligible to be sent to a mental institution, young and adorable daughter Olive, even can’t un-awkwardfy the situation, because she wants to know why her uncle would want to kill himself, and why he doesn’t like girls. It’s seven of the most awkward minutes you’ll witness outside of a closet, and also seven of the funniest minutes you’ll have all year.
The Scene: “That’s it!”
Why: Forget the internet hype. Forget how stupid the title sounded when you first heard about. Forget about all the spoof sites making fun of the movie. Forget about fans submitting their own lines. Forget about the bizarre fascination with this movie. Forget about Kenan Thompson. Forget about the merchandise, which birthed Snakes on a Sudoku. Forget about the dismal returns.
Just remember the one moment, when Samuel L. Jackson, the baddest movie mofo ever, snarls out the most memorable and overused quote of 2006. And (hopefully) remember watching it in a theater, screaming the line out with Sam L. surrounded by a bunch of other nerds who have waited an entire year just for this moment. And don’t forget the smile that followed.
The Scene: James Bond tries to save the woman he loves, who has already betrayed him, from drowning.
Why: James Bonds movies have always been a walking cage of macho-ness, stopping villains, setting off massive explosions and scoring with beautiful women. So, when this year’s Casino Royale recast the famed Brit from a suave spy into a more rash and reckless agent (played by DanielCraig), many fans were nervous the franchise would move in a new direction drastically different from previous Bond efforts. They shouldn’t have worried; Casino Royale is a shot in the arm for a film series whose last great moment was Halle Berry emerging from the ocean wearing a skimpy swimsuit.
Casino Royale’s best breath of fresh air comes from the new Bond himself. Unlike the Bonds of years removed, Craig’s Majesty of Her Secret Service agent is a complex being, dealing with the pressure of becoming a highly ranked spy and not failing his mission. Most importantly, he has to deal with something very un-Bondish: falling in love with new Bond girl Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and then having to face the fact she actually played him along the whole movie. This scene, where Craig tries to save Green from drowning even after all the lies and betrayals, is powerful because we see an icon known for being an indestructible badass struggling to save the woman he loves, and failing. It’s nice to know even the secret agents of the world aren’t perfect.
The Scene: Jack Sparrow goes down with his ship.
Why: Why do people go to the Pirates of Caribbean movies and make them the highest-grossing flicks of the year? I don’t think people are flocking to see Orlando Bloom’s plank-of-woodesque acting abilities. Nor do I think patrons line up hours in advance to see a film based off a Disneyland ride slightly more exciting than “It’s a Small World” but less thrilling than a trip to the local market. Keira Knightley is pretty attractive, but I don’t think that’s enough.
No, the reason people swarm to these movies, and the reason Pirates has earned its place in cinematic history, is because of Captain Jack Sparrow, played magnificently by Johnny Depp. Sparrow is a jester, a swashbuckler, a madman and a genius all at once every time he graces the screen. He’s Disney’s best original character since Timon and Pumbaa. There’s a reason that, when I visited Disneyland this past summer, more people waited in line to see Captain Jack than even Mickey himself. Sparrow’s a great character.
And movie-goers get to see how much of a badass Sparrow is at the end of Dead Man’s Chest. After two movies where the Captain acted as if he would be willing to abandon his crew and vessel if it meant he could avoid a trip to Davey Jone’s Locker, but, as his ship is being pulled down into the briney deep by a squid-like monster, Sparrow doesn’t run or act goofy or do anything you’d expect the wacky seafarer to do. Instead, he stands proud, waiting to be sucked under with his ship, not afraid in the least of what awaits him. This scene takes an already awesome character, and opens up a whole new dimension of Jack Sparrow — one of pure dignity and honor.
Why: For the best and for the worst, Borat was easily the biggest cult film to creep its way into the mainstream. On the plus side, it’s great to see Sacha Baron Cohen’s brilliant foreign reporter gain some silver-screen success. But at the same time, Borat has shot into the mindless Hot Topic-tee world occupied by frat boy-quoted cinema like Anchorman and Dodgeball. I know people who were quoting this film before it even came out, using only the trailer as a comedic compass rose. Now, I can’t get to Foster-Walker without hearing somebody bellow out “NIIICCCCEE.” It’s sad to see Borat join the ranks of Napoleon Dynamite and Derek Zoolander, but it’s happened, and all us who enjoyed the Kazakhstani journalist’s antics before he hit the cinema screen have to put up with a brainless wave of “HIGHFIVES!!!” for the next year.
But if you can just ignore the avalanche of quotes dribbling out of people’s mouth, you can still cherish the funniest movie of 2006. Borat draws most of its laughs through pure awkwardness and, with a fistful of scenes which could easily appear on this list, it’s the one scene most people say “I could have done without” that stands out the most. The scene isn’t hard to explain; Borat walks in on his chunky associate choking the chicken to a picture of Borat’s beloved Baywatch-babe Pamela Anderson, and the two engage in a prolonged fight, full of man-on-man touching and sexually suggestive positions. Eventually, the two tussle into the actual hotel, to the horror of unsuspecting patrons. The duo rumble into some sort of convention, leaving a whole room full of suit-clad people in a state of terror.
For a movie revolving around terribly uncomfortable moments, this barenaked brawl pushes the film to its most extreme point and, as a result, is Borat’s best scene, and the funniest film moment of the year.
Why: Movie scenes don’t always need explosions or naked men walloping on each other to be great. The best movie moments are the ones that connect to the viewing audience in an emotional and personal way. Whether specific moments fill viewers with joy or crushes them with sadness, these feelings amplify movie scenes, and nudge them from “just good” to “memorable.”
Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep uses fantastical imagery and complex visuals to create a dream-like atmosphere, where protagonist Stéphane, and the audience, can’t tell where reality ends and where the subconscious begins. But, in a movie featuring entire cities constructed out of cardboard tubes and fields of felt animals, the finest moment comes not from one of Stéphane’s elaborate dream sequences, but from his painful experiences in the real world.
Stéphane attends a party to celebrate the launch of his new calendar series (though, in a very Dallas style, it’s hard to tell what’s fact and what’s fiction), which is also attended by his neighbor and girl-he-really-likes Stéphanie. As the party proceeds and the techno music booms louder, Stéphane stands in the corner and watches as the woman he loves dances and flirts with other men at the bar. Devastated by what he is watching, Stéphane drinks heavily, only to collapse on the floor.
The scene’s so simple, but also so powerful — Stéphane’s sadness is not angsty or over-the-top, but just plain crippling. He loves Stéphanie, but at this moment, he’s watching her ignore him, and it kills him inside. It’s a feeling most people have experienced, and there’s something universally simple about this scene. Anyone who has ever felt attracted to someone else has been here, ripped apart by the feeling of jealousy and depression as they watch the one they care for flat out reject them. It’s a horrible feeling, and Gondry perfectly captures the emotion in just one clip.
Gondry didn’t need string and Styrofoam to construct the single best movie scene of 2006; all he needed was a simple human dilemma and great actors. And he got them. The Science of Sleep delivered the best scene in any movie from 2006 in my opinion because it captured a simple pain better than any other scene could all year.