The Top 23 Movie Scenes of the Millennium

Ayman Ahmer

In a world where superhero movies and blockbusters dominate mainstream cinema, it’s easy to forget the many movie classics made since the start of the millennium. Impact’s Ayman Ahmer takes a visit down memory lane to rank the best movie scenes of the last 23 years.

  1. Rocky Balboa (2006)“It ain’t about how hard you hit!” 

Agreed – it’s corny, cringey and probably everything else that comes to mind, but it’s Stallone and I love it! Whilst the storyline of the 2006 picture is plain preposterous, it gets away with it in the best way possible with some memorable scenes – namely Rocky’s inspirational speech to his son. Stallone tends to prove his dramatic skills when he acts from the heart and this scene serves as a perfect example of this. 

22. 500 Days of Summer (2009)Expectations v Reality

The Hollywood romance genre has the tendency to present love as some sort of utopian fairy-tale. It isn’t often you find romantic films that actually portray an honest reflection of how relationships work! In 500 Days of Summer we find a story which challenges the notion of predestined eternal love. This well-directed scene contrasts the over-the-top romanticised version of love with everyday reality. 

21. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)I Ain’t Worried

I’m sure I speak for many true cinema lovers when I say that this film saved the movie industry. This was never going to top the iconic Playing with the Boys beach scene from the original, but it was pretty damn close! We can always rely on Tom Cruise to deliver. 

20. The Ides of March (2011)“There’s one thing I value in this world is loyalty, and without it you’re nothing”

This scene may not be on a lot of people’s list, but if you want to witness two minutes of formidable acting it’s a must watch! The Ides of March tackles themes of morality in politics, unveiling the dirty secrets of America’s broken political system. The late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman delivers an emphatic speech on loyalty.

19. Lost in Translation (2003)Whispers of wisdom

Sofia Coppola’s indie classic Lost in Translation delves into the finer details of loneliness, friendship and travel. This iconic scene has triggered debate about what was said between both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s characters. Coppola’s choice of leaving it ambiguous should make audiences realise that we’re missing the point. The picture’s purpose was to capture the beautiful connection between two people in transitional phases of their lives. 

  1. Joker (2019) – Staircase Dance 

It’s fair to say that Todd Phillip’s Joker polarised audiences, but something everyone will agree on is the excellence of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. The stair case dance scene, undoubtedly the most defining moment of the picture, encapsulates Arthur Fleck’s metamorphosis from a meek pushover into a manic, unhinged villain. 

  1. The Big Short (2015)“You smell that? What is that…?”

…. it’s money!!! Watching a film centred on the highly complex crash of the US housing market wouldn’t be at the top of many people’s lists. Well, that was until Adam McKay gathered an all-star roster to blow everyone away. Jarred Vennett’s (Ryan Gosling) pitch to Front Point Partners is simply hilarious and seriously rewatchable!

  1. Boyhood (2014) “The moment seizes us”

Firstly, let’s make it explicitly clear that Boyhood is a masterpiece and that it was robbed of an Academy Award! Richard Linklater’s magnum opus, filmed over a 12-year period, follows Mason’s (Elar Coltrane) transformative journey into becoming an adult. This scene has an authentic full-circle nature to it, showing Mason at the closing of one journey, in anticipation of what life holds ahead. 

  1. Training Day (2001)“King Kong ain’t got s*** on me!”

In an average script and rather average film, Denzel Washington shines likes a beam of light! Denzel carries this film on his shoulders from start to finish. Alonzo Harris’ ‘King Kong’ monologue is among some of the best solo acting scenes we’ve seen this century.

  1. Django Unchained (2012)“There’ve been a lot of lies!”

Quentin Tarantino’s Western revenge epic Django Unchained was one of the first real times we saw Leonardo DiCaprio as a main antagonist. His intense study into the narcissistic slave plantation owner Calvin Candie confirmed why he is one of the best actors of our generation. The dinner table extract will undeniably go down on the long lists of Tarantino and DiCaprio’s best moments. 

  1. Crash (2004) – Flames

Dubbed as one of the worst Best Picture winners, Crash has always been harshly treated. The film grapples with significant societal issues of race, class, family and gender, through several intertwining storylines. In this deeply touching sequence, Matt Dillon’s character Sgt. Ryan encounters a chance at redemption. Every aspect of this scene is captivating, evoking deep emotions to all audiences.

  1. American Gangster (2007)“Either you’re somebody or you aint nobody.”

Denzel’s portrayal of Frank Lucas is one of his best roles in recent times. In fact, it is quite surprising that he didn’t receive an Oscar nod for his efforts. In similar ways to Training Day, there are flaws to the film, but overall the film is thoroughly enjoyable. Denzel has an unparalleled ability to elevate the standard of all the projects he’s involved in. 

