7. Heath Ledger explains how he got his scars in The Dark Knight
I should probably explain why I’m not using the ‘Why so serious?” speech that happens earlier – the reason is pretty simple: This scene is better. Sure, that other scene has a famous line in it, but performance-wise the second time the Joker explains his scars is way, way better. Not to mention the tension that builds as the camera dizzyingly circles while that sickening Joker note spikes in the soundtrack. Heath’s performance seems less rushed, his pacing slower and more precise. Then there is the fact that this is the moment when, for obvious reasons, we realize that the Joker’s previous explanation on how he got his scars was most likely a lie, as is the current explanation. Suddenly this character gets way, way scarier because you realize that there is no connection to who he is and how he got his scars – we were almost able to relax more at least knowing the story, and now we’re once again in the dark.
6. Ellen Burstyn is ‘somebody now’ in Requiem For A Dream
My god this movie is so well done and so, SO freaking depressing. Like… seriously – I watch this film because I crave it so much, and I never feel good afterward… it’s like… I donno, drugs. If there were ever a moment that embodies just how goddamn disheartening this film is, it’s this monologue. I don’t even have much to say about it, the performance goes down to the bone – it’s like watching an animal slowly die as this woman explains the last sliver of hope for happiness she has in her life. Drugs aside, that’s really what this film is about, happiness and the people who find it any way they can. The addiction to being loved and feeling good. OK I’m done talking about this.
5. Bruno Ganz is one pissed off Hitler in Downfall
Well, first off I would like to thank the Internet for not only making it impossible to find a version of this scene with it’s original subtitles, but also for turning one of the most amazing performances of the last decade into a useless meme. So now that everyone knows this scene exists they might want to go and see the actual film, because the film is some crazy. Bruno Ganz’s performance is so spot on it’s indeterminable to the real thing. The story itself is chilling as you watch these people completely enamored with this true monster, willing to go the lengths of poisoning their own children before putting themselves down as well. Like a cult, they follow every order he gives. That is, except for his generals who, as you see in that scene, kind of cost Hitler the war. That’s the interesting aspect of this, how little of this downfall was actually his fault – at least in this telling of the story. Anyway, it’s this moment that serves as the peak of this performance, this wonderful screaming monologue when Hitler learns he’s been completely screwed. The intensity of the room is so great that it immortalized itself in countless Internet spoofs, many of which I have to admit are pretty damn funny.
4. Peter Finch is ‘as mad as hell’ in Network
This scene is particularly interesting as is seems to be just as, if not more, relevant today as it was when Network was made. I guess the message is pretty timeless; the first step in any real change is to get royally pissed off at the current condition things are in. And boy does Peter Finch’s performance waft with anger. It’s a crazy anger, the kind of anger you have when you get cut off, but only in this case it’s for the world around him. Of course, his character is, in fact, crazy – that is the point of this film. It’s a man who has been driven off the edge by the world and is now having that rightful insanity used for television ratings. This film is an amazing demonstration of exploitation in its most evil form.
3. Alec Baldwin tells us what it takes to sell real estate in Glengarry Glen Ross
Every morning I wake up and watch this scene because I find that it helps with my reoccurring inability to remember to close my front door when I leave the house. The collection of swingin’ dicks in this movie is staggering, and if you happen to be a guy who is about to enter a pissing contest be sure to watch every moment of it. However if you only have eight minutes on your hands you can just watch Alec Baldwin’s alpha male cameo performance above. He literally steps into this movie, delivers the most memorable performance of it, and then bounces. That’s a pretty big deal for a film that also has Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, and Al Pacino in it.
2. Eric Idle complains about travel in Live At The Hollywood Bowl
BAM. I’m banking on the fact that most people did not see this one coming. Monty Python’s Live At The Hollywood Bowl isn’t really even a theatrical film, but that kind of plays into this. Firstly, if you’ve watched the clip above or seen this bit before you know damn well why this is number two. He rants about going on holiday, continuously, for over four solid minutes. He does so extremely fast and spends half the time climbing through the audience while delivering his lines. And it’s freaking live – there’s no editing to be had here, he remembers and delivers an endless sentence without a single flub. There’s just so much he had to think about for this to work, the actual lines, the physical humor, the fact that he is traversing over hippies and drunks. One possibility that comes to mind is that eventually the lines, which do start the same as the non-live sketch does, might have turned into improvisations… a possibility that would actually make this even more impressive.
1. Robert Shaw takes us to the USS Indianapolis in Jaws
You know, the moment I decided to do this list I instantly felt very sad. The reason why is that I knew, right away, that I couldn’t possibly surprise anyone with the number one choice. No doubt that everyone who is reading this must have said Quint’s name aloud the first moment they read the title. But, how can I not? Not only is his performance of this monologue absolutely convincing as both a drunk and as someone who seemed to be honestly haunted by the experience, but also the story of the USS Indianapolis crew being massacred by sharks is freaking true! On top of that, Robert Shaw not only performed the monologue, but he actually wrote it! You just can’t beat all that. And the way he performs it, the slow decent into vulnerability as what he tries to start as a kind of tough story degrades into pure horror, Quint’s tough front just can’t help but to slip away and suddenly his character actually means something. This is the moment that we care about this guy and not just think of him as some funny New England drunk. It’s the showstopper of the movie.