2015 was an amazing year for film. In fact, the year was so stuffed with quality filmmaking that I ended up missing many of the movies I wanted to see (looking at you, Mad Max). But, with access to theaters in Copenhagen, Doylestown, and the virtual 24/7 cinema that is Netflix, I checked off a respectable amount of the boxes on my “movies-to-watch” list. Of those movies, here are the five scenes that stuck indelibly in my mind and proved themselves as my favorite movie scenes of the year. Enjoy!
5. Diamonds in the Sky (Girlhood)
This moment of musical rapture from 2015’s French coming-of-age jewel Girlhood (original title Bande des Filles, or Gang of Girls) is the greatest pop anthem-based scene since Spring Breakers barged its way onto our screens in 2013. You can feel the contented bliss of the protagonist, Marieme, as she finds her place in the titular female gang. Sheer youthful joy radiates from the screen, as the girls share their love for a massive pop hit as well as their love for each other. But the blue-tinged cinematography blankets the scene in a strange melancholy, and suggests that the camaraderie they feel in this scene is bound to come to an end. By the film’s end, it does, but that doesn’t take away from the thrilling euphoria captured in these moments.
4. Bye, Amy (Amy)
Even when you know it’s coming, it still hurts. The heartbreaking finale of Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary of course includes the inevitable: the singer’s 2011 death by overdose. Part of this ending scene (not shown above) is a segment of footage that a fan took of Amy’s body being carried out of her house in a bag. Onlookers audibly gasp and cry when the body bag appears. “Rest in peace, Amy.” says one fan. “Bye, Amy”, says another, simply. The ensuing montage of clips from various moments in Amy’s life set to sorrowful strings is a powerful reminder of the vitality she once had. When the credits roll and the singer’s version of “Valerie” begins to play, the weight of wasted talent hangs heavily in the air and in the mind. I never left a theater more devastated than I did after watching Amy, and this scene is the reason why.
3. Canine Uprising (White God)
The climax of Hungarian thriller White God is previewed in the first moments of the film: a horde of dogs storm the streets of Budapest, hellbent on vengeance against their oppressive human owners. Yes, this is a bizarre film, one that combines a coming-of-age drama with a violent canine revenge parable. When the scene finally arrives late into the film, the scope of the cinematic feat achieved is astounding. The actual scene, not in the above video, depicts 250 real trained dogs swarming the city. No CGI here. People run for cover and trip on the canine onslaught, while one unlucky woman takes shelter in her car, only to scream in fear as the dogs bash her vehicle from the outside. The entire scene is unlike anything I’ve seen before in film, simultaneously ridiculous and ridiculously entertaining.
2. Escape from Jakku (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
It blew me away in the trailer, and it blew me away in theaters, where I saw The Force Awakens on opening night. And then again two weeks later. The scene in which Rey and Finn hijack the Millennium Falcon and escape the desert planet Jakku was a dose of expertly shot, fast-paced sci-fi action. It was invigorating, exciting, and awe-inspiring, like any good Star Wars installment should be. Rey and Finn both nervously state “I can do this” when they’re forced to make a daring escape from the First Order. Their elation when they actually do it was the perfect accompaniment to the breakneck flight that the two make with TIE fighters on their tail. The garbage definitely will do.
1. Showdown at Donut Time (Tangerine)
The hilarious and heartfelt climax to my favorite film of the year was undeniably my favorite overall scene as well. It’s not even so much a scene as a nearly 30-minute rendezvous at a shabby donut store on Santa Monica Boulevard. All of the film’s characters come together, and a series of exhilarating confrontations take place. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that all of their dirty laundry is aired. All of it. It may be the most climactic climax I’ve ever seen in film. Just writing about it makes me want to watch Tangerine again. And to think, it was all filmed on iPhones: A producer’s dream, a cinematographer’s nightmare, and a director’s claim to fame. Rest easy, 2015. You did us proud.