nazi face melt

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. Tying in with absolutely nothing going in the headlines this past week, no sir, not at all, this week’s edition asks “What is your favorite movie scene where a Nazi gets what’s coming to him?”

Chris Evangelista: Nazis Get Their Faces Melted by the Power of God in Raiders of the Lost Ark

For all his considerable and unparalleled filmmaking talent, Steven Spielberg occasionally pulls his punches when it comes to endings. Think of the ending of Saving Private Ryan, which goes from the powerful conclusion of a bone-jarring battle to a needless tear-filled graveside scene, or the finale to the mostly terrifying War of the Worlds, which tacks on a somewhat corny family reunion moment. But Spielberg wasn’t playing around when he ended Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of the Indiana Jones films.

There’s a good reason Spielberg doesn’t pull any punches with Raiders: he’s dealing with Nazis. And in case you’ve forgotten (as some people in America apparently have), Nazis are really, really bad.

At the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood find themselves captured by Nazis who have their hands on the Ark of the Covenant. The Nazis begin a ceremony to open the ark which at first looks like a bust – there’s nothing inside but dust and sand. Then all hell breaks loose, or maybe it’s heaven, as ghosts begin to descend and fire shoots out of the ark. Here’s how Lawrence Kasdan’s script describes it: “Inside the Ark of the Covenant is a preview of the end of the world. A light so bright, a power so fearsome, a charge so jolting, that there is nothing in our world to compare to it. It’s as though this magnificent golden box has been gathering electric energy for three thousand years, waiting for just this crack of the lid to release it all in one fast, cleansing explosion of pure force…This event is accomplished by a sound like no other. A sound so intense and so odd and so haunting that the suggestible among us might imagine it were the whisper of God.

Spielberg takes these words and turns them into a show-stopping moment filled with terrifying ghouls, balls of fire, beams of light and some good old fashioned face melting as the Nazis are vanquished by the power of the Ark. Also worth nothing: it’s not just Nazis who meet a messy end in this scene. The man leading the ceremony to open the ark isn’t a Nazi at all, but rather René Belloq, another archaeologist just like Indy. But unlike Indy, Belloq got in bed with the Nazis for his own personal gains, and paid for it by having his head explode. The lesson here is twofold: both Nazis and the people who support them are doomed to an unpleasant end. So don’t support Nazis, folks.

Hoai-Tran Bui: Nazis Get Metaphorically Defeated by a Singalong in Casablanca

No Nazis are physically punched in this scene, but they do take a moral and metaphorical beating.

Casablanca was released in 1942 at the height of World War II, and though it has gone down in history as a sweeping romance, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this was as anti-Nazi as as a movie could get. With a release date that purposefully coincided with the Allied invasion of North Africa, and a plot revolving around a sleazy bar in Casablanca that acted as a haven to German officials and refugees alike, it was inevitable that the uneasy tensions would come to a head.

In one of the most famous scenes in Casablanca — a movie replete with famous scenes — a group of German officials sing “Die Wacht am Rhein,” a German national anthem whose roots in French-German wars acted as a particular blow to the officials and citizens of German-occupied France who sit in Rick’s bar that night. It’s a smug show of power by the German officials who act as the de facto command of the city and bar, where Humphrey Bogart’s Rick refuses any form of intervention in the war — until this scene. Rick’s romantic rival and Czech Resistance leader Victor immediately storms through the bar and demands that the band play “La Marseillaise.” At Rick’s subtle approval they do, and soon the whole bar swells with people tearfully and proudly belting the French national anthem, drowning out the frustrated Germans. What makes this scene even better is the fact that many of the extras in this scene were actual Europeans who fled the Nazis in the war, adding another layer of victory to the sequence.

It’s a patriotic victory that also acts as a turning point for Rick’s own indifference to the war effort and one of the most iconic anti-Nazi scenes in cinematic history.

Lindsey Romain: Nazis Burn by Cinema in Inglourious Basterds

There’s a lot of great anti-Nazi violence in Tarantino’s 2009 revisionist WWII revenge fantasy, but none so stirring as Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) incinerating a theater full of world-class fascists in the film’s final act. The moment is made excellent by Shosanna’s circumstance: her Jewish family was murdered by Nazis right before her eyes, a fate she escaped by pure luck, and her life was building to the moment when she could exact her steely revenge. When the French cinema she owns is selected to house the premiere of the Nazi propaganda film, Nation’s Pride, she knows her moment has come. 

Tragically, she’s shot to death by Gestapo officer and star of Nation’s Pride Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) before she can watch her meticulous plan unfold, but it still goes off unhitched. Her spliced-in message for Germany – “You’re all going to die, and I want you to look into the face of the Jew who’s going to do it” – and maniacal laughter as her lover Marcel ignites a pile of film nitrate and the movie screen burns is goosebumps galore, a poignant and personal attack on an order of hate that robbed a young woman of life and happiness. Even Hitler and Goebbels go down in the flames (with the help of the Basterd’s machine guns), a slick – if purely fantastical – extra “fuck you.” 

Jacob Hall: Nazis Get Obliterated by Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton and Mary Ure in Where Eagles Dare

There are are a lot of great movies that depict the reality of World War II. The hardships faced by soldiers as they trudged through ruined landscapes. The horrors of encountering violence on a daily basis. The boredom and the terror of waiting for something to happen. The tragedy of losing a friend or taking a life. And then there’s Where Eagles Dare, one of the greatest and silliest “men on a mission” adventures to emerge in the decades after WWII, a movie that is closer to a fantasy adventure than anything else. And it’s a delight. Mainly because Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton, and Mary Ure kill so many Nazis.

“One weekend, Major Smith, Lieutenant Schaffer, and a beautiful blonde named Mary decided to win World War II” the film’s poster proudly declares. And while they may not win the war necessarily, the trio’s plan to break into a German stronghold and rescue a captured American general results in a ludicrously high bodycount, with the Allied heroes gunning down and blowing up and stabbing so. Many. Nazis. Seriously. It cannot be overstated how many Nazis get offed in this movie. The helpful video above counts 89 Nazi deaths in Where Eagles Dare.

This is a ridiculous movie, glossy pulp orchestrated with masculine bravado by director Brian G. Hutton and a cast who know what they’re good at and wholly embrace their established personas. As the leader of the mission, Burton is a hoot, sidestepping pomposity by actually proving himself to be the smartest guy in the room on every occasion. As his stoic right-hand man, Eastwood squints and scowls and lets his machine gun do the talking. They’re a pair whose anti-chemistry ends up working in the film’s favor – two very different men, united because those damn dirty Nazis need to be taken down!

Where Eagles Dare is a cartoon, but it’s one of the most unashamedly fun of the WWII movies to emerge from the ’60s, a decade that saw that war become a sandbox for a number of massive Hollywood action/adventure movies. It’s not going to teach you a damn thing about the biggest conflict in human history, but it does feature two of the coolest actors to ever come out of Hollywood decimating one of the most evil organizations to ever exist. And that counts for something.

Continue Reading Our Favorite Movie Scenes Where a Nazi Gets What’s Coming to Him >>

Pages: 1 2 3Next page

Cool Posts From Around the Web: