Scenes make the movie, sure. But sometimes they emerge from the shackles of their structure to truly become their own immersive experience. Like when Steven Gerrard becomes so much more exciting and innovating then the rest of the Liverpool staring eleven. American readers I apolgise for the football reference. Needless to say, this contains some quite serious SPOILERS.
10) Boromir's Death, Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring
LOTR was perhaps the most wonderfully cinematic franchise that ever was, and not only that it infused its big-budget CGI world with genuine stakes and life. The people mattered as much as the orc hordes or battle scenes. This fusion of spectacle and humanity was never better illustrated then with the decline of Boromir, which makes the death of a borderline tertiary, unsympathetic character into perhaps the most heart-breaking death scene we've seen yet this millennium.
9) Tracking Shot, Children Of Men
Children Of Men seems to be on the rise as far as critical opinion is concerned, and while the film hits the good rather then great sect of the spectrum more often then not, the genius of its climax can't be questioned. The film ends with an unbroken track of Clive Owen as he stumbles through a post-apocalyptic battle scene and we're with him every step of the way. Its amazing no-one ever thought of this before.
8) The Pale Man, Pan's Labyrinth
Pan's Labyrinth is a much smarter film then people give it credit for, and its treatment of the Spanish civil war aspect of the story is almost better then the fantasy stuff, in large part thanks to the great performance of Sergi Lopez as the near demonic military antagonist. But Del Toro infuses this scene with such a glorious sense of old-fashioned, fairy tale terror that you really can't pick anything else. Would work just as well in a silent movie.
7) The Interrogation scene, The Dark Knight
Or the Joker's piece de resistance. In which he takes time out from scaring the shit out of us for long enough to explain the world in his view. Is it wrong that it makes a demented kind of sense? Its this scene for which Heath Ledger wins his Oscar, and I realized I was watching some genuine genius in a clown suit.
6) Shaggy Vs. The Police, City Of God
As teenage criminal Shaggy meets his end at the hands of the pigs, we get one of the most one of the beautiful sequences of cinema seen in a long time. As he runs through the sun drenched slums, the sheer horror of how commonplace the tragedy is, frightens as well as this sequence amazes.
5) Oil Explosion, There Will Be Blood
Perhaps THE sequence of metaphorical violence of the decade, with a little of the literal stuff thrown in for good measure. One just has to see how the deafening of his son is small print to Daniel Plainview when compared to the oil he has just discovered. Haunting and subtly horrific, all the while wowing the viewer.
4) Death on the Street, Inland Empire
5 Minutes of pure magnificence in a movie that mostly just flirts with it, Laura Dern comes to rest on the side of an LA street, sharing a moving connection with a homeless woman as the life seeps away from her. It doesn't even matter that the whole thing is a fake out because its so wonderfully executed.
3) Stasi Man, The Lives Of Others
Ulrich Muhe quietly gives one of the performances of the decade in the Lives Of Others, capable of switching between an underplayed sense isolation to company man ruthlessness on the drop of a pin. The scene where he demolishes a witness of his Stasi doings in nothing but words and calm threats is just plain quality.
2) Egos' Flashback, Ratatouille
Pixar has increasingly dealt with loneliness of late, notably in Wall E and Up, but this moment works so fucking well because it comes in a film that is otherwise playful and enthusiastic. Ego, the cynical, hateful food critic who sets out to destroy our plucky rodent hero gets his cynical heart melted as his Ratatouille reminds him of his childhood when he fell in love with food in the first place. Communicated through a devastingly brief flashback. Happiness can be as emotionally powerful as tragedy when its earned, and it sure is here.
1) Gas station, No Country For Old Men
Because this scene is just cinema. A quiet but magnificent setpiece. A wonderfully built of sense of tension as Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh, the closest the human race has ever come to a genuine Terminator, holds a conversation with an unassuming and elderly gas station attendant, with the man never fully understanding his situation. Leading to a horrifyingly tense verbal tennis match of sorts. The most electrifying two minutes of cinema I can recall since there was a 2 at the beginning of our century.