Our 15 Favorite Movie Moments Of The Decade

(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)

The /Film team has been busy ranking the 100 best movies of the decade, but one thing became clear as we assembled our lists: there was something missing. Sure, those films were the best of the past ten years, but they didn't account for many of the individual scenes that have truly stuck with us. Sometimes, a flawed movie or simply a very good movie can leave a lasting impression or feature a character or performance or sequence that lodges itself in our mind and will not leave. So welcome to the list that celebrates that.

This is not a list of the best films of the past decade (although there is some crossover). This is a list of the singular moments that, for one reason or another, defined our personal relationship with the past ten years of cinema. 

Brendan's Fist Pump in Sing Street

Sing Street, the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story from Once director John Carney about the formation of an unlikely band in 1980s Dublin, is one of my favorite films of the past decade. While the music is great throughout ("Drive It Like You Stole It" is the breakout hit, but all of the songs rule) and the budding romance between frontman Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) is complicated and charming, the film's true heart is in the relationship between Conor and his older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor). Brendan serves as something of a life coach for Conor, teaching him not only about girls ("No woman could ever truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins") but about music, expanding Conor's musical horizons with new bands and pushing him to move beyond cover songs and into the more artistically dangerous waters of writing his own songs.

With his long, scraggly hair and devil-may-care attitude, Brendan is a college dropout and the screw-up of the family. In one of the movie's most explosive scenes, he explains to Conor how, as the oldest child, Brendan had to carve a path through the jungle of their dysfunctional family and that Conor's success is partially because of the sacrifices he made. You can tell Brendan still loves and supports his brother, but as a former musician himself, there's also some resentment at the fact that Conor has an opportunity that Brendan never had.

That's why the ending of the movie is so affecting. Armed with nothing but a demo tape and some modeling photos, Conor and Raphina decide to sail off to London to pursue their dreams. Brendan aids in their escape, driving them to the docks and giving Conor some last minute advice. As the pair sail off into the rain, Brendan watches quietly from the shore before bursting into celebration. There's such purity in his fist pumps and jumps of joy: genuine excitement for his brother, of course, but also a sense that his screw-up life has all been worth it because it led to this moment. All of his sacrifices, enduring the early days of their parents' volatile relationship, and his missed opportunities have resulted in these crazy kids getting to throw caution and logic to the wind and just go for it. It's a pure celebration of the pursuit of passion, and it gets to me every single time. (Ben Pearson)

 "This is our Furiosa" in Mad Max: Fury Road

There are so many incredible scenes in Mad Max: Fury Road. Hell, the entire movie is made up of them. But the one that always stands out to me is the rare moment where the film slows down for a moment. Fury Road is a propulsive film – a feature-length chase that almost never lets up.

Until it does. After a long, harrowing journey, renegade Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is helping usher a group of women forced into sexual slavery escape from captivity, finally brings her vehicle to a stop. In the middle of the desert, she's suddenly reunited with the tribe of women she was stolen from some time ago. "Seven thousand days," she says she's been gone, "Plus the ones I don't remember."

The women embrace her as one of their own, and Theron's performance in this moment is remarkable. Her blazing eyes cutting through the dirt on her face, she's finally where she belongs. And then the rug is pulled out from under her: she's told the place she was attempting to find, an almost mythical "green place", is no more. The world she remembers from her youth is long gone, destroyed, devastated. A memory of a dream. Furiosa staggers out into the sand and lets out a scream of rage, and hurt, and loss. It's almost unbearable in its bruised beauty. Yes, Fury Road is loaded with great action, but it's this one moment – a moment of joy quickly shattered – that stands out the most, and feels the most important. (Chris Evangelista)

The De-gloving in Gerald's Game

I've never seen an audience react quite like they did to the climactic moment of Mike Flanagan's Gerald's Game. Most viewers would see this Stephen King adaptation at home on Netflix. I saw it at Fantastic Fest, where the most upsetting act of cinematic violence I've ever seen could play out on a massive screen in front of a packed house.

