The 40 Most Famous Movie Scenes of All Time
Too bad there's not an Oscar for Best Movie Scene.
Even if you haven’t seen every classic film, there are a few famous movie scenes you just intrinsically know. They might be the movie’s culmination, like the shower scene in Psycho. Or they might be one of the scenes fans are still repeating word-for-word, such as the “Wingardium Leviosa” lesson in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Not all of these famous movie scenes are necessarily the most important ones to the plot. But they’re the ones you’ve probably heard fans (and probably even non-fans!) quoting long after the films were released. If a good movie sticks with the viewer, then these famous movie scenes must have been pretty powerful. And for amazing flicks to add to your watch-list, check out The 20 Best Feel-Good Movies To Instantly Boost Your Mood.
The shower scene from Psycho
This might be the most recognizable movie scene of all time. As TCM explains, the movie being shot in black-and-white had one major advantage, and that’s that Alfred Hitchcock was able to use chocolate syrup as the “blood” in the scene since viewers wouldn’t be able to differentiate between red and brown. That likely made filming the scene a bit more pleasant, even if it still shocked audiences for decades after its release. And for more iconic thrillers, check out the 40 Best Horror Movies for Totally Freaking Yourself Out.
The opening scene from The Sound of Music
Even someone who hasn’t seen The Sound of Music will probably be able to quote that first line: “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” Maria’s joyful song, shot in Marktschellengberg, Germany, sets the stage for the rest of the movie, and Julie Andrews is an utter delight.
The “La Marseillaise” scene from Casablanca
France’s national anthem takes on a special meaning in Casablanca, as its performance drowns out a group of Nazis. After the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, fans shared clips of the famous movie scene to show solidarity with the country.
The door scene from Titanic
The “I’ll have what she’s having” scene from When Harry Met Sally
This NSFW scene lives on in viewers’ hearts (and it’s responsible for the throngs of tourists that consistently flock to Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City). Sally questions whether Harry’s romantic partners have actually orgasmed during intercourse with him–demonstrating what a fake orgasm might look like in the process.
The Tiffany’s scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Holly’s arrival outside the New York jewelry store doesn’t need dialogue to be memorable. Audrey Hepburn eating the pastry and coffee while looking into Tiffany’s windows says more than words could, and it gives fans a glimpse of who the character is before she’s even spoken a word.
The “I Am Your Father” scene from Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Of all of the memorable Star Wars moments, this one is definitely at the top of the list. While it’s a line that even non-fans know by heart, the reveal that Darth Vader was Luke’s dad was shocking to the movie’s first audiences.
The bend-and-snap scene from Legally Blonde
This isn’t exactly a feminist-approved way to get a man’s attention. But the scene did become iconic, even inspiring an entire song in the Legally Blonde musical.
The “O Captain! My Captain” scene from Dead Poets Society
This is one of the late Robin Williams’ most memorable films, and it’s led scores of people to know at least the title of the Walt Whitman’s poem by heart. The students’ appreciation for their teacher is clear, and the scene shows just how much he’s affected them. When Williams passed away, a number of fans and fellow actors paid tribute to the actor by quoting the scene.
The chest-burster scene from Alien
Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve probably heard about this scene. It’s been parodied countless times over the years because it’s simply too shocking and terrifying to forget.
The “there’s no place like home” scene from The Wizard of Oz
There are plenty of memorable moments that make The Wizard of Oz such a classic movie. But one of the most moving scenes is when Dorothy decides to return to Kansas, reciting the now-famous line, “There’s no place like home.”
The “Wingardium Leviosa” scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
There are plenty of iconic moments from the Harry Potter series. But this scene from the first movie might be the one that fans quote the most. Hermione’s correcting Ron on how to say “Wingardium Leviosa” properly shows both of their personalities early on and hints at how significant it is when the two become friends later in the movie. And for more on the magical wizarding world, here are 35 Ways Harry Potter Is Still Crazy Relevant.
The “You Are a Toy” scene from Toy Story
Toy Story was the first full-length Pixar movie, and it’s still one of the best. Buzz and Woody’s infamous fight while they’re stranded at the gas station is pretty harsh. But it’s also crucial to Buzz’s acceptance of the fact that he is, truly, just a toy. Also, anyone with a short fuse will no doubt side with Woody’s exasperated declaration that it’s “the perfect time to panic.”
The “Tale As Old As Time” scene from Beauty and the Beast
Sure, Belle falling for the Beast was more than a little Stockholm Syndrome-y. But it’s easy to forget that with gorgeous dance scenes and songs like this one.
The bathroom scene from Hidden Figures
Katherine was an essential part of NASA’s calculations, all while running across campus to use the only designated “colored” bathroom. Her speech about the situation leads Al to desegregate the NASA bathrooms himself by tearing down the “Colored Ladies’ Room” sign with a crowbar.
The “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” scene from Jaws
Jaws is one of the most famous movies of all time, and this line was instantly iconic. Watching the huge shark swim by the boat really is scary, for both the characters and the movie’s audience.
The “I just wanted to take another look at you” scene from A Star Is Born
The scene isn’t the most important to the movie’s plot. But it’s iconic enough that it’s showed up in various iterations of A Star Is Born over time, including the Bradley Cooper–Lady Gaga version that’s nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars ceremony. In the 2018 version, the scene hints at what’s to come for Jackson and Ally’s romance, and it’s also given way to plenty of memes.
The tear scene from Get Out
Chris’s tear-stricken face quickly became the go-to image for this Best Picture-nominated film. He’s being hypnotized into the Sunken Place, and Daniel Kaluuya perfectly embodies the sheer horror of the situation.
The library dance scene from The Breakfast Club
Often imitated, never duplicated. The students’ dancing while serving their detention is just plain fun—and probably one of the most famous movie scenes out there. No other dance montages can even compare.
