• Jody Ferguson

Moments of Film Magic

Not only am I a book fan (which is immediately apparent when you peruse my website), but I am also a big fan of the cinema. So, I present you with a list of some of my favorite cinematic moments. These are scenes from some of my favorite movies. Some last thirty seconds, other scenes are lengthier. But they all convey powerful dialogue or imagery. I urge you to consult YouTube to find these magic cinema moments. Or better yet, watch the films themselves.


Marlene Dietrich singing “Black Market” in the 1948 movie A Foreign Affair. One of the most glamorous and world-renowned actresses of the Twentieth Century, Dietrich gives a show-stopping scene singing in a bombed-out cabaret in occupied, post-war Berlin. She is romantically involved with the U.S. officer from whom she takes a cigarette. He, meanwhile, has been tasked to escort a visiting U.S. Congresswoman who is appalled at the fraternization of U.S. soldiers and German women. The innuendo and suggestion for a film from the 1940s was shocking.


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Orson Welles’ thirty-second explanation of the necessity of warfare for human progress and invention in the 1949 film The Third Man. In what is perhaps the greatest film noir ever made, Welles’ slippery character Harry Lime attempts to explain to his disillusioned friend why sometimes men have to do bad things to one another for the good of the world.

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A man ordering wheat toast in a diner in the 1970 film Five Easy Pieces. This uproarious scene set the tone for the career of a young, relatively unknown actor named Jack Nicholson.


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Robert Shaw as the fisherman “Quint” and his spine-tingling account of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis in the 1975 film Jaws. In a fictional movie about a killer shark, Shaw tells his boat mates the horrifying true story of massive shark attacks against doomed U.S. sailors in the Pacific in the last days of WWII.


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Chopin's Nocturne played in a bar in the 1978 film The Deer Hunter. Five friends wind up a bender on the eve of their departure to Vietnam. They riotously sing and spray beer on each other, when one friend begins to play Chopin. As they all stop to listen intently, the slow nocturne seems to portend the devastation that will be brought to a small town in western Pennsylvania by a war ten thousand miles away.


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Cadillac of the Skies in Steven Spielberg's incomparable film Empire of the Sun. A young English boy, separated from his family and imprisoned in a Japanese prison camp for three years during WWII, witnesses an American bombing raid. He realizes the end of the war is near, but he is terrified of what comes next. Tremendous cinematography.


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Albert Finney portraying the Irish mobster chief Leo in the 1990 Coen Brothers’ film Miller’s Crossing. Fending off an attempted assassination attempt in his bathrobe and slippers, Leo makes sure not to lose his cigar. All the while, the Irish classic Danny Boy plays on the phonograph.

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Mob figure Henry Hill brings his date Karen into the Copa Cabana in the 1990 Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas. Trying to impress his girl on the first date, Henry escorts her into the famous nightclub through the kitchen. The moving camera work takes your breath away.


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The opening twenty minutes of the 1998 Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan depicting the American landing on Omaha Beach during D-Day on June 6, 1944. The most visceral twenty-five minutes of film perhaps ever made. The cinematographer Janusz Kaminski justifiably won the Oscar for his work in perhaps the most realistic war movie ever made.



*age restricted: Watch on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmiphUYwL_0



The restaurant scene in the 1995 Michael Mann film Heat. The six-minute conversation between a Los Angeles police detective (Al Pacino) and a hardened criminal (Robert DeNiro) steals the show in this underrated film. What is even more remarkable is that this scene is the first time these two actors ever shared the screen, twenty years after they both became famous playing in the Godfather movies.


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The ending scene of the powerful Polanski film, The Pianist, from 2000. The famed musician Wladyslaw Szpilman encounters a friend who he has not seen in six years. Both men, survivors of Nazi death camps, silently reflect on the events and the people lost as Szpilman plays a Chopin Nocturne for the radio. They then go on a search for a German Army officer who ironically saved Szpilman's life.


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The “Welcome to the Family” scene at the end of the 2002 Denzel Washington film Antoine Fisher. The tortured young Antoine finally meets the family he has been searching for all his life. The directorial debut of Washington is nothing short of fantastic, and the final scene is sure to elicit tight throats and maybe even tears.


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The last ten minutes of the 2000 film Billy Elliot. The young son of an English old-school, working-class, widower is seen off by his gruff father and older brother as he departs for bigger things and a better life at the Royal Ballet Academy. In the final moments when an older Billy catapults himself onto the stage, tears of pride well up in the eyes of his father, who knows he has made the right decision for his son. A warm and wonderful film.


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The most eye-catching moment of the film may be when Billy dances in the streets of his depressed mining town in northern England.


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Elegy for Dunkirk. This four-minute scene in Joe Wright’s 2007 film Atonement manages to realistically capture the chaos and despair at Dunkirk as 300,000 British and French soldiers await evacuation to escape the clutches of the advancing German Army in May 1940.


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