When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene – or maybe the greatest scene – in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining.
They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of our imagination – and, just as important, keeps it there.
Here are eight scenes from the movies of 2018 that did that without peer.
1. Jackson and Ally’s performance of Shallow in A Star Is Born
When Jackson invites Ally on-stage to perform a song she’s written, the two don’t just sing together. They merge, in a scene so romantically transporting it creates a tingle of ecstasy that ripples right through your heart.
2. The family-on-the-beach embrace in Roma
Alfonso Cuaron’s celebrated drama is not a movie of hugs, yet it has a single sublime one, rooted in the family rebirth that happens after Cleo, the devoted housekeeper, fishes several of the children in her care out of the ocean waves. In a film of indelible images, this is the most memorable: a wistful domestic Pieta.
3. The Live Aid concert sequence in Bohemian Rhapsody
Whatever your feelings about Bryan Singer’s biopic (many adore it; some, like me, think it should have been better), there can be no doubt that it saves the best for last: a recreation of Queen’s tour de force 1985 performance at Wembley Stadium that the movie elatedly reconfigures as Freddie Mercury’s redemption.
4. The death of Erik Killmonger in Black Panther
Many have noted that Killmonger, the antagonist of everything we’re rooting for in Black Panther, doesn’t completely qualify as a “villain”. That’s because there’s so much righteous fire to his master plan to use Wakanda’s Vibranium to arm his brothers and sisters around the world. When T’Challa finally kills him, it’s less a triumph than a sobering – and moving – fall.
5. Joe the hitman’s invasion of a paedophile brothel in You Were Never Really Here
Imagine the bloody climax of Taxi Driver viewed through a panoply of surveillance cameras and scored to the 1961 doo-wop rapture of Rosie & the Originals’ Angel Baby. The most amazing sequence of Lynne Ramsay’s postmodern pulp character study is a plunge into hell driven by the most hypnotic and visionary film editing of the year.
6. The opening X-15 sequence of First Man
For a while, we have no idea where we are: trapped in some unidentified flying object, hurtling into the surreal light-dark sky along with a pilot who doesn’t seem to be controlling his vehicle so much as the forces of the atmosphere are controlling him. This, in violent embryonic form, is man’s first rip into the world Out There, and in a sequence as disorienting as it is mesmerising, it sets the stakes for how Damien Chazelle’s film will immerse us in space travel.
7. Starr Carter giving in to her inner activist in The Hate U Give
At a mass gathering to protest the police-shooting death of her friend Khalil, Starr finally touches the core of her rage and despair, getting up on a car to exhort the crowd. We’ve seen these sorts of grabbing-the-bullhorn scenes before, but Starr’s transformation is so moving because it’s so layered, the resolution of a war within herself.
8. A follower of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh describes how she tried to murder his doctor in Wild, Wild Country
In the 1980s, Jane Stork, a rather courtly homemaker from New Zealand, was a devoted member of the Rajneesh cult when she was ordered to protect the beatific Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh by injecting his personal physician with poison. Hearing Stork, 30 years later, narrate her descent into homicidal devotion is like experiencing a thriller from the inside out – from inside the head of its most possessed yet delusional believer. – Reuters