Great films appear every year and with them are potentially classic scenes that may become more famous than the film itself. The shower scene in Psycho, the chariot race in Ben Hur, the chest bursting moment in Alien, and the opera music sounding across the prison yard in The Shawshank Redemption are just some of the examples of the classic celluloid moments that we may be familiar with even if we’ve never seen the film. I’ll be sharing my favourite film scenes, some you will know others may be unfamiliar, but hopefully they’ll be moments you enjoy as much as I do.
Saving Private Ryan (1998) – Omaha Beach
Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning war film was a huge box-office hit depicting the many sacrifices made by soldiers in the Second World War. Sandwiched between two impressive battle scenes is a tense rescue mission which we know will turn out well in the end but what’s not clear is how many soldiers will die to save one man from the horrors of the war. There are many good scenes in the film but the best of them all is very easy to choose.
The premise to the film is a mission given to Captain John H Miller (Tom Hanks) and his men to rescue Private Ryan (Matt Damon) who is to be extracted from war torn France and sent home. Ryan is one of four brothers serving in the war and at the start of the film we learn that three of the four siblings have been killed and the idea of their mother receiving four telegrams informing her that all her children are dead is too much to comprehend. A special mission is arranged which leaves Captain Miller and his men to risk their lives for the sake of one man, a responsibility that divides many of the squad, especially when two of them are killed before Private Ryan is even located. Of course the mission is a success but few of Captain Miller’s squad are left to tell tale of their heroic deed at the film’s conclusion.
The outstanding moment comes in the opening reels, prior to the rescue mission for Private Ryan has been organised. We bear witness to the D-Day landings in June 1944 when the Allies landed in North France by sea and air. At the outset our focus is on Omaha Beach where the Allies’ ships reach the beaches and no sooner have men started to leave their vessels than they are cut down by heavy machine gun fire from the German defences along the coastline. What follows is one of the most stunning yet horrific battles in film history as we watch countless soldiers massacred, many killed immediately, others left without limbs or screaming for their mothers on the sand. Captain Miller’s men gradually make their advance up the beach and are instrumental in breaching the German fortifications and defeating the soldiers inside. By the end of this epic opening, too long to feature in its entirety here, the beach is filled with dead soldiers and fish, but it is the first stage in the Allies recovery of France as they begin to push the German lines back towards Berlin. One of Spielberg’s landmark moments in a memorable career.
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