Denominated Urscenes
March 20, 2007 12:22 PM   Subscribe

There are some scenes in films that are so famous that they are referred to by shorthand, such as the "Odessa Steps" in Battleship Potemkin or "Tears in Rain" in Blade Runner. Some friends and I have been trying to come up with others, but I am drawing a blank. What are other scenes that fit this criteria (and I am not looking for famous scenes per se or anyone's personal favorites, just scenes that, for whatever reason, have been bestowed a specific and generally known name).
posted by Falconetti to Media & Arts (147 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bad Mutha Fucker in Pulp Fiction.
posted by spicynuts at 12:31 PM on March 20, 2007


There's the Mirror Scene from Duck Soup.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:31 PM on March 20, 2007


The Shower Scene
posted by Thorzdad at 12:31 PM on March 20, 2007


The Shower Scene in Psycho
The Orgasm Scene in When Harry Met Sally
posted by decathecting at 12:32 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Indiana Jones movies tend to be filled with scenes like these.
posted by saladin at 12:32 PM on March 20, 2007


The State Room scene from A Night At The Opera
posted by hobgadling at 12:32 PM on March 20, 2007


GodFather: The Baptism Scene
posted by vacapinta at 12:32 PM on March 20, 2007


The Shower Scene is probably the best answer you're going to get. I would add the Horse's Head Scene from The Godfather.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:33 PM on March 20, 2007


The Casablanca ending.
posted by unSane at 12:34 PM on March 20, 2007


The eyes and Beethoven from Clockwork Orange
posted by goo at 12:34 PM on March 20, 2007


I was thinking Godfather "tollbooth scene." Untouchables "train station stairs scene."

Sixteen Candles-- "birthday cake kiss." Okay, so that's pushing it.
posted by sneakin at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2007


"Rosebud"?
posted by trip and a half at 12:36 PM on March 20, 2007


Greed is good, I could've been a contender.

Those are more speech specific than scene specific though.
posted by null terminated at 12:36 PM on March 20, 2007


The crop duster scene in North by Northwest.

There are going to be a bunch of good Hitchcock answers here.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:36 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Chariot Scene -- Ben Hur
You can't handle the truth - A Few Good Men
posted by MasonDixon at 12:36 PM on March 20, 2007


STELLAAAAAAAAA!!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2007


The Burning of Atlanta in Gone With The Wind
posted by BSF at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2007


But perhaps that doesn't quite fit the criteria. Better:

Here's Johnny?
posted by goo at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Untouchables "train station stairs scene."

Of course, the funny thing about that scene is that it's a takeoff on the Odessa Steps scene that Falconetti mentioned in his question.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


The title scene from Singin' in the Rain.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:39 PM on March 20, 2007


The breakfast scene in Citizen Kane.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:40 PM on March 20, 2007


The Singin' in the Rain scene from A Clockwork Orange.
posted by pmbuko at 12:41 PM on March 20, 2007


Kong on the Empire State Building?
posted by Thorzdad at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2007


No Underwear Scene - Basic Instinct
Killer Rabbit Scene, The Black Knight etc. - Monty Python and the Holy Grail
posted by MasonDixon at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2007


The laser scene from Goldfinger.
The bomb-riding scene from Dr. Strangelove.
The piano scene from Big.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2007


Stuck in the Middle with You—Reservoir Dogs

You sure have a purty mouth/Squeal Like a Pig — Deliverance

Here's Johnny! — The Shining

We're gonna need a bigger boat — Jaws
posted by jamaro at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2007


I think of Wizard of Oz scenes ("There's no place like home" "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," the flying monkeys, "we're off to see the wizard"), but I'm not sure they quite fit since people refer to the scene by a quote.
posted by salvia at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2007


The chase scene from Bullitt.
posted by pmbuko at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2007


Squeal like a pig.
posted by hermitosis at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2007


Divine eats poop.
Jaws eats Quint.
Exploding head in Scanners.
D-Day (on the beach) in Saving Private Ryan...
Singing in the rain
Maralyn's windblown skirt
It's Aliiive! scene from Frankenstein

I think what you are going for is scenes which have come to define their era or their film genre. So the Shower scene, the Odessa steps, certainly fit better than most.
posted by Gungho at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2007


As salvia points out, there are a bunch of these that are denominated by a memorable piece dialog which refers as much to the scene as to the dialog itself: "You lookin' at me?", "I'm walkin' here!", etc.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2007


The ear scene from Reservoir Dogs.