  1. Drive (2011)“I could look out for you”

In many ways, Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylistic thriller Drive was a throwback to the neo-noir classics of the past. Heavily influenced by Michael Mann’s debut film Thief, Drive is aesthetically shot, tied together by a flawlessly curated synth-heavy soundtrack. The elevator scene is an intense experience to say the least – when a moment of intimacy switches to hyperviolence. 

  1. The Irishman (2019)“You’re late.”

When Martin Scorsese assembled some of Hollywood’s greatest ever actors for one final gangster epic, I could not contain my excitement. I mean, who wouldn’t get excited hearing that Pacino, De Niro and Pesci were starring alongside one another, right? This was a gentle reminder that Scorsese is still is the master of the mob genre.  

  1. Marriage Story (2019)“Every day I wake up and I hope you’re dead!”

In a visceral tale about divorce, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson go head to head in competition to out act each other. This explosive scene shows tensions reach total boiling point – in which the pair insult each other’s deepest flaws and insecurities. Noah Baumbach showcases how love and respect can change into intense hatred for one another in the heat of the moment. Despite the fact that 2020 was a heavyweight year at the Academy Awards, it’s a shame that Driver’s powerful performance wasn’t rewarded. 

  1. La La land (2016)A Lovely Night

Damien Chazelle’s vibrant musical, absorbed in sunshine, had audiences on a natural high for weeks. This happy, endorphin-releasing film truly refreshed the musical genre. With star studded performances by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, it’s fair to say it deserved Best Picture above Moonlight at the Academy Awards. Mia (Stone) and Seb’s (Gosling) first dance against the idyllic L.A skyline is one of many special moments in this film.

  1. Whiplash (2014)“Rushing or dragging?”

We’ve all been put on the spot in class, but none of us have quite felt the wrath of Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons) as our teacher. Damien Chazelle’s electrifying debut film invited us to view the toxic relationship of driven student Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) and psychotic music instructor Fletcher. In this firecracker of a picture, there are several moments where you need to catch your breath to absorb everything in. The ‘rushing or dragging’ scene instantly became iconic the moment it hit cinemas. 

  1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood… (2019) – “Embarrass yourself like that in front of all those goddamn people!”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to an acting clinic on how to have a total meltdown! For those who aren’t familiar, Tarantino and DiCaprio are a match made in heaven. In Tarantino’s self-professed best film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, DiCaprio was given full license to flaunt his acting skills. This heavily improvised scene is a pivotal moment in Rick Dalton’s (DiCaprio) character arc. 

  1. There Will Be Blood (2007)“I abandoned my child!”

Many will be aware of the ‘milkshake’ scene when it comes to Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic, There Will Be Blood. Personally, I believe this scene is overrated. Instead, I would point to the baptism scene in which Daniel Day-Lewis demonstrates his acting prowess. This is the only time we bear witness to a vulnerable Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis), who for the most part is as ruthless and cold-hearted as they come.

  1. Wolf of Wall street (2013)“Me, the little man?”

Yes, it is another DiCaprio scene. What can I say? He’s the best actor of our generation. DiCaprio’s portrayal of Jordan Belfort is wild, raucous and exhilarating. Throughout this drug-fuelled whirlwind of chaos, we become accustomed to how despicable Belfort really is. This amusing exchange with Agent Denham (Kyle Chandler) on his yacht sums his arrogance up. 

  1. No Country for Old Men (2007)“Call it.”

The Coen brothers well and truly delivered one of the most tense and riveting scenes in movie history. When remorseless psychopath Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) walks into a petrol station, he presents the worker with the biggest wager of his life. His whole existence depends on a coin toss. This nerve-jangling moment puts the fear of God into all viewers. 

  1. Inglorious Basterds (2009) “Drei Gläser”

Inglorious Basterds was not well received by many critics at first viewing. To this day, I still can’t understand why! This multi-lingual, suspense-filled masterpiece is vintage Tarantino in his purest form. The edge-of-seat tavern sequence is a defining scene of the master director’s career. When Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) makes the subtle error of ordering without the common German three finger signal, all hell breaks loose.

1. The Social Network (2010)“SORRRRY! My Pradas at the cleaners!!!”

We’re finally here folks. Number 1. The best scene of the millennium. I hope you guys are still wired in? To put it simply, The Social Network defined a generation. Visionary director David Fincher produced a timeless movie capturing the rise of social media in his recount of Facebook’s creation. The combination of Aaron Sorkin’s quick-witted script and an incredibly talented ensemble supplied the perfect ingredients for a modern classic. This climactic exchange arrives when a betrayed Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) learns that his stake in the company had been diluted to a fraction of a percent. Garfield, rumoured to have broken over 20 laptops for this scene, is nothing short of exceptional in this iconic movie moment. Tarantino wasn’t lying, nor exaggerating, in saying that The Social Network was ‘hands down’ the best film of the 2010s. 

Ayman Ahmer 

Featured image courtesy of Alex Litvin via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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