If you've seen the movie, you know the moment. Jessie (Carla Gugino) has been handcuffed to a bed in her isolated country house for days. Her husband is dead from a sudden heart attack. No one is coming to save her. She will die. Unless she does something. Anything. She manages to get a hold of the glass of water on the headboard. She manages to break it. She manages to hold onto one razor-sharp shard. She manages to angle it right at her wrist. And then she begins to cut.

My friend to my left sunk deep into his seat, audibly whimpering. The woman to my right averted her eyes. Gasps and cries and screams filled the theater as everyone realized what Jessie was try to do, what she was going to do, to escape her predicament. What makes the moment so powerful is not just that it's one of the most gruesome and impactful scenes of violence ever created – it's that we know Jessie so well by this point and know that this is truly the only way for her to escape. We can only imagine the pain and the suffering as the flesh on her hand peels back, offering her the leverage to escape. And Flanagan's camera, unflinching, allows us to experience this nightmare right alongside her. The camera lingers not out of cruelty, but out of love. We're here for her. We're here with her. And boy, does it hurt. (Jacob Hall)

The Avengers Assemble in Avengers: Endgame

There's an entire decade of movies that came before this scene hit the big screen in late April of 2019. That's true both of all the movies that have been released in theaters since the 2010s began, but also since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with a hope and a prayer back in 2008 with the release of Iron Man. But this scene isn't just the epic finale of the summer blockbuster that is Avengers: Endgame. It's the culmination of an era of superhero movies, the conclusion of a grand experiment, and the thrilling end to a master plan that first tantalized audiences during the credits of The Avengers in 2012.

Here, we have Captain America, the first Avenger in history, standing toe-to-toe with Thanos and his massive army. We know he can do this all day. There's no giving up from Steve Rogers. He's lost nearly everyone who means something to him, and yet, he still has something to fight for. His uniform is filthy. His mouth his bloody. His shield is broken. He's outnumbered. And yet here he stands in the waste of Avengers headquarters, dust and debris blocking out the sun. Then suddenly, Cap hears something. It's the voice of his old pal Sam Wilson. And with a cheeky callback to the "On your left" line from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, all of the Avengers snapped away in Infinity War start to appear through dozens of portals, each of them poised for revenge on the titan who dusted them away for five years.

This moment may very well have been the first time that I've cried tears of joy in a movie theater. There are plenty of movies that I've loved, and more than enough movies that have pulled tears from my eyes. But never have I been in so much awe of something that I never thought I'd ever seen on screen. All of The Avengers are joined by countless warriors from around the globe (and galaxy), and they're all ready to stand against Thanos and his armies. This is a comic book dream brought to life through blood, sweat and tears spread across 11 years of movies from Marvel Studios, and it's a miraculous moment in blockbuster history.

If you want to know how this scene came together, read our extensive oral history on the sequence right here. (Ethan Anderton)

No Man's Land in Wonder Woman

I remember speaking with someone about the "No Man's Land" sequence in Wonder Woman soon after the film came out in theaters. "What is the point of that scene?" they said. "She doesn't do anything." It's a sequence that, on paper, seems like a waste of time. Diana (Gal Gadot) is being ushered through the trenches at the battlefront by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) when she hears of a village that has been taken by German soldiers. The problem: that village lies across a desolate waste of land separating the Allied troops and the German troops dubbed "No Man's Land." She insists on running to the rescue of the village, but Steve insists that they continue on their mission. "We can't save everyone in this war. It's not what we came here to do," he argues to her. Jaw clenched, Diana lets down her hair and sheds the restrictive outfit hiding her armor — the uniform she truly feels comfortable in, wielding her femininity (the loose flowing hair!) and her masculine qualities (the shield!) in equal measure. "No, but it's what I'm going to do," she says, climbing up the ladder and beginning her march across No Man's Land.