Also, maybe less famous, but:

ass-to-ass, from Requiem for a Dream. Shudder.
posted by The Michael The at 12:44 PM on March 20, 2007


Ooooh, punked by jamaro!

That's not a scene. But it should be.
posted by hermitosis at 12:45 PM on March 20, 2007


The "plastics" scene from The Graduate
posted by pardonyou? at 12:46 PM on March 20, 2007


The spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp.
The waves scene in From Here to Eternity.
The slap scene from Chinatown.
The mirror scene in Taxi Driver.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:46 PM on March 20, 2007



"Open the pod bay door, Hal."

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave."
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:47 PM on March 20, 2007


Harem scene in 9 1/2
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:47 PM on March 20, 2007


The beach scene - Planet of the Apes
posted by cashman at 12:47 PM on March 20, 2007


I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:47 PM on March 20, 2007


The battle of wits (to the death) scene from The Princess Bride.
posted by pmbuko at 12:47 PM on March 20, 2007


The sandwich scene from Five Easy Pieces.
The bar scene from Star Wars
posted by bendybendy at 12:48 PM on March 20, 2007


The Bikini Scene from Fast Times at Ridgmont High.

heheh
posted by pardonyou? at 12:49 PM on March 20, 2007


Spaghetti scene - Lady and the Tramp.
Projectile vomit scene; head-spin scene; spider-walking scene - The Exorcist.
Ambush scene - Bonnie and Clyde.
Gust of air scene - The Seven-Year Itch.
Valkyries from Apocalypse Now.
D-Day from Saving Private Ryan.
Most scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Winged monkeys?
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:49 PM on March 20, 2007


The stateroom scene from A Night at the Opera.
The melting scene from The Wizard of Oz.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:49 PM on March 20, 2007


Oh, good call on Deliverance, hermitosis. The dueling banjos scene.
posted by salvia at 12:50 PM on March 20, 2007


I feel like the "Kill Bill" movies are especially ripe for this treatment, perhaps because of Tarantino's use of title cards.

"The Blood-spattered Bride"
"The Lonely Grave of Paula Schultz"
"Showdown at House of Blue Leaves"

I could mention these phrases to most people I know and they'd understand exactly what I was talking about.
posted by hermitosis at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2007


KHAAAAAAAAAN!!!! (cheers Thorzdad)
The Mr. Creosote scene in The Meaning of Life
The boot eating scene in The Gold Rush
posted by rycee at 12:52 PM on March 20, 2007


There are some good suggestions here. More specifically, I am looking for scenes that are referred to by specific names and are part of filmic vocabulary in a way. A quote from a famous scene or a reminder of a famous part of the scene is not necessarily what I am looking for, if it merely functions to recall the scene and is not a "title" bestowed on the scene. There is a very fine line here, of course, but stuff like "the chase scene" from Bullitt doesn't quite fit the bill (unless I am mising something). If I was talking to a film buff and said "the chase scene" I really doubt he'd know what I was talking about, but if I said "the shower scene" he'd instantly know I was referring to that scene from Psycho since everyone refers to it that way, independent of any scene in any movie.
posted by Falconetti at 12:52 PM on March 20, 2007


Some friends and I have been trying to come up with others, but I am drawing a blank.

Re-reading the question, I think most people, including me, read it wrong.

Falconetti may be asking what scenes have name all by themselves with having to have the word "scene" at the end.

