Remember the opening scene of “Sunset Boulevard,” with William Holden floating face down in a swimming pool? Or Ingrid Bergman asking Dooley Wilson to “play it Sam” in “Casablanca?” How about Al Pacino’s trip to the men’s room in an Italian restaurant in “The Godfather?” Those are some of the scenes that film historian David Thomson spotlights in his new book, “Moments that Made the Movies.” What makes a celluloid moment endure? We’ll talk to Thomson about his picks, and we want to hear from you: what are you all-time favorite movie moments?

David Thomson, film critic and historian; and author of "Moments That Made the Movies," "The New Biographical Dictionary of Film," and "Have You Seen...?"

  • Alex Knew

    What moment is more memorable than the lightsaber-illuminated silhouettes of Obi-wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars”? What child hasn’t acted that out with a sibling or a friend on the playground countless times?

  • Patty Scheving

    City lights. When Chaplin meets the blind girl at the end and she realizes he was her unlikely hero.

  • David

    Omar Sharif’s entrance in “Lawrence of Arabia”. Best Entrance Ever. It’s so rare that movies take the time to let the scene unfold naturally.

  • SiriusA

    One of my favorite movie moments is from a film I can’t remember, just the scene. (I think it’s a Hitchcock and/or espionage film.)

    I man is at a fair. He’s smoking a cigarette and a young boy, holding a balloon, is making ugly faces at him, so he lowers his cigarette and pops the balloon. Perhaps your guest or listeners can remind me of the film so I can finally watch it again!

    • Robert Thomas

      It’s Robert Walker, from Strangers on a Train. It’s a great moment.

      Wearing a cowboy hat and chaps, he walks up to Walker and fires his cap gun at him. Walker pops the balloon.

  • Dar

    Here’s one of my favorites, from “Touch of Evil.”

    Orson Welles: “Dontcha recognize me?”

    Marlene Dietrich (in heavy German accent despite her purportedly mestizo heritage): “Vy you’re Hank Quinlan! I hardly wecognized you! You ought to lay off dose candy bars.”

    Welles: “Anyway, you’re lookin’ good!”

    Dietrich: “Vell, honey…you’re a mess!”

    Welles: “Sure wish it was your chili I was gettin’ fat on.”

    Dietrich: “Careful! Might be too hot for you!”

  • shankil

    My 9 year references the Taxi Driver’s line “you talking to me” all the time without even knowing where it comes from.

  • Noelle

    Peter Weir’s 1993 film “Fearless”:opening scene with Jeff Bridges walking through cornfield after the airline crash. And the last scene,even more powerful, when Bridges on the brink of death remembers the final minutes of the flight and is brought back to life by Tom Hulse and Isabella Rossellini.

  • Robert Thomas

    Robert’s rule of see everything with these guys:

    Anything with Edward G Robinson (e.g. Larceny, Inc.)

    Anything with Leslie Howard (e.g. The Scarlet Pimpernel)

    Anything with John Garfield (e.g. Force of Evil)

    Anything with Jeff Bridges (e.g. Hearts of the West; Thunderbolt and Lightfoot – EXCEPT NOT: King Kong)

  • Mabel

    Susan Sarandon to Burt Lancaster in Atlantic City, “Teach me stuff!”

  • Robert Thomas

    Leslie Howard and Raymond Massey:


    They seek him here
    They seek him there
    Those Frenchies
    Seek him everywhere
    Is he in heav’n?
    Is he in… heh heh…
    That Demned, ellusive

    Chauvelin: Delightful.

    Percy: What?

    Chauvelin: Especially that line, “Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.”

    Percy: Yes, I like that, too. Because you see, I hear that they DO. And that gives the line a sort of something… sort of gives it… uh… uh… something. Uh… u-uh… if I make myself clear.

    Chauvelin: Clear as crystal.

  • James Ivey

    One moment that really got me was the scene in The Whale Rider in which the young girl sings a traditional Maori song and her grandfather isn’t there. The camera stays on her the whole time as tears stream down her face. I felt as embarrassed and sympathetic for her as I would have been if I had been there in person.

  • TrainedHistorian

    W. Herzog’s “Aguirre the Wrath of God” : final scene on the raft in the river.
    Perfectly captures the spirt of the earliest conquistadores in the “New World”.

    But the scene is so powerful because of what went before in the film itself, so you cannot really watch it in isolation.

    • Robert Thomas

      Yes! And Herzog, on the deck of the riverboat, with his camera careening around, in Burden of Dreams.

  • Charlie Canfield

    the ‘touch of evil’ crane/tracking shot is matched more quietly in ’12 angry men’, which introduces all the characters and their traits as it wheels around the jury room. i think both films maxed out the biggest film roll that would fit in a camera; 11 minutes for 1000 feet of film.

  • Jon Gold

    Blade Runner! The opening interview with the replicant about a turtle in the dessert…is a terrific atmospheric mood set for the whole film.

  • trite

    Brief Encounter–meeting in waiting room–girl behind counter and station master chatting in background.

  • Owen Smith

    I love the scene in “Paper Moon” when Madeline Kahn’s Trixie Delight wobbles up a hill to convince a sulking Addie Pray character to come back to the car. It transforms a funny character and reveals a little tragic side of her with humanity and humor. Brilliant moment.

  • Robert Thomas

    Burt Lancaster in Atlantic City: “Don’t touch the coat.”

  • Eric

    Did Rachael Myrow actually say “Harry Mancini” in referencing the
    composer of the music to “Touch of Evil” (and countless other films)?

    • trite

      According to Wiki, Mancini was responsible for the music.

      • Eric

        Mancini yes. Harry no.

  • Chris OConnell

    I don’t really care for movies especially, but I really enjoyed this segment.

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