There is one moment in every (good) superhero movie where there is a "becoming." They don their cloaks, accept their duty, and blazing-eyed, head into battle. "No Man's Land" is the most sincere, powerful "becoming" of a superhero in years. So many recent comic book movies try to undercut that moment with a joke, but Wonder Woman doesn't have an ironic bone in its body, and it's never more apparent in this moving, empowering scene. Diana slowly makes her way across No Man's Land, deflecting bullets, flipping over tanks, and — Steve realizes — drawing gunfire. He's the first to follow her headlong into battle, and soon the rest of the soldiers follow. It's the purest distillation of Wonder Woman's aspirational qualities — her ability to inspire, to make people want to be better than they are. Finally, at least for this brief, shining moment, humans live up to the eternal optimism that Diana holds for them. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

Whiplash's Drum Finale

When you push someone to the brink to unlock their full potential, do the ends justify the means? When greatness, and possibly even immortality, are the end goals, are the methods used to achieve them warranted? Damien Chazelle's Whiplash spends its entire runtime ruminating on these questions, and finally comes to an answer in its incredible final scene. Miles Teller's talented jazz drummer has suffered abuse from J.K. Simmons' band instructor for weeks, ultimately driving him to anonymously testify against the instructor and get him fired from a prestigious music conservatory. When Simmons invites Teller to play at a jazz festival and tries to publicly embarrass him by starting the show with a song Teller doesn't know, it nearly breaks the young drummer's spirit once and for all. But the drummer refuses to be laughed out of the history books. He walks back on stage, interrupts Simmons' speech to the audience, and surprisingly calls his own shot, playing a song he'd been unable to play earlier in the film. Simmons is initially furious and the two trade hidden insults during the song, but the performance is successful, and we think that's going to be the end of it.

But there's more. Instead of bringing the song to an end at the proper moment, Teller launches into a surprise drum solo. It's a multi-minute extravaganza of a man pushing himself beyond all expectations – Teller's face is pained through much of it, and as he becomes drenched in sweat, we understand the physical strain he's under to pull this off. Beads of blood and sweat cover the cymbals as Teller plays. This shit is intense. Simmons slowly realizes that the greatness he's been seeking is unfolding before him (I love when he takes off his suit jacket, signaling that he's no longer keeping up appearances for the paying audience, but is only there for Teller), and their adversarial relationship gives way to an understanding that this night, this song, this incredible solo, is their shared moment of glory.

So is withstanding loads of verbal abuse, being slapped and humiliated in front of fellow students, and even dodging hurled furniture worth it if it drives you to become a legend? Whiplash argues that the answer is yes, and while I'm still personally grappling with that conclusion five years later, there's no denying the power of those mesmerizing final minutes where you see the legend crystalize on that stage. (Ben Pearson)

The End of Carol

Todd Haynes' Carol is a film loaded with glances, and he saves the best for last. After the whirlwind romance that develops between Rooney Mara as shopgirl Therese Belivet and Cate Blanchett as wealthy married woman Carol Aird has seemingly come to an end, Carol asks to see Therese one more time – to tell her that she really does love her, and she wants to be with her, but that she realizes it's probably too late. But she also tells Therese that if she changes her mind, she can come find her at the Oak Room. After resisting what she knows deep in her heart to be true, Therese eventually does rush to the Oak Room, scanning the crowded restaurant and bar for the woman she loves.

There's no dialogue here. Haynes drops out the sound and lets Carter Burwell's lush, romantic score carry us through this moment. Mara says so much without saying a single word, her eyes frantically searching for Carol. And at last, she spots her. After a beat, Carol notices her, too. As the two lock eyes, an almost imperceptible smile creeps on Therese's face just as the camera cuts back to Carol, pushing in slowly. This is everything. We don't need to see them embrace. We don't need to see what comes next. We just need to see them spot each other, and then we can take our leave. (Chris Evangelista)

The Creation of Earth in Noah

Darren Aronofksy's Noah is one of the most underrated movies of the past decade, a quiet gem that suffered from poor marketing to the wrong audience. This is not a "faith-based" film, but the work of a non-religious filmmaker looking at a classic fantasy tale from the world's most famous collection of stories and deciding to adapt it like Peter Jackson adapted Lord of the Rings. It's a singular, beautiful, mesmerizing thing.