So if I say "Odessa steps" in a conversation about film, people know what I mean in a way that "The Shower" doesnt. Am I right?
posted by vacapinta at 12:53 PM on March 20, 2007


"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

"Its a Cinderella Story"

"I'll have what she's having."
posted by chocolatetiara at 12:55 PM on March 20, 2007


"Spectacular! Spectacular!"
posted by hermitosis at 12:57 PM on March 20, 2007


Also, if I'm right, you may want to revoke your question and re-ask it more clearly as otherwise this seems to be going quickly down the chatter-hole.
posted by vacapinta at 12:57 PM on March 20, 2007


Risky Business: Tom Cruise' dancing to Old Time Rock and Roll.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Phoebe Cate's pool scene.
Poltergeist: They're here...
Dazed and Confused: That's what I love about these high school girls...
Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: Slim Pickens riding the bomb.
posted by substrate at 12:58 PM on March 20, 2007


Falconetti writes "A quote from a famous scene or a reminder of a famous part of the scene is not necessarily what I am looking for, if it merely functions to recall the scene and is not a 'title' bestowed on the scene."

It seems to me, though, that many important scenes are denominated by a bit of dialog. Do you want to rule those out altogether?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2007


vacapinta, you are correct. I don't think I was clear enough in my question (I had a hard time formulating it in the first place). My apologies.
posted by Falconetti at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2007


The "Hoth Battle" from Empire Strikes Back?

Same vein, the "Death Star Battle" from A New Hope.

"Lobby Shooting Spree" from The Matrix.
posted by Diskeater at 1:00 PM on March 20, 2007


Anne Bancroft's leg - the graduate
the rocketship landing in the moon's eye - A trip to the moon
PLaying chess with death - seventh seal
The flying bicycles - ET
kaleidescope of synchronized swimmers - lots of Busby Berkeley movies
posted by njb at 1:01 PM on March 20, 2007


A quote or a famous part of the scene generally functions as jargon by which its "title" is formed in the pop consciousness, does it not?
posted by hermitosis at 1:01 PM on March 20, 2007


No, I don't want to rule those out, especially since "Tears in Rain" is one of my examples and is based on a quote.

Good examples so far: Showdown at House of Blue Leaves, The Shower Scene, Dueling Banjos, etc.

If I could revoke this question, I would, and formulate more accurately.
posted by Falconetti at 1:02 PM on March 20, 2007


So if I say "Odessa steps" in a conversation about film, people know what I mean in a way that "The Shower" doesnt. Am I right?
I would guess that any film buff would know what you meant by "The Shower Scene", too. But, yeah, you say "Odessa Steps" and there is no doubt what the reference is. Of course, it has the advantage of being based on an actual event, too, so some historical memory might be involved there.
Although, the term in question tends to conjure the image of the baby carriage going down the steps. The actual scene involves several graphic images. It's a benchmark in cinema editing.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:02 PM on March 20, 2007


The Campfire Scene - Blazing Saddles
posted by iconomy at 1:06 PM on March 20, 2007


The Philadelphia Museum Steps scene, The Raw Eggs For Breakfast scene

the Deep Throat scene, All The President's Men Deep Throat
posted by matteo at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2007


Slicin' up eyeballs
posted by salvia at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2007


One interestin example is the wonderful sequence in The Third Man that is alternately referred to as "Ferris Wheel" or "Cuckoo Clock." It is of special interest because, not only does "ferris wheel" work as shorthand in filmic vocabulary, but is often evoked outside of cinematic contexts to describe moral conundrums.
posted by googly at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2007


"Round up the usual suspects" -- Casablanca
posted by Malor at 1:15 PM on March 20, 2007


"Helm's Deep"
posted by obloquy at 1:19 PM on March 20, 2007


I'd like to second (in addition to "The Shower Scene" which there seems to be agreement on) "The Burning of Atlanta," as I think it meets the criteria. If I said that to someone in a film discussion, I think it would be pretty clear that it was Gone With the Wind. It's not quite the same as "The Odessa Steps," but it's close.

I'm not sure if it has as much notoriety, because I don't think it gets discussed in film classes as often as "The Odessa Steps," and it's really for ease of discussion that such shorthand 'titles' get coined. So if you want to find scenes like that, I'd look for whatever get really discussed to death in class and in critical literature.

There are definitely lots of lines of dialog that immediately bring movies to mind (e.g., "You can't handle the truth," "...failure to communicate," etc.) but they're not really particular scenes in the way that I think the OP is asking for.

