Now that the halfway mark has hit between the dawn of a hopeful 2014 and the inevitable exasperated gasp of relief that another year of harrowing grief is finally over, we’re inclined to look back on the past six months of cinematic glory. First, we set our sights to the best performances of the year, both leading and supporting. Next, we turn to movie scenes and moments — the funny, shocking, moving, and just plain weird instances that stuck with us long after we stepped out of the theater. Here’s a quick list of some of the most memorable movie scenes and moments we’ve seen so far in 2014.
The evolution sequence in Noah
Darren Aronofsky’s account of the great flood jumped levels in progressive thinking when it included a scene that comfortably meshed creationist beliefs with the science of evolution. The sequence, which followed an aquatic amoeba as it grew into a fish, then a lizard, then a series of mammals, until ultimately becoming the impetus for mankind, is not just intellectually rich, but visually dazzling.
Gustave’s prison break in The Grand Budapest Hotel
Every chapter in Wes Anderson’s latest film is terrific fun, but Ralph Fiennes on the run from the law (and the vicious Adrien Brody) is about as merry as it gets… even with the haunting undercurrent in an approaching World War.
The opening sequence in Borgman
The mysterious Danish picture Borgman institutes an excitement, a levity, and a curious nature all at once with its terrific opening sequence, wherein the title character is drawn from his home underground for unexplained reasons and forced to flee the wrath of angry villagers, and help to liberate his friends from the same.
The “Spaceship, spaceship, spaceship!” gag in The Lego Movie
Serving primarily as a punchline to a long gestating joke, Charlie Day’s Lego character’s manic exclamation of his favorite word is the biggest laugh in a very funny movie.
Scarlett Johannson abducting a man with neurofibromatosis in Under the Skin
Jonathan Glazer’s bizarre film is nothing if not evasive, but peaks in its enigmatic nature when the nameless hero/villain Scarlett Johansson, herself of mysterious origins, abducts and seems to warm to a man afflicted with a facial deformity. Cue the process of undress and cannibalistic black liquid floors…
Warner Bros. Entertainment
Ken Watanabe’s big moment in Godzilla
“Let them fight.”
The end credits of 22 Jump Street
Chris Miller and Phil Lord embrace their love of genre parody in the post-narrative moments of 22 Jump Street, in which they send their starring duo through a long line of false sequels (entailing their attendance at med school, military school, traffic school… there are a good dozen of these, all of ’em funny).
The statutory rape endorsement in Transformers: Age of Extinction
Let’s get this straight: we’re simply in awe of this scene due to how god damn bizarre it is, not at all on board with its message (or even its artistic merits in a movie about robot wars). We can’t help but think about Mark Wahlberg challenging the validity of 20-year-old Jack Reynor’s romantic relationship with 17-year-old Nicola Peltz, only to see Reynor pull a laminated document from his pocket that exempts him from all legal ramifications of dating a minor. Weird as all hell.
The getaway scene in Night Moves
Near unprecedented tension hits when Jesse Eisenberg and his two fellow eco-terrorists attempt to flee the scene after programming a time bomb to detonate an ecologically destructive dam. The trio sits on the midnight river, hoping to avoid both the eyes of passersby and the wrath of a deadly explosive. It’s edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.
Liam Neeson grabbing a gun in mid-air while the airplane aboard which he is a passenger hurdles into oblivion as a team of hijackers attempts to take the whole thing hostage in Non-Stop
20th Century Fox Film
The Quicksilver scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past
Evan Peters spends very little time onscreen in the latest X-Men picture, but his talents are milked for all their value when he is charged with dashing around a slow-motion Pentagon kitchen to the soothing tunes of Jim Croce.
The grade school scene in Snowpiercer
The most disturbing, macabre, and wickedly fun scene in a movie that has no shortage of any of those three qualities, a very pregnant Allison Pill’s grade school seminar in the back half of Snowpiercer stands out as the film’s most enjoyable achievement. Pill sells the hell out of lunacy in this sequence.
Paul Rudd walks into a bar in They Came Together
Our favorite joke in They Came Together, narrowly beating out Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler’s mutual love of fiction books, is Rudd’s sullen conversation with a highly redundant barkeep who, let’s just say, calls ’em like he sees ’em. Over and over and over.
Nicolas Cage asking a neighborhood kid if he’s still MMA fighting in Joe
I have no idea why I love this so much, but one brief exchange in the sleepy, somber movie Joe has Cage chatting with a young neighbor in a bodega, asking about how his martial arts practice has been going. It’s incredibly peculiar and charming, though I don’t expect any of that to carry through here.
The Zola computer reveal in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Although we weren’t crazy about the second Captain America movie, we have to tip a hat to the reveal that Toby Jones’ Nazi scientist has been living on for the last 70 years in the form of a bulky yet surpemely efficient supercomputer. The sort of weird stuff that we love to see in the crevices of Marvel flicks.