Late in the film, after God has sent a flood to wash away the sins of the planet (and virtually all of humanity along the way), Noah (Russell Crowe) and his family sit in the Ark alongside two of every animal. And he tells them a story, a story familiar to anyone and everyone, whether they've ever cracked open a Bible or not. "In the beginning," Noah begins, telling his children all about how God created the Earth in six days and rested on the seventh.

As he speaks, this legendary fable plays out in front of us, but in a way we've never seen before. No one snaps their fingers and nothing emerges in a burst of light, fully formed. We watch the planet and all that inhabit it come together piece by piece, eons passing by in seconds. The language being spoken by Noah is biblical, but the imagery on screen is scientific in its detail, suggesting that the laws of nature understood today applied to the Lord himself, who is simply capable of making them go a bit faster. The collision of the ancient and the new has stuck with me even as so many other scenes from more well-regarded films have faded. Aronofsky didn't just want to tell a Bible story – he wanted to reconcile humanity and bring us all together. (Jacob Hall)

The Van Explosion in MacGruber

After Akiva Shaffer, Jorma Taccone and Andy Samberg reinvigorated Saturday Night Live for the computer age with SNL Digital Shorts and brought the sorely underseen comedy Hot Rod into existence, I was pretty much onboard for anything they had to offer. But even a feature film adaptation of the recurring Saturday Night Live sketch MacGruber seemed like a long shot, especially without Samberg doing any pinch hitting. Many SNL movies failed to hold up beyond the time a typical sketch lasts, and that felt especially true with MacGruber, a sketch that relied on the same gag over and over again even more than most recurring sketches on the series. The poor box office that barely passed $8.5 million domestically would seem to confirm this film as a failure. Thankfully, that's just not true.

MacGruber is audacious, rambunctious, and just plain silly in a very raunchy well. Will Forte's character proves to be more borderline insane than he seemed on SNL. He's far more abrasive to everyone around him, and distinctly more cocky. The movie took MacGruber and made him into a fully fledged character who is a walking powder keg. Under normal circumstances, that might make him unlikable, but he's also such a complete dipshit that you can't help but laugh at his wild antics, and that's no more true than in the above scene where he rounds up the team of American heroes he needs to take on his former nemesis, Dieter Von Cunth.

Unfortunately for both MacGruber and his team, there's a whole load of explosives that Mac packed himself in the team van. And those explosives go off just as he's bragging about the team to the top brass and rubbing it in the face of a rookie played by Ryan Phillippe. The entire van goes up in in a ball of flames and smoke. The van is in pieces, There's no way there's anything left of these dudes. MacGruber is panicking and can't help but be clumsily heartbroken, dropping to his knees and screaming into the sky. We've spent an entire montage getting this team together, all so they can be blown up in one second. MacGruber went there before X-Force was killed off in Deadpool 2. Never forget that.

This scene is made that much better when we cut right in the middle of a heart-wrenching shriek to the aftermath of the funeral. The explosion on its own was hilarious enough to have me rolling right into this scene, but it's MacGruber's response to the general's note about Mac saying the f-word too many times during the eulogies that pushed me over the top. This is what made me immediately realize this was going to be one of my favorite comedies ever. MacGruber somberly says, "Well, they were fucking great guys. And this is a fucking asshole of a day." (Ethan Anderton)

"Shallow" in A Star is Born

Cinema was never better than the moment that Lady Gaga's Ally timidly walks onstage to join her rockstar boyfriend Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) and belt out a spine-tingling, soul-shaking, positively feral note. The "Shallow" scene in A Star is Born is the stuff of movie magic: when two characters miraculously perform a song together, despite having never rehearsed it before, to a roaring crowd.