There are some ones sort of in a grey area that I don't quite think make the cut: "The Lollipop Guild" (from the Wizard of Oz, obviously) would be recognizable to most Americans, I suspect, but I'm not sure if it's the scene that's being rememberd so much as the song.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:22 PM on March 20, 2007


I was going to say that long tracking shot that opens Touch of Evil, which I would probably say has the same status for movie dorks in terms of being a technical tour de force as the Odessa Steps sequence (which, Thorzdad, actually didn't occur in real life, Eisenstein just liked the drama of the staircase) or the Psycho shower scene, or the crop duster scene in North by Northwest. But it doesn't have a "name" that I think of.
posted by SoftRain at 1:26 PM on March 20, 2007


The Dog Scene ("Happiness")

the only movie/scene that has made me stand up in my living room, point my finger at the set, and yell "you have GOT to be f*cking KIDDING ME!"
posted by mrmarley at 1:30 PM on March 20, 2007


But, yeah, you say "Odessa Steps" and there is no doubt what the reference is. Of course, it has the advantage of being based on an actual event, too
@Thorzdad: Actually, the best part is that (at least according to every reference I've ever read or seen) it's not. There never was any massacre on the steps; although there might have been one nearby, the event depicted is a fabrication. But it's a testament to the directing and editing that many people think that it happened.

And I'd also support "The Ferris Wheel" (Third Man) and "The Museum Steps" (Rocky), although I've heard people use various names for both.

Preview: Softrain beat me to the correction. Oh, well.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:31 PM on March 20, 2007


Didi Mao! or the Wedding scene. I could have got more. O Captain, my captain. Klaatu Barata Nikto, Gort. The Frogs scene.

I think this question illuminates both how few movies are scene-oriented rather than style or dialogue-oriented these days. It's hard to think of scenes that aren't named "the 'there is no spoon' scene" or similar, because the dialogue is often what makes them memorable. If you're determine that you're looking specifically for fantastic, standalone achievements in cinematography (certainly the Odessa ateps and the shower scene, as well as the cropduster scene qualify) perhaps we can think a little harder.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:33 PM on March 20, 2007


Does the Wilhelm Scream count?
posted by jozxyqk at 1:34 PM on March 20, 2007


The Crazy 88. Stupid Tarantino. Always lends himself to pet names for all his scenes.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:40 PM on March 20, 2007


The dental torture scene in Marathon Man.
posted by ORthey at 1:40 PM on March 20, 2007


The Wilhelm scream only counts if the Hitchcock shot or the long introductory tracking shot counts. I'm guessing No.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:42 PM on March 20, 2007


I'm not sure what to call it, but the continuous shot from Goodfellas into the restaurant seems to be what you're talking about. Ditto with the "baby scene" in Trainspotting.
posted by ontic at 1:45 PM on March 20, 2007


I am pretty sure I understand your question, and what you are asking for is a reference to a scene that becomes a meme of sorts. Usually used as a point of reference to describe some other behavior. (ie, you could probably take the name of the scene and turn it into a verb or adverb.)

The only one I can think of is jumping the shark, which is from TV, but is pretty darn ubiquitous now.

ex. you could say, "Man, my job jumped the shark when my boss actually started requesting TPS reports" and people would know that you are referring to a ridiculous scene in Happy Days — without having to explain that it was a scene from something.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:46 PM on March 20, 2007


Ah, and enter, Office Space. Most know what you mean when you mention 27 pieces of flare.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:48 PM on March 20, 2007


Coffee is for Closers scene.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:50 PM on March 20, 2007


someone mentioned "Helms Deep" which is probably the best I've seen mentioned.

Scenes in particular locations seem to lend themselves to this.
"The War Room" for example.

Some random ideas...

