There’s no such thing as a “perfect” movie — although some films definitely come close. More often than not, movies have their strengths and weaknesses. Some are consistently great throughout, while others fail to hit their marks. A film’s quality is not black and white — there is a lot of room for that gray area. There are plenty of fantastic films that have subpar scenes. On the other hand, even movies that are widely considered to be “bad” may have glimmers of greatness — or, at least, one incredible scene. Let’s take a look at some, shall we?
Maybe it’s an epic opening scene that sets up what could have been an amazing drama. Or maybe it’s a shocking plot twist that energizes the narrative. Perhaps it’s even just a pleasant break from the movie’s main events. It’s important to remember that even though you may not be particularly enjoying the movie you’re watching, there’s always a chance that a truly memorable scene might be just around the corner. The right camerawork or a mesmerizing performance can elevate an otherwise lackluster film, if only for a few, brief minutes.
While a movie’s greatness is subjective based on the viewer’s personal taste, there are certain movies that have gained a reputation for being, well ... not good. Still, we’ve singled out one scene from each that stands out as being captivating. From elaborate chase scenes to show-stopping musical numbers, here are 10 well-executed, re-watchable scenes from movies that were panned by critics.
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The Scene: Harley Quinn’s Elevator Fight
Suicide Squad was all over the place. The characters are thinly written, the story structure is chopped up… It fails to deliver on several levels. But Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn managed to be a bright spot. She was perfectly cast in the role, and watching her beat bad guys to a pulp with a baseball bat will always be fun. In one scene, she rides in an elevator, ruthlessly killing her opponents while simultaneously fixing her hair. When she strolls out of the elevator, she walks right past a crew of rough-looking characters, swaying her hips without a care in the world. It’s pretty badass.
The Scene: Trent Gives It His All With“Love Thy Neighbor”
Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of Broadway musical The Prom hit a lot of flat notes during its 131-minute runtime, despite its lineup of world-class talent. It’s hard to blame any of the actors for the poor creative choices — although several critics didn’t love James Corden’s overly flamboyant performance as Berry Glickman. Regardless, the movie was the most fun to watch when the stars were given the chance to do what they do best — sing and dance their hearts out. The obvious standout is Andrew Rannells’ performance of “Love Thy Neighbor” in the Midwestern town’s local mall. Rannells, known for his work on Broadway in The Book of Mormon (as well as his role of Elijah on the HBO comedy Girls), reminds us that any movie musical should, first and foremost, be fun.
The Scene: Central Park Suicide
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening is, quite frankly, a mess. But its initial premise is actually intriguing — the world is overrun with a mysterious disease that causes mass amounts of people to commit suicide. The movie opens in New York City’s iconic Central Park on an ordinary day, until crowds of people mysteriously freeze in their tracks. It starts with a girl on a park bench, who promptly puts down her book, pulls out her hairpin, and stabs herself in the neck. From there, it devolves into violent chaos. While as a whole, The Happening is incredibly silly, the opening scene is genuinely chilling.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The Scene: Opening Sequence
As the follow-up to Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice flounders amidst a potentially powerful story. It’s more frustrating than anything — there was so much potential for a movie where Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) go head to head. One thing the movie got right, however, was the opening sequence. In a flashback, Bruce Wayne runs from his parents’ funeral and falls into a cave, where he’s lifted up by a vortex of bats. The scene is cut with Bruce’s memories of his mother and father at the hands of an armed mugger, resulting in a stylish, moody sequence that helps humanize the Caped Crusader for the rest of the film.
The Scene: The Baseball Game
Based on Stephanie Meyer’s best-selling novel of the same name, Twilight was not so much destined to be a cinematic masterpiece as it was to be fan service for a specific demographic of vampire-loving teens and tweens. While it’s become a campy cult classic for millennials, it was never really taken seriously. But we can all agree, that baseball scene during the thunderstorm is pretty epic, right? Set to Muse’s 2006 single “Supermassive Black Hole,” the scene depicts the Cullen family participating in what might be the coolest family sporting event of all time. Their superhuman strength and speed — combined with Alice’s iconic high kick pitching, is enough to fully engage any viewer.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2003)
The Scene: Deadpool’s Fight Scene
Despite Hugh Jackman’s compelling lead performance, X-Men Origins: Wolverine can’t overcome its cliched, overblown plot. One exception? Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds)’s fight scene. Not only is his showdown with Wolverine incredibly tight and well-choreographed, the scene also serves as Deadpool’s cinematic debut. While the Wade Wilson we see here is so different from the persona we meet in Deadpool, it’s still exciting to see an iconic character first come to life on screen.
The Scene: The Invisible Jet
While Wonder Woman struck just the right tone, its follow-up, Wonder Woman 1984 was a much more uneven affair. The pacing is off, the story is convoluted, and any promising premises are abandoned as soon as they’re introduced. However, the movie shines whenever Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) shares the screen with Steve Trevor (Chris Pratt). The scene where they steal an invisible jet is sweet and romantic — and the moment when they fly through the fireworks display is downright magical. Gadot and Pine have great chemistry, and it’s a shame that the movie didn’t lean into that more.
The Scene: Grizabella Belts Out “Memory”
Once the absolutely abysmal reviews for the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats came rolling in, the film’s A-list cast understandably distanced themselves from the horrible buzz. But besides the uncannily fuzzy human bodies and charmless dancing cockroaches, viewers could rally together behind one bright spot — Jennifer Hudson’s performance as Grizabella. Hudson is tasked with singing the musical’s most famous number, “Memory,” a song which has eclipsed even the tremendous popularity of Weber’s Broadway mainstay. And we’ll just say this — even obscured by a coat of scraggly CG fur, Hudson has some serious pipes. Her performance is raw, grounded, and ethereal, a sole highlight in a movie that disturbs more than it delights.
Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (2002)
The Scene: The Duel of the Fates
The Star Wars prequel trilogy often leaves fans divided — but nearly all can agree that compared to the original trilogy, they’re simply not as good. The Phantom Menace gives us a glimpse of greatness, but ultimately, there’s just too much Jar Jar Binks and not enough depth and character development. That being said, the lightsaber duel between Obi Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Darth Maul is hands-down one of the franchise’s most thrilling sequences. An honorable mention goes to Anakin’s pod racing scene on Tatooine — it’s pretty dazzling.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The Scene: Gwen Stacy Dies
The Amazing Spider-Man film series — while beloved by some diehard fans — didn’t receive a ton of praise at the time of its release. But ever since Andrew Garfield reprised his role of Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home, viewers have reminisced on his tenure in a more forgiving light. And, not to mention, the scene where Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) falls to her untimely death is genuinely moving. Peter attempts to rescue Gwen as she descends from the clock tower, but his web grasps onto her body just a second too late — she makes contact with the pavement, and dies on impact. He utters the lines “You’re okay,” and “Stay with me.” He tries in vain to bring her back, but it’s too late. He doesn’t even get to say goodbye. It’s a heartbreaking moment that adds some much needed gravitas to the film.