The "Shallow" scene is the crescendo of Ally and Jackson's quiet flirtations. Having met the night before after a drunken Jackson stumbled into the drag bar where Ally is performing "La Vie en Rose." Instantly captivated, Jackson spends the night with Ally, and the two share intimate conversations and lyrics with each other, including an original song that Ally had been tinkering with. Jackson invites her to his next show, where she watches from backstage, until he suddenly begins to play her song. Horrified when Jackson beckons her on stage, Ally is at first reluctant, unconfident as a performer and disbelieving of his insistence that she is beautiful. Shaking, whispering to herself, looking down at her feet, Ally slowly makes her way to center stage. Her first notes are tremulous, her voice still a little quiet. But then, as the music swells behind her, she gains confidence and belts out that now-iconic note.

The entire story of A Star is Born is condensed in this one scene: Ally and Jackson cementing themselves as soul mates through music, Ally proving her talent and finding her confidence, and eventually eclipsing Jackson. It's breathtaking, it's awesome, and it overwhelms and overtakes you. "Shallow" is not about logic, but a feeling — the feeling of overwhelming love and compatibility that radiates from Ally and Jackson, and the feeling that you're being privileged to be able to share in that moment with them. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

The final shot of Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is all about the act of looking, both literally and metaphorically, and its final shot – a long, lingering, slow POV shot across an opulent opera house from one of the lead characters, Marianne (Noemie Merlant) toward the unknowing other, Heloise (Adele Haenel) – manages to capture the entire movie in microcosm. A devastating love story has played out between these two women, but this concert takes place years after their blazing romance. During their brief time together, Marianne once tried playing Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" on a piano for Heloise, who had never heard an orchestra perform before. We know they're still thinking about each other, and that this is the last time Marianne will ever see Heloise.

So when that same song begins to unfold in this opera house all these years later, we watch as Heloise, seated alone in a box seat overlooking the orchestra, experiences an entire ocean of emotions, with waves of memories crashing over and through her. Director Celine Sciamma holds on Haenel for several minutes, focusing on the actress as Haenel's chest heaves and tears fall from her eyes, her emotions so strong that she may burst at any second. The overwhelming sadness and crushing tragedy of this doomed relationship is almost too much to bear – but then, among her tears, a smile forms. There's beauty in the pain, beauty in this music, beauty in these memories. They can't be together, but their love lives on. Cut to black. It's one of the most powerful shots and very best film endings I've ever seen. (Ben Pearson)

The Hotel Fight in Haywire

Haywire is a lean, mean action-flick from Steven Soderbergh. It's swift and economical, and it also features some of the best action of the decade. The best bit in the entire film arrives at the midpoint, when government operative Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is attacked by Paul (Michael Fassbender), an MI6 agent she was working with, but who has orders to kill her. 

What follows is a brutal fight scene where Carano and Fassbender beat the ever-loving shit each other. I don't want to go into Carano's acting skills too much (many think she's wooden, but I think she's perfectly fine for this role), but one thing she unquestionably can do is fight. And the smackdown with Fassbender never once feels false because of it. It goes on and on, with each party become significantly roughed-up in the process. There's also something oddly sexy about the whole thing. It helps that the two fighters are both very attractive and dressed in fancy evening wear. And then you have Carano locking Fassbender between her legs, choking him to the point where his face turns red. 

Best of all: all the action is crystal clear. There's no shaky Bourne Identity camera work here – Soderbergh knows exactly how to shoot this for maximum impact. (Chris Evangelista)

"I'm the Captain Now" in Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is a very good movie with a strong Tom Hanks performance and plenty of intense sequences. But this tale of modern piracy lives on forever because of one key scene, a moment that surely looked like nothing on the page but became instantly meme-worthy when it appeared in the trailer and instantly iconic when we saw it in context. You know the one, right?