Eleven
The Twins
Stonehenge
posted by alikins at 1:51 PM on March 20, 2007


"The tatoo scene" in Foxfire
"The Alec Baldwin speech" in Glengarry Glen Ross
Possibly but not necessarily "the 37 dicks" scene in Clerks
posted by Clay201 at 2:00 PM on March 20, 2007


No, I am not looking specifically for names of scenes that can be verbed or that are often used to refer to something else. I've done a terrible job of framing this question I think. The simplest way to phrase it this: Films have titles. Scenes in films usually do not. Sometimes, for whatever reason, because a scene is iconic, or well-known, or unique in some way, people refer to it by a title or name (instead of saying "the scene in Film X where person A says blah blah or the scene in Film Y whether the villain does whatever). I still can't explain what I mean very well, so I will just cull the "I know it when I see it" answers that work for me.
posted by Falconetti at 2:03 PM on March 20, 2007


The Cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, is the most iconic scene in the whole original SW trilogy, and since the 1997 special edition is also identified as the infamous "Greedo shoots first". I don't think there's a better example of a "named" scene.
posted by roofus at 2:04 PM on March 20, 2007


"No, Luke, I am your father"

"Lobby Shooting Spree" from The Matrix.
aka "Guns. Lots of guns."
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:04 PM on March 20, 2007


The Rain of Frogs scene - Magnolia
The Egg-Eating contest - Cool Hand Luke
The Pamela Anderson scene - Borat
posted by mattbucher at 2:06 PM on March 20, 2007


Falconetti, I don't think that you've done a terrible job framing the question. People just haven't bothered to read it carefully and have jumped in with scenes they think are particularly memorable - despite your explicitly saying "I am not looking for famous scenes per se or anyone's personal favorites."
posted by googly at 2:10 PM on March 20, 2007


"Burlyman"
posted by solid-one-love at 2:13 PM on March 20, 2007


I think your question was pretty clear, but maybe I'm missing something. Saying "the bar scene in Star Wars' doesn't work. Saying "The Cantina Scene", to refer to the same scene, does.

I'll add "La Marseillaise", which works in my mind, at least in context of movie scenes.
posted by dirtdirt at 2:21 PM on March 20, 2007


Actually, I guess that should be "The Burly Brawl". "Burlyman" was the 'code' title of the movie.

Also, "Bullet Time".

Not my favourite films, but recognizable scenes by the name of the scenes.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:22 PM on March 20, 2007


The Clock Scene from Safety Last. Even those who haven't seen silent movies probably know this iconic scene.
The Assembly Line from Chaplin's Modern Times (and I Love Lucy!)
The Skirt Scene in Seven Year Itch
The Crucifix Scene in The Exorcist

Many great scenes that are extremely well-known by all film buffs don't have a clear label, like many of the scenes other have posted. The Empire State Building scene from King Kong is sort of like that -- extremely well-known and instantly recognizable, but not really known by that name exactly.
posted by Lame_username at 2:23 PM on March 20, 2007


Barf-o-rama
posted by cashman at 2:27 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Lame-username, that is exactly it. There are loads of famous scenes that are instantly recognizable. And there are lots of famous scenes that can be referred to by something that happened in the scene. But there are very few that have a well-known and widely used name, like a title of a movie. A "title' that is used the same way whenever anyone talks about the scene. A title so specific to that scene that you wouldn't have to refer to the film it came from at all.

I've marked all the answers that strike me as exactly what I am looking for. For anyone still reading, that could serve as a guide through examples. I am not trying to moderate my thread, so sorry for my frequent interruptions.
posted by Falconetti at 2:31 PM on March 20, 2007


I think it's a very tough question, that I for one understand. Cinema is such a big beast these days, there's simply too many scenes that qualify as nameable among smaller groups of specialized aficionados for anything to stack up to Eisenstein or Hitchcock on the scene level. There's a reason later iterations of the same techniques utilized in the favorited scenes aren't as nameable. Those were moments in film history. Since those moments, film developments have been embellishments rather than breakthroughs, or otherwise avant-garde. References by name, say "Bullet Time," "Empire," "Dogme 95," "Wes Anderson 180 degree reverse shots," "Sirkian Framing," all refer to standout techniques that don't relate to the editing of a standalone scene.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:37 PM on March 20, 2007


Shaka, when the walls fell.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:46 PM on March 20, 2007


Leave the gun, take the Canolis. The Godfather
posted by nathancaswell at 2:49 PM on March 20, 2007


Also sleeps with the fishes scene, etc.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:50 PM on March 20, 2007


The I Could Have Been A Contender Scene
posted by nathancaswell at 2:50 PM on March 20, 2007


Sharon Stone's pubic hair scene.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:52 PM on March 20, 2007


The "Rosebud" Scene
posted by nathancaswell at 2:53 PM on March 20, 2007


I think the question was fine. The only expansion/differentiation you might want to consider is whether you're interested in not only (1) those scenes that are known by a particular name, but also (2) those that would be universally understood were some name (perhaps more than one) used.