The reveal scene from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
The twist at the end of this John Wayne/Jimmy Stewart movie is a real shocker. It turns out (spoiler alert!) that the man who shot Liberty Valance was Tom the whole time. (A runner-up for the movie’s most memorable moment is the steak scene.)
The “death is better than bondage” scene from Black Panther
Black Panther was the first superhero movie ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. There are a number of memorable scenes in the movie, but the last scene was one of the most powerful. While Killmonger certainly wasn’t the hero of this Marvel film, he did deliver a poignant final line. “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage,” he tells T’Challa. Cue the chills… And if you enjoyed Killmonger’s character, here’s How to Steal Michael B. Jordan’s Hardcore Black Panther Workout.
The “lasso the moon” scene from It’s a Wonderful Life
George and Mary’s love story is one of the greats, and this scene is so sweet, if not a bit much. I mean, who wouldn’t want someone to say they’d “lasso the moon” for you?
The “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” scene from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
The scene has been parodied countless times, and Marilyn Monroe’s original performance still lives on in fans’ memories. One fun fact about the song? Monroe was singing for most of it, but there was one line where she had some help. Marni Nixon sang the line “These rocks don’t lose their shape,” the New York Times reported in 2007.
The beach scene from Moonlight
Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Moonlight, and this scene is a pivotal one for the film. Juan served as a stand-in father figure for Chiron, and the scene is about way more than his learning how to swim. The beach trip cements the pair’s bond, and the scene is beautifully shot, too. And Juan’s message to Chiron about deciding who he wants to become stays with him long after Juan’s death.
The cue-card scene from Love Actually
Mark is a terrible friend, and this is a really creepy thing to do to poor Juliet and Peter. Still, it’s a scene that anyone who’s seen the film will remember. And the ethics of the whole love triangle (if you can even call it that) are still debated in think pieces today, more than 15 years after the movie’s release.
The “he slimed me” scene from Ghostbusters
Peter isn’t thrilled to be one of Slimer’s victims. But Ray is happy about the evidence from the encounter—namely, the slime that Peter’s now covered in.
The “phone-home” scene from E.T.
So sweet and pure, this scene pretty much sums up the entire movie. Poor E.T.
The “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a d*mn” scene from Gone with the Wind
You’ve probably heard this phrase, even if you didn’t know its origin. Rhett’s dismissal of Scarlett is a little rude, but it’s also a great phrase to implement into your everyday life.
The “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” scene from Mary Poppins
All of the Mary Poppins songs are great. But the nonsense of this one cemented it in fans’ minds. It’s just catchy, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And the cartoons in the background really set the scene.
The “if you’re a bird, I’m a bird” scene from The Notebook
Even people who hate romance movies have probably heard this line. The Notebook is hailed as one of the best romantic films of all time, and it’s thanks in large part to its stars, Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling. The couple’s carefree day on the beach in this scene is just pure fun.
The “offer he can’t refuse” scene from The Godfather
This might be one of the most famous movie scenes, ever. Don Corleone’s chilling quote shows that he means business, and he’ll do anything to get his way.
The “as you wish” scene from The Princess Bride
Aside from Wallace Shawn’s pronunciation of “inconceivable,” this is undoubtedly the most famous phrase from The Princess Bride. And many fans still consider it one of the most romantic movie lines of all time.
The dive scene from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Into the Spider-Verse won the 2019 Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Picture, and it’s not hard to see why. The animation style is unlike any other movie that’s come before it, cartoon or otherwise. The scene when Miles dives through the glassy facades of New York’s buildings, wearing his newly made Spider-Man suit, shows the moment he fully takes on the superhero’s role. It’s one of the most visually stunning and instantly unforgettable famous movie scenes out there. And for more of last year’s best movies, check out The 7 Best Movies from 2018 You Didn’t See—According to Famous Directors.
The dream dance scene from The Shape of Water
Elisa is mute, but she finds a way to communicate her feelings through song. The scene is moving and beautiful, showing just how strong this unconventional love is.
The “Hello Clarice” scene from The Silence of the Lambs
Clarice and Hannibal’s first meeting is completely chilling. It’s no wonder fans still try to creep each other out by reciting Anthony Hopkins’ famous line.
The training montage scene from Rocky
He’s ready for anything, especially after running up all those stairs. And forget fancy fitness attire—all Rocky needs is sweats and a pair of Converse.
The “shut up” scene from The Princess Diaries
“Wow, gee whiz, golly wolly.” There’s a special place in Anne Hathaway fans’ hearts for this lovable Disney movie, and this scene is just too funny not to quote. But, really—whose reaction wouldn’t be “Shut up!” if they’d just learned they were a member of a foreign country’s royal family?
The “Oh Hi Mark” scene from The Room
The Room is so iconic—in how bad it is—that it inspired a full biographical comedy in 2017’s The Disaster Artist. Even people who don’t know the 2003 movie have likely heard this scene being quoted, repeatedly.
The spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp
Plenty of humans have tried to recreate the magic of the two pups enjoying their pasta together. These dogs may be a bit confused about what qualifies as dog food, but that doesn’t make this scene any less cute and endearing. And for more on your favorite family films, check out The 20 Funniest Jokes From Kids’ Movies.
The thrift-shop scene from Lady Bird
Not all of the most famous movie scenes have to be from older films. The Best Picture-nominated movie has plenty of memorable moments. But Lady Bird and her mom’s shopping trip to buy a dress for Danny’s grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner perfectly encapsulates the dynamics of their relationship. They snap at each other over small things, but quickly bond when Marion finds her daughter the perfect dress for the occasion. And for more on your favorite movies, check out the 30 Shocking Facts about Your Favorite Movies.
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