Early in the film, Somali pirates raid Captain Richard Phillips' (Hanks) container ship, seizing control of the bridge. The desperate leader of the pirates, Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi), makes sure his new hostages are aware that he's calling the shots. "Look at me," he demands, his features deadpan, his eyes intense. "I'm the captain now."

It's a terrific moment, played with authenticity by all involved. But goodness, talk about a scene that can be taken out of context and applied to any given situation in day-to-day life! I haven't watched Captain Phillips since 2013, but I order my wife to "look at me" because "I'm the captain now" on a daily basis. When it's my turn on a board game night, I ask the table to "look at me" because "I'm the captain now." When I'm assigning deadlines to the staff of SlashFilm.com, I quietly think "I'm the captain now" because damn it, not moment from the past decade has more deeply infiltrated my daily vocabulary. (Jacob Hall)

"Yeah, tell me about it," in They Came Together

The art of parody hasn't shined too brightly over the past couple decades. That's largely because garbage like Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, Date Movie, Meet the Spartans and Vampires Suck effectively ruined the classic comedy style perfected by Mel Brooks and the trio of of Jim Abrahams and brothers David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. But the work of Michael Showalter and David Wain reminded us that parody can still be great with Wet Hot American Summer back in 2002, and the might have even pushed it to a higher level of hilarity with the 2014 romantic comedy spoof They Came Together.

Taking inspiration from and aiming at all the cheesy romantic comedies that have been released over the years, especially those set in New York City, the movie stars Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd as unlikely lovers who can't help but fall for one another, despite their goofy flaws and complicated backgrounds, each bringing every cliche in the book along with them. There's absurd comedy here to be sure, just like in movies like Airplane!, Young Frankenstein, The Naked Gun, and Spaceballs. But Wain and Showalter have their own oddball style that makes They Came Together go to somewhat weirder places than those other parody comedies. Such as the scene above.

Joel has just had quite a shitty day. So to wash his sorrows away, he hits up a New York pub to throw back some shots. The bartender notices his pain and says, "You look like you had a bad day." Joel responds, "Yeah, tell me about it." The bartender says honestly, "Well, you came in here looking like crap, and you haven't said very much." Joel retorts, "You can say that again." The bartender repeats, "Well, you came in here looking like crap, and you haven't said very much." Joel agrees, "Yeah, tell me about it." The bartender reiterates, "Well, you came in here looking like crap, and you haven't said very much." This repeats for a scene that is one minute long. That might not seem very long, but when you hear these lines repeated over and over again, you can't help but giggle in disbelief. This gag is weird, stupid, and I laugh heartily at it every damn time. (Ethan Anderton)

"Visions of Gideon" in Call Me By Your Name

You could make an entire list out of all the moments in Call Me By Your Name, but the one that lingers with me, the one that leaves an indelible mark on my soul, is the ending. A year after his fleeting and life-changing romance with Oliver (Armie Hammer), Elio (Timothée Chalamet) answers the phone to find his former soul mate on the other end of the line. He's calling to wish them a happy Christmas, Oliver says, and to tell them that he's engaged. Elio smiles it off to his parents and heads into the dining room to stare at the fire, tears falling down his face.

It's an astonishing way to end the movie — simply a static shot of Timothée Chalamet's face as Sufjan Stevens' haunting, bitterly sad "Visions of Gideon" plays for 4 straight minutes— but it's the only way that director Luca Guadagino could. Call Me By Your Name is a flowing, sun-dappled whisper of a movie composed entirely of long gazes and twitches of the hand. The final scene could only be the culmination of all of those: nothing happening on the surface while a war of emotions break out on Chalamet's totally exposed face. Chalamet is revelatory here, desperately trying to hold back tears and failing miserably — his lip trembling, his breath shuddering. But as the credits roll, those pained expressions eventually give way to a slight smile. It's heartbreaking in its simplicity and it's transcendent in its depth of emotions. (Hoai-Tran Bui)