The first category seems really, really small to me, which I think is exactly your point. (Which is also why everyone wants to defy the category, because they want to be helpful.) It's even smaller if you mean the name to be instantly recognizable even without adding the film name. If you were to say "The Shower Scene" or "Odessa Steps" or "The Cantina Scene" in the context of movies generally, people would know what you meant and be at a loss as to any other way to advert to them. As to the others, including Bladerunner, not so sure.

In the slightly broader category I mentioned above, I would include The Movie Line (aka McLuhan) from Annie Hall, Alien Chest Burst from Alien, Wagner from Apocalypse Now, Church (aka "Elaine") from The Graduate, and Rosebud from Citizen Kane.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:57 PM on March 20, 2007


"The Dawn of Man"
"Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite"
posted by yeti at 3:00 PM on March 20, 2007




The Kiss.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:28 PM on March 20, 2007


"The Layla Montage"
posted by lilnemo at 3:28 PM on March 20, 2007


I'm going to echo mr_roboto who said the Cropduster Scene. (Almost) any movie buff will know instantly that you are talking about North by Northwest, and will get a mental image of the scene.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:29 PM on March 20, 2007


"The Beach Scene"
posted by lilnemo at 3:33 PM on March 20, 2007


The In Your Eyes bit.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:38 PM on March 20, 2007


Geez, there are so many, we could really go on forever, couldn't we?

The steps in the Untouchables
The pool in Sunset Boulevard
Stonehenge in Spinal Tap
Masks in Breakfast at Tiffany's
Etc. etc. etc.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:41 PM on March 20, 2007


As Clyde said, I think there are actually very, very few good answers to the question.
posted by Falconetti at 3:44 PM on March 20, 2007


An iconic scene, in an iconic movie, that can be labeled without referencing the movie or characters and does not show up in dozens of other possible movies (ie, "the Main Street Shootout Scene"), is going to be a rare occurence.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:50 PM on March 20, 2007


The vertigo zoom possibly fits what you're looking for? (Though the phrase is more commonly used to refer to the camera technique than the scene that spawned it.)
posted by ook at 3:52 PM on March 20, 2007


"The horror, the horror..."
posted by Max Power at 4:14 PM on March 20, 2007


The Normandy Scene
posted by nathancaswell at 4:16 PM on March 20, 2007


The diner scene from Five Easy Pieces. I haven't seen the movie but I know all about "the diner scene". I'll also second "ass to ass". That's a modern classic. No, really!

There are so many famous scenes, but so few have one canonical way to refer to them...
posted by Khalad at 4:17 PM on March 20, 2007


Canopy to Canopy from "Top Gun" (scene 16). I've heard this used, more than once, in business seminars, as shorthand for activities that size up a company's competition. As in, "We'll be going 'canopy to canopy' with those guys at the tradeshow Monday."

Flashdance...What a Feeling.

"Niagra Falls! Slowly, I turned..."

"Ah'll be back."

"Who ate the strawberries?" (scene 16)
posted by paulsc at 4:18 PM on March 20, 2007


My suspicion is that "The Mirror Scene" that Thorzdad mentions fits your criteria rather well... probably better than the Blade Runner example in your question. Apart from that, I can think of a few that would fit Clyde's broader specification of your question, but not really many that fit the narrow version.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:21 PM on March 20, 2007


The "no wire hangers ... ever!" scene from Mommie Dearest.
posted by treepour at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2007


Anyone who has taken a film class should know: "Eye slit".

Searching for "famous movie scenes" yields a bonanza, which reminded me of that scene where Chaplin eats a shoe. Though, that one doesn't fit the bill if you're looking for scene descriptions without movie titles or actor names. Or the word "scene".

(This thread feels like a cross between a film theory discussion and a Chris Farley routine....)
posted by bodega at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2007


Or, what Salvia said... Sigh.
posted by bodega at 4:38 PM on March 20, 2007


Just for the record. Something with "scene" in the title could count. I've marked as best answer two such examples (The Mirror Scene and The Shower Scene).
posted by Falconetti at 4:42 PM on March 20, 2007


Okay, I'll give it a shot...

Horse head
Girl in red dress
Hill of beans
Snakes!?
Ni
Bigger boat
Contender
Pea soup
Abby Normal
Dancing to singing in the rain while killing people
Birds on a jungle gym
357 Magnum
Reeses Pieces
Wood chipper
Tearing me apart
Eat fifty eggs
Angel gets his wings
Saying "water" at the water pump
Rain in spain
Union
Pianist has her fingers amputated
Pool filled with indian corpses
Lotion in the basket
Driving off the canyon in a convertible
Gimp walking out of the police station
Orgasm in a restaurant
posted by miss lynnster at 4:44 PM on March 20, 2007


Actually, it should've been saying "waaaawaaaaaa" at the water pump.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:46 PM on March 20, 2007


Doesn't Seven frame all of it's vignettes within titled days, like "monday," "tuesday" etc? That's what I thought of, upon reading the recommended Kill Bill titled scenes.
posted by santojulieta at 5:04 PM on March 20, 2007


Yeah, but so does The Return, and basically any number of biblically inspired movies.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:07 PM on March 20, 2007


"The hills are alive"
The orange coat
"Send in the Gimp"
posted by njb at 5:13 PM on March 20, 2007


Recent film studies grad here. "Odessa Steps Scene" is about the only term I can think of that denotes a scene in one, and only one specific film. "The Shower Scene" comes close, but doesn't have the same specificity -- sure, the scene in Psycho is the famous shower scene, but plenty of other films have shower scenes in various contexts. To be completely and utterly clear, you'd have to specify "the Psycho shower scene."

The test is, "will people understand if I say 'the x scene,' rather than 'the x scene from y movie?" Really removed from context, things like "tears in the rain," "the baptism scene," etc, fail this test. I think "the horse's head in bed" scene or "the biplane scene" are close, mainly because they're so unique and striking but still not nearly at the same level of notoriety as "the Odessa steps scene." I blame this on Potempkin's positioning as "that film that every film student sees and writes about."
posted by Alterscape at 5:13 PM on March 20, 2007


One meta-lesson from this is that in the thirst to be helpful, or impatience with reading the entire thread -- the two compounding one another -- people will ignore the ground rules completely.

In mild disagreement with Alterscape, whose views are more expert, I think "the shower scene" qualifies without adding "from Psycho" -- as long as the listener knows you're talking about movies, as opposed the local sauna.

Also, I was confident that "the crop-duster scene" would qualify, but his/her reference to it as "the biplane scene" makes me think it might fail the unique name test. Still, Google "the crop-duster scene", and it seems pretty robust.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:33 PM on March 20, 2007


OK, I thought of a real one:

Who's on First

it's from the film The Naughty Nineties, but I dare say that more people know the name of the scene than the name of the film.
posted by mattbucher at 5:44 PM on March 20, 2007


I've done a little film studies myself and I have to agree with Clyde Mnestra. I think most people with any interest in film will know which shower scene you are speaking about. I've also only heard the scene referred to as the crop-duster scene, never the biplane scene. The eyeball slitting scene, as mentioned above also seems to make the cut (har, har) depending on your definition of "scene".
posted by ssg at 6:01 PM on March 20, 2007


Gosh, I'd hate to be left out of the pile-on.

How about "I'm as mad as Hell..." from Network?
posted by CMichaelCook at 6:08 PM on March 20, 2007


also, let us not forget "Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?"
posted by Afroblanco at 6:27 PM on March 20, 2007


The Money Shot
posted by mds35 at 6:28 PM on March 20, 2007


Wow... I don't think I've ever seen so many people misunderstand an asker's question. I think you can describe what you're looking for as phrases that have idiomatically become names of movie scenes. It's a question in the linguistics and philosophy of language literature as to what exactly makes a phrase idiomatic. One good test is to try replacing synonyms with synonyms: if it sounds like you're changing the meaning when you do this, then you've likely got an idiom. The test I like to use: would the posters at the New York Times crossword puzzle forum complain if it were an entry in a NYT crossword puzzle? (It's a surprisingly resilient test.) I'll bet "The Shower Scene" could pass muster but "The Rosebud Scene" surely wouldn't. The former idiomatically names the scene; the latter merely refers to the scene through description.

The best I can come up with: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (the Mickey Mouse scene from Fantasia). But you might complain that it's the name of a short that's included in a film rather than the name of a scene.

I was pretty sure the Dancing Dwarf Black Lodge sequence in Twin Peaks had a commonly used name, but it looks like I'm wrong about that. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a famous dream sequence that's commonly referred to as "X's dream".
posted by painquale at 8:08 PM on March 20, 2007


One way to find these sorts of scenes—although it won't help with names so much—is to look at popular parody movies like the ones Mel Brooks and Leslie Nielsen do. So you get the guys climbing into the Statue of Liberty's nose, and the juddering shave with the aftershave finish, those sorts of things.

Any of the sequences with the Morricone's wee-oo-wee-oooo gunfighter music will be recognizable if you whistle the tune; same with the dun-de-DUH-DUUNH--DUH-de-DUH Raiders of the Lost Ark/Indiana Jones things. Wayne and Garth's headbanging "Bohemian Rhapsody" is probably more recognizable than its source material now.

"Here's Johnny!" from The Shining.
posted by cgc373 at 8:20 PM on March 20, 2007


Putting on the Ritz scene - Young Frankenstein
Springtime for Hitler scene - The Producers
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:51 PM on March 20, 2007


The Parting of the Red Sea.
posted by trip and a half at 9:15 PM on March 20, 2007


It seems to me that what Odessa steps, the shower scene, chariot race and the cropduster scene have in common are cinematographic (?) innovation and ingenuity. They are famous for good reason. The Cantina scene and tears in rain are famous more for art direction than cinematography. "I coulda been a contender" was great writing but two guys in the back of a taxi does not make for a great visual. Sliced eyeballs is famous for shock value (frankly, the film sucks).

We can all picture the screen when she says "Play it, Sam" or when the sled burns, but there's not much film innovation going on, just damn good film experience.

The death of Butch and Sundance seems well filmed and clealry memorable (even if you never see it). Singing in the Alps was also memorable visually, and I think it was innovative. It's the title, but "High Noon" gets the visual image across.
posted by johngumbo at 9:51 PM on March 20, 2007


It is way too late now, but painquale articulated what I was trying to get at pretty damn well.
posted by Falconetti at 10:01 PM on March 20, 2007


How about the Dream Ballet from Oklahoma!?
posted by non sum qualis eram at 10:01 PM on March 20, 2007


Great question, and very hard. Here are two that fit the "definiteness" criterion, though it's not clear if they're iconic enough scenes to count...
Enchantment Under the Sea Dance
Jackrabbit Slim's Twist Contest
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:16 PM on March 20, 2007


non sum raises an interesting proposition: named musical numbers, like chapters of Tarantino or Eisenstein, are another shortcut to this sort of common name of reference. See: The Cellblock Tango, La Vie Boheme, Chim Chim Cheree, The Lonely Goatherd. It's totally using theater to cheat.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:26 AM on March 21, 2007


Heather's Apology in The Blair Witch Project
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:48 AM on March 21, 2007


I've always heard the Black Lodge scene from Twin Peaks as 'The Red Room".
posted by nathancaswell at 10:07 AM on March 21, 2007


I posted it before I read the entire thread (I just did a quick text search to make sure no one else had posted it), but now that I've read the entire thread and the clarifications I stand by "Heather's Apology," which I think is recognizable even without naming the movie.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:40 AM on March 21, 2007


Uh, "Adrian!" anyone?
posted by dead_ at 1:21 PM on March 21, 2007


Boombox and trenchcoat from Say Anything...

Otherwise known as "The 'In Your Eyes' scene"
posted by softlord at 6:49 AM on March 22, 2007


How about the Day-O scene from Beetlejuice? They're possessed and start singing "The Banana Boat Song."
posted by cgc373 at 5:44 PM on April 20